So today our thoughts go out to supporters of a certain team to the south of us. I will think about them all day. Possibly longer. Actually a friend who is involved with a Palace fan (in the nicest possible way, if that’s possible) came around last night. I guess we felt it was time to watch the DVD of what is now the season before last (it was bought a while ago but somehow I never had the inclination to unwrap it), possibly along with the wine as an anesthetic (or just distraction) should the evening not go well. As it turned out it was all rather elementary Watson. I should just add that in the unlikely event of said Palace fan ever reading this, if you believe for a nanosecond that the words of comfort and consolation offered up later on by the aforementioned friend carried an iota of real conviction you are a true and worthy follower of Simes.
I have a number of friends based in Bristol (they are the sort of fools who use a warped sense of priorities to waffle on about ‘quality of life’ as if that were possible so far from the smoke). I have forwarded our thanks, along with instructions on how the yokels should behave when they have their day in the big city. Actually they seem to carry a relatively high percentage of morons among their ranks, so maybe the instructions will help generally. Bristol, Hull or Watford? Who gives a monkeys?
A combination of evangelical wedding in Lille, belated birthday ice cream in Rome (for my partner Suzanne, not me), plus work-related trip to Amsterdam (either side of the Coventry game) have put back any thoughts of recent posts (for anyone out there I will do an update on Lyon la Duchere, who stand on the brink of glory with two games to go). All sounds attractive except when you have to contemplate the hours spent at airports, the 3am start to get a flight, and the quality of both the coffee going out and the gin and tonic coming back offered by Ryanair and Easyjet.
So I hope to be among the last to offer player ratings for the season. Just please don’t think that time and space will have encouraged any sense of perspective or reason. And not surprisingly any review of last season throws up more questions than answers.
Weaver: 7/10. 44 league appearances with important saves should merit a higher score and at least a top three finish for player of the season. But there’s something missing. We know he doesn’t command his area and defence; perhaps more important, unlike Deano and Sasha he’s not inspirational. It’s unlikely he’ll change and it’s highly probable he’ll be first choice for next season.
Moutaouakil: 6/10. Strange that at the end of the season he’s the only recognised right-back actually on the books, aside from on-loan Sankofa and the kids. Started so well before injury, was a key element of a purple patch for the team, but mistakes cost us against Watford and Scunthorpe and that was it for the season. Ended up making only seven league starts (19 for Mills and 15 for Halford). Could be a key player next season and in my view whether he and Youga or Halford and Thatcher are first choice will set the tone for how we play. I so hope it’s the former combination.
Halford: 8/10. Sticky start but ended up as a reliable and effective player who gave his all and chipped in with a couple of goals. I’m assuming that as Cook and Lita were off as soon as it was all over but Halford was kept on Pardew wants to sign him. If Sankofa is deemed surplus to requirements we may need at least cover (although Solly can’t be far off), but it all depends on whether Pardew feels he can rely on Yassin. Mills showed us both sides of the coin while he was with us; it all ended so badly with his behaviour against Hull, which was plain daft unless he was looking for an early Xmas.
Thatcher: 5/10. Started and ended the season as first choice, but managed only 11 starts. Adequate but no more. With Youga and Basey re-signing and Long coming through I don’t see the point other than the fact he has a contract.
Youga: 6/10. Was outstanding when he first returned in January but seemed to lose the plot (and interest) and was dropped after 10 starts. I thought he was on his way an am delighted to see he has signed a new contract. Deserves an 8 for some performances and a 4 for others. More application and consistency next season and, along with Yassin, he could be instrumental in setting the pulse of the team.
Basey: 7/10. Did nothing wrong and even appeared on left-side midfield at the end of the season.
Powell: 10/10. What else?
McCarthy: 7/10. Only denied an 8 by his poor start when he looked very short of match practise. Looks like he will always be prone to the odd lapse in concentration and does lack pace. But provided the leadership so badly needed and has to be a cornerstone of the team next season.
Bougherra: 8/10. Formed with McCarthy the most effective partnership we found and, unless we sell him, has to be first-choice for next season.
Fortune: 6/10. Played about the same number of games as McCarthy and Bougherra but mostly alongside Sodje. Didn’t nail down the position but can still play a role if he has a partner that suits him.
Sodje: 7/10. Did all we could reasonably ask of him, but I’m assuming he’s a Reading player next season.
Thomas: 4/10. Should have been a shoo-in all season and a key player. Instead it was 19 starts, no goals and cameos. Get your mind right and play next season or leave (although to go where exactly?).
Ambrose: 5/10. Another who should have been much more instrumental at this level, although the questions seem to be more about confidence than attitude. The fact he ended up playing out wide, central midfield and ‘in the hole’ illustrates the problem. He didn’t nail down any position, but did contribute seven league goals. Hope he comes back raring after the operation.
Sam: 7/10. Started well before the enforced post-Hull break but flitted in and out thereafter. Should still be improving and hope for more next season.
Reid: 8/10. Let’s include him as a wide midfielder. Could get a 9. We missed him more than I expected – although having worked out a good way to play without him we proceeded to ditch that style with the loan signings.
Holland: 8/10. Missed effectively the first half of the season but was an automatic choice once back. Not surprisingly doesn’t look capable of getting forward and back as quickly as he used to, which limits his goalscoring potential. But gives what it says on the can, week in, week out.
Semedo: 8/10. Perhaps surprisingly high score but I thought he was excellent in the first third of the season, when he played the defensive role. But why on earth was he later expected to play alongside Holland? It was a sterile combination born out of desperation as ZZ was knackered, Racon was out on loan and others (Sinclair x 2 etc) weren’t considered good enough.
Zheng: 7/10. Made 38 starts and contributed 7 goals. Looked most effective when the team was in its all-too-brief mobile phase as he could pass and move. He’s not a real playmaker and when all around him is static he looks only half the player. If we want the best out of him we have to play to his strengths.
Varney: 5/10. For effort and commitment he deserves full marks. But he didn’t produce the goals we needed. Eight from 23 starts and 16 sub appearances, albeit sometimes playing out wide, is not enough. He doesn’t look like a goal poacher (you need to be able to shoot with both feet). It’s a harsh assessment for a genuine player who I trust will enjoy a better second season. But if it’s a Gray/Varney combination a similar return to last season – 33 (+25 sub) and 10 goals (boosted by two in the last game) just won’t do. As with other positions and combinations it depends on how we line up as a team. Strangely I thought it looked good with Varney and McLeod and plenty of pace.
Iwelumo: 7/10. Takes some undeserved flack; its not his fault that when he plays everyone else seems to think its OK to hoof hopeless balls in his direction. 10 goals in 32 starts would have been good enough if he had a 20+ striker alongside him (if Lita had arrived sooner perhaps).
Gray: 5/10. Could have been a key signing in January; I thought he might be the new Melrose but it just didn’t happen as the early goal he needed didn’t come. Hopefully he will be key next season.
Todorov: 8/10. Losing him was a pivotal moment of the season. I know he only made three league starts but he looked a class apart with his ability to link play and create space.
Dickson: No rating but another very big might have been.
McLeod: 5/10. Didn’t take the opportunities to make his mark and might have been off. Still developing but jury has to be out.
Pardew: 5/10. Let’s forget all the nonsense about replacing him. He is the best man available for the job and hopefully will have learnt from the mistakes made last season, mistakes which he has acknowledged. I hope that the criticism he has taken doesn’t make him defensive (as Von Clausewitz stressed there’s a big difference between strength of character and stubbornness). In my opinion in preparation for next season the task is to decide on the real strengths of the squad (obviously with some to go and some to come in) and what style of play will best suit the key elements (of course with the ability to change tactics). Last season we didn’t manage a settled defence (but ended with at least Weaver, McCarthy and Bougherra as clearly first choices), couldn’t find the right combination of disparate elements in midfield, and did not unearth a reliable and lasting partnership up front (albeit with injuries a major factor).
Fans: 5/10. Collectively we deserve a rating no higher than that for the manager. The booing was often unforgivable and puerile (although clearly not a phenomenon confined to Charlton, all of which makes me sound like the grumpy old fart from a bygone age that I clearly am), the singing unimaginative (when was the last time none of the players in the team actually had a song?), and the positive contribution almost non-existent.
For the manager, the team and the fans its a case of all must do better next season. Please.