So Chris Iwelumo is off to Wolves, Marcus Bent is Cardiff-bound, and Scott Carson is leaving Liverpool for ... Stoke. They say all sporting careers end in failure, but Carson’s has barely started. It’s one thing to endure two seasons out on loan and to have to sit back and watch Liverpool and Villa struggle to agree on a price, quite another to see the devastating impact on standing and valuation of one howler for England. A nation’s fans may be extracting collective revenge, but even so the Potteries seems a little harsh. Maybe Scott is attracted by the prospect of going to a club where he will be the best ballplayer. At least the ball won’t get slippery as it won’t touch the turf.
To my mind Iwelumo goes with all best wishes. It isn’t just that he always gave of his best, whether asked to play alone up front or in a 4-4-2 or to come on as a sub in a hopeless cause. He tended to get blamed (by many fans at least) for the failings of others. A contribution of 10 goals (more if he had been first-choice all through the season) would have been OK (for a target man) if he had a strike partner (or partners) scoring 20 (the pairing with Luke Varney never really took off but was it Big Chris’ fault? I just hope – and expect – that we haven’t yet seen the best of Varney). And was it Iwelumo’s fault that, especially when playing alone up front, the other players seemed content to hump useless long balls in his direction?
Big Chris was nearly a success for us – and he did score what seemed at the time important goals. He knew his way around the division (better forwards used to playing against better defenders would for example never have thought to try to score the two he bagged against Sheff Wed). He won’t make Charlton’s hall of fame, but he wasn’t the worst we’ve had and I for one will be applauding him when he returns. Wolves? Well, at least we can say he’s capable of filling Jay Bothroyd’s shoes.
Marcus Bent? Of course it’s a different story. We seemed to pay over the odds for him, but there was a rationale if it was going to get the best out of Darren Bent (read also Jimmy Floyd). Quite rightly we have been looking to offload him to all and sundry, the only pity being Wigan would have paid more for him. Presumably Bent has chosen Cardiff because as a capital city he can still stand relatively tall in the Wagg-pulling league. But Marcus here too your best days are behind you.
My abiding memory of Bent will be that glorious interview when he arrived at The Valley. When asked whether it would be confusing to have two Bents at the club he replied to the effect that, yes it would be a bit of a problem as Darren’s nickname was ‘Benty’ and he liked to be called ‘Benty’. He seemed totally oblivious to the possibility of his strengthening the impression that at least most footballers are a little lacking in the grey cell department.
Episodes like that should serve as a reminder – as the practise of a Charlton open day seems to be being revived - that actually meeting players (nay, heroes as the club website likes to remind us) may not always be the uplifting experience we hope for. I remember as a callow youth walking around the rooms where the players were sitting and chatting among themselves, in between fag breaks. They presented a picture of total indifference as autograph books were pushed under their noses. I still have the autograph book, which does rather date me if nothing else (looking at it now I can make out the signatures of Eddie Firmani, Len Burns, Cliff Hall, A. Fagan, Lucio Masiello, Paul Gilchrist, Charlie Wright, Ian King, Len Glover, Peter Reeves, Theo Foley, Graham Moore, and a few others that are totally indecipherable). Charlton North Downs says that he even saw Len Glover thump one fan at such a gathering.
So please, Mr Pardew and Mr Murray, tell the current crop that it’s in their best interest to keep the fans, however young, on their side and to at least feign interest. After all, sooner or later for you it will be Cardiff, Wolves or Stoke (and at the risk of plagiarising the Eamon Dumphy quote for some truly unlucky sods even Palace or Millwall).