With apologies this time to Lee Hazlewood, ‘I’ve been down so long, it looks like up to me’. After being truly miserable gits for the past three seasons, nobody can blame us for getting a bit ahead of ourselves as we look down on the rest of the division after four wins on the bounce to start the campaign (although of course if Leeds had put one more past Tranmere on Saturday we would have still been second). One more victory and Parkinson can get the glasses and ice bucket out for the Manager of the Month award; you’d have probably got decent odds any time between May and the start of August on that happening.
Aside from us and Leeds there are just four Premiership teams still with a 100% league record (and they have only played two or three games); can we keep the run going the longest? Might get some positive national coverage if we do, which would be a pleasant change from recent experience.
There’s just one fly in the ointment. Well, two related ones to be pedantic. There’s about a week to go to the transfer deadline and plenty can happen – and we still don’t have a clue what’s happening with the prospective takeover and with this what is the state of our finances. Unless and until the latter is cleared up, either way, we simply have no idea. And as long as that remains the case, are we in a position to turn down any decent bids for any of Shelvey, Bailey, Racon, Semedo, or Sam, leaving aside the players that Parkinson wants to move on (Moutaouakil) or would seemingly be happy to trade (McLeod, Dickson, Fleetwood)?
I’ve written very little through the summer, mostly out of idleness, work, holidays etc but also because like everyone else it’s been a case of checking the website and emails for confirmation of a takeover – or that the deal is dead. Until that’s sorted we simply don’t know where we stand, which leaves me not inclined to look beyond the end of August. After all, the talk during was the summer was of the Varney-led takeover resulting in a change of manager. Could Parkinson still become the first manager with a 100% record for the season and pick up the bubbly and be sacked? That would surely put us back in national laughing stock territory, but why do the sightings of Curbs keep cropping up (hopefully he’s just been coming along because of a rediscovered love of Charlton)? And why have we chosen a sponsor that seems to put his name back on the shirts?
All pointless waffle until the board confirms what’s going on. It’s plain to all that things have not gone according to plan. Cancelling the supporters’ Q&A was perfectly understandable in the circumstances, but obviously the meeting was set up with a view to a deal being done beforehand. We’re some way on and still have only the bare statement released by the club. Of course there’s a need for confidentiality and nobody expects chapter and verse until it’s sorted. But there’s nothing wrong with periodic updates given the time that has elapsed. That’s putting it mildly. Were Charlton Athletic plc still quoted such information would be a legal requirement – and as the club has shareholders not on the board (admittedly very small stakeholders) there are still responsibilities (of course I’m well aware that privileged information for shareholders wouldn’t remain private for long, given people like me).
In its statement the club noted that the takeover of a football club was a complicated business. Well, in the greater scheme of things it isn’t. Bank of America took over Merrill Lynch in the blink of an eye, Barclays nearly bought all of Lehman Brothers over a weekend only to walk away and do a deal for the North American business days later, while Lloyds TSB agreed the HBOS deal in nothing like the time taken for a bid for a third-tier football club. OK, Barclays aside the others would make a good case for taking one’s time before signing on the dotted line – and Murray and the directors would be forgiven for thinking long and hard before writing off much of their investment (if this is the structure of the prospective deal). After all, another few wins and you can add a 0 to the price (making it a round tenner).
There may also be complications related to the Football League’s attitude to any deal which involved the purchase of assets rather than the club lock, stock and barrel (as per the original bids involving Southampton). But it really isn’t rocket science and someone is at the least stalling. If it’s Varney there’s nothing wrong with setting a deadline; if it’s the board the same applies. After all, if there’s a good bid for a player just who decides whether to accept it? Please just get it sorted – and let us know.
So, back to matters on the pitch. I think Parkinson and the players deserve the plaudits for a focused and determined start to the season. Parkinson is playing a system which suits the resources available and already there’s a consistency sadly lacking in the past three years. I might regret certain players (not least Moutaouakil) not working out, but Parkinson is at least being decisive and shaping a team that suits his purpose and there’s no good reason not to back his judgement. Having necessarily shed so many players to secure four wins with the same starting X1 merits the coming champagne.
Parkinson has after all brought in three new defenders, all going straight into the first team. Last season’s failings were spread throughout the team, but conceding goals with monotonous regularity was the real failing. Getting a decent fee for Hudson and bringing in Llera already looks like very good business. (Just what is it about ‘undisclosed fee’? Presumably it’s ‘undisclosed’ because one or more party doesn’t want it revealed. Both clubs know, the player and agents know, and while we weren’t told the Hudson fee it’s there in black and white in the Wycombe programme/review. Presumably the fee for Gray will remain undisclosed as it doesn’t do much to offset what we spent on him.) Richardson may well be just what we need at this level, while Dailly has slotted in effortlessly. It’s clear that we need at least cover at centre-back, with suspensions and injuries inevitable, with using Semedo threatening the midfield balance (which is no slur on the option of bringing in Spring, just that Racon and Semedo seem to work well together), Mambo presumably needing more time to develop, Youga a fall-back option, and Holland presumably still waiting on takeover news (one year contract with a coaching role?).
It’s been noted by others that at present with 4-5-1 we are dependent on Burton remaining fit and effective. It is hard to see McLeod, Dickson or Fleetwood (or Tuna) playing the lone striker. I’m assuming that at least one of these three will move on and that one will come in to provide a better balance of options. I still feel a little for Bailey having to play out wide, but his goals, crossing and defensive work remain invaluable (and either he has gained an extra yard or pace or the Walsall full-back was a real donkey as on Saturday Bailey was doing him for pace).
So, at the moment, as it was when we went down to The Championship, it is the extra class in midfield that is our main weapon. I just hope it survives the transfer deadline.
On other matters, it’s good to hear the crowd finally adopt the ‘Vierra/Costa’ song for Semedo – and an as yet undecipherable song for Burton. Now we need the fans to embrace David Essex’s classing Rock On for Racon (‘hey, did you boogie too? .... Racon!) And a word for Youga. I can’t help noticing that there’s no acknowledgement of the crowd from him at the start of games. Perhaps it’s a legacy of the flack he took last season. Time to make up. I’d like to hear the East and West stands give Youga the encouragement he may still need to feel loved.
Finally, to anyone who’s lasted this long, on the subject of Bailey gaining pace I couldn’t help noticing this on the BBC gossip page: ‘Sunderland boss Steve Bruce has paid tribute to a new slimline Andy Reid after the midfielder lost 9kg and 22mm of body fat in the summer. Reid celebrated by scoring twice in the 4-1 Carling Cup win over Norwich on Monday.’ Just like the note about Burton’s excellent shape when he returned to training. Begs the question why they were content to be lardy in the past. Maybe they are learning from experience that time is short. If so, the message hasn’t yet got through to one former ‘player’ (also from BBC gossip column): ‘Ex-Fulham winger Hameur Bouazza has quit Turkish club Sivasspor after only five days’. No change there then.