I just wanted to be the last to add my voice of congratulations to Parkinson and the board for what was and wasn’t done yesterday. As others have commented, and as outlined on the club site, we brought in players in positions where we were light and kept everyone we wanted to. I don’t know anyone who’s responded negatively to what’s been done – and it’s all left me in much better spirits. After all, we are well aware what transfer deadline day has done to us in the past - most obviously Scott Parker (which was not our finest hour as we had ample time to line up a replacement as it had been clear for some time he was off) but also for me the last-second transfer out of Dannie Murphy (which effectively marked the end of the final strong team put together by Curbs). By contrast it was almost enjoyable watching the BBC site as the minutes ticked down (working from home does have its advantages).
The way that Parkinson has rebalanced the squad compares very favourably in my opinion with the efforts of Pardew a year ago (we’ll draw a discreet veil over Dowie). And you would have got long odds just a few months ago that Bailey, Shelvey, Racon and Semedo would be still with us, so whatever the true state of our finances the board gets top marks again for commitment (indeed, on a risk rating assessment it’s only provision of information where the score is poor). For the fourth season in a row we have reshaped the team and you have to say that the one we have now is, with the possible exception of the first season in the Championship (come on, with the players we had we should have gone back up), it looks like the one best suited to the task in hand – which is now undoubtedly going up. I had thought at the end of last season that such thoughts should be off the agenda, given the finances, although this does mean that it has the appearance of ‘Monte Carlo or Bust’ as a failure now to go up would surely be followed by another necessary round of sales (barring takeover of course).
A quick look back at the changes made throws up very few causes for regret. Of those out of contract (primarily Fortune, Holland, Zhi, Ambrose, Todorov, Weaver, Wright) the need for another year out of Mattie’s legs has diminished, Fortune’s departure has been covered, keeping Zhi (always unrealistic) would have been an expensive luxury if he had ended up competing with Shelvey for the place in the hole, Todorov, while perhaps poorly used last season, was a spent force for us, Weaver was presumably expensive and, while I wish him well, Palace fans will sooner or later realise that Ambrose only scores against Ipswich. Of those sold - Hudson, Gray – both can be considered excellent business (especially given wages) with Llera coming in and Gray’s signing just about the last act by the now-sacked Barnsley manager. Of those sent out on loan, Moutaouakil was clearly out of the picture, and Fleetwood has done nothing for us to date. It’s probably only Kandol and Ward from the end of last season that I might have regretted not being able to bring in permanently (the former not least for the glimpse of a partnership with Dickson).
We now have first-choices and back-ups in most positions: Elliot and Randolph in goal, Richardson and Solly at right-back, Youga and Basey left-back, Llera, Dailley and now Sodje at centre-back (with Semedo, Youga or Basey as emergency cover). Wide-right we have Sam but also Wagstaff pushing him and Shelvey or Bailey possible cover, wide-left it’s Bailey and now Holden. In central midfield the Racon and Semedo partnership is flourishing, with Spring available and Bailey to switch inside if needed. And while it’s 4-5-1 for now at least with Shelvey and Burton, McKenzie, Dickson, McLeod and Tuna are all available either from the start or as subs (I guess there’s still the possibility of one of them going out on loan).
Five games in a row with the same starting line-up, a clear formation and now options to change it as and when required, and a spine to the team (Elliot, Llera, Semedo/Racon, Shelvey/Burton). It’s been a while since we could say that. Of course things are going to go wrong sooner or later, whether through injuries, suspensions or loss of form. But the changes for whatever eventuality would seem clear (provided of course Sodje gets and stays fit).
So it’s positive thoughts all round. All that’s left to do is to sort out an acceptable greasy spoon for Saturday (given the start time), try to resolve the ongoing debate with a fellow Addick about the relative merits of two routes back to Blackheath from the ground (funny how a simple exchange can morph into the philosophy versus science debate and a detailed examination of distances, gradients, travel options, quality of life while walking, and the meaning of language), and to keep sending Suzanne pretty pictures of Norwich (early indications are not encouraging).