I can’t help feeling a bit of a wally beginning a post with ‘sorry I haven’t written much recently’ (Robert Peston began his latest BBC blog post with a similar phrase, but then he is a wally who doesn’t seem to realise that his minute of fame – offered him by officials wanting to leak some information – has passed). It implies that there is someone out there reading this, that there is someone out there reading this and who is sad enough to realise that there hasn’t been much posted recently, and that there is someone out there reading this who is sad enough to realise that there hasn’t been much posted recently and who gives a monkey’s. But there we are.
The weeks ahead are going to be sparse for me as well. Having only belatedly woken up to the fact that I wanted to go to the Gillingham game, by which time all the tickets had sold out, work commitments (Amsterdam on Monday) prevent a return to Carlisle, then a week in Lyon rules out both Northwich Victoria away in the cup and the home game against Milton Keynes Dons. Unless I can squeeze in Yeovil away, my next game will not be until Bristol Rovers. (Not strictly true as while in Lyon I will be going to watch Lyon Duchere take on Lyon B in the local derby; I hope to post a report on events, although given that Duchere – who stand sixth in their league with a game in hand, with Lyon B top – have managed eight goals in nine games and conceded just two, with Lyon B letting in just nine in 10, I’m not anticipating a goal fest; in the two-and-a-half Lyon Duchere games I’ve seen they haven’t managed to score a goal.)
So this will have to do for a while. Two issues: ownership of the club and the team’s formation. I’ll try to keep it short, but .....
On the former, I’m sure we’re all delighted if the reports that Dennis Wise-led consortium has pulled out of buying Charlton are true. Delight will be complete if we later learn that David Gold buys West Ham (or anyone apart from us). I’m one of the few people (it seems) that don’t resent Wimbledon having upped sticks and gone to Milton Keynes. It could have been us (there was speculation of such a move many years ago) and the bottom line is that in both cases the clubs were facing financial ruin, or stagnation at best. If I was the owner of Wimbledon then I would have done something similar. Our salvation came from the wake-up call that was leaving The Valley, however painful it was at the time. We were lucky that we moved in a fashion that was never going to work (barring a merger with Palace), had a great manager in Lennie and secured promotion to help paper over some of the cracks. The triumphant return, the forging of bonds between supporters and the owners of the club, plus the next great manager in Curbs paved the way for the glory years pre-Dowie.
Of course this is all in the past. If Richard Murray and his board decide that selling to Gold makes sense for them, and in their opinion the club, that is their right. They own the club, and I can’t see my few shares forming a blocking vote. Equally, our right is to disagree – and decide on the implications. Personally, if Gold takes over the first inclination is to tear up the season ticket and to walk away. On further consideration I guess I’d want to hear what he would have to say (something along the lines of ‘no, I didn’t buy Charlton because I failed to buy West Ham’), then decide.
I have absolutely no problem with the club being sold, whether or not it involved overseas investors. But let’s consider an ideal and worst case scenario. The former would be say Dubai/Middle East money coming in, with Murray/Varney retained to run the club; the latter would be being bought by Ken Bates. My gut reaction is that Gold (and Wise) are far closer to Bates. Of course I want to see us back in the Premiership, at least the Championship, but the rebirth of the club was founded on a certain approach and sensitivities which if ditched would leave me at least questioning if it’s a price worth paying. I don’t like life in this division (I still tend to feel that if we win we’ve beaten some rubbish and if we don’t something’s badly wrong – I know it’s not a useful approach and I’m trying to adjust), but we’ve seen it before and it’s better than selling our soul ... and not even for Wales.
As regards team formation, having missed Gillingham I can’t really comment on how well 4-4-2 is really working on the basis of just the Huddersfield game. But the bottom line is that no formation in football is perfect and the simple rule it to play to your strengths. We have (in my view) a capable defence which should continue to improve with familiarity, with cover for all positions. Up front we have currently a choice of one or two from four - Burton, McLeod, Mooney and Tuna, assuming McKenzie is out for a while. Burton began the season is fine form (albeit benefiting from some horrible opposition gaffes), playing as the lone striker, McLeod has come in and still hints that he can deliver the goals we need. But Burton and McLeod together didn’t seem to me to work well (as always, time and increased familiarity may prove this wrong), Mooney is an unknown quantity (for me at least), and it’s clear from bringing him in that Tuna is considered at least not yet ready to start a league game.
In midfield we have Semedo, Spring, Racon, Bailey, Sam, Wagstaff, Shelvey, plus (potentially) Basey, Stavrinou, Holden and (perhaps, one day) Sinclair. That is a line-up which should do well in the Championship, never mind this league, and is our core strength. Shelvey has been rested and I hope is straining for a return, Spring did a decent job covering for Semedo, who is now back. Consider the options in midfield against those up front if we play 4-4-2.
For me perhaps most important is that if we begin a game playing 4-4-2 with Burton and McLeod the options for change are very limited. Basically it’s bring on Mooney for either (or start with Mooney and McLeod with Burton in reserve; he may be due a breather). You make a change up front if it isn’t working or you are chasing the game, which doesn’t make it easy to take off a central striker and bring on Shelvey.
We have come up against teams (well, Oldham) intent on shutting up shop at The Valley and denying us space. In those circumstances 4-4-2 clearly makes sense. Being ready and able to switch to that is a necessity. But otherwise I’m inclined to see 4-5-1 as our best starting option, especially away. Burton has played best so far on his own, with Semedo back Racon is free to do his stuff, and Shelvey comes back in (which despite indifferent form leading up to the change in formation is still a big plus).