As we wait for the identity of the new striker(s) to be brought in – unless it is felt that Williams, Poppo and possibly Euell can do the necessary to support Hayes and Wright-Phillips – we can only fondly recall the days when speculation over our moves would make the BBC and other sites and we could ponder the merits of possible options. I assume that on Tuesday at least those attending will get the chance to see how the current only available front two shape up together. In the interim, with all the comings and goings since May, it’s perhaps about time for a belated thumbnail personal assessment of those that have moved on – in part to cover for an inability to predict who might still be coming in and also to make a belated plea for the club, if it is intent on recycling entire teams each season, to stop the practise of issuing a calendar for the year ahead in December.
I realise the commercial motivation, but some of us have birthdays in August and a summer 12-month calendar would at least have some shelf-life. As it is, since May I’ve had to stare at the unfortunately crocked Fortune paired with Doherty, followed by a month of pondering the uncertainty of Dailly’s position. There’s only a few days left of Benson and Sodje (one on the point of going and one who left before his time on the wall came due), after which I’ll have Llera (effectively gone) and Mambo (hopefully coming to the fore this season as it’s time), then a month of Worner (gone without troubling the scoreboard as they say). October will bring to the fore Fry and McCormack (both departed), before Solly and Anyinsah (gone) in November. At least December will have Elliot in splendid isolation for a month. (For the record, January featured Martin and Abbott, February Wagstaff and Reid, March the combination of Racon and Semedo, and April Jackson and Francis.) I doubt that it’s going to have much resale value on ebay come January, although for the truly sad there might be interest in assessing whether any other club calendar, ever, has featured such a low combined total of games. Reality is I’m the sad one as I tend to keep these things.
So, here we go, loosely in order of positions:
Worner – what’s there to say? Parkinson obviously saw potential in him, but Powell and presumably others didn’t, presumably after the three-game spell he had in goal in March (whether that just coincided with or was instrumental in that bad patch is uncertain).
Jenkinson – Got the boos late last season for his poorly-advised decision to leave us for Arsenal, but that’s done now. Seems he was instrumental in us getting the best possible deal, and around £1m for a kid just coming through has helped to fund the restructuring. Good luck to him now.
Francis – Of course he is back in the fold and may remain so (if he does still end up at Bournemouth or somewhere else we will need a replacement). I thought last season he was a better player than some others did. He wasn’t great, his crossing often disappointed, but I really struggle to see why many fans turned against him, to the extent where one admittedly bad mistake seemed to virtually end his Charlton career. We were shopping in the bargain basement a year ago and only four players had more starts for us last season.
Youga – Does anyone know if he’s done enough to be offered something (and while we’re dealing with uncertainties, what’s happened with Alonso)? Here too the signing of two new left-backs suggests not. I don’t think there’s any doubt that were it not for injury he would have been a fixture in the team; he brought attacking flair and had the added advantage for me of maintaining the French connection. If he’s fit I wouldn’t be surprised to see even a Championship team take a punt on him (if not, if he heads back to France maybe there’s a spot at Lyon Duchere?).
Fortune – Can’t say for sure we’ve seen the last of him; if he gets fit by the end of the year I guess there’s always the chance we’d offer him a short-term deal as cover. We know what he will forever be remembered for; it might not be enough for true Charlton legend status but ... oh hell, of course it is (just as Kitson earnt his place in our hearts).
Llera – Some have commented that his mistakes always seemed to be picked on more than those of others. For me, the problem was less about mistakes but his reaction to them. He often seemed to go to pieces. I shall always remember with affection his first appearance at Welling. We’d been told about his ability to spread the play, but nobody had told him the pitch was a postage stamp and his first efforts sailed over the stands. When he was good he looked imperious (and was always a threat from set pieces), but Parkinson gave up on him and Powell clearly thought he couldn’t be relied on. Goes with best wishes but no regrets (at least until the first howlers from Taylor/Morrison).
Semedo – From player of the season to the exit door (a bit like Parkinson’s November manager of the month). Never any doubting his commitment and ability to do a job, but given the limited nature of that job needed either a 4-5-1 formation or an exceptionally good player alongside him in a central two. Assured of a warm welcome when he comes back with Sheff Wed, but here too no regrets from me that last season’s failed midfield has been cleared out.
Racon – When we played 4-5-1 and passed and moved he was instrumental in it all. When it was 4-4-2 he simply didn’t have the strength or outright ability to compete, even with his minder Semedo, with his tackling often a liability. I hope he goes on to find a decent club after the one he’s gone to.
McCormack – Might be argued that he didn’t get the chance to really show us what he could do. But that wouldn’t be correct. He did get the chances and what he showed wasn’t good enough. Seemed the sort of player that needed to be (and was used to being) the boss in midfield but singularly failed to play effectively with Racon while his pairing with Semedo (which was first choice at the start of the season) was too limited.
Reid – For me the biggest disappointment of last season. Getting him on a free seemed a real coup at the time, but just didn’t cut the mustard, for whatever reason. Started the first six games of the season but proved entirely peripheral after that. A waste of potential is never that; if you don’t fulfil your potential it was never really there. Time for Reid to prove (somewhere else) that he has what it takes.
Anyinsah – Just too injury-prone. Often looked as though he would make the best partner for Wright-Phillips, but there was never the possibility of finding out.
Benson – In the circumstances we were in, he was a decent (and necessary) signing. Took a while to get going, but had a purple patch with six goals in five games (and eight in 13). Once Wright-Phillips was bought he had to adapt to being more of a target man and that’s not really his strength. Clearly had his limitations, and perhaps lacked the real strut and self-confidence that a really good finisher needs.
Stewart/Parrett/Nouble/Eccleston/Bessone – Of the loan signings now departed, Stewart seemed to be using us to put himself in the shop window and our signings mean he isn’t returning. Whether he finds a club above our status remains to be seen. Three others go back to their Premiership clubs with thanks but only one regret from me – that we sadly underutilised Eccleston. He may have been a bit cocky, but he has pace and ability, even playing him wide right. Bessone brought a touch of flair with him, but he came to us short of match fitness and struggled with injuries. I’ve no idea if we ever tried to get him on a permanent basis, but with Wiggins and Evina brought in we’ve clearly seen the last of him.
Dailly – I’ve kept the best to last; and at the moment we still don’t know if he’s staying or going. I’m not privy to the talks, the money etc. But I can’t help thinking that his eventual decision will be more down to whether he wants at least one more season as a lynchpin somewhere else or whether he is ready to be used more sparingly – and perhaps ease his way into a training/management role. Perhaps he’s the sort of player who needs to be totally involved (anyone who has the clash of heads that he had – which echoed around the ground – just before half-time in a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy game and comes out for the second half, before later discovering a cracked eye socket, clearly has a screw loose). I actually hope he ends up doing what’s best for him in that respect. He’s been nothing but a model professional and an outstanding player, somebody whose intelligence and understanding of the game shone through even in his programme notes. Time catches up with everyone (except me) and only he can decide if the legs are up to another full season.
It goes without saying that best wishes go to the youngsters released. But they, like most of the above, are history now, for us at least. And let’s face it recent history hasn’t been glorious. For those lucky enough to be able to attend the Tuesday friendly, these are the comments of a Dutch colleague:
From 1983 to 1990, FC Den Bosch were consistently in the first division (eredivisie) but have always struggled to get to the top ranks. In the 1990s, the team struggled to raise enough money as the team attracted less visitors. The club has even been forced to sell players with very good potential for almost nothing to other teams in the Netherlands. Ruud van Nistelrooy started his career there (he played four years in the main team of Den Bosch) and was sold in 1998 for 650,000 guilders (EUR 300,000) to SC Heerenveen. One year later, Heerenveen sold him for 12 million guilders (EUR 5.4 mln - a record amount for a football player at that time) to PSV, after it turned out that he was brilliant on the pitch in the first division. Since the 1990s, FC Den Bosch have been promoted to the first division four times (in 1993, 2000, 2002 and 2005), only to get relegated the next year (ed – shades of a certain Palace here?). The team usually play in the top ranks of the second division and every year they have reasonable chances to get promoted to the first division (OK, not like Palace), but never make much of an impression there.