Oh, this just keeps getting better! Having resigned myself to the prospect that after Welling tomorrow it would be early September and the visit of Sheffield Wednesday before my season can begin (in terms of actually being there), with no sign of a replacement for the cancelled Reading friendly, I see today that game has been put back to the following Monday – when I will probably be making my regular work-related trip to Amsterdam. The chances of finding a bar there that might be screening the Wednesday game are remote (although I can go on a trawl of the centre to either be pleasantly surprised or sufficiently anaesthetised to compensate) and it means Exeter on 10 September being my first match in anger. Bloody marvellous (although some may wish to point out that it’s my decision to naff off on holidays for two weeks and to stick to certain resolutions, such as retaining my sense of purity by never actually stepping inside the New Den, having done my time in the old one).
The fact that three home games are now written off for me did set me thinking as to whether if it was a purely monetary issue it was worth buying a season ticket or paying by game and waiting for the second-half ticket offers around the turn of the year. That actually encouraged me to look at the fixture list for the first time and realising how distorted it is. Because of the Carling Cup and the Mickey Mouse JPT I assume, perhaps other reasons (internationals?), we are scheduled to have five league games in August and September each, followed by six in October. Then it gets weird. Just three in November and only four in December (and just three home games in the two months). January and February see some return to normality, with five games in each month, but then seven in March (including four at home)! Throw in a few cancellations for bad weather and an FA Cup run (I know, but it’s always possible) and it has all the ingredients for a congestion disaster – and/or a repeat of last season when then too the games came thick and fast and we were on a dire run and unable to pause for breath. We will reach the end of December having played exactly half the season (23 games) or less (if there are postponements) in five months, then cram the second half (or more) into four.
I’m sure there are reasons for the season to be planned this way and it was probably the same last season and I didn't notice (we ended up playing just two league games in December). But I doubt they have a lot to do with the interests of the teams concerned – and their fans. To play seven serious games in two months at a time when the weather is likely to be no problem, then eight in one when there may well be a need to fit in games postponed in January-February, increasing the risk of games added in April (when there are five planned), seems to me from a purely footballing perspective plain daft. It risks turning the season into a patchy and inconclusive first half followed by a desperate slog to the finish, especially when injuries and suspensions are thrown in. But it’s only League One, so who cares?
I had a quick check on another team’s fixture list and it does seem it’s the same for everyone. The only problem for us is that not every club in this division is starting the campaign with a completely new team. It’s reasonable to suppose that it will take a bit of time for squad to gel and if this translates into a slow start in August-October the low number of games in November-December may not work to our advantage. It does also suggest that while the JPT is an irrelevance (I have no wish to go to Wembley to see us in that competition) Sir Chris may be well advised to treat it seriously as part of the team bonding process and as the players will be getting plenty of rest from league games prior to Christmas.
I was about to say it has been getting rather boring of late on the player front, with no new signings for a week (aside from the youngsters). But I had a quick check on the club site to make sure and I see that another centre-half has been added to the ranks, bringing the total to 11. That’s a nice round number, and the day’s not over yet. Welling is usually a challenge in terms of keeping track of who’s on the pitch and this time around it’s going to be near impossible. We could field a starting X1 containing no players on the books last season. I’m going to have to scribble a note to myself listing the new players to take along just to try to be able to avoid obvious howlers if there’s to be a post-match posting, although I hope nobody expects any real match report as for all its merits it is little more than a training session. At least with enough additions to choose from I’ve been assuming we won’t have repeats of previous years’ rabbits coming out of the hat (I remember Fortune surprising us all last time around by pulling on a Charlton shirt again), but I see from Chicago Addick’s latest post Jason Euell is training with us (as well as a German trialist).
We have also seen confirmation of the departure of others, including Semedo, Francis and Anyinsah to add to Racon, Reid et al (with rumours of McCormack also leaving). Seems Dailly’s future remains unclear, while the addition of Michael Morrison from Wednesday to add to Matt Taylor from Exeter suggests that even with Fortune out of the picture and Llera seemingly headed for pastures new he and Doherty go from first-choice partnership to back-ups if they stay.
As I’ve said before, I’m not the person to make any meaningful assessments of the new guys (other than to add that while my partner Suzanne’s normally good judgement seems to become rose-tinted when it comes to me, I’ve always had a certain inclination when watching someone make their Charlton debut to think we’ve got a world-beater on our hands). But the overall impression has to be that we’ve brought in a whole batch of players with years ahead of them and what looks like a good mix of experience at this level and potential to develop; and while gelling may be a problem, the clearing of the decks should mean a squad unencumbered by the baggage of the failure of recent years. It does all seem in keeping with Michael Slater’s stated goal of creating a team/squad ready to hold their own in The Championship if we can get promoted. And on that optimistic note I guess it’s time to stop quibbling about missing games and put that cheque in the post.