I have been trying to pin down the definitive reason for my not making the trip for tomorrow afternoon’s game. My French partner Suzanne is in London for the weekend and, while she was willing, I was hesitant. We do have a little family duty to perform, which offers a decent enough excuse. But ultimately it’s because I swore I would never visit the New Den (and also pledged ‘never again’ for Selhurst Park). I spent many of my formative years in Bermondsey (I may not have been the only Addick in SE1 but was the only one at Galleywall Road Junior School) and went to more than my fair share of games against Millwall, while also having a ringside seat to watch the Saturday evening street mayhem which in the 1960s/70s followed many home games. Like getting caned at school, it may (or may not) have been character-building; I just don’t feel inclined to repeat the experience.
I do nevertheless feel more than a twinge of guilt at not being there, to add to the necessary support - and, as after Kim Grant in the snow, I will regret not having been there to witness the triumph. Non, je ne regrette rien (which for the record is a love song; Piaf doesn’t sing about an attitude to life but rather that she doesn’t regret anything and wouldn’t change anything because everything has led her to where she is now, with the man of her dreams; I might suggest to Suzanne while she is here that she must feel the same way, but this probably hinges on whether I overcook the veal steak tonight).
ith the surprisingly early return of Kermorgant, seemingly Haynes and Wilson being close to being available, but understandable doubts about Fuller being fit after the strain of his wonder-strike, I’m not going to speculate about what 11 might take to the pitch. With Morrison unavailable (of all the games to miss!) presumably Taylor or Dervite will partner Cort. Injuries aside (Wiggins, Evina, Wilson, plus Taylor) and stop-gaps at full-back (Kerkar and Morrison), the defence this season has pretty much picked itself. Clearly the same can’t be said about the midfield or attack, which raises the question of just which combinations might work best in the event that all the players are available.
I may be outdated, but I do still think in terms of partnerships, or at least combinations, in all the key areas. At present, we have four main forwards - Kermorgant, Hulse, Fuller and Haynes – all of whom present a good case for inclusion (when was the last time we had four forwards all of whom scored the last time they started?) and a fifth – Wright-Phillips – who was expected to be the focal point of our attack this season. There’s also Cook. It is an abundance of riches but with no clear first-choice options. Kermorgant’s ability in the air and the intelligence of his work stand out, but so do Fuller’s ability to hold the ball and use it to good effect, Hulse’s goals-per-game ratio, and the fact that Haynes is the one with the pace (as well as having scored three games in a row). The classic combination would point to Haynes plus one of the other three, based on whichever works best in training. Sometimes partnerships do just click. I can’t help salivating at the possibility of Haynes getting on the end of Kermorgant’s flicks, but where does that leave the others?
Midfield is if anything even more complicated, this time because nobody has made the case for being a shoo-in. When it comes to the wide positions, my liking is for one outright winger (Kerkar or Green) and one more defensive-minded (Jackson or Wilson); I remember thinking that Gordon Hill and Steve Coppell were an optimum combination (before the latter came off the rails and went on to become associated with the wrong part of SE London). Of course that’s not set in stone, depending on the opposition, while there’s Wagstaff and Pritchard available too. Kerkar had a poor game on Tuesday and has I think yet to show what he can really do, Green is undoubtedly the best crosser of the ball we have (and can chip in with goals). Add in the fact that Pritchard and Jackson have been playing both out wide and in the centre, and we have options aplenty, just no clear Plan A.
In central midfield, you choose two from Jackson, Stephens, Pritchard, Dervite, Jonsson and of course Frimpong. Frimpong has started the two games for which he’s been available, but who is his best partner? Stephens is our main play-maker, while Jackson is our captain (and leading scorer).
It would be nice to provide some answers, or at least stronger opinions. But I’m happy to leave it all to Sir Chris and to back whatever choices he goes with, which is another way of saying I really don’t know. What should work to our advantage is the fact that available options means competition for places. In any event, the pasta and veal isn’t going to cook itself and I have to get to the shop with my winning euromillions lottery ticket before they close. Otherwise Suzanne will have something to regret.