Friday, 31 May 2013

That's All Folks...

So after the traditional end of the season Play Off match, the curtain finally closes on the Championship season.  Wasn't a bad one for the Addicks was it? Unfortunately we didn't manage to reach the lofty heights of the Premier League as did our neighbours, but overall I am satisfied that it was a very successful season for Charlton given the squad that we had available.

For me, the close season can be a frustrating time, in particular when it's an 'off-year' for the European Championships and the World Cup.  When there is a tournament on there is some level of distraction which makes the couple of months without football a bit more bearable.  It also stops me from trawling news sites multiple times a day looking for some scrap of Addicks news.  So far the news hasn't been exactly positive.

If early signs are anything to go by, we could be in for another tough season when the campaign kicks off again in August.  It's great news that Andy Hughes has signed a contract extension, but Cedric Evina has joined the long line of Charlton players that are heading away from The Valley.  Evina becomes the eighth person to be released by the club, though that number could actually be nine if we include Bradley Wright-Phillips, though I have no idea if he has officially been released, I've read nothing that would confirm this.

I think the trimming down of the squad was inevitable with the financial fair play rules beginning to take effect,  but we do need to add some new faces if we are to move forward.  Chris Powell did brilliantly to manage the team to a top ten finish, especially as we were on such a tight budget.  To finish above the likes of Wolves, Blackburn, Middlesbrough and Leeds is a good achievement.  These teams would definitely be looked at as the heavyweights of the division pre-season, so congratulations have to go to Powell and the squad for their hard work and commitment.

For some time our fate was hanging in the balance as the season unfolded into one of the closest league campaigns that I can remember.  I have to admit, there were times when I was getting a little uncomfortable with our league position as I was mindful of the fact that we have suffered a number of end of season slumps over the years.  With our final ten games approaching, we were languishing a little bit too close to the relegation zone for my liking and I was trying not to think of the prospect of another relegation.

But, in fact, it was the end of season run that was to cement our place in this division.  In those final ten games, we managed to pick up 6 wins, 3 draws, and spectacularly, only a single defeat.  Unfortunately that loss was to that noisy lot from SE16, but there were some great wins in there to be proud of.  The Bolton result was a memorable one after going two goals down before scoring three of our own to seal the points.  The six goal thrashing of Barnsley will long be remembered by those who made the trip, and the win over Leeds was an important one as not only did the late goals show the character in the team, it also gave us the belief that a top ten finish was entirely possible.

I've often heard it said that you cannot stand still in football, and it's the truth.  If we don't improve the team, we could face another season of uncertainty.  Powell has done everything that has been expected of him so far, and a bit more besides.  We are currently in the ascendancy as a club, and we need to keep that going.  Slater and Co. have always insisted that their goal was to get us back to the Premier League, and as hard as Powell is trying, that cannot be done without some investment.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Wright-Phillips off, Di Canio out

Bradley Wright-Phillips has moved to Brentford on loan for the rest of the season.  With the proposed move to Swindon falling through at the 11th hour, it was only a matter of time before a deal was done with somebody, and I'm not wholly surprised that Brentford are the club that will benefit.

BWP made no secret of the fact that his preferred strike partner during our promotion winning campaign, was Paul Hayes.  With Hayes also playing for Brentford, Uwe Rosler must be hoping that the two of them will link up as successfully as the pair did for us during the first part of last season.

I'm actually disappointed that the club has opted to loan Bradley out.  Although I realise he has found life in the Championship far more difficult than League One, I'm not totally convinced that he has been given enough of an opportunity.  Of late, we have been struggling to find the back of the net with any regularity, and it has to be said, we have lost games as a direct result of this.

With Wright-Phillips gone, it limits our attacking options.  Both Danny Haynes and Ricardo Fuller have had spells out with injury, and as much as we all love Yann, he is not the type of player that will be prolific enough to score us all the goals we need to ensure we consolidate in this league.

According to the stats, Bradley has made 21 appearances for the club this season (all competitions) with a return of just one goal, which I admit, doesn't make great reading.  But, he has mostly been limited to cameo appearances, only being called upon very late in the game, often when there was little time to make an impact.  I would like to have seen him get another chance to see if he can cut it in this division, but it seems we may never find out.

It's a distinct possibility that we have seen his last game in a Charlton shirt. Bradley's contract expires at the end of the season and it's likely that it will not be renewed.  It is a shame, as he was instrumental last season and provided the lions share of the goals for us and it was great to have a striker that we expected to score, rather than hoped to score.  Darren Bent was probably the last player that we had this kind of feeling with, and that seemed like an age ago.

I wish BWP all the luck in the world and I really think that his move to Brentford will not only be great for himself and for Brentford, I think that it might help bring out the best in Paul Hayes as well.

In other news, Paolo Di Canio has confirmed his resignation from Swindon Town.  Clearly Paolo was upset at the sale of Matt Richie without his consent, and although it seemed that there was agreement reached with the Club's new owners, Paolo has decided it's time to move on.

I doubt we'll see him out of the game for too long.  Paolo did an excellent job with Swindon getting them promoted on limited resources, but the real achievement has been that they have managed to keep pace with some of the best teams in League One this season.  They are currently sitting in 6th position, though if they win their game in hand, they would be up to 2nd place.  An amazing feat for a club on such a shoestring.

It have wondered if our owners would be interested in replacing Powell with Di Canio, and even if Paolo would consider such a position.  I'm personally happy with the current setup, but the people behind our club have a certain unpredictability and nothing would surprise me.  If they are looking to get rid of Powell, it might soften the blow with the fans to have someone come in that also is held in high regard.