Friday, July 30, 2010

Transfer thoughts

In news that has pleased me but might not go down so well with Chris Solly, Charlton have snapped up right-back Simon Francis from cash-strapped Southend. The 25-year-old follows former Roots Hall compatriot Alan McCormack to the Valley and once he is match fit, should slot in as our first choice number two.

Up the other end of the field, Sky Sports is reporting that we are closing in on the signing of Oldham striker Pawel Abbott. The gangly frontman was the Latics' top scorer last term with 13 goals, and even though he is not as prolific as he was in his Huddersfield days, the Pole's height, strength and ability to hit the target will bolster our strike force - sorry, give us a strike force.

That same article also informs us that Charlton have bid for another unnamed striker. I have heard rumours that this elusive figure is York's Richard Brodie - who scored an absolute bucketful in the Blue Square Premier last season - but it could also be on-trial Icelander Gunnar Thorvaldsson, who is still contracted to Danish club Esbjerg fB.

The Addicks' final pre-season friendly takes place this weekend, with Parky's boys visiting Vicarage Road to take on Watford. The old cliche is that friendly results don't matter - in this case, though, I'd have to disagree. The Hornets look one of the weakest Championship sides on paper, so we really should give them a stiff examination and aim to get in the groove ahead of the League One opener against Bournemouth next Saturday.

I hope Therry Racon is given a substantial time on the pitch in Hertfordshire, to reassure me that he is staying more than anything else us. I haven't heard too many rumours about the Frenchman swaggering through the exit door but he has had a quiet pre-season and I still have my suspicions he could be off.

The classy ex-Marseille man has not always bossed our games the way he should but - with the possible exception of Johnnie Jackson - he is our only central midfielder who can devise attacking openings and should he head for pastures new, it would be a substantial loss.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

A busy few days

It's been a mixed week down in SE7. There's been smiles and frowns, happiness and dejection, head scratching and hand clapping - and it's all been down to transfers.

In good news, there have been a trio of arrivals, and promises of more to come. Our first piece of business was to entice out-of-contract Norwich centre-back Gary Doherty to The Valley, though according to Parky the "Ginger Pele" didn't take much persuading.

The 30-year-old was heavily mocked back in his Tottenham days and being honest, he was probably never quite good enough for the North London outfit. At Norwich, however, he has been an extremely influential figure and enjoyed a very successful time of it last year, helping the Canaries to automatic promotion from League One.

After a tricky start under Paul Lambert, Doherty went on to become a regular in the East Anglian's back four, so probably didn't leave Carrow Road because his manager thought he was absolute tommyrot. I imagine it was just a case of having moved up a division, the Champions League-winning Scot could not guarantee our new recruit a starting berth.

Doherty is a solid and experienced pro, nowhere near as sluggish as he is perceived to be and with a lack of wise old heads in the Addicks' ranks at the moment, could be a contender for the vacant captaincy role. The deal gets a thumbs up from me.

I know less about Alan McCormack, but considering our official website labels him as an "engine-roomer", it suggests to me that he will a be a pugnacious, terrier-like presence in the centre of the park. For many years Charlton have been accused of having a soft midfield but with Jose Semedo (should we keep hold of him of course) and McCormack, there seemingly won't be a lack of snap this term.

Johnnie Jackson didn't set the world alight in his four-game loan spell with The Addicks last season, but he is a versatile bloke so I also welcome his signing. The ex-Notts County and Colchester man played at left-back during his temporary stint with us but while he may figure in that position going forward, I suspect he will be utilised in a more advanced role in 2010-11 - an area where his cultured left peg and dose of creatvity - I've seen him before and he does possess it - can make a greater impact.

That's fact dealt with, now on to possible retainees/recruits. Parky has told the South London Press that he is close to agreeing a deal with winger Scott Wagstaff, while he is also hopeful of extending veteran defender Christian Dailly's spell as a Red.

I always expected Waggy to commit - who else would want him? - but in all seriousness, the academy product has become an excellent substitute for us and if he does sign the necessary papers, it could be the season where he finally grasps a regular starting place. Lloyd Sam is all but gone after all.

Dailly would probably slot in alongside Doherty at the heart of the back four - a streetwise combination that could work well. Detractors would instantly bring up the 'pace' issue, and while I stuck up for Doherty's rapidity earlier on, it would be fair to say that he and Dailly would not form the fleetest of tandems.

Then again, the John Terry-Ricardo Carvalho partnership of a few years back was not blessed with swiftness, yet they were extremely difficult to breach, proving that speed is a bonus and not fundamental to the cause.

Released Sheffield Wednesday wide boy Etienne Esajas is on trial and the rumours of Kyel Reid returning will not abate, neither will the gossip that Warren Feeney is set to become an Addick. Maybe we will have a competitive squad after all.

The dejection and head scratching that I referred to stemmed from the departure of Frazer Richardson, who has become the latest man to join our silver-topped destroyer, Alan Pardew's, revolution at Southampton. The ex-Leeds full-back has signed for £450,000 and penned a three-year contract.

Richardson's exit comes as a shock, not least because Parky named him as a key player in a press conference last week, and I'm not going to sugarcoat it and say I am gladdened that Frazer is heading for pastures new, but we'll survive.

We've lost a right-back, an important but not the most important position on the field. However well he played last season - and he did play very well - nigh on half a million for a League One right-back with a year left on his contract, coupled with the fact that as a club we are potless, I don't blame the board for sanctioning the deal.

I'd be much more reluctant to lose Therry Racon, Kelly Youga, Rob Elliot or Semedo - although the frailty of our finances means that still might happen - and if Frazer's farewell makes it more likely that we keep some or all of that group, it will be good business.

Many believe Chris Solly is good enough to fill Richardson's boots and if he is not quite ready, I'm sure an adequate, if not spectacular, replacement will be found.

The transfer tittle tattle, as intriguing as it is, will take a back seat on Saturday when something more substantial comes along - our first pre-season match, which will be at AFC Wimbledon.

No doubt, though, that once the news, views and aftermath of that contest have been digested, we will be back scouring the papers, Internet or the minds of so-called club insiders, for information on which players we will be snapping up next.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Goodbye Dazza

Darren Randolph has left Charlton after agreeing a three-year contract with Motherwell, news which came as quite a shock to me as I thought he was one of our few out-of-contract players who actually had a future at The Valley.

It is always disappointing to lose a player of promise but with Rob Elliot set to be our number one custodian next term, Darren is a player we can probably afford to part with.

Having two excellent (relatively) goalkeepers is a bonus but The Addicks need to get their entire squad in shape before they can deal in luxury. If Randy's exit allows us to draft in a decent young stopper/experienced campaigner on minimal wages, while also helping us pay the salary of that elusive 20-goal striker or rock-solid centre-half, it's one I can deal with.

I wish Darren well at 'Well because he did play an important role for us last season. His performance against Northwich Victoria in that ill-fated FA Cup tie prevented the non-league outfit from beating us at an absolute canter, and when he re-entered the first-team fray towards the end of the year following an injury to Elliot, he made some tremendous saves.

A last-minute stop at home to Leeds left us dreaming that - for a short time at least - we could clutch that final automatic promotion place, while the catalogue of efforts he blocked in the away leg of our play-off semi-final with Swindon kept us in the tie before we returned to The Valley for match two. Alright, we lost in the end, but without Dazza's intervention our demise could have come a whole lot sooner.

Whether you have a slight preference for Elliot between the sticks, or reckon Randolph should be our undisputed number one, there is not a lot to choose between them. (For the record, though, I think Darren is a slightly superior shot-stopper, but Rob is a more complete and authoritative 'keeper.)

In the end, one of them was always destined for a transfer. I'm not devastated it's Randolph who's gone, just a little bit sad.