Forget the money worries, forget the boardroom chaos and forget the rumours of Chris Solly leaving, in an ideal world Charlton need to strengthen a number of positions to compete this season. Chairman Michael Slater may have suggested throughout last season that the squad that led the Addicks to League One success was built for the challenges of the Championship too, but scoring four against Carlisle and doing the double over Yeovil is very different to similar feats against the likes of Birmingham and Cardiff. Although I think a low middle table finish is guaranteed with the current crop, experience and quality must be added in order to achieve anything more memorable from this season. If the money issues are to be believed, free agents may be the way to go. Being without a club doesn’t mean a lack of quality.
Ben Hamer, despite a few uneasy spells during February and March including calamities in the all round horror shows against Colchester and Notts County, is a very talented young keeper. But that’s the problem, he is a young keeper with very little experience in the Championship. He is first choice. I’d hate him to be anything but, but with John Sullivan seemingly heading out on loan, an experienced second choice keeper is a must for times of crisis and to offer support to Hamer. As it’s unlikely a transfer fee will be spent on a back up player, a potential candidate is former Welsh international Danny Coyne. Coyne, 38, is available on a free after being released by Middlesbrough and has over 400 club appearances and 16 international caps to his name.
Having missed out on George Friend, it’s clear Chris Powell has interest in bolstering his defensive options, and with only three first team centre backs, I fully support Powell’s intentions. Leon Cort and Michael Morrison have both played in the Championship before, but were both deemed surplus to requirements at Burnley and Leicester respectively, whilst Matt Taylor has worked his way up though the Non-League system and will be making his debut in the Championship in addition to a number of youth prospects; once again experience is needed. Taking into account the apparent financial situation, Shelton Martis and Richard Naylor, former teammates of Friend at Doncaster, may be fair shouts to fulfill the defensive gaps. More unrealistic possibilities may be the free agents Danny Shittu, Danny Gabbidon (because we don’t have enough Dannys already) and Ibrahimo Sonko, but I would imagine wages and a desire to come to Charlton would prevent any of them from arriving at The Valley.
Danny Hollands was exceptional last season, underrated by some whilst those around him took more of the plaudits, and will have no problem making the step up to the Championship. Bradley Pritchard may have been a punt, but a successful punt excelling in all bar one of the games he played, but the Championship may be one hurdle too much for the former non-leauger to fully excel in. Dale Stephens epitomised inconsistency last season, partly the result of injury, but when he was on form he looked very capable. It still remains to be seen whether he can make the step in the basis of last season’s showing. The likes of Johnnie Jackson, Ruben Bover and new signing Salim Kerkar can all fill in in the middle but I would much prefer to see them on the flank and you can’t forget Andy Hughes, but he’s plagued with injuries. Consequently, strengthening the midfield is a must. Darel Russell seems the easy choice, and despite the controversy he caused last season, I think he would be an excellent addition as an alternative. Brain Howard, who was previously on trial at Portsmouth, remains available, whilst experienced players Ferrie Bodde, Sean Davis and Tom Soares are also free agents.
With Paul Hayes and Leon Clarke soon to be heading out the door, a couple of strikers will be needed to replace them. The rumours about Sam Baldock are rife, with the general consensus being that he’ll join once Hayes and Clarke find new clubs. Baldock’s signing excites me a lot and he’ll both challenge Bradley Wright-Phillips and help to add an extra dimension to the front three if Powell chooses to use the 4-3-3 formation trialed in pre-season. However, I think an extra striker is needed, even with the addition of Baldock, to challenge Yann Kermorgant in his target man role. Dave Kitson has been mentioned, but I personally do not rate him and his role in the Portsmouth saga shows his attitude stinks. Although possibly an unrealistic target, especially as back up, Roman Bednar is a very experienced player and played a crucial role in Blackpool’s push to the play-off final season, whilst David Connolly scored goals for Southampton last season and would be a useful addition.