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Unemployment FC: the Best Free Agents for Championship Clubs this Season

What’s the first thing every budding Chris Powell, Lee Clark and Nigel Pearson does when beginning a new career on ‘Football Manager’? Is it work out an effective training routine? What about organise match winning tactics? Or how about transfer list those 31 year olds with one year left on their contracts? No, it’s none of them. As every avid player of the computer game series would know, it’s search for the bargains to be had in the free agents player search category. It’s like having a long list of women lined up for you in a club, all of the small talk and negotiation being put to one side and you getting the chance to hand pick your favourite lady to take home. Oh what fun.

Thankfully, the PFA have made every socially excluded football simulator loving freak’s favourite activity a reality with their very own list of free players. From 18 year olds without a pro deal to seasoned pros looking for their last pay cheque, it’s got all of the hottest unattached property on show. With money in short supply in SE7, Chris Powell’s browser must auto-fill the letter ‘p’ with the PFA transfer list, and with that in mind, it only seems right to look at the best options available for Charlton Athletic and the other 23 teams in the Championship as they prepare their squads for next season.

The XI is made up of players listed on the PFA Transfer List; they may still be retained at a club but be out of contract and looking for offers. I haven’t included anyone who may be out of contract but isn’t listed as being available on the website, so the likes of Marlon Pack are not included, who doesn’t feature on the site. I’ve also decided against picking any player recently let go by Charlton, so whilst Ricardo Fuller and Danny Haynes may well have made it onto the bench, they aren’t mentioned. Finally, in the interests of reality and fairness, Premier League players who will more than likely return to Premier League clubs are not included; sorry Carlton and Titus. There’s the boring technical stuff over with, how about we look at the team?

GOAL KEEPER – LEE CAMP

I’m sure if we asked Lee to turn the clock back and reconsider his decision to move to Norwich City in January, he might well opt to remain at Nottingham Forest. After three first team appearances in the second half of the season following his move to the Premier League outfit, Camp was deemed surplus to requirements and shown the exit door by manager Chris Hughton. A dependable performer and with several hundred Championship appearances to his name, the Northern Irish international would be a steal for any club searching a safe pair of hands for next season.

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A club must now step in to reunite Camp with his beloved goal post

RIGHT BACK – GONZALO JARA

The second of three players who featured for Nottingham Forest last term, the Chilean international was let go by West Bromwich Albion after the 27 year old’s contract was not renewed. Despite over a half century of caps of his South American home nation and a regular in the Albion side when first arriving in England in 2009, the attack minded full back has spent time on loan at both Brighton and Forest, suggesting a permanent step down isn’t out of the question.

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The tears won’t stop until Jara gets himself a job

CENTRE BACK – CHRISTOPHE BERRA

Wolverhampton Wanderers: the best team on paper to ever be relegated from the Championship? Probably, and this has left a number of talented players without a club. One such player is Scottish international Berra who, despite being signed to great fanfare in January 2009, never quite lived up to his potential at Molyneux but still amassed 141 appearances during his 4 year stay at the club with most of them coming in the Premier League. At 6’3 he’s strong in the air, excellent in the tack and when 27 caps, and 2 goals, for Scotland are added to the package, he seems more than worth a punt for any Championship club.

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Berra has retrained as a kitman in case offers for playing roles are in short supply

CENTRE BACK – MATTHEW KILGALLON

Paolo Di Canio doesn’t understand the meaning of a second chance. The latest player to receive a Leon Clarke style volley of abuse from the Italian eccentric is the former England U21 international Kilgallon, for taking a trip to a casino the night before a game. The former Sheffield United man hardly made a name for himself at the Stadium of Light prior to that incident with just 23 appearances in 3 years, but the defender has proven Championship quality and would be a useful addition to many sides looking to expand their defensive units.

Scoring at the Valley; Kilgallon’s career highlight

LEFT BACK – NICKY SHOREY

They say never go back, and Shorey’s 17 appearance second spell at Reading is the perfect example of that saying. Relegation, second choice to the like of Ian Harte and released quicker than you can say ‘club legend’, the club legend leaves the Madjeski without adding much to his reputation at the club. Always a valiant performer prior to this season with spells at Fulham, West Brom and Aston Villa, in addition to his first involvement with Reading, all proven successful, there’s undoubted quality at the 32 year old’s disposal. But with the former England international (I’d forgotten too, don’t worry) the wrong side of 30, it might be time for the left back to take a step down and provide that valiant service to a Championship club.

Shorey was as shocked as all of us with his England caps

RIGHT MIDFIELD – GARY TAYLOR-FLETCHER

Much like the illuminations and the pleasure beach, Taylor-Fletcher had become part of the furniture in Blackpool. Two play-off finals, a goal in one of them,  five Premier League goals in 22 games and 36 in 215 in total for the Seasiders later and, in true undesirable sofa fashion, the winger-cum-striker has been dumped ready for another fortunate club to smuggle him into the back of a car and make use of his talents. An excellent finisherand a fantastic deliverer of the ball, his versititlity only increases the attractiveness of the free agent. Whilst at 32 age certainly isn’t on his side, experience coupled with ability would make him an excellent addition for most Championship clubs.

Club shops rub their hands in glee at the prospect of Taylor-Fletcher

CENTRE MIDFIELD – NICKY BAILEY

Some Charlton fans will have you believe that missing just one penalty results in every single aspect of a player’s ability being lost. Okay, it was a fairly important penalty, and yes, it did miss the target by quite some way, but that does not take away from the reality that Bailey is an outstanding Championship player.  Shown during his time at SE7, the tough tackling and goal scoring midfielder became a fan’s favourite winning player of the season and being one of very few positives from the side that were relegated without any fight in 2008-09. His season in League One with Charlton was just as excellent, proving himself to be far too good for that level of football, and ‘that’ miss placed kick sped up his summer transfer to Middlesbrough. With Tony Mowbary utilising his defensive qualities and turning Bailey into a holding midfielder, the former Charlton captain overs versatility in the centre and the ability to play on the wing if required. At just 28 I can’t imagine there isn’t a club in the Championship on the phone to Bailey’s agent.

Everyone deserves a second chance; Bailey is too good a player to ignore

CENTRE MIDFIELD – KEITH FAHEY

A fan’s favourite at Birmingham City, the Republic of Ireland international had a troubled season last time out with personal issues and injury restricting his playing time to just a handful of games. But the 30 year old has proven his ability in the past, in the Championship, in the Premier League and at international level, and would be an excellent addition for any Championship side. Scorer of the spectacular and possessing the ability to player that killer pass, he’s the kind of play-maker every team requires.

Fahey has promised not to grow facial hair again in return for a new club

LEFT MIDFIELD – JEROME THOMAS

Another familiar face to Addicks fans, the skillful winger found getting a place in the West Brom team a challenge with the form of his fellow wingers coupled with injury problems preventing him from ever mounting a serious challenge to be included regularly in the side. A loan to Leeds last term, where he impressed,  may suggest he’s willing to step down a league to get regular first team football. Whilst often accused of lacking an end product for all the fancy stuff during his time at the Valley, he improved on that side of his game with West Brom and became a regular starter during the Albion’s first two seasons back in the Premier League. Possibly out of Charlton’s reach, but a club hunting for promotion to the Premier League would be silly to miss out on someone of Thomas’ caliber.

A regular occurrence for Thomas last season, he’ll now want to play regularly again

STRIKER – SYLVAN EBANKS-BLAKE

Despite being inclined to the odd cake, or so the chant suggests, Ebanks-Blake guarantees you one thing in this division; goals, goals, goals. 21 goals in one and half seasons for Plymouth was followed by 37 for Wolves in the same time frame and, whilst the goals dried up in the Premier League, last season saw him hit the back of the net 14 teams despite Wolves’ woes. Strong in holding up the ball, surprisingly effective with the ball at his feet and a quality finisher, all talents that were shown in his goal of the season scored at the Valley in the 2007-08 season, the striker is a must for any club.

Could Ebanks-Blake be scoring goals like this at the Valley in a red shirt?

STRIKER – SIMEON JACKSON

A prolific goal scorer in the Football League, the Premier League was a step too far for Jackson with Norwich deciding not to renew the Canadian international’s contract. Scoring 13 goals in the Norwich side that won promotion to the Premier League, including the goal the confirmed their place in the top flight against Portsmouth, the striker has proven himself previously in the Championship and his pace and finishing would be a vital asset for most sides in the division. A name that has popped up alongside Charlton in the rumour columns in the past, a link up with Yann Kermorgant up top would be tasty.

I wonder if there’s a player on this list who hasn’t scored against Charlton?

SUBSTITUTES:

GOAL KEEPER – DEAN GERKEN

An experienced keeper who pushed David James and Tom Heaton out of the starting line up at Bristol City on various occasions. Certainly worth his place in a Championship side.

DEFENDER – ELLIOT WARD

The former Coventry centre back has spent most of his career in the Championship, including a loan spell at Nottingham Forest last season where he impressed. The 28 year old would contest for a starting place in many Championship sides.

DEFENDER – IAN HARTE

Once a trialist at Charlton, the former Republic of Ireland left back finds himself without a club following his release from Reading where he made himself a cult hero with his excellent displays and occasional magic set piece. Coming to the end of his career now, a one year deal to provide cover looks likely for the 35 year old.

MIDFIELDER – STEPHEN HUNT

He may not have warmed himself to the heart’s of Charlton fans in April with his antics in the game at the Valley, stamping on Ben Hamer was the climax to a petulant display, but the Republic of Ireland player is a talented performer on his day. Another player who would push to start in most Championship sides.

MIDFIELDER – DAVID JONES

With a new management team coming into Wigan Athletic, Jones may yet still have a chance to prove himself, but for now he remains available to be approached. The journeyman midfielder spent the end of last season at Blackburn and a side with promotion ambitions in the Championship is probably his level.

MIDFIELDER – JACQUES MAGHOMA

One of the stars of League Two in recent years, and Burton’s successful season that saw them clinch an unlikely play-off place, the former Tottenham trainee is ready to make the step up to a higher level. More than worth a punt for several Championship clubs.

STRIKER – JON STEAD

Whilst not being prolific, the 30 year old always has a knack of making a nuisance of himself to opposition defenders. His spell at Bristol City was arguably the best of his career, winning player of the year in 2011-12 and making himself a fan’s favourite. A lower half Championship side could do a lot worse than offering Stead a contract.

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