While the recent run of form has left supporters mentioning the ‘p’ word, it’s more realistic to say Charlton’s season is over. A stress free final ten games of the season await, with the Addicks going neither up nor down.
That, of course, is no bad thing, especially when it appeared Guy Luzon’s side were heading to League One in such a depressing fashion it was almost impressive.
Instead, there is now something resembling positivity towards on-the-pitch events in SE7. A feeling that, in true Charlton fashion, will undoubtedly be emphatically crushed sooner rather later.
But while it exists, it’s worth looking forward and seeing how this run of form can be transformed into something more substantial. A season-long promotion push, for example.
The first step is to work out what sort of shape the squad will be in come August.
The Key Men
While Roland Duchatelet true goals for both his network and the individual clubs within it, including Charlton, remain unclear, it’s fair to say his biggest interest would appear to be profit. If not profit, then a desire to break even.
With the Addicks still losing a substantial amount each year, which won’t be helped by the numerous questionable purchases since January 2014, you would expect Duchatelet to cash in on Charlton’s key assets, replace them at a cheaper cost, and repeat. Not necessarily just guess work, but also a reflection of the practices employed at Standard Liege.
The player whose future I’m most worried about is Johann Berg Gudmundsson. Not only has the Icelander impressed, especially since the turn of the year, but his recruitment on a free transfer means that any transfer fee will provide profit. He’s also only contracted until 2016, so it’s probably a scenario of sign a new deal or be sold.
But there must also be some concern over forward duo Igor Vetokele and Tony Watt, regardless of the fact relatively large frees were paid for them and they’re on longer contracts (2019 and 2018 respectively). Don’t be fooled, either, by the fact all three appear to adore Charlton – that did little to keep Yann Kermorgant in SE7.
They’re certainly of the standard that means they won’t be here forever, but if we are to progress and show ambition, not simply exist as part of an experiment, they must be locked away in a dark room for the duration of the summer.
I’m considerably less worried about Stephen Henderson, who should be Charlton’s number one for an extended period of time, while Tal Ben Haim has done more than enough to earn an extension to his deal that expires in the summer.
The whole point of loaning players between network clubs, it would seem, is to increase their game time in the hope of attracting suitors from outside it.
Yoni Buyens has already announced he doesn’t expect to be at Charlton in August, which is no great loss given his horrendous form of late, but the clamour to keep the increasingly impressive Frederic Bulot rises with each excellent performance.
Duchatelet has three options to choose from. The first is to keep the Gabon international in SE7. The second is to send him back to Standard Liege, in the hope he will be able to replicate his form for the network’s premier club. The third is to cash in.
Hopefully the Belgian puts Charlton above Standard’s and his own needs, and allows Bulot to remain an Addick. I can’t see it, though.
Both Simon Church and Lawrie Wilson are out of contract in the summer, and the bench-warming both have endured this season means it’s unlikely that either of them will be here come May.
I appreciate the positives Church provides more than most, but keeping him here benefits no one. There’s little point in keeping a player who will play once every other month, and the Welshman himself deserves to be playing games for the sake of his career.
But it would be a little disappointing to see Wilson go. While the curly-haired wizard has struggled a little of late, you feel that might have something to do with a lack of confidence rather than a lack of ability. His efforts last campaign and at the start of this prove he can be a valuable asset to the squad.
Johnnie Jackson still has a year remaining on his current correct, and burning pitch fork-wielding supporters would turn up outside the front door of Duchatelet towers if the skipper was forced out of the club before his time, while Rhoys Wiggins will be hoping to put another injury-hit season behind him and once again impress for the Addicks.
The Recent Recruits
Rarely do free agents signed beyond a transfer window prove to be anything more than a stop-gap who relatively underwhelm. Take Oguchi Onyewu for instance, who certainly won’t be here beyond May.
I’d also be surprised if Neil Etheridge will be kept on. Yohann Thuram’s spirit animal, Marko Dmitrovic, appears to be Charlton’s second choice goalkeeper.
But the men the Addicks signed in February not only added some much-needed English experience to the squad, but they have also provided something resembling depth for the first time since Sam Bartram made his debut appearance.
The leadership of Roger Johnson at the back has been key, and he’s excelled in his defensive duties, which should surely mean a contract extension is due, while Chris Eagles has looked lively enough in his appearances off the bench, and would definitely be worth keeping if Bulot is sent back.
It’s probably too early to make a complete judgement on Alou Diarra, but he as at least looked more composed than the woeful Christophe Lepoint. The latter while probably end up at another network club, or back hosting The Crystal Maze, while I certainly wouldn’t be against keeping the former, especially if Buyens does go.
As a side note, does anyone know if Franck Moussa is still alive?
The Home-Grown Talents
In Jordan Cousins and Joe Gomez, the Addicks have two outstanding young players. Two outstanding young players that won’t be here forever.
But it’s vital they’re kept in SE7 for as long as possible. Keeping a home-grown core especially important for a side that will undoubtedly continue to see a huge turnover of players recruited from all over Europe.
With both under contract, Charlton’s bargaining position is strong. Where West Ham were able to pick Diego Poyet up for a minimal fee, Roland Duchatelet’s pack pocket the Addicks will at least receive the financial reward they deserve for developing such talents.
Nonetheless, their bargaining position is only strong enough to demand a large fee, not fend off Premier League clubs. Arsenal were rumoured to be interested in Cousins last summer, and Everton and Newcastle were apparently looking at Gomez. Should they be in for the pair again, Charlton will do extremely well to keep them, especially with Cousins out of contract in 2016.
In terms of an out I’d actually like to see, it would be beneficial for Karlan Ahearne-Grant to get some first team experience under his belt in the lower leagues. The same can also be said for the likes of Harry Lennon, Oliver Muldoon and Terell Thomas, who have been in and around the squad at times this season.
Elsewhere, Chris Solly is certainly capable of playing at a higher level, but his dodgy knees may put off potential suitors, the improvement of Morgan Fox in recent weeks means those wanting him to be binned have had their heads turned, and Callum Harriott still has a part to play despite his inconsistent performances.
The Loaned Out
It would be a shame to lose Nick Pope, who has once again impressed on loan in League Two at Bury, but the young goalkeeper will want to play football as appose to being third choice at Charlton.
Pope’s failure to impress during his chance in the first team at the end of 2014 will ultimately be his downfall. While he performed impressively during a number of those games, memories of his efforts at home to Blackpool and away to Blackburn have left some supporters less than keen on the 22-year-old.
Also currently impressing in League Two are Joe Pigott, Tareiq Holmes-Dennis and Ayo Obileye, at Southend, Plymouth and Dagenham.
Having spoken to supporters of Southend, Dagenham and Oxford, where Holmes-Dennis spent the first half of this season, all three have made a real impression. It would probably be a little too early to start blooding them into the Charlton side, however, so another season out on loan for all three would be no bad thing.
That would be make or break for Pigott, who has shown signs of having some potential, but frequently failed to perform in a Charlton shirt. The striker is out of contract in 2016.
Loic Nego, currently on loan at Ujpest, will probably be sold, while Reza Ghoochannejhad, has previously made it clear he doesn’t wish to play for Charlton. No tears will be shed over those two departing.
That just leaves Piotr Parzyszek, who has scored ten times this season while on loan at Sint-Truiden. There’s been some clamour for him to return, but the value of those goals is pretty low considering the quality of the division they’ve been scored in, and he really didn’t look good enough for the U21s when I saw him last year.
Regardless, I envisage he’ll be given a proper chance at Charlton. I’m not too convinced he’ll prove a success, though.
The fewer needed, the better.
Recent performances have shown that this squad has a very decent core to it, made incredibly competitive by three or four players with the quality to win a game.
In an ideal world, it will simply be a case of replacing the departed. Another right-back, a centre-back, a creative attacking midfielder, a couple of wingers and a couple of forwards.
But for that to happen, Duchatelet would have to stop being horrendously suborn and turn his back on his model. Personally, I can’t see it, and I’m fearful of an unnecessary overhaul.
Over to you, Roland.