#5 – Djimi Traore and #6 – Amdy Faye
If Roland Duchatelet and Katrien Merire, not that anything that has happened in Charlton’s past particularly interests them, are looking for evidence to support their flawed recruitment process, then it would be worth studying the summer of 2006.
For newly appointed manager Iain Dowie was given the finances to shape the squad with a degree of freedom. A boss having the dependency to build a side how he wishes something that supporters currently crave.
But the signings that summer, though initially causing a degree of excitement, ultimately proved to be huge failures. A club that had held European ambitions ending the campaign in the bottom three, with a weak and disjointed squad, led by three flawed managers, constantly finding new ways to disappoint.
Of the eight additions Dowie made, only Scott Carson and Andy Reid, though injured for much of the season, managed to impress. Carson’s resilient efforts between the posts earning him the Player of the Year award, and Reid adding to the promise shown in the top flight before his injury struggles with a stunning half-season in the Championship.
Cory Gibbs, signed before Dowie’s appointment, a parody of an injury-hit footballer, and Omar Pouso’s existence still questioned by those who did not see his single appearance. A past it Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink absorbing as much of the club’s wage fund as he did food. Souleymane Diawara, though going onto enjoy a successful career in France, error-prone and a wearer of gloves in August.
But of all the signings, it was two made on the same day that failed particularly spectacularly. 8 August 2006 possibly one of the darkest days in Charlton’s recent history, with £2m spent on both Djimi Traore and Amdy Faye. A thought that makes you shudder.
Traore arrived with dust not yet settling on the Champions League winners’ medal he collected with Liverpool in 2005, but mockery still directed his way for an infamous FA Cup own goal in the same season. The Malian left-back started against AC Milan in that famous night in Istanbul, despite having somehow turned the ball into his own net against Burnley four months earlier.
Capable enough to play at the highest level, but equally capable of more calamities than just his cup howler. A predictably mixed response to his capture, but a certain amount of expectation existing nonetheless. At the very least, no slack could be cut with Chris Powell the man he would be replacing among the left-sided full-back options.
Faye signed from Newcastle United without the baggage of any high-profile errors, but lacked a shiny, Champions League medal-shaped beacon of hope. Little to be particularly excited about, having been in and out of the side at St James’ Park, but nothing to cause alarm.
The Senegal’s midfielder’s job was probably to fill the void left by Alexi Smertin. A strong and composed holding player, favouring the simple option but also possessing the ability to pick out a teammate with a 50 yard pass.
In summary, it appeared two necessary cogs had been added to the squad with the new season 11 days away. Alarm bells not ringing.
Alas, Traore provided concerns just 26 minutes into his debut for the Addicks. Already on a yellow card, the summer signing lunged in recklessly on Lee Bowyer and received a second booking. Those supporters that were more concerned by his struggles than encouraged by his medals hardly enthused by such an act of ill-discipline, but at least it saved him from facing Cristiano Ronaldo four days later.
Faye, meanwhile, wasn’t fairing much better in the early weeks of the season. Think Yoni Buyens, but without the promising start, the penalties, and the occasional performance that suggested he was a competent footballer. Far too slow on the ball, unable to break up play without conceding a foul, and his passing rarely anything more than wayward.
Injury to Traore spared the sight of him in a Charlton shirt until Les Reed had replaced Dowie, but Faye, despite continuing to fail to impress, kept his place. The similarities with Buyens growing.
But it was when the pair combined again that they inflicted greater misery on supporters of the Addicks, already growing disillusioned with the post-Alan Curbishley era. The “you’re not fit to wear the shirt” chant that followed the defeat to Wycombe Wanderers in the League Cup powerful, and Traore and Faye were two of the players who the brunt of the abuse was directed at.
And even when attaching the blame to them is harsh, it seemed incredibly fitting that Traore was involved in one of the most controversial moments of that season. After being bizarrely penalised in the final minute of Alan Pardew’s first game in charge, Fulham were able to score a late equaliser.
In some regards, it summed up his Charlton career. The opening day sending off, the injury and the costly conceding of an unjust free-kick. Luck against him; any sort of effort was never going to be rewarded.
But, in truth, that is a rather kind assessment. The Traore that represented Charlton looked more likely to turn the ball into his own net, than the one that won a Champions League medal. Uncomfortable, uncomposed, and unthreatening going forward. Celebrations had when he departed for Portsmouth in January, ignoring that a £1m loss had been made.
Faye, however, decided to hang around for longer. Long enough to, unbelievably, score the winner against Portsmouth – Charlton’s first away win in the Premier League for over a year.
Long enough to make the most crucial of mistakes in what was a relatively tight game against Chelsea at The Valley. Frank Lampard robbing Faye in midfield, and driving forward to score what would prove to be the winner for his side.
Long enough to still cause stress and frustration even after his contributions had helped to relegate the Addicks to the Championship. Finding a way to rid the club of the unwanted Faye, on a long-term contract, proved difficult.
An unsuccessful loan move to Rangers, who had as much praise for him as Charlton fans, got him out the way for the 2007/08 season, but he returned for the start of the following campaign. Stoke finally taking him off our hands for good, after one of the most uninterested performances I’ve ever seen from a Charlton player, during a pre-season friendly against Atletico Bilbao.
The crisis that followed beyond Faye’s departure nowhere near as depressing as having to watch the midfielder and Traore represent the Addicks.