There are direct and indirect positive impacts that Charlton Athletic’s relatively exciting triumvirate of soon to be confirmed, if not already, signings will have on the club.
The main direct impact, the one the trio Russell Slade looks set to add to the skeleton of a squad he has inherited will have on the pitch, obvious.
Ricky Holmes an exciting winger, who has earned his opportunity to play for a bigger club after impressing as Northampton Town achieved promotion from League Two last season. Lee Novak neither flashy nor the Alex Revell-shaped target man that Slade primarily appeared to desire, but a consistent and effective performer at this level who notched 14 times for Chesterfield in the previous campaign. Only the particularly popular Will Grigg (25) scored more than Nicky Ajose’s 24 goals in League One last season, and that without the unfair advantage of being on fire.
These are the sort of additions, obviously of slightly higher quality with challenging in the Championship in mind, which Roland Duchatelet’s wealth should have brought to the club from day one. Who have previously proved their worth at other Football League clubs and do not arrive alien to the demands of League One, having been signed not as part of the regime’s experiment but to aid Slade in his hope of bringing a degree of success to the club.
It’s taken 28 permanent transfers, Stephen Henderson the only successful addition from another English club, six changes of manager/head coach, and a totally unnecessary relegation for a Charlton boss under this regime to seemingly finally have the desired say in transfer activity. The creation of a lack of trust in the club, the club viewing supporters as the enemy, and large-scale protests also not to be ignored in the path towards achieving the absolute minimum.
For not only has Slade been able to acquire names that if not produced from his own thoughts than those of new chief scout Steve Head, but arguably more importantly been able to withdraw interest in players the club were seeking to recruit before he arrived. There no longer an interest in Colchester United midfield George Moncur and released Huddersfield Town playmaker Duane Holmes, seemingly at the insistence of Slade. Being able to prevent the regime adding unknown qualities to the squad something previous incumbents of The Valley home dugout have not been able to do.
I will, understandably, stop short of applauding the regime for deploying a potentially workable transfer strategy after two-and-a-half-years of damage, failure, and split bonds. Like after a low-budget builder finally completes a job to the bear minimum standard on the sixth attempt, a begrudgingly offered nod of approval shall be offered, while the fear of implosion still remains despite being assured, via verbal agreement, that all is running smoothly.
Nonetheless, the trio of signings unquestionably offer cause to believe the remainder of the additions made throughout this summer will be orchestrated by Slade, ignoring the recruitment experiment and instead focusing on the impact the manager being allowed to cobble together his own side will have on Charlton’s chances of success. Man-management is, after all, arguably Slade’s greatest attribute.
The direct impact of these additions, therefore, the success they could potentially provide on the pitch and this little whisper of belief that suggests an important alteration has been made to a previously horrendously flawed and stubbornly unaltered player recruitment policy. Combine the two and you get something that resembles a slice of optimism, not served around these parts for many months.
But maybe, once the full Charlton Athletic cake is considered if we are to continue a rather desperate metaphor, it’s the indirect impact these additions will have that may prove more important over the course of the summer.
For it’s easy to get carried away by these three recruits and allow yourself to believe a squad is being built for a successful promotion challenge. The first steps towards that made, undoubtedly, but a great deal of work still to be done. A complete squad revamp is going to be needed, and probably going to need to be done pretty quickly with pre-season a couple of weeks away.
Charlton’s already small squad, diminished further by loan deals expiring and Reza Ghoochannejhad’s leading the cohort of released bodies to chorus of cheers, contains only a limited number of players who will definitely be at The Valley come the end of August. Doubts even exist over whether Callum Harriott, promoting himself on Twitter in a manner that a player angling for a move might, and Alou Diarra, the subject of interest from Dijon according to a French newspaper, will remain Addicks despite triggering contract extensions at the end of the season.
Stephen Henderson, Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Igor Vetokele almost certain to depart. Hopes of keeping a hold of Nick Pope, Jordan Cousins and Ademola Lookman extremely faint. Naby Sarr, El-Hadji Ba and Zakarya Bergdich likely to be let go, hopefully along with Roger Johnson and George Tucudean, to the disappointment of few.
Then there’s Patrick Bauer and Ahmed Kashi, who are above the third tier of English football in ability and status but may wish to repay Charlton for the assistance received in the recovery from their injuries, but Jorge Teixeira, attracted to the club by Jose Riga, doesn’t really have much motivation to remain. Tony Watt has spoken positively above Slade, but will surely have Championship interest, while the power that Slade seemingly has should mean a departure for Chris Solly, at the very least, won’t be forced.
Taking into account the outs that I fear will be unavoidable, or a desperately hope occur, the squad could be left looking a little like this:
Cristian Ceballos (if he’s still wanted)
Alou Diarra (willing to take him hostage for the summer if need be)
Callum Harriott (possibly)
Tony Watt (possibly)
Louis-Michel Yamfam, who deserves first team recognition on the basis of his name alone
Such a high number of departures would leave a squad of 21, with at least seven of them desperately lacking first team experience, and Diarra, Harriott and Watt retained rather optimistically.
It creates a rather uncomfortable position. The three new additions, and the suggestion of a revamped recruitment policy, immediately replaced by the disappointment of losing key players and the worry that there is nothing to build from.
Small talk, strategy and ambitions to sell to potential recruits, but those potential recruits will a weak squad and a club led by a regime that isn’t suddenly going to stop flirting with controversy overnight and simply cannot win back the trust of the majority of supporters.
What having those three signings in the bank at this relatively early stage does provide, therefore, is concrete evidence. That, hiding beneath all the damage caused by this regime and a rather sizeable amount of uncertainty, is a club that top-end League One players will want to play their football. Somewhere between a statement of intent and a rallying cry to those that Slade, hopefully, will continue to attempt to attract to SE7.
That the very important indirect effect this trio of handy recruits could potentially have. Promising additions in their own right, but they won’t become promising additions in their own right until a proper squad is in place. They, potentially, provide the catalyst for the successful recruitment of further bodies that will replace the departures which are simply unavoidable.
At the very least, the club’s bargaining position in the transfer marker was much weaker in January than it potentially is now, irrespective of the drop in division. It would appear you’re primarily signing for a respected boss who’s handy with his man-management skills and not becoming part of a flawed and damaged experiment.
Regardless, at this early stage of Charlton’s summer transfer activity, there’s no denying that a foundation has been laid from which to build on. Maybe not a firm one, with the departures providing uncertainty, but a foundation from which to base further recruitment on. It would be incorrect to suggest it’s primarily up to Slade to build on that, but it’s certainly up to the club to turn this promising start into something that’s going to result in league points.
For this is only a start. A lot more remains to be done.