The scene around SE7 as January’s transfer window crept towards its conclusion was a quiet one. Five hours since Charlton Athletic had made what seemed to be their final move of the month, with Arsenal youngster Stephy Mavididi temporarily making The Valley his home as Nicky Ajose re-joined Swindon Town, and no reporter from Sky Sports attempting to whip up a frenzy of excitement.
So quiet in fact that the collective sighs of those who follow the Addicks were the sound that could be heard above anything else.
These not necessarily sighs that reflected a disappointment in Charlton’s transfer dealings. Not sighs that showed unhappiness towards the recruitment towards Jake Forster-Caskey, Nathan Byrne and Lewis Page. Not sighs that represented a worry over replacing the misfiring Ajose with the untried Mavididi.
These sighs that reflected a mixed, if not frustrating, transfer window for the Addicks. A sigh born out of the feeling that, particularly with the money made from Ademola Lookman’s sale still sitting in Roland Duchatelet’s bank account, much more could have been done to give Charlton the best possible chance of pushing for the play-off positions. Underwhelmed, rather than unhappy.
But the sound of sighs, and silence, was soon to be interrupted. A definitive rant, delivered in Scouse tone, determining that at least an element of Charlton’s transfer dealings had left Karl Robinson in an emotional state fuelled by failure and injustice.
More could, and more should, have been added to the squad than the six signings made. The failure to do so the consequence of other clubs failing to “conduct themselves properly”. An injustice that the price Charlton thought they would be paying for a target was inflated, presumably as a consequence of it being Charlton that were interested in the player.
Sympathy to bed had in Robinson’s rant. His own view of the transfer window was that it was mixed, but that seemingly largely a consequence of the conduct of other clubs as he attempted to add to his squad. Ambitions and intent unfulfilled, but, if you are to believe his words, not through any fault of the club.
So too, though in his fury unquestionably overstepping a mark of professionalism, is there something to be taken from his passion and character. A manager that makes unstructured speeches from the heart, and expresses a degree of emotion born out of wanting to achieve the best for the football club, an improvement on a lifeless puppet.
But you find yourself, as you look beyond his emotion, to be questioning elements of the contents of his rant. Believing or disbelieving his words is not an argument worth having, but some of his words don’t quite sit right.
He speaks from a position in which Charlton are the perfect club, who deserve to be treated with maximum respect by the other 91 clubs across the Football League. That, unfortunately, is not the case. No doubt that the ownership of Roland Duchatelet has left many other clubs looking down upon the Addicks.
So too, in fairness, are a club always likely to extract every last bit of cash out of another who have just made £11m. Sure, it’s snide behaviour, but it’s a logic that has long existed in football. I’m not quite sure it warrants the bitterness of Robinson’s rant.
And, ultimately, should there not have been additional plans? Should there not have been a list of options that this £11m could be spent on? It would seem all our eggs were placed in one basket, which is very naïve.
Either way, the marquee signing that was apparently being worked on was not recruited. It part of the main frustration of this transfer window. That a player of real quality was not signed with the money made available from Lookman’s sale.
That the squad was not strengthened in the way that might have been hoped for after Lookman’s sale. An overhaul not needed, but an investment of that cash to increase the quality and strength in depth was required. To make up the gap between the club and the top six, and address the errors of the season’s first half.
But that the squad has had some useful additions creates this contrasting set of emotions. The squad, in an overall shape suited for what Robinson wants, may even have been improved slightly. Improved too by the emergence of the impressive youngster Joe Aribo, and the return of the maverick Tony Watt.
But you know more could have been done to improve this squad, and make it in decent shape for a play-off push. While you can appreciate what has come in, and I will join you in appreciating the likes of Forster-Caskey and Byrne, you can also feel disappointment that more hasn’t been added. Not enough has been done to make me feel confident we can properly push for the top six.
I have no doubt Robinson and his squad, shaping up quite nicely if Saturday is anything to go by, will push hard. But the mixed window means they have not been supported in a way that gives them the best chance of achieving that.
I’d like to rant and share similar facial expressions to Robinson about how Duchatelet sits on Lookman’s money, money that is the club’s and not his, and calming myself down by looking at Forster-Caskey’s run and Byrne’s finish from Saturday.
And then, I’d like to return to my initial sigh. The play-offs is not an impossibility. But our chances of reaching the top six could have greatly increased with a more definitely decent transfer window.
A sign that, once again, you get the sense Duchatelet hasn’t fully committed to the cause. And if not that, a sign that another Charlton manager has been restricted somewhat in what he wants to achieve.
But he a Charlton manager who, along with his squad, will receive support echoing his emotions in the season’s final 19 fixtures.