So here we are again, days away from another league season at the ongoing soap opera that is Charlton Athletic Football Club.
A disappointing play off 2-0 legged defeat to Shrewsbury Town under caretaker manager, Lee Bowyer left fans fed up but hopes were raised by the appearance in the directors box of the Australian consortium at both legs. They can’t just be here to watch a game of football? They must be buying us! At last we are rid of the Belgium owner. Praise to God!
12 weeks later, Duchatelet is still in charge, Bowyer still as Caretaker (the only one in the top five divisions of English football) and for reasons unknown the Australians are not any closer to taking over but have not walked away. Yet!
The squad has been shrunk to 19 first team players, Konsa, Lennon and Magennis sold for undisclosed fees, all the loans back to their respective teams and Bowyer is shopping in the free transfer market with 2 brought in so far. Lyle Taylor and Darren Pratley. Good additions at this level, but no sign of a transfer budget for him to work with. The transfer window closes on the 9th August but he can still get loans up to the end of that month. Hopefully the owner will give him adequate funds to at least do that. The 3 lads on trial, Simon Dawkins, Rohan Ince and Elliott Ward were not seen at the final preseason game v Norwich last Saturday. If they will be seen in a Charlton shirt again, is anyone’s guess.
So the squad then. Dillion Phillips (23) the only first team keeper in the squad. His chances have been limited. A season at National League Champions, Cheltenham Town, the only regular football he has seen since 2016. At present he’s likely to get a run, unless Bowyer is allowed to exploit the loan/free transfer market for a Number 1.
At the back, well that currently picks it itself like a Sunday morning team over Danson Park. Chris Solly (27), Jason Pearce (30), Patrick Bauer (25) and Lewis Page (22) with French centre half, Naby Sarr (24) as back up until called upon. All five missed parts of last season due to injury, and Bowyer will be crossing everything that they don’t get hurt, or in Bauer’s case sold on. Bauer has been offered a new deal but no signature has been forthcoming (The same with Aribo and Fosu)
The midfield is now less one Ahmed Kashi who made his way back on the Eurostar back to France on a free transfer and club legend, Johnnie Jackson who has taken his place on the line as first team coach.
That leaves a middle 3 of Joe Aribo (22), new signing, 33 year old Darren Pratley and Jake Forster- Caskey (24). Again, good players at this level and will cause problems for opposition teams. Behind them is the athletic, Anfernee Dijksteel (20) who was seen at Right Back for a spell last season, but would be excellent in a midfield role. However the lad has been diagnosed with pneumonia and the timescale when he will return is unknown.
The attacking midfield and wide roles is filed by Mark Marshall (31), Ben Reeves (26), Tariqe Fosu (22) and Billy Clarke (30). Sadly only one of those is currently fit and available. That being Marshall who will hope to have a better season after being disappointing since his free transfer move from Bradford. Reeves and Clarke won’t be back until September plus Fosu has suffered with another hamstring problem and won’t be back for another six weeks.
When fit the latter 3 have been very good (Reeves since Bowyer took charge in March) Clarke until his ACL in December and Fosu causing problems for opposition defences when fit.
Finally, the strikers. Top goal scorer, Magennis has moved on but has been replaced by 27 year old Lyle Taylor from AFC Wimbledon. Taylor scored 18 league and cup goals for the relegation threatened Dons and if gets the right service could be looking at repeating that figure. However Taylor is prone to injury and is a doubt for the opening day with a calf problem.
After that we have Nicky Ajose (26) and Igor Vetokele. Ajose has not lit up the Valley in his time with the club and is rumoured to be joining Coventry or a club abroad. Vetokele has returned after loan spells in Belgium but is currently unavailable until September with a foot injury suffered in pre season.
Which leaves us with Karlan (Aherne) Grant (20) and Reeco Hackett-Fairchild (20). The two have had off field issues back in June after a holiday in Ibiza. Both are now back at the club and pending any other issues need to get on with their football, as they both may have a spell in the first eleven for the first few weeks at least.
So that’s the 19. After that then Bowyer will have to delve into the Under 23’s and pick from the following, especially for the subs bench at present.
19 year old Australian goalkeeper, Ashley Maynard-Brewer
19 year old Australian Centre Back, Ryan Blumberg
19 year old Midfielder, Taylor Maloney
20 year old Midfielder, George Lapslie
18 year old Midfielder, Albie Morgan
18 year old Midfielder, Alfie Doughty and finally
21 year old Striker, Josh Umerah.
So Prediction for this season. Well if everyone was fit and stayed fit (I know it won’t happen and we are suffering already) then a top 6 spot would not be out of the question, maybe top 2. But injuries will play a part and unless Bowyer is given the tools to play with then a mid table finish is a distinct possibility.
For the long suffering fans, it’s a new season but the same old nonsense, while the Belgian is in charge of our club. Every day that he’s here it’s making it harder for us to move onwards and upwards. Keep praying people!