Friday 28 July 2023

'Is That You Baby, Or Just A Brilliant Disguise?'

You know you’re starting to fall prey to (usually) daft pre-season hope, as the break between seasons comes towards a close, when you look at the odds on promotion. Perhaps surprisingly (or perhaps because nobody’s actually betting on the outcome as yet) our recent signings and belated confirmation of new owners has not seen any discernible shift. We sit around eighth in the list of favourites for promotion, in other words to miss out on the top-six (roughly looks like Derby and Bolton for automatic promotion, Peterborough, Barnsley, Portsmouth and Reading for the play-offs). And even though the fixture list hasn’t as yet afforded us away at Carlisle at a suitable juncture to cement promotion (enough points by November seems a tall order but I’m relying on the game getting postponed for some reason to around April), I’m starting to think about a few quid at current odds of 4/1, 5/1. Not generous but what the heck.

Let’s face it, the signings we’ve made over the past month or so, and the evidence from the pre-season friendlies (ahead of Aberdeen), do merit increased confidence in our chances of at least being in the mix. For sure there’s still a long way to go before the squad is crystalised, before we can be drawing conclusions about Holden’s preferred formation and choices; and rating the other teams involved is next to impossible before a ball’s been kicked given the transformation of most of them from last season. Nevertheless, the picture is brighter than it was, the flies in the ointment being of course the injuries to Leaburn and Aneke.

Those injuries are material as I’d say we’re now pretty much covered in the areas of keeper and defence, if anything overweight in midfield (which is the obvious area if there are to be departures to free up space in the budget), but clearly light up front, despite the arrival of May. As a result, with only May and Kanu currently available as outright forwards, we still can’t say for sure whether Holden will be hoping/planning for at least one more addition – as the rumours of interest in Exeter’s Nombe suggest - or instead looking to shape the formation around what is currently available, rely on greater fluidity and goals from midfield, and wait for the return of Leaburn and/or Aneke. Just have the feeling, rightly or wrongly, that the new owners might want a marquee signing, especially as right now we haven’t replaced Rak-Sakyi and his goals from a wide position. If we get this piece of the jigsaw right I think there would be grounds for that punt at current odds.

For the record, I hope Charlton history will be kind to Sandgaard. He was a breath of fresh air, marked a turning point from the Duchatelet era, and kept us out of the clutches of some real chancers. There aren’t many owners who would join a bunch of International Addicks in the Rose of Denmark on a Friday night. That he was unable to deliver on expectations can be attributed to a number of factors, most related to not really understanding the nature of the task and what it takes to succeed in League One (ie to get out of the bloody awful division in the right direction), while his involvement of family and the treatment of staff were errors of judgement. His parting statement may have glossed over the simple failure to secure promotion but he probably walks away held in higher esteem than any owner since Murray sold out (and subsequently tarnished his reputation with Roland). Let’s face it, the bar on that front is set pretty low.

We’ll get a better handle on Global Football Partners as we go forward. For me the most encouraging aspect is commonality of interest. The people involved surely know that they will only get a return on their investment if we are back in the Championship, otherwise there’s no point. How they go about securing that objective, whether or not they succeed, we shall see. But there’s no reason to suspect that they are asset-strippers, egomaniacs bent on some mission to show the world how clever they are etc.

I’d draw (tentative) comparisons with the Spivs (Jimenez and Slater). They got lucky with Sir Chris, with Kermorgant, and the money we got for Jenkinson (now plying his trade in Australia it seems). But they understood football and did oversee getting us back into the second flight. They may have run out of money once there, and clearly didn’t care who they sold us to, but let’s deal with such matters if they arise again once we are back there.

Now as my holiday arrangements are dictated by the French system (and a partner wedded to it) I’m going to miss everything after Aberdeen until we get to Oxford away. So four league games, three of them at home, and by then the transfer window if not closed then narrowing. Will by then a punt at 4/1 be looking like a sound investment or a reflection of just another supporter’s crazed expectations? Is it real, or just a brilliant disguise?

Plenty To Be Pleased About

Time for us to be the underdog yesterday, despite the record of recent years. Portsmouth, having done what every club says it intends/wants ...