End of Season Summaries
I don't seem to share the gloating of some Charlton fans in the relegation of Palace - I've always thought they're strange rivals of ours, given that Croydon and Greenwich are hardly neighbouring boroughs. Indeed, until we shared their ground in the mid-1980s I don't recall them ever being mentioned as a team we disliked. They've got a crappy stadium and it's impossible to get to in the car, but other than that they're just another London club that I'm indifferent about along with Fulham, QPR, West Ham etc..
I suppose their relegation did at least take some attention away from our own awful end to the season, and an 82nd minute equaliser from Jon Fortune saved us from the ignominy of losing our final three games, but no wins in our final nine games was truly shocking and far worse than most of us could have contemplated after the Spurs win. The fact that Man City crept up on the rails and were inches away from qualifying for Europe shows what a great chance we blew this season. I suppose 11th place is perfectly respectable, but 46 points is nothing to crow about and is the more telling statistic in an increasingly mediocre league.
Based on the games that I saw (basically four games live, and say another ten on TV), here is my definitive New York summary of the team's performances this season:
DEAN KIELY: a solid season though at times his positional awareness and command of his area came into question. To be fair, there were games where he must have wondered if he was playing the opposition on his own, and 53 goals conceded in 36 games is an unfair statistic which does him no justice. In my view, he is in the top five keepers in the league.
STEFAN ANDERSEN: suggested great promise and it was brave of Curbs to throw him in against Man Utd and Chelsea. On a number of occasions he showed signs that he was a great shot-stopper though his handling wasn't really tested yet.
LUKE YOUNG: a deserving recipient of the Player of the Year - unlike a number of his teammates, his effort levels are never in question and moreover he has proved he is an excellent defender, rarely beaten for pace and strong and aware in the tackle. It is perhaps only his inability to consistently provide attacking support which prevents him becoming a genuinely top-class full-back.
HERMANN HREIDARSSON: admittedly he was better in his first season than his second, but as with Young you can't fault his effort and he is one of those players that the fans can latch onto. For some reason, he didn't pose such a threat from set-pieces and I certainly wasted a good few pounds on him to score several 'first goals' at 33/1 and above (I still think it's value though the stats don't bear me out). He was at fault for some goals, particularly just before his injury, but he remains a key member of the squad.
PAUL KONCHESKY: a bit of a revelation frankly, especially when he played in central midfield. It seems he has put his disagreements with Curbs behind him and at times he looked the 'real deal.' Given his pace, fitness and ability on the ball, I would be keen to see him start as a regular in midfield, particularly as the left-sided member of a three-man triumvirate. Given some of the garbage elsewhere in the squad, he is the type of player that can form the core of the side for many years to come, and frankly much to the surprise of this fan who had previously been unconvinced.
TALAL EL-KARKOURI: the least known of the summer signings, and the obvious success story. He is clearly vulnerable to the odd error, but I enjoyed his somewhat cavalier attitude and appetite for the game, and particularly his mid-season scoring spree. As with Konchesky, I'm not sure that his best position doesn't lie in midfield, where his tough-tackling and bullet shot may have more to offer.
JON FORTUNE: I suspect he will never fully convince fans that he is more than a squad player, but to be fair whenever he is called upon, he gives a reasonable account and even popped up with a couple of useful goals (including one that West Brom fans will remember for years). I sense that he is good in all areas but not quite strong enough, quick enough or aware enough to be a truly top-drawer player.
CHRIS PERRY: a bit of a stop-start year after a great 2003/4, and as with Fortune I'm not sure he has enough attributes to the defensive core of a team upon. His reading of the game remains in good shape, but it is difficult to conclude that 5 foot 10 centre backs are easily taken advantage of by strikers in the Peter Crouch or Duncan Ferguson mould.
MARK FISH: dear oh dear - I think he's been good for us over a number of seasons, and even very good at times, but I think it's time to release him in the summer.
RADOSTIN KISHISHEV: clearly a defensive central midfielder (no idea who thought he may be a right-back or right-midfielder.....oh yes, it was Curbs) and he has been reasonably consistent. The type of player that will keep us at the current level, but not good enough to help us push on to the next. He gives the ball away somewhat readily, and offers no attacking threat, but he breaks up opposition moves and his hard-running style appeals to old-fashioned fans like myself. A squad player, nothing more.
DANNY MURPHY: Murphy was one of those players who you always recall being better at former clubs than they actually turned out to be (a bit like Neil Redfearn). There was something in his body language throughout which suggested he would rather be elsewhere, though based on what I saw he is a neat (even skilful) player but lacks the pace to be much more. He replaced Jensen's ability from set-pieces, but didn't provide the true flair that the Dane could offer, albeit sporadically. In today's market, I suppose one can't expect too much more for £2.5m sadly.
MATT HOLLAND: probably the nicest guy in football and a player who has deservedly built a successful career on less than average talent. I suspect his quality was exaggerated by playing alongside Parker for half of last season, because he seemed to come up a little short this campaign. Instead of his neat passing and mopping up providing the foil for attacking forays, he was resigned to being another plodding midfielder in a plodding midfield that lacked the pace and drive to get behind the opposition.
JASON EUELL: I can't help thinking he was poorly treated this season - he has been a consistent scorer, and whilst his first touch is often ill-conceived, he does at least either provide some decent finishing or an injection of pace through midfield. His price tag weighs heavily on his shoulders though it derived from the boom years when even a far less experienced Luke Young was worth £4m (what would a better Luke Young be worth today? £1.5m?). I would like to see him retained though I suspect we've seen the last of him.
JEROME THOMAS: initially a revelation, more latterly realism set in though he was undoubtedly one rare bright spot this season. Hopefully over time, his obvious inputs (skill and pace) can churn out greater output (goals and crosses), and not be wasted in part in showmanship which only works when Charlton are leading comfortably (when was the last time that happened?). If we persevere with 4-5-1, he has to be the regular left winger.
DENNIS ROMMEDAHL: all-in-all he was a disappointment, but he remains the only player (along with Thomas) that at least gets the heart-rate up when he receives the ball. Based on what I saw, I thought he may be a better forward than winger given that despite his ridiculous pace, he actually lacks the tricks which give more skilful compatriots half a second to send over a wicked cross. I would be disturbed if he was sold - for £2m he represented reasonable value (and the price tag alone should have tempered our expectations), since real frightening pace is rare and at times near impossible to defend against.
BRYAN HUGHES: he seemed a neat player with an obvious eye for goal (four goals in a handful of appearances), but too lightweight to make much of an impression or impact. As with a depressingly high number of squad members, it is difficult to see him being a core and regular member of the team.
SHAUN BARTLETT: although often vilified for his lack of goals, he ploughed a lonely furrow during the successful mid-season period which put us in European contention. He always gives 100% and chases lost causes, and it is not clear to me at least whether his lack of goals derives from poor service or poor finishing (I suspect the former). Given his age and limitations, it is to be hoped that by the start of next season, a more prolific striker will have taken over the role with Bartlett retained as valuable cover.
FRANCIS JEFFERS: unlike Murphy, it would be unfair to judge Jeffers yet since he played so infrequently. Moreover, his goals-per-game ratio was perfectly acceptable and would probably have improved markedly had injuries and team selection permitted him to have a decent run of games. I saw enough to suggest he has the natural awareness that had allowed him to command two seven-figure transfer fees, and would not dismiss his future at the club prematurely as some fans are.
JONATAN JOHANSSON: he is clearly one of Curbs' favourites, and the type of selection which makes me wonder whether either a) I'm not a good judge of players, or more likely b) he simply isn't good enough and Curbs continual selection of him proves that he will never be a world-class manager. Quite simply he isn't good enough and his apparent lack of effort or willingness to get involved in the more physical aspects of the game are beyond the pale.
KEVIN LISBIE: a sad end to the season though thankfully it seems his health concerns are not serious. Fans remain divided on him as always and whilst I am one of his rapidly dwindling band of supporters, 2005/6 absolutely 'has' to be the season he delivers in (if given the chances). As with JJ, he is obviously 'rated' by Curbs for better or worse.