Thursday, August 14, 2008

Young Bailey

Charlton yesterday confirmed the long-rumoured and much-needed signing of Nicky Bailey. For an encouraging synopsis of his ability, read here.

The last time we were financially strapped, and signed a promising young midfielder from an Essex club, he went on to make over 200 appearances and earn 48 international caps. If Bailey can be half the player Mark Kinsella was, then he'll be a snip at 'up to £750,000'.

Given our well-publicised financial issues, I suspect the initial cash upfront is materially less than £750,000. With any luck our Board has negotiated utterly improbable add-ons like 'reaching the play-offs'.

A Barnet-supporting friend describes him as, "...a good player who scores spectacular goals....chunky with a low centre of gravity." By 'chunky' I suspect he meant 'lacks pace', which immediately rules out a direct comparison with Scott Parker, but then again the West Ham man rarely scored goals. In that sense, Bailey is probably better compared to Lee Bowyer.

The last true 'bulldog' we had in midfield was probably Brendan O'Connell, or Headless O'Chicken as I liked to refer to him. Despite being rather useless, the fans never gave him a hard time because everyone loves a strong tackler. The same will doubtless be true of Bailey who has already suggested that, "I love my tackles and doing hard graft for the team."

The last time I watched my old local team Barnet, they destroyed Dagenham & Redbridge 5-0 in October 2004, with Bailey outstanding throughout, and scoring a fabulous 25-yarder. Interestingly Dean Sinclair accompanied him in midfield that day, but Bailey was comfortably the best player on the park.

The big question is not whether he will go straight into the team (that seems a given), but which central midfield partner would bring the best out of him. If one assumes Zheng's Charlton career is likely over, then Pards must realistically choose (when all fit) from Racon, Ambrose, Semedo, Shelvey, Wright, Sinclair and Holland. One can probably rule out Wright and Sinclair for now, as I would expect one or both to soon be back out on loan.

Given the importance of protecting Shelvey (who is likely rather too similar anyhow to Bailey), the obvious choices would be either Racon or Holland, with 'Captain Cleanshorts' likely preferred for his experience alone.

Holland continues to underwhelm me (I still struggle with the idea that he was our 'Player of the Year'), but he is the safest choice. However Racon showed glimpses on Saturday that he has a bit more of the 'devilment' that Pards likes. A perfect compliment perhaps to Bailey's graft?

If Pards wants Bailey to focus more on the attacking side of his game, then Semedo would be an ideal choice to sit as the holding man in front of the back four. The Portuguese man is the most underrated player in the squad, and his brute strength and simple passes should not be underestimated.

Finally the longer-term and rather leftfield choice would be to pair him up with Darren Ambrose. We all know that he is a round peg in a square hole played out wide, but when utilised centrally we were left lacking in defensive situations (the same applied to Andy Reid in truth).

If one focuses less on Ambrose's limitations, and more upon the limitations of the players around him, then in Nicky Bailey, one might conceivably have found the answer to the 'Ambrose Conundrum' (one which has been troubling fans and academics alike for several years now).

Curbs used to accommodate the tender talents of Claus Jensen by partnering him with a central midfield battler (eg. Parker, Kinsella), and narrowing up the flanks through the likes of Stuart, Robinson or Konchesky, none of whom were true wingers.

If Pards was sensible enough to drop the idea that you can tolerate two genuine wingers, also narrowing up the midfield through the likes (particularly) of Grant Basey, but also perhaps through Holland played on the right, then I think we would be potentially both harder to beat and a better team (because the talents of Ambrose would finally be released). Remember where you heard it first.


At 3:54 PM, Anonymous johnny73 said...

I don't think any combination of players will make Ambrose a better player. He is what he is. Ambrose will always be a frustating player, if he was the complete package he would have moved on to another club. Bailey could cover Ambrose's shortcomings but that's about it.
Personally I like Ambrose, I think he is committed to the club and tries his best, it's just that his best is often very inconsistent.

I definitely agree that we should only have one winger picked for the first eleven, if any, our full back's have enough potential to be able to be able to get forward on overlaps etc. However whatever formation you pick 2 experienced central defenders is a must. I think Pards is playing the waiting game for Sodje.

At 1:32 PM, Blogger mikewoodhouse said...

But can he cover centre-back?

At 10:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While you're over here, can YOU cover centre back?!!

At 10:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You mention our well publicised financial problems - I don't understand where they have come from: didn't Darren Bent go for more than Henry? Did we miss out on a parachute payment somewhere?


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