Friday, April 10, 2009

Birmingham & Coventry previews

And now, the end is near. Charlton's impressive win at Southampton has at least ensured that relegation cannot be confirmed on Saturday.

However by Monday, in the miserable surroundings of Coventry, we may be able to 'officially' begin building for next season.

Lady Godiva is believed to have ridden naked through the city's streets. Charlton's deserved fate will similarly be laid bare.

I'm not naturally an optimist, but I had desperately tried to build a scenario that concluded with our survival.

A quick review of the remaining six fixtures reminded me for example that we have four home games, including a final day clash with Norwich, currently in 21st place.

Is it totally inconceivable for example that we could enter that game say three points behind the Canaries, and needing an improbably large win to survive? Or perhaps just two points, so that any win would do?

Unfortunately I'd fallen into the trap of focusing too much on how many points the 21st place team has. I'd failed to realise of course that if we go into that final fixture just 2 or 3 points behind, then in all likelihood Norwich won't be 21st anymore!

To survive, we don't just need to catch Norwich but finish above any three teams. An obvious point of course, but it's easy to overlook the fact that Forest and Southampton matter too.

Saturday's opponents serve arguably as an example of how to adapt swiftly to relegation from the Premiership.

Rather than put their faith in potential as Charlton largely did, the Blues opted for tried and tested experience (Carsley, Phillips, Bowyer etc.).

The result hasn't been pretty (they've only scored five more goals than Charlton), but they sit firmly in the box seat, and automatic promotion is theirs to throw away.

Although hindsight is a wonderful things, perhaps the time for Charlton to experiment with unproven potential (Moutaouakil, Semedo, McLeod, Varney etc.), was after the parachute money ran out, not before. Racon has finally flourished it seems, but two years too late.

Coventry meanwhile are threatening to become a permanent fixture in the Championship, rarely threatening promotion or relegation.

Like Charlton will next season, they are playing in a stadium that's too big for them (54% full on average), but unlike us they are merely tenants not owners.

From my perspective, they are a club without a clear identity at this point; 34 years in the top flight masked the fact that they are one of the least well-supported clubs in a region full of them.

Are they a 'big club' currently suffering a short-term spell outside the Premiership, or more likely an 'average club' struggling to reignite any type of 'buzz' around themselves?

A similar argument could be made about Charlton of course, and to their credit Coventry have steadied the ship far better than we did as they continue the readjustment.

Charlton's win at Southampton, with all the goals coming from midfield (as they seemingly have done all season), offered a rare glimpse of light at the end of this tunnel.

A midfield in League One of Bailey and Racon, with Shelvey playing off a target man, might reasonably be considered comfortably the strongest in the division.

Unfortunately a reasonable case can be made that each of them will be off to pastures new before August. The trio might bring in several million in fees, a not insignificant consideration given our financial plight.

Bailey has already been linked with Birmingham (although promotion would surely end their interest), whilst one might conclude that Racon might prefer to play for a middling club in the French Ligue 1, than spend wet Tuesday nights in Yeovil.

The departure of Shelvey meanwhile (and one presumes offers will be forthcoming) would naturally be a great disappointment, but if the fee is right then I cannot build a strong argument for it to be denied.

It is difficult to form strong conclusions about the ultimate potential of 17-year old players, but I'm tempted to wonder whether some of the excitement is simply a function of him being unusually strong for his age.

Either way, if he's genuinely top class then it's unfair to expect him to stick around in League One for long (or at all), whilst if there's a decent probability that he's not, then there's an even stronger reason to cash in.

This is not a Scott Parker scenario, as much as we might like to pretend so. Parker was proven, Shelvey is not and we need the money. He's probably worth at least five training grounds that the club's just been forced to sell.

More importantly however, Parker was the best player in an established Premiership side, and thus we represented no impediment to his international hopes (quite the opposite as it transpired).

Parker would presumably accept that his departure was a mistake, at least from a footballing perspective.

Whether Shelvey (and his parents) conclude his further development is best served by being kicked in the air by League One defenders remains to be seen.

Put it another way, if we were offered £5m for Shelvey and £1m for Bailey, which offer would you accept?

Talking of youngsters, Tamer Tuna will be in the squad for Saturday, continuing in that fine tradition begun by Mike Salmon, and more latterly Mark Fish. At least he should know where the back of the net is.

NY Addick predicts Charlton 0, Birmingham 2 (Jerome, Phillips). Tickets sold: 22,189.

NY Addick predicts: Coventry 1 (Morrison), Charlton 1 (Burton). Att: 16,991.



At 7:16 AM, Blogger Dave said...

NYA - If there is a likely takeover of the club in the offing and it's a buyers market, you have to think that we are going to go for a knock-down price. If it transpires that this the underlying motive for selling the training grounds (I'm not convinced at this time), then you would have to think that Bailey and Shelvey will be cashed in pretty quickly during the Summer, part of the proceeds made available to justify the sale and the rest used to alleviate Board member contributions prior to any sale of the club. The reason I remain sceptical here is because Varney knows the score better than anyone and if he's involved in any consortium buy-out, then he will presumably ensure that any sale price reflects the loss of any assets in the meantime.

At 11:21 AM, Anonymous johnny73 said...

I've got no problem if we sell Shelvey for say £5 mill. However this sum falls a long way short of the clubs debt to the board. I would expect the summer will be one long fire sale.

Parkinson is talking up youth in a big way at the moment and it seems obvious that the remaining youngsters will be the backbone of the team for the forseeable future. Whether this means another relegation battle only time will tell.

I'll be ignoring any talk of a takeover. When I see it I'll believe it.

At 3:25 PM, Blogger Chicago Addick said...

Talking up the youth? Then where is Solly, Moots, Basey, Yussuf, Wright, Wagstaff and Dickson then?

At 12:15 AM, Blogger Kings Hill Addick said...

Clearly he's only going to bring in the young players that he hasn't had time to upset yet.

Some of those players may not be ready, but it's obvious that Moots and Basey are and I've been impressed with Wright, who I fear will demand to leave in the summer based on his comments in the press.

If Parkinson is really going to stay he is going to need to build some bridges, or sell players that I believe could really add something.


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