The news that Addicks starlet Jonjo Shelvey has moved to a top Premiership side is unsurprising, but the timing of the deal is odd given he will not be available for the play-offs.
It does however lend credence to the view that Phil Parkinson’s apparent reluctance to utilise the player, was in large part due to a desire to protect from injury the club’s most valuable intangible asset.
However if so, it would surely not have made sense to have played him at all unless the fleeting appearances were an attempt to give him just enough playing time to appease the various scouts, with fingers in the directors box well crossed every time he went in for a tackle.
It seems I’m in a minority of one amongst Charlton fans, but I’ve held the view that the teenager clearly has talent, but I’m not convinced he has great potential.
This may sound paradoxical but talent is a pre-requisite, but not a guarantee for success.
No-one doubts his ability when given time on the ball. Meanwhile the goals he has scored suggest a very natural finisher.
However, he lacks pace and is a very poor header of the ball despite his height, although the latter can of course be worked upon to some degree.
So far, so very Frank Lampard.
But it’s his languid style which borders on the casual, which has always made me question the fairly obvious potential comparison with the Chelsea midfielder, whose workrate and fitness is astonishing.
For those Charlton fans with good memories meanwhile, a similar contrast with both Lee Bowyer and Scott Parker could not be starker either.
I doubt a single fan could state with confidence what Shelvey’s best position is.
If it’s a deep-lying striker ‘in the hole’ (which it probably is) then how many teams will set themselves up with the formation to utilise this?
You have to be a pretty special player to have a team built around you, particularly at Premiership level let alone in League One where he was often a square peg in a tactical round hole.
Thus I don’t view the transfer fee as particularly disappointing, especially in the context of our greatly challenged bargaining position.
Realistically how much more cash could the club have negotiated, for a player who has at times impressed, but has hardly been a stand-out performer even in League One?
Compare it for example to the impact that Lee Bowyer had at the same age, but one division above. Virtually an ever-present, his energy, drive and goals drove the team to an unlikely play-off berth in 1995/96.
For those that like conspiracy theories, perhaps rather than a transfer driven by acute financial difficulty, maybe the club (and Parkinson) had developed certain concerns about Shelvey’s true potential themselves (perhaps derived from aspects of his character, who knows?).
If so, his value could actually be falling not rising if he stayed for say one more season?
This view would be an alternative (and hardly outlandish) way of looking at Parkinson’s decision not to give him more playing time.
From Liverpool’s perspective, it certainly suggests a change of strategic direction away from foreign youngsters. He will inevitably end up on loan somewhere next season so the club can have a proper look at him.
Meanwhile the possibility of a ‘strategic partnership’ with Liverpool does bring back unfortunate memories of the similar deal struck in the 1990s with Inter Milan, however it could have some merit.
With the top Premiership clubs operating with playing squads of 40-50, the scope for loan deals is enormous (Arsenal currently have 14 players out alone, many of them very impressive).
Readers of this blog will know I don’t generally favour loans, but giving playing time to talented youngsters on Liverpool’s books is a more palatable option than taking cast-offs from the likes of Notts County and Reading.
However I’m not quite sure what ‘in both directions’ might mean per the club’s website in terms of player development, unless Liverpool are planning to give our youngsters an opportunity to work on the Anfield concourses.
Anyhow, I wish Shelvey well; he seems like a nice kid and he made a valuable contribution to what still might turn out to be a promotion season.
I’d be delighted to be proven wrong about his long-term prospects.