Wednesday 14 May 2008

Palace, Contracts, Transfers & Dowie

Over a week has passed since the final game of the season although it seems like a lot longer ago. I always seem to get myself into this position of willing on the end of the season (a feeling of being ‘all footballed out’) only to realise that I will miss it and willing August around as quickly as possible! Anyway …

So Palace failed in their play-off promotion attempt. I must say, a small smile came across my face when I saw the result from last night’s second leg game at Ashton Gate. On the flip side, I think they will certainly be a very strong outfit to face next season and are likely to be serious promotion contenders, more so than Bristol City who I do not think will sustain their form from this season if they remain in the Championship. The division is shaping up to be quite a strong one and the less competition the better frankly. Still, we did the double over them this season so what’s to say that we can’t do it again.

On the home front, Kelly Youga, Grant Basey and Robert Elliot have all signed on the dotted line and I think in each case that is a good thing. New contracts for Basey and Youga add to the increasing speculation that Ben Thatcher won’t be a part of Pardew’s plans next season. The situation regarding Chris Powell is becoming increasingly unclear, although sadly I do not think we will see him at the Valley next season in any capacity. Hurry back soon Chris. For the remainder who are out of contract - Matt Holland, Svetoslav Todorov and Osei Sankofa – I really do not know what is in Pardew’s thoughts. I would imagine Holland will be kept on but perhaps have less of a prominent role next season. Todorov’s situation is an interesting one. He has hardly been given a fair crack of the whip given that his season was ended after the injury he sustained against Plymouth (and he had looked good upto that point) but Andy Gray was effectively brought in as his replacement, so can Pardew justify his wages for another season? As for Sankofa, he seemed to disappear into a black hole in the second half of this season so it is difficult to know what to think, although I imagine much will be determined by whether or not Halford is kept on.

In other transfer news, Madjid Bougherra has reportedly been the subject of bids (or at least interest) from Real Betis and Wigan. I don’t think he has ‘impressed hugely’ (as Sky Sports put it) since he arrived, but he certainly has not played badly and has shown he can form a decent partnership with either McCarthy or Sodje. It would be a shame to lose him. Regarding players coming in, we have been linked with Forest Green’s Stuart Fleetwood and Plymouth’s Paul Connolly, although I see today that the latter appears to be on his way to Derby. I have to say, I am not sure either would dramatically improve our squad and the priority has to be a creative midfielder to fill the significant gap left by Andy Reid.

Finally, I have just read that Iain Dowie has been appointed the new manager of QPR. I have to say, this is slightly surprising given the new owners appear to want a bit of glamour at Loftus Road and that Zinedine Zidane’s name was being touted around as a potential appointment last week. I guess Dowie does have a history with the club though and as sporting director Gianni Paladini says: "Iain Dowie has a proven track record in the Championship and we're delighted to have him on board”.

Did you watch Coventry at all this season Gianni?

Monday 5 May 2008

Charlton 4 - 1 Coventry City

With nothing for us to play for and the Sky Blues still trying to fight off the threat of relegation, I honestly thought this one would go very differently. Refreshingly however, you would have thought it was the men in red who needed the points with a competent and encouraging ninety minutes.

There were more at the Valley than I was expecting and those who had made the trip were rewarded with the display that Pardew had promised. The line up was partially dictated by injury but some things were telling. Does Thatcher's absence mean he is not in Pardew's thoughts for next season? Does Halford's continued presence mean he will be here next season (I would be happy if that were to be the case)? And another start for Jonjo Shelvey (admittedly in a dead rubber) suggests he may have some part to play in next season. I also hope that Sodje's inclusion as a substitute is an indication that we will try and retain him.

Whatever the thoughts behind the team he put it out, it seemed to work with the Addickted being rewarded within five minutes as Kasper Schmeichel rushed out for Bougherra's speculative pass, only to be neatly lobbed by Luke Varney. Quarter of an hour later, Varney teamed up excellently with Andy Gray to add a very decent second. Michael Mifsud's goal a minute later could have been the catalyst for another Charlton capitulation but 2-1 it remained at half time.

Into the secound half and any thoughts of a Coventry come back were all but extinguished when Grant Basey drove low and hard from inside the box, the ball hitting the back of the net courtesy of a rather large deflection. Charlton could have had another two or three over the course of the half, with Luke Varney twice shooting wide and Holland hitting the bar from a wonder strike that surely would have won him goal of the season had it gone in.

As it was, the fourth goal was worth waiting for ... minutes after having taken to the field to the standing ovation he so richly deserved, Chris Powell found himself in the opposition box with the ball at his feet. He made no mistake and I can't remember the last time I celebrated a goal so enthusiastically. Lifted up onto the shoulders of his team mates, he deserved that goal more than anybody and, given the circumstances, it was the perfect way to end the season.

I was encouraged by what I saw yesterday. Varney and Gray seemed to operate well together up front, Shelvey looked like a real prospect, McCarthy had an excellent game (a consideration for captain next season?) and there seemed to be a bit of fight and desire. Of course it is easy to get carried away, and as Pardew himself pointed out it was a result achieved without any pressure. However, there are signs that things could be OK next season and the position Coventry found themselves in yesterday is a timely reminder that things could be a lot worse.