Tuesday 29 August 2023

GFP - where we are and what we know

We are a month in since Global Football Partners acquired CAFC from Thomas Sandgaard. A failure to adequately prepare a balanced squad to start the season there season has seen us lose five games in-a-row and Dean Holden as well as Danny Senda and Glyn Shimel have now been been sacked as a result. So what have we learnt in a month?

1. There are no Head Honchos with any serious ambition.

All the talk of 'billionaire owners' has proven to be wishful thinking at best and deliberately misleading at all other times. The facts are that we have seven investors who own the shares between them but none with overall control.

None of them have said a meaningful word and I don't believe any of them have attended a game. What this tells us is that the notion of the main investors being invested enough to be actively managing affairs via co-investor (small change) Charlie Methven is poppycock. 

Rather, it suggests very strongly that the investors have all been sold a plan of limited exposure in an English football club for relatively small stakes and a proposition that says Methven and his team can out-perform the market within the existing financial constraints of running the club.

If this plan falls short, Methven will be expected to cut their losses and sell the club on. Do not expect them to be bailing the club out for any more money.

2. The Summer Rebuild was always hugely overplayed.

Methven told us repeatedly himself and via his social media stooges that there was big money behind the takeover and that they had their targets all lined-up and ready to go. The actual takeover was protracted but since they took charge we have seen neither big money nor a slew of signings to balance the squad, let alone support the early season injuries. 

This was precisely what Rodwell and Scott did during the January window when appointed on short-term contracts by agreement with Sandgaard. They actually managed to reduce the playing budget overall whilst still making changes.

Indeed, I would go as far as to suggest the dealings we have done so far this Summer have been paid for from the 14 departures we have seen since the season finished.

The transfer window closes on Friday and I suspect it will another disappointing day for Addicks fans as we face the prospect of a continuing struggle in this damned league.

3. Unless something miraculous happens quickly, dramatic cost-cutting will be next.

Methvin has been clear about his plans to increase revenues. He has taken Steve Sutherland back, albeit on a temporary contract, and really needed a fast start to maintain momentum and keep the fans onside and attending games in growing numbers. Unfortunately, he has seen the absolute reverse. Actual attendances have dived off once again and no-one wants to be paying a premium in hospitality to watch us struggle to beat Fleetwood. Even Greenwich Council will be struggling to offload free residents match tickets at the moment.

Last week, with the pressure on, Methvin told the Daily Telegraph that he would see us reduce operating losses from c£6m a year to "£1m to £2m" and that with clever player sales (the Academy), he could turn a profit. "You will do that if you have any kind of competence at all, and particularly,  like Charlton, if you've got one of the most productive Academies in the country." Words that I fear will come back to haunt him.

I think his chances of trading his way to a bottom-line improvement over the season of £4m to £5m is pie-in-the-sky unless we are incredibly fortunate with the next managerial appointment as well as our remaining loan player gambles. In the event we can't do this, we have already seen where he thinks savings can be made (womens team, Charlton tv, stand closures, academy cuts etc). Selling Miles Leaburn for £5m won't do it either if our operating losses remain high going into next season.

4. We are at risk of asset-stripping and a quick sale.

If Methven can't make his financial plan and our losses continue to outstrip his operating contingency he will need either a cash injection from his investors or face an early exit. As I have already said, I cannot see our investors throwing good money after bad. The make-up of the shareholding also makes that difficult. They could provide loans on favourable terms but why risk it when Methven has already careered off course? No, at that point I can see them looking to cut their losses. Selling assets and touting the club. They can probably reduce their losses by half and get out earlier than planned if they can find another mug punter willing to take their place.

In the meantime we wait with baited breath to see who is unveiled as Holden's replacement. I really don't want to see another of Methven's mates but Lee Johnson was sacked by Hibs on Saturday which may have precipitated Holden's clumsily managed exit yesterday - was he really fired by text? Perhaps the least-cost option would be to keep Pearce and Hayes?

As for the window this week and Fleetwood on Saturday - Heaven help us.

Monday 28 August 2023

Amateur Hour

Charlie Methven's Circus has been gathering steam for a few weeks now but really burst into life yesterday. 

Supporters began breaking the news that Dean Holden and then Danny Senda and finally Glyn Shimel had been sacked. Rich Cawley quickly confirmed as much but it wasn't until later last night that we got this mealy-mouthed confirmation on the OS.

Clearly, results have forced a move, although a mate of mine was down at breakfast sitting across from Methven & Co after the Newport game and listened to them openly discussing potential managerial changes.

Holden was struggling and logic appeared to have disappeared from his team selections and post-match explanations. 

I thought he'd have got a bit longer. First because they brought him in and secondly because of the cost of changing him out. Irrespective, he's gone and Senda and Shimmel have paid the price too for an appalling start.

Rumours abound already about a replacement and the coincidence of ex-Methven Sunderland manager Lee Johnson being sacked from Hibs before the Holden announcement has set the hares running. 

I don't think it matters who is appointed given the squad inadequacies and the fact that the transfer window closes this week. Promotion this season is completely unrealistic now and we will begin another short-term management cycle with all the attendant risks and failures.

The bigger problem for Charlton Athletic is Charlie Methven. He has found 'toe-in-the-water' investors who have collectively taken small stakes in a League One football club they know nothing about and who are at the operational mercy of Methven and his 'experienced' management team. 

The mid-term options don't look great and I can see the cost cutting and asset stripping before another fire-sale. Thinking about Holden's replacement, I guess it could be important because we cannot afford to go down.

Sunday 27 August 2023

Elgin City 1 v East Fife 1

A decent afternoon's football at Borough Briggs as two early season strugglers fought hard over a point apiece.

It was as competitive a match as I can remember at Elgin and it was played at a fast pace with no quarter given. Elgin's player manager, Ross Draper, initiated so much of what City did coming forward from his central defensive berth. Oh for similar at the Valley.

Elgin took the lead after 14 minutes when Draper found Cameron in space in the middle. He drew the Fifers central defence and slipped the charging Matty Wright through for a one-on-one finish.

The visitors were more comfortable on the ball and a foot quicker but City limited their chances. Draper and the excellent Ewan alongside him kept the back four in line and were aerially superior. 

Everything East Fife did came down their left and usually from winger Jack Healy. Indeed, it was him who burst into the box on 73 minutes and drew the foul that enabled the visitors to draw level. 

Meanwhile, the Addicks slumped to another defeat although Oxford were far less impressive than feared. An Alfie May leveller in the second-half gave the travellers hope but once again we made a major defensive howler to hand them the points.

The 'Holden Out' backlash has been loud and I am quite surprised by this given the love-in he has enjoyed. It is also patently clear that he has an imbalanced squad desperately short on goals due to inadequate rebuilding and injuries. I guess those who watched it yesterday will complain about the tactics and the laughable second goal we conceded after we poured forward in search of our own unlikely winner. However, my sympathy with him is limited given he is part if the Methvin clique and the fact he has gone along with the idea of a smaller squad and has been bigging up our rebuild when it must have been as obvious to him as us that it was well short of what was needed.

Having dropped to 19th, the R word was also being bandied about for the first time last night and I struggle to see what changes. Leaburn will make a difference and hopefully our injury situation will clear up but we don't have any money and I don't trust Methven when the pressure's on. He is likely to start making big decisions and, in my opinion, big mistakes. Relegation would be an £11m set-back for the investors but they might hope to sell a few players and the club to off-set their loss. For Charlton Athletic, however, it would be a disaster and with the ground and training ground in Duchatelet's hands we might not be far away from insolvency by then. Relegation would probably see us ground-share again at some point to avoid having to rent an empty Valley.

Saturday 19 August 2023

Lossiemouth 1 v Brora Rangers 1

On holiday in the Highlands, so a Highland League fixture in the glorious sunshine. My hometown team were second-best but they hung in at 1-0 and after the visitors were reduced to ten men for cheating (simulation), they were able to press forward and grab an equaliser.

It was competitive and it looked like the players had no time on the ball but probably because it's a step down from National League South and no-one on the pitch had the class to find any.

I certainly missed an eventful match at the Valley but another really poor result. Even with our obvious shortcomings and lack of confidence, this was a shocker. Four defeats in succession to Peterborough, Newport County, Bristol Rovers and Port Vale. It borders on a new low and nowhere near what the expert senior management team were reassuring us about a few weeks ago.

As I have said, and will keep saying, this lot are a busted flush. No money, an inadequate squad, and glaring shortcomings. We are also burning some kids at the same time. 

Dean Holden will be struggling to deliver his post-match press conference and I suspect we will just get a run-through of the facts.

Charlie Methven needs to do a bit of explaining pronto and it needs actions, not waffle. This isn't what he and his pals promised. If I hear of a "two or three year plan" now, I will be at risk of spontaneous combustion. Same too if he dares to try and float that FFP crap past us. Oh, and if he thinks now is the time to tell us our finances are much worse than they thought.

Friday 18 August 2023

Have you heard the one about FFP!!!

I said earlier this week that Charlie Methven would feel the urge to explain just what's not going on if we slumped to a third successive defeat. He's obviously struggling about this given previous pronouncements so once again has fed a line to a couple of the usual stooges to start mutterings on social media.

It's being said that Charlie and the myriad of other investors are really frustrated because the rules of FFP is preventing us bringing in any more players. Excuse me, but this is a load of tosh. Plain and simple. It's also why he isn't formally spouting it because he risks being exposed.

In the EFL and in League One, we operate under the 'Salary Cost Management Protocol' and the message they seem to want to perpetuate is that they Directors can't put any more money into player acquisitions or wages etc as we already exceed the 60% Turnover to Salary rule.

They are conveniently forgetting that Directors can put in whatever money they like to boost Turnover as long as it isn't debt (a loan). The main poster claims they are already doing this to cover operating losses. I wonder if this is capital or a loan? Pretty sure I can guess and the interest rates won't be favourable. 

We have brought in (Isted, Edun, Camara, Jones, May and Taylor), but we let a lot more go. I firmly believe we are ahead on budget and may well have used that to fund any fees. Remember, Scott and Rodwell performed the same trick in January. 

What was all that Methven guff two months ago about having the transfer budget ready and all their targets identified? Maybe they are so naive and hopeless that they have only just discovered this and are hamstrung? All those billionaires too!

How do other League One clubs afford it? We are by no means an outlier in terms of Turnover to Salary - Top Six budget and all that....

Nope, just another weak excuse paddled out via social media to try and stop the troops from revolting. One thing is almost cast in my mind, and that is that they won't be committing any further significant sums. 

Ironically, Methven is now trying to perform a trick that many said didn't make any sense - trying to improve the value of the club without gaining promotion. A bit like the Catch 22 that Sandgaard found himself in, without further investment all he can do is cut costs to improve the SCMP ratios but with deadwood like Kirk, Aneke and Jaiyesimi hanging around the squad for another 2 or 3 years, it's looking grim. 

Maybe Steve Sutherland will save the day by helping us massively trade our way into the black? Perhaps this is why Tony Davison hasn't been announced yet as Commercial Director? Waiting to thank Steve for everything he's done to improve our position.

They are going to ride it out and gamble on Leaburn. The other thing they can do, is sell a few players if they can raise enough to make it worthwhile. Selling a fit again Leaburn would be madness but they could argue it helps us over an obstacle. 

Please, don't fall for this nonsense. It's wafer thin - why isn't it front and centre on Charlton News because Methven would have to acknowledge that his backers aren't putting more money in and that this consortium is a house of cards.

Tuesday 15 August 2023

Charlton Athletic 1 v Bristol Rovers 2

This defeat was tough to take. A 98th minute winner for the visitors silenced and emptied the home sections rapidly. It's not as if the result was a big surprise (I predicted it) but our performance was much better than I expected and with an ounce more luck we would have taken something from the game.

Sorry to learn before kick-off that Mandela Egbo's Charlton career was ended after only 15 appearances as he has moved to Colchester. Pleased, however, that we started with a back four of Edun, Ness, Jones and Asiimwe. Apart from a ten minute spell in the second-half they stood up well and kept things relatively tight. 

Alfie May was alone for much of the game until Daniel Kanu entered the fray and again our midfield struggled to pick him out despite another strong attacking performance from Blackett-Taylor.

Maynard-Brewer made the first telling save of the game when he beat out a Marquis effort after good work from Thomas and Collins to fashion the shooting opportunity. For our part, Alfie May fired in from wide after picking up a ball over the top but Cox parried that in similar fashion. I thought we played the better football in the first-half but once again without creating anything much. Rovers were a bit disappointing but they stepped it after after the break. 

On 58 minutes the game really came to life. Rovers won a free-kick 25 yards out kicking towards their fans in the Jimmy Seed. When the shot came it beat the wall and looked to have Maynard-Brewer beaten too but he got closer to it and then looked like he had beaten it out. I turned to my mate as we both shouted 'what a save' only for the visitors to loudly celebrate a goal. I assume the ball was knocked back quickly where Sinclair finished from close range. 

Suddenly we found an extra yard of pace and we began to stretch them. Some fine play had them back-peddalling and desperate to relieve the pressure. Again we were just short upfront and got no breaks. This seemed to give Rovers some urgency going forward and they had two fine opportunities to increase their lead. Sinclair was played in from distance and lobbed the advancing Maynard-Brewer, only to watch his shot drop inches wide of the far post. After that Marquis should have scored when they opened us up and Marquis went around Maynard-Brewer and fired in at his near post only to see the sliding Lucas Ness stretch a leg to stop it crossing the line.

Kanu was introduced shortly after and within ten minutes found himself racing into their box and being supplied by Dobson (I think). For once, he remained composed and slid a first-time effort beneath the charging Cox for a dramatic equaliser.

The decibel level racheted up in what was a disappointing gate (certainly compared to the Orient game) as the Addicks were roared on but for all our running and passing we struggled to create the chance we needed. However, it did come when Alfie May was played in for the chance he has been waiting for all season, he steered it slightly right before lining up his shot only to see it cannon of the inside of their left post and the rebound was too quick for Kanu to turn in. 

After that we faced seven added minutes and they looked to have been played out when Rovers made once last attack as players converged in our box, a well driven shot crept in by the post as Maynard-Brewer once again looked like he might have saved it. 

The inquest will begin and end with more questions of why Alfie May is being expected to play upfront on his own?

Pirate raid incoming

Joey Barton brings his increasingly resilient side to the Valley this evening where he will be looking for three points. Bristol Rovers did the double over us last year, 2-1 at the Valley and 1-0 at their place in April. Lewisham born John Marquis got all three goals as he continues his vendetta against us for the abuse he suffered when we beat his Doncaster Rovers side en route to promotion in the 2019 play-offs.

Rovers brought in goalscorer Jevani Brown during the window and they have the lively Aaron Collins in support. They have had a solid start drawing at Pompey and holding Barnsley at the weekend. 

This should be a home win fixture but injuries and a toothless attack means we are unlikely to score more than once. In the circumstances, I can see Rovers getting at least a draw and if they can score first, I think they will win. If we play three at the back and Kirk starts it's a good bet at 5-2 with Bet365.

A third defeat on the spin and I would expect words from Methven or Rodwell to steady the troops. They really have to comment on the striker situation which is becoming a glaringly obvious problem. We were lead to believe they had the funds and the targets lined up. It looks very much like we have neither and the plan was always to wing it with May and Leaburn.

Sunday 13 August 2023

Welling United 0 v Hemel Hempstead 1

After going down 5-2 at Truro in the opening game of the season, this was always likely to be a hard ask for the Wings. As it was, the match was closer that I had feared, largely helped by the extra man for 25 minutes of the second-half before Bramble joined Truro's Matthews on the bench.

The first half was even-Stevens as both teams sought the advantage without seriously looking like scoring. The standout player was 19 year old Jephte Tanga on loan to Welling from Leyton Orient. His movement, ball control and pace had the visitors struggling but there was no striking threat ahead of him.

Adam Matthew's, former Wings player, managed to earn a second yellow on the stroke of half-time and you felt that would be enough to swing the game Welling's way. Hemel double-down though and soaked it up until Bramble saw red for the Wings. Within a few minutes Hemel were awarded a soft penalty when Antony Papadopolous, now pressed into right-back, was ruled to have fouled his man in the box. 

Williams stepped up to notch the penalty and was pretty much that. Two straight defeats and a goal difference of minus 4 sees Welling propping up the table. New manager Danny Bloor has his work cut-out.

Meanwhile, the Addicks slipped to a 1-0 defeat at London Road. Panutsche Camara was caught in possession deep in his own half and Kyprianou skated in to score. Other than that, we were relatively competitive albeit powder-puff upfront. We have to recruit another striker this week. Someone fit enough to play and who can provide support for Alfie May.

More injuries yesterday mean we may be putting out a patched-up eleven on Tuesday evening when the Gas come to town.

Thursday 10 August 2023

Up against it

Dean Holden takes his troops up to Peterborough United this weekend hoping and praying for a result to keep the wishful-thinking candle burning after a humbling League Cup exit at struggling Newport on Tuesday. 

Football fans are fickle (as we know) and ours with more reason to be than most. However, the out-pouring of dissatisfaction following Tuesday's defeat surprised even me. The pre-season tidal wave of new dawn optimism following the consortium takeover was ludicrously over-the-top and far too many of us forgot just how poor our side was last year (ok, we finished tenth in the end). Yet the side facing Leyton Orient last week started with nine players who were on our books last year. Our two top scorers were absent and instead we were relying on diminutive Alfie May to fill the gap.

I fully expected us to bring in a striker this week to allay the glaringly obvious weakness as things stand but at lunch-time on Thursday there is no sign of it. I know these moves aren't straightforward but we were told on several occasions that we had identified all our targets and that we were desperate for the takeover to conclude so we could do our business. It begins to look very much like another striker wasn't in the plan and that perhaps they are prepared to wait another few weeks for Leaburn to return. If that's the case, the notion of a serious promotion challenge is laughable. Without May or Leaburn our only option is the inexperienced Kanu whose game has yet to transfer from the Academy to the First Team.

We also picked-up a rash of injuries on Tuesday which I am hoping were more 'in my defence' type of knocks given the parlous showing and defeat than serious injuries. Dean Holden will, no doubt, enlighten us today but we don't look in great shape to face one of the league's more consistent home performers on Saturday. Posh's Kabongo Tshimanga is being linked with a £500k move to Wrexham but Jonson Clarke-Harris, Kai Corbett and David Ajiboye remain. 

We managed two draws against them last year but were a tad fortunate to cling on at their place back in March. Injuries aside, I am very worried about us playing three at the back and they are not the side to be trying it against once more. They get the ball forward quickly with runners and will make it very difficult for us if we persist. I would much prefer to see four at the back and five in midfield when we only have one proven striker available. Please, please, no more Charlie Kirk.

If we go 3-5-2 again I can't see us returning with anything. I can see a routine 2-0 home win.

Wednesday 9 August 2023

League Cup exit at Newport

A second string Charlton side crashed out of the League Cup last night, beaten 3-1 at Newport County. Thanks to Sky, the match wasn't available on any streaming service, so we were saved the misery of watching our team implode in the second-half as an injury-ravaged, League 2, Newport pulled us apart.

I haven't heard Dean Holden's explanation for this one yet but it's going to be a tough ask. He told us last week, with confidence, that we were going to Newport to win the game and for forty-five minutes we held our own and lead at the break from a Kanu tap-in/deflection however unconvincing. In the second-half, the introduction of Charlton subs lead to a Newport goal on three occasions. 

We had 18 attempts at goal but only five were on target. Starting with Kirk and Kanu upfront obviously didn't improve our chances but it was in defence where we really messed-up. McGrandles lost possession in our half for the first. Hector had a chance to put the ball into touch but played it back instead to McGrandles who was caught again by two pressing Newport players, one of whom shot through Isted's legs from an angle at the near post.

Newport's second came from a poor headed Ness clearance which dropped to their left winger who raced into the box and centered for the tap-in. The third was the worst of the lot when Hector tried to play it out from the back. Ness picked up the sideways pass deep in his own box and knocked it out to the wing under pressure where Newport pounced and played the ball back in for number three. 

From those who witnessed it, it was another of those disinterested and half-hearted showings, particularly in the second forty-five, where we failed to respond to the impending defeat. I have written many times about this and the need to recruit a spine to the side of winners and talkers who can maintain the team focus and keep them battling. We still looked desperately short last night. You might expect more from 'Big Hec' but hard to lead when you are throwing goals away yourself. 

What's more, we look to have picked up six knocks during the game as well. Egbo was apparently injured again pre-match and didn't feature as at all, although I was left wondering if he has thrown his toys out-pf-the-pram at not even being selected to start in a League Cup fixture? Either way he doesn't look long for this club, as does Jaiyesimi who again failed to appear. We really do have to move Kirk and McGrandles on so their is no danger of a temptation to play them again.

The notion that we will roll into Peterborough on Saturday and blow them out-of-the-water is for the birds. The pressure on Methven & Co will start to ramp-up if their much-vaunted promotion challenge fails to materialise and we don't improve this squad significantly in the next four weeks. The honeymoon is over. 

Saturday 5 August 2023

Charlton Athletic 1 v Leyton Orient 0

An opening victory was pretty much all we asked for and the home fans left satisfied. As predicted, the game was close although I thought the O's showed us too much respect. If they had been a bit more adventurous they might have nicked the draw.

The starting line-up contained a couple of surprises but was close to what I expected after listening to Dean Holden on Thursday. He went with a back three again but Hector was on the bench. Jones, Ness and Thomas started with CBT on the left and Asiimwe on the right. Orient failed to really press us in the opening half so we looked solid enough. 

Dobson, Fraser and Anderson were in midfield with May and Campbell up front although Campbell spent most of his game sitting off and well-wide of May.

We should have scored after three minutes when Blackett-Taylor stormed past the O's right and centred. The ball fell to May ten yards out and his instinctive shot was superbly saved by Brynn. CBT spent the rest of the half tearing Orient to bits on the flank but they were too strong in the air for any red shirt to make a connection and nothing fell for us on the deck.

Theo Archibald looked Orient's best player and he had their best chance after charging in on our left and forcing a fine diving save from Ashley Maynard-Brewer. Just before the break, Blackett-Taylor sliced them open again and this time he took the ball into the box and slid it across to a clutch of red shirts. George Dobson was first to it and he drove home the goal.

In the second-half Orient left it too late to up the ante and we looked content to slow the game which was disappointing. The Ref was very clear with a number of players about the new time-wasting rules but it didn't stop him booking three or four for just that. Maynard-Brewer was warned before a goal-kick and then promptly booked. After that we had a ludicrous situation where we won a corner and all our players went into a huddle on the O's box before running to their positions but no-one went over to take the corner. Edun, who had not been on long as a sub eventually went over to take it and I thought he was booked although nothing recorded today I note. We have to learn this quickly.

Panutche Camara added some quality to midfield when he came on although he missed our best chance of a second when fired wide after Brynn had parried a May shot into his path. We saw out 7 minutes of added time defending but the job was done.

The main lesson for me was that we have to have another striker alongside the tireless May. There will be no promotion without it. We cannot afford to wait until the end of August either or we will drop points.

Asiimwe, Anderson and Campbell did their bit showing plenty of energy and running but their naivety was there for all to see. Fraser looked slow and Dobson had his work cut out covering.

On a positive, Camara looked a yard quicker than anyone else and he has rapid decision-making and execution. Tayo Edun is small with a low centre of gravity but he is swift, confident and highly mobile. Both will improve our midfield.

I expect us to rest players for the Newport cup game on Tuesday and we face an awkward looking game at Peterborough away next Saturday. They won 1-0 at Reading today so will be keen to take six from six at home.

Finally, great to see an 18,500 crowd. A good atmosphere even if the 3,200 O's were relatively quiet. Hopefully most will be back for the Bristol Rovers home game a week on Tuesday.

Thursday 3 August 2023

The O's - are we ready?

Only two days out from the opening match of the season and we are reaching that point of excitement pitched between eternal optimism and nagging doubt. The big question for all clubs and their supporters at this time, is are we ready?

1) Is the club settled? 

2) Are we confident in our Manager? 

3) Do we have the personnel we need?

4) Are we confident we will be competitive when the transfer window closes?

Fair to say that the club does look settled. The takeover has completed and disinterested Sandgaard has gone, along with his son and lady-friend. Charlie Methven has done a good job so far in calming the horses. He has revealed the identities of the main investors and set-up a Senior Management Team which has appeased the majority.

Confidence in the manager probably couldn't be a lot higher without him having achieved a promotion. Dean Holden sees things as fans do and he is a good communicator. Honest and direct, he has us on-board and the majority have faith in him to make the changes we need as the season progresses.

I don't think we have the personnel we need yet. The squad looks weaker, certainly numerically and most likely in terms of quality as things stand. We have until 1st September to change that and hope that we have enough to get us through the first five games (Orient h, Peterborough a, Bristol Rovers h, Port Vale h and Oxford a). The Academy players will need to pitch-in.

The away games at Peterborough and Oxford look tricky but the three home games should be eminently winnable. I think it's fairly clear to all that there are questions about whether or not we have the personnel to play Holden's preferred 3-5-2 and we are going to struggle upfront with Miles Leaburn unlikely to be ready for these games. We are going to have to rely on youth to win some of these games and we do look in an even better position now with the crop available compared to 12 months ago. 

In terms of confidence that we will be that much stronger as a squad by 1st September, the jury is still out. An expectation was set that the new owners had the budget and the targets lined-up months ago and were itching to get going. Alfie May (for Macauley Bonne) had already been signed under Sandgaard but you have to believe the consortium were onboard with that. Two days after completing the takeover, Harry Isted was signed as a back-up goalkeeper, replacing MacGillivray, Wolacott or Harness (we need a third keeper). We then saw Lloyd Jones join from Cambridge United to fill the Inniss/Lavelle role, Tayo Edun come in at left-back/wing-back to replace Sessegnon and Panutche Camara and Terry Taylor strengthen the attacking midfield (Gilbey/Morgan).

The budget has been confirmed as "Top 6" and Methven has been clear that they won't throw money at this (which I don't think too many would argue with). On the basis that we look to have paid fees for one or two, it's safe to assume that these may come out of the wage bill, which may see us run a smaller 'first team' squad and rely more upon the youngsters. I think we still have five loan spaces and suspect we will use some of these to strengthen further.

However, it's glaringly obvious to me that we need more goals in the side. Rak-Sakyi (our top scorer last season) has not been replaced and we simply have to have striking cover if we are serious about challenging for promotion. Alfie May is a grafter but he's not cut-out for a lone striker role and making do with Kirk and an inexperienced Kanu doesn't work. Given Miles Leaburn will miss the start of the season, that problem will be front and centre during August. Goal-scoring strikers don't come cheap so it's a big ask of the remaining budget but it won't get any cheaper and we will be missing opportunities all the time this isn't addressed. God forbid May gets injured in the meantime. We certainly can't wait or rely on Chuks Aneke who must be one more breakdown away from calling it a day.

The O's don't look like they have had a great pre-season and have lost three key players from last year's promotion romp. They matched us in Spain over 120 minutes in the July heat but Saturday will be decidedly different with rain and wind forecast. I can see another close game with two or three goals being shared. My London derby default is always 1-1 and it's a result that isn't a huge blow for either side. Much may depend on formation and our ability to take the main chances we create. I really don't want to see three at the back again anytime soon and hope that Edun or Thomas can anchor the left back position even playing as wing-backs. We haven't replaced Sean Clare either - Nathan Asiimwe has looked promising but Mandela is fit again and I am surprised he hasn't seen more minutes. If he doesn't start it will look like he either has a fitness problem or Holden doesn't fancy him - Dean Holden may reveal more on his CAST Zoom call this evening at 7pm.