It has been a frustrating year for local professional soccer. DC United and Real Maryland occupy last place in their respective leagues, and Crystal Palace has only been spared that same infamy by flagging franchises in Miami and St. Louis. For all three clubs, poor performances on the field have further endangered their prospects for survival over the long term and have substantially dampened enthusiasm at an otherwise opportune time for expanding their fanbase.
The stakes are also high for Charlton this season -- as they have been each of the last three campaigns. And, yet, I cannot stifle my excitement as kickoff approaches against Bournemouth at The Valley tomorrow. Season tickets are down, reported to be 8,437 as of today. There is no question that support has waned and the dire financial straits of the club heaps yet more pessimism on immediate prospects.
Still, what Phil Parkinson has achieved in pulling together a side with little more than duct tape has been nothing short of remarkable. There is virtually no one left in the team from the last time we saw them play -- the opening match of the club's return to the Championship against Scunthorpe -- but the team has the potential of being even better than last year's version. Gone are Nicky Bailey, Jonjo Shelvey, Lloyd Sam, Frazier Richardson, Deon Burton, Darren Randolph, Sam Sodje, and the trio of disappointing strikers who never came close to meeting their promise (Izale McLeod, Chris Dickson, and Stuart Fleetwood). In their place, Gary Doherty, Alan McCormack, Johnnie Jackson, Simon Francis, Pawel Abbott, Matt Fry, Ross Worner, Lee Martin, and Bally Smart join Rob Elliott, Kyel Reid, Akpo Sodje, Therry Racon, Jose Semedo, captain Christian Dailly, Miguel Llera, Kelly Youga, Alex Stavrinou, Scott Wagstaff, Chris Solly, and Tamer Tuna for the new look Addicks. Although none of the new signings are world-class footballers, they appear to be solid players and to fit into Parkinson's plans for how he would like the team to play.
Not bad for a manager of a skint club. And, even better, considering that Parkinson has taken full ownership of the team he has compiled.
The patience from supporters will undoubtedly be short and a set back against the Cherries will poison the well from the word go, but I don't think there is reason to take a gloomy view based on what PP has managed to do in the market.
Of course, I was also excited about the signing of Izale McLeod -- one of his shirts, purchased from the club at a remarkably reasonable price, hangs in my closet -- and don't have the foggiest first-hand knowledge of the vast majority of the team. Hope springs eternal. Come on you reds.