Do we look like a promotion squad?

After the Leyton Orient friendly last Saturday Russell Slade said that the club were "miles away" from being a challenging squad and identified that five or six new signings would be required. The simplest way to measure the likelihood of on-field success in the forthcoming season might be to compare the current squad of players against those that Chris Powell was assembling this time five years ago.

By the 1st July 2011 Charlton had signed up Dale Stephens, Rhoys Wiggins, Danny Hollands, Matt Taylor, Danny Green and Paul Hayes. Michael Morrison was to join in mid July, followed by Ben Hamer on 1st August.  For supporters unfamiliar with these players there was no reason to get particularly excited -  they brought with them experience with Oldham, Bournemouth, Portsmouth, Exeter, Dagenham, Scunthorpe, Cambridge and Reading. Stephens had had a brief loan spell with Southampton at the end of the previous season but they hadn't been sufficiently impressed to offer him a contract to play in The Championship.

What was crucial in this recruitment, however, was that the players had been hand-picked by a well-informed manager and scouting team and that they were able to train together throughout pre-season so as to grow into a unit which was perhaps greater than the sum of its parts might have suggested. The new players were able to blend with existing squad members like Bradley Wright-Phillips, Chris Solly and  Johnny Jackson. Yann Kermorgant, Bradley Pritchard and Leon Cort were of course later added to put the icing on the cake

Charlton were able to field a reasonably stable side that season. There were ten players who played over 30 league games in 11/12 and, when gaps appeared, they were filled by the likes of Andy Hughes, Scott Wagstaff, Leon Cort and loan players like Danny N'Guessan. Daryl Russel and Hogan Ephraim.

There were virtually no young players coming through from The Academy into the team or even on to the fringes that season. Supporters may have been disappointed at this shortage of "home-grown" talent but they trusted Powell to know whether a young player was ready or not. Yado Mambo played two League Cup games. Michael Smith was seen once in the FA Cup. Tosan Popo was a sub on one occasion. Tobi Sho-Silva and Adebayo Azeez were nowhere near the team. Even Cedric Evina made only two starts in league games.

This season, with just over a week to go until kick-off, Russell Slade has managed to bring in only four players. We are hopeful that there will be further signings (in particular an experienced  goalkeeper) but any new arrivals will obviously have very limited time to prepare with their team mates before kick off on August 6th. Furthermore, there is every reason to expect further departures before the window closes at the end of August as it seems unlikely that all three of Jorge Texeira, Alou Diarra and Patrick Bauer would play in League 1 for long. And Ademola Lookman?

One of the reasons Duchatelet gave for appointing Bob Peeters, Guy Luzon and Karel Fraeye was that they were prepared to give young players a chance. The concern still exists therefore that the club hierarchy believes that a successful team can contain three or four young developing players.  All Charlton fans would love to see players like  Phillips, Holmes-Dennis, Charles-Cook, Ahearne-Grant, Muldoon, Hanlon and Umerah come through and shine but this needs to be part of a sensitive, managed process which is driven by the capabilities of the individuals rather than the need to plug gaps in the team.  Chris Powell was aware of this and, as noted above, he made sure that he was never forced to blood a youngster when it wasn't appropriate. We are sure that Russell Slade is equally aware of the dangers of this policy.

Nearly a week has gone by since Orient and the squad has not been enhanced. Slade has asked supporters not to panic and has stressed the importance of signing the right players.  The lack of activity does however raise some alarming thoughts:

Has the owner still not learnt the lesson of banking on a slender squad which is found inadequate after one or two injuries?

Or could it be that the reputational damage done to the club over the last two years has resulted in some players and their agents choosing to look elsewhere?