With 3 wins, 2 draws and a loss in his first six games, Nigel Adkins has managed to reignite ambitions of a playoff place that had stalled at the end of Bowyer’s tenure. The latest result against Crewe may have dampened enthusiasm slightly but a playoff spot remains bizarrely within reach. Regardless of the outcome, the summer is approaching and a significant rebuild of the squad is needed.
The squad issues can be split into three areas:
- The team is heavily reliant on loanees and short-term contracts, this is a hangover from Duchatelet’s approach (or lack of) post-2016.
- The squad is ageing and in need of a rebalance towards younger players.
- The flow of Academy and U23 players into the first team has dried up.
Sorting out the Contracts
Out of Contract
With 11 players out of contract and 5 loanees returning to their former clubs, another summer rebuild seems likely. Of the 11 out of contract, it is all but confirmed that Erhan Oztumer (currently on loan at Bristol Rovers) and Marcus Maddison (retiring) will be the first out the door. They will likely be joined by Andrew Shinnie (2 sub appearances) and Deji Oshilaja (0) who have barely featured under Adkins. Neither player has made the last two matchday squads despite being fit. Previously, Shinnie had played well under Bowyer so his dropping remains a mystery, though it does coincide with Gilbey’s upturn in form.
Darren Pratley and Jason Pearce, 33 and 36 respectively, are coming towards the end of their playing careers. They have both featured heavily this season but are no longer the players they once were. Both are likely to retire soon but might be retained as backups if Adkins wants their experience in a younger dressing room.
Ben Watson signed a one-year contract with the option of a second year when he joined at the start of the season. His performances have been mixed so this clause may not be activated. However, like Pearce and Pratley, Adkins may want to keep him for his experience in the dressing room and training ground.
Jake Forster-Caskey has been the first name on the team sheet this season and is a favourite to win Player of the Year. Similarly, Chuks Aneke is currently top scorer and has been the primary attacking threat for much of the season. Both players are good enough for League One and will be useful assets if they keep their fitness issues in check. However, the question remains whether any lower Championship or top League One clubs will be interested in taking a gamble on either of them.
Adam Matthews has had a solid, if unspectacular season at the club and at 29 he should be in his prime. Adkins has played him ahead of Gunter when fit so it would not be a surprise if he receives a contract offer. If Charlton remain in League One, he should be good enough. Finally, Ben Amos has been ever-present in goal and whilst his form has been mixed at times, he has more than made up for it elsewhere by securing results almost singlehandedly. He will likely be offered a new contract if Charlton remain in League One.
|Out of Contract||Loan Expiring||2022||2023||2024|
|Deji Oshilaja||Akin Famewo||Chris Gunter*||Alex Gilbey||Diallang Jaiyesimi|
|Jason Pearce||Jayden Stockley||Ben Purrington||Albie Morgan|
|Jake Forster-Caskey||Matt Smith||Conor Washington||Ronnie Schwartz|
|Chuks Aneke||Ian Maatsen||Ryan Inniss*|
|Andrew Shinnie||Liam Millar||Josh Davison*|
Of the loanees, Matt Smith will not be returning to the Valley, having featured in more U23 games than first team games. Ian Maatsen has played regularly but Chelsea may want him to get experience at a higher level, so it seems unlikely that he will return for a second season. Akin Famewo and Liam Millar will not play first team football for their parent clubs but will probably be subject to interest from lower Championship clubs at least. Jayden Stockley has played very well during his loan spell from Preston and a summer move would likely suit both club and player.
The Remaining Squad
Just nine senior players are contracted after June 2021. However, Ronnie Schwartz has not featured under Adkins and is in danger of becoming the first transfer flop of the Sandgaard era. The 31-year-old still has two years left on his contract so Charlton will have to cut their losses if they want to move him on.
The rest are difficult to predict. Ben Purrington has been favoured at left back, Chris Gunter knows Adkins from his spell at Reading and Conor Washington is decent at League One level. Ryan Inniss has undoubted quality but needs to sort out his injury issues if he is to succeed.
Albie Morgan hasn’t featured much but has been the only academy graduate in the squad for much of the season. Josh Davison has been out on loan at League Two’s Forest Green Rovers and may be part of a League One squad.
Diallang Jaiyesimi and Alex Gilbey are the most likely to be given key roles in Adkins’ 2021/22 squad as they have both featured heavily and have played their best football under the new manager.
Rebalance an Ageing Squad
Reliance on older players has increased over the last five seasons with 2020/21 being the highest yet. Appearances made by players over 30 almost doubled between 2019/20 & 2020/21, from 17% to 31%, whilst appearances from U20s halved. The loss of Alfie Doughty first to injury and then Stoke has pushed this average age up further.
Integrate Academy & U23 Players
In the 2020/21 season just 9% of appearances have come from Academy Players, with only Albie Morgan and Alfie Doughty making more than ten appearances in all competitions. This is down from 21% in 2018/19 when George Lapslie, Dillion Phillips, Karlan Grant and Chris Solly all made major contributions.
Even more surprising, not one player signed for the U23 squad has played a part this season. Ashley Maynard-Brewer has come closest by being named on the bench consistently and made his debut in the cup. The comparison again with 2018/19 is stark as 13% of appearances were made by players signed originally for the U23 squad. Most notably, Joe Aribo & Anfernee Dijksteel were key parts of the promoted side.
Regardless of division, Charlton face another summer of upheaval and could easily begin the summer with just nine senior players. Much work will be needed to get them to gel in time for the start of 2021/22. Hopefully it will be the last significant turnover for a while.