Update from Graham Baker
10:13am, Fri 20th Nov 2009
I spoke to Graham Baker earlier this morning for an update before tomorrowâ€™s FA Trophy game at home to St Albans City.
There is some worrying news on the injury front, with Jon Boardman, Tom Hutchinson, Aswad Thomas and Daniel Sintim all on the treatment table. Graham thinks it unlikely that Jon and Daniel will be available. (Joe McNerney is out on loan at Corinthian Casuals and canâ€™t be recalled since heâ€™s in the first month of his loan.) There are no suspensions, however.
I asked Graham about the two new loan signings, Nathaniel Pinney and Matthew Wright, and why heâ€™d gone for young players rather than experienced strikers. â€œItâ€™s simply down to financesâ€�, Graham replied. â€œWe canâ€™t afford to bring in two experienced strikers â€“ and I wanted to bring in two players, not just one â€“ so weâ€™ve had to look to younger players instead, along with the approach for Will Hendry. But Nathaniel and Pinney are a good pair. Theyâ€™ve formed a partnership at Palace and are promising. But thereâ€™s no guarantee, of course, that theyâ€™ll do the business â€“ any more than there is with an experienced player. But if one or both of them do well, weâ€™ll look to extend their loans and, if they donâ€™t, well, they can return after a month: thatâ€™s the advantage of loan signings.â€�
Turning to Will Hendry, Graham explained that the â€˜7 day notice of an approachâ€™ is a mechanism that allows another club to approach a non-contract player with another club once a 7-day period has expired: during the seven-day period the club wanting to make that approach cannot speak to the player concerned. â€œWill Hendry, when fit, has probably been the best striker at this level in the last couple of seasonsâ€�, Graham went on. â€œHeâ€™s not a target man but a second striker, who links up play, goes back to form a fifth man in midfield but is also a good finisher. Of course, thereâ€™s no guarantee that heâ€™ll join us: he might just decide to stay where he is.â€�
Responding to the question â€˜why donâ€™t we turn to our own Youth Team strikers, Ollie Palmer and Ola Sogbanmu?â€™, Graham responded: â€œThey will come into the reckoning but it wouldnâ€™t be fair to them, at their stage of development, to look to them to be a rescue act for the first team. That would be putting unreasonable pressure on them.â€�
Players going out on loan
I also asked Graham about the thinking behind sending Delano Sam-Yorke, Jerome Maledon and Anson Cousins out on loan. â€œWith our bringing in two new players and possibly a third in Will Hendry, I wouldnâ€™t want the likes of Delano and Jerome simply sitting on the bench, or not even making it onto the bench, week after week. They need some first team action and these loans will give them that and perhaps, in Delanoâ€™s case, get him back into confident, goalscoring form. When their monthâ€™s loan is up I want all three of them to be fit, eager and sharp and ready to return.â€�
FA Youth Cup
I asked Graham, finally, for his reactions to the FA Youth Cup game on Wednesday night, when the Youth Team went out 3-1 to Charlton Athletic at The Valley. â€œI was very proud of the boysâ€�, said Graham. â€œI thought that they played exceptionally well. It was a great credit to the whole side and to Matt Howard and the entire Academy set-up. It was a very even game in many ways, with the main difference being that they had a very sharp striker in Tamer Tuna, who scored three quality goals. We pushed them all the way and, if we could have kept the score at 2-1 for a bit longer, it could have been a very different story. Charlton passed the ball around nicely but they never put us under sustained pressure. If anything, we created more chances but they took a higher proportion of theirs than we did.â€�
I asked Graham if he wanted to mention anyone in particular. â€œ I thought it was a great team effort but, if I was forced to single out anyone, it would be Ollie Palmer, who showed tremendous energy and commitment. The things he tried didnâ€™t always work out, and heâ€™s still learning, but heâ€™s a good prospect undoubtedly.â€�
I went on to ask Graham what was the main difference between the Charlton youth set-up and ours. â€œCollectively, they are better footballers and more athletic. There is a pecking order in youth set-ups. The Arsenals and Manchester Uniteds of this world have the most choice and then there is a pecking order below that. The more choice a club has, the more likely it is to get the best players. Occasionally, though, a player will go to a club like Crystal Palace or Charlton because he thinks heâ€™s got more chance of making faster progress to the first team but, by and large, the pecking order rules.â€�