Well, that’s a curveball and a half…
The news in the header that Clarke has left us by mutual consent has admittedly come as a bit of a shock to many if not most of us.
OK, there was a lot of wishful thinking about him (culminating in something after the Sheffield United game elsewhere that one may term “ill judged”), but this is still a bit of a gobsmacker.
Especially as within about 15 minutes of me writing the above two paragraphs, he has already signed up for Eastleigh. At least he can practice his basketball skills there, and under a lot less scrutiny than with us.
The reason for that is more to do with the timing of it – it’s barely in the after-ten-games cut off point, especially as he only joined us in July. After defending him so much, NA’s comments are interesting:
“After lengthy conversations with Ryan about his failure to settle at the club, we have reluctantly agreed to let him move on. Ryan is a good guy and a family man who wanted to do really well for Wimbledon, but he felt for personal reasons that his future needed to be at another club.”
What’s clear is that something went wrong quite quickly. Actually, scrub that – something went badly wrong very quickly. Open arguments with our defenders during (and after) games, and a general sense of unease clearly did for him.
It’s certainly true that he was the scapegoat for many. Often unfairly, I thought, especially as some of it seemed to be down to not being Kelly Roos.
And he did seem to improve a bit, even getting praise from some quarters. Not to mention our manager going all in to defend him a couple of weeks ago.
Which makes his sudden release even more surprising. It’s not as though we’ve been putting him in the stiffs or sending him out on loan to Woking.
One can only assume that he really didn’t feel welcome at AFCW, to the point that we’ve had to take this action that is – let’s be blunt – very drastic.
I mentioned just now about constantly getting compared to the Dutchman we had last season, and some of our fans really needed to wind their neck in about that sort of stuff.
Unfortunately, he did make mistakes, and ultimately that’s what cost him his position at Charlton. Maybe the way that we (eventually) started clicking at the Valley made minds up?
This does raise a few issues now. Firstly, Shea is going to get a run-out with McDonnell as his possibly-capable understudy. He’s got another chance that I think he didn’t fully expect, and one would expect him to grab it with both hands.
But if many think he wasn’t good enough at L2, what of him in L1? To his credit, he’s stuck with us after being sidelined for Roos, Wilson (stop laughing) and now Clarke, and his gamble of staying with us this summer has paid off for him.
Yet one bad mistake and it will feel like we’ve gone back to square one again. And there’s only so many times you can make a keeper a scapegoat…
Secondly, we’re exposed in this position. We were able to drop Clarke for Shea, but if our current goalie gets crocked, we’ve got McDonnell.
Now, we can’t get loans in any more until January, bar very dire emergencies, so unless somebody got a sledgehammer to his ankles in training, we’ll be stuck in a position that has caused us a lot of grief in the past few seasons.
Which leads us onto the third aspect of this – what does this say about Ashley Bayes? I know he’s a “character”, but he’s been responsible for scouting and recruiting somebody who played a total of nine games and has since left the club.
True, transfers can and do go wrong, but we had exactly the same with Ben “Twatter” Wilson last season as well, and there’s starting to be a common denominator here.
Why do we still get it so wrong with goalkeepers? We need Shea to succeed, at least up until January when we can do something about our backline, but you fear we’ll get exposed sooner or later with him.
Even the Great Loanee Deity Roos struggled in the beginning, and while I know there’s budget constraints, we constantly seem to underwhelm with such a specialist position.
Back to Clarke, and I do genuinely hope he does well at Eastleigh. It simply didn’t work out, which is no crime, and apparently he was so desperate to do well with us he effectively became uncoachable.
Many won’t miss him though, and I expect a few will be quite pleased with today’s news. They got what they wanted after all. I just hope when we inevitably draw Eastleigh in the FAC, he doesn’t have a blinder…