Ryan Clarke departs

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.

Pun semi-intended.

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…

21 thoughts to “Ryan Clarke departs”

  1. As far as Shea is concerned, wasn’t he ruched back from injury last season when Wilson was sent back? Then we got Roos in because Shea was making mistakes? He looked more than capable against Newport on the final game of the season, and had a very decent game last Saturday. Have always liked the lad and am happy to have him starting again. It’s his place to lose now, hopefully some of our fans don’t get on his back like they did with Clarke.

  2. We get it wrong with defenders, midfielders and attackers all the time, every season. The goalkeeping position sticks out because you can’t shuffle the pack or make the likes of Clarke a “utility goalie”

    I don’t know what Ross Worner did to be sent to purdah, and I think Shea’s pretty decent as a young goalie, personally. Most of our squad are upper League 2 quality, so moaning about our goalie being the same quality as the rest of the squad seems weird. We know our budgetary restrictions, so let’s just get behind Shea and maybe he’ll become another Kelvin Davis.

    It does make me wonder about us losing Will Mannion in the summer after he was tapped up by Hull, but them’s the…

  3. Hate it when fans give our players grief.happens alot in our end if they make one mistake. I did once shout at Warren Cummings but got a disapproving stare and felt bad about it

  4. I just hope any new GK signings we make are 6ft plus, always feel the big tall lads make the best keepers – although admittedly neither Shea nor John Sullivan are all that tall and both have done fine/well. Clarke always seemed too small for that position, appreciate he’s had a good career overall though.

  5. Rob, I find it hard to believe that Clarke left because he was dropped for Saturday. Personally I believe that Sheasy was brought back for the Charlton game as a consequence of Clarke deciding he wanted to leave. I dread to think what would have happened if he had had a ‘mare…

    1. TBH you have to think something was up to

      a) start Shea, and

      b) negotiate an exit from the club and find a new club within four days of the game.

      I guess minds were semi-made up before Saturday, but Shea’s performance probably tipped the balance.

  6. Appreciate our budget restraints but just as Mr Brown, Mr Ardley spends the keeper budget elsewhere. OS article pending, “shea says bayzo is the best he’s ever worked with” “neal loves ashleys positivity”. There is a repetitive problem here and it doesn’t have a great rep in the keeper world.

  7. As I said a few weeks ago, since we started in L2, our best runs (make that a couple!) have come with a team playing well in front of a keeper whom they obviously trust. That is not to say that they did not trust either Shea or Worner (who appear to fall foul of NA for some reason rather like our youngsters!). Our best and most consistent keeper by far was Roos and, if Shea is not considered good enough, why the hell did Bayzo and all the rest involved think that Clarke was an obvious replacement? I certainly agree about the comments made about Wilson too – somebody has to take the can for what has happened – we ARE in L1, not the Ryman League!

  8. He was terrible and clearly there was a reason for it. Best move all round I think. I wonder if NA will seek to replace him in January?

  9. Has McDonnell played more than 5 first team league games? Because if he hasn’t then *if* Shea gets injured then we’re allowed to get an emergency loan keeper in. If not then I believe we’re even more fucked than we were with Clarke in goal!

  10. Same thing as always- if we concede a goal, NA believes it is solely the goalkeepers fault. End of. Clarke never settled at AFC (was never allowed to settle), and, as mentioned before, his on-field arguments with other defenders must have been delightful for the opposition to see.

    Good luck to Clarke at Cheatsleigh, though.

  11. I’m trying to write how I feel about Clarke:a trier but it just didn’t happen for him. Good luck. As to Shea we do know him so obviously we stick with him for now. The future? Well maybe our choice in January depends on his form and our position in the table. That’ll decide which strategy we pursue

  12. IMO Clarke was a chancy, desperate signing. Look at the facts, he’s 34, hadn’t played for a year, never played at this level and simply took too long to build a working relationship with the first choice defenders, who have all struggled to adjust to this level with a keeper they clearly didn’t trust, so played deeper than would have been necessary. He conceded 16 goals in eight League and Cup games and that is eight too many at any level.

    Sure, I hope that Shea fulfils his potential – I’m not convinced he will, but I’d love him to make it with us as we really could do with having a consistent presence between the sticks for the next couple of seasons.

    Good luck to Ryan at…

  13. Neal Ardley need to trust the academy graduates. Give them the first team opportunity. No doubt, they will struggle at the beginning. However, they will gain experience which will make them better players. The same applies to Shea and Mcdonnel. Trust them. They will deliver the reward for the club.

  14. I do think Clark has been made a scapegoat, by not just the fans but also his fellow defenders and now the manager for the team’s collective failings.

    Don’t think it is his fault that age has started to catch up with Fuller and Robinson, that Meades was injured, or that Taylor has forgotten where the goal is.

    But that being said God did suggests scapegoats for a reason – they served a valuable purpose in Old Testament times for absolving the Israelites of collective guilt, and so let’s hope they do the same for us.

    And the OT version didn’t get offered healthy contracts as Eastleigh either.

  15. All round this is the best thing that could’ve happened. Clarke clearly didn’t gel with the back four and it obviously wasn’t going to improve. You can’t replace your back four but you can replace your keeper. No doubt Shea’s performance at Charlton was the tipping point but for once there seemed to be a level of trust between our defenders and the man in goal. Shea has never been a bad keeper, maybe just suffering from a lack of confidence at the wrong time. I think he fully deserves another go in the starting line up, as he really can’t be any worse than the performances Clarke gave us.

  16. Like all pro goalkeepers, Shea is a good shot stopper. What I am not convinced about is his ability to deal with crosses. He was sussed out last season for not being strong enough. Charlton didn’t test him in the air. I hope he takes an early cross on Saturday to give him confidence, if not it could be a long afternoon for him and the defence.

  17. Whatever Shea’s weaknesses are/may be, thanks to circumstances that should have been avoided pre-season, we have to rely on him and McDonnell as reserve. I know that strange things happen in football but I cannot recall anything similar regarding goalkeepers in the past (although I’m sure that somebody on here will correct me!). IMO, the Club has shown a lack of professionalism throughout with the signing of Clarke. Yes, he may have been made a scapegoat for the poor start to the season but I believe that he should never have been put in the position in the first place. Bayzo and co. need to come clean about all this – first Wilson”gate” and now Clarke… At least they got Roos…

  18. 3+ years of poor goalkeeping. Between U18 to the first team, we are struggling. More than one talented keeper has naffed off to better things before being “bayzoed”. Mish mashed every season since Sully senior did a job. Marmite, good for conference/south, had a good go but it’s not worked. Period. Good luck to Clarke but the entire saga was a cluster fuck. Hope we stop dicking around with the keeper- budget both keeper and coach, unnecessarily it could relegate us. Interesting to watch one of our centre halfs over the next 3/4 games, can’t pass the buck now…

  19. Considering how many goals we have shipped in the first few games not sure I agree that Clarke was made that much of a scapegoat by many. I said when we signed him I thought he would be a good solid signing. However, I had to concede that after seeing the first two games, much as it pained me to say – I knew I was wrong! Neal gave him a good run and lets be honest he made more than a few errors before being dropped. Wish him all the best and hope he gets his confidence back quickly. However feeling much more confident about the months ahead now with Shea back. He got his head down and never moaned whilst warming the bench. Let’s hope he can make the most of a well deserved recall….

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