Monday, August 31, 2009
My wife spoke to me early this morning, and said that I must be chuffed with Charlton’s five-game winning streak to the new season. I replied that of course I was, and then she added that the four nil score-line must do wonders for our goal difference. Yes, I replied. Finally, she asked "Does this mean you have a positive goal difference for a change?" I politely reminded her that when you have won every game then it is impossible not to have a positive goal difference!
And then it hit home: Charlton - top of the league; a club record five game winning streak at the start of the season; a goal difference of plus ten; and a massive positive feeling taking us into next Saturday’s televised match against Brentford. Happy days!
The game against Tranmere was another dominated by Charlton’s midfield, with Lloyd Sam scoring his first and second goals of the season, and Jose Semedo chipping in with his first for the club. The scoring was completed by Nicky Bailey’s third of the campaign midway through the second half. Sam, under a bit of pressure after replacement Scott Wagstaff scored last week, nodded in a goal in each half; they were his first goals for the Addicks since his headed winner against Stoke two years ago.
Shortly after Sam’s opener from a Jonjo Shelvey cross midway through the opening half, Semedo burst through onto Deon Burton’s flick, and shot across goal to score. After Sam’s second, from a good Kelly Youga cross, Bailey was fortunate when his 35-yard free kick drifted in with everybody who tried failing to get a touch on the ball. It made little difference though, as the win was very easily accomplished and the 4-0 score-line comfortably achieved.
Manager Phil Parkinson (left), once derided, is now rightly being lauded after leading the club to their best ever start, and the hope is that no damage is done to the team, or team spirit, in any last minute transfer activity (with the transfer window closing at 5pm on Tuesday).
The confidence and team spirit seems to have returned to the Addicks squad after several years of lacking; it is imperative that the Board back the manager as best they can, even if this simply means no outward player movement. While some players have had the odd lack-lustre game here and there this season, hopefully the passing of this transfer deadline may allow them to settle, and get back to playing their best football for the club. Any inbound acquisitions, either purchased or loaned, will need to be balanced against the fact that the team is doing very well, and any incomers may well end up simply as bench warmers in the short term while everyone is fit. It would be completely unfair, in my opinion, for any centre-half cover being brought to the club to displace either Miguel Llera or Christian Dailly, while they have kept three clean sheets recently. With such fine resources, any cover would definitely be utilised at some stage, with Llera picking up bookings rather too easily and Dailly still playing through his painful rib injury. Similarly, while we would all love a proven goal-scorer to be brought in, would it be fair for a new-boy to start after Burton's hard work and unselfish play this year?
While we have the chance though, let’s celebrate the end of the month as league leaders and with real hope that the corner in our club’s fortunes may have been turned.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Manager Phil Parkinson has acknowledged that 17-year-old Mambo is very short on experience, and that he needs more options in central defence, and one of his top priorities is to sign somoene who can cover Christian Dailly and Miguel Llera (both pictured left) should they get injured.
Currently, with Parky not keen to thrust Mambo into the first-team, the only other options are Kelly Youga, who can do a reasonable job in that position, and/or Jose Semedo, who originally came to the club as a centre back but who has now settled into a central midfield defensive role. If a new centre back is not signed in time for this weekend's match at Tranmere, and if Semedo fails to recover from a hamstring strain, then Youga is the only option open to Parky should he need to make a change at any time.
Mambo himself should get plenty of game time at Welling, and will relish the prospect of the physical side of the game often seen in the Conference. As he has joined on work-experience terms, he can also still play for Addicks reserve teams should that be required by the club.
The Mambo deal could also be a pre-cursor to a potential takeover announcement, as any significant transfer activity is probably dependant on a Boardroom re-shuffle, so hopefully we may get more news later today?
Up the Addicks!
Thursday, August 27, 2009
I’m sure Phil Parkinson (left) will be frustrated by the lack of transfer activity, probably more so than us fans, but so far (fingers crossed) we have not sold anyone bar two of the clubs biggest wage-earners who didn’t really want to play for us anyway. Those funds received will go some way to off-setting the financial hit a season in the third tier brings, but maybe not all the way? The Board may decide that we have to cash in one of our playing assets over the next few days, and that will be hard for fans to take, but at least it may offer some funds for Parky to get a (cheaper) replacement? It would also be good to strengthen from a healthy position for a change, but the on/off/might-be-on-or-off take-over is holding everything up at present…
Sadly, any potential funds from the sale of Izale McLeod, Chris Dickson or Stuart Fleetwood would do little to influence a bank manager to re-offer any over-draft facility to the club. No, the only sales that might make a big difference will be those of Jonjo Shelvey and Nicky Bailey. Whether Charlton can keep them beyond the end of the August transfer window will go a long way in stating the Clubs aspirations for this season.
Saturday’s trip to the North-West to play Tranmere Rovers may be prior to any comings and goings; Prenton Park was a fortress for most of last season, but has already been breached by MK Dons this year. Rovers have, of course, appointed John Barnes (left), once of Charlton, and to date the only Addick player to have sung on a number one hit single, and the only ex-Addick player to appear on Strictly Come Dancing, as manager. Barnes first managerial appointment came as soon as he left The Valley in 1999, but his time at Celtic was flawed; he has since been in charge of Jamaica, before accepting the Rovers job in the summer.
Tranmere do, unlike some of the other teams we have played this season, have players who may be well known in South London football circles – Marlon Broomes is a defender who did the rounds about ten years ago with Blackburn, QPR, and Preston, while Alan Mahon (once a left back, but who now plays in midfield) recently returned to his first club, having had spells with Burnley, Blackburn, and Wigan amongst others. Ex-England international Michael Ricketts also joined John Barnes squad this summer; Ricketts was once quite a prolific goalscorer for Walsall, Bolton, and Middlesboro, before his injury and weight problems saw him return to the lower leagues once more; Tranmere are his eleventh league club, and his ninth in the last five years.
So Phil Parkinson will have plenty of experience facing up to his team at the weekend, though I doubt that will worry him untowardly. Once more able to pick from a full squad (bar Dean Sinclair), Parky is likely to stick to the same team that has carried the Addicks through the first four rounds of matches.
Rob Elliot is doing a fine job in goal, and though we have an able back-up in Darren Randolph, there is little likelihood of the Irishman forcing his way into the first team at present.
Fraser Richardson has come into the defence, along with Christian Dailly and Miguel Llera and they have all performed admirably. Llera has an obvious eye for goal, which is good to see after so many barren years for our centre-backs, and Dailly and Richardson have bags of experience which is helping then settle in enormously. Parky should be commended for bringing all three to the club this summer.
Our strength is in midfield, with few clubs we have played so far being able to compete with Jose Semedo (the man-of-the-match last week against Walsall and who should shake off a slight hamstring strain to play), Therry Racon, Lloyd Sam and Nicky Bailey. With Matt Spring and now Scott Wagstaff looking capable of filling in and playing well wherever necessary, we have a plethora of talent to see us through each game. Non-contract player Wade Small is no longer an option for Parky, as he has now left the club.
Jonjo Shelvey, who is a future midfield master, is playing just behind the lone frontman that is Deon Burton; these two have both scored this year, which makes a change for Addicks forwards. The strikers yet to score are all reserves, though it should be noted that Tamer Tuna – a stand in for Shelvey when he gets tired in my opinion – and Izale McLeod scored five goals between them in a midweek reserve match.
This is the side I expect Parky to send out on Merseyside –
Subs from – Randolph, Solly, Basey, Mambo, Spring, Wagstaff, Stavrinou, Fleetwood, Dickson, Tuna, McLeod.
Pedro45 cannot think of any good reason to suspect that Charlton’s winning streak will come to an end this weekend, apart from, that is, luck not being on our side. So far, the Addicks have had a few moments that have gone in their collective favour (the last few minutes versus Wycombe; the ref at Orient; poor finishing by Walsall, Hartlepool, etc), so it might be time for lady luck to even things up a little. For this reason only, I predict a 1-1 draw, though I hope that the winning streak does continue and the team carry on as league leaders for another few weeks.
My one-to-watch in this game is going to be Nicky Bailey (left); this is another game that could be his last for Charlton, and after a very quiet game last week he will want to get back into the goal-scoring habit and leave his mark on League One. If Bailey is to be sold before next Tuesday, then he can hand over the captain’s arm-band with head held high. I hope he is able to stay at the club, as he has shown himself to be a true professional, and his play on the left-wing has been excellent when you consider how unnatural that position is for him normally. A final goal (or two) would be a great leaving present.
It’s been lovely being top of the table this week, but there is so much more hard work to do before we can think about promotion back to the Championship and then dream of the riches beyond. Picking up points away from home is the right way to go about being in the mix come season’s end, and hopefully we can carry on our unbeaten (if not our winning) streak at Tranmere.
Up the Addicks!
Monday, August 24, 2009
Weekend to Remember
Now I’m not being over-expectant in this tier three season, and I did think that Charlton played as best they could, and fully deserved their fourth league win of the season, but in truth, the game itself was flat, lacked much skill, and was quite frankly a little boring.
Phil Parkinson, as expected, picked an unchanged team, and with early efforts from Fraser Richardson, Lloyd Sam, and Nicky Bailey going close, the signs were good. When Miguel Llera bundled the ball home somehow (above) midway through the half, perception that the game may open up into a contest were quickly dispelled as Walsall played such a dour, defensive match. The visitors really didn’t seem to be there for anything other than a loss by as few goals as they could manage.
After half-time, the game continued as before, with Charlton missing half-chance after half-chance. Scott Wagstaff came on midway through the half to replace the mis-firing Lloyd Sam and, almost immediately, Kelly Youga came forward in the games most positive move, fed Deon Burton who easily laid in Wagstaff for a clean run in on goal. The youngster did extremely well to place his shot inside the far post for his first league goal, and that was game over pretty much. Or should have been!
Typically, Charlton then almost gave Walsall a hope of getting back into a game they had no right to be close in. First an away goal was disallowed, rightly, for offside, but that failed to wake the Addicks from their collective slumber, and Parkin then hit the post with a looping header that thankfully bounced back into Rob Elliot’s arms.
Walsall offered little after that, and Charlton, looking a little tired after midweek exploits, coasted home to victory. A word on the referee who I thought had an excellent match, letting the game flow wherever possible, and for keeping a smile on his face all ninety minutes. If only his young assistant had been as good...
The win does take Charlton to the top of the league for the first time this season, and expectation levels will rise no doubt. This is a crucial week for the club’s prospects however, as higher level clubs look to poach some of the clubs undoubted stars; Andy Gray left Charlton on Friday as his long protracted move to Barnsley finally went through, and this week may well see further departures, including Chris Dickson, who didn’t make the bench even after Gray’s transfer. The club and management acknowledge that some movement is necessary, but the key point will be to balance those leaving with new captures that fill some of the obvious voids in the squad. A key time therefore, but happy for now.
Friday, August 21, 2009
Going for a Nap
Even the most optimistic Charlton fan would probably not have expected to have won all three initial matches this season - including two tough games away - but with the midfield still untroubled by transfer activity, the new-look defence settling in well, and the attack starting to cause problems for opposition defences and score goals, all is very rosy-red in SE7. Charlton don’t even have to worry about injuries too much, with Dean Sinclair the only long term absentee, and recent minor knocks to Miguel Llera (pic below, sporting his latest headgear), Christian Dailly, Lloyd Sam, Jonjo Shelvey and Fraser Richardson all failing to keep them from playing. Thus, manager Phil Parkinson has been able to field an unchanged side in the league games, and the likelihood is that we will se the same starting eleven come this Saturday too.
The options for change are there, but why would, or should, Parky dabble with his team - He is no Alan Pardew (spit!) as we well know! If Parky was of a mind to think about any changes, it would not involve the goalkeeper, where Rob Elliot has had a very good start to the season and made crucial saves at times in each match.
Nor would the defence seem to be ripe for changing, with few options at centre back, and Chris Solly able to cover any position (with Kelly Youga’s help) from the bench. In midfield, Matt Spring can count himself to be really unlucky not to have played much game time yet, but his chance will undoubtedly come, as tiredness, injuries and suspensions become reality in months to come. At present though, the midfield is simply playing too well and any change could disrupt the positivity we are seeing from Charlton in each game currently.
With Jonjo Shelvey starting to get to grips with the season, he is a shoe-in to play one of the forward roles, and the only reason to switch Deon Burton for one of the other forwards at the club is if he is a bit tired. All of Andy Gray, Stuart Fleetwood, and Izale McLeod will be hoping to get game time this weekend, but that may simply be from the bench, as Deon Burton is keeping up the tone of a great week for Jamaicans by scoring in his last two matches. Unless another forward gets injured, it does seem like Chris Dickson will miss out once more for a bench place.
This therefore is the unchanged side that I think Parky will send out on Saturday –
Subs from Randolph, Solly, Mambo, Basey, Clark, Spring, Stavrinou, Wagstaff, Small, McLeod, Fleetwood, Dickson, Gray, Tuna.
As for Walsall, they’ve had a reasonable start to the new season, and currently sit in 10th position in the table, after a win, a draw, and one defeat (at home to Leeds in midweek). As with most of the other teams we have played so far, few of their players will be well known to Addicks fans, though thankfully, some may be better known to Mark Kinsella who was at the club a few years back. Kins may have updated his boss on the talents of some of the younger squad members, though Walsall have had a high turnover of senior players and few are still there from Kinsella’s time just three years back. The nippy Steve Jones (once of Crewe) and the big lump that is Sam Parkin (formerly Swindon and Ipswich) are fairly recent signings, and will probably form the strike force at The Valley, while big central defender Mark Hughes (no, not that one) will try to hold the defence together in the face of plenty of Charlton pressure. The manager is old hand Chris Hutchins, he of Bradford and Wigan fame.
Pedro45 can only be confident of the outcome of this match, and predicts a 3-1 victory; I would add that I hope the team is not over-confident as that could be their downfall in some games this year. Walsall will be hard to break down, and swift on the counter attack (they scored in midweek from a fast break resulting in a penalty), and no easy push-over. Charlton’s winning streak has to come to an end at some stage, but hopefully it will not be until after we have tasted some time at the head of the division. It is manager Parkinson's job to make sure they do not go to sleep during games, and maintain the edge that they currently have over rivals.
My one-to-watch in this match is going to be Lloyd Sam (left). Our right winger is really causing opponent full backs problems this year, and he looks dangerous and likely to go past his full back and deliver a cross each time he receives the ball. Getting more confidence into Lloyd is something that the club has struggled to do over recent years, but if there was ever a time for him to finally score after a long barren spell, and add his name to the goals column alongside his multiple assists then it could be Saturday. Sam is a key and integral part of the tactical formation, and much as some people are frustrated by him on occasion, there are few options to take over his role should he not be in the team.
You know the story about never having everything going really well at once – your love life, work life, and play life; well, I don’t have a job at present (though I do have an interview next week!) but the other two areas are going pretty nicely thank you! I love my wife and if we can get another three points at the weekend, and see a decent bowling display by England, I’ll be a very happy Pedro45!
Come on you reds!
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Another good victory at the start of this season, and almost 3,000 Charlton fans went home very happy. Second half goals from Jonjo Shelvey and Deon Burton (celebrating left) made for smiley Addicks and maintained Charlton’s winning streak that sees them sitting nicely in second place in the table.
It’s about twelve years since I’ve been to Brisbane Road (the pre-season friendly where Alexei Michaelichenko played for Charlton), and the ground has changed significantly in this time. Not quite finished, and hence the crane behind one goal, three sides have been transformed into seated terracing and housing in the corners, with quite a few families camped out on their balconies sitting on chairs watching the game. Opposite the one side that has not yet been re-developed (the east stand which housed the Charlton fans) was a funny looking building that had all you would expect of a main stand, but had flat frontage up high with windows, where many more locals stood and watched from – whether this was the back of the snooker club, I do not know? Whatever changes to the infrastructure, the pitch itself looked in magnificent condition, and I’m sure that the attendant Colin Powell was impressed.
Charlton went into the game unchanged for the third successive time in the league; as the game progressed, you did wonder if this was the right move, as Orient started the game much the brighter, and were generally quicker and more positive. The home team closed down the midfield, Charlton’s obvious strength this season, and made sure that Lloyd Sam and Jonjo Shelvey had little time to settle on the ball. Shelvey started the game with a lunging tackle and got a long talking to from the referee, before play continued. Shelvey’s argument was that he played the ball and without malice, but he does need to understand that as a potential "name", he is going to come under very close scrutiny at this level, and officials will think nothing of adding him to their list of dismissed players given the chance. It wasn’t long before Shelvey did find his way into the referee’s book, as a clash when going for a header left an O’s player writhing on the ground, clutching his face, and the resultant yellow card was not a surprise.
Charlton had the best of the early chances, with Bailey and Burton messing up a long Sam cross between them, and Shelvey, always in the thick of things, blasting over when well placed. The home team created very little, and did seem to be happy to control the game by gaining free-kicks and seeing what happened when they had a chance to knock these into danger areas. Sure enough, a move that was going nowhere out on the right wing drew the foul (after several attempts!), and the good delivery was headed in at the near post by Mkandawire. I think that Charlton simply did not have enough bodies to cope with the plethora of six-foot plus attackers, something that needs to be recognised.
The Addicks tried to bounce back, but the final ball always seemed to be wanting, and Therry Racon and Jose Semedo found little in the way of smooth play to work the ball forward. Even the defenders, Fraser Richardson, Miguel Llera and Christian Dailly had little time on the ball, and Nicky Bailey was anonymous out on the left wing. Rob Elliot made a smart save from another free-kick to keep the score down to one at half-time, and the writing was definitely on the wall if the home team could maintain their grip on the game.
With the skies now dark, and the 18 lights from each floodlight pylon taking effect, Charlton started the second period with more intent. I don’t know if Orient decided to sit on what they had, but it was now a very different game. Racon started to run the match, and he was a constant thorn in the O’s side, linking with Sam, who had obviously been told to take on his marker for pace, and Shelvey, who flitted everywhere. Semedo sat back and broke up any counter attacks, and all of a sudden it was pretty much all Charlton. A free-kick was won on the edge of the penalty area, and as everyone waited on Shelvey to take it, up stepped Llera to curl a lovely shot toward the top corner, only for it to be saved acrobatically by the home ‘keeper.
Charlton pushed on, but could not add that immediate second that had been found in the two previous league games. Bailey was getting forward onto crosses now and went close, and even Semedo let fly with a shot from outside the box, though it went harmlessly wide. Racon seemed to pick up every loose ball and drive forwards, but it was the omnipresent Shelvey who was involved in everything potent. With less than ten minutes left, you wondered if both teams would settle for a point apiece? Charlton continued surging forwards, and their fitness did seem better than the home teams, whose players went down with cramp on more than one occasion.
With just six minutes left, a high ball was played over the Orient defence, and the defender made a complete hash of heading it back to his ‘keeper. Much as he had on Saturday, in nipped Deon Burton to lob the ball past the stranded custodian, and this signalled the best celebration of the night. The Jamaican waved away other players and (fake) sprinted across toward the jubilant fans, whereupon he did his Usain Bolt impression.
As home fans drifted away, Charlton let the game run out playing keep-ball, even though the referee did seem to add rather a lot of additional time. Another three points in the bag, and hearty celebrations all round.
Looking at the game as a whole, it was difficult to criticise any player, as all of them had reasonable games and did their best at all times. Some, Bailey in the first half for instance, had little impact, but the whole was better than the individual, and Charlton won through. Orient are a decent side, and if they could have maintained the midfield pressure they exerted in the first half, then the Addicks may have struggled to get back into the game.
A match which saw our two forwards score; a maintainence of our 100% start to the league season; and a real test of the strength of this league which Charlton came through with flying colours.
Charlton will not win every game this season, but will go into this weekend’s home game with Walsall expecting to be victorious again; I just hope that expectation does not turn to pressure from home supporters and we are all as patient as the travelling fans at Orient.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Go East Young Men!
Tuesday’s third league game of the season is at Leyton Orient, a little team who are another who would love to knock the big boys from down the road off their lofty perch. Orient’s ground capacity is under 10,000, and with all 3,000 tickets offered to Charlton now sold, it will be a hefty away following that makes its way down the Central line after work tomorrow night. Some may even turn up without a ticket, pay on the gate, and mingle in with the home supporters; knowing a few O’s fans over the years, I’m sure this will be OK, as long as the police and stewards don’t over-react.
Orient have had an indifferent start to the season, maintaining the course of their previous season’s form – winning away and losing at home. They are a hard team to predict, but seem to have a few friends which suggest that they play reasonably attractive football. I suppose being a London side, some of their players are better known locally than those of, say, Hartlepool, though that does not necessarily make them any better. Tamika Nkandawire is a defender whose name has been talked about in higher circles than league one; Sean Thornton was a starlet at Sunderland only a few years back; Veteran James Scowcroft has history and was a player linked with Charlton in the summer before he opted to join Orient; and Scott McGleish will relish the chance to play against his first league club quite a few years after leaving the Valley. However, the danger man may be John Melligan, a right winger with an eye for goal, who has scored in two games already this season (and he is an unknown to me).
Charlton themselves have a player who has scored twice this season – captain Nicky Bailey. Our ginger armband wearer has been on the end of crosses following two right wing surges, and it is looking like the thirteen goals he scored last season could be eclipsed by Xmas barring injury, transfer, or a complete loss of form. Bailey is being played out of position due to Charlton’s current midfield strength; with Jose Semedo and Therry Racon controlling long spells of matches from the middle, and with the creative pair of Jonjo Shelvey and Lloyd Sam settling in to have good seasons too.
In fact, the side is looking good with the clean sheet gained up at Hartlepool, and goals coming from all over the pitch (now that a forward has finally scored…).
Goalkeeper Rob Elliot will be happy with that clean sheet, and he has made pretty good saves at crucial times in all three matches he has played so far this month. He is a fairly formidable presence in that orange kit of his, and if he can just learn when to come off his line for crosses and when to stay back, he could become a real star in the making.
Fraser Richardson settled back into his right back duties on Saturday, and had a comfortable afternoon by all accounts; he should be fit (after his hip problem of last week) to take his place once more. Christian Dailly is another with a minor knock that he has to play through, this time to his rib cartilage. Again, without having to worry about a distance to travel, he should be able to retain his place in the team. The one injury worry is undoubtedly Miguel Llera at centre half; the bad cut he picked up on opening day against Wycombe failed to heal enough for it not to bleed again a week later. Hopefully, the red stains on the bandage made it look worse than it really was and he can be patched up and wrapped in cloth once more, and this time complete the 90 minutes without bloodshed. Kelly Youga is holding down the left back position, and I doubt that Grant Basey is too close to challenging for that spot yet this season.
Up front is where there may be a possible change though, after Deon Burton ran his heart out for the club on Saturday. I wonder if now is the right time to give Burton a rest, and start Andy Gray as the lone ranger? This may not be too popular with some fans, but Burton is no spring chicken, and it is a very long season. He won’t be tired, but games do add up, so I think he might actually benefit from a night on the bench. Also, if Gray is to be sold in the next couple of weeks, maybe we should get one last match out of him now and opt to save Deon for the weekend home game? The other striker options are all much of a much-ness, and unless there is a switch to 4-4-2 from kick off, none of Izale McLeod, Chris Dickson (who got game-time on this pitch last week for Ghana), nor Stuart Fleetwood is likely to feature.
This is the team I think Parky might select –
Subs from Randolph, Solly, Mambo, Basey, Clark, Spring, Stavrinou, Wagstaff, Small, McLeod, Fleetwood, Dickson, Burton, Tuna.
This is another tough fixture for the Addicks, as they find their feet in this division, and one that the home team will relish the prospect of. Home chairman Barry Hearn may be rooting for his boys, but his protégé and pay-check provider Steve Davis may be supporting his boyhood team (I certainly hope so!); no doubt they will have money on the outcome (I think Chairman are allowed to bet on football matches?) and what better way for it to finish all square with all faces saved. Pedro45 predicts a 1-1 result.
My one-to-watch in this match is going to be Jonjo Shelvey. Our young seventeen-year-old has had a quiet start to this season by his own lofty standards. No goals yet, and a couple of games where he has flitted in and out of the action; he has made two goals though, and with the closer marking he can expect now he is a bit of a “star”, we may see his assist numbers rise while his goals scored numbers lower. What Jonjo will know, and what we should understand, is that it is no good him burning himself out in August when he is still going to be required to play in April and May next year. Provided he can link the play between midfield and forwards, and bring the wide players into the action as well, then he is doing just fine. This is going to be his first full season in the first team after all…
Much of the doom and gloom amongst Addicks has been lifted by this start to the season, and manager Phil Parkinson must take a good deal of credit for this. While we, the fans, wondered if he would keep his job all summer I’m sure he did too, but he got on with his role, worked on bringing in those players that were imperative (for no transfer outlay at all!), and kept hold of all the clubs prized assets (so far) through luck. His style may not suit all followers, but he knows what he wants, fits players to the system that he thinks is best suited to winning games, and lets the guys go out and do what they should. We can all quibble about when is the right time to make substitutions, and if we should switch a formation when we are winning (God, we moaned enough about Alan Curbishley in his time when he did that sort of thing too…), but we generally do this from hindsight. If Gray had slid home the fourth goal in the Wycombe game - which he came very close to doing - then it is quite possible we could have gone on to score five or six, and maybe we could even have been top of the league on goals scored by now. What the club needs in these trying times, whether there is a take-over or not, is solidarity and a one-ness that winning games brings. We aren’t going to win the Premiership in the near future, but then again, nor are at least 88 other league clubs (and maybe 90 of them…!). Let us settle in to our lot, and keep the faith, with Parky as leader until we want, need, and can have, other options.
Up the Addicks!
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Friday, August 14, 2009
Getting the Confidence Monkey Off Our back
There were signs, in both previous matches, that Charlton’s passing game is in pretty good shape, with long periods of both matches dominated by our midfield. This strength has created chances, but, as Phil Parkinson rightly points out, Charlton really must start to put away the plethora of chances they are creating to allow the rest of the team, and in particular the new defence, to play with any confidence. Against Wycombe, goals were scored in the middle of a forty minute master class by Therry Racon, Jose Semedo, Nicky Bailey, and Lloyd Sam; sadly, Sam himself then missed a gilt edged chance, and circumstances led to the away team pulling a goal back, and ultimately a frantic finish to the match. At Hereford, a largely changed team still took change, but rustiness seems to have prevented Andy Gray and Izale Mcleod from making more of the headed chances that they had to score from. With substitutes Deon Burton and Stuart Fleetwood also failing when opportunities arose late in the game, a blank scoreline ensued and defeat naturally follows.
Hopefully, the management have been working on this cumulative mental block and with Chris Dickson back in contention after an international appearance for Ghana, striking options abound.
The defence has also been of some concern in the last seven days, though form has only been a slight part of this discussion; all three new defensive signings came out of last weeks game with injuries, but Christian Dailly, Fraser Richardson, and Miguel Llera should all be back to play some part this Saturday. Dailly hurt his rib cartilage in the friendly game at Bournemouth, and he is having injections in order to play; how long this will continue is a mute point, but in cricketing terms, this type of injury can take a couple of months to heal to any degree. Richardson has a bad hip, but has trained, and Llera had a total of thirteen stitches in his clash-of-heads wound, and provided the cut can be protected (and we see all sorts of head-gear these days that allow play with similar injuries…), he should be OK.
The other midweek injuries have had a lot less discussion, and expectation is that Sam and Jonjo Shelvey will be fit to travel and play; I do wonder if this is the case when the management have not mentioned either player this week, bar Sam not being able to join up with Ghana for the first time?
The onus is therefore very much on the midfield and forwards to start scoring, as that will take much pressure off the new defence, and allow them time to bed in, and hopefully all recover from their injuries in less stressful match situations.
This is the side I think Phil Parkinson will pick –
Subs from Randolph, Solly, Mambo, Basey, Clark, Wagstaff, Spring, Stavrinou, Sam, Gray, McLeod, Dickson, Fleetwood, Tuna.
Hartlepool have had a good start to the season, and are unbeaten and yet to concede a goal after two matches. They had a creditable draw at MK Dons on the opening day, and followed that up with a 1-0 win at Coventry in the League Cup. They will be looking for another scalp on their first home game too no doubt, so we can expect a tough game. As with Wycombe, there are few players who will be recognised by Addicks faitfull, and the best known player (Ritchie Humphreys) is injured. This makes Hartlepool ever more dangerous in my own eyes, and raises expectation levels amongst fans to unrealistic levels. Adam Boyd scored the goal at the Ricoh in midweek, so he needs to be watched. Hopefully, the extra time required by Hartlepool may have taken more out of them on Wednesday than it did from those Charlton players who played on Tuesday. This is a still very tough game, and we should all recognise that.
Pedro45 is concerned that the injuries recorded in that first match may not have all healed properly; the creative element is reduced if Lloyd Sam is not available, so I really hope his knee injury is not too serious and he plays. If Shelvey is out too with his heel problem, then it is possible that Parky will switch back to a 4-4-2 formation, and play another striker alongside Burton (or Gray). Whatever formation is chosen, the team must try to relieve the undoubted pressure that third tier teams will put on Charlton at every opportunity, and the best way to do this is by scoring three times. Pedro45 is going out on a limb a bit here, but is going to forecast an unexpected 3-1 victory.
My one-to-watch in this match is going to be new centre-half Miguel Angel Llera; the Spaniard (bandaged, left) made a decent start to his Charlton career last weekend, and scored what proved to be the decisive third (and winning) goal. His main duties though are in defence, and he did a good job and nullified the Wycombe attack up until he received his head injury after 40 minutes. He was just about to return to the pitch when Charlton conceded the first goal, and a good pass (and possible offside decision) went against him for the second goal. He will need to put his head into some danger positions this weekend, something he apparently failed to do when bandaged up last weekend (although who can blame him?), and it is key that he forms a good partnership with Christian Dailly until further central defensive recruits are brought in as cover.
Charlton must try to build on last week league win, and if they can go into next Tuesday’s London derby with Orient sitting close to the top of the table, the 3000 travelling fans could have something very nice to sing about; defeat though will bring questions that the club may not yet have answers for, so let’s not dwell on that. Charlton need to fight for their collective lives at Hartlepool, and if they do, and do it well, I think we’ll be OK. Success brings confidence, and confidence brings success.
Up the Addicks!
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Godsmark a Bad Sign for Charlton
Another loss in the league cup to lower league opposition, but in some ways, this defeat was a lot less unexpected than those from previous years.
Manager Phil Parkinson chose the tie to give some much needed experience to a crop of youngsters, who all seemed to acquit themselves very well, plus game time to those squad players who needed it.
The result could have been so much better if Andy Gray’s penalty hadn’t been saved midway through the second half; Gray himself had been bundled over before the award. Indeed, the game was not short of chances, and in terms of good play and excitement was on a par it seems with Saturday’s 3-2 win over Wycombe.
Charlton held the ball well early on, as they had done at the weekend, and Izale Mcleod (above pic) and Gray had headers at goal that could have given the Addicks the lead. Danger man Pugh was a constant threat to Charlton with his pace, but the makeshift defence of Chris Solly (making his full debut), Kelly Youga, (captain for the day) Jose Semedo, and Grant Basey held firm. In midfield, Alex Stavrinou competed well on his debut, and Matt Spring will be all the better for a good workout. New signing Wade Small also made his debut on the left wing, and he was balanced by another hardworking performance from youngster Scott Wagstaff.
Although the home team had more of the play in the second half, the chance-count was pretty even, with Gray and McLeod going close again, as did substitute Stuart Fleetwood, who finally got on the pitch to make his debut after two years at The Valley. In goal, Rob Elliot had to make a couple of smart saves to keep Charlton in the tie, especially late on when Hereford almost won the game.
With some legs tiring, Nicky Bailey came on for Small, and Charlton did become more direct with the club captain on the pitch.
In extra time, players from both sides started to get cramp, and the deadlock was finally broken by Godsmark who fired home from a good cross in the 98th minute to give Hereford the lead. Parky immediately brought on Deon Burton for Wagstaff, and he almost equalised when his clip beat the ‘keeper and hit the post.
The last twenty minutes saw much huffing and puffing, but with Stavrinou and Solly almost out on their feet, Charlton couldn’t engineer a late saver.
This defeat was hardly a surprise, given the extent of injuries that the club has, and it would be nice to think that we will not need to throw as many youngsters in at once in any further games this season. The experience that Solly, Stavrinou, and Wagstaff gained, plus the bench time for Yado Mambo will stand them in good stead for when they are required in league games in the months ahead.
Hopefully, most if not all the injured defenders will be back at the weekend, and normal service will be resumed in the league games.
I should also apologise for my incorrect assumption in yesterday’s blog about home-grown player qualification. It does seem that it is a rule dreamed up to keep significant overseas players out of match-day squads and is perceived to have little effect outside the Premiership. The only rule change for this year we need to think about is having enough bodies to fill the seven substitute places now available.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
No Substitute for Youth
The change to the substitute rule this season – an increase from five players to seven allowed to sit on the substitutes bench, although it is still only three that can enter the field during a match – is seen when teams name their starting eleven, and then (for lower league clubs) try to find enough players to fill the rest of the match day squad.
But it is the other new rule, the introduction of the stipulation that at least four players in the 18-man match day squad must have been registered domestically for at least three years before they turn 21 that may cause most confusion. The four home-grown players can be of any nationality, which will help Premiership clubs mostly, as they tend to buy young, often at the age of 17, then register/play the kid at the club for three years (if they are good enough) before they can then be regarded as a "home-grown" player.
But in the lower divisions, clubs will need to bring on their own youth team players, and often thrust them into match situations just to satisfy this new ruling. Clubs in the Championship, League One and League Two will not have the option of buying youngsters and keeping them in reserve for a few years while they qualify; these clubs will have to make sure that they have a youth set up which gives them enough options and hopefully immediate results.
So who at Charlton can be regarded as home-grown, and more importantly for teams like Charlton and other lower league sides, do young (16- and 17-year old) players (like Jonjo Shelvey) also have to be registered for three years to count?
First, who qualifies for the Addicks? Checking through the club handbook, this is what I can deduce:
Well, we can obviously discount new recruits Christian Dailly, Fraser Richardson, Wade Small and Miguel Llera, and also others who have relatively recently been signed by the club like Nicky Bailey, Andy Gray, Deon Burton, and Matt Spring.
Of the rest, Rob Elliot (left) qualifies, having been at Charlton since he was young and he’s now 23 years old.
Kelly Youga is an interesting case – signed from Olympique Lyonnais in May 2005, he has been at Charlton for long enough, but I think he fails the qualification rule as he was 19 when he signed for the Addicks, and therefore didn’t get three full years in before reaching 21. I’ll stand corrected if that is wrong?
Jose Semedo was signed from Sporting Lisbon when he was 21, so he fails the rule, as does Therry Racon who was nearly 23 when he signed for the Addicks in 2007.
Lloyd Sam does qualify though, as he has been at the Valley since he was a youngster, and he is now 25. Grant Basey also qualifies, as another to graduate through the youth team; Basey is now almost 21.
Izale Mcleod has only been at The Valley for two years, and he is now 25, so he fails to qualify, and Chris Dickson is another who is well over 21 and not been at Charlton long enough. Nor has Stuart Fleetwood, while Dean Sinclair was 23 when he signed for Charlton.
Chris Solly (left) is a graduate, and still only 18, so he should qualify, as will Jonjo Shelvey, who is a year younger, provided he was signed from West Ham before he was 14. Scott Wagstaff is also a graduate who gets on to the OK list, and he is still a teenager.
Reserve ‘keeper Darren Randolph is another youth graduate and now 22 years old so he qualifies, and Alex Stavrinou is 19 and another graduate. Similarly, Tamer Tuna and Jack Clark are both graduates (who have been at Charlton since they were nine), and still very young, so they both qualify too.
Neither Yassin Moutaouakil nor Martin Christensen qualifies and it is unlikely that they will play for Charlton again anyway.
For information, as both Ben Davisson and Yado Mabo are not yet professionals, I have not included them in the above list, though they should both qualify I guess?
My main concern is over the youngest players we have in our squad, as some of them joined Charlton from other clubs, and they therefore may not yet have been at The Valley for three years? Shelvey for instance, was on West Ham’s books as a youngster, and may be yet to complete three years registered with Charlton?
If we presume that Shelvey is OK, Phil Parkinson will need to name at lest four of these players in his match day squad this season –
For the league opener against Wycombe on Saturday, Charlton picked six of these home-grown players in their match-day squad. With Shelvey and Sam both now injured, you can see that to fill the bench with two others (say, Tuna and Stavrinou) is necessarily weakening the team.
So when we are playing for important points later in the season, and fans question the choice on the bench of, say, Tuna over Dickson, it will probably be because of this new home-grown player rule. And maybe, just maybe, one reason why the club will not be interested in selling Jonjo Shelvey and Lloyd Sam just yet is also because of this new regulation, as without them (and the two ‘keepers) in the squad, we don’t actually have that many home-grown players left to put in!
Monday, August 10, 2009
Bullfight in the Shires
Having painfully dropped out of the Championship, we now have to fight our way past lower league opposition just to get a chance to play a team we played in the league last year; not until the third round do we play a possible Premiership club, and with our record in this competition being awful, that hope can probably be crossed off the wants list right now.
The draw has not been kind (or maybe it has?) as we have an away tie against Hereford, who are in league two. This is a significant journey for the team and for any fans who are able to make the trip, and it will start a busy week that also takes in a journey way up north to Hartlepool. Hopefully, the players will fly to that game otherwise it could be about 20 hours in the back of the coach for them in just a few days.
Hereford started the season with a 2-2 away draw at Morecombe, with new signing Marc Pugh scoring both goals. In fact, only four players remain from last season when Hereford were relegated to the bottom tier, but they hope to bounce back this season and challenge for promotion. They have few players that may be known to Charlton fans, with old stagers Kenny Lunt and Leon Constantine (once of Millwall) perhaps the best known. The home team will certainly be hoping for a good result, as they have actually lost their last seven home games, and they have never beaten Charlton!
Phil Parkinson has a few problems knowing who to pick for the Addicks, as a number of the team that started Saturday’s league fixture against Wycombe have pulled up with injuries. All three new defenders are out – Fraser Richardson with a hip problem, Christian Dailly with a dicky knee, and Miguel Llera has 13 stitches in his head wound – while Lloyd Sam and Jonjo Shelvey have knee and heel problems respectively. That will leave the manager with a few headaches of his own as he tries to maintain the winning start to the season.
In goal, Parky has a straight choice between his number one ‘keeper Rob Elliot, or he may wish to give a game to reserve Darren Randolph who had a spell on loan at Edgar Street last season. That loan spell ended in acrimony, and if Randolph does play then he can expect plenty of stick from home fans, but that in turn could be good experience, and if it was my call, I’d throw him in.
The only realistic option Parky has at right back seems to be Chris Solly, with Yassin Moutaouakil out of favour, so I expect this youngster to play (If Moots does get a game or a bench place, he’ll have to be given a squad number, which Parky may not like doing?). Without both central defensive starters from Saturday, Parky will have to seriously consider whether to give another youngster, Yado Mambo a game, or if he will go with the more experienced Kelly Youga and Jose Semedo, neither of whom has played much time in the middle of the defence over recent seasons. Another option is Grant Basey, but I expect him to play at left back, with Youga moving to the middle, whether alongside Semedo or Mambo.
The midfield options, so over-flowing recently are now more limited with Shelvey and Sam out. I therefore expect Parky to play with two up front and just four in the middle, with Wade Small, signed today on a non-contract basis, debuting on the left; with Matt Spring and Nicky Bailey falling into the centre, giving Therry Racon a rest; and with Scott Wagstaff lining up on the right. Up front, I think Deon Burton may get to sit this one out with Saturday’s second half substitutes Andy Gray and Izale McLeod getting starting time. Chris Dickson is away with the Ghana squad, who also wanted to pick Sam for the first time but couldn’t due to his injury.
This is the team I think Parky may elect to start in his first Charlton League cup game –
Subs from Elliot, Moutaouakil, Mambo, Clark, Stavrinou, Davisson, Racon, Burton, Tuna, Fleetwood.
This is very much a second string Charlton team therefore, but it could act as a spur to those players currently on the fringes of selection (Spring, Small, Basey, plus the forwards) and push them further into contention for league games. There are enough pl;ayers available for the side to be balanced and have plenty of experience, albeit not much playing time together.
Pedro45 hopes that Charlton have enough for victory this game, and if confidence is still high after the win at the weekend, then on paper we do have enough to win the game in 90 minutes. But football is a funny old game (Copyright - some bald bloke…), and if the defence shows signs of weakness, then the home team would like nothing better than to embarrass a team who they will consider fallen giants. We fans know that we are so much weaker than we were just three years ago, and we do have a habit of losing to lower league sides in this competition. Most of those results have come when pressure is on at home, and so without that strain Pedro45 predicts a 2-0 victory.
My one-to-watch should be Darren Randolph, but I’m not sure he is going to play; I do think Andy Gray will start though, so he is my pick for this game. Gray (left) had a terrible time last season as we all know, both on and off the pitch, but he has it in him to be a good player once more, and I fancy him to get off the mark for the season in this fixture. He did look a bit rusty at the weekend, during his twenty minute cameo appearance, but even then he was just a whisker away from scoring. Against a side that may be low on confidence, and have as many problems with players getting to know each other as Charlton do, he should be too good for Hereford’s defence.
It might not sound like much to get to the second round of the league cup, and Pedro45 won’t be too unhappy if the team are beaten, but it is important to try to maintain confidence and win every game we play. That is the message Parky will be trying to get across, and I fancy he’ll do just that.
Up the Addicks!
Sunday, August 09, 2009
I Wish I Had Curly Hair Too…
A first win of the season for Charlton at the first time of asking; what could be better? Sure, it was a little hairy at the end, but a great save by Rob Elliot was enough to secure the three points.
I took my place in my new seat for this season, closer to the half-way line, and right behind the away dugout, which will be good for when Southampton arrive in a few weeks time. The weather and atmosphere were good, and a healthy crowd of over 16,000 fans watched the game.
It would be very easy to pick up on some of the negative aspects of this match, and I will mention some of these areas a little later on, but ultimately, we are in League One now and players will make errors in accordance with their divisional playing level.
Charlton scored first through the curly-bonce of Christian Dailly, heading home a Jonjo Shelvey corner after 21 minutes (top pic). A couple of minutes later, it was two-nil, when fine work by Therry Racon and Lloyd Sam freed Fraser Richardson to gallop into the penalty area, and his pull back was stroked home confidently by my one-to-watch Nicky Bailey (left). Wycombe pulled a goal back just before half-time while Charlton were down to ten men – Miguel Llera off the pitch getting his head stitched at the time – but the two-goal lead was quickly restored after the break. Again, Shelvey’s dead ball delivery was the provider (after Sam had been hacked down on the touchline), and this time the bandaged Llera (bottom pic) knocked the ball in from close range after a near post flick. With plenty of time left, Charlton tried to kill the game off but seemed to get a bit tired, and Wycombe did finish the game a lot stronger, reducing the arrears with fifteen minutes to go after a good through ball put Zebrowski in for his second of the game. Typically, Charlton – and their fans - panicked a little at the closeness of the match and chances were then missed at both ends of the ground. Andy Gray, on for Deon Burton, saw his goal bound effort (after excellent work by Racon) cleared of the line with the ‘keeper beaten, but the closest either team came was when Elliot had to make an excellent diving save to deny Phillips right at the death. By this time, the referee had gone off with a muscle injury which required an ice block to be strapped to his leg, and Bailey and Llera had both been booked. The referee's replacement had earlier caused a stir to the female contingent in the West stand when he ordered Llera to change his blood splattered shorts before returning to the pitch!
On a positive note, the midfield completely dominated the game for the first hour or so, and Racon made some good breaks when the ball was won. Jose Semedo did well initially, covering the defence and providing the creative players with the ball, though he did tire and give the ball away a couple of times late in the game. Shelvey seemed on the periphery of most things and didn’t have the best of games, especially once he had an altercation with the much larger Michael Duberry. Sam was dangerous and creative in the first half but was much closer marked in the second period before he was withdrawn. Bailey had a typical game, always looking to be involved, and he did score a well worked goal.
The new defence looked OK in parts, with the un-dreadlocked Kelly Youga now obviously the weakest link. In attack, Burton played well, holding the ball intelligently, and after the substitutions, Izale McLeod and Gray looked as if they could both score at this level. Elliot dominated his penalty area, as he should, and had little chance with either goal conceded.
The level of Charlton’s dominance at times was indicated by the state Peter Taylor got himself into while watching his team succumb; on at least three occasions he raged out into the technical area and swore madly at his own team, and on the last occasion, he was warned as to his language and had to apologise to fans sitting close by!
My concerns, which are all reasonable and could quite easily be rectified off the pitch, are that our central defence lacks pace, though not experience; the team did get tired on a hot afternoon, though considerably more than the opposition which is worrying; and that the confidence in the team is still fragile with recent memories of conceding goals while leading to Blackpool, Cardiff, and to a lesser extent Norwich still fresh in the memory.
The defensive problems will disappear hopefully as the players get used to playing with each other – we did have three debutants after all – while the fitness issue may also go a way quickly as the days become cooler and games come thick and fast in August. Confidence should also improve as wins are won, and as the team realise that the likelihood of other teams fighting back and cancelling out an effective lead is not going to happen too often.
So that’s one win in the bag, and three points; the first league table of the year has Charlton sitting nicely in fifth place, behind the headline makers of Colchester (who thumped Norwich away 7-1 with a certain Kevin Lisbie getting his first hat-trick since he scored a more famous one at the Valley against Liverpool some years back!) and Gillingham, who beat a poor Swindon team 5-0. The key now is to make sure that we maintain this position with two away league games coming up.
Thursday, August 06, 2009
Picking up Freebies?
There are plenty of famous or infamous names listed, all of whom have either been given a free transfer, or have come through the youth system, and who are still to find employ for 2009/10 season. This week, many may be lucky and finally get an offer from a club – like Weaver has at Dundee United – but many others will not be so lucky, and will have to find another way of bringing home some cash.
We know that Charlton manager Phil Parkinson is after another centre back, so the inclusion on the list of Sol Campbell and Ugo Ehiogu could offer an easy way out of the void, but you and I know that these two players would probably demand a lot more than the Murray coffers can afford, so we can probably say they won’t be joining Charlton. I’m not sure it would help with any youth policy either! But also available is ex-loanee Sam Sodje (scoring for Charlton, above left), and Addicks fans would probably welcome him back. He might not be willing to sit on the bench, if Llera and Dailly are first choice central defenders this year, but Alton Thelwell, a good youngster at Spurs who has been at Orient for a few years might?
As for strikers, well, Mark Viduka is looking for a club, though the £60,000 a week plus he was on at Middlesboro and Newcastle may have to be cut a little. John Connolly, a useful Irish goalscorer is available from Sunderland, though injuries and age may not be on his side either. So how about Rui Fonte, a 19-year-old Portuguese striker let go by Arsene Wenger? Or Collins John (still only 23!), linked to Charlton very recently, with 20 Premiership goals on his CV and yet still without a contract? If they are too expensive wage-wise, how about Steve Kabba who has now been released by Watford, or Leon McKenzie (left), a proven scorer at this level, who has left Coventry. The Sky Blues have also let Michael Mifsud go, and I’m sure someone will take a punt on this Malteser.
There is also a player on the website called Rodolphe Douala resplendent in a Charlton shirt, and available on a free transfer (though not from Charlton it seems). Now I cannot seem to recall him playing on the right side of midfield for The Addicks, be it the first team or reserves, but someone took his picture in our red Cabrini kit. Did he play in any friendlies at the start of last year? One problem with the website is that the link through to see details of his career takes you to the stats of a Chelsea youngster, so that’s no help. Other players are listed twice, so maybe the PFA could pick a webmaster on a free transfer?
Wideman Keith Gillespie is without a contract anywhere yet, though I doubt we would want to have him back at The Valley again, while the left-sided Julian Gray, often talked about as a Charlton target in the past, has been freed by Fulham. Ex-Charlton youngster Lee Harrison is a ‘keeper at a loose end, but at least at 37 he shows our own two goalkeeping graduates who are also listed – Harry Lee and Callum Christie - that you can survive for many years in the lower leagues, and make a decent living at the same time.
Another ex-Charlton player listed is Jerome Thomas, while recent contract enders Zheng Zhi, Aswad Thomas, Jon Fortune, and Matt Holland are on the list along with a number of trainees who were not offered terms at Charlton.
I’m sure many of these players will have their agents working hard this week and getting them last minute deals, especially as clubs do seem to have been holding off offering contracts earlier the summer in these financially tough times.
Hopefully, Parky will be using the website to plug those holes in the Charlton squad, and give the Addicks cover in every position for the season ahead.
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
Chairboys Up First
A new season, and so much optimism – even if you are a Charlton fan! But should we be optimistic about the Addicks prospects this season? I think we should!
We’ve had a pretty good pre-season by all accounts, with the only losses coming when a "Charlton XI" has been fielded. There has been a lot of take-over talk, yet to come to fruition as I write, and surely that can only be for the betterment of the club? The management situation seems to have settled down with Phil Parkinson in situe, and with a new assistant (Tim Breacker) and the old guard (Kinsella, Matthews and Chapple) now working under new contracts in newly-defined roles. And best of all, we haven’t (yet) sold any of our stars, with Jonjo Shelvey, Therry Racon and Nicky Bailey still able to play for us this weekend.
So all in all, we Charlton fans should be quite optimistic about the months ahead, and there does seem to have been a positive sea-change amongst some bloggers and blog-readers over the last week or two. Blimey, even The Times thinks we will finish in a play-off place!
We all know and accept that the outcome of any take-over discussions will influence matters at The Valley greatly, especially amongst the playing staff, but it is to Phil Parkinson’s credit that he has just got on with his job this summer, and worked at creating a squad that can suffice this season. With many of the top wage earners out of contract, the club has been able to shift out some of those under-achievers that it couldn’t sell for love or money previously. Of the thirteen whose contracts ended, only four were offered new deals – Fortune, Zhi,
To replace some of these players, Parky has gone for experience, with Miguel Llera (wearing the centre half’s shirt number 5), Fraser Richardson (in a right back shirt number 2), and Christian Dailly (wearing a shirt matching his age – 35!) all coming in (without any transfer outlay) to bolster the defence. With a solid look about the midfield – the most consistent part of the squad last season – we don’t seem to have any issues there (provided they are not now sold…), so that just leaves the forwards to manage. Here, we have had bids it seems for all of the Charlton front-men, barring Deon Burton. This is a surprise when you consider that we haven’t exactly been banging in the goals over recent years. But players have their levels, and Andy Gray’s is probably above this league, while Stuart Fleetwood’s may be below this division. Izale McLeod and Chris Dickson have potential to play above but perhaps not the attitude, so that leaves them in a bit of limbo, and maybe the right place? While they are all here, as a group they look powerful enough to do a job, though we will still have the problem of how to fit them in and knowing what our best combination or pairing is? In my opinion, we may yet see some movement both in and out amongst the forwards this week, and if we do sign a decent striker, then we should be quite optimistic.
One other good piece of news is that we do not seem to have had any major (or many minor) injuries to concern us this pre-season. With under a week to go, it looks like Dean Sinclair is the only player not available this weekend, and it is fair to assume that he would not be in the match day squad anyway such is the strength of the midfield currently at the club.
So who can we expect Parky to play this weekend, in the opening league match against Wycombe Wanderers?
In goal, it’s a straight fight between the only two senior ‘keepers at the club, and there doesn’t seem to be any reason to suspect that Darren Randolph will be chosen ahead of last years favourite Rob Elliott. The local lad will have to be on his toes though, as Randolph will be pressing I’m sure, knowing that he has just one more year to really make the grade (or for ever more be a back-up). Elliott is solid enough to do a good job this season, and if his weight loss shows up in improved agility, then he could yet be a long term star at The Valley.
Our defence is where we will see most change from last year; Fraser Richardson will beat off any challenge to his right back place from Chris Solly, while Yassin Moutaouakil will not get a look in as long as other options are available and Parky is manager. At left back, Kelly Youga was nearly always chosen ahead of Grant Basey last year, so there is no reason to summise that that will change, and young Jack Clark will bide his time and wait for a chance that may be some time in arriving. Centrally, new pair Llera and Dailly will hope to shore things up, though how much pace the 30-plus pair have will be interesting to see. Experience will count for a lot in this league though, so they should be OK. Yado Mambo is a very young and experienced reserve, but our only current option.
The midfield is likely to have a familiar ring about it I think, with regulars from last year Lloyd Sam, Therry Racon, Nicky Bailey all lining up, and with either Jose Semedo or Matt Spring replacing the departed Chinaman. If Semedo comes in, then that should release Racon for a more forward role than if Spring plays, so my vote would go to the Portu-geeser. Other options include Alex Stavrinou, Scott Wagstaff, and maybe even Wade Small, if he does get offered a contract after spending most of pre-season on trial at the club.
We still have to fit in Jonjo Shelvey somewhere, and with midfield places all taken, I expect him to slot into the behind-the-striker hole he occupied earlier in 2009, and from where he scored and made plenty of goals in a losing team. That just leaves the single forward place open, and unless I am very wrong, we can expect that to be filled by Deon Burton, scorer of a hat-trick in Charlton’s last league game. Other forward options could pair any two from Gray, Dickson, McLeod, plus Shelvey and
This is the team I suspect that Parky will pick to kick off our League One campaign, along with their new shirt numbers:
Rob Elliott (1)
Rob Elliott (1)
Fraser Richardson (2)
Miguel Llera (5)
Christian Dailly (35)
Kelly Youga (3)
Jose Semedo (6)
Therry Racon (8)
Nicky Bailey (4)
Lloyd Sam (11)
Jonjo Shelvey (7)
Deon Burton (10)
Subs (and it’s seven this season!) from – Randolph (25), Solly (20), Mambo (27), Basey (12), Clark (29), Spring (14), Stavrinou (26), Wagstaff (16), Small (?), Davisson (30), Gray (9), McLeod (15), Dickson (17), Fleetwood (22), Tuna (28).
Just a point on the subs bench this season, with seven options it is likely that most managers (where they do have seven options, as some teams may not…) may choose a spare ‘keeper, a full back, a centre half, a midfielder, a wide man, and fill the rest with strikers. That’s certainly how I would see Parky playing it, with the emphasis on additional strikers for when they are needed.
Wycombe have an experienced manager in Peter Taylor, and we all know what happened last time they came to SE7; Carling Cup quarter finals and Les Reed do seem like an awful long time ago, but in reality it wasn’t many seasons back. The BBC reports them to have an injury crisis, but we should maybe take that with a pinch of salt, as believing that will allow them to play freely and try to catch Charlton off guard. They do now have one time Charlton target Michael Duberry in defence, and also forward Ian Westlake, who was a good youngster at
Pedro45 is quite optimistic for this game, even though I failed to get to any of the pre-season games this summer. Provided the team play to their capabilities, we should have too much for a bare-bones Wanderers team. I will forecast a 3-1 victory for the Addicks.
My one-to-watch in this match is going to be Nicky Bailey, simply because I may not get too many more chances to feature our ginger midfielder. In the year that Bailey has been at Charlton, he has played some exceptional games, and the odd-doosey too, but he always tries his hardest and gives his all. Likely to be out on the left side of midfield, his runs into the penalty area when Lloyd Sam breaks down the opposite wing will be vital as we will need extra bodies in the box at every opportunity. Bailey is usually fit enough to accomplish this, and his other tasks, so I fancy him to be on the score sheet early for the Addicks this season.
Last season is history, and a year in League One is upon us; we must be brave, direct, professional, positive, and physically willing. The playing team will need those qualities too. Charlton players and fans alike can get Charlton off to a great start on Saturday!
Come on you Reds!
Come on you Reds!
Monday, August 03, 2009
The takeover is still "in hand" it seems, with the Board putting out another "please be patient" missive late last week. It’s not only Charlton fans who are waiting with bated breathe though, as some of our potential transfers (probably in and out) seem to be dependent on when and whether the takeover actually happens.
The Supporters Trust kick off meeting is tomorrow (Tuesday) night, and I wish the people involved good luck. It would be a massive undertaking to start a Trust at this time, and I am unable to be involved even if I thought it the right thing to be concentrating on right now. It will be better once a mission statement is agreed, and then we can understand the purpose of the Trust and where it might help Charlton as a football club in future.
We have a new Assistant Manager – Tim Breacker – and the management team have had new contracts dangled and accepted; at least this clears up any confusion about what may happen in coming weeks.
And best of all, we have a bye into the second stage of the Johnstone Paint Trophy which means we won’t be playing un-necessary games to empty stadia in the pouring rain (for a while anyway..).
So, to the squad pen pics:
Rob will start as number one keeper this season, and when the squad numbers are announced, he will probably have that single digit on his back. He has apparently lost some weight (a good sign) which should help his agility. If he can dominate the penalty area like he could, then he may become a very good ‘keeper, but to do so he does need a season where he is picking the ball out of the net a lot less times than we are celebrating scoring at the other end.
I’m really glad that Darren has signed a contract extension, albeit for just one year. He has as much potential as Elliott, but seems to have a bit of a stigma about him these days, after his spat at Hereford last season. It will be interesting to see if he plays in the League Cup game next week (as a back-up ‘keeper would be expected to…), and how he reacts to the pressure from the terraces that he will definitely receive. If he stays fit, he is a decent reserve should Elliott lose form or be injured.
A new right back signed from Leeds on a free transfer, with plenty of experience. A regular when fit, he should provide plenty of leadership to a young-ish team. How he pairs up with Lloyd Sam on the right hand side will be key, and provided he does strike up some sort of partnership, most attacking threat will come from this side of the park.
The young Solly did very well at the back end of last season, and can probably count himself unlucky to be back in the stiffs following the signing of Richardson. He is flexible though, and can play at right or left back, so it’s likely that with a seven-man bench this year he will get regular travel and plenty of time running up and down the touchline, with a few minutes actually on the pitch as well.
Kelly is going to be first choice left back I suspect, but will also be needed to cover the centre of defence on occasion, such is the paucity of central defenders at the club these days. Sometimes Youga is a match-winner, rampaging down the wing and linking with the midfield very well, but on other occasions he just doesn’t seem bothered, and gets into needless scraps with either the opposition or the officials. We need a Youga who wants to be a winner, and plays like it, then we could see a very good player.
Young Grant is an able and willing deputy at left back, and also on the left side of midfield, a position he prefers to play (and may get to if Bailey leaves). With a great left peg, when on the pitch he is going to be dangerous at free kicks and will also get plenty of corner kicking time. Defensively, he needs to concentrate and use his build to good effect when covering the middle or when blocking out wingers crosses.
This young left back may not get much game time this season, unless others are injured or called upon elsewhere; should be a regular in the reserves, and if he progresses, is one for the future.
Another new defensive signing, the experienced Spaniard will be the solid rock from which Charlton try to build. Has a very good range of passes, which could test out some clubs defenders, and with his experience of League One he is a good capture. One issue though is his temperament, and he did get sent off twice last year in this division, so we should expect more of the same.
Dailly was given a one-year contract last week after a short trial; at 36, he has returned to English football after playing in his native Scotland recently. I have to admit that I have never been a fan of his, whether he was at Derby or West Ham or elsewhere. His last game against Charlton was, I believe, for West Ham when we scored four times, and I cheered prior to that match when I knew he was playing, but he is best remembered for being castigated by Scotland Manager Bertie Vogts live on TV for repeatedly swearing and making cheat accusations after a World Cup tie in Glasgow some years back.
Another youngster with huge potential, and in Mambo’s case, it is physically huge! Still only seventeen, he has played lots for the reserves and youth team over recent years, and could get a chance in the first team this year, depending on other options. Whether he is mobile enough yet or has the nous to play against experienced forwards we will have to wait and see...
Our Portu-geeser needs a good season at The Valley, after seeing his last two ruined by injury. Jose seems to get through the first half, but by Xmas, it's his knees, ankles, and red and yellow cards which catch up with him and stop him playing in the new year. Whether he plays in a holding midfield role - where he can be very good - or as utility cover for the defence - where he is more than useful - remains to be seen, but he is a key component of this Charlton team, even if only from the bench initially.
Another vastly experienced player at this level, and another who could be key to Charlton’s fortunes over coming months. Spring is good enough to score plenty of goals in this league from the middle of the park, and also do a holding job whenever necessary. With uncertainties surrounding other current midfielders, Matt will probably get plenty of match time once matters settle down, although few would have him in a current starting eleven.
Another key component of Charlton’s midfield, we have yet to see the best of this Frenchman; he could be way too good for this division if he plays as we hope he can, but Parky will have to manage that dodgy knee of his and only keep him on the park when really necessary. He will score goals, mainly from outside the box, and put in plenty of tackles and running. How far forward he plays though is going to be dependent most of the time on who plays alongside him.
Charlton’s player of the year and top scorer last season, but will he feature much in 2009/10? Rumours persist that he is the subject of a major bid from a Championship club, but takeover speculation is holding up any deal. I do not know if he will be sold pending or after any takeover, but it would be great even if we just had him until the end of August. A central midfield player, Bailey has been pushed out onto the left wing to accommodate others; that hasn’t stopped him scoring goals though, as he has good legs and can get forward into danger areas at will. His temperament is sometimes a worry, as he plays with his heart on his sleeve, but I guess we’d rather a whole team like that than not.
The boy wonder is still here, and it does look like he may be with us all season too (though I’m not counting too many chickens just yet…). A player who knows that it will be better for him to learn his trade with Charlton and move on when the time is right, he also knows that the time is not yet right, even if the wages on offer are significantly better than his current salary. How he fits in to the team will depend on who else is available, and I for one would prefer to see him moved back into midfield where his stamina and fitness and vision can be used to full effect. The problem is that others also like to play there, and we lack creative strikers, so that’s where Jonjo may play. He can do it though, as his goals last season showed. He wil be sold eventually, but hopefully his value will continue to rise as the season progresses.
A make or break season for our young winger, or full back. He seems to me to lack a bit of pace, which doesn’t help when that was his main weapon as a youngster, and that may be why the club has tried him at full back this pre-season. With plenty of other defenders in those positions though, I cannot seem him as anything other than Lloyd Sam’s back-up on the right wing this season, but whether he is good enough remains to be seen.
A key season for Lloyd, as he really does need to deliver at this level, or he never will make it as a top footballer. Without a goal last season - though he made plenty - he has been able to knock in a couple in pre-season which is good news. If he plays well, which means holding the ball, making runs behind the defence, and putting in decent crosses for the forwards, then he could be our ace-in-the-pack. If he ambles though games though, hides, and doesn’t cover his full back, then I can see Lloyd leaving next summer for pastures new.
Another youngster who will spend most of his time playing in a holding midfield role for the reserves, but who could play in some minor cup games if opportunities arise.
Will Dicko be at The Valley next weekend? Subject of a bid from Gillingham, it’s a toss up whether it is accepted or if other forwards are shown the door and leave instead (Gray, McLeod, and Fleetwood are all subject to bids too, but we cannot sell them all...hopefully). Dickson does have a presence in the dressing room, and is known as a fun guy to have around; for that reason , I hope he stays, as we need someone to brighten the place up every now and then. Truly though, unless he gets games, and goals in them, then his time at Charlton could be coming to a close. If he does start to score though, it might be tough to stop him, and anything could happen from there...
The forgotten man at The Valley following an awful 18 months that have seen major injury and major personal problems; hopefully all are now behind him. The subject of a bid from Barnsley, it is probably well known that Gray would like to return up north, but the deal is being held up pending the take-over according to Barnsley’s manager, so Gray could remain in SE7. The club would undoubtedly like to get his salary off the wage bill, but if Barnsley get tired of waiting and sign someone else, Gray may remain. If that happens, and he is fit, then he should be way too good for this league, so we may yet win whatever happens.
Luck is not something you associate with Izzy, and after finally getting back to fitness after bad injuries, he may or may not be transferring to Hearts. If they go into administration, the deal will be off; if they don’t, then subject to Charlton’s own heirachy tribulations, we can probably wave him goodbye. If he stays, and he could go elsewhere in August I suspect, then he could do some damage to opponents and help Charlton, but I wouldn’t put much money on it.
Never featured in the first team, and unless other forwards are sold, he never will. I do think that he will be sold and that the offer from Exeter (where he played on loan last year) should be accepted, provided it covers the outlay on him when he signed from Forest Green Rovers.
At this moment, Deon is our key forward, though that doesn’t fill supporters with much hope. Let us not forget though that Deon did score a hat-trick in our last league game, and at this level, he could be a very good player to have. He’s not that mobile, but can hold up the ball and bring others into play; with a 4-5-1 formation, that just about works, but longer term he is a player that needs to be replaced. It will be interesting to see what the forward line is next Saturday, but don’t be surprised to see Burton leading the line once more.
I’m really not sure what Tuna is all about? He hasn’t scored bucket-loads of goals for the juniors, but makes a few; he hasn’t got blistering pace, but does work hard. So how he got into the first team late last year is beyond me, but when he played, he showed great heart. Is that enough? I don’t know, but I do suspect that we may see him used late in games as the forward who runs around a lot covering defenders; whether he can transfer that effort into goals or assists in league one remains to be seen.
Then we have four players who may yet feature for Charlton, though their contracts are still in limbo, even this late in pre-season…
Matt served the club well, but a second single year contract offer didn’t seem to keep him happy, so he’s done pre-season in Colchester. That club will not be signing him, so unless he can pick up a deal with old Irish team-mate Roy Keane at Ipswich, he could return to The Valley and sign the contract on offer. His ability to cover the midfield, and defence could be key, although at his age I would expect him to start most games from the bench and be utilised as necessary.
Forch has played for the Addicks for nine years, so we cannot blame him if he does move on; he has a contract offer, but with possible better offers on the table, he may move to Sheffield United, or elsewhere. If he does decide to stay, then he can probably look forward to a benefit season next year, and also do a tidy job in central defence. Sadly though, I think he may well be off to the Championship...
Pardew’s other forgotten man has at least played in the first team, though serious injuries and competition have limited him to just a couple of appearances. I cannot see Parkinson wanting or even needing to play him, so Dean can expect another season of lower league loan experience with the hope that someone will make a small offer for him to take him permanently.
So much talent, yet...Parky hates him, and won’t play him, so Moots has been on trial at Portsmouth even though he is still contracted to Charlton for another season. I think it fair to say that Parky doesn’t even want him in the squad, and that Moots is probably free to join any other club who will pay him, and if he doesn’t sign elsewhere he will rot in the reserves (barring an injury crisis).
So there we have our current squad; I’m sure it will change a little (and maybe then some!) by the end of August depending on take-overs, bids being accepted or rejected, contracts being signed, and that sort of thing. Are they good enough to get Charlton out of this league? Possibly, but in Pedro45’s opinion only, and only, if they play to their full potential and get decent tactics with a solid formation. The player of the year will be between Jonjo and Therry, with Lloyd a good third; if they all do the business, we could be celebrating come May 2010, but being a realist, I suspect we may finish seventh.