Friday, September 29, 2006

Bottom time?

Forgive the puns, but a defeat by the Arse could leave Charlton with a bottom-placing to deal with! Let's hope not eh?!?

How can Iain Dowie get his team a win, or a result of any sort, against one of England's finest? Having a fit team would help, but we can count that one out! I doubt that in Arsene Wenger's ten years in charge he has had to put up with an injury list as lengthy as Charlton's has been over recent weeks...

At least there is a light at the end of the treatment room tunnel according to Dowie. Andy Reid could be back tomorrow, though I doubt he will start the game, and Diawara and Traore are running again it seems, but still out of contention. Pouso is still not fit enough, while Thomas and his broken foot have disappeared off the radar.

What are the areas that Charlton can hope to compete in?

Luke Young is obviously key to any good performance by the Addicks these days, and he will have his work cut out against a resurgent Thierry Henry, who is likely as ever to wander out to the left wing and come up against the Charlton skipper.

Scott Carson can expect a busy day too, but hopefully this sort of effort will benefit him, as there may be evidence that he loses concentration in games when Charlton have lots of posession. Scott will need a big game tomorrow if Charlton are to get anything other than a walloping, and let's hope that he shows the fans once more what he is capable of.

Dennis Rommedahl, if he has a good day, could cause some alarms, especially if Charlton find themselves defending but can get the ball wide to Rommedahl to run at the opposition. Always an enigma, Dennis has been quoted as saying that maybe his time at The Valley is up; I hope not, as he is a genuine class player, but only if he is used correctly within the team set up. With a 4-5-1 formation, he is great, as Curbs stumbled across this last season. Now, Dowie expects more so Dennis has to work harder or move on...

Darren Bent seems to have lost a bit of confidence, but a goal against Arsenal would look good on his CV, so I expect him to be striving to gather any crumbs of decent ball that his midfield might offer in his direction.

Alongside Dazza, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is experienced enough in playing the Woolwich exiles, and he won't be phased or dominated by Toure and co. He will be looking for his first Charlton goal at The Valley, and last weeks best efforts at Villa Park came from Jimmy's boots. He is getting a bit of stick on forums over his workrate, but a few goals would dispel any of those arguments - Killer never worked that hard but he made up for it by scoring regularly!

This is the team I expect Dowie to put out tomorrow -

Scott Carson
Luke Young
Talal El Karkouri
Jonathan Fortune
Hermann Hreidersson
Dennis Rommedahl
Bryan Hughes
Radostin Kishishev
Darren Ambrose
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
Darren Bent

Subs: Myrhe, Ashton, Reid, Holland, Bent (M).

My one-to-watch tomorrow is Scotty Carson - he will defo be busy, and at some time during the game, he will be all that stands between Charlton and a defeat; hopefully, that will only happen late in the game, if at all.

Pedro45's score forecast is another defeat I'm afraid; I do expect it to be closer than one might imagine though, and reckon 2-1 may be about right.

If the amount of fight shown in recent home games against Arsenal can be replicated (we have drawn at full time and led at half time over recent seasons) then we could snatch a surprise scoreline. This Arsenal team started the season poorly, but have picked up now the European games have started. Let's hope that a return to poor league form is on the cards and that midweek Champions league exersions have taken their toll.

Come on you reds!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Yesterday's post...

This didn't seem to load yesterday for some strange blog-reason, so here it is again...
Aston Villa 2
Charlton Athletic 0

Not even the return of Hreidersson, Holland, Hughes, and Hasselbaink could save a poor Charlton side from slumping to their fifth defeat of the season at Villa Park yesterday.

The four H's that Charlton needed were not these players, but Heart, Hope, Heroics, and even more Heart! What we got, was another disjointed performance from a side dessimated by injury, poor form and lack of cohesiveness.

Goals either side of half time, from Villa wide players Agbonlahor and Moore, were enough to put the ghame beyond the Addicks, and the conspicuous lack of effort to make a game of it after going two goals down did little to enamour the team to the fans or Iain Dowie.

Hermann Hreidersson was to blame for the first goal, sleeping on his six yard line while a cross from Gareth Barry came toward him, he let youngster Gabriel Agbonlahor run past him and finish well into the roof of the net. The second goal was a break away after a good Charlton attack, where Luke Moore beat Talal El Karkouri for pace after a through ball from Juan Pablo Angel.

The only decent efforts that Charlton had were a couple of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink efforts that were well saved, and a late Marcus Bent header that almost crept in the top corner.

I hate to say this, especially as it was always known that the start to the season was going to be tough, but I'm starting to get quite worried about the prospects for the season. Charlton are now down to second bottom of the league, and could be lower after next weekends match against Arsenal. We have also been drawn against Bolton Wanderers in the 3rd round of league cup, albeit at home, and they could well put an end to one half of our cup dreams for the season. Unless the injured players return, and immediately hit form, we could have a long cold winter of discontent on our hands.

The concern is also that this low league position could start to affect the home gates, and with a drastic drop in the number of season tickets sold this season, crowds of only 20,000 could be in attendance for games against future less glamourous opposition. How will the board view this, especially as this is a must-stay up season according to Richard Murray?

I don't want to be the first blog to start a Dowie out campaign, but unless our Head Coach starts to get the team to gel, and stops making those regular excuses for defeats that summed up his time in Croydon, then he will not have my support or backing during the tough times.

So come on Dowie, decide how you want the team to play, and pick the players to get points.

Yes, we all want Charlton to do well, and yes, we have had tough starts to a season before under Curbishley (though not quite this bad...). But we all knew that Curbs had the ability and could turn things around, and that he would be given the time to do this. Will the board allow Dowie that luxury?

The only way, after next week, is up!

Friday, September 22, 2006

New Villa unlikely to be Homely

Charlton travel to Villa Park tomorrow to take on Aston Villa under new manager Martin O'Neill. The Irishman has started his new role well, and Villa seem a team transfomed when compared with the rabble that David O'Leary was managing last year.

This, therefore, does not bode well for Charlton picking up any points and moving away from the base of the Premiership table.

At least Iain Dowie has a few more players to pick his team from this week!

Although rested in midweek, I expect Scott Carson to return in goal, with Thomas Myrhe returning to bench-warming duties. Myrhe needed the game, but frankly, he had so little to do on Tuesday night (apart from rolling the ball out to waiting defenders) that there wasn't much point in giving him the game.

The defence is helped by the return of Hermann Hreidersson, but where he fits in is open to debate. He could play at cente back, alongside Talal El Karkouri, or he could slot in at left back too. If he plays full back, then Luke Young switches to the right and Jon Fortune continues in the middle, but if Dowie drops Fortune then Young will probably continue at left back with Radostin Kishishev at right back.

The midfield will probably be all change from last weeks experimental diamond quartet. I expect Bryan Hughes to have receovered from his groin strain and, as a Dowie favourite, walk straight back into the team. He will play centrally alongside Amady Faye, who can move forward after his sojourn at the back. Omar Pouso is the third of our new signings to have pulled a muscle, so he's out. Matt Holland must be in with a chance if Hughes is still unfit, as is Kisheshev if not needed at the back. The wide players pick themselves, with Rommedahl and Ambrose set to continue, unless bodies available make Dowie want to play Hughes out wide.

Up front, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink shoud return alongside Darren Bent, with Marcus Bent also retreating to the bench.

The team I expect Dowie to field is -

Scott Carson
Luke Young
Talal El Karkouri
Jonathan Fortune
Hermann Hreidersson
Amady Faye
Bryan Hughes
Dennis Rommedahl
Darren Ambrose
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
Darren Bent

Subs: Myrhe, Kishishev, Holland, Bent (M), Ashton.

My one to watch tomorrow is Luke Young; our skipper is playing very well at the moment, and belying the ankle problem that is obviously restricting him in certain situations. If only Lukey scored goals he would be a certainty in the England squad and team (my memory is of John Humphreys also having a scoring problem, when one of the best full backs in the country in the late eighties...).

This is a tough game for Charlton, as have been most so far this season, and I cannot see them picking up too much apart from the odd injury and booking. Pedro45's score presdiction is a 2-0 defeat, but I so wish I was wrong.

Up the Addicks!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Carlisle Driven off

Charlton Athletic 1
Carlisle United 0

One very happy, lucky manager. Not only did Iain Dowie not get mentioned during the Panorama programme last night, but he watched his Charlton team win a dour game against division one Carlisle by a solitary goal.

Why, oh why, do Charlton always play like this in cup games? Poor passing, no penetration, a slow pace, poor form, all were in evidence for long periods at The Valley.

OK, Darren Bent could have had at least five goals, and maybe should have. A long defelcted shot midway through the first half went just wide with the goalkeeper beaten; one-on-one after beating the offside trap but a poor first touch let him down and the keeper smothered; another chance just blocked, all before half time. In the second period, Bent continued - another one-on-one but he blasted wastefully over, and the goal he got, a tap in after Rommedahl's shot squirmed through the goalies grasp toward the post. He is way too good for this or any defence that plays so high up the pitch...

Bent actually started the game looking jaded and out of form, but he did get better as things progressed.

Others weren't so fortunate; Marcus Bent started well, and finished well, but had a very quiet middle part of the game. Dennis Rommedahl was the key to all things good, setting up numerous chances for others, but some of his passing was incredibly poor. Darren Ambrose was fairly anonymous, although he did hit the bar midway through the first half.

At least Faye and Kishishev controlled the midfield, and the defence looked comfortable all night, apart from when a fine Carlisle effort from 25 yeards hit the top of the bar in the second half.

No apparent injuries and no bookings wil also have pleased Dowie. The ref (S Tanner) was OK too!

All in all, this game didn't really look to have helped Charlton in any way - those off form are still playing poorly (Kish, Ambie); those doing OK had reasonable games (Dazza, El Kak, Lukey). Those in need of a game (Dowie's words...) didn't really get a look in (Holland) or failed to impress (Bent (M)). Nathan Ashton did OK on his senior debut, after a shaky probably nervous start, but he doesn't look to have definite Premiership potential on this first look for many.

At least we are in the hat for the next round (draw on Saturday), where we can expect to get a Premiership club as opposition. Last year it was Chelsea away; what betting this year it's Man Utd away!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Banana Skin time

The minds of the fans and the thoughts of the manager and players turn to the Carling Cup tie with Carlisle tonight, a welcome relaxation from the trauma of recent Premiership games.

Carlisle will be useful opponents, and should not be taken too lightly; they have won back-to-back promotions, and currently sit safely in eighth place in the First Division. Iain Dowie has confirmed he will put up a "first team" against them, but that certain players are in need of a game, and they will probably feature.

So who can the paying punters expect to see turn out for the Addicks tonight?

In goal, Scott Carson may well get a rest; he has taken a little stick for the Portsmouth goal on Saturday, but the main reason for him to rest is for Thomas Myrhe or Stephan Andersen to get a run out. I expect Myrhe to start, with Andersen as the sub.

The defensive situation is still pretty dire, with injuries and suspensions ruling out a number of key players. Luke Young may get a rest tonight, as there is only so much that his troublesome ankle can take, and that could mean a debut for Nathan Ashton at left back. Jon Fortune played the second half on Saturday, but it is doubtful that his broken toe is fully healed; he may therefore sit this one out too. Talal El Karkouri should play, and I expect Amady Faye to line up alongside him once more. At right back, Radostin Kisheshev will continue, unless Dowie favours giving Osei Sankofa a run, which is a possibility.

In midfield, Bryan Hughes groin strain will probably keep him out again, but Matt Holland should start, as he is obviously in need of a full game. Omar Pouso will also probably play, and the intention will be for him to last longer than the 58 minutes he played on Saturday in an effort to build his fitness.

Out wide, Dennis Rommedahl is another who needs games, while Darren Ambrose is also a likely starter.

The forwards is the intriguing selection; I think Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink may be rested, giving a start to Marcus Bent, but should a lacklustre Darren Bent play (and risk injury) or Kevin Lisbie – another who "needs" a game? I'd go with Dazza, and hopefully take him off when the game is won.

This is the side I'd put out -

El Karkouri
Bent (M)
Bent (D)

Subs: Andersen, Lisbie, Fortune, Sankofa, Walker.

These games invariably act as banana skins to Charlton’s season; I just hope that tonight we can get through without a defeat, injury, or bookings!

Come on you reds!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Hi-Ho to the Oh-Ooooh!

Charlton Athletic 0
Portsmouth 1

Five games; four defeats. Charlton sit in the relegation places, with only two of the promoted clubs - Watford and Sheffield United - below them. Is it all doom and gloom? It could be, but it could be worse.

All Charlton fans knew that the start to this season was going to be tough, and other blog sites confidently predicted that the first points of the season would probably come as late as the October home game with Watford, our ninth match of the season. As it is, we have three points from five games, a whole raft of injuries, but actually a big pot of positives to take from our first matches of the new season.

So let's see what we can be cheerfull about, starting with those players who took the field yesterday:

Scott Carson
OK, it wasn't his best game; he made a few OK saves, and a couple of good ones (including one from Kanu in the second half). The goal he conceded looked soft; he got his hand to it but couldn't get enough on it to deflect the shot wide. Bearing in mind Scotty has won the team points through his saves against Bolton (including the penalty), we can forgive him this slight mishap. He looks a very good young keeper, and some of the minor errors are still to be ironed out, but this will come. (NB: He was my one to watch in this game, following on from Hermann in the Bolton game; I hope I am not jinxing members of the team!)

Radistan Kishishev
Kish deserved his place in the starting line up after good sub appearances earlier, coupled with the crippling injury situation. He started OK, and saw plenty of ball, but one wayward pass midway through the first half led on to another four, and he obviously seemed to lose confidence as the half progressed. Defensively he did OK, but he looks like a man who knows he's on borrowed time...

Amady Faye
An excellent game, from a player gaining in confidence and stature with every outing. Did well in defence in the first half, and played a leading role in midfield in the second half revival. Needs to stay fit and will then be a fixture in the team each week. Man of the match yesterday!

Talal El Karkouri
Another who is probably not near the first choice, but is performing to near his best each outing. Sometimes his defending is a worry, as is his knack for giving away free kicks near goal, but he also went close to scoring with a first half header. Just don't let him take free kicks thirty yards out anymore - they are getting embarrassing! The Arsenal goal was from one played square to him, not a dead ball so why not try that again?!?

Luke Young
Fabulous game from the skipper, in an unfamiliar left back role. He always said he could play there and showed it. May have got beaten a couple of times (by Johnson) but got back to cover well mostly. Star player.

Dennis Rommedahl
Oh Dennis; one week it's great and the next...hmmm. Why keep coming inside when we want you out wide hitting in good crosses? Had a great volley go just wide with James beaten; if that had hit the net, we may well have won. Still essential to the attacking options the side has in my opinion. We just need to put up with the odd quiet game (like yesterday) every now and then I think. Hopefully that first home goal will come soon...

Darren Ambrose
Lots of calls for Darren to get a run in central midfield, but on this evidence, he doesn't deserve another try. OK, he tries to look forwards each time he gets the ball and does get caught every now and then, but what I cannot accept is him allowing the oppo midfield to run past him into attacking positions regularly. How Gary O'Neill didn't get passes allowing him a couple of goals in the first half is one question Harry Redknapp will want answering on Monday morning.

Omar Pouso
Interesting to read various other opinions of his hour on the pitch yesterday...I thought he looked good and did pretty well for someone not familiar with the team. I think he suffered from the disjointed midfield that surrounded him during the first half, with little support from Ambrose and Rommedahl, and looked much better in the early stages of the second half when Faye joined him in a more balanced line up. He made himself available at every opportunity and played the ball simply on most occasions, but positively whenever he could. Had a couple of shooting opportunities from a long way out which he chose not to take; Omar will get better as he gets fitter.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
Jimmy dropped short of the front two in a planned effort to play the diamond formation, but it didn't really work. Failed to find the gaps in the play, but this may have been due to the lack of decent possession that the team had in the first forty-five. Also didn't have a great second half; he isn't lazy (as some have said) though, and is still a dangerous player for the opposition to dismiss.

Marcus Bent
Hit the bar in the first minute, but did little apart from chase ball for the rest of his appearance. Won very little in the air against Primus (surprisingly) and less against Campbell (understandably). Failed to appear for the second half probably due to a tactical switch.

Darren Bent
A disappointing game from Dazza, who seemed to be confused by the various formations he was witnessing behind him. Had little ball in the first half, though did hit the post from a very tight angle in the aftermath of Marcus hitting the bar. If that had gone in, it would have been a very different afternoon.

Subs - Kevin Lisbie, Jonathan Fortune, and Matt Holland
Fortune's broken toe was risked after half time, as Dowie swiched tactics, and he looked quite comfortable most of the period. He does give forwards too much space as he isn't the fastest at turning, but couldn't really be blamed for the goal. Holland replaced Pouso and didn't bring much to the table. It may have been better to have started him than Ambrose which would have given help to the Uruguayan who played parts of the first half in a space on the pitch all on his own. The Lis came on and got involved, but didn't cause much of a threat to the Pompey back line. At least he tried this week...

Bearing in mind the players that were missing, it's no surprise that we lost to the team that now sit top of the Premiership table. Yesterdays game did, though, give me a better understanding of what I think is now our best team once everyone is fit and available; whether this is what Dowie thinks, we will hopefully find out sooner rather than later.

My ideal first team is -
Carson, Young, Diawara, Hreidersson, Traore, Rommedahl, Faye, Pouso, Reid, Hasselbaink, Bent (D).

With Sorondo, and Gibbs, still to play a meaningful part this season, it is difficult to include either of them in my team, but along with Holland, Thomas, Ambrose, Kishishev, Marcus Bent, Myrhe, Fortune, Hughes, El Karkouri, and some others (including those out on loan...), at least I feel that we have a squad that isn't necessarily one of the worst three in the division.

On Tuesday, we can turn our heads towards a home Carling Cup game aginst Carlisle. Hopefully, this will prove to be a turning point for the side with the potential becoming fulfilled and the right result.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Defenceless against the Navy

So how do we play this one? The team is without most of its usual defensive stalwarts, and changes have to be made. The back line is short, that means numbers will probably need to be made up from the midfield ranks, and that could weaken another area of the side. It is only in goal and up front that the team remains stable. This is Dowie's dilemna (and not his first of the season...) for the home match versus Portsmouth tomorrow.

In goal, Scott Carson will continue, and he will no doubt be hoping to carry on the good form that has seen him save penalties in the last two games, and make a number of additional outstanding saves.

In defence, the main area where Charlton are short on numbers, Dowie basically has to consider anyone who is fit. Injuries from last weeks defeat at Chelsea have hurt the side badly. Luke Young was hobbling in that game, but will almost certainly have to carry on with his dicky ankle until a time when he can get it sorted properly. Talal El Karkouri, by no means an automatic first choice, will also play centrally. Who else plays at the back is open for debate, so what are Dowie's options?

Radostin Kishishev is fit, and can come in at right back. The Kish is keen to impress after being left out of the starting eleven for the first few games, and he will start, although maybe not at right back. Osei Sankofa came through a reserve game on Monday, and he is another right back to consider. Both of these options presume that Luke Young is either not fit, or moves over to either central defence or left back. The left side full back position is possibly the problem position to fill, as choices here reflect across the whole defence. If Young plays on the left, Kish or Osei plays right side. But should Dowie consider either of youngsters Kelly Youga or Nathan Ashton for their league debuts at left back? Both have experience of playing in this position, and Ashton started several first team pre-season games.

Alongside El Karkouri in the centre of defence, the choices are limited. Amady Faye has filled in well on the two times he was required to play centre half this season (against Bolton after Hrediersson was sent off, and last week once Diawara went off injured), and has yet to see a goal conceded while he was playing in this position. The only other options are Young or Youga, but realistically, I cannot see either of them being asked to start centrally tomorrow.

So where does that leave Dowie? He has several choices to make, and what he comes up with will definitely impact on midfield, as one or both of Faye and Kishishev will almost certainly be asked to play in defence. If Curbishley was in charge, I think he would go with experience at the back, and experience in midfield, in the hope that these players could nullify any threat. Dowie is more open though, and I think we might see one of Sankofa or Ashton start, leaving Kishishev to fill Faye's role in midfield.

Unless, of course, Omar Pouso, Charlton's recent Uruguayan signing is fit enough to fill a defensive midfield position? Reports from the reserve game suggest that he did very well after taking a few minutes to settle into the game. I think he will definitely make the squad for this game, and I would like to see him replace Hughes (who has done little this season) personally.

Another enforced change is for someone to replace the injured Andy Reid. Dennis Rommedahl is flying at the moment, and this should be one of the easier decisions for Dowie to make. His inclusion, with Darren Ambrose switching to the left, should benefit both Darren Bent and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, who would prefer an out-and-out winger feeding balls into the box.

This is the team I would pick, though Dowie may (and probably will) differ in opinion -

Scott Carson
Luke Young
Talal El Karkouri
Amady Faye
Nathan Ashton
Omar Pouso
Radostin Kishishev
Darren Ambrose
Dennis Rommedahl
Darren Bent
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink

Substitutes: Thomas Myrhe, Osei Sankofa, Bryan Hughes, Matt Holland, Marcus Bent.

Portsmouth will be relishing the visit to The Valley, having yet to concede a Premiership goal this season. They sit second in the table, and know that a win will leap them to the top of the table, for a few hours at least. They have bought a number of high profile and experienced players during the close season, including Sol Campbell, David James, Andy Cole, and top scorer Nwankwo Kanu. They will be no push-over!

Pedro45's score prediction is a toughed out 2-1 win. Dowie seems to relish the adversity that games such as this bring, and I think his team will be fired up ad perform well. Jimmy-Floyd has got off the mark, and it would be good to see a proper celebration of a goal from him after his understandably muted celeberation last week. With Rommedahl also looking dangerous, Charlton could have too much pace for Pompey to handle.

My one-to-watch tomorrow is Scott Carson; the on-loan goalie is fast becoming a bit of a legend at The Valley (when was the last time a Charlton goalie saved consecutive penalties?) and he will be crucial to any chances that the Addicks have tomorrow.

Come on you reds!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Positive spin

Chelsea 2 Charlton Athletic 1

Charlton lost to the Premiership champions, as realistically expected, but there were quite a few positives to come out of the game from Iain Dowie's and the fans perspective.

In goal, Scott Carson is quickly estanblishing himself as not only a fans favourite, but one of the top goalkeepers in the country. Consecutive penalty saves have been heroic, and he has made a number of other excellent and crucial saves too. Personally, I doubt if any of Charlton's custodians of recent times (Kiely, Andersen, Myrhe) would have done any better, even on their best form, than Carson so far this season.

A debut for Souleymane Diawara went fairly well; never the easiest of games, coming up against £50 million strike duo Shevchenko and Drogba, he acquitted himself with honours until forced off after injury early in the second half. Hopefully, the knock will not prevent him playing this Saturday, as other areas of the defence are looking increasingly short on numbers (with Young and Traore also showing signs of injury at Stamford Bridge, and with Sorondo and Fortune already out, coupled with Hreidersson's suspension...).

Amady Faye had another decent game, and once more looked more accomplished when he moved back to central defence. He may be needed there again if we have no other fit defenders next week! He is gradually settling in and starting to impose himself on games, which is just what Charlton need in midfield.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink scored his first goal for the club, and although his celebration was understandably muted, he must be very happy inside to get off the mark. He is getting a good understanding with Darren Bent, and this can only help the team longer term.

Dennis Rommedahl came into the team as a first half substitute (for the calf strain victim Andy Reid), and showed that his international form can be brought into play for the Addicks. He really should be a fixture in the team if he is on this sort of form!

Iain Dowie's tactics are also worthy of note; so often in the recent past, games against "big" teams have been examples of keeping the score down, but Dowie doesn't seem to be afraid to attack if it means some sort of result may be gained (hence the win versus Bolton last week). Other bloggers have long since exalted the view that a win and a defeat is better than two draws, and Dowie seems to have that attitude as well.

Charlton now have a week to get players fit again, and the visitors to The Valley next week are high flying Portsmouth. Pompey, currently second behind Manchester United in the Premiership table, haven't conceded a goal yet this season, so it will be another tough match, but certainly one that Charlton can hope for some sort of result.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Going for a Three-peat

Chelsea may have been the Premiership champions for the last two seasons, but Charlton are the team going for a third timer on Saturday afternoon at Stamford Bridge.

The Addicks were the only side to get anything other than a cool cup of tea from Mourinho's men in south-west London last season, drawing the league cup encounter before winning on penalties, and then repeating the trick by securing another 1-1 draw in the league. Darren Bent scored in the cup tie, and Marcus Bent on his debut in the league match.

Iain Dowie will be buoyed by the win against Bolton in the last game, a result which lifted Charlton from the foot of the table. Any sort of result tomorrow will again be welcomed.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink should, on his return, get a warm reception from the Bridge faithful, as long as those present are not just the Johnny-come-lately's that can afford humungous season ticket prices and who have forgotten the pre-Abramovich era.

Who will Dowie pick? The transfer window is now shut, and a number of players will be making their debuts on either side. For Chelsea, Ashley Cole is likely to play, having played more England games than league games so far this campaign. For Charlton, Diawara and Pouso are likely starters, with the Sengalese fitting into defence instead of the suspended Hreidersson. Charlton obviously have injury concerns over Luke Young and Darren Ambrose, both of whom pulled out of international games this week.

This is the side I think Dowie could start with -

Young (or El Karkouri)
El Karkouri (or Faye)
Faye (or Holland)
Bent (D)

The subs will be made up of anyone who is fit, and should (hopefully) include a resurgent Dennis Rommedahl.

Pedro45's one to watch tomorrow is actually two to watch, as it will be very interesting to see how Pouso and Diawara fit into their new club, and it will also be the fans first chance to get a good look at these new players.

The score forecast is a tough one; I'd love to predict a result of some sort for the Addicks, but as when we play any of the "big" guns, I cannot see anything other than abject defeat. I'll go for a 3-0 loss, but hope that we can do better than that and at least leave with our heads held high...

Come on you reds!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Killer Legend

When you are young, you are easily influenced. That is a fact. When you are a young football fan, who follows Charlton, you are influenced by the players you saw each week; those who scored goals; those who were really good; those who ended up being transferred away for record fees; those who came back to your beloved club and played out most of their career for YOUR team.

Being a Charlton fan, young and impressionable in the mid-seventies, I loved Derek Hales.

Killer, as everyone called him, was our hero. The nom-de-plume assigned to him by Keith Peacock really did sum him up, and the way he played. He loved gunning down the opposition, and it seemed the only way to stop him was kick him to bits. He had huge padding on his ankles, because that's where those big lumbering centre halfs kicked him...but it was never enough. When he got hurt, he reacted, and that got him sent off. Sometimes, he would hit or kick a player in retaliation, whether that be from being kicked, hit, verbally abused, or just out of frustration.

Of course, others tend to remember the bust up with Mike Flanagan; it happened right in front of me that evening. I was shocked, as was everyone else. Whack, whack. Gasp! Hales got the first red card, and Flash the second to follow him sheepishly off. The crowd was torn - who was to blame. Hales was sacked, and then re-instated; Flanagan refused to play again in disgust; he then went off to play elsewhere, only to also return a few years on.

I tend to remember the 16 goals in the first 16 league games of 1976/77, when Hales was at his most deadliest.

My recollections have been triggered by a meeting with a work colleague, my first with him, one of the Company directors, who also happened to be a fairly useful young footballer. He was a young player with Derby County in 1976, at the time Hales signed for Colin Murphy's side. As we drank a few beers at a company do last night, I asked about his playing career and if he had played at The Valley. He hadn't, but he asked if I was still a fan. Of course I said. We talked about Curbishley, Then he mentioned Hales; I drooled. He told me stories about Killer's time in the Midlands, mainly unhappy.

I think most fans know about the problems Hales had settling in; stuck in a hotel with nobody he knew and in a team that wouldn't pass to him. It never worked at Derby. Leighton James was not too nice a person to play with and Charlie George was a show-off, a great player who was past his best, and missing Francis Lee's flambouyance badly.

He told me that Hales turned up for training every day; it was tough for him - He threw up every morning apparently, during training. And what shocked my colleague was that it was always the corn flakes he'd had for breakfast! I guess if Killer was paying the hotel bill he didn't want a fry-up every day...

It took Hales about 15 games to get his first goal for Derby (I seem to remember it was in an FA Cup match against Blackpool, where he won the ball outside the area(probably unfairly) and curled it in from 25 yards. Typically, nobody passed the ball to him for that first Derby goal - he'd had to go get it himself.

I also saw Hales play in his home debut at West Ham when he had a year or so there; again, he never really settled that side of the river, but this was mainly due to injuries.

He came back to Charlton, his club, and played out five more years, still scoring goals, before a last fling at local team Gillingham.

I last saw him close up at the Sam Bartram statue unveiling ceremony. As fans stood behind the makeshift barriers, Derek wandered around in his grey suit, the hair grey and going, chatting, lighting up a roll-up, uncomfortable at all the attention lavished on others, less than heroes, who had a Charlton connection of whatever sort. He stood chatting to the supporters who had idolised him, rather than drink champagne in the boardroom - a man of the people.

Subsequent heroes have come and gone, but I'll always have a soft spot for Derek "Killer" Hales.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Who's in, and who's out?

The transfer window has now firmly shut, and Richard Murray can put the chequebook away for a few months, whatever Iain Dowie may ask for until the transfer window re-opens in January. The club have obviously overspent the budget this year but, in an attempt to maintain thier place in th Premier league heirarchy, if sucessful, should see a significant increase in TV revenue from next season.

The various comings and goings from recent transactions will have a real effect on the starting eleven that runs out on to the pitch in the Charlton home and away shirts over the next few months, starting at Chelsea on Saturday; so what can we expect?

The club is fairly strong here, thanks to a slight blip over Stephan Andersen's loan move to Leeds. Scott Carson is the obvious number one choice this season, but he can be recalled by Liverpool should the need arise. If this were to happen, Thomas Myrhe would have been the only goalkeeper on the books, save youngster Joe Woolley, what with Andersen at Leeds, Darren Randolph at Gillingham, and Robert Elliott at Accrington Stanley, all on loan. So with Leeds turning down the terms of the loan deal (that mirrored that of Carson), Myrhe and Andersen will no doubt battle it out for the substitute role most weeks. With a cup game against Carlisle coming along, it may be that one of these two is given a run out (I'm sure Liverpool would be happier if that were the case this early in the season...), but this is by no means certain.

Expected starter - SCOTT CARSON

This area is another that has significantly changed since Alan Curbishley left the club last May. Gonzalo Sorondo has joined on a permanent contract, joining last season's stalwarts Luke Young, Hermann Hreidersson, and the evergreen but less likely to play Jonathan Fortune. Talal El Karkouri has also returned from a loan spell in Qatar, to the surprise of many who thought he had played his last games for the club. New signing Djimi Troare will fit in at left back, filling the gap left by Hermann and Chris Powell, providing he doesn't keep getting himself stupidly sent off as he did in the season opener. Cory Gibbs, the teams first signing of the summer also gives a left defence option, and seems a very similar type of player to Traore and Hreidersson. When fit, it will be interesting to see where he falls in the greater scheme of things? Another new defensive signing, just before the transfer deadline, was Souleymane Diawara, a Senagalese international with a high reputation. He has cost a lot of money (£3.7 million!) so it's unlikely that he is going to sit on the bench, but who will he replace? Sorondo is currently injured, and our Icelander has a three game suspension to see out, so I expect Diawara to fit in alongside El Karkouri initially, with Hreidersson or Sorondo being the long term option for Dowie.


Another area that will now bear little relation to the residue from the Curbishley era, after a number of new signings, is midfield. In most people's opinion, this was the one area that we needed new players, with Holland, Hughes, and Kishishev not considered good enough in some quarters. Jason Euell departed for Middlesbrough too, and Lloyd Sam has gone on loan to Sheffield Wednesday for the early part of the season. Jerome Thomas has a broken foot, though he may be back in contention for a game later this month. Dennis Rommedahl also doesn't seem to be in Dowie's play book currently, and rumours that he was on his way back to the continent were strong, until a proposed deal apparently fell through late on transfer deadline day.

The switch back to 4-4-2 doesn't really favour wingers, unless they are prepared to work a lot harder than it is perceived that Rommedahl and (maybe) Thomas or Ambrose do currently. With a five man midfield, Curbishley had the benefit of not worrying if a couple of his creative players failed to contribute defensively, but Dowie seems not to consider this an option. Hence a raft of new signings...

Amady Faye, another Senegal international, will bring presence to central midfield, and allow others to be creative. Uruguayan Omar Pouso will also, apparently, bring bite to the centre of the park. Andy Reid has been bought to be one of the creative wide players, and if these three play each week, that only leaves one place open to a longer serving player. Will that be a wide type of player (Ambrose, Thomas, Rommedahl?), or a more central style player (Holland, Hughes, Kishishev - who can all actually play wide if needed...)? Early this season, with limited options, Dowie has given all three a chance, but even he must be able to see the failings that are apparent. I believe that the midfield will vary according to the opposition, with the three new signings starting most weeks, and with maybe a more defensive option in away games, and a more attacking force put out for home games. This was something that Curbishley often failed to do, but Dowie has more squad members who fit this sort of situation.


This area hasn't seen great changes as a result of the transfer window; Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink being the only new addition to the team/squad. With Jason Euell now no longer an attacking option (even in desperation), there are only really four forward players who are likely to feature this season, barring injuries. Darren Bent looks to have maintained the live-wire form that he had last year, and it is really astonishing that he cannot force his way into the England team given his form, and the fact that no other English forward can match his recent scoring record, even when playing for one of the "big" Premiership teams. Marcus Bent beat off some transfer interest from Birmingham and others and remains a part of Dowie's plans, as does Kevin Lisbie. The Lis has been around for so long that rumour has it he is just waiting for a testimonial (possibly being due next year?). But really Kevin, do you think you would make that much money from it (even tax free!)? What sort of attendance would a testimonial match attract? Would the benefactors be lining up to play golf with you, or throw darts on your behalf? More likely at you! Lisbie is a player with enormous potential, but he does seem to have let himself down. When on form, he is electric quick, good in the air, and a good finisher - remember the Liverpool game? When not (which has been most of the time in recent seasons), he is a waste of space on the bench, let alone in the team. If he couldn't raise himself to play well for Derby and Norwich last season in the Championship, why should he feature for a Premiership team like Charlton? So Dowie has just three real forwards, unless he uses Lloyd Sam (once back from his loan spell), Rommedahl, Ambrose or Thomas, in a much advanced position. Youngsters James Walker and Michael Carvill are the only other options, but realistically I cannot see them winning a place on the pitch barring a surfiet of injuries (god forbid!).


So, if I am right in my interpretation of the players that Dowie wants to see start each week, who will make up the bench?

Myrhe or Andersen will be the sub goalie; El Karkouri gives defensive options; Kishishev or Thomas fill the midfield gap depending if home or away; and Marcus Bent the foward role. The floater would come from Holland, Hughes, Rommedahl, Ambrose, Fortune, Sorondo, Gibbs, and Lisbie, depending who was in-form and required.

Of course, a lot of this depends on who is fit, not suspended etc, and best laid plans do get changed throughout the course of a season.

Dowie has the options, it's now up to him to put his masterplan into practice and see where that leaves the Addicks this season.

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