Friday, January 04, 2008

Up for the Cup?

No, not really…after recent results, it is tough for anyone to lift Charlton and also for Charlton to lift anyone. I may have been sick with some of the performances over recent months, but now I just feel sick with the flu, or man-flu, or something that is making my head want to explode.

However, this is the FA Cup, and unless you are Manchester United, you have to play in it, and the media expect you to do your best. What is your best though? Nobody really knows these days as it does seem more important to most clubs to perform well in the league, and if you get a Cup run it’s a bonus. Sure, our jaunt to the quarter finals a couple of years back proved much better financially than a run to the same stage of the league cup did last season, but how often have Charlton ever got to the last eight of this competition? Not many times…

Also putting a dampener on the game are the opposition. West Brom are top of the Championship, stuffed us 4-2 last month in a league game, and threaten to blast what remains of our defensive confidence to smithereens tomorrow. Let’s not forget that it was their reserve forwards who caused us major problems in that game at The Hawthorns too, so if they play an “under strength” team, it could be a similar side to the one we faced in December! No easy game this then!

However, would we prefer to raise expectation and go out with major disappointment (as at Boro two years ago), or roll over and play dead (as we did at Forest last season)? As always, I can take defeat (and as a Charlton fan, I’ve tasted plenty of that…), but the manner has to be right.

I think we can therefore assume that whoever Alan Pardew puts out in the red shirts will be trying, and bearing in mind some of the on-field problems the club has had recently one or two players could be playing for a regular starting place if they have good games.

In goal, this is one match where Pards may think about starting Darren Randolph rather than keeping first-choice Nicky Weaver. Weaver has done little wrong – although fans can be pernickety with his punching/catching and kicking – but should Randolph, who has been sitting quietly on the bench since his debut at Anfield late last season - bar one league cup outing - finally get the go ahead to start? Tough call this as it’s a no-win situation: Randolph plays, we lose, he’s out; Randolph plays, we win, he’s out. I kind of hope Darren gets the call but it wouldn’t surprise me if Pardew stuck with Weaver.

The Addicks hapless defence is due a shake up, for this game at least. Yassin Moutaouakil just has to start at right back; otherwise, what is the point of having him at the club? Kelly Youga, recalled from a season-long loan at Scunthorpe, is also very likely to start at left back and this would give Chris Powell a long overdue rest (which is needed at his age). Centrally, Pards will pick two starters between Fortune, Bougherra and McCarthy with the other on the bench.

Our midfield, so strong on paper but less so on the pitch, is looking a little tired, and I would think that Zheng Zhi must be given an afternoon off. He just looks knackered, and with the game not on TV, no pressure is on from Far East TV companies to start him in this match. Jose Semedo has four bookings to his name, so Pards may decide not to risk him from the outset. Therry Racon is therefore likely to get a game, alongside the evergreen but not ever-young Matt Holland, and we could possibly see either Harry Arter or Josh Wright on the bench, which would be a fillip to the younger players. On the wings, I expect Jerome Thomas to play, provided he is not ill, injured, or hung-over from his weeks clubbing, and Darren Ambrose will also start I believe in place of Lloyd Sam, who tried hard but was out of luck in front of goal on Tuesday.

As it’s the cup and as we are at home, we should be looking to play two strikers from the start (please note Mr Pardew!). League options always include Chris Iwelumo, but he has looked jaded recently, so a better option would be to give those stalwart substitutes a chance to play 90 minutes (or until Pards is fed up with them and subs them!). I think Luke Varney and Izale McLeod (top pic) will play, with Chris Dickson on the bench. Why Dickson didn’t get a chance to come on over Xmas is anyone’s guess, but it could have been due to him jetting off to a Ghanaian training camp next week. Again, you put him in, he does well, then he’s missing for three weeks, or you leave him out, as he will be missing for three weeks – another no win situation! Izzy did score aginst the Baggies last month, so maybe they are his anti-bogey team?

This is the side I think will carry Charlton’s cup dreams this year –

Nicky Weaver
Yassin Moutaouakil
Madjid Bougherra
Jonathan Fortune
Kelly Youga
Therry Racon
Matt Holland
Darren Ambrose
Jerome Thomas
Luke Varney
Izale McLeod

Subs from Randolph, Sankofa, McCarthy, Powell, Semedo, Zhi, Arter, Wright, Sam, Dickson, Iwelumo.

I don’t really have much confidence in a Charlton victory tomorrow, but of course I hope my prediction is wrong – Pedro45’s score forecast is a 4-0 defeat! If the Baggies get ahead, it will be very tough for Charlton to claw their way back into the game. A smaller crowd than normal (maybe only 12-14,ooo?) coud turn nasty if things don't go right, or maybe it will be the moaners who stay away? Our only hope, in my opinion, is if Albion play an even weaker team than expected, and some of our “reserves” play blinders. Step forward our French speakers Youga, Moutaouakil, and Racon! Maybe they will also be able to communicate with Bougherra, but I’m not sure what O’Level grade French Jon Fortune, Matt Holland, or Darren Ambrose got at school?!? (NB Jerome Thomas doesn’t communicate with anyone; he’s all “heads down, no-nonsense, mindless boogie”, so this doesn’t apply to him.)

My one-to-watch in this match is going to be our right full back Yassin Moutaouakil (left). He is almost guaranteed a start, and will hopefully snap the hand off that gives him his shirt. I haven’t seen much of the classy Frenchmen playing yet, as I missed those early season games when he was first choice. The return of Danny Mills to northern climes has now given him the chance to shine once more, and I hope that the predictions that Pards has unearthed a little gem are true.

We can all be very pessimistic about Charlton‘s chances tomorrow, and predict big thrashings, but I do truthfully hope that we see a revitalised Addicks team tomorrow; one that tries to win, and win well. It will be tough, of course, but if they play as a team; if they shoot when given the opportunity; if they play with heart and passion; if they take their chances, then actually, we could cause an upset. And believe me, if we win tomorrow it will be an upset!

Come on you reds!

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