Monday, November 24, 2008

Brave New World

Phil Parkinson, manager of Charlton Athletic. Bet he loves that. No more second fiddle to Alan Pardew; it’s his team now! Phil gets to write the names on the team sheet; Phil gets to choose the tactics, and formation. Phil gets the plaudits when we win, and the stick when we lose. Phil (left) needs a hard hat, as it could be a tough baptism!

Away to QPR is one of those games that in some seasons is tough, and in others it’s one where the “old Charlton” would look to gain all three points. I think I may have seen Charlton win more times away in Shepherd’s Bush than I have at any other London football ground. But then again, I remember the 5-0 drubbings on plastic that we used to get in the eighties too!

The hope is that having a new manager will sweep away all the angst and rustiness that has pervaded the Addicks line up over recent months, but the reality may be a little different.

Rangers have a decent home record this season, though anyone who thought that the mega-rich owners would bank-roll the club super-fast into the Premiership is very mistaken (Mittal was on the radio on Sunday morning and said promotion is a three-year plan and that it has to be self-funding…). Sitting in mid-table, the club has just appointed a new manager – Portugal legend Paulo Sousa – though he started with a thumping 3-0 loss to Watford at the weekend. Hopefully, that sort of form will continue, and Charlton can get some sort of return from the match. It's probably a shame that Iain Dowie got sacked a few weeks ago, as that is two seasons running that he has been sacked prior to playing Charlton...

Parky’s first team sheet could, quite honestly, be anything. Not knowing if he had much input into who played each week, we don’t know if he preferred Youga to Basey, for instance, or thinks JonJo Shelvey should be starting every week? So based on what I (and most of you) will have witnessed on Saturday, this is the team I would pick if I were Parky to take on QPR at Loftus Road –

Nicky Weaver
Yassin Moutaouakil
Mark Hudson
Linvoy Primus
Kelly Youga
Nicky Bailey
Matt Holland
Jose Semedo
Keith Gillespie
Hameur Bouazza
Andy Gray

Subs from Elliott, Basey, Crainie, Shelvey, Wright, Racon, Sam, Dickson, Todorov, Varney, Waghorn.

OK, you may see that the team I’ve picked is pretty much the same as that which started the horrible defeat at home on Saturday, bar the new on-loan winger. So let’s clear up a couple of things;

First, I am presuming that the Mirror is not right and that we have not signed Heidar Helguson in time to make his debut at Loftus Road. If it can be arranged in time, then he will have a great incentive to do well at Rangers, as they appear to have upset him a bit by insisting he join them until the end of January with no option to go elsewhere if he doesn’t fancy staying. Andy Gray’s ongoing personal problem may prevent him being available, and maybe giving him the game off will help him some? If neither Helguson nor Gray is available, then maybe Svetislav Todorov will get a chance or maybe Luke Varney will be back in favour?

Second, the team that took the field on Saturday was, on paper at least, possibly the best that Charlton could offer up. I know that that is not saying much, but I would hope that they cannot be as bad as they were for two games running. I’m sure each of the defenders, especially, will have done some serious soul-searching on Saturday night and Sunday morning, because arguably, they did what we all wanted them to on Saturday and got Pardew out of the club. Now they collectively have to show that they want Parkinson in the club!

The problem comes, though, with players like Linvoy Primus, who Pards told us couldn’t play twice in a week; with Kelly Youga, who’s confidence (even for a guy that has brimfuls most of the time) must be at a very low ebb; with Nicky Weaver, who is going to have self-doubt very time a cross is pumped anywhere near him; and with Lloyd Sam who knows that he has to start to deliver the promise that everyone can see he has or he won't get his place back from Gillespie.

It is these players who are also in the firing line if Parkinson wishes to make any changes following Saturday’s debacle – Rob Elliott, Martin Crainie, Grant Basey, and Luke Varney are all itching to get into the team, and they must wonder how badly others have to play before they get their own chance?

The key, as far as I can see, is for Parky to instil some sort of new order into the side – you cannot forget all that has gone before, but you can kind of cover up the slate so it looks like it is clean (even when it isn’t…).

So how does Pedro45 see this one playing out? With Pardew still in charge, I have no doubts we would have suffered another clean and simple defeat; with a new man in charge, anything could happen (and probably will!). My heart says we can actually get a win, as if the team click going forwards (as they did on Saturday at times) but also behave sensibly in defence, then we are quite capable of scoring goals. My head however, knows that this is another tough game, and that the scars from the last two months may take a little while longer to heal. Pedro45 is going to forecast a close 2-1 defeat, but I really do hope I am wrong.

My one-to-watch in this match is going to be the much-maligned Nicky Weaver. Goalies don’t get much closer to the crowd than they do at Loftus Road, so for 45 minutes, Weaver will have Addicks fans just behind him, and for the rest of the time he will have home fans jeering him and his fat belly. What Nicky needs to do is make sure that he keeps his confidence; makes the right decisions; wins over red fans (again); and doesn’t drop any more balls, clangers, or jaws. We know he is a good shot stopper; all he needs to do is learn how to catch the odd cross or push out shots at 90 degrees (and not straight back to a forward!). If he can do that, then at least the defence in front of him will be a bit more confident too.

Whether we win, lose or draw though, at least we won’t have to listen to Alan Pardew going on in the press conference about how it was this players fault or that players fault when we lost, or how it was all down to his fabulous decision making when we won. Let’s get back to a bit of reality please, eh, Phil?

In new eras like this, we need all Addicks fans to stick together; provided the heart and effort that we have seen in flashes this season is evident on the pitch, then the fans will warm to the team and new (temporary) manager. What we don’t need is to be a goal down inside the first fifteen minutes, and for players to start hiding or dropping their heads when things start to go against them. We the fans must support, cajole, influence, help, and sing! It might be cold but we can all make some noise in support of our team.

For a few years, we were not the familiar “Little Old Charlton”; we were never massive, but we were a bit bigger than little. We may have loved those years, but they are now memories. Now we are back to being little again – we’ve got our Charlton back! When you are little, you have to fight for everything you want. Otherwise the bigger clubs will just bully you. We all have to stand up now and stop the bullying. It's what Charlton are good at.

Now is the time to fight – the Redvolution has started.

Up the Addicks!

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well said sir :)
no waggy though? shame on you!
Can't believe after saturday that you kept Youga in the side. A liability is being fair to the lad. He just isn't cutting it. Also, to include Gillespie who couldn't get into a blades side who are struggling straight away would surely infuriate Waghorn.

It is hard to second guess Parkinson's opinion on players but one thing is for sure, his first pick will identify favourites and may even start to door revolving for some underachievers. Rumour is that he like Darren Randolph, so once the farce at Hereford is cleared, Weaver had better watch out. Another poor performance will surely lead to a replacement.

Parkinson, it is suggested, likes the 4-4-2 formation and this may affect team selection.

Lets just watch (and pray!) for the best on Tuesday over the west end.
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