Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Arriverderci Roma?

There are a number of reasons why Paulo Di Canio could be the right choice as the new manager of Charlton Athletic, and Pedro45 feels that it might be for the best if he could be appointed for the remainder of the 2008/9 season.

If he was successful (which means saving the club from relegation), then he could be given an appropriate bonus, and asked to stay on. If he is not successful, then it will have been worth the chance, and not much will have been lost over and above the current expectation; Paulo would be free to go his own way. Of course, there are a few reasons why he might not be the best choice too, but I do feel that the pro’s outweigh the cons in this area.


He is vibrant
He would be a breathe of fresh air
Crowds would increase
The crowd would have the manager’s name to sing
Players could look up to him as someone who has done it all before
He would gain respect through his actions
His appointment would be exciting
He is available
He would probably be willing to work with the coaches already at the club
He would shake things up(!)
He would not suffer fools


He is Italian
He is a Fascist
He doesn’t have as many coaching badges as other candidates
He might upset the players, coaches, directors, and fans with some of his ideas/actions
If a success, he may be poached before season end
He might jump ship if a better offer comes along before season end

If Paulo did come to The Valley, and saved the club from relegation, there would be no guarantee that he would want to stay. And even if he did, then after that he may jump at the first real offer of a better job (and there are plenty of those around looking at the league tables tonight…). A dream scenario earlier this year was when West Ham appointed Gianfranco Zola as their manager; West Ham fans knew that if he was a raging success, the likelihood is that in a couple of years, Chelsea may come knocking and that draw would be too much for Zola to refuse. Similarly with Paulo, if he gave Charlton two years great service, and then West Ham came knocking, nobody would really begrudge him the chance to move on.

If we remember back to the time when Di Canio signed for Charlton, the club was taking a real chance on the player; he had fallen out of favour at Upton Park, and was desperate to show that he could still cut it, even at the age of 35. Alan Curbishley threw Paulo that lifeline and after a slow start, the relationship grew better and better. Even after the usual end of season slump, a final day win meant the Addicks had finished seventh, their highest ever Premiership finishing position. Paulo had only signed a one-year contract, and there was plenty of discussion about whether to offer him another one-year or two-year deal, or (crazily!) even any deal at all. Paulo did eventually sign that new contract, but only weeks later, he had an approach from his first love – Lazio, and that draw proved too much, even though his salary was slashed by a third to just £10,000 per week. Charlton did Paulo a favour and did not stand in his way when he said he wanted to return to Italy, even though he was under contract, and he was a player not easily replaced. Lazio could not afford any transfer fee, so he was given a free-transfer by Charlton and the newly signed contract was cancelled by mutual agreement.

An eventful year in Serie A followed, with Paulo playing a key role in a successful year for Lazio, but he did have a falling out with his team-mate when it came to who should take penalties in the Rome derby. Paulo insisted, scored, and then gave the one-arm salute that led to more trouble. Some say politics should be kept out of sport, but Paulo’s salute was of fascist intent, and he got into more trouble because he admitted it.

Getting older, he played less and less for Lazio, and was released in 2006. After two seasons in the Italian second division, he retired from playing, and has been taking his coaching badges this season.

Paulo owes Charlton a favour in return for the club releasing him from his contract, and he may prove to be a cheaper option than getting in a new manager that has his own coaching team and ideas on who he wants to play for the club.

Pedro45 suggests that the Board give Paulo a ring, and see if he is willing to repay that favour. The dialling code for Italy is +39…

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Cut Off and Adrift...Which Way to Look?

Sheffield United 3 Charlton Athletic 1

I certainly cannot add any more on the events at Bramall Lane than some of the match reviews already posted, as I was only able to occasionally check the BBC text commentary during the match. From that, it seems that Charlton had much the better of the first half, with plenty of possession and opportunities on goal – Hameur Bouazza (left) scoring after 33 minutes after a punt forward from Rob Elliott. Then the second half was one-way traffic toward Elliott’s goal, with many shots, chances, and desperate defending. Midway through the half, Untied equalised, then followed that with another then another goal. Phil Parkinson tried to shake things up when the team fell behind by bringing on forward substitutes, but to no avail. Five players were booked, including Nickly Bailey who is now going to be suspended for a league game.

The result leaves the club equalling their worst ever run of games with out a win (16), and bottom of the Championship table by four points as Donny and Forest both won.

So where does the club go from here?

Obviously the manager situation needs to be sorted out, and the blogosphere is rampant with advice and comment about what the Board should do in the apparently imminent strategic review. Pedro45’s view?

Really, there are only two options – stick with Parky for the rest of the season or get someone else in. Both options have good and bad points about them.

Stick with Phil Parkinson

Parky does know the players, and also knows what areas of the squad need changing and improving in the January transfer window (just as nearly every fan does!). With some (small amount of) money being made available by the board (including a rumoured £1m from the sale of Varney, although this could be in danger now Paul Jewell has quit as manager of Derby, plus maybe £250k from Ipswich for Ambrose?), whoever is manager will be able to do some wheeling and dealing. The problem though is that sales in this month will be overpriced (no 50% discounts in football sales!) and may also be limited to players other clubs do not want and who therefore may not be good enough to help Charlton enough. To bolster the transfer/wages funds, other fringe players – Dickson, and possibly McLeod – may be sold too. The only way to generate "big" money is the sale of Zheng Zhi, but that really does depend on his fitness, and Parky has already said he is unlikely to return to training much before the end of January… Even then, he is out of contract in the summer so I doubt we will be able to get much more than a million for him? That leaves more loan signings to fill the gaps left (by sales and loan signings going back to their parent clubs…), and you cannot really say that many of the clubs loan signings have been much of a success this year – maybe to a very limited extent McEveley, Bouazza, Crainie and Waghorn, but have Primus and Gillespie added anything other than cover for players who needed a rest or to cover injuries? Burton will become a Charlton player on Thursday, but he’s hardly set the team alight, with just a penalty to show since he joined seven games back.

The negative aspect of keeping Parky is that he may wheel and deal, but will remain a weight on the club who cannot change results. He’s had 8 games, and we haven’t won any of them, even though they have been against some of the less talented teams in this league. It is kind of acceptable this season to lose to Wolves and Birmingham, and even Sheffield United, especially away, but not to Barnsley and Coventry at The Valley. With even more players in on loan, or even players who are signed with the specific reason to keep the club up and who will be sold if we are relegated (probably at a loss!), then the poor record shown so far in transfer dealings does not look good or bring confidence.

Get a new manager in

Well, where do the board start? If Parky isn’t the man, then it is probably fair to say that Mark Kinsella isn’t too. Both are good football (and Charlton) men (in my opinion), and it would be possible for both to remain at the club in their former roles (as under Pardew), provided the new man at the helm accepted that. If either were asked to leave, then the financial aspect has to be considered, and that could have an over-riding effect on any decision made, as Charlton are not rolling in money (surprise surprise!).

So we look for a head-honcho who may or may not want to work with the current coaches –

Those who might are –

Alan Curbishley
Mark Robson
Mark Bowen
Paulo Di Canio

Those who might not are –

Billy Davies
Paul Ince
John Hughes
Colin Calderwood
(might be too soon for him…)
Kevin Keegan (well, he ain’t going back to Newcastle!)
Steve McLaren
plus anybody else, including the four who might above!

The plus for any new manager coming in is that they might be a breath of fresh air (a la Harry Redknapp) that the squad, who apparently are good enough for this division, might need. Parky certainly jivvied things up, gave players a chance, and has settled on his chosen starting team, but that hasn’t won us a game, so may not work for a new man either. So then the reality is that a new manager will need to make changes (just as Parky will if he stays…), but may not know where the changes are needed (unless he asks anyone in the blogosphere for advice…) which could slow down decision making and ultimately the available points we are fighting for.

So I really cannot see too much difference between opting to keep Parky, or get him to assist a new leader, or to get the broom out and sweep the coaching staff away and start again.

Pedro45 is not one to sit on the fence though, and as one of the first Blogs to publicly voice the requirement to remove and replace Alan Pardew, I feel that it is almost my duty to jump one way of another, much as the Board will have to in the next few days (and take the flak if they get it wrong..). So I say bring on the Redvolution! He would be a wild card, but it cannot get any worse. Crowds would flock back, and any expense in his short-term appointment would be offset by this increase in people actually coming through the turnstiles (rather than just tickets given away...). He would probably work with the current coaches, as he will know some of them. If it was for the short-term (until the end of season, and then you get a bonus if we stay up) then it would not cost much money. The style would improve, and the media would love us for doing it!

Give us PAULO!

Bring on the REDVOLUTION!

Happy New Year!

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Saturday, December 27, 2008


I suppose, in this short preview, I shouldn’t write much of a Charlton related expectation into this tough Sunday game, coming on the back of a hard fought draw at home on Boxing Day. But then, Sheffield United also had a tough game on the same day, and both teams have equal time to recover.

The likelihood is that the Blades will expect three points against the leagues bottom team, and will hope to score a bunch to balance the five they got at the Valley in Alan Pardew’s last match as manager.

Since then of course, Phil Parkinson has changed quiet a few things: out of the side have gone Nicky Weaver, Yassin Moutaouakil, Kelly Youga, Matt Holland, and Linvoy Primus, and in have come Rob Elliott, Martin Crainie, Jonathan Fortune, and Jay McEveley, plus Martyn Waghorn (who did briefly appear as a sub in that home game).

The tactics have changed too, from 4-5-1 to a consistent 4-4-2, so it will be good to see how we match up.

Recently on-loan Keith Gillespie has gone back to United, so I’m sure he will bring them up-to-date with the likely team and tactics, but the good thing is that this seems to have given confidence to Lloyd Sam as he has little threat to his place in the side at present.

Of course, we don’t know if any injuries picked up against QPR will fail to heal in time from Sundays game (for instance, Hudson took a couple of knocks, as did Waghorn), but barring these, this is the side I would expect to carry on the resurgence in form shown in the second half at The Valley –

Rob Eliott
Martin Crainie
Mark Hudson
Jonathan Fortune
Jay McEveley
Jose Semedo
Nicky Bailey
Lloyd Sam
Hameur Bouazza
Andy Gray
Maryn Waghorn

Subs from Weaver, Moutaouakil, Youga, Basey, Wright, Shelvey, Holland, Dickson, McLeod, Todorov, Burton.

My one-to-watch in this game is going to be Hameur Bouazza; he was so good in November, but at times since then he has just become one hell of a frustrating player. He is quick, has a good shot, can cross, and links well with McEveley, but sometimes he just turns off. When dis-interested, his play is sloppy, lacks effort, shows poor decision making, and is just plain frustrating. I’m hoping that the fine effort from Sam on the opposite wing on Boxing Day will gee him up to start producing what we know he is capable of.

Pedro45 has to make a score prediction, and bearing in mind that every positive result this season has been followed by a defeat, I’m not sure that this game will see a change to that sequence, much as I would wish it. I predict a 2-0 reversal with both teams a little tired meaning that United do not force home their superiority too much. I'd love to be proved wrong, but I fear that it will take a change of year before we see any chance of a victory.

This prediction, if it is proved correct, would see Charlton equal their previous worst ever sequence of results – 16 games without a win in 1955. In 2009, the home games against Norwich (in the cup) and Forest in the league a week after, will provide the best chances of breaking this sequence, and for Parky to hang onto his job as manager. That is, of course, if Sheffield United do not get to see two Charlton managers sacked after results against them this year!

Up the Addicks!

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Double Baileys with Ice

Charlton Athletic 2 Queens Park Rangers 2

A real game of two halves this one - for forty five minutes, it was more interesting to watch the vapour trails made by the high altitude jets flying overbove than watch Charlton struggle to get anywhere near par with a confident Rangers team. Apart from Jose Semedo's first minute shot which went wide, the Addicks had little to offer as the hoops sat back, absorbed Charlton's weak attacks, and then broke with speed and purpose.

Such was the half time gloom that it did seem a better option to sit in a warm place than brave the now regular cold weather and another 45 minutes of rubbish football. So to be able to come away with a draw after a rousing second period was great, even if we still didn't win and even if we have fallen to the bottom of the league once more.

Although the referee had a pretty good game in my opinion – letting the game flow whenever possible and being very consistent with his decisions - it was two contentious refereeing decisions that led to both of Rangers goals.

After 19 minutes, Hameur Bouazza contested a bouncing ball on the edge of the Charlton penalty area but was deemed to have raised his foot too high, or so I thought. It was a debatable decision originally, though the referee did not give an indirect free kick (which he should have for foot up) so maybe he saw something else that we didn't? The result was that ex-Addick loan reject Lee Cook curled the ball over the wall and into the top corner of the net.

Even at that early stage, Rangers seemed to think that a one-nil lead would be adequate, and though they pressed and threatened at times, they were not exactly pushing for the key second goal that would have killed the game off. Rob Elliott had to be alert on a couple of occasions but he didn't have to extend himself to keep the score close.

One hilarious moment came when the Rangers fans sang for their new Portuguese manager to give them a wave. Paulo Sousa knew that they were singing his name, but not what else he could hear, so he rather sheepishy asked his "interpreter" and then did what he was asked.

Charlton for that matter offered little, though I'm sure that they could understand the fans shouts. With defenders unwilling to take much responsibility (bar Jay McEveley who was a welcome addition to the starting line up on his return from injury - for Grant Basey - even if he was a bit rusty at times...), all we seemed to get were high punts towards Andy Gray or Martyn Waghorn that are meat and drink (seasonal fare!) for the tall Rangers defence. The booking count did favour Charlton at half time three to one, including a yellow for Connolly for stupidly kicking the ball away just before half time.

Out early in the second period, and no doubt with a flea in their collective ear for being so lacklustre, the Addicks started brightly, and quite soon got a deserved equaliser. Lloyd Sam had seen plenty of ball in the first half and though he had the beating of Connolly, he had failed to make best use of his possession - a usual failing for Lloyd. This time though, a flowing move from wing to wing - mainly along the ground for a change too! - came to Sam who created space for his cross and - heavens above - he picked out a Charlton midfielder breaking into the box, where Nicky Bailey headed home (top pic).

All of a sudden, the Charlton side were hunting in packs: Bailey and Semedo snapping at the ball and ankles; Sam tracking back and helping Crainie; McEveley surging forwards to overlap Bouazza; and Hudson and Fortune looking solid.

Sam put over plenty of crosses, and his were the more accurate than Bouazza's who seemed to over hit nearly all of his efforts. Bailey had an effort blocked, and even Semedo threatened to have two shots in a match for the first time in his Charlton career.

Then the referee made his second crucial decision against Charlton: a red throw deep in own territory was headed on but then knocked high back toward the Charlton area. Hudson jumped but Blackstock seemed to get under him and ease him out of the way. This wasn't the first time this had happened in the match, with all players getting away with it, and the ref, if unsighted, did not get any help from the linesman at this or any other time. Hudson fell to the ground, allowing the Rangers forward a clear run in on Elliott in the Addicks goal. No Charlton defender covered possibly due to expecting the whistle for the foul that never came. Blackstock curled the ball around and under Elliott to give the away team the lead once more.

This knocked some of the stuffing (sorry!) out of the fans, but not the team, who continued to fight and attempt to get something from the game. Man-of-the-match Sam carried on his good game, and soon another of his teasing crosses saw Cerny blocked by his own player, and his punch drop for Bailey to dive forward and head into the empty net from 12 yards . Bearing mind Gray's penalties, Bailey is by far the highest scorer for Charlton this season from open play.

Now it was a question of whether Charlton could hang on for the last fifteen minutes or so. Waghorn had been replaced by Burton by now, and Basey came on for the frustrating Bouazza. Rangers threw on all their forwards, and as the four minutes injury time board went up, you hoped we would not have a repeat of the Derby game heartbreak.

Semedo - who had an excellent second half - then made way for Holland, as he was pushing his luck a little having already been booked.

It was one of the subs - Helguson - who nearly did precipitate a spate of SE7 suicides. Good work along the edge of the area gave him a chance to control and shoot past Elliott. Luckily, the shot hit the post and bounced out, but after a brief scramble, it was rocketed into the top of the net off the bar. I must admit to not really knowing what happened next, as my head was buried in my hands looking down, but a brief cheer indicated that the goal was chalked off (offside?), and then after consulting with the fourth official, the referee sent Phil Parkinson to the stands (although he only went back a few rows in actual fact!) for what I do not know.

That stoppage seemed to add plenty of extra injury time, and Charlton survived a few close shaves in those added minutes, until the final whistle sounded to Addicks relief.

A definite point won, but unless we get a result in Sheffield, we will start the new year at the bottom of the league.

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Jumping Through Hoops...

The Boxing Day local derby is something that all football fans look forward to most years, especially if it a home game. But this year, Charlton fans are not looking forward to very much such is the gloom surrounding the clubs relegation battle. Incredibly, some fans have already seemed to throw in the towel, with still 22 matches to go in the marathon 46-game season. I’m not saying that Charlton are certain to pull themselves out of trouble, but to concede that the club is going down at this stage is an extenuation of the negative atmosphere that has pervaded the club ever since relegation for the Premiership nearly two years ago.

Sure, mistakes have been made, but the Board do have the best interests of the Club at heart, and we fans have to respect them for that.

In Phil Parkinson, we have an honest and upfront caretaker-manager; Parky insists that we have an honest and professional bunch of players, that all try their collective best for the club. That may be true, but without any points being won, it is not enough. The bare fact is that unless Parkinson wins one of the next two games – Boxing Day versus QPR or on Sunday at Sheffield United – then it does not seem that the club can “afford” to keep him in the post unless they too are accepting that tier three football is extremely likely. I’m not going to get into the guess-the-manager lark that the media love, but it is probably fair to say that whatever direction the club want to go, there are plenty of options.

The teams that Parkinson picks for the two Xmas games may well differ; not through choice, but simply because some players may not be capable of giving 100% twice in 72 hours, and also that the closeness of the games is unlikely to allow for any knocks picked up against Rangers to heal properly. At Loftus Road a few weeks back, my opinion was that they were one of the dirtiest teams I had seen for quite some time, and I expect that they will be even more so in an away match. They may have a Portuguese legend as manager (don’t bow too low Jose!) who wants them to play a pure passing game, but the niggly asides that come with continental football may well be on view at The Valley in this match too.

Rangers will have Heidar Helguson available, and he has scored in his last two games since joining on loan from Bolton. The Icelander missed the game between the clubs in November and at that time was the subject of some wrangling in the media over who he would sign for – Rangers or Charlton. Of course, with the Addicks taking all and sundry on loan it was unlikely that he would have wanted to be the seventh or eighth loanee at The Valley, so he now lines up against us. As with other players with even a smidgeon of a grudge against the Addicks - like Leroy Lita at the weekend - he will be desperately wanting to score against Charlton I’m sure!

Parkinson is likely to field an unchanged team in this home game I feel, with squad players like Matt Holland, Svetislav Todorov, Kieth Gillespie (his final game on loan is the Rangers match), Kelly Youga, and possibly the youngsters Wright and Shelvey getting bench or starting places in Yorkshire at the weekend?

This is the team I feel Parky will send out at The Valley –

Rob Elliott
Martin Crainie
Jonathan Fortune
Mark Hudson
Grant Basey
Jose Semedo
Nicky Bailey
Lloyd Sam
Hameur Bouazza
Andy Gray
Martyn Waghorn

Subs from Weaver, Moutaouakil, McEveley, Youga, Wright, Shelvey, Holland, Gillespie, Todorov, Burton, Dickson, McLeod.

My one-to-watch in this match is going to be Nicky Bailey. Out of sorts since Alan Pardew left the club by mutual consent (a coincidence?), it’s about time that Bailey regained his form, as he has shown that he can perform well in this league, and we need players like him to drag us out of the depths of despair. Likened in his early Charlton career to Mark Kinsella, we should remember that Kins took a year to settle and become the great player that he was for the Addicks; hopefully Bailey will do similar?
Pedro45 is optimistic for 2009, but we are not quite there yet. Certainly I doubt next year can be as bad (either personally for me or) on the football pitch and I still have hope and a modicum of confidence that we can all haul ourselves out of this undoubted mess. As for the Rangers game, I predict a 1-1 draw, which will be some sort of improvement if we can also gain a result at Bramall Lane.

With Gillespie going soon, Primus gone, and Burton to sign permanently in January, whoever is manager will have some wheeling and dealing to do if Charlton are to continue with the loan arrangements over buying policy.

Happy Xmas!

Come on you Reds!

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

No Time Like the Present

Norwich City 1 Charlton Athletic 0

Not much Xmas cheer after this result, which leaves Charlton precariously placed equal bottom of the table. I listened to the game via Charlton TV, but have yet to see the goal.

It seems that the first half was similar to that witnessed at Blackpool – good possession and resilient in defence, but efforts on goal being well saved – and then the second half was pretty similar too. At least the early capitulation there didn’t happen at Carrow Road, and it took an hour for the winning goal to be knocked home by ex-Addick Leroy Lita. Apart from a couple of straight at the keeper efforts from Bouazza (left), nothing of note troubled the Norwich defence in the second period.

So we pass Xmas on a run of 14 games without a win – desperate times. Phil Parkinson has two more games coming up this weekend; Friday’s Boxing Day derby with QPR and then a tough away game at Alan Pardew’s executioners Sheffield United. It would be nice to think that Charlton could earn some league points in either game but the feeling is so very negative at the moment.

You can’t blame Parky for yesterday picking the same squad that did quite well in the Derby home match, so a lot of the blame for the performance has to rest with the players. From the commentary, Gray, Basey, and Sam seemed seldom to be mentioned, while others like Bouazza, Bailey, and Semedo apparently only ever gave the ball away. Hudson was solid but I suspect that the commentator liked him as he twice confirmed that he had just made his first mistake of the afternoon – first giving away a poor pass, then the goal, as he was marking Lita when he scored. At least the two-minute transmission delay seemes to have vanished...

OK, so Santa didn’t come early for Addicks fans, and we have to hope that Boxing Day brings one of those positive results that will go down in folklore – like 5-0 versus Manchester City in the late eighties or 4-2 versus Chelsea five years ago to the day.

Giving up hope is not an option; we are half the season plus one game through, and many more minutes need to be played before the fate or otherwise will be confirmed. It doesn’t look good at present, but then this time of year is all about presents.

I’ve had a crappy 2008, and I cannot wait until 2009…

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Friday, December 19, 2008


The last game before Xmas and for Charlton, if not a critical match, it is a critical time. Off the bottom of the league merely on goal difference, the run of 13 games without a win needs to come to an end fairly soon, or those teams sitting just outside the relegation area will seem a long way away, points wise.

Will the victory, which was as close as you can get on Monday, finally arrive in Norfolk tomorrow? Well, I suppose there is a good chance, but then again, we thought that we might see Addicks wins against Blackpool, Coventry and Derby, and all we got was one measly point from those three games.

On the plus side, the form shown against Derby was much better. True, you cannot actually get much worse than the way Charlton played in the Coventry game (even though an Arsenal-supporting friend who went said he thought we were unlucky…), but it was the leap from being utterly useless, to having some style, passion and much effort which pleased, even if the final result - courtesy of that 95th minute equaliser - did not. The only thing now is to get the minds right so that games that are there to be won can be on the pitch; and that role falls squarely on the managers shoulders.

Now that the revolving door has closed on the potential option of having Sam Allardyce running the club, I suppose the next crop of names will include a certain Paul Ince who will, no doubt, be desperate to get back into football management quickly. While Sunderland are manager-less, I guess we will always be looking at sloppy seconds, if we are going to be looking for a new manager outside of the club at all. And that decision will depend on how Phil Parkinson does over the next two weeks, when his, and Charlton’s season destiny could be shaped.

If Parky does get that illusive win (or even two!), then he is in with a very good chance of keeping the reins at the club until season end and maybe beyond. But the inevitable pressure is that he does need a win, after five efforts have left him still wanting.

The team that he sends out to try to get that at Carrow Road against Norwich is likely to be pretty similar to that which started on Monday night. Parky has tried out most of the squad during his short tenure, and he must stick by those that give their all in the Addicks shirt. As Rob Elliott (left) did little wrong, and we now know that Weaver’s hip injury sustained up at Blackpool has not healed fully, the local lad is likely to get to keep the gloves on this week too. It was my first chance to see Elliott play on Monday, as I missed the away Plymouth game last year and the August home Yeovil cup game in which he played. He is bigger than he looks when warning up, and has a big hoof of a punt on him, which did create a few problems for the Derby defence. On blustery days – and tomorrow may be one of those I hear? – his kicking and overall distribution could be beneficial. Weaver will no doubt sit on the bench until Elliott fails, or until his hip is better and his experience is preferred.

The defence did quite well on Monday, even though some of the many crosses into the box were not dealt with properly. Martin Crainie had a decent, busy, game, and he has little competition with Yassin Moutaouakil out of favour, while Grant Basey was preferred over Kelly Youga at left back. Grant may offer more going forwards but Youga is the better defender (albeit liable to lapses in concentration…), but I doubt Parky will switch them in this match. In the middle, Mark Hudson and Jonathan Fortune will carry on the better work they have done since being reunited, and hope for a welcome clean sheet?

The midfield four are also likely to be unchanged – Lloyd Sam was most people’s choice as man of the match on Monday, so he should get the nod ahead of Keith Gillespie, while Hameur Bouazza was not long ago the player of the month, even if his missed chances are starting to cost the team dearly (much as Varney’s did earlier in the season!). I expect them both to play again. Holding fort in the middle will be Jose Semedo, and Nicky Bailey. Semedo does all the dirty work in central midfield, and his job is to get the ball and give it to someone who can make better use of it than he can. He is low in confidence, but works hard. My worry about him is he sometimes gets drawn toward the ball too easily, when others are closer to covering, and allows the play to bypass him. If he can control that urge, and hold his position in the middle more often, he will be more influential. Bailey hit rock bottom confidence-wise in the Coventry game, but Parkinson has shown faith in him by keeping him in the team. Not wanting to be caught in possession, Bailey seemed to whack the ball forwards first time at every opportunity on Monday, and that in a funny way might help him in the long term. If he does a similar job on Saturday, the forwards will have the chance to run down the ball and relief pressure, which can only be a good thing with our defence!

The forwards doing the chasing are likely to be Andy Gray again and, if he has recovered from the apparent dead-leg he got in the first ten minutes on Monday, Martyn Waghorn. Waggy has signed on for an extra month at The Valley, which is excellent news; fresh from his first senior goal, and first non-defeat, he will be keen to stay in the team now that the too-many loanees problem seems resolved.

This is the side I expect Parky to pick to ruffle the Canary feathers –

Rob Elliott
Martin Crainie
Jonathan Fortune
Mark Hudson
Grant Basey
Lloyd Sam
Jose Semedo
Nicky Bailey
Hameur Bouazza
Andy Gray
Martyn Waghorn

Subs from Weaver, Moutaouakil, (Primus), Youga, Holland, Wright, Shelvey, (Gillespie), Dickson, Todorov, (Burton), McLeod.

Norwich are having an indifferent season, splattered with inconsistent results. The arrival of ex-Addick Leroy Lita on loan from Reading coincided with a glut of goals but they seem to have dried up recently as he has left and other loan or trial players have arrived. Ten million pound man Carl Cort (the player that Bobby Robson allegedly signed for Newcastle in mistake when he wanted Jason Euell!) may play some part in the match, having recently arrived on trial, provided his knees don’t give way again.

Pedro45 is going to stick with his recent predictions of 1-1 draws, as that is showing a continuation of the better form from the Addicks. It may not be pretty, and it may not be kind, but we need to grab anything we can in the next few games.

My one-to-watch in this match, having picked players who didn’t take part in the last two games(!) is going to be Martyn Waghorn (left) ; I’m sure he will be keen not to become this correspondent’s hat-trick on non-participants, and hopefully he can do what Clive Mendonca and Andy Hunt both did at Carrow Road some years back and get the right sort of hat-trick! Waggy showed he has a good football brain this week, and his link up play with Andy Gray was good, with the promise of being even better than that. Consecutive games are a good way of improving their relationship on the field, and I’m sure that the next goal in his career is not that far away.

In finishing, I’d just like to wish all readers of this blog a wonderful Xmas that brings them all that they want. A special Hi to fellow Addickted Pete, Sophie, Lennon, Malcolm, Spongey, John and his kids, Laura, Alan, Glynn, all the other bloggers, and everyone of the Blackburn 12! Now if we all stick together and wish hard, maybe Santa will bring Charlton three points?

Up the Addicks!

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Charlton Athletic 2 Derby County 2

The result may be hard to take, but there were a huge amount of positives to come out of the entertaining game at The Valley last night.
First, the passion and effort shown by the players matched that of the crowd - both could not be faulted!

Next, the Manager - Phil Parkinson - showed he is not afraid to really freshen up the team, and if senior pro’s are not performing, then they will be dropped in favour of fresh faces.

Then there is the fact that the point gained has taken Charlton off the foot of the league, which is something that few fans would have been predicting a week or so back…

Individually, most players had good games last night -

Elliott was comfortable in goal (it’s the first time I have seen him play), confidently calling for crosses, and booming a big kick down field at every opportunity; his overall distribution was much better than Weaver’s. He didn't have much chance with the penalty (although he has a good record..) or the late, late equaliser, and was only called on to make one real save which he did with aplomb.
Martin Crainie probably had his best game in a Charlton shirt, winning tackles and headers frequently. His distribution is still a problem sometimes, but last night it was at least improved, and he did offer an attacking alternative on occasions (though not enough!).
The central defence of Mark Hudson and Jonathan Fortune was solid, and relatively untroubled in open play all night. Sadly, it was Hudson’s deflection on a throw in that took the ball onto Jose Semedo’s arm for the equalising penalty, but he prevented plenty of other chances. Suffice to say that the "danger" of Luke Varney running them into the ground and banging in goals never materialised.
Grant Basey took over the left back duties, and he had a fairly easy night; nearly all Derby’s attacking came down the left wing toward Crainie. Basey delivered his free-kicks and corners well, and they do create danger. Again, the only black spot was that it was his deflected header which fell for Ellington to score the deep-into-injury time second equaliser, though you cannot really blame him for that.

In midfield, Semedo was a bit quiet early on, before getting more involved and making tackles; our Portugeuser swung over the cross that Andy Gray controlled and scored from after 34 minutes (top pic). Nicky Bailey meanwhile certainly seems to have learnt from his poor form and was determined not to be caught in possession in this match. That did mean that on nearly every occasion he got the ball he simply launched the ball forward over the Derby defence for Gray, Martyn Waghorn and Hameur Bouazza to chase, but at least it was positive.

On the right, Lloyd Sam was back near his best; lots of step-overs and jinky runs, Sam nearly scored the first goal capitalising on a fluffed clearance before lashing the ball against the post with the keeper well beaten. That does sum up Lloyd sadly, so much potential but not enough end product. Where Lloyd did excel was in holding the ball, and his set up play near the corner flag, when no other Charlton player came anywhere near to helping him for several seconds, allowed Semedo to cross from his layback for Gray to score the opener, and in the second half, Sam’s run, cut back, and cross was thumped home by Waghorn to give Charlton the lead again (above).

Bouazza again had a mixed game, showing plenty of effort and lots of skill, but as with Sam, his finishing needs to be a lot more clinical. While a free kick early in the second half - after he was pulled back by a defender on the edge of the area - was only just off target (too high), seconds later he blasted over after being sent free with just the keeper to beat. Profligate to say the least, and when Charlton need the return most!

In attack, both Gray and Waghorn had decent games. Waghorn ran into good areas regularly, even though he was obviously troubled by a dead-leg (or similar) all evening. Hopefully he will have recovered by Saturday. He took his goal well, even though it deflected past the keeper (off Connolly’s arm?), and on another day, could have had more. Gray meanwhile ran his heart out once more. When he has confidence - which his typically well taken goal will have given him - he is a much better player. He held the ball better than he has done for many a month, possibly learning how to do so from Deon Burton? The referee did Gray no favours all night either...

The two subs that were used, Burton for a tiring Waghorn and Keith Gillespie tactically for Sam did OK, with Gillespie putting in a few late crosses.

Sadly, the last goal of the game came very deep into injury time (according to Sky, it hit the net after four minutes and five seconds of added time, with the board indicating a minimum of four minutes...), and it really was the kick in the teeth that Phil Parkinson described. Three points would have made a huge difference pre-Xmas, but at least the one point gained means we are not bottom anymore. Perhaps if Parky had used his last sub in injury time then the referee’s whistle may have gone sooner, but we will never know.

Just a few words on the crowd figure announced which was almost 21,000; I was shocked when I checked the figure given for the Coventry game, as there must have been at least 7,000 no-shows, and last night was not disimilar. The visiting Forest fan spread over four seats in front of me looked bemused and aghast, checking out the many rows of other unfilled red plastic, until I told him that it was tickets sold or given away that were counted. I suppose the fact is that it looks good to have the second highest Championship crowd of the weekend, but the reality of that is a lot less were in attendance once more, and it is quite farcical to give out these figures.

Moving on, the team that Parky now has looks like the one that he will need to favour in the next few weeks, either side of Xmas. With McEveley out injured, and Primus due to go back to Pompey any day, Waghorn doesn’t now have to worry about the five loan player rule, especially as he is staying an extra month. Basey is favoured in front of Youga it seems, while Matt Holland, Nicky Weaver and Svetislav Todorov are senior players who are now just fringe team members. The eleven who played with heart and passion last night must be given the opportunity to continue the better form shown, and that’s what I expect to see on Saturday barring unfortunate injuries.

This may just be the corner we have been looking to turn, or it could be a long bend that we still cannot see the end of; whatever it is, we will get round it soon.

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Crunch Derby Game

You bet; both Charlton and Derby are desperate for points, and both have terrible recent results. For once, in recent times, it seems that the Addicks are playing a team that actually have more pressure on them than we do – Derby manager Paul Jewell is rumoured to be facing the chop if they don’t win in SE7. Mind you, bearing in mind Charlton’s home record this season, even Arsene Wenger might be under similar strain if his team couldn’t win at The Valley!

Charlton themselves have no illusions about changing manager if defeat is suffered – the Board have announced that Phil Parkinson is to be the man in charge until a strategic review in January. That does take some pressure off actually, as at least the blogging community and media will not now be predicting a change at the top prior to every game should we lose. Parky has his role for another four games minimum then, and hopefully he can start to pick up some vital points during that time.

Lady luck hasn’t been on the Addicks side this season, and maybe not for quite some time it seems. While we have benefited from the odd decision that gone our way (Burnley’s early disallowed goal for instance), other single decisions have gone against Charlton, like the ball being out of play before QPR scored their first goal. However, overall, I think we fans will all agree that whatever can go wrong has. Last Tuesday, Jay McEveley’s luck ran out, as he has a bad dislocation of his shoulder, while Martin Crainie had a similar injury in the previous game, but his popped back in. I know which of the two defenders I would prefer in my team, but Crainie remains available, and McEveley will not for quite some time.

At least we do have cover at full back, and though Parky obviously doesn’t consider that Kelly Youga or Yassin Moutasouakil are good enough for the battle we currently have on our hands, either or both will be needed soon, when the current loan arrangements start to run out.

Indeed, this is the last game of his loan spell for Linvoy Primus; the ex-Charlton youngster filled a need and a gap in his early weeks at The Valley, but slowly the odd injury, age, and finally too many other loanees have meant he has not played in recent weeks. All this after the club had to get special dispensation to allow him the opportunity to play in this match as he was originally due to go back to Portsmouth on Saturday, the original date for this game. As I cannot see Charlton wanting to make his signing permanent, and he is unlikely to feature against Derby due to the five loan players only rule, we will have to bode Linvoy farewell for a second time, and wish him well for the future.

Parkinson has intimated that they will be changes to the team that lost against Coventry so limply, so where else might they be?

Probably up front, as Parky’s experiment of re-instating Izale McLeod to the first team went almost as badly as did Alan Pardew’s (spit!). OK, Izzy did win that (dodgy) equalising penalty, but generally he was off the pace, offside, and off with the fairies most of the match.

In central midfield, Charlton also have continuing problems; Matt Holland had a poor match against the Sky Blues, playing as a sub after McEveley’s injury, but he wasn’t as poor as Nicky Bailey, who is a caricature of the player we bought form Southend in August. Bailey has quite simply lost all semblance of confidence, as the team has slowly slid down the league. He is still fully committed, but his passing is atrocious at the moment, as is his judgment. Whether the turning point was his gift of a goal to Bristol City in October, but he hasn’t played anywhere near his early potential since. Without Therry Racon, who seems to be one of those players that will never be seen to his full potential due to poor luck with injury, Jose Semedo seems certain to be asked to fill one position, while I’m sure Jonjo Shelvey and Josh Wright are also both keen to break back into the first team. Parky does therefore have options here.

This is the side I think will run out in front of the Sky TV cameras tomorrow night –

Nicky Weaver
Martin Crainie
Mark Hudson
Jonathan Fortune
Kelly Youga
Jose Semedo
Matt Holland
Keith Gillespie
Hameur Bouazza
Deon Burton
Andy Gray

Subs from Elliott, Moutaouakil, (Primus), Basey, Bailey, Wright, Shelvey, Sam, McLeod, Todorov, Dickson, (Waghorn).

Of course, Derby will be buoyed by the attitude that anyone can just turn up and beat Charlton at the moment, and with (still current Charlton player but out on loan with a view to a permanent transfer) Luke Varney in their playing ranks, they do have a little bit of inside information I guess. Varney had a bit of a love hate relationship with Addicks fans – although he always tried and tried and tried, he simply didn’t score enough goals to win over fans who remember inside forwards who regularly scored; no, we don’t have to keep harping back to Killer, another Charlton player who went over to Derby from The Valley, but just to Garry Nelson. Nelse ran the channels in almost exactly the same manner that Varney does, but he was loved, because when he had a chance, he usually buried it. He did have the odd bad patch, but unlike Varney, he didn’t come with a £2million price tag that, to some, should guarantee goals. Personally, I will thank Varney for his contribution, but remember him as someone who didn’t quite live up to expectation, even though we will always remember him for scoring winning goals against Croydon (a bit like Kitson, Rommedahl, and Todorov!).

Pedro45 is hoping that Charlton do finally get a change of fortune, and that any luck going, especially for referees who seems to have a loathing from being in anyway biased in favour of Charlton this season, will finally be the good kind. I wil forecast a 1-1 draw, but hope for a performance to match that of the previous TV appearance this season when we played the pants off Reading (for most of the game).

My one-to-watch in this match is going to be Deon Burton. Playing against one of his former clubs, Burton will be hoping to have a better game than the man he replaced in the red shirt (Varney) and add to his opening Addicks goal last week. Burton shows excellent hold up skills in each game - putting Andy Gray to shame! - and has been unlucky with goal bound efforts that brought good saves against Blackpool and Southampton. It is about time he got his goal from open play..

This may not be pretty; it may not be nice; and it may not be easy to watch; but what Charlton need is to start to fight on the pitch – not in a fisticuffs sort of way (the last thing we need is players getting sent off!) but in a battling manner, fighting for every 50-50 ball and wining them. Possession in this division is one of the keys to winning games, and Charlton have a poor percentage record in almost every game they have played in 2008/9. When Parky took over for the QPR game, we immediately saw the payers trying to keep hold of the ball, not give it to the oppo, and building confidence by knocking it around. They might not get much time in this match with Varney buzzing around looking for errors, but if the team can try not to give the ball away cheaply, then we should see an improvement.

The players and fans now know that Parkinson is in charge until after Xmas, so let’s hope that they show the commitment the club needs at this time. One win, or even one point, will not prevent relegation this season, but it could start to raise confidence that could lead to that very outcome. Let’s hope so eh?!?

Come on you Reds!

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Smelly Bottom

Charlton Athletic 1 Coventry City 2

Ooh that was a horrible game wasn't it? Poor play, injuries, yellow cards for silly fouls that may hurt later in the season, a small crowd, freezing cold weather, an awful ref and inept linesmen - what we go through as Charlton fans eh?

Not much happened early on, except Jay McEveley hurt his shoulder; what is it with full backs and shoulders? Crainie on Saturday, although he was declared fit enough to start last night, and then the left back tonight!?! Holland came on midfield and Semedo swithced to full back, thus weakening both areas. Charlton did have some posession, but not much, and the first real effort came on 35 minutes when Hudson headed a rare corner straight at the keeper. Late in the first half, Simpson volleyed home a left wing cross and the crowd took a collective deep breath. How many times have we come from behind this season? Not many, if at all!

At half time it was doom and gloom. But within five minutes, Izale McLeod, getting a rare start and only just performing better than his previous dire 45 minutes a month or so back, broke into the area, tmbled over, and the ref took an age to point to the spot. Burton (above) was the chosen taker, as Gray was still warming the bench at that time, and he just about got it in between the posts and under the bar, after a jittery nervous run forward.

Mucho celebration. Could this be the turning point? No of course not! Hudson fell to the grouond and akin to expert Jorge Costa, obstructed the forward while he writhed around a bit in the mud 35 yards out. The ref kept moving theball back and the blue shirts pushed it forward, so it took a while to take the kick. Then it was Fox who stepped up and stroked home in off the post with Weaver struggling still to get across the goal. Ouch. Not nice - less than a minute to wonder what might yet to come.

What happened afterwards was even worse play from the Addicks. Crainie's distribution continues to be attrocious; Fortune and Hudson were solid in defence but lacked respsonsiblity when trying to prompt attacks; Semedo tries, but isn't in form; Holland had an awful evening in midfield but he wasn't as bad as Bailey (left, whingeing again), who is simply not worth a place in the reserves on this form! McLeod replaced the anonymous Gillespie (I lifted that wording from Saturday's report - I'm a bit worried about repetition here with Dizzy...) on the right wing but improved little; Bouazza sulked out wide; and the forwards - Burton, McLeod, plus subs Gray and Todorov - all contributed very little, though I may be being a bit harsh on Burton. Burton is at least showing more skill and tenacity in two weeks than Gray has in the (almost) year he has been with Charlton - harsh but fair!

Of course, the crowd showed their displeasure...It wasn't as bad as the Wycombe game two years ago, but it wasn't far off it!

So where to now? Parkinson has tried hard, but it wouldn't surprise me if that was his last game in charge. He has given players a chance, but hasn't had an ounce of luck. I don't know if the board can wait any longer or if they will persevere until January and then look for Parky to wheel and deal his way to a better team.

What is true, and this was overheard in several conversations in the bar too, is that if the loan players are not cutting it, why not give full time employees a chance for a go, including (where appropriate) the youngsters. Jonjo Shelvey is very young, but he is a winner, and he would try his hardest every game. So would Harry Arter (if fit and when back from his loan spell), and even Josh Wright could improve. Youga is likely to come back intot he team now McEveley is out for a while, though Basey is also an option.

Next Monday will be the last chance for Linvoy Primus before he goes back to Portsmouth (though I don't expect him to play), and we need to see Martyn Waghorn again soon or his month will have been a waste for all parties.

Wheter Parky is in charge, or someone else, they need to get rid of the bad smell about The Valley, and soon!

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Monday, December 08, 2008

I Guess That Why They Call It The Blues

Just a quick preview today of our match against the Sky Blues of Coventry on Tuesday night. Bearing in mind we are bottom, without a win in over two months, and without hope it seems, my sense is that we shouldn’t hope for too much from this fixture. But it was against Coventry that Charlton put in one of their best all round games last season – a 4-1 thrashing on the last day of the season that cheered everybody up no end! Oh for a Chris Powell-type celebration at around 10pm Tuesday night!

Phil Parkinson (left) has problems with injuries – Nicky Weaver fell heavily taking a cross on Saturday, and is undertaking intensive treatment. If he does not recover sufficiently, then Rob Elliott will take his place (with Callum Christie on the bench?); this is a tough call for Parky – if Weaves is anywhere near fit he will play, but if he does and then is shown to be injured, the repercussions don’t bear thinking about…

Also injured on Saturday was Martin Crainie – it is unlikely we will miss Crainie as much as we would Weaver, and actually this might just play into Parkinson’s hands, as it means that another of the loanees will get a chance. That could well be Martyn Waghorn as Andy Gray is still suffering a bit from a hamstring twinge.

This is the side I think Parkinson may have to start with –

Nicky Weaver
Yassin Moutaouakil
Mark Hudson
Jonathan Fortune
Jay McEveley
Jose Semedo
Matt Holland
Keith Gillespie
Hameur Bouazza
Deon Burton
Martyn Waghorn

Subs from Elliott, Christie, Basey, Youga, (Primus), Bailey, Wright, Shelvey, Dickson, Todorov, McLeod, Gray.

Pedro45 is desperately hoping for a change in Addicks fortunes, but the stars on the horizon and very pale. I’m plumping for a 1-1 draw in this match – not enough to take us very far off the bottom of the table.

My one-to-watch in this game is going to be our French full back Yassin Moutaouakil (left), who I presume must play, unless rumours that he doesn’t get on with Parky are true? Home games are when you need that extra cutting edge going forwards, and as long as Moots is motoring down the right wing, he gives Charlton an extra, different, option. I hope he plays, as the only other option at right back is Semedo (or Solly), but that would mean a deterioration in the midfield strength of the team.

I am expecting this to be the game where the run of 20,000-plus crowds that the club has been so proud of for so long finally comes to an end; Coventry won’t have sold many tickets, and even Charlton will struggle to give away the 3,000-odd that they would need to take the nominal attendance figure above 20k…on a cold night, there could be as few as 13,000 actually in the ground at kick off?

Desperate times sometimes call s for desperate tactics; I hope Parky is ready for this as the crowd will not stand for another home defeat. If that happens, expect a new manager in situe by the Derby game.

Come on you reds!

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Rock Bottom

Blackpool 2 Charlton Athletic 0

A late post as I've spent all weekend in Blackpool, and I haven't been able to get online. Suffice to say that the result was poor, and as a consequence of this defeat, Charlton find themselves bottom of the Championship.

At least Saturday was a lovely day weather wise, albeit very cold. I spent the morning on the tram travelling uo to Fleetwood, and back, but apart from the coastal stretch, it's actually quite a boring ride. Blackpool itself is a complete analogy; lots of lights, glitz and glamour – we had a group of made up show-girls join us at breakfast yesterday – but also full of hoodies, bin-dippers, and scallies.

I walked up to the ground after some lunch, and it's the first time I've ever been to Bloomfield Road. It really is a poor ground – one of the worst I have been to in many a year. The stands which run round two sides are OK (but not vast), but one end is completely empty (and you could actually watch the match through the fence at this end if you reall wanted to!), and the Addicks fans were strung out along temporary uncovered seating along one side of the pitch. Even then the setting sun in the opposite corner caused problems with viewing the match! The benefit of the seating was that the players warm up was carried out right in front of the fans a matter of yards away (top pic). Strangely, very little encouragement came to the players from those close fans, but neither did any negative comments either, luckily!

Unchanged Charlton started reasonably I thought, with Gray forcing an excellent save out of ex-Addick Rachubka from Burton's (left) knock down early on. Soon after, Burton's volley was turned over and you could be forgoiven for thinking that Charlton do seem to encountering opposition keepers on top form at the moment!

Blackpool had plenty of possession, and forced a lot of corners, but the Charlton defence coped reasonably well, and only once – when Weaver flapped and made minimal contact with a corner - was there any danger in the first forty minutes or so. Late in the half, the regular 'Pool corners started to wear Charlton down, and one effort had to be cleared off the line, and then Weaver made a good save from another. I really thought the half was even, so Charlton had something to build on come the second period.

The temperature dropped at half time though, and the sky darkened, and with it, Addicks hopes were apparently dashed. Soon after the restart, another corner was swung into the six yard box and this time no white shirt defender attacked it and on-loan Dickinson stooped to head home firmly past Weaver.

You could see the Charlton heads drop, and the half time team talk just seemed forgotten. Soon after, a ball forward was flicked on once, flicked on twice, and Dickinson was clear bearing down on the Charlton keeper. To his credit, Weaver made an outstanding save from the first shot, but was helpless as Dickinson ran to the rebound and could control before knocking home past the despairing Hudson trying to cover.

For a few minutes, you felt that the Addicks could cave in, and concede more goals falling to a really heavy defeat. Luckily, they just about held, and after Sam and Dickson came on - for the anonymous Gillespie and struggling Gray – at least some renewed attacking effort was made.

Dickson struggled, but he did have a couple of efforts (which sums his play up nicely really), which over the whole game were in short supply. Bailey had another awful game, regularly giving the ball away and admonishing himself before chasing after someone else; but he did hit the bar with a stroked shot from a lay back just outside the area; Rachubka again getting the critical touch.

Not much else happened I guess, although a few fans did have time for abuuse of both players and officials, some of which could be argued was justified. One supporter (who was not that young either!) did go on and on when the ref gave a corner even though a Blackpooll player had tried to punch the ball into the net; he seemed not to understand that the ball was behind well before his arm came into contact with the ball so it made no difference.

Of the team, Bouazza seemed to give up after a run in with the ref just after the hour mark; Semedo tried very hard but had little control in midfield and ended up at right back when Crainie went off injured; others just seemed to lose heart or got tired on the heavy pitch.

Other results mean that the team dropped to the foot of the table, not the best thing to happen but at least we can get no lower!

In an effort to cheer myself, I spent Sunday in Liverpool, visiting the Anglican Catherdral, Albert Docks, taking a ferry across the Mersey, and the like. A nice day, but not enough to take my mind off the problems Charlton have in dragging themselves up this league.

The only way is up, but it's gong to be a hard road to travel.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Oh We Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside!

Blackpool. In December. Not the best fit is it? The Pleasure Beach is closed for winter, the snow is only just melting, and I bet the waves are still crashing over the sea wall just like they did last year when I visited before the Preston game.

On that occasion, I got a little too close to the front and one of those crashing waves came right over the top and landed on me. I was soaked! After twenty minutes of trudging and dripping along the Promenade, I could take it no more, and had to buy fresh jeans and a top, just to try to dry off a bit. I sat in my coat that evening at Deepdale, several hours after the near drowning, and it was still wet and salty. But we won, so it didn’t matter!

What us Charlton fans would give for a similar victory this weekend eh? The team that won in Preston last November is pretty different to that which Phil Parkinson will pick this weekend; only three payers who played in that game are likely to start this weekend (Fortune, Weaver, and Semedo), while three others involved in that match will be vying for places on the subs bench (Holland, Sam (both in top pic), and Basey). This just reflects the enormous changes that have engulfed Charlton in the last twelve months. Since then, Thomas, Bougherra, Reid and Iwelumo have been sold; Ambrose and Varney have been loaned out and may not return; and Sodje and Mills have become just extras in the long list of loanees that the Addicks have used since relegation from the Premiership. Only Zheng Zhi and Darren Randolph are still on Charlton books, and both of their futures are a little clouded at present.

And of course, the manager has changed since that day too – a Redvolution too late, but at least it finally arrived.

So who is Phil Parkinson going to play in soggy Blackpool on Saturday in the battle of the Cabrini Sports sponsored shirts? All our wondering of how to pick five loanees out of the seven available was made clear last weekend (although most fans I know didn’t guess the same choices as the manager chose).

Nicky Weaver (left) should enjoy his trip back up to the north-west, and at least he has the comfort of a clean sheet to fall back on after recent traumas. With only young Rob Elliott as an alternative, the key is restoring Weaves to full confidence and cutting out the absent defence that smashed his attitude to bits rather than droppiong and selling him (as that would have to happen - he would be too expensive a reserve!).

The defence kept that clean sheet last Saturday, their first since September, so hopefully it will be unchanged. Martin Crainie is more solid in away games than Yassin Moutaouakil, so he’ll get the nod I expect at right back, and fellow loanee Jay McEveley will play at left back ahead of Kelly Youga. In the middle, Hudson and Fortune will look to extend their partnership, and to keeping the average to below one goal a game conceded when they have played together this season.

In midfield, Hameur Bouazza will be keen to continue his good form (being the potential November player of the month), while Keith Gillespie looks a shoe-in on the right wing. Centrally, we can expect Jose Semedo to continue with his excellent holding role work, and if Therry Racon is still not fit (and it doesn’t look like he will be) then Nicky Bailey will be retained to restore his sagging confidence that little bit more.

Leading the attack, providing his hamstring has recovered, will be Andy Gray, and Parky has the choice of either Deon Burton (left - who had an excellent debut last Saturday and who was unlucky not to score) or Martyn Waghorn (who had an excellent full debut last Tuesday and who was unlucky not to score!), but not both (too many on-loan players prevent this…). My monies on the more experienced Burton starting. If Gray is unfit, expect Svetislav Todorov to start with Izale McLeod or Chris Dickson in reserve.

This is the team I think he will start with, bearing in mind the injuries he has to contend with –

Nicky Weaver
Martin Crainie
Mark Hudson
Jonathan Fortune
Jay McEveley
Jose Semedo
Nicky Bailey
Keith Gillespie
Hameur Bouazza
Andy Gray
Deon Burton

Subs from Elliott, Moutaouakil, Basey, Youga, (Primus), Holland, Racon, Sam, Dickson, Todorov, McLeod, (Waghorn).

All this is presuming that Parky will not throw a spanner in a lifetimes work and switch away from a 4-4-2 formation, as Pardew was wont to do in away games like this. If he did, then that extra midfield option could come from Matt Holland or Lloyd Sam I guess?

Blackpool themselves have not exactly been having a good time lately – they have lost half their home games (five out of ten) this season, and only won twice at Bloomfield Road. They will join the long list of six clubs who will be looking to take maximum points off Charlton during December, to get them back on track. Currently, Blackpool sit seven points ahead of the Addicks, and they did have an excellent away win at Plymouth last weekend, strangely in some way due to Luke Varney! As Varney joined Derby on loan from Charlton, the Rams let their reserve striker Liam Dickinson go to the Seasiders, and he scored both goals in the 2-1 win in Devon. He will definitely be the one to watch from the opposition. Oh, and Blackpool did smash five goals past Pardew’s Addicks earlier this year (which meant my recovery from a knee op the previous day was delayed as a result!).

This is another of those key games for Charlton – the new manager has reversed the negative attitude, but not yet the negative results. We now have a set style and pattern of play instead of being directionless, but it hasn’t won us any games yet. What needs to continue is the upward trend that the momentum of the new man in charge has created, and if we can do that, then we might just be able to scrape maximum points this weekend. Let's get rid of the "buts"! Pedro45 is confidently predicting a 2-0 victory to give Parky and his boys a happy journey home on Saturday night.

My one-to-watch in this game is going to be Jon Fortune (left); someone said after last Saturday’s game that if you don’t notice Forch in a match then you know he has had a good game. Other players have hidden, and you can see them hide, but when Forch is doing well, then his opponent doesn’t get much ball, we don't therefore notice Forch, but we know our longest serving player has done well. I am hoping that he is over his knee problem and he can continue to forge the central defensive partnership that we need him to with Mark Hudson.

Phil Parkinson has set out his stall; he is picking his team, made up from his loan recruits, and got them playing to the style he wants them to. It took Pardew almost 18 months to get to that point, and even then he tied it up in so many words that it bore no real meaning, and eventually fell apart. I don’t yet know if Parky is the man to restore the spirit, fight, and commitment to this Addicks squad in the longer term, but he’s doing an OK job so far. All we need is a few wins, courtesy of the players that he has chosen to represent the red shirt of Charlton, and then we fans will be more than happy to see the board appoint Parky full time manager, and not just caretaker.

With around 40 “applicants” for the vacant post (with others like Roy Keane nominally being added to the list daily…), the Directors and chairman will have some thinking to do soon, and nothing will concentrate their minds and make their ultimate decision easier than seeing Charlton win by the seaside, and then take three more points at home next Tuesday night.

It could happen you know?!? And the Xmas lights should be shining brightly in Blackpool this year too!
Anyone know if the trams to Morecambe are running again yet?

Up the Addicks!

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