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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Please! No more loans. I have never known such alienation between fans and players, and much of this must arise from the knowledge that half the team has no affiliation to the club.
The absurdity of the loan system is highlighted by two recent events. Firstly the fact that Luke Varney was allowed to play against us (not that anyone was complaining!). And second, the fact that Keith Gillespie will train with Charlton all week, presumably play against QPR, and then drive up the M1 back to Sheffield and tell his club all about how we are preparing to play against them!
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