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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