Thursday, January 01, 2009

A Cup of Cheer?

Well, 2009 is here at least, and from a personal and footballing (Charlton) perspective, it surely cannot be as bad a year as 2008…well, let’s hope not anyway!

The poor league position of Charlton and the fact that the managerial vacancy has now been filled can be put to one side this weekend, as the Addicks face Norwich in the FA Cup at The Valley.

Now, you can look at Cup games in two ways – positive, and negative (funnily enough!), but how you look at them usually depends on how you are doing in the league at that particular time. With Charlton, having a pretty crappy season means that it would be good to actually win any game, and if that first win in 17 matches comes in the cup, then so be it. I’ve never really been one to venture that cup games are a distraction; I want the team to win every game no matter what competition it happens to be in. Those that say that we should field a weakened team so we can concentrate on the league are missing the point: Confidence comes from results, and if the team can get that first victory in three months (strewth!) in this match, then they can only be the better for it.

Of course, when you are near the top of the league and winning games every week, then the cup can be a distraction; bookings, sendings-off and injuries gained in cup games can only harm longer term prospects in the league, which is the bread and butter of the club. But why should Charlton worry about that this season when those eventualities are going to come along anyway?
A home tie would normally be favoured, but such is the negativity amongst The Valley faithful, that the three thousand or so Norwich fans attending may make it feel a bit more like an away game. Sadly, home cup games are not normally the advantage that they should be to Charlton, as can be testified from looking at the stats over who has knocked the club out of the two cup competitions over recent (the last twenty) years. I'm not goiing to name them here, but several lower league teams have given us a tough time! At least Norwich don’t fall into the list of small club looking to show the big boys a thing or two category, even if they will think that they are going to win easily, based on league form.

That form was highlighted just before Xmas when a woeful Addicks performance at Carrow Road showed the Norfolk club at first hand just how poor Charlton have been recently. I guess it could work to Charlton’s advantage if they think they only have to turn up to win, even if that may prove to be close to the truth.

Charlton have made the decision to appoint Phil Parkinson permanently as manager for the remainder of this season, and until further notice. He therefore joins Firmani, Foley, Nelson, Bailey, Mullery, Craggs, Lawrence, Gritt, Curbishley, Dowie (spit!), Reed, and Pardew as full-time managers in my time as a supporter. Lucky 13? We’ll see, but I do admit I like him a little more than some of the others, even though he hasn’t presided over a win yet! He may not be in the Paulo class but, financially, he is a pretty safe bet.

Parky first job is to get a team out on Saturday; with the loan-player situation slowly sorting itself out – Gillespie and Primus gone; Burton signed – but there are still question marks over whether Martin Crainie is going to sign on again after his loan expired last weekend. Hameur Bouazza is here for the season, and he has been granted permission to play in the cup game, though Jay McEveley and Martyn Waghorn have not apparently. This at least gives Parky the welcome option (possibly) of changing the team and freshening things up.

In goal, Parky has the choice of sticking with Rob Elliott, who hasn’t really done anything wrong recently, or backtracking to give hopefully fit-again Nicky Weaver a game. When Weaver is playing well, he is a much better ‘keeper than Elliott, but he can be prone to mistakes, and maybe a loss of confidence. His demotion to the bench was put down to injury a month ago, but it may be that we see his return to the first team this weekend? This may be hard on Elliott, but I do feel that Weaver can win us matches more often than Elliott.

The defence will depend somewhat on whether Crainie has signed on again. If he has, I would expect him to play at right back, alongside the central defence of Mark Hudson and Jonathan Fortune. With McEveley out, Grant Basey should step in at left back as he seems to be favoured over Kelly Youga by Parkinson.

The midfield has been bolstered, if that is the right word(?), by the return of Darren Ambrose from a loan spell at Ipswich. Most fans hoped that Ambie would do well enough to be signed by his old club, but as we fans know too well to our cost, having him in the side has been like playing with just ten men at times, and Ipswich have sent him back with a “thanks, but no thanks” message. I bet the Board aren’t too happy about that either, as his wages are high and he is out of contract in the summer; even a £250,000 tag would have been enough to have bade him farewell I suspect, but now the club may not even get any of that. He could return to the team, but I suspect that Hameur Bouazza will remain on the left wing after his goal last weekend, and goal-maker Lloyd Sam will be preferred on the right. The middle of the park could be an area where Parky tries something new? Jose Semedo didn’t play in the last game, possibly due to getting a few lumps kicked out of him on Boxing Day. He does remain the one true holding midfield player that the club has though, so I’d like to see him back in the side. Although Nicky Bailey scored twice in the last Valley match, I would rest him for this game, and give JonJo Shelvey (left) a free hand to show how good he is/can be. Shelvey has been on the verge of the team all season really, but seldom given the chance to shine. With little to lose, now may be the time to let him loose?

Up front, we no longer have to watch the loan player rule, so any of the forwards at the club could play (except Waghorn). And we do have lots of strikers; it’s just that none of them are doing that well. With Waggy unable to play, it is unlikely that Burton and Gray will be paired, as they are quite similar, although Parky has made the point in the past that they could be used in tandem. I suspect though that Gray will start with one of Todorov, McLeod or Dickson, though this is less likely, as Dicko wants a transfer and I doubt the club would want to jeopardise the money they might get for him if he got an injury that took a month or so to clear.

This then is the side I hope Parkinson sends out to get the Cup game started –

Nicky Weaver
Martin Crainie
(or Jose Semedo)
Mark Hudson
Jonathan Fortune
Grant Basey
Jose Semedo
(or Matt Holland)
Jonjo Shelvey
Lloyd Sam
Hameur Bouazza
Andy Gray
Izale McLeod

Subs from Elliott, Moutaouakil, Youga, Holland, Bailey, Wright, Ambrose, Dickson, Todorov, Burton. Are we allowed seven subs in the cup? I'm not sure! If so, add Ambrose and Holland to the mix...

Norwich have all their loan signings available, but that no longer includes Leroy Lita, who scored against the Addicks in that match just before Xmas. They will have Antoine Sibierski in their team, as he has recently signed from Wigan on a loan, and he has scored against Charlton in the past and will be a threat.

Quite frankly, Charlton cannot get much worse than they were in 2008, so Pedro45 is hoping that 2009 starts with a victory, and that leads to better days for the Addickted – my score forecast is a 2-1 win. Nobody really wants the game to be a draw – cold January night replays are not much fun even if you do know who you might get in the next round…- so I’m hoping that we get a result at the first time of asking. If the players feel the league burden is lifted a little, and if the appointment of Parkinson as full-time manager has a positive affect on the players, then we could just witness the start of the revival. I hope so!

My one-to-watch in this match is going to be Andy Gray. Poor Andy has had a terrible year with deep troubles at home and an uneasy time on the pitch too; he is another who will wish for better things in coming months and I hope he can follow in the footsteps of my last two ones-to-watch who both scored. We have not seen the best of Gray since his arrival over a year ago, so why not pick this game to show us how good you are Andy!

This may be my last full preview for a few weeks as I am off for a well-earned rest in warmer climes. I’ll miss the Forest six-pointer, and the next week, but will be back for the next round of the cup if we can just get there! I'll blog when I can, but connectivity may be more limited...

Come on you reds!

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you guys are the worst football club ever. can't win a single game and make me lose money. im going to rally supporters to boycott your merchandise and stop bets for your club
Mate, if you are mug enough to back them, blame yourself not me! And I'll support your rally if you supply contact details, which you won't...div!
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