Thursday, March 26, 2009

'Ole Big 'Ead

This Friday sees the release of the film about Brian Clough, or more accurately, his time as manager at Leeds United, called The Damned United. This was pre-empted last night by a fabulous 75 minute programme on the great man by ITV, who used their vast archive of Clough clippings to show what a genius maverick speaker and thinker he was.

As a Charlton fan of many years, I watched as our club came up against Clough many times: the first occasion I remember him was way back in 1968. He was manager of a Derby team that would become Champions of the Second Division (the equivalent of today’s Championship), and in November, his side scraped past Charlton 2-1 at the Baseball Ground. Cloughie described Charlton as the best team he had seen that season, including his own side, which was some praise, even though they beat us. Later that season, in mid-January, a televised match at The Valley saw Charlton win 2-0, with Ray Treacy scoring a Goal of the Season contender (I think it came fifth in the end from memory?). Derby went up, and Charlton just missed out, finishing third after a series of home draws in February and March put paid to any real chances of automatic promotion.

The Addicks didn’t cross paths with Cloughie for a few years after that, and it was probably a good job too! While the Rams went on to become League Champions in 1972, Charlton slipped into the third tier, after one dalliance too many with relegation. Clough then resigned from Derby in a flurry of petulance, but eventually took on the manager’s role at lowly Brighton. When Brighton came to Charlton in 1974, the Addicks were very much favourites, especially as we had a pretty good forward line (Hales, Horsfield, and Flanagan) and the Seagulls had recently shipped eight goals at home versus Bristol Rovers "Smash and Grab" partnership of Bannister and Warboys. Suffice to say that the 4-0 home defeat was a bit of a surprise to everyone, least of all the Man himself…

After that, Clough went to Leeds to replace Don Revie, who had taken over as England Manager following Alf Ramsey’s failure to beat Poland meant England missed out on the World Cup finals. Clough became the subject of legend, while Charlton dug themselves out of the third tier and into a solid division two team mainly thanks to those forwards (and Paddy Powell).

After Brian’s 44 day "holiday" in Yorkshire, he went on to take the job at Nottingham Forest, where he was re-united with his assistant manager Peter Taylor (no, not that one…). Forest were also a modest mid-table second division team, much like Charlton, and that season, the Addicks won in Nottingham much to the chagrin of Cloughie.

From there though, things took off, as Clough forged a very good side that won promotion, then the League title at the first attempt. Clough had signed many very good players by now, with Peter Shilton the rock on which he built his side. He did nurture his own talent though, with unsung names like Ian Bowyer, Ian Barrett, and Frank Clarke playing alongside internationals like Larry Lloyd, Kenny Burns, and the like. Brian Clough was only the third manager to win the title with two different clubs.

European Cup glories followed (think Champions league, without any of the league bit…it was pure knock-out stuff back then!) and not until 1986 did Charlton face Forest again. After Lennie Lawrence led Charlton to the hallowed land of the big boys, our first away game one warm August evening was at the City Ground to play a decent Forest team, who promptly despatched Charlton 4-0 (Neil Webb 2, Gary Birtles, and Nigel Clough). Home truths had to be learnt quickly, and luckily, Charlton followed up this loss with a 1-0 win at Old Trafford against Ron Atkinson’s average Manchester United side. So, for the next four years, Charlton locked horns with Forest and Clough. The Addicks had little success over those years - a few draws but no wins – and Forest usually had the better of games winning home and away. There was another (Terry Wilson inspired) 4-0 tonking at the City Ground in 1989, and then following relegation in 1990, and we had to say goodbye to games against Clough. The last Charlton match against Clough-the-Manager was a 1-1 draw at Selhurst Park in March 1990 (Paul Williams the scorer).

Brian sank deeper into drink related problems, left Forest in 1993 when they were doomed to relegation, and died in 2004.

As a football fan, seeing Clough being outspoken on The Big Match was a highlight of every 1970's Sunday afternoon; even if Charlton weren’t on, and you hated Arsenal and Chelsea and Spurs, you still watched to see what he said, and who he might upset this week!

Sadly, the book – The Damned United – is a novel based on fact, and the line of where the fact is true and the novel takes over with make-believe is a thin one. Most of the main parties in the book are clearly libelled, but as they are dead, they cannot sue. One person who was identified – as the Irishman – is still alive and did sue, and won substantial compensation; Johnny Giles said on the ITV programme that most of the book is tosh.

The film is purportedly more compassionate, and from clips I’ve seen, does have an exceptional performance from Michael Sheen as ‘Ole Big ‘Ead himself, but I worry that the truth may become eclipsed by the myth of the book, or more likely the film of the book of the truth…

I’m therefore now in two minds over whether to see this movie, or retain my own memories of Brian Clough, manager extraordinaire.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

Stale Mate

Charlton Athletic 0 Preston North End 0

There isn’t a huge amount to report after yesterdays nil-nil draw with Preston; both team had a good headed chance (Parkin nodded across goal and wide, and Tresor Kandol’s header from a corner was tipped over), and Therry Racon had another shot that fizzed wide, but apart from that it was fairly quiet all match. Charlton huffed and puffed after half time, but couldn’t string together enough to threaten the deadlock, and anything else that Preston put together was manfully blocked by the Addicks defenders.

Phil Parkinson rang a few changes for this match, with Jonjo Shelvey getting a welcome start in midfield, and Darren Ambrose being a less welcomed preference on the right wing. Tom Soares was left out, as was Matt Spring. Darren Ward also returned to central defence at the expense of Matt Holland, who dropped to the bench. In the first half, Shelvey started as the support for Kandol, but after twenty minutes or so, he swapped positions with Zheng Zhi, who looked brighter going forward. The main problem was that though there was some fancy passing, it didn’t get very far, as the midfield was too close together, and eventually moves were snaffled out.

After half time, with Lloyd Sam on for the injured Ambrose out wide and ZiZi pushed farther forward, Racon had more space and Charlton looked much better.

Chris Dickson came on to add to the search for the elusive goal, but he seemed way off the pace in the twenty minute cameo he had. Maybe he does need more game time on a regular basis?

Mark Hudson got as nasty bang on the head about ten minutes from the end, and Holland came on to maintain the defensive strength, but the game ended with Charlton pushing forward in vain. I actually though that the referee had a pretty good game, letting the game flow as best he could and not blowing up for endless minor fouls. He had to deal with a flare up between Nicky Bailey, Kelly Youga and a Preston player, and gave each a stern lecture but no card, which was good to see. There were no other bookings in a clean-ish game.

The Prston fans tried to enjoy themselves, but their bowler hat wearing remembrance show for the Gentry was not upheld by any more than half the present 600-or so who travelled. What was interststing about the crowd was that it was announced at a mere 19,200, and therefore represented the first Addicks home game with a crowd of less than 20,000 for quite soime years...a sign of things to come.

Ultimately, this point won is pretty irrelevant in the context of the season, and the management now seem to be accepting the inevitable. I for one still wish to see the best team that can be picked – which includes Zheng Zhi – each game and the club have that responsibility to do so until all is lost and relegation confirmed. At that point, decisions on which players becomes easier as they make their minds up on who is to stay and who will be let go this summer. Mark Kinsella is quoted as saying that up to fourteen players could be out of contract, though some of these may be offered new deals (maybe at lower terms?). Those known as out of contract include Nicky Weaver, Matt Holland, Darren Ambrose, Zheng Zhi, Svetislav Todorov, Harry Arter, Dean Sinclair, Martin Christensen, and possibly Aswad Thomas, Scott Wagstaff, and Danny Uchechi. I’m not sure who any others may be? Everyone has their own favourites, and some of these players may be persuaded to stay at (sometimes drastically) lower terms – Matt Holland for instance – but who knows.

What we will have next year is a drastically reduced squad, a much lower wage bill, but hopefully one which can compete and be near the top of the league table. I just hope the fans turn up to see them play...

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Saving Face

Pretty much everybody has now accepted the inevitable, and agreed that Charlton will in fact be relegated at the end of this season to League One. Even eight wins from the remaining eight matches may not be enough, and to think that we will get more victories from those games than we have all season put together is just, well, stupid.

So we can relax a little, and try to entertain, play good football, and feel free of pressure? Possibly, but maybe not. It doesn’t always work like that. The result of the game at The Valley against Preston may not matter that much for the Addicks, in the context of a whole season, but it could matter in terms of keeping the fans onside for the dying few weeks until the mathematical possibility of relegation is confirmed. It's no good going out to attack and then conceding a bucketful of goals - losing 4-2 won't make the fans happy!

Phil Parkinson does have his part to play too, as he will need to pick a team that brings hope to the party; not the hope that we might stay up (even if we do win), but hope that we have something to look forward to for next year, and hope that our sojourn into the third tier may be brief and end in promotion.

And Parky does have some picking to do, as he has a couple of injuries to contend with too…

The first injury concern is to goalkeeper Rob Elliott, who has a back problem. Some might say that is due to the number of balls he has had to pick up out of the back of the net, but that might be a trifle unkind. If Elliott does fail a fitness test, Parky has the choice between the experienced Nicky Weaver, who is now fit again after a hip injury and a couple of reserve matches, or Darren Randolph, so long the fancied deputy; I think Randolph might get a game should Elliott be out.

Also of concern is the back injury to right back Danny Butterfield. Butterfield has hardly set The Valley alight since arriving on loan, but he is always preferred to Yassin Moutaouakil by Parky. The supporters will be pleased if Moots gets a game, as he does bring a positive aspect to the tactics, even if his defending isn’t always solid looking. Parky’s only other option would be to play Matt Holland at right back, and I must admit I wouldn’t be surprised at this outcome, even if it is ultimately not the right call.

At left back, Kelly Youga also has an injury, this time a tight hamstring. It is more clear-cut that if Youga cannot play, then able deputy Grant Basey will step into the breach.

The centre of defence looks fit for once, and Parky will choose between recalling Darren Ward to play alongside Mark Hudson, or leaving Holland in situe. I suspect that the on-loan Wolves defender will play.

In midfield and attack, much depends on what sort of formation Parky wants to send out at the start of the game. Last week, his implication was that the five-man midfield was his best attacking option, which doesn’t do or say much for his confidence in any of the second strikers at the club (Chris Dickson, Svetislav Todorov, Deon Burton…), but to play that formation from the start at home does seem a little conservative. Of course, the midfield has scored goals almost all season, with Nicky Bailey leading the way with ten. Zheng Zhi, now back in the team and at full fitness scored last weekend, and Matt Spring, Tom Soares, and Therry Racon have also all scored fairly recently. So has Jonjo Shelvey, and the seventeen year old has been held back from an England Under 17 squad so he can feature in this match. With that in mind, we may see Shelvey start rather than feature from the bench, as giving him just a few minutes (as he has had coming on recently) would serve little purpose. This is also Soares last game in his second loan month, and you have to question whether there is any point in paying his salary for another month bearing in mind the clubs league position and finances. Soares has said he wants to stay, but that’s because he is getting a game each week which he may not back at Stoke…

It is pretty certain that Tresor Kandol will start up front, whether as that lone striker, or with a partner.

This is the side I think Parkinson may start with, presuming all three injury doubts miss out –

Darren Randolph
Matt Holland
Darren Ward
Mark Hudson
Grant Basey
Lloyd Sam
Therry Racon
Matt Spring
Nicky Bailey
Zheng Zhi
Tresor Kandol

Subs from Weaver, Moutaouakil, Clark, Soares, Shelvey, Wright, Ambrose, Todorov, Dickson, Burton.

Preston come to London still harbouring thoughts of making the play-offs; they have been there or thereabouts almost all season, without actually looking like they will be involved. Other clubs – Cardiff, Sheffield United, Ipswich, Burnley, Bristol City and Swansea – have all been in the mix too, and are more thought about when it comes to the end of season lottery of who will lose to Reading at Wembley, but Preston have points in the bag (60) and could yet make it ahead of others more fancied. There position is testament to their home record (14 wins – the most in the division), but away from home they have generally struggled, winning just three times. If Preston had Ipswich or Bristol City’s away record to go with their home form, they would be looking at automatic promotion! They are a team without star names, but are quite capable of grinding out results; they will be hoping that away win number four comes this weekend.

Pedro45’s score forecast has a familiar ring about it – a 2-1 defeat; it probably boils down to who wants the points more and I deeply suspect that the northerners will be that party. I hope not – it would be nice to finish the season in some sort of form and to see a continuation of the battling play that was prevalent in the last two tough away games.

My one-to-watch is going to be Zheng Zhi again. I have had a bit of a knack of seeing my choice score this year, so I’m hoping ZiZi can make it so two weeks running. His return to fitness has be very quick considering how long he was out, and I for one thought he may make a few substitute appearances (rather than just the one) before he broke back into the starting eleven. I’m glad he’s back, as I do believe he is a very good player, and way too good for this league. A few more games of his skill, effort, and knack for goals will leave a wry smile on my face come May, and he can then go and ply his trade for someone else with our best wishes.

I also hope the fans are on board again for this match - there has been plenty of blame floating around over recent times, and while all parties are guilty, an acceptance of where we are and an outlook looking forwards, rather than backwards might help. The support has been pretty good considering, so hopefully it will continue once more.

Come on you Reds!

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Monday, March 16, 2009


Wolverhampton Wanderers 2
Charlton Athletic 1

It’s taken me a couple of days to write up this match, probably due to the fact that we lost once more, and that there is very little hope of Charlton avoiding relegation now, even with eight games to go. Sorry, the head has gone down a bit...

At least the Addicks competed in the top versus bottom clash, and it does seem that they might have been a little unlucky to come out of the game with nothing. The referee, once again, did Charlton few favours, and though the erroneous penalty he awarded for an invisible push was saved by Rob Elliott, other decisions during the course of the game went to the home team.

Ex-Addick Chris Iwelumo put the home team in front, poking home a long through ball, but Zheng Zhi equalised in the second half (above), shooting home right footed from just outside the area after showing good skill. In fact, Zizi was the best player on the pitch by all accounts, and it is a sad thought that we haven’t seen much of this player this season due to injury – oh what might have been eh?

After the penalty save, the winner was bundled over the line after a corner, with the last touch coming off the unlucky Matt Holland. Holland was deputising for Darren Ward who was not allowed to play against his registration owning club.

With just those eight matches left, wins in each will take Charlton to 52 points, but even that might not be enough to save the club from going down this season. And I doubt we will win more than half the games anyway, so there really is no hope left anymore...

Until the drop is a mathematical certainty, I’m sure Phil Parkinson will continue to play what he thinks is his best starting eleven, and that should leave the last few games (after relegation being confirmed) as a showcase for the players we can expect to still be at the club next season.

Parky is cutting a pretty desperate figure these days, and he looks like he feels that the whole world is conspiring against him. His won-lost record is poor, but the club were in trouble way before he was given the managers job. It is very easy to point fingers and apportion blame – the Chairman, the Board, the manager, the players, the fans, etc, past and present! – but when you sit back and look at it from a distance, I think that each party can carry some of the responsibility for where the club are now, and where they are going.

The important thing is now to look forwards; do our best for the rest of the season; try to win games and finish on a high, even if relegated; make sure supporters renew their season tickets. We do have some good players, and a few of them should still be around next year, so all is not lost. We can build up the club again, even though we are somewhat starting afresh.

The two previous sorties into the third tier have lasted just three and one season each, so we should hope that we can bounce back at the first attempt (just like last time). We do not have to fear any of the clubs we will be playing next season (on the pitch at least), so if we get the team in the right frame of mind (something blatantly missing this season), I expect us to be fine.

Personally, I’ll look forward to adding a few new grounds to my long list of venues where I have seen Charlton play. Those teams visiting the Valley will see it as a chance to shine against the "big boys", much as Championship teams did last year. What we have to do is make sure that The Valley becomes a fortress again, and a place where we win all (or most) of our home games.

It’s a while since we had a really successful season; one where we are genuine contenders from August to May. That’ll be next year then!


Friday, March 13, 2009

Wolves at the Door

It's always tough when it's top versus bottom, and tomorrows game where Charlton travel to Molyneux to play league leaders Wolves will be no different I suspect. The point the Addicks picked up at Reading in midweek was a good one, and under normal circumstances, you would hope that similar form could see a repeat, but sadly, single points aren't much good to the London side at present, so far adrift at the bottom are we.

I would expect Phil Parkinson to pick a similar side to that which played on Tuesday, though with Darren Ward unavailable, he has to make at least one change.

Rob Elliott should continue in goal, while the defence has been consistent for the last three matches, with Danny Butterfiled, Mark Hudson, and Kelly Youga all likely to start again. Matt Holland is the person likely to replace Ward.

Will Parky change the five-man midfield which played on Tuesday? I doubt it, so that will see starts for Tom Soares, Nicky Bailey, Matt Spring, Zheng Zhi and Therry Racon.

Up front, we will probably see Tresor Kandol ploughing a lone (or loan) furrough, only getting sub Chris Dickson as a partner if we are chasing the game late on.

Pedro45 thinks that two tough games in a week will see at least one defeat, and as that draw was achieved at the Mad-Stat, the reversal will come this weekend with a 3-1 replication of The Valley match score.
My one-to-watch is Zheng Zhi - now getting closer to full match fitness, we are seeing what a great player he is at this level, and sadly, what we have missed for all too long this season due to injury. It should be remembered that he is only a couple of weeks into playing again after five months out, yet he is still getting star ratings. If his goal poaching can return, we might just have enough to cause some sort of upset to one of the teams vying for promotion to the Premiership. I hope so...

On Red Nose Day, many of us will be giving; I'm hoping that Wolves are the charitable team this weekend and Charlton get some return from the match. Maybe we can also ask St Anthony for help? As the Patron Saint of things lost, he could help Charlton find the ability to win an away game again; we could do it last year, but not this season. Now is the time we need to regain that ability, and a short prayer to him may help?

Up the Addicks!

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hudson Eclipses Long Shadow

Reading 2 Charlton Athletic 2

Well at least my doomy prediction was thankfully very wrong, and Charlton did very well to get another away point it seems.
I was not able to attend, or listen to, the match, so can only reflect on in-game texts, and other reports.
Nicky Bailey slid in the first goal after 16 minutes, and the Addicks hung on until half-time, with Reading hitting the woodwork three times in that opening half.
Very early in the second period, the home team were awarded a dodgy penaty after a seemingly fair tackle by Darren Ward, and this was converted by Shane Long. Long then scored again from a corner, but Charlton fought back, and equalised through Mark Hudson six minutes from full time.
Phi Parkinson, so long a Reading player, will have been happy to have taken something from the match, although in terms of this season, the single point is a little irrelevant bearing in mind how far behind the rest of the teams in the division Charlton are. Parky picked a midfield heavy side, with Tom Soares and Zheng Zhi starting, and also brought back Chris Dickson and Darren Ambrose to the bench.
There was no sign of any of the promised youngsters, which considering who we were playing (the top scorers in this league) was probably wise.
At least the players seem to have been competitive in this match, and did battle back after falling behind, but what rankles is how frequent half-time leads or even parity are being gifted away to the opposition in the few minutes after the players return to the pitch. The referee obviously had something to do with the Reading equaliser last night (apparently 12 seconds after the restart...), but you have to have some sympathy for a fifteen minutes team talk being made worthless by conceding just after the break. On other occasions, you might question why teams seem to be able to up their game after the interval, when Charlton palpably cannot - one for Parky to ponder there...
I'm happy that Charlton players seem to have played with their hearts last night, and hopefully, another difficult game at the weekend can produce a similar sort of result. The season is lost, and any brief glimmers of hope should be taken in context, but it would be nice to try to finish on some sort of high note, even if we do what is likely and finish bottom of the division.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Brief Encounter

A shorter than usual preview for tonight’s game between Charlton and Reading, due to family commitments. Suffice to say that after two home defeats in a week, which have cemented Charton’s place at the foot of the division for the all time, there is little confidence going into the game. Reading are searching for the points that will bring them Premiership millions again, and I cannot see the Addicks being allowed to gain anything more than a bloody nose in his encounter.

Phil Parkinson is getting a lot of stick at the moment, even though his hands have been tied by the lot he was dealt with, bar a few loan deals. It was never going to be pretty, but the facts are that it is downright repulsive at this stage. Parky is, we are told, being judged on his whole managerial career by how he performs in these few months at Charlton’s helm, so to steam in to him now would be like kicking a man when down. I just hope that the remaining few games leave us with something to look forward to next year; some faint hope – is that too much?

His team for tonight will be pretty much the same I expect with just the odd change; he did say that maybe some youngsters will get a chance during the remainder of the season, and maybe Jonjo Shelvey will get another run tonight, but I cannot see any place for Josh Wright, or any of the youth set up. It’s possible I suppose that Grant Basey will replace Kelly Youga, especially after Youga’s 90 minute "holiday" on Saturday, but he’s hardly a youngster these days.

Another change could see the return of Chris Dickson to the squad, even if just to replace the equally redundant Youga-esqe-ish Svetislav Todorov on the bench. Apart from that, I’m sure it will be much of the same.

This is who I suspect Parky may pick –

Rob Elliott
Danny Butterfield
Mark Hudson
Darren Ward
Grant Basey
Tom Soares
Matt Spring
Therry Racon
Nicky Bailey
Tresor Kandol
Deon Burton

Subs from Randolph, Weaver, Moutaouakil, Youga, Holland, Wright, Shelvey, Ambrose, Zhi, Sam, Todorov, Dickson.

My one-to-watch is going to be Rob Elliott – this young keeper needs to be at his very best if Reading are not to run in a cricket score tonight (a five, or four, or six maybe?). He looks good, but is too often left exposed by a very shaky defence. I’m not sure how other past Charlton keepers would have fared with this bunch of players in front of them, but I do have a sneak feeling that some would have made more saves, even in losing teams. Still, he’s young, needs the experience, and we have nothing left to lose, so please play a blinder tonight Rob!

Pedro45 thinks that we are on a beating at the Mad-Stad; in the good ‘ole Premiership days, when we played any of Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool or Arsenal, I used a prediction barometer of taking a 4-0 beating in all the games as the norm, and we would either do better (which was a positive result) or worse (which was rare and negative). I have a similar feeling about this game, so I’m predicting a 4-0 reverse. If we get away with anything better, then I’ll be happy, but any worse, and Parky will not have had the helping hand from his old club that he wanted.

For those that are going or listening to CAFC TV, I hope you can enjoy some of the match; I’m tempted to get the head down, put on the flak jacket and helmet, and bury myself deep in a bunker somewhere (even at the in-laws...), ‘cos it could be messy.

Up the Addicks!

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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Uno Dos Tres

Charlton Athletic 2 Watford 3

I don’t want to write to much about this further home defeat, as it would be (very) easy to be extremely critical of the team, manager, and board. Suffice to say that after leading at half-time, the side played a very average second half and capitulated once more.

If you ignore the first ten minutes, and the last five of the first half, Charlton actually played some decent football for half an hour. After starting very slowly, with Tresor Kandol, Lloyd Sam and Deon Burton returning to the starting line up, the Addicks settled and started to play well. It was then a surprise that Watford scored – a long punt from the keeper, helped on to the wing, and a short ball inside left Cowie an easy finish. For the first time in a while though, Charlton got back on terms quite quickly; Kandol finishing well after two defenders tackled themselves. Sure, it wasn’t a goal that Charlton created, but it was the first by a forward this year!

Burton then headed narrowly wide after a good cross from Sam, and then a corner was headed in by Kandol for his second of the match. His celebratory leaps, and somersaults (top pic) were fun; it’s just a pity we don’t see them that often!

Toward half time, hopes were high but Watford then came close to scoring, with Rob Elliott making a good save. I suppose the game changed for Watford when Smith went off injured, and bean-Pole (sorry) Rasiak came on toward the end of the half. With the half time break to explain the changed tactics, I think Charlton simply could not cope with two tall attackers in the second period. It was the worst I have seen Mark Hudson and Darren Ward play together, and both looked very uncomfortable throughout.

Rasiak was able to chest a ball down early in the half and swing his shot away past the un-moved Elliott, with the marking Youga a not-close-enough spectator, and from there, it was very one sided.

The winner came when Hudson failed to cut out a ball and the Hungary, sorry, hungry, Priskin chipped the ball over Elliott ten minutes from time.

Zheng Zhi did come on for the last 25 minutes, and it was good to see him back, but the rest were pretty poor.

The main problem as far as I could see, was that the defence is not "connected" to the midfield, and the midfield does not "connect" to the strikers - it's simple I suppose...

Danny Butterfield is no Graeme Murty; Youga had a nightmare all match, and didn’t seem to want to be there; the centre backs were awful; Nicky Bailey and Matt Spring were quiet, and Therry Racon and Sam only had fleeting moments of good play. Burton tried, as he always does, but his miss was crucial in the context of the match, and Kandol played for himself once he had the two goals in the bag and tried desperately hard for a hat-trick goal. Svetislav Todorov got a twenty minute run out (for Burton), but he was completely anonymous during his time on the pitch (I doubt he even broke sweat!).

It was very poor and the crowd knew what would happen well before the end; there wasn’t much anger, or abuse, just acceptance that we would lose, as the players knew too. We really are going down without a wimper it seems.

We now move on to two tough away games, if any single game is any tougher than others for Charlton. We probably won’t win, and it could be that if the side play as they did against Watford, we may get a real thumping.

Role on the cricket season…

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Friday, March 06, 2009

Drop In Pressure

So if we presume that Tuesday’s result almost certainly relegated Charlton this season, the pressure should be off, right? Well, let’s hope so, because part two of this weeks must-win games is upon us.

Watford come to The Valley and they are not exactly clear of the dreaded drop zone themselves. Sitting on 39 points, they too will have hopes of reaching fifty points this season, but will that be enough? Each week, the expected "safe" total seems to rise – just a couple of weeks ago, this blog predicted that 47 or 48 points might be enough, but since then, it seems that all the teams in the bottom half of the table have started to win! Now, even 52 or 53 points is being talked about as possible relegation candidates.

Charlton, of course, would need a minor miracle (or actually a major one!) to reach that points total.

Phil Parkinson (above) also has a few issues to resolve, especially after Doncaster outplayed the Addicks on Tuesday night. The main problems resolve around Jonjo Shelvey, and Tresor Kandol. With 17-year old Shelvey, it seems that Parky doesn’t quite think that he is up to the task of playing in a four-man midfield, and he prefers to relinquish him of that responsibility and see him pushed more forward just behind a front-man. With Kandol having family problems recently, that has worked out in terms of team selection, but not tactics. I think that Shelvey may be asked to drop to the bench, for this game, with Kandol coming back in to play with Chris Dickson. Dickson tried manfully to lead the line on his own in the last two games, and he was far from a failure, but his play was generally poor on Tuesday, and he will relish a true frontline partner once more.

Barring injuries, of which none were apparent in midweek, the defence will probably stay the same, and the midfield possibly too; here, the return to reserve team duty of Zheng Zhi could see him make the bench, or even possibly the starting line up (to play for up to an hour), with Matt Spring the obvious choice to step aside.

This is the side I think Parky will pick –

Rob Elliott
Danny Butterfield
Darren Ward
Mark Hudson
Kelly Youga
Tom Soares
Therry Racon
Zheng Zhi
Nicky Bailey
Tresor Kandol
Chris Dickson

Subs from Randolph, Weaver. Moutaouakil, Holland, Basey, Spring, Shelvey, Wright, Ambrose, Sam, Fleetwood, Todorov.

The sad thing is that if Charlton do play well enough to win this game, then hopes may be raised; this would not be good as all and sundry have to now admit that Charlton are going down to Tier Three in May. I do still hope that the team play to win though, and that any results from now to the end of the season at least are used for a bearing of where we will need to be next year.

Pedro45 thinks this may be a very close game, with few goals; Watford, from what I have seen, seem to like to play a counter-attacking game. That may not suit against a Charlton team who usually have much less possession than the opposition. I am going to plump for a 1-0 home defeat, though I sincerely hope that the return of ZiZi (either to the team or as sub) will inspire us to a victory of some sorts.

My one-to-watch in this match is going to be Chris Dickson. Pilloried after the Doncaster game, he needs to bounce back and show that it was a blip, and not a reflection of his future form. Nobody minds strikers who shoot on sight (Killer was the best example of that…), but you have to temper that instinct with knowing who is around you, and if they are better placed. If you have a player free alongside you, then a pass is better than any old whack on goal from 25 yards. Too many times on Tuesday, Dicko (and Shelvey) seemed to just shoot because they could see the goal posts when a slight delay and knowledge of what else might be on would have been a better choice. It didn't help that all the shots from distance were poor, wide, or scuffed.

I really just hope that Charlton play well in this game, whatever the score; we - the fans – have been shorn of a really decent display since August, and it’s about time we saw one. The pressure is off to a large extent, but it would be so much better to go down free of mind and winning than with despondency and countless additional defeats.

Come on you reds!

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

Should They Stay or Should They Go

Ultimately, it’s been a pretty disastrous season so far, but as we enter the home stretch, and hopes of not being relegated recede quickly, minds must turn to next year. This will be a Tier Three season; a season where we play the likes of Oldham and not Burnley, Huddersfield and not Sheffield United, Brentford and not Watford, Colchester and not Ipswich.

We need a squad that will compete, win, and hopefully get Charlton back into winning ways.

This is Pedro45’s assessment of who should be in (and out of) that squad of players, bearing in mind the finances of the club, the contract situation of various players, and the needs of maintaining a winning team. It’s all opinion and supposition of course, but I’m happy for Phil Parkinson and Richard Murray to act on my views; you may, of course, hold contrary opinion:

Rob Elliott

Elliott was in the right place at the right time in April last year, when Nicky Weaver got sent off at Plymouth. For quite some time considered the lesser of the two young goalkeepers on the clubs books, he was lucky that Darren Randolph was on loan at that time, and he was the nominated bench man. Elliott had a good 87 minutes on the pitch that day, but when Weaver’s suspension kicked in, Randolph had been recalled from his loan and took over the first team duties for that one match. Even this season, Elliott resumed bench duties while Randolph was sent out to get valuable experience in the lower leagues, showing who was preferred, but again, Weaver’s antics (picking up a hip injury at Blackpool due to a "heavy" fall) promoted Elliott to the first team. Rob took his chance and played well, but when Randolph was available, he was played in the two cup games against Norwich in preference. Back came Elliott though, and despite some criticism, he has won the battle and is now the undisputed number one choice at the club. Next year, the situation is clear; unless the manager feels that a new, experienced, keeper is required, then Elliott will be named number one, with Randolph his deputy. As a Charlton fan himself, Elliott is a definite stayer.

Darren Randolph

As you will have seen from above, much of Randolph’s situation is pre-empted by Rob Elliott, and his form. I would suspect that after his abortive spell at Hereford earlier this year, Darren will opt to stay in SE7 and a place in support of Elliott, rather than another loan spell somewhere. Randolph is a more than adequate reserve keeper, and will not be on too high a salary which is what is required. Another stayer.

Nicky Weaver

It’s bye-bye Nicky I’m afraid. Weaves has probably played his last game for the Addicks, and that indication was given by Richard Murray at the January AGM. Weaver is on a big salary (too big for a third tier club to finance) and I therefore predict that the one-year extension option on his contract will not be taken up, and Nicky will leave on a free transfer. He’ll probably end up back up North, at a Championship club, or as a reserve for a new Premiership team. This will signal the end of Nicky’s Hate-Love-Hate relationship with Charlton fans. Wave goodbye to Weaves…

Danny Butterfield

On loan until the end of the season, I doubt that he is thought of as a player who could be at The Valley permanently next season? Although the club will need to sign a right back, I do think that other, better, but possibly cheaper options may be available come the summer. Ta Ra Danny.

Yassin Moutaouakil

Poor old (or young) Moots: He is so exciting going forward, and so very average in defence. While Alan Pardew may have suffered Moots mistakes at the back, Phil Parkinson will not. The volume of right backs being brought into the club on loan indicate quite clearly that the Frenchman is persona non grata, and he will either be sold for a nominal fee (probably to a French second division side?) or given a free transfer. It is a shame because he was so good at charging down the right wing, and he did link very well with Lloyd Sam early in the season. For me, his awful game at Scunthorpe last season – where he gifted the only goal of the game which was then compounded by his own glaring miss when well placed to score – showed that he is a bit of a luxury; I could bear him in home games, but at away venues, I did consider him a bit of a liability. So it’s Au Revoir Yassin…

Graeme Murty

Murty is 34 years old, and though still performing to a high standard when fit, his days as the Reading right back are clearly limited. It would not surprise me therefore if he was offered a choice of remaining as a squad player at the Madjeski, or leaving for first team football. If Murts decides to move on for regular football, he could do no better than to join ex-team-mate Phil Parkinson at The Valley, where his undoubted experience, will-to-win, and personality would make him an excellent choice (in much the same way Terry Naylor was when he joined Charlton in the third tier). Gone, but will hopefully come back.

Mark Hudson

I suppose the only thing that would make skipper Hudson leave is a wish for higher-grade football, or the club trying to trim his salary off the overall wage bill. Just a year into his contract, if the club want him to stay then he will have little choice. He would certainly be good enough in tier three, and should he stay, then skippering the side to league glory could beckon (please…). Otherwise, there is little prospect of him going to a Premiership side after this year in the Championship, and other tier two teams may baulk at his salary. The other factor of course is that the club have few recognised centre backs, with none due to come through from the youth team for a couple of years (hopefully Mambo will maintain his improvement year-on-year) and to let another one go would be rather unwise. Almost certain to stay at the club as skipper in Pedro45’s opinion.

Darren Ward

Hudson’s partner for the final three months of the season (barring injury), and an ex-team-mate to boot. They do have a pretty good understanding, but the likelihood of Wolves selling him cheaply (which is what Charlton would need) is remote. If Wolves go up, he would probably be surplus to their requirements in the Premiership, and if no other club wanted to buy him, then he would probably spend next season as he did most of this, out on loan with whoever would have him. If there was a chance that Charlton could buy him, I for one would be happy to see him sign, but Pedro45 thinks that is not going to happen.

Jonathan Fortune

Forch has been the backbone of the club for quite a few years now, and is by far the longest serving player. The problem with him, both recently and in most of his stop-start career, is that he comes into the team, plays well, then gets injured, then comes back, has a few bad games, gets dropped, then has to start the rigmarole all over again. Possibly on a very good salary, due to his longevity at the club, I am unsure if he will be asked to stay or go. I therefore think that the ultimate decision rests with the fact that we are short of centre backs, and he will be needed, especially as he should be amply good enough for tier three. If he does wish to move on, after all his career hasn't really been helped much at The Valley (even in the same way it was when he was on loan at Stoke), then we should wish him well, and hope he gets better luck at his next club.

Kelly Youga

The incumbent left back signed a new contract just over a year ago, so in all probability, he will still be at Charlton next season. When happy, Kelly is a joy to watch, as he powers forward, linking with his winger, but all too often he seems to get into a strop with either his form, team-mates, or the referee, and that affects his play. A happy Kelly is a good player, who covers his central defence, passes to feet, and offers himself as a passing option; an unhappy Kelly hides, lumps the ball forwards (or upwards) at every opportunity, and sulks on his own. Ensconced as the first choice left back currently, Parky does have other squad options with Grant Basey, and new professional Jack Clark, but Pedro45 thinks that Kelly will be back come August and hopefully with a smile on his face.

Grant Basey

The young Welshman has had a funny season, being picked over or covering for Youga on occasion, but also being pushed forward into midfield, wide on the left, or in front of the defence. That holding role was one that didn’t seem to suit the player, as he often failed to clear his lines and wanted too much time. He also doesn’t seem to be that good a tackler, or maybe just not subtle enough to foul where required (as all good holding midfielders must do…). He does have undoubted potential, and has a sweet left foot, but the issue with him is finding his best position, and utilising that to best effect. If he is to be reserve left-back (to Youga), then that’s fine; if he is to be a squad player fitting in where required as he has this season, then that isn’t so good, as it has not helped him or the team too much this year. The only other option is to ask him to play wide left, as he did to great effect in the last game of last season against Coventry, where he scored his only goal, but that in itself takes something away from the attacking options the manager has. I don’t see him leaving the club, yet, but if he isn’t getting game time and still improving, then next season may be his last at the club.

Jack Clark

I can’t add much to anything written about Clark as I have never seen him play. Suffice to say that if he has been given a contract, he could progress, and the likelihood is that he will be first choice left back for the reserves next season. If that works out, then maybe he will push for the first team in a year or two?

Aswad Thomas

Poor Aswad went out on loan to a Conference team, and it turned out that they weren’t very good, languishing bottom of the league. Now back at The Valley, and without a first team start in the last couple of years (he only made the bench in League Cup games…), the chances of him succeeding at Charlton are now remote, and I expect him to be released at the end of the season. His chance came when the club needed left backs last year, following injuries to Basey, Chris Powell, and with Youga out on loan; but Pardew chose to recall Youga, and Thomas slipped out of the reckoning again. Will probably join a local Conference side.

Dean Sinclair

Mr Out-On-Loan is back at the club, after a long standing hamstring injury will not heal. He has played for so many teams in the last two years since we signed him (Cheltenham, Brighton, Grimsby, etc) in the lower leagues that he has found his true level (tier four!); I very much doubt Charlton will want him on the payroll next year so expect him to leave on a free transfer this summer.

Jose Semedo

He came from Portugal, and we love him. Purported to be a centre half, he has played most of his games in central midfield, and in Parky’s first game as manager, he did strike up what looked like an excellent partnership with Therry Racon. Sadly, injuries have prevented them playing together again since, and the club and squad has moved on since then. Whether they get a chance to rekindle that pairing next year is a possibility, but Pedro45 thinks that Jose will be asked to be the Steve Gritt of the squad next year, and play in a variety of positions as required by injury and suspensions. That is presuming of course that Jose wants to stay? If not, he will probably return to the continent, and never be heard of again – not good enough in top tier football as a centre back, nor skilful enough in midfield.
Zheng Zhi

What can you say – China’s captain, and we were lucky enough to be able to watch him play for us for about a year and a half. Sadly, this season has been all about injuries as far as ZiZi is concerned, and the fact is if he had been fit, then we probably would not have been relegated. I suppose it all started to go wrong when he got a back injury late last season, probably due to continual playing as he hadn’t had a summer break for quite some time. Then he played in the Olympics, but got sent off, and then it was a case of resting before coming back to ply his trade at The Valley. Just one and a half games later, he hurt his foot, and that was pretty much that until it was too late. We did think he would be sold last August, but his Olympic injury scuppered that, and then his foot complaint prevented anyone buying him in January too. West Brom were rumoured to want him on both occasions, but if they go down to the Championship, they may not feel that his £20k plus wages are worthwhile. He will definitely not be seen at The Valley playing for Charlton next season, so we have to wish him well and thank him for the goals and skill and kudos he brought to the club (it’s just a shame we didn’t make more money out of him!).

Josh Wright

Jade Goody’s mate is a young player who did break into the first team this year, but unlike what his dad thinks, I don’t think he is anywhere near good enough for the first eleven yet. Although we all felt sympathy for him at the time, his performances showed that he was quite simply out-muscled too easily to be anything other than a luxury at Championship level. Hopefully, another year older, and stronger, and playing in tier three will be the making of him (in much the same way it was for Kevin Smith). His playing time next year will depend a lot on who stays at the club, but provided his dad doesn’t mind he being employed by such a lowly team, I expect him to remain at Charlton and be a prominent squad player next year. By the way, I do think that the supposed links with Newcastle and Villa that came to the fore recently are quite preposterous…

Jonjo Shelvey

We all breathed a sigh of relief when Jonjo signed a professional contract with the Addicks on his 17th birthday, and now he has committed himself to the club, the manager has the chance to build the team around him for the remainder of this season, and next. That is, if he isn’t sold in the summer. I do think that if Jonjo wants to stay at Charlton, and all the arguments for him to stay are shown to be valid, then it would be a bit silly to then try to sell him come summer time. Cashing in his value to the club is the only possible reason for placing him for sale, and that may still be required to balance the books, but hopefully salary cuts elsewhere will allow him to stay and develop for at least one more year before Charlton can sell him at his highest potential value and to the highest bidder. If he stays, Jonjo must be the cornerstone of the side; he must be asked to play in central midfield, rather than as a withdrawn forward, as that impacts on the overall make-up of the side too much. At tier three level, he should be good enough next year (and possibly way too good!), so with him as the driving force, we could expect a reasonable season.
Harry Arter
Sadly, Scott Parker’s nephew has not developed as his Uncle did, and following his bad Achilles injury last season, we have probably seen the best of him already. Loaned out to a Conference side, and now offered to Ipswich, Gillingham and others on trial, indicates that Arter will not be offered a new contract come season end. This is a shame, but the right decision. Can you imagine a midfield of Arter, Josh Wright and Jonjo Shelvey playing at their best all together? That could have taken the club upwards…

Nicky Bailey

Charlton’s top scorer, and the first midfielder to win that accolade for some fifteen years (not even Lee Bowyer managed it…); without Bailey’s goals, this season would have been even more of a disaster (if that is possible!). From his fantastic volley against Wolves, to his shimmy round the keeper against Plymouth, Nicky has scored regularly all season. He did have one really bad patch, gifting a goal to Sheffield Wednesday, and his head did drop around that time. Since Pardew left though, he has picked up his form and even when playing out on the left side of midfield, he is still a threat as recent goals against Swansea and Doncaster have shown. Another Charlton player that West Brom are said to be interested in, Charlton have the option of cashing in on Bailey if they wish (and hopefully making a sizeable profit on the £750,000 they paid Southend) or keeping him under contract for another year. I’d like to see Bailey stay but I do feel that he may be one of the casualties of dropping down a league, and he will move to a good Championship team, or possibly the lower reaches of the Premiership? If he does, we have to wish him well, though he will probably come back to haunt us at some future stage I suspect!

Matt Holland

Captain Clean-Shorts; Mr Reliable; Matt; Dutch; Matty, or anything else. Matt Holland has been great for the Addicks over recent seasons, urging the team on, and recognising the crowd at the end of every game (even when slightly embarrassed by how they have played!). Still probably one of the highest paid players at the club, Matt is coming to the end of his career, and his one-year contract is about to end. I’m pretty sure that this contract was reduced from the previous one, and if the club do the sensible thing and offer him another year, then that too will probably be at vastly reduced terms. Whether Holland signs is up to him (and his horse-loving wife); he would love to return to Ipswich but I doubt that they would offer much better terms than the Addicks, and his first-team chances there would be (even more) limited. I suppose that Matty would be hoping for a coaching role somewhere in future, and if things do not work out with Phil Parkinson, then Matt’s chance in that role could come at Charlton if he stays? Having a captain like him in the squad undoubtedly helps younger players (and with Shelvey and Wright around, we need the experience), and I’m sure his work-rate would be acceptable in the lower division. I would offer him the option of another playing contract, and see what Matt wants to do; he doesn’t need the money, but would want playing time I feel, and that could be possible. If he decides to move on or hang up his boots, then we should thank him for playing for us (and his wife for letting him!) when he had other options on better terms (Villa).

Matt Spring

While he is another who will be remembered forever for a single goal on a Tuesday night in January (above), Spring is a player who has yet to fulfil his potential at The Valley. He came to the club on an 18-month contract, so the option is for him to stay in tier three and help us to a good season, or for him to be sold to another Championship club who need a midfielder to do a job. I’m still not sure about him, as he has been fairly anonymous in some recent games, although you can see his effort and work-rate. I think if a suitable offer comes in then Charlton should take it, as other midfielders are more important to the team and in some cases, cheaper options are required. If he stays though, his experience could prove quite valuable in a lower league, and he could be a good player to have.

Tom Soares

He came, he Soares, but he really didn’t conquer. Tom will return to Stoke at the end of his loan period, and the chances of Charlton signing him are nil. He has done well in flashes, but has failed to show any Premiership potential really in his time in SE7. If you close off the pass to him, he struggles, and he doesn’t link well with full backs either. He has filled a necessary gap for Parkinson, but without setting the world alight. He will be forgotten quite quickly, due to his incongruous past.

Rashid Yussuff
I’ve not seen Toks play, but as a future holding midfielder, he looks like the sort of player we could need on occasion next year, especially as some current midfielders will be moved on and he will creep up the pecking order for a tier three side. Should stay…
Alex Stavrineau
As with Clark, you have to trust the management team who have given him a contract. Possibly a similar holding midfield player to Yussuff, he is another for the future, and a chance at little cost to uncover some talent. Depending on injuries, suspensions, and form, he could come into the reckoning next year, but is more likely a couple of years away from the first team.

Lloyd Sam

Pick me! Pick me! Lloyd does get picked at the start of most seasons, but it is tough to actually know what level Lloyd is really comfortable at. He has failed to score this season, and his overall record suggests he just doesn’t score enough, whatever level he has played at. Sure, he has been unlucky, hitting the woodwork a few times, and he has set up quite a few goals (including all four against Reading last August), but sometimes he just flatters to deceive. The likelihood is that he will stay at The Valley, as we are shorn of wingers, unless the manager goes down the Alf Ramsey route (as we are at present!). He could be a stand-out player in tier three, as he has great skill and can cross the ball accurately when given time, but he must add goals to his game if he wants to be any sort of star at Charlton, and also learn to do his defensive duties with aplomb. I’d keep him, and as I cannot see any potential transfer activity for him, this is likely.

Scott Wagstaff

The only reason I can see Waggy staying is if the club lose Lloyd Sam and need a winger. The problem though is that Wagstaff probably isn’t good enough, even at tier three. Loaned out to Bournemouth earlier this season, he failed to make much impression in tier four, and has not gone on in the way it was obviously hoped when he captained the youth team last year and earnt his pro contract. I suspect he will be allowed to leave quietly, and will end up with a local Conference team like Aswad Thomas.

Therry Racon

This Frenchman has starred since getting his chance, and all thoughts about him leaving the club (as he wanted to when on loan and getting games at Brighton lastyear) have vanished. I can see him being the central midfield partner to Shelvey next year, and that pairing could be way too good for that league. That is presuming that no other club makes a stupid offer for him that is acceptable to the board? Therry should be nurtured because he has great skill, can shoot with both feet, can pass, and has a good engine too! Provided his dodgy knee stands up, I expect him to be one of our stars next year.

Darren Ambrose

Come in number 17, your time is up. And so is your contract, and it won’t be renewed. Ambrose has great potential, but far too often simply fails to deliver what we know he is capable of. Previously, poor form was blamed on a long standing and hard to diagnose pelvic problem; well this year, that problem has gone away, and he has once more not lived up to the billing. A loan spell at Ipswich showed that he was well below the player that left Portman Road some years previously, and at the end of this season, I expect him to slip out of Sparrows Lane never to return, with the club saving quite a lot of money from his salary. No doubt some Championship or even Premiership club will sign him on his past expectations, but that won’t last and he will be a reserve again soon I predict. His only saving grace was that he was Darren Bent’s best mate – now there’s two careers that went in opposite directions!

Svetislav Todorov

Sadly Toddy has slipped down the pecking order to such an extent that even when the club has no scoring strikers, he still cannot get a game. The knee injury he picked up last year sounded the end of his proper career at The Valley, and though he was given another year’s contract, more injuries and lack of fitness have prevented him being risked but Parky. He will not be offered another deal I am sure, and this is another player who will fall off the wage bill saving the club a good deal of money. I would expect him to either retire or return to Bulgaria to play out his final days.

Chris Dickson

If Jonjo Shelvey is the cog around which the Addicks must build next year, then Dicko is the sharp end who needs to score the goals each week. Still an uncut diamond, we should probably expect a few poor games like the recent one against Doncaster. But Chris has good skill, pace, can jump, and not a bad footballing brain when he cares to use it. He also has confidence, and is a good influence in the dressing room. If all of that can be harnessed, and players fitted in around him (including alongside!), then he could be the goal-scoring mega-star we hope for in tier three. I guess that next season will be make or break as a pro footballer for Dicko; he has to learn that the game is not all about glory – you have to put in the effort too! If he does, we will be fine; if not, Chris will disappear back to the lower leagues, another Tony Burman, Paul Gorman, or Leroy Ambrose.
Tresor Kandol

A bit of a stop-start Charlton career so far for Tresor; a decent few games without setting the world alight, and then disappearing home to sort out unknown family issues at a time when the club really needed him. I guess he will be back, otherwise his loan would be cancelled, and we do need his physical presence in the remaining games this season. If he comes back and does well, I suppose there is a chance that he could be signed to spearhead the strike force next year alongside Dicko, but the jury is still out as far as I’m concerned, so we’ll have to wait a while.
Izale McLeod

What is going on with Izzy? In and out of the team, winning penalties for fun but unable to score (even from a spot kick he won!) before finally being paired as one of a strong speedy strike duo; that partnership was prematurely ditched by Pardew (when he signed Andy Gray) and so Izzy was shunted out on loan. Whack to his knee means he’s back on crutches for six months, and then before he’s even played a reserve game, wham, he’s leading the first team in search of goals. Now that was a move designed to fail, and not one of Pardew’s best ploys, and it did, spectacularly, with Izzy being dragged off at half-time. Strangely, when he was next picked (by Parky) it was much the same – off the pace, always offside, no skill, and no hold-up play – a complete failure which again saw him pulled at the break. With no chance of being in Parky’s good books, he was loaned out to Millwall, hit the woodwork and scored a couple, but then threw his bottle out of the pram when Millwall signed a very similar layer (Pericard) due to McLeod being late for training a few times. It sounds like Izzy is a bit of a Johnny Big Balls, and thinks he is much better than he actually is. He does have pace when fit, and can be used as an impact player from the bench to good effect (as initially in his Charlton career), but his shooting has been erratic, and his head does drop too easily. The likelihood is that he will either be sold in an effort to recoup some of the large fee paid for him, or he will be loaned out again in an effort to keep him off the payroll. There is a chance that he could be paired with Dickson, and could build a good partnership with him if he is prepared to do lots of running and doesn’t mind Dicko grabbing the goal-scoring glory; I guess pre-season will tell us if that is likely?
Andy Gray

It’s just problem after problem with Andy; he is a good player, and I was quite hopeful when he signed last January, but although he led the line quite well early this season, his personal problems and injuries have prevented any sort of consistency from him. He was an expensive signing, and is on a decent wage, so I expect him to be sacrificed and fall to the budget cuts by going to another Championship club. He has been playing at this level, and in the Premiership, for most of his career so it is unlikely he will want to fall into League One, and a transfer by mutual consent will ensure both parties are happy, provided he can maintain his high salary. If he is just after the money, then I suggest that Charlton invoke the relegation clauses that they promised to include in all future contracts and reduce his wages accordingly.

Stuart Fleetwood

Yet to make an appearance for the Addicks, Fleetwood has had a season on loan so is well versed in what is required in lower leagues. He had a decent spell at Brighton, without setting them alight, but did score and make a few goals. I suspect that he will be kept on as a reserve striker at Charlton and expect to see him feature from them bench on a consistent basis when required.

Deon Burton

This is another ageing player who will have a contract next season. Burton has played OK since joining prior to Xmas, but has still yet to score from open play. He did come close a few times in his early games (an overhead kick comes to mind…) but recently has been left out in favour of others more likely to get their name in lights. He can hold the ball well, does always battle, and tries to feed his team-mates, but the simple fact is he may not be mobile enough for tier three, and if he doesn’t score goals, then he is a liberty.

So that’s Pedro45’s view on the squad for next year:

Players staying are – Elliott, Randolph, Hudson, Fortune, Youga, Basey, Clark, Semedo, Yussuff, Stavrineau, Wright, Shelvey, Spring, Sam, Racon, Dickson, Burton, Fleetwood,

Players leaving are – Weaver, Moutaouakil, Butterfield, Ward, Thomas, Arter, Zhi, Sinclair, Soares, Wagstaff, Ambrose, Todorov, Kandol, Gray.

Undecided are – Murty, Bailey, Holland, McLeod.

Players needed are – a right back, a young central defender, a winger.

That keeps the squad at a manageable 22-25 players, and allow others to be brought in when injuries etc necessitate. That should be sufficient for a decent campaign – I’ll keep my thoughts on who should be the manager until another day…


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Puppy Love for Donny

Charlton Athletic 1 Doncaster Rovers 2

On a wet and windy night, Charlton’s fate this season was probably sealed with a home defeat against the division’s in-form team – Doncaster. This was a must win game for bottom of the table Charlton, and the Addicks lost it.

Pretty much everything that could go wrong yesterday did: My journey to the ground was laboriously slow due to traffic and road works and took twice as long as normal; I found my number 17 voucher missing from my season ticket book which meant a quick foray to the main ticket office to rectify matters; my seat was getting soaked before, during, and no doubt after the game and I got suitably drenched; my plea for a “homer” ref came up with exhibitionist Rob Styles; and of course, the result didn’t help my manner.

Charlton went into the game with just the one expected change – the on-loan Danny Butterfield replacing Graeme Murty who was injured and had returned early from his own loan period to Reading. Although you could see that Donny were adept at passing the ball around well on the sodden pitch, it was Charlton who had the best of the opening. Chris Dickson and Jonjo Shelvey both twice got into shooting positions in the first ten minutes, but each time the ball was either driven well wide or scuffed.

Sadly Dickson had one of those games that show why he shouldn’t be such an automatic choice to start in this league – failing to hold the ball up, failing to do his work in covering defenders when they had the ball, and most culpably, failing to get any sort of shot on target throughout the game despite numerous "attempts".

Shelvey’s shooting was of similar calibre throughout, but at least he busied himself in the first half, before fading during the second period.

There were possibly only two attacks of note ion the first 45 minutes – after Dickson held the ball out wide and won a corner, Shelvey’s dead ball fell to the head of Hudson, and at the far post, Tom Soares rose to turn it goalwards but against the bar, from where it was cleared. Later, Charlton nearly conceded after a magnificent passing spell from the visitors. There must have been over twenty fast passes – short and long – that took the ball from one end of the pitch to the other, via both wings, and finally a cross was fashioned which fell right onto a forwards head. Luckily for the Addicks, he must had been admiring the build up play and completely mistimed the header when he should have scored.

A level half-time score may have suited Charlton better, as they had been playing into the strong wind, but it was Doncaster who scored soon after the resumption. The ball was worked through the Charlton defence near the left wing corner flag and Coppinger – a thorn in Charlton’s side all night - burst through, came out to give himself an angle and fired across and round Rob Elliott into the far corner.

Charlton needed a quick response, but with Dickson still struggling, Shelvey fading, and the midfield closed down it was not forthcoming.

After an hour, Phil Parkinson proved he does know how to use substitutes, when he brought on Lloyd Sam in place of the quiet Soares, and Deon Burton in place of the anonymous Matt Spring. Sadly during the rest of the match Sam saw little of the ball, and Burton was as ineffective as he normally is.

A corner was won on 73 minutes, and once more it was top goal scorer Nicky Bailey who provided the equaliser. In similar fashion to Saturday, Bailey received the clearance just outside the penalty area and this time his controlled volley (left), rather than full bloodied shot, arrowed into the corner of the net past the unsighted keeper.

This could have signalled the revival that home fans wanted, but within three minutes, and not for the first time this season, Charlton failed to hang on to what they had. Bailey was adjudged by the linesman to have fouled the Donny forward, whose fall was acrobatic to say the least, and although Styles took time to think about it, his decision went against the home team. Elliott dived the right way, but could not get close to the penalty kick.

From there, it was much more of the same, even though Darren Ambrose came on for Kelly Youga, with Charlton playing three at the back for the last ten minutes. The last act by showman Styles was to even up the "not sending someone off" count. Ealrier, Donny's already booked Chambers had come in late on Youga but Styles played an advantage. When play did stop, he chose not to take any action. Late in the game, Therry Racon, who had been booked for a late tackle in the first half, tripped a player to stop a Doncaster break; Styles theatrically called Racon then skipper Mark Hudson to him before making it clear that a red would follow any further fouls by the Frenchman.

It was a pretty poor game from a Charlton perspective, even though the effort could not be questioned. Doncaster looked better organised, they were much more confident, and played almost all of the football on the night. Charlton simply had no answer to their short one-two’s and pass and move tactics, even though I’m sure this is how Donny have set up all season. If Donny can replicate the form they currently have over the last ten games of the season, it would not be a surprise to see them creep into the play offs (they are nine points shy at present), and as the form team, anything could happen from there (Premiership beware!).

Charlton can probably consider themselves as good as down now; other results place the Addicks twelve points from the fourth bottom club, and the number of points required to remain in this league now looks like it may be at least fifty. That would require Charlton to almost double their season tally in order to survive, and I doubt that can be achieved in the remaining eleven matches.

So from here it looks like Parky will need to have one eye on next year, and division three; I would still hope to see him bring back Zheng Zhi (for Matt Spring, who seems pretty ineffective lately), and retain Shelvey in the starting team. Some of the others who are not going (or unlikely) to be at the club next year though should be jettisoned (from the sixteen) as soon as possible, including Ambrose, Matt Holland, and Svetislav Todorov. Youngsters like Toks Yussuff, Josh Wright, and Stuart Fleetwood (and possibly even new pro’s Jack Clark and Alex Stavrinou) should also see bench (and where possible, game) time over the remaining part of the season, so that they are ready when required next year.

In the afternoon before the game, I got out an old video and watched The Deer Hunter for the first time in about twenty five years. Like Charlton’s plight, it is quite sad at the end, and the final scene sees the cast drink a toast, a toast that today seems opportune to our only bright light it seems…To Nick.

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Win or Bust?

Luckily, thoughts of Charlton going bust have been dispelled following the January AGM and the month later response to the Fans Forum “Statement of Intent” query, but this game remains a must-win match. Doncaster, as nearly all of us can remember, started the season poorly, and were everyone’s favourites to go down; since the turn of the year though, they have been on a fantastic run of results, and now sit comfortably in mid-table. For Donny to be relegated now would take a crisis of confidence of massive proportions.

For Charlton, quite the opposite is slowly becoming true – to save themselves from a drop into the third tier, points must be won, and quickly, starting in this match. Sure, the current run of three games without defeat is as good as it has got this season, but there is so much ground to be made up that, quite frankly, Charlton need to be undefeated in at least ten games or more of the remaining dozen.

At least, on paper, this game seems to be one that can be won.

Many changes to the side which has won five points in those three recent matches are unlikely, but at right back, with Graeme Murty finally succumbing to a succession of leg injuries and returning to Reading, has meant a change is assured. Phil Parkinson has brought in defender Danny Butterfield on loan to fill that gap, and he will probably line up alongside former team mates Mark Hudson and Darren Ward. Kelly Youga is very likely to continue at left back, with Rob Elliott in goal.

Once again it is the midfield where Parky has most choices to make, although the incumbent four are unlikely to be split unless there is an injury. Saturday goalscorer Nicky Bailey did hurt his knee in the Swansea game, but hopefully the team’s top scorer will be fit enough to start. If he is not, then Parky has a choice between switching back to a 4-4-2 formation (provided Tresor Kandol has returned to the club following a family issue), and dropping Jonjo Shelvey back from his more forward role, or keeping Shelvey pushed up with someone else filling Bailey’s position on the left side of midfield. That could be anyone of Lloyd Sam (who was ill at the weekend so may still be doubtful), Zheng Zhi (left - who warmed up with the squad at the weekend but was not in the chosen sixteen), or Darren Ambrose (who came on as sub for Shelvey toward the end of the match in Wales).

Whatever the situation with Bailey, Matt Spring, Therry Racon and Tom Soares are all likely midfield starters.

The attack obviously depends on the formation, and that may to some extent depend on Bailey being fit. If he is, then I cannot see Shelvey being left out in favour of a more attacking player to join Chris Dickson, although Kandol would be the obvious choice if required.

This being a must win game - surely everyone connected with the Addicks can see that - I really do hope that Parky sets out his stall and goes for the win from the outset. The worst thing that could happen is that the team become anxious due to the crowd getting restless; if the team play attacking football from the outset, then the crowd will settle, even if that early goal does not come. The management and players have recognised how important a part the crowd have to play in this match, and are hoping that many floating fans turn up; the club has given away many tickets this season in an effort to maintain the 20,000 plus gates that we have had for over 160 consecutive matches, but with this being a Tuesday night, it not being half-term, and with Doncaster hardly being the biggest draw in town on the night, then actual numbers are likely to be many less than the final figure quoted.

Pedro45 is optimistic that the good form shown this year will continue, and so has to predict a winning scoreline – 2-0. Anything less than a win just won’t do; I expect Donny to come to frustrate, especially if they get ahead, by playing a passing game and trying to keep possession as much as possible. Charlton are well used to having far less of the ball than the opposition, regularly getting under 45% in matches this season. But what we need to see is the battling and hassling tendencies that have been prevalent recently, with fair tackles being made and won.

The referee will be important too, though I am unaware of who that might be at this stage. A fussy ref will harden the task for the Addicks, and when you think about it, it is about time that a ref did us a favour or two (whatever happened to all those ref’s who used to be homers???).

My one-to-watch in this match has to be our new professional – Jonjo Shelvey. Our youngest ever player, and youngest ever goalscorer is a star in the making, and how we wish that he was the finished article already (OK, if he was then we’d have to sell him…). Jonjo has just that cup goal in January to his name so far, but he cannot be too far away from scoring his first league goal; hopefully it will come in this game. His work rate and effort cannot be disputed, all he needs is to get those long range shots on target...

It really is make or break time now; we must win, or those other poor clubs will be able to go into administration and still be in front of us! Donny will be no easy game, but hopefully the skill and experience that we have throughout the team now will shine through. South Yorkshire has taken far too many points from us this season (Barnsley, Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United); this one must be for the Londoners!

Come on you reds!

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