Sunday, May 31, 2009

It's a Long Way, from May to September...

OK, yes another song lyric as a heading, but it is summertime, and the weather is glorious.

To Charlton matters: Yes, I have renewed both of my season tickets - have you? They are our club, whatever divison we play in, and they do need our support.  The funds that the club accrue up front from season ticket sales go a long way to pay for player wages in the lower leagues where TV money does not exist; it you want to see better players, buy your ticket as soon as possible if you can in these hard times. 

I love going to watch Charlton play; I always want them to win; and I get a massive buzz from them doing well! I'm proud to be a Charlton supporter, and my faith will not wane.  Having supported the club through thick and thin for over forty years, I will follow them down into the third division, this being the third time I have done so since I first attended The Valley in 1967. During my supporting tenure, we have had four seasons in the third tier, compared with twelve in the top division - that 's a pretty good balance in my opinion. I want them to get out of the league moving in the right direction, upwards, and put an end to this seemingly downward trend that started a few years back. Our support can only help.

The beginning of June marks the end of contracts for many players, and those without a club are free to look for other offers; with Charlton having a dozen or so players whose contracts are up, expect some action (finally) from the official website with news of plenty of goings, and maybe the odd signing as well. We bloggers have alll had our guess at who may be offered a new contract, and some of those offered may well have been turned down anyway, so I expect to see some firm news in the very near future. One player who does seem to be off soon is Josh Wright; out of contract, there was a very informative piece (not!) in one of this week's newspapers telling us that Josh was off because Charlton couldn't (or more likely wouldn't) be continuing to pay him his £1200 a week salary; what the article didn't say is that any player of any club has the option to leave if they are offered a contract at lower terms than those currently on. I guess the Addicks Board don't think Josh is worth £60 grand a year and nor do I!

Most of the action will be the result of Phil Parkinson's managerial decision-making, as no announcement of the end-of-season review into his stewardship has been forthcoming from the Board. I have no idea if the rumoured take-over exists, let alone will happen. You can read the views expressed and comments made a number of ways , and when did a categoric no (or yes) actually mean that in football anyway? If Charlton get new owners, then the Board will be congratulated, and thanked for all of their efforts. The Valley has seen some fantastic times over the last ten and twenty years, and if any of this success (because we have had a fair bit!) had been promised to us in the early seventies or eighties, we would have laughed. 

If the culmination of a new Board means having a new manager, then we need to get that decision right; if Parky is to continue, with or without changes in the Boardroom, then we have to accept that decision for what it is and continue with our support, for that is the only option we as fans have. Just as moving out of The Valley did not break my support for the club, nor has any appointment as manager even where I had severe reservations (Mullery, Craggs, Dowie (spit!), etc). Our club is bigger than any one man (or manager), and fans must recognise this.

We don't have much money to waste anymore, so anything spent has to accrue full value - both player and coach-wise; with the last of the Premiership earners off the wage bill soon, we can start to plan for next season with a firm budget and a winning strategy. If we can add the full support of those season ticket holders who have renewed, then all the better.

Up the Addicks!


Monday, May 04, 2009

End of Season Tweet

Charlton Athletic 4 Norwich City 2 

The last game of the season, and a relaxed Charlton easily put paid to any lingering hopes that Norwich may survive in the Championship, knocking in four relatively easy goals.  The unchanged Addicks simply passed their way through the Norwich midfield, and created chance after chance.

Lloyd Sam beat his marker and floated over a lovely cross for Nicky Bailey to head home the first goal after just nine minutes (top pic), and soon it was 2-0. This time, Deon Burton knocked home the rebound after Therry Racon’s shot had been parried by the ‘keeper. Racon had taken a  pass from Sam, and then been allowed to turn inside the box thanks to Sam’s intelligent run which drew men away from Racon. Two goal leads are not enough for Charlton these days, so after half an hour, Charlton scored a third. Again it was Burton who had the last touch, this time poking in Bailey’s driven cross (below pic). Norwich were abject, and even though they were briefly buoyed by news from Home Park with the scores level, but as soon as Charlton took control they looked a well beaten side.

Too their credit, they did make a tactical switch, taking off one of their poorest defender and bringing on another forward, but the ex-Dartford youngster McDonald made little overall difference (so any Dartford fans prevented from buying tickets to the game didn’t miss much!).

Just before half-time, Norwich did score from a corner headed back from the far post and flicked home by Lee. If there was to be an improbable comeback, it had started off at the right time.  Sadly for the Canaries, Burton quickly completed his hat-trick early in the second half, turning home after excellent play on the right once more by Sam. With news that Barnsley were winning, the gallows humour came to the fore, but it took until ten minutes from time for the yellow clad supporters to truly accept their fate.  By then, they had scored another goal – direct from a free kick by Clingan – and also forced Rob Elliott into a couple of good saves. 

Zheng Zhi came off to a standing ovation; not because he had a good game here but due to his being the best player at the club, and this almost certain to be his last appearance. Sam also made way, with youngsters Scott Wagstaff and Tamer Tuna coming on, and the last ten minutes were very open. The industrious Jonjo Shelvey hit the bar, and Wagstaff had a couple of breaks where he may have done better with more experience; Tuna also came close to opening his Addicks account.

The best of the youngsters on show though was Chris Solly; Solly had been introduced just after Charlton took the lead, after Darren Ward was taken out and injured at a free kick. Ward’s last Charlton action was to wave goodbye from a stretcher, and with Kelly Youga moving to centre back, you did worry that Charlton may not have enough height at the back to cope. Thankfully, Solly put in an excellent debut performance, and prevented many crosses coming in, which took some pressure off the makeshift centre of defence. Equally adept, and prefers, the right back slot, maybe this is one position where Charlton do not need to seek a summer replacement?

The players all did a kind of lap-of-honour at the end, acknowledging the applause from all three home stands; some players were obviously waving goodbye, as they will be off to pastures new in the summer. It was a strange end to a season. After the way the midfield played in such a relaxed and authoritative mood, you would have expected Charlton to be mid-table at least; the fact that we are bottom of the league, with only 39 points highlights the mess the club got itself into last Autumn.

It is difficult to look forward with so many question marks hanging over the playing staff and management, but I hope that decisions over who is to lead our League One campaign and which players are necessary (both from within the existing staff and outside…) is made quickly. With player contracts ending in four weeks time, many who are available and set to be on offer for no transfer fee will be up for grabs on a first come, first served basis.  Charlton need to make sure that they get a good chance of poaching some of the better, cheaper, options, and that means deciding who is to be manager in the next week.

After-game Bartram’s banter suggested that Parkinson may or may not be back at the training ground in July; without a long list of who else is available, conversation revolved around the Redvolution that might see Paulo Di Canio offered a lead coaching role. The long term view that Zola will end up at Chelsea, and that Di Canio could replace him at Upton Park in a couple of years is still feasible. I’m sure if he did a decent job at The Valley we would not mind him switching if such an offer was made.

Until these dreams come true, we might have to make do with what we have; I just hope it’s the right choice.

That’s the end of Pedro45’s previews, reviews, and comment for another season. I’ll blog throughoutthe next few months  when there is something worthy of my comments, so until then, enjoy the summer, and make sure you renew your season ticket at the earliest possibility!

Up the Addicks!

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Friday, May 01, 2009

The Year of the Redvolution

And so, the end is near, and now we face, the final curtain. Thank god too.  This really has been a terrible season overall for Charlton, but hopefully, the one remaining game can be a victorious one?

Norwich come to SE7 knowing that only a win at The Valley (and a loss for Barnsley at Plymouth) will see them retain their Championship status; anything less, or a Tykes draw or win, will see the Addicks facing the Canaries home and away in the league again next season.

For Charlton, the last home game is also going to be the last time we see some of our squad in an Addicks shirt. The three players who are on loan are unlikely to return on permanent deals (even though Darren Ward is being shown the door by promoted Wolves…), especially as money is going to be tight over the summer. I suppose that the club would probably like to buy Tresor Kandol too, but this, and any possible move for Ward, will depend on what funds come into the club as contracted players exit.

Suffice to say that with eleven players out of contract, many of these will simply not be affordable (or wanted), and in some cases they will need to be replaced, but by less costly options. It’s pretty well public knowledge that Matt Holland, Zheng Zhi, Darren Randolph and Jon Fortune are out of contract; I’m sure the club will make some sort of offer to all four, and maybe to a couple of the youngsters (Yussuff and Wright) whose contracts are up too, but it remains to be seen if they or any of them accept, or if they go elsewhere where the money on the table is better, or the league of a higher standard.

Others like Darren Ambrose, Aswad Thomas, Harry Arter, Nicky Weaver, and Svetislav Todorov are much less likely to be offered a new deal of any kind to remain at The Valley, but bearing in mind all of these players are unlikely to feature on Sunday, we have seen the last of them bar their after match parade around the ground with their kids!

Phil Parkinson himself could be picking the team for the last time too, especially if supporters opinions count for anything. Personally, I think he has done a reasonable job bearing in mind the mess that Pardew left the club in, but that has not been reflected in results, and this is ultimately (according to Richard Murray) what he will be judged on. I know that he will probably cost the club money to be let go, but the Board really do have to weigh this up against the damage done if his summer exertions fail to produce the expected bounce back immediately the new season starts in August. Without jumping on any Parky Out bandwagon, I feel that he may well be in charge of his last game at The Valley on Sunday, and that he will be replaced, along with Kinsella and Chappell, by a new management and coaching team.

Parky's final eleven (at least for this season) will have him thinking too, as one or two stalwarts in the usual sixteen man squad are now injured. Lloyd Sam sounds very doubtful, and with Ambrose also out, one significant change will have to be made on the right wing. Parky is labouring the point that he will only play youngsters if he thinks they are ready, but his hand may be slightly forced at this juncture.

From my perspective, filling Sam’s boots is going to be a straight choice between Tamer Tuna, Scott Wagstaff, and Matt Spring. With Tuna, the switch to 4-4-2 (with Jonjo Shelvey dropping back into right midfield) is relatively easy to accommodate, as is a retention of 4-5-1 with the inexperienced Wagstaff as a straight replacement for Sam. Playing the much more likely option of Spring, with maybe a juggling of who plays where in the five-man midfield, is to me more likely though, especially as Spring has been pushing for a starting berth for some time anyway. If he plays, Spring would slot into middle, with ZiZi moving wider to play in the free role with Shelvey.

The only other major choice Parky has to make is who plays up front – Deon Burton or Kandol. Burton is incumbent, but Kandol has more threat…

This is the team I would expect Parky to pick –

Rob Elliott

Darren Butterfield

Kelly Youga

Darren Ward

Mark Hudson

Therry Racon

Zheng Zhi

Nicky Bailey

Matt Spring

Jonjo Shelvey

Tresor Kandol

Subs from Randolph, Weaver, Solly, Wagstaff, Burton, Tuna, Todorov.

Norwich simply have to go for all three points following their loss to Reading on Monday night. They too have some injury worries, but will be hoping that former Dartford striker Cody McDonald shows that he is one that the Addicks missed on their doorstep when he was available in January. The support that the Canaries bring will no doubt be passionate and loud, until a negative score comes through from Home Park anyhow. If Charlton (or Barnsley) can quieten the visiting fans early on, then that will make the whole afternoon a lot more comfortable for home fans.

Pedro45 will end this season with a neutral score prediction; I’m plumping for a 1-1 draw. I think that Barnsley will gain at least a point, so Norwich’s efforts will tail off and allow Charlton something later on in the game. Certain players in red shirts will be keen to do their best in their last games for the Addicks, and I figure that this should be enough to confirm the result is not a loss.

I looked back through my picks as ones-to-watch over the season, and it’s interesting to note that I have picked no fewer than 19 players, plus one of our managers as the person we should be keeping an eye on. I’m not enough of an anorak to work out how many goals each of my picks scored (though I know that Racon twice, Bailey and ZiZi all scored after I picked them recently…), and that wouldn’t really be fair when picking defenders or keepers anyway. Sometimes my picks played well, and sometimes they had a ‘mare (Dickson versus Doncaster was one...), but I hope I showed who might be key, and if they played well we may have had a winning result.

My ones-to-watch in 2008/9 season were –

Nicky Bailey x 5

Mark Hudson  x5

Zheng Zhi x 3 (plus today)

Therry Racon x 3

Jonjo Shelvey x 3

Chris Dickson x 3

Jonathan Fortune x 2

Nicky Weaver x 2

Hameur Bouazza x 2

Luke Varney x 2

Rob Elliott

Matt Holland

Andy Gray

Martyn Waghorn

Deon Burton

Martin Crainie

Kelly Youga

Linvoy Primus

Yassin Moutaoakil

Plus Alan Pardew 3 times

It’s also interesting that did not once pick Lloyd Sam, Jose Semedo, or Grant Basey as the key man!

My final one-to-watch is going to be my favourite current Charlton player, and someone who I do not expect to see wear a Charlton shirt again after Sunday – Zheng Zhi. In the two years and a bit that we have had ZiZi on our staff, he has been a shining example to all the youngsters, and most of the pro’s, of how a professional footballer should behave. We can all say how things may have been different if ZiZi hadn’t been injured for the majority of the season, but ultimately, my belief is that we would not have been relegated if he had played over 30 games for us this year. I’m expecting a big game from our China-man, and hoping he signs off with the missing home goal he hasn’t scored this year. I could have gone for Bailey, or Racon, or even Shelvey, all of whom may be plying their trade for Charlton for the final time, but it's ZiZi who is my favourite!

Ultimately, Charlton now look ahead to next season whether they win, lose, or draw on Sunday; it would be great to finish the season as we did last year, with a thumping win and a goal (or two) from a departing hero. The Redvolution never quite came to fruition in 2008, but maybe it will in 2009?

Come on you Reds!

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