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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Hi Pedro 45
I agree with your comments about ZZ. It was great to have a true international player grace the Charlton shirt. Hope when he goes he goes on to better things
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