Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Chairboys Up First

A new season, and so much optimism – even if you are a Charlton fan! But should we be optimistic about the Addicks prospects this season? I think we should!

We’ve had a pretty good pre-season by all accounts, with the only losses coming when a "Charlton XI" has been fielded. There has been a lot of take-over talk, yet to come to fruition as I write, and surely that can only be for the betterment of the club? The management situation seems to have settled down with Phil Parkinson in situe, and with a new assistant (Tim Breacker) and the old guard (Kinsella, Matthews and Chapple) now working under new contracts in newly-defined roles. And best of all, we haven’t (yet) sold any of our stars, with Jonjo Shelvey, Therry Racon and Nicky Bailey still able to play for us this weekend.

So all in all, we Charlton fans should be quite optimistic about the months ahead, and there does seem to have been a positive sea-change amongst some bloggers and blog-readers over the last week or two. Blimey, even The Times thinks we will finish in a play-off place!

We all know and accept that the outcome of any take-over discussions will influence matters at The Valley greatly, especially amongst the playing staff, but it is to Phil Parkinson’s credit that he has just got on with his job this summer, and worked at creating a squad that can suffice this season. With many of the top wage earners out of contract, the club has been able to shift out some of those under-achievers that it couldn’t sell for love or money previously. Of the thirteen whose contracts ended, only four were offered new deals – Fortune, Zhi, Randolph and Holland. ZiZi has decided that the third tier of English football is not for him while it looks like Fortune and Holland have decided that the better money is elsewhere (and who can blame them) although they are yet to formally sign with anyone; only Randolph, with a one-year deal, has signed back on the dotted line so far.

To replace some of these players, Parky has gone for experience, with Miguel Llera (wearing the centre half’s shirt number 5), Fraser Richardson (in a right back shirt number 2), and Christian Dailly (wearing a shirt matching his age – 35!) all coming in (without any transfer outlay) to bolster the defence. With a solid look about the midfield – the most consistent part of the squad last season – we don’t seem to have any issues there (provided they are not now sold…), so that just leaves the forwards to manage. Here, we have had bids it seems for all of the Charlton front-men, barring Deon Burton. This is a surprise when you consider that we haven’t exactly been banging in the goals over recent years. But players have their levels, and Andy Gray’s is probably above this league, while Stuart Fleetwood’s may be below this division. Izale McLeod and Chris Dickson have potential to play above but perhaps not the attitude, so that leaves them in a bit of limbo, and maybe the right place? While they are all here, as a group they look powerful enough to do a job, though we will still have the problem of how to fit them in and knowing what our best combination or pairing is? In my opinion, we may yet see some movement both in and out amongst the forwards this week, and if we do sign a decent striker, then we should be quite optimistic.

One other good piece of news is that we do not seem to have had any major (or many minor) injuries to concern us this pre-season. With under a week to go, it looks like Dean Sinclair is the only player not available this weekend, and it is fair to assume that he would not be in the match day squad anyway such is the strength of the midfield currently at the club.

So who can we expect Parky to play this weekend, in the opening league match against Wycombe Wanderers?

In goal, it’s a straight fight between the only two senior ‘keepers at the club, and there doesn’t seem to be any reason to suspect that Darren Randolph will be chosen ahead of last years favourite Rob Elliott. The local lad will have to be on his toes though, as Randolph will be pressing I’m sure, knowing that he has just one more year to really make the grade (or for ever more be a back-up). Elliott is solid enough to do a good job this season, and if his weight loss shows up in improved agility, then he could yet be a long term star at The Valley.

Our defence is where we will see most change from last year; Fraser Richardson will beat off any challenge to his right back place from Chris Solly, while Yassin Moutaouakil will not get a look in as long as other options are available and Parky is manager. At left back, Kelly Youga was nearly always chosen ahead of Grant Basey last year, so there is no reason to summise that that will change, and young Jack Clark will bide his time and wait for a chance that may be some time in arriving. Centrally, new pair Llera and Dailly will hope to shore things up, though how much pace the 30-plus pair have will be interesting to see. Experience will count for a lot in this league though, so they should be OK. Yado Mambo is a very young and experienced reserve, but our only current option.

The midfield is likely to have a familiar ring about it I think, with regulars from last year Lloyd Sam, Therry Racon, Nicky Bailey all lining up, and with either Jose Semedo or Matt Spring replacing the departed Chinaman. If Semedo comes in, then that should release Racon for a more forward role than if Spring plays, so my vote would go to the Portu-geeser. Other options include Alex Stavrinou, Scott Wagstaff, and maybe even Wade Small, if he does get offered a contract after spending most of pre-season on trial at the club.

We still have to fit in Jonjo Shelvey somewhere, and with midfield places all taken, I expect him to slot into the behind-the-striker hole he occupied earlier in 2009, and from where he scored and made plenty of goals in a losing team. That just leaves the single forward place open, and unless I am very wrong, we can expect that to be filled by Deon Burton, scorer of a hat-trick in Charlton’s last league game. Other forward options could pair any two from Gray, Dickson, McLeod, plus Shelvey and Burton, but I suspect Fleetwood will miss out on sheer weight of numbers.

This is the team I suspect that Parky will pick to kick off our League One campaign, along with their new shirt numbers:

Rob Elliott (1)

Fraser Richardson (2)

Miguel Llera (5)

Christian Dailly (35)

Kelly Youga (3)

Jose Semedo (6)

Therry Racon (8)

Nicky Bailey (4)

Lloyd Sam (11)

Jonjo Shelvey (7)

Deon Burton (10)

Subs (and it’s seven this season!) from – Randolph (25), Solly (20), Mambo (27), Basey (12), Clark (29), Spring (14), Stavrinou (26), Wagstaff (16), Small (?), Davisson (30), Gray (9), McLeod (15), Dickson (17), Fleetwood (22), Tuna (28).

Just a point on the subs bench this season, with seven options it is likely that most managers (where they do have seven options, as some teams may not…) may choose a spare ‘keeper, a full back, a centre half, a midfielder, a wide man, and fill the rest with strikers. That’s certainly how I would see Parky playing it, with the emphasis on additional strikers for when they are needed.

Wycombe have an experienced manager in Peter Taylor, and we all know what happened last time they came to SE7; Carling Cup quarter finals and Les Reed do seem like an awful long time ago, but in reality it wasn’t many seasons back. The BBC reports them to have an injury crisis, but we should maybe take that with a pinch of salt, as believing that will allow them to play freely and try to catch Charlton off guard. They do now have one time Charlton target Michael Duberry in defence, and also forward Ian Westlake, who was a good youngster at Ipswich, although he looks like one who might be out injured. The one time £10m Newcastle-man Carl Cort has signed for Brentford, after playing in a trial for the Chairboys last weekend. So what we can expect, even if we know few of the names on the team-sheet, is a side that will come to close us down, play neat tidy football, and hope to grab a goal and with it the points. They will hope to turn the home crowd against the Addicks, and we cannot allow them to do that.

Pedro45 is quite optimistic for this game, even though I failed to get to any of the pre-season games this summer. Provided the team play to their capabilities, we should have too much for a bare-bones Wanderers team. I will forecast a 3-1 victory for the Addicks.

My one-to-watch in this match is going to be Nicky Bailey, simply because I may not get too many more chances to feature our ginger midfielder. In the year that Bailey has been at Charlton, he has played some exceptional games, and the odd-doosey too, but he always tries his hardest and gives his all. Likely to be out on the left side of midfield, his runs into the penalty area when Lloyd Sam breaks down the opposite wing will be vital as we will need extra bodies in the box at every opportunity. Bailey is usually fit enough to accomplish this, and his other tasks, so I fancy him to be on the score sheet early for the Addicks this season.

Last season is history, and a year in League One is upon us; we must be brave, direct, professional, positive, and physically willing. The playing team will need those qualities too. Charlton players and fans alike can get Charlton off to a great start on Saturday!

Come on you Reds!

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Don't think you will be very far out with that prediction Pedro ... at least I hope so!
Seems Nicky Bailey has been made captain for the season, so maybe...just maybe, he's staying.
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