Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Parky and Parking Not Good Enough!

Colchester United 3 Charlton Athletic 0

Well that wasn’t very nice, was it? A bit of a bad evening all round, with the Addicks taking a rare thumping, and myself missing the first 16 minutes of the match. At least I wasn’t the only person who had trouble getting into the ground on time, with many others walking along the roadside to the stadium well after the match kicked off; it’s all very well having a brand spanking new stadium, but if you don’t have sufficient infrastructure to support it, then it is useless. Traffic congestion approaching the stadium was awful, and nowhere near enough suitable parking is available. I don’t know if this was the biggest crowd they have seen in this part of Essex for some time, but having to park on a roundabout – as we and many others ended up doing - cannot be the way forward.

I cannot therefore comment too much on the opening period, but at least I didn’t miss any of the goals. The first goal summed up my evening completely: although Charlton had looked bright once I’d taken my seat - slick passing had allowed several good crossing opportunities but there was little in the way of finishing – it was obvious that Aidy Boothroyd’s game plan owed much more to his old Watford up and over them style than to any more refined footballing theory. As soon as a Colchester player got the ball, it was hit high up and over the defence, for two muscular forwards to chase. Some passes from high up the pitch were quite deft, but there was also the usual fair amount of hoofing it forward from the back to see. With two big lumps up against an unsure Miguel Llera and an out-muscled Christian Dailly, it did seem just a matter of time before a chance came. Sadly, when it did, it was the Spaniard Llera, once more turning with the speed of a juggernaut, who headed past the advancing Rob Elliot and into the net. I did put this own goal down to just bad luck, but my friend said that it was probably due to the extra power and bounce that Llera got from wearing his headguard!

Sadly, Charlton conceded another goal almost immediately to leave themselves a mountain to climb. Fraser Richardson was beaten by a long pass down the wing, and when the ball came into the middle, the on-loan Odejayi beat Llera and slotted past a helpless Elliot again.

The two thousand Charlton fans in attendance were rightly stunned to silence, and I wasn’t helped by the fact that the kiosk ran out of sausage rolls either!

The second half was fifteen minutes old by the time Izale McLeod made his entrance, in place of Matt Spring, with Jonjo Shelvey dropping back into midfield. Spring had failed to offer much protection to his defence, and the hope must be that Jose Semedo is fit very soon. Shelvey was also having a nightmare game, and did little of use from what I saw until the very end.

By then though, Odejayi had pounced on another mistake, this time by Rob Elliot who came for a ball that Llera could have dealt with and was beaten to it by the big forward. At three nil, there was no way Charlton would come back, and Phil Parkinson had to put up with plenty of jibes reminding him of the score.

In a continuing carnival of errors from Llera, he tried to kick a ball he should have headed, and headed a ball that he should have kicked! It was no surprise then that Parky removed him when he thought that the Colchester crowd had got their monies worth, and brought on Sam Sodje in his place.

A fractious end saw a frustrated Deon Burton and Shelvey (left) both booked for being petulant.

Shelvey had Charlton’s only real effort on goal just before normal time elapsed, cutting in from the left wing, and curling a right-foot shot toward the far top corner, with the ‘keeper making a good save.

It was left to ex-Addick Kevin Lisbie to add one final memory of the match, just before full time, as he cut in from the right and with an open goal at his mercy scooped the ball over the bar from six yards. Some things never change, eh Kev?

It was a bad night for Charlton, and one that they need to bounce back from: Llera must get his confidence back (as Sodje is away with Nigeria soon, if the injury he picked up last night allows); Shelvey must learn to get more involved and play to his strengths; Racon must not be physically overpowered so easily; and Elliot should not let his heart rule his head. Only Lloyd Sam and Nicky Bailey came out of the game with any credit to my mind. And Parky needs to know what to do when the opposition can cope with Charlton's style!

As for Colchester, most of their problems seem to be outside the ground with stroppy police, insufficient parking, and stupid formalities.

To finish a bad evening, the A12 was closed for about ten miles necessitating a detour through sleepy Essex backwaters. I finally made it home OK, and I hope everyone else did too.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Keep on Going!

Although Charlton’s unbeaten run to the 2009-10 season continued on Saturday, it was not without a few scares, and Exeter may have thought that they had enough chances (and a goal disallowed for a tight offside) that they deserved a point. I simply don’t buy into that line of thought; the Addicks, in my opinion, were well on top for most of the game, even if the away team had more possession in the second half. It seems to me that Charlton are, whether deliberately or not, coasting in some situations, and against some teams.

Where Charlton have needed to up their collective game – away at Orient, and Norwich, plus at home to Southampton – they have pretty much come up with the goods, and won points during tough times. At home against the Saints, the half-time deficit was quickly turned around, and only the linesman’s (incorrect) flagging denied Charlton all of the points on offer; similarly, the away game at Orient saw the team battle back to snatch a win; and the Norwich game, possibly one of the hardest Charlton will face this season, saw a terrific early display take Charlton two up, and then some resolute defending all but saw the game out (though not quite). The ability to turn up the heat is certainly there, and in the next two games, starting on Tuesday night at Colchester, that ability will be put to the test once more.

I suppose that the game can be looked at in a couple of ways – one, that Colchester are just another team to beat and we can hope that Leeds fail to win at home so that we go back to the top of the table (or at least maintain the pressure on them if they win), or you could say that Colchester are a good team so it is an opportunity to put even more daylight (and points) between the two clubs, thereby squashing their play-off ambitions while promoting our own. My own opinion is somewhere between the two barrels; sure, it is good to keep as close as possible to the top, and sure, it is good to see off other teams promotion ambitions. So why not satisfy everyone and just win this match?

Well, Colchester will have their own views on the game, and parties on each side are working against their former employers, so there is plenty of spice in store.

Obviously, Phil Parkinson is returning to the club where he had his first taste of success, managing United to promotion from this same division four years ago. If matters had gone the way that Charlton chairman Richard Murray had wanted at that time, Parky could have been in charge of the Addicks in the Premiership, and all that managerial history of Dowie (spit!), Reed, and Pardew would have been destroyed and replaced by something else – who knows what? History does recall that Parky was refused permission to talk to Charlton, and then went to Hull instead, where he failed. We know what happened at The Valley at this time, and in a weird twist, it is Parky leading us now that seems to have turned the club’s fortunes around.

Kevin Lisbie on the other hand, had a similar troubled time about four years ago, starting with a nasal problem, and ending with him not having his contract renewed by incoming Valley managers. When Lisbie faced Charlton two years ago, before his transfer from Colchester to Ipswich, he made an immediate mark, scoring with a trademark near-post header in the Essex fixture, and then doubling that feat when he returned to The Valley on New Year’s Day (a match that saw the second-placed Addicks stumble, and ultimately fall embarassingly down the table). Suffice to say that Lisbie will be keen on doing the same (or better) in this forthcoming match.

Colchester themselves have lost the manager they had at the start of the season (Paul Lambert, to Norwich) and he has been replaced by Watford’s ex-manager Aidy Boothroyd. They are slowly rebuilding after their strange start to the campaign, and are unbeaten since Boothroyd took over. The manager has brought in long-term prospect John-Joe O’Toole – a previous scorer against the Addicks - on loan from Watford, but the rest of the squad is pretty much as Lambert left it. O’Toole could be joined in midfield by another former prospect, and graduate of the famed Charlton academy, Kemi Izzet, who has now served a three game ban after being sent off.

Phil Parkinson will be hoping that everyone came through the game on Saturday without any further injuries or worries, and there were few occasions (if any) when the trainer was involved, so that may well be the case. With Jose Semedo apparently able and willing to resume his midfield berth alongside Therry Racon, Charlton could once more return to their best starting eleven, for the ninth time so far this season.

This is the side I think Parky will send out to win in Essex –

Rob Elliot
Fraser Richardson
Kelly Youga
Christian Dailly
Miguel Llera
Jose Semedo
Terry Racon
Nicky Bailey
Lloyd Sam
Jonjo Shelvey
Deon Burton

Subs from Randolph, Solly, Basey, Sodje, Spring, Stavrinou, Holden, Wagstaff, McKenzie, Tuna, McLeod.

Pedro45 thinks that Charlton are in this for the long haul, and a win is a win, and is three points; it doesn’t matter if the game is dirty, or wide open, Charlton have the ability to play in any manner at this level. Parky will be itching to beat his old team, and the match being played under lights, with a large Charlton fan contingent, should be one with a great atmosphere. I am predicting a 2-1 victory that keeps the pressure on Leeds prior to the top two meeting on Saturday.

My one-to-watch this week is going to be defender Christian Dailly. A bit of an unsung hero so far this year, as the goals go in at the other end, Dailly was not my cup of tea in previous incarnations, but he has certainly used his experience and brain in this league for Charlton. He was key in maintaining a point late on at Carrow Road, and also did well on Saturday when Exeter were threatening to get back into the game. Dailly snuffed out any of those thoughts, and he will need to be on his toes once more to deal with a potent Colchester attack. If Lisbie plays out wide right, as he has been, Dailly will need to provide cover for Kelly Youga, and if Lisbie plays centrally, then he will need to be prepared to match Lisbie’s pace (especially when attacking corners at the near post!!!). Provided Charlton have the majority of possession, then Dailly has time to recover from the bursts of energy he expends; that could be key in the winning of all three points in this game.

After this match, the tenth of the season, Charlton will find themselves in the top two of the league. This stage is always a good pointer to how a season will progress, and to me, there is no reason why the club cannot go on and maintain or improve on this lofty perch. While it is true that the Addicks have played few of the current top half of the table, the simple fact is that some of those we have played would have been in the top half had they not lost to Charlton! We are not going to go through the season unbeaten, but I am quietly confident that Phil Parkinson will take that record up to Yorkshire on Saturday, in what is already being bigged up as the game of the last two unbeaten sides in English league football.

Up the Addicks!

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Beating the Ex

Charlton Athletic 2 Exeter City 1

Three more points for a welcome win, and for a short time, we thought Charlton had moved back tot the top of the league table. Leeds very late winner at ten-man MK Dons put paid to that, but the top two will definitely clash next weekend at Elland Road.

Charlton had to make the first change to their starting line up for the home game against Exeter – Jose Semedo out with an injury and being replaced by Matt Spring. The management have kept quiet about the extent of Semedo’s groin problem, so we can only hope he is back for the next couple of important games. Spring’s place on the bench was filled by Grant Basey.

The Addicks started the game confidently, and well, and early crosses from Lloyd Sam and Nicky Bailey rained into the visitors box. Early chances came to Deon Burton and Bailey, who both headed over, and then the best chance came from a delightful move which saw Therry Racon chip to the far post, where the onrushing Bailey powered in a goal-bound header. Unfortunately, Burton was in the way, and his effort to deflect the ball past the Exeter ‘keeper knocked the ball up and over the bar from just a couple of yards out. It really wasn’t to be Burton’s day; suffering from a broken nose, and trying to score his 100th league goal, he got little change all game from a tight Exeter defence who man-marked him very closely.

Exeter settled into their own game, and with both teams trying to pass the ball along the ground, it was a decent match from the football perspective. Some of Charlton’s play out of defence was poor though, and Miguel Llera didn’t have much luck with his forward passes, and especially his long balls in behind the right back for Sam to chase. With players tightly marked, and the longer ball option failing, the away team saw plenty of possession, with winger Noone looking quite dangerous on a number of occasions. Fraser Richardson, who was up against Noone, had a tough afternoon, and he would have been happy to see the on-loan wide man substituted midway through the second half.

Charlton had to wait until the 41st minute for their first corner of the game, and they scored from it. Jonjo Shelvey took the ball short to Sam at the near post, and he beat his man to the bye-line and crossed low for my one-to-watch Bailey to flick home from close range. The goal was along time coming, and did reflect Charlton’s superior skill and fitness in the first half.

After half-time, Exeter came more into the match, and had several periods of prolonged possession, and good play, putting the Addicks defence under pressure. This pressure didn’t really convert to chances though, and Charlton did look dangerous on the break when they did get the ball. The out-of-sorts Burton made way for Izale McLeod, and at least that injected some pace into Charlton’s attacks. Shelvey also came off to be replaced by Scott Wagstaff, and Bailey moved to a more central position. Exeter’s two best players, forwards Stansfield and Noone had also been substituted by the last few minutes, and Charlton made the game safe three minutes from the end of normal time. Shelvey and Sam had worked an opening near the bye-line, but Shelvey’s cross was not the best and should have been dealt with by the ‘keeper; he spilled the cross though, and McLeod was on hand to smash home Charlton’s second goal, and his first at The Valley in over two years of trying. With McLeod being the victim of some abuse over his scoring record, maybe this goal will lift the weight off his back and he can start hitting the back of the net regularly.

A comfortable win is never the Charlton way though, and a innocuous long shot from an Exeter player was similarly spilled by Rob Elliot as normal time ran out. Elliot made up for his initial error by brilliantly blocking the rebound and saving his own blushes at the same time. As is the way with Elliot it seems, a great save is then followed by a mishap, though he cannot really be blamed this time as Charlton conceded from the resultant corner – substitute Cozic flicking his header home after another header put the ball into the six-yard box. Charlton played keep ball during the three minutes of added time, so a repeat of last week’s late equaliser was never on the cards.

Exeter played pretty well, and some of the best football seen from a visiting side at the Valley this season; a mention should also go to the referee, who I thought had an excellent game, playing advantage at every opportunity, and only booking McLeod for his shirt-off celebration (as he has too) and an Exeter player who pushed Elliot too vociferously after the goal.

There were no real stand-outs in the Charlton side; Spring showed he is an able midfield deputy, while Sam continued his good form. Bailey looked back into the mix of things, which is good as he has been short on inspiration over recent weeks, while Christian Dailly coasted through much of the match. Kelly Youga did well, and Therry Racon was involved throughout, and may just have shaded the man-of-the-match award.

The club will be happy to have had a relatively comfortable game, and looked to pick up no injuries ahead of a defining week in the season. With away games at Colchester and leaders Leeds coming up next, a full squad will be required, and the unbeaten Addicks will be hoping to pull themselves back up above the Yorkshire team at the end of the next seven days.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Back to Basics

I suppose in other seasons, a two game winless streak would have Charlton fans nervously looking over their collective shoulders, but in these heady times, that would be a disservice to Phil Parkinson’s (left) unbeaten Addicks. Eight games into the season, and still yet to taste defeat, the club sits in second place in the table, and could go back to the top if Leeds fail to win at the weekend.

Standing in the way of the loftiest perch are Exeter City, newly promoted and coming to terms with life in League One. City are the third of the promoted clubs to visit Charlton this season, and with Wycombe dispatched on the opening day, and with last years Champions Brentford comprehensively outplayed a month back, Charlton will be very confident of beating the third best team in League Two last season.

Exeter have started this season with two wins and three draws from their opening eight matches, and have a very good young manager in Paul Tisdale. Tisdale was suggested in some quarters as a possible replacement for Phil Parkinson during the dark days of the summer, though not many would be so vociferous now in voicing that switch.

The Grecians have few players that will be easily recognised by Addicks fans; the on-loan Stuart Fleetwood is not being allowed to play, so old hand Marcus Stewart, once of Ipswich, will probably lead the line once more. Craig Noone, a winger on loan from Plymouth may be the player to watch closely though, as he has scored once, had an assist, and had seven shots in his two matches played so far.

Exeter have already used 23 players in their league games so far this season, and that is in stark contrast to Charlton, who have so far been unchanged in all eight of their own matches; Charlton have also used six substitutes, so 17 players have been utilised. That statistic may well have to change this weekend though, as Parky has a few injury concerns to consider.

A few players have had injuries reported prior to games recently, but all have (miraculously) been able to take their place in the starting eleven come game time. One or two players may have been playing when slightly under par, and it is possible that those knocks are now coming back to hurt them. Fraser Richardson has a groin problem, which may not get better in the week’s rest he has had; Chris Solly will stand by to replace him if need be. Deon Burton broke his nose in last week’s game against Norwich, but it has been reset, and he is thought to be likely to play again this week. League One player of the month Lloyd Sam has a tight hamstring which has prevented him taking part in full training; with two important away games coming up, I would not be surprised to see Sam rested to the bench for this match, or altogether, with Scott Wagstaff given a starting place, especially if it will make a difference to Sam being fit for the next games. Midfielders Nicky Bailey and Jose Semedo also took knocks in last weeks game, but it sounds like they should both be fit enough to play and continue their important roles this week. With Christian Dailly still nursing sore ribs, and Miguel Llera protecting his cut head, the treatment room has been busy this week! In addition, it is unlikely that Leon McKenzie will make the subs bench, as he also has a bad hamstring.

This is the team that I think Parky may put out on Saturday, his first changes to the starting eleven this season –

Rob Elliot
Fraser Richardson
Kelly Youga
Christian Dailly
Miguel Llera
Jose Semedo
Terry Racon
Nicky Bailey
Scott Wagstaff
Jonjo Shelvey
Deon Burton

Subs from Randolph, Solly, Basey, Sodje, Spring, Stavrinou, Holden, Sam, Tuna, McLeod.

Exeter are one of those teams that make up the staple diet of opposition in League One; they fall into a group along with Walsall, Carlisle, Stockport, Oldham, and Hartlepool (among others). They are a team that Charlton should aspire to beat, and beat quite easily, if they want to be amongst the pace-setters for the league. I doubt that Exeter will play an expansive game, and they will be hoping to hit Charlton on a break, and then protect the lead and soak up any pressure. It is up to the Addicks to ensure that they do not fall behind, they themselves score early, and can then relax into the game in the knowledge that Exeter will pose a lot less threat than either of the last two teams Charlton have played, or the next two due to face the Addicks.

Pedro45 is going to predict a comfortable 3-0 win at The Valley on Saturday. It may be up to one or two fringe players – Solly, Wagstaff, Spring, McLeod for instance – to come up with the goods if they are required, and considering the longer term aspects of this season, it is important for each of them to make their own mark now. If each or any of them can get on the score sheet, or do a good job in the midfield or defence, then the likelihood is that when further reinforcements arrive in the January transfer window (or on loan beforehand), then they will not find their own bench positions under threat.

My one-to-watch in this game is going to be Nicky Bailey (left). The Charlton captain has been below par over the last few games, which may be down to the bad back he has been playing with. On the (excellent) Charlton Life player ratings for the season, assessed by fans at games, he only beats Llera (who has also had a couple of dodgy games recently) and Kelly Youga. Bailey started the season with a bang, and three goals in the first four games, but since he has looked quite subdued out on the left wing, and certainly not his vibrant energetic self. Bailey was possibly the cause of the half-time tunnel fracas at Carrow Road, and he does seem to lose a bit when riled. I’m hoping that with others possibly missing, Bailey steps up to the plate and re-asserts himself as the leader of the team, getting himself back on the score sheet and playing a full part in the match.

The last home game was always going to be tough, and to get a point at Norwich will look like a good result come next May; sure it was disappointing to concede in injury time, but these things do even themselves out (mostly) I think – after all, the Addicks goal against Southampton was not dissimilar to that scored by Holt…

If the two game winless streak is extended, then the following two away games will appear daunting, and we don’t want that to happen. With luck, Charlton could regain the top spot in this league on Saturday, and then try to hold onto it in Essex next week, and in Yorkshire next Saturday. The win is there for the taking, but it has to be fought for; anything less could see some red faces, and not the happy kind. The fans want a return to winning ways, and I think they might just get that wish.

Finally, I cannot go without mentioning the funds made available by the Board once more, that confirm that no players will need to be sold this season, and that the club is sound financially for the next few months at least. With Richard Murray (left) back as Chairman of the PLC (and Football Club) in a re-structured (and reduced) board, we have a leader back who can be related to, and one not afraid to speak his mind and put his money where his mouth is. Murray may not be Chairman for as long this time as he has been in the past, but it feels right to have him as our foremost representative once more.

Pedro45 says a big thank you to all of the new board of directors.

Come on you Reds!

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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Charlton Fail to Holt Norwich

Norwich City 2 Charlton Athletic 2

I suppose I should have known when my wife got out the Delia Smith cookery book this morning; having her cover photo face adorn the kitchen side all afternoon was to be a bad omen!

Charlton were unchanged for the eighth game this season, a remarkable fact, while Norwich had injury worries.

Deon Burton (seen celebrating, left) scored the first goal on 19 minutes with a low diving header high into net from Jonjo Shelvey’s corner; it was Burton’s 5th strike of the season, and his best so far.

Both teams attacked at will, and there were some hairy moments from both sides defensively. Burton continued to show very good hold up play and was always dangerous, while Holt had a good chance to equalise for the home team.

Five minutes before half time, a great break out started with Jose Semedo feeding Nicky Bailey on the left by the half way line. Bailey then quickly switched the ball out to the right where Lloyd Sam controlled well. Sam took the ball on to the bye-line and at the second attempt got his cross in superbly where Shelvey headed home from close range (left).

One-time Charlton target Wes Hoolohan then lashed home a minute before half time to bring Norwich back into the match, with Bailey lucky not to be booked as the half ended. The home crowd booed off the referee, though Norwich had committed more fouls in the half, and had received a yellow card of their own.

Early in the second half Jose Semedo did receive a booking, which appeased the home crowd a little, and the game remained entertaining, with both teams attacking at will. Miguel Llera then became the second Charlton player to see yellow, his fourth of the season – one more, and he will have to serve a suspension.

Norwich put plenty of pressure of the Addicks defence, with Hoolohan a constant thorn. Charlton struggled to get out of their own half and when they did they seemed to present the ball back to the home side way too easily. The Charlton goal was living a charmed life, as Norwich missed chance after chance.

Kelly Youga and Shelvey had shots after a quick break, but from the corner Norwich broke and forced a corner of their own. Sam made way for Scott Wagstaff, and Shelvey came off for Izale McLeod with twenty minutes left in an attempt to regain control of the game.

Charlton got the benefit of several tight offside decisions as the game quietened down with fifteen minutes left, but it was still all one way traffic. It was a real test of Charlton’s resolve as Norwich swarmed forward, and one which they have not been subject to previously apart, maybe, for the last few minutes in the first game against Wycombe.

Rob Elliot made a brilliant save to deny Smith after Hoolohan set up yet another chance with ten minutes left. Then McLeod broke free and had a chance to make the game safe for Charlton but put his shot wide.

McLeod was booked in the four minutes injury time, and then Elliot made a bad mistake, missing his punch from a looped cross and presented Norwich with the latest of equalisers – Grant Holt benefiting.

With just a minute left, only one team would have a chance to win the game and that would be the home team, who missed a final chance as time ran out.

Although disappointing to be knocked off the top of the table by the late equaliser, this was, in the end, a point won rather than two dropped. The uncertainty in the defence brought about by the heavy pressure put on the team was a severe test, and I doubt Charlton would have survived with a point in many other recent seasons given the intensity of the Norwich attacks. Christian Dailly deserves praise for the way he put his body in the firing line to stop several attacks.

The result does show that Charlton are a team to be reckoned with, and well capable of going to the best of the other League One clubs and winning points. Norwich will be looking to climb the table as the season progresses, and on this form will be firm favourites to win a play off place at least.

The league table is now stretched, with seven teams breaking clear; I do think it likely that the teams in the mix at the end of the season will be those in the top six now, plus Norwich and maybe one other club to contest the final play off places. Before the season started, many Charlton fans would be happy to know that they will have a chance of promotion come next May.

Away from Carrow Road, there were goals for ex-Addicks Darren Bent, Kevin Lisbie (2), Darren Ambrose, Charlie MacDonald, and also two for on-loan at Bristol Rovers Chris Dickson.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Play It Again, Sam!

I suppose after all the hullabaloo of trying to keep our 100% win record in tact, what follows could be an anti-climax, but Charlton’s next fixture, away at Norwich, is a big game, and was a Premiership fixture only five years ago. Those dropped points versus Southampton last week may rankle, but 19 points from seven games is not to be sniffed at, and when compared to both of the other teams who were relegated along with Charlton last season (the last and the next opposition), is a very good effort.

Phil Parkinson does have one club record still ongoing, and he would dearly love to continue that record for a few games more. Being able to pick an unchanged team for the eighth time in a row would be an amazing feat, and I suppose it really isn’t a surprise that it has wiped the floor with the previous most consistent team picked (some forty years ago). I watched that 1969 team play, and the names trip off the tongue like it was yesterday, so in a moment of mad selfishness, I’m going to compare that Division Two team with our current tier three eleven:

Charlie Wright Vs Rob Elliot
Elliot has a long way to go to match the experience and sheer presence of Wright; although some of the flamboyance was overdone, the Scotsman had his moments of brilliance, and you don’t get to be Hong Kong Footballer of the Year for nothing! If Charlie (left) had shut his legs more often, and if Rob can stop flapping at crosses, they would both be looked upon better.

Bob Curtis Vs Fraser Richardson
Both solid professionals, and both excellent tacklers and going forward down the wings to put in crosses. Richardson is still a new boy, and so has plenty of games to play to gather the respect that Curtis gained while at Charlton. I just hope Fraser doesn’t drink as much beer as Bob used to…

Brian Kinsey Vs Kelly Youga
Kinsey was an ex-winger converted to full back in his dotage, and Youga is a full back who sometimes plays like a winger! Whereas Brian was calm, Kelly is a bit mad if we are honest. Youga has the edge as a defender in that he is taller, and able to cover the middle of defence better, but as an all round full back, you would pick Kinsey every time.

Paul Went Vs Miguel Llera
Wally Went was another of those in the drinking club (with Curtis and Gregory), and if he had controlled his weight, and been luckier with those dodgy knees, he could have been a first division player. Sadly he wasn’t which was good for Addicks fans in some ways, as he stayed at Charlton for a little longer. The clubs first Spaniard, Llera has weighed in with a couple of goals already, but he has also struggled against a couple of decent centre forwards the last two weeks, and I hope he is not now being found out by this league.

Peter Reeves Vs Christian Dailly
Reeves greatest game was against QPR in the FA Cup, when he marked Rodney Marsh out of the match, until that is, Marsh hacked him down out of frustration (getting away with a booking) and left him injured. A 2-0 lead was wiped out as Marsh led the fight back and Charlton lost late on. A superb man-marker, what he lacked in height he made up in fitness and effort. Dailly also has that knack of being in the right place at the right time; better in the air than Reeves, but maybe not as quick, or as determined on the ground, both are excellent next to tall centre halves.

Graham Moore Vs Jose Semedo

The Tank or the Portu-Geeser? Neither would take many prisoners, and I shudder to think how many yellow and red cards Moore would have picked up in todays game; Semedo gets his fair share already. Moore was better going forward, and could thunder in long range shots, while Semedo is quicker, and fitter than the ageing Moore was in that team.

Alan Campbell Vs Therry Racon
The sublime Scotsman or the cheeky Frenchman? Both possess tons of skill, and would take on the entire opposition team if the opportunity arose. Campbell (left) was more of a short range passer and dribbler, while Therry likes his flicks, spins and through balls; both excellent players at this level.

Harry Gregory Vs Nicky Bailey
Our ‘Arry was a joy to behold on his day; teasing and tormenting a full back, winning free-kicks, and laughing it all off because he knew he’d be in the pub in not very long. I always wondered how he came to change shorts with Paul Went one half-time (he came out in number 5’s, while Went’s had number 7 for the second half…)? Harry was a leader (on the pitch and to the bar…), and so is Nicky on the field. Our current captain cannot be faulted for effort, and he is doing a sterling job out of position on the left wing. More of a potent scorer than Gregory, let’s hope he gets back on the goal trail soon.

Keith Peacock Vs Lloyd Sam
So much skill from both players, and I know that comparing Lloyd with Addicks legend Peacock is a little unfair. I suppose if Lloyd stays at Charlton for the next ten years and racks up another 350 games, then we could see them in the same light, although that is unlikely. Peacock was a better scorer in his day, before moving back to be the midfield general, while Lloyd just needs to be more involved as he is good enough to get Charlton promoted.

Ray Crawford Vs Jonjo Shelvey
The old hand, and the young pretender. Crawford was way past his best when he arrived at Charlton, and somewhat upset the apple-cart by pushing Ray Treacy out of the team. You could see he was good in flashes, but he just didn’t have the legs anymore, though he did give me his autograph in Cheeseman’s once just before he left The Valley. Jonjo is the future, though maybe not entirely Charlton’s, he’s potentially that good. We just need one very good season out of him, and then he can do what he wants.

Matt Tees Vs Deon Burton
The joke was that Matt Tees spent more time on the ground than he did standing; so thin (he weighed only ten stone!), he was always being bullied by bigger centre backs, and dumped on his back-side. Burton is so much stronger, and excellent at holding up the ball, but he just cannot leap as high the salmon-like Tees. Both could score a good few goals over a season though.

Of course, positionally and tactically, the teams were set up quite differently, so it’s only a bit of fun and not meant to be disparaging in any way. This would be my combined team –
Wright, Curtis, Kinsey, Went, Dailly, Semedo, Campbell, Bailey, Peacock, Shelvey, Burton.
Your own views may be different?

If Parky is able to pick the same starting eleven once more, providing those minor injuries carried by Dailly, Richardson, Bailey, and Racon have all been cleared up (for another game at least), then the only thing he has to worry about is the bench. Another midweek friendly fixture gave needed game time to all three of the recent new signings, but it also showed which of the current reserves is in form. Tamer Tuna scored the Charlton goal in that game, and he does seem to be banging them in at the moment. It would be sad to see him dropped from the bench when he is in such form, and the fact that Clinton McKenzie only lasted 45 minutes probably tells the story about where he is fitness-wise. Luke Holden played the whole match, and he seems to have settled in well, though he is still third choice winger in my book. Sam Sodje played an hour, which suggests that he is fit, and his place on the bench seems secure for another week. Of those still out of the match day squad, Chris Dickson finally got some match practice, though he did miss a few chances it seems; Dickson has today joined Bristol Rovers on loan for three months, ending much speculation.

This is the side I believe Parky will send out at Carrow Road –

Rob Elliot
Fraser Richardson
Kelly Youga
Christian Dailly
Miguel Llera
Jose Semedo
Terry Racon
Nicky Bailey
Lloyd Sam
Jonjo Shelvey
Deon Burton

Subs from Randolph, Solly, Basey, Sodje, Spring, Stavrinou, Holden, Wagstaff, McKenzie, Tuna, McLeod.

Norwich will not be fancying a game against the league leaders at this moment in time; ravaged by injuries and not in the best of form, they will be hoping that this seasons luck changes for them, and quick. The Canaries lost three players to injury in Monday’s televised away game at MK Dons – Nelson, Drury, and Hughes – and it could be that none are fit enough to face Charlton this weekend. Others are also injured, but it is doubtful that Norwich will start with the three seventeen year olds who ended up playing much of the game last Monday. Although chunks of their squad has been changed since that final day thrashing at The Valley and relegation last May, Norwich have retained some of their better players - Wes Hoolahan for instance – and also brought in quite a number of seasoned professionals in an attempt to bounce straight back up. Sadly, the 7-1 opening day defeat at home put the skids under manager Bryan Gunn, and he was replaced by the man who oversaw that mauling, Paul Lambert. The European Cup winner is slowly turning things around, but he had little time left in the August transfer window to make much impression, and little finances either. On loan Fraser Forster (one of two on-loan ‘keepers at the club) is likely to be in goal, while the goal threat will come from Grant Holt (last season’s top scorer in the fourth tier), Chris Martin (who scored plenty of goals while on loan at Luton last year, and who scored on Monday in 17 seconds), plus ex-Cody McDonald and old hand Jamie Cureton. Norwich play in an attacking manner, with flair, so Charlton will do well to keep a clean sheet this weekend.

Pedro45 was worried that this game might be the end of our unbeaten run, but the problems at Norwich seem to have come at the right time for the Addicks, so I am predicting a 1-1 draw. The home team are a handful, and will be thinking that they have little to lose and everything to gain; they will come at Charlton, and their quick counter-attacks could cause a few problems. Charlton, on the other hand, I hope still full of confidence, need to control the ball for long periods, and play for all 90 minutes with a positive conviction. This could be a very good game for neutrals…

My one-to-watch in this match is going to be Jose Semedo (left). Our defensive midfielder has had a wonderful season so far, and has given the defence a huge amount of respite by breaking up wave after wave of attacks through his pace, ability and foresight. The speed at which Norwich pour forward will be worrying, unless Jose holds his position, doesn’t get dragged toward the ball to far up field, and covers and compliments his defenders. I trust he is good enough, and that he could have a very good game.

This period of the season is the true acid-test for Charlton; playing the likes of Southampton and Norwich, plus Colchester, Leeds, and Huddersfield should show just how good we are, and where we can conceivably hope to be come next May. We have had the best start possible, and we are proud to still sit on top of the table. But to remain there, you have to vanquish all those seeking to knock you off that lofty perch. If we are good enough, we will.

Another long one; thanks for reading.

Up the Addicks!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Gone For A Burton

Charlton Athletic 1 Southampton 1

All good things come to an en eventually, and so it was no great surprise when the 100% win record in the league disappeared at The Valley yesterday. In a frantic game in front of the biggest home gate of the season, Southampton took the lead about five minutes before half time, while Deon Burton turned in the equaliser (left) about five minutes after the break.

Much debate before the game had centred on returning ex-manager Alan Pardew; a few boos rang out as he entered the arena prior to kick-off, and he refused to look anywhere near the west stand as he made his way to the away dug-out. During the game, Pardew took some local stick as he stood, but nothing of a vicious nature, and certainly no more than Mourinho, Wenger, or Ferguson has done previously.

Initially, unchanged Charlton struggled to come to terms with the visitors aggressive tactics; all Charlton’s creative players were man-marked tightly, and Therry Racon in particular received some rough treatment from Hammond. League One Player of the Month Lloyd Sam worked hard to find some space, and ably supported down the right hand side by Fraser Richardson, the pair did cause some discomfort to the Saints back line, but without any clear-cut chances being created. The nearest either team came to scoring in the early periods was when Southampton worked a crossing opportunity on the right and the ball came over to the back post, where the unmarked Mills made enough contact to get the ball on target. Goalkeeper Rob Elliot made a good save, but the ball looped up and appeared to be heading slowly for the net before Elliot’s momentum and good luck combined to allow him to unconventionally volley the ball away from off the line.

Another right wing cross, this time to the near post, broke the deadlock, as Lalana flicked home past an unprotected Elliot. A blow to Addicks hopes of maintaining their 100% record this may have been, but after getting to the break without conceding again, it would be interesting to see how manager Phil Parkinson would react to his former boss’s negative and destructive tactics.

The answer was to counter such negativity with a much more positive, attacking, display, with a much improved tempo getting almost immediate results.

Elliot took the ball in hand to break up a Southampton attack, and immediately bowled the ball long to Jonjo Shelvey haring down the left wing. It was a throw that Freddie Flintoff would have been proud of and Shelvey controlled at pace, took his marker to the bye-line, and then delivered a teasing cross that had Davis, the visiting ‘keeper, struggling to gather. As Davis failed to hold, the ball dropped behind him and the fast arriving Deon Burton bundled the ball over the line and in. From defence to attack in the blink of an eye, and a goal created by the vision of Elliot and the skill and impudence of young Shelvey.

Level again, Charlton then stood up to their visitors, and refused to be bullied, matching strong challenge with equally strong tackles. This led to bookings for Racon, Kelly Youga, and Richardson, and they were eventually followed into the book by Hammond and Thomas.

Charlton continued with the new high tempo game, and as the pressure rose, the Addicks did get the ball into the net on two more occasions; sadly, both goals were rightly chalked out for offside – Shelvey and Burton cutting short their celebrations on seeing the raised linesman’s flag.

After dominating the second half in much the same was that Southampton had controlled the first period, you thought that the Addicks might raise a grandstand finish, but sadly, nerves seemed to come to the fore in the last ten minutes, and communication between Scotsman Christian Dally and his Spanish fellow centre back Miguel Llera seemed to disintegrate; first both went for the same high ball which initiated a Southampton raid which luckily came to nothing, and then Llera failed to understand how much time he had when arriving at a long punt forward and rather than controlling and clearing with the time he had, Llera merely hoofed the ball high into the stand.

Llera was also a key player in the near breakdown of Charlton’s multi-ball rotation system, as first he humped a clearance onto the roof of the east stand, and then a wayward Charlton shot (I’m not sure who from?) ended up on top of the Jimmy Seed stand. As my friend said, if that had happened at Millwall, the game would have had to have been stopped while someone went out to get the balls!

After four minutes injury time, the game concluded with honours even; a fair result in the end and one which keeps both teams at the opposite ends of the table. The officials had decent games I thought, although it should be noted that Burton in particular was caught offside way too many times and made their job easy.

Pardew walked back to the dressing rooms, and briefly clapped the North Stand patrons; whether this was as a thank you for not giving him a hard time only he will know. It didn’t go down too well with some fans who saw it though, but at least it broke the ice and future visits by our ex-manager may not attract so much attention.

The point keeps Charlton on top of the table, and now that the 100% record start to the season is over, the onus is to keep the unbeaten record, and stay in front of all the other teams trailing behind. That will not be easy, and another good test of the Addicks resolve will come at Carrow Road next Saturday; the league table never tells the true story until at least ten games have been played, so by the end of this month we will have a very good idea how good a chance we have of promotion this season. Should we go into that game with seven wins, a draw and a couple of losses, then I’m sure in pre-season we would have been happy; now though, the expectation is very high, and Charlton would not want to start losing too many games in close proximity. The key is to bounce back, and a result next week would really show how strong we are this season, and keep the fans happy.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Percentage Game

It’s all about 100% at the moment: players give 100%, and 100% effort is what supporters require. Some players want to give and some fans expect more than 100%, but that is impossible. The Aussie cricket team have a 100% win record in the one-day internationals, and the England cricket team have a 100% loss record; the England football team meanwhile have a 100% record in their World Cup qualifying group, after last nights emphatic 5-1 win against Croatia, and will make the journey to South Africa where the players will give 100% in an effort to win that trophy.

In the Premiership, my Spurs-supporting cricketing friends are jubilant with their 100% start to the new season, while my Chelsea loving mate (who does come along to watch Charlton with me when she can) is very happy with the Blues 100% start this year. The only other supporters whose teams can boast 100% winning records are Leeds, who broke a long standing consecutive home wins record last week, and the team that sits above them in Tier Three, our very own Charlton Athletic.

Charlton have made an unexpected and staggering start to 2009/2010 season, winning all six of their league games and sit proudly on top of the table. After three years of pain and misery, the Addicks fortunes may have changed for the better, and the 100% record suggests that all is well at the happy Valley.

This Saturday, Charlton have the chance to extend their best ever start to a season (yes, best ever!) and that 100% record with a home game against Southampton. The Saints, thanks to their points deduction for going into administration at end of last season, are bottom of the table, so it is one of those top versus bottom games that the media love to see and report on every now and then.

Of course, Charlton are masters of slipping on banana skins, and this game could be one of those that sees the league leaders slip up against the bottom side? Southampton are managed by Alan Pardew, and there have been plenty of words written about him and his time as Charlton manager over the last couple of weeks.

Pedro45’s slant is that ultimately Pardew complicated matters too much; expecting to be able to change his team week-in week-out; signing players available rather than those needed (a good example was when he signed McLeod when we desperately needed a centre half…); and confusing the fans and media with after match verbal diarrhoea to cover up his short-comings. I never liked the man when he was in charge at The Valley, and I don’t like him now.

Now Pardew is working his magic at another club, and the same management style is pervading the south coast team as we saw in SE7; players are being signed from all over the place, and good players are leaving because they are either too expensive, or they don’t fit with Pardew’s plans. Southampton have started the season without a win in six games, offering Addicks fans the chance to smirk, and Saints fans the chance to worry. But memories of Pardew’s demolition job on his former West Ham team when they visited the Valley in February 2007 sit in the back of home fans minds, and Addicks hope that a similar performance is not going to come back and bite them this weekend.

Southampton have some good players, and that squad has been bolstered (though maybe not improved?) by Pardew’s signings; in have come Rickie Lambert (4 goals so far this year and top scorer in this league with Bristol Rovers last season) and Ndiaye Papa Waigo (a lanky striker on loan from Fiorentina) to form a potent and explosive forward line, plus defenders Radhi Jaidi (from Birmingham who will do a good job at this level when he is allowed by the authorities) and Dan Harding (from Ipswich). In midfield, Pardew has signed Colchester captain Dean Hammond, so when added to old hands Kelvin Davis (a very good ‘keeper) and ex-Addick Chris Perry, he has plenty of skill and experience to chose from. Pardew’s signings do seem to mirror his profligate time at The Valley though, and the main issue for him is getting them to know how to play together. Charlton fans will hope that they fail to gel enough to cause problems this weekend.

Pardew’s replacement at the helm at Charlton, Phil Parkinson (left), has also been busy in the transfer market recently, with Leon McKenzie, Sam Sodje and Luke Holden all joining the club on or around transfer deadline day. Of course, when you have that 100% start to the season, there is no obvious reason to make changes to your starting team, but Parkinson had holes in his squad, and rather than just try to buy any decent player made available, he simply filled the gaps on his roster that he felt he needed to. Provided the first eleven are fit, which touch wood they will be, none of the new singings is likely to start this weekend, and Parky would, I’m sure, like to go into the game with an unchanged team yet again, and as he has done for every game this season. There may be cause for change though, as one or two players are showing signs of wear and tear; Fraser Richardson has twice this year come close to missing out with a tight hamstring, and Therry Racon also had the same obvious problem during last weeks match at The Valley which required touchline treatment as the game went on. Luckily, Parky has the option of making straight replacements for both with reserves Chris Solly and Matt Spring waiting patiently on the side. And maybe that is the difference between Parky and Pards? If Pardew lost those two players, he might be thinking of moving Nicky Bailey in from the wing, or Jose Semedo back from midfield to full-back, and therefore upsetting the whole balance to the rest of the team; complicating matters just for the sake of it!

Provided there are no other injuries to worry about, I cannot see Parky making any unforced changes to his side; they were the number one choices for the first game of the season against Wycombe, and six wins later, there is no reason to suspect that they are not still his first choice team!

In goal, Rob Elliot will be looking for clean sheet number five for the season, though he will have to do better on crosses than he did last weekend, where he missed a couple of punches. He did make one outstanding reflex save when called upon though so we cannot be too harsh on him.

The defence is looking fine, with Richardson getting settled in his role on the right, and Kelly Youga, able to see better now he’s had his hair cut, on theleft. The middle of the defence was given a rough ride last week by Carl Cort, and Miguel Llera won little in the air against the big forward; similarly, Christian Dailly was exposed a few times by the pace of Myles Weston. It is to their credit therefore that they carried on playing the game, and did not concede, even when under such pressure.

Much of the credit to protecting the defence must go to Jose Semedo, who has had a fantastic start to the new season. Jose started the previous two seasons well too, but then either injury or suspension (he was sent off at Southampton two years ago) have seen him on the periphery of the team after Xmas, and Charlton’s season has trailed off with him out of the team. Hopefully, our Portu-geeser will stay fit and healthy, and not pick up too many bookings this year. The rest of the midfield has also worked hard to protect our defence, with the effort that Nicky Bailey, Lloyd Sam, and Therry Racon putting in obvious to all and sundry. These three, along with Jonjo Shelvey, also add the creative element to the Addicks team, and they will be the ones that Pardew sets out to quieten. The problem for other sides played so far is that they have been unable to keep all that talent down for very long, and I’m not sure that Southampton, even with Pardew’s inside knowledge, will be any different.

Leading the line as the fulcrum of the side is Deon Burton (left); an honest player, who is very fit and always gives 100%, Deon is not the cutting edge striker that many other teams have, but more the Emile Heskey of the Charlton side; he will bring in the other players and set up chances and goals through his unselfishness and skill, but will not be fully appreciated unless he knocks in the odd goal or two as well. So far, Burton has three strikes to his name (probably more than Heskey has score dthis year?), and all came from defensive errors; hopefully, he will get on the end of a cross this week and not profit from a mistake (though I’d be happy with however he scores!).

This is the unchanged team I expect Parky to send out to battle with his former boss –

Rob Elliot
Fraser Richardson
Miguel Llera
Christian Dailly
Kelly Youga
Jose Semedo
Therry Racon
Nicky Bailey
Lloyd Sam
Jonjo Shelvey
Deon Burton

Subs from – Randolph, Solly, Basey, Sodje, Spring, Wagstaff, Stavrinou, Holden, Dickson, Tuna, McKenzie, McLeod.

The problem with 100% records is that at sometime, they have to come to an end; it’s been great supporting the Addicks these last few weeks, winning every game, and heading the league table, but it will not continue for the whole 46-game season; even I am enough of a realist to not expect that! And sometimes during a season, you just know that you may not win, that things are in the stars or the wind that will conspire against you. Pedro45 is worried that this will be one of those weeks. Alan Pardew was always a lucky manage: he was lucky to have good players at the teams he inherited; lucky to have a listening Board with a fat wallet to do his bidding for him; lucky to walk away from two senior jobs with massive payouts when he was really a failure; and lucky that some other mugs would always give him a new job. With that sort of luck on his side, Pedro45 is predicting a 1-0 defeat for Charlton and an away manager getting rather a lot of stick from those sat behind him this Saturday. Pardew may even be lucky that it is me in one of those seats behind the away dug-out, and not some lout who would want to physically harm him. I would love to be there and to see Charlton’s 100% record remain intact, and to be able to give it to Pardew with a smile on my face and that hand on his face covering the scowl that was regularly prevalent when he picked the Charlton side, but I have a hunch we may not be so lucky.

My one-to-watch should be Pardew, because he is the one person that most eyes will be on during this match, but I’m going to pick a Charlton player because we have moved on – the key player in my eyes this week is going to be Miguel Llera (left). Our big Spaniard has had a funny season so far; looking dominant in the air and on the ground at times, he’s also had to contend with that nasty cut above his eye, plus the wearing of and getting used to his protective head-gear. Added to that the new partnership he has struck up with Dailly, and the couple of goals he scored in the first two home games, then he has done pretty well all round. He also came close to scoring at Orient, where we saw just what a sweet left foot he has, and when he booms those fifty yard passes from the back out to Lloyd Sam on the wing it adds a whole new dimension to just lumping the ball forward. Last week, he was severely tested by Cort, and actually won little in the air over the course of the match, yet still contributed to the clean sheet and victory. With a decent couple of strikers up against him this week, he will need to be at his best if Charlton are to aim for another clean sheet, and more points.

With so much animosity (I nearly typed hate, but maybe that is too strong a word?) surrounding this match, it would be easy to forget that it is just another league game in this 46-game marathon. If Charlton lose, or draw, it may be the end of the 100% record, and it may mean that Charlton are no longer top of the table, but it shouldn’t mean that we have seen the start of a slide. We will lose and draw plenty of matches this year, but that ability to bounce back is a requirement if the Addicks are to challenge for a return to the Championship at first time of asking. In some ways, it would be good to see a negative result provided we did bounce back and follow any loss of our 100% run with a victory at Norwich next week. But then again, wouldn’t it be lovely to win once more, stick it to Pardew, and go to Carrow Road still as league leaders, still with 100% record, and still the team to try to beat.

Sorry it’s been a long one; needed to get that off my chest!

Come on you Reds!

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Monday, September 07, 2009

Sixth Step Toward the Honey-Pot

Charlton Athletic 2 Brentford 0

Did Charlton cruise past the Brentford Bees on Saturday or was I dreaming? Another fine performance, though not without it’s moments of concern, but another three points that keeps Charlton top of the table, and a step nearer to ultimate aim for the season.

Two first half goals were enough to beat a good Brentford side; the first, just 11 minutes into the match, after a long cross-field pass from Miguel Llera behind the full-back was woefully headed short back toward the ‘keeper and Lloyd Sam nipped in to pull the ball back for Deon Burton to score from ten yards (above). Twenty minutes later Sam then finished a sublime passing move, which had lasted quite some time and maybe over twenty passes, taking the ball from Burton’s flick in the penalty arc, and beating the two centre backs before slotting home into the far corner. Lloyd has certainly been practising his after-goal celebrations (getting ready to rumble, pic below), and his effort at The Valley was far superior to his two efforts at Prenton Park last week!

Other chances came and went, most notably when Burton, Jonjo Shelvey, Nicky Bailey, and substitute Izale McLeod all spurned opportunities to hit the target. Brentford themselves had good efforts; Rob Elliot was forced to make an excellent save from Carl Cort’s second half header, and the Bees also hit the bar with a free-kick, though that never looked like going in. Other half-chances for the visitors went either high or wide, with ex-Addick Myles Weston often involved. Brentford were by far, in my opinion, the best team Charlton have faced this season so far, and I suspect that they had by far more possession than the home side, and probably more shots and corners overall. However, the Addicks looked a class above their opponents, and ultimately simply cruised the second half, taking the opportunity to give game time to Scott Wagstaff (on for Sam), and McLeod (for Shelvey). Therry Racon picked up what looked like a back injury (though other reports suggest it was a hamstring strain) and had treatment on the sideline while the first half goal celebrations went on, but hopefully he will be fit for next week after completing this match.

The League One table is starting to become clearer after half a dozen games and show how other teams are likely to fare this season; Leeds maintained their own 100% record to keep pace with the Addicks at the top of the table, and Huddersfield’s fine away win at MK Dons moves them into third place, but five points back on the leaders. Bristol Rovers moved up to fourth after beating Millwall, while Swindon creep into the last play-off spot after winning at Yeovil. Next week’s opponents, Southampton, remain bottom of the table, without a win, and already 24 points behind the Addicks.

It is a long season, and no chickens are being counted just six games into the 46-game marathon, but the Charlton start is superb and even when results do drop off (as they have to invariably when you are running at 100%!), the Addicks look like they have plenty of what is required to maintain a promotion push.

The confidence is oozing out of the club at the moment, and with injuries being kept to a minimum, back up players being given game time whenever possible, and the squad looking strong, it’s a pretty good time to be a Charlton fan.

In other news, Jonjo Shelvey has signed a one-year extension to his current contract, which ties him to the club until 2012; it is unlikely that Jonjo will see out this contract in my opinion, but at least this move probably gives him a deserved pay-rise, and also increases his future transfer value given that it could be based on his current terms if any fee is necessarily settled by a tribunal.

In Charlton’s first ever Johnstone Paint Trophy cup tie, the Addicks have been drawn against Barnet, with the game likely to be played at The Valley on 6th October. This was by far the easiest tie that Charlton could have been given, and the only chance to meet a tier four team at this stage. However, with Charlton’s recent cup record, we should not take this game lightly!

Up the Addicks!

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Buzzin' the Bees

It’s been a pretty good week for Addicks fans – a 4-0 thrashing away at Tranmere keeping us top of the table, followed up by some positive moves on transfer deadline day. Charlton manager Phil Parkinson (left) told us fans what we needed (a centre back, a left sided midfielder, and a striker), and then he fulfilled that mantra by gaining the services of Leon McKenzie, Sam Sodje, and Luke Holden (without spending a penny). By managing expectation Parky did a great job, and he was also successful in holding on to all the team’s better players, though much gratitude should no doubt go to the current Board for their help on this. Yes, it’s been a pretty good week.

Standing in the way of making it a fantastic week are Saturday’s opponents Brentford. Also unbeaten in the league this season (with two wins and three draws), and currently sitting in sixth place, the Bees should provide a stern test to Charlton’s league-leader credentials, and give yet another firm indicator as to how this season may pan out. Last year’s tier four Champions, Brentford are still riding that positive crest, and though suffering from a mini-injury crisis, they should give the Addicks a better game than recent opposition Tranmere and Walsall.

Brentford’s strength seems, on paper, to be their attacking options: While last years top scorer and former Addick Charlie McDonald is still out injured, the visitors can include another Addicks youth team player in Myles Weston, who has recently had his signing fee agreed by the Tribunal. Weston will no doubt be out to show The Valley what they missed out on, and he will be hoping to supply better-known forwards Carl Cort and Steve Kabba with enough ammunition to cause an upset. The Bee’s defence is in turmoil, mainly through those injury problems, and this has led to a number of youngsters being thrown in and some players having to play out of position. That’s not to say that they haven’t been doing OK, and with Welsh international Lewis Price in goal as a last resort, they could be a tough nut to crack.

Brentford also have a decent manager in Andy Scott, who has re-built his side after promotion; Scott took over the managers reins from Terry Butcher early in 2008.

Charlton’s own manager, Phil Parkinson, will have no such injury worries to contend with, and happy with a 100% win record in the league any changes to the starting side are unlikely for the sixth game running. It is possible, but by no means certain, that one or two of the new signings will make it onto the substitutes bench, especially as Stuart Fleetwood has gone back to Exeter on loan and that does lave a gap to be filled.

In goal, Rob Elliot will be hoping for a hat-trick of consecutive clean sheets, and the defence of Fraser Richardson, Christian Dailly, Miguel Llera and Kelly Youga in front of him have a settled look and some solidity. They also pose a goal threat from set pieces, and have three goals between them so far this season. The returning Sam Sodje is short of games, and may need a week or two to get fully match-fit; he can also score goals, and will put pressure on the centre of defence to perform, but may have to bide his time in getting into the side while everyone else is fit.

The midfield remains intact, thankfully, and it will be a pleasure to see Lloyd Sam, Jose Semedo, Nicky Bailey (all goalscorers last week at Tranmere) and Therry Racon (who must be due a first goal of his season soon?) winning the midfield battle week in week out. They are by far the strongest quartet of any league one club on paper, and it is to their collective credit that they are showing this on match days too. With Scott Wagstaff and Matt Spring providing good reserve, and with youngsters Alex Stavrinou and now Luke Holden we are blessed, and shouldn’t have too many issues if anyone gets injured or suspended.

In front of the midfield, but behind the forward line will be Jonjo Shelvey, and his link play is getting better as each game goes by. Leading the line for Charlton will be Deon Burton (left), who has come back to the club this summer extremely fit and, quite frankly, is playing some of the best football of his long career. Without an obvious squad replacement, Burton is another key player for the Addicks while the scores are close. Only when Charlton have a reasonable lead (as against Wycombe) will Parky be inclined to give him a rest, and try out other attacking options. New signing Leon McKenzie may not be fully match fit for another couple of weeks, so we may have to wait awhile for the Deon/Leon show.

This is the team I expect Parky to send out in front of the cameras on Saturday –

Rob Elliot
Fraser Richardson
Miguel Llera
Christian Dailly
Kelly Youga
Jose Semedo
Therry Racon
Nicky Bailey
Lloyd Sam
Jonjo Shelvey
Deon Burton

Subs from – Randolph, Solly, Basey, Sodje, Spring, Wagstaff, Stavrinou, Holden, Dickson, Tuna, McKenzie, McLeod.

Pedro45 is a realist, and at some stage, the 100% winning streak in league games has to come to an end; I just don’t think it will be this week (I hope I’m not wrong!). My prediction is for another comfortable 2-0 home win that will see the end of Brentford’s own unbeaten start, and a realisation that Charlton are good enough to compete with in-form teams in this league. With the knowledge that we are getting stronger and better ourselves as the season kicks into gear, we might be good enough to go on an even longer winning run…

My one-to-watch this Saturday is Jonjo Shelvey (left), who has had an interesting start to the season, and seems to have brought a bit of an edge to his game. Whereas last year, in his first full season in and around the first team, Shelvey seemed happy to be playing - making and scoring goals - he now has some pressure on his young shoulders. That pressure is mainly built from expectation, and it cannot be easy to have so many hopes thrust upon you at such tender years. Jonjo needs to accept this load, but try to get back to playing with a smile; too many times this year we have seen him get into small confrontations, either brought about by his own naivety in the tackle, or from older pro’s trying to wind him up and getting a reaction. It just takes one dodgy refereeing decision to go against him and he could be out for three games! He will also have the weight of the transfer window behind him now for at least another four months, so he can concentrate on doing what he does best, and that is playing football. Shelvey holds a key role at The Valley, where his work-rate, vision, and dead-ball prowess need to be at their best in order to create chances for others. He has been unlucky to only score once this season so far, and in front of the Sky TV cameras on Saturday, he could increase his potential transfer value (for one day, it will ultimately come…) with a goal or two.

Playing in front of the TV cameras always brings a special atmosphere to games at The Valley, and this Saturday will be no exception. With crowds down on recent years, the onus is on the Addicks to show everyone, including lapsed fans, what Phil Parkinson’s team are now about: Gone is the worrying; gone is the nervousness; gone is the desperation. We now have supreme confidence, fantastic skills and ability, untold application and a willingness to graft. The team also have the full backing of those fans who did renew their season tickets, and those who queue each week to get in, and there is a healthy respect for the management, and Board, for what they have done over recent months. I don’t know if there will be a take-over in the near future, but we should all thank our lucky stars that we have guys like Derek Chappell and Richard Murray at the helm because without them, we may not have been able to see Charlton aiming upwards for very much longer.

Come on you reds!

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Deadline Day

I have to say that this is the most adrenaline filled transfer deadline day I have felt as a Charlton supporter for about five years, since Scott Parker was in fact sold. That happened in the January window, and two years later, we all had the same sort of sinking feeling when Danny Murphy left the club just before the witching hour.

Since then, it has been a case of who might sign for the club, rather than who might leave, especially when Alan Pardew was manager. Now, though, with valuable assets in Jonjo Shelvey and Nicky Bailey on board, the onus is on Charlton to keep them, and not have to sell to a high bidding club. Other player assets may also be attracting offers, and hopefully they would not include Therry Racon, Lloyd Sam, or Jose Semedo.

It is known that various offers were received in recent weeks for Izale McLeod, Stuart Fleetwood, and Chris Dickson (left), so possible outward movement could happen involving those two players, especially Dickson’s lengthy link with Gillingham. Fleetwood, who finally made his bow in a Charlton shirt at Hereford, is linked again today with Exeter, and McLeod was linked last month with Hearts.

It is also possible that the Addicks will try to get some experience for one of their youngsters, and a move on loan could be afoot for first-year professional Jack Clark.

The rumour mill has Charlton looking to sign both Luke Holden, a 20-year-old left winger at Rhyl, though that move may now be off, and Leon McKenzie, a free agent who has been at Coventry over recent seasons. Both transfers have apparently reached the advanced stages, so could be pushed through before 5pm today. Also in the frame, according to some reports, is centre back Sam Sodje, another free agent, who Charlton had on loan a couple of years back. Sodje was surplus to requirements at Reading, and his contract ran down with that loan spell in SE7 followed last year by another at Leeds. With centre back cover desperately needed, local lad Sodje would be an acceptable signing, and should be able to play alongside both Christian Dailly and Miguel Llera whenever required.

Free agents can of course be signed at any time, so there is no big rush to get Sodje or McKenzie tied to deals today, other than the worry that, if we want them, they might sign elsewhere. In addition, loan deals can be arranged from next week, so if there is a lack of actual signings today, then the loan route is one we can take advantage of should we wish later in the month.

One last point, the Charlton Athletic Online post of August 6th carried photos of both Sodje and McKenzie, and intimated at that time that both could prove useful additions to the Addicks squad. I can assure readers that this was not privileged information, but I guess sometimes you just get lucky!


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