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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well said
Good incisive report, as always, Pedro.
"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."
Well said mate! COYA!!
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