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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Hope you are wrong mate, but I agree about the banana skin ... it's also got me worried as well.

However, I'm going to go for a 3-1 win ... will be overseas for this game so hope to hear the Valley faithful loud and clear on CAFC PLAYER.
Are you seriously predicting a defeat?
No way Pedro (45)
3.0 To the Addicks.
Yep...though I hope I am very wrong Daggs! We have to lose sometime, and our ex-managers luck may come home to haunt us..

It would be good to stuff him though wouldn't it!!!

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