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!

Excellent piece, couldn't have summed up the thoughts re the game at Norwich any better or any differently.
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