Thursday, October 22, 2009

Medway Between Heaven and Earth

It seems a long time since Charlton’s last match, even though it was only last Saturday; I’m not sure why it feels like that, but I guess quite a lot has happened since that victory over Huddersfield.

For a start, we have had the breaking of takeover news once again, but this time the media tell us that there are two interested parties – David Sullivan and his ex-Birmingham cohorts, and another group led by Dennis Wise and Tony Jiminez, late of Newcastle. Whether either party actually comes up with an offer that the Board of Charlton consider worthy of recommending to shareholders is going to need a few weeks, I suggest, while due diligence is carried out in both directions. By that, I mean that not only will any prospective buyers want to see Charlton’s books, and make themselves happy that any debt is manageable, but also from the alternative view that Charlton fans will only want to see their club in the hands of owners who are going to continue to take the club forwards, both in the community, and on the pitch. All that is for the future though, and should not affect the lads on the pitch and certainly not in a way that had every player worried when the Zabeel offer came to the table in October last year (was it really that long ago?).

This weekend, Phil Parkinson and his team will be more concerned with winning away at Gillingham, with the potential to go back to the top of the league, a position that the club occupied after last weekends win. Leeds last minute goal on Monday night saw them reclaim top spot, but they have a tough away game on Saturday (with another tough game to follow the week after), and a win for the Addicks might be enough for the yoyo-ing to continue.

This blogster has always had a soft spot for the Medway team, having been good friends with a work colleague who followed the team in the early eighties, and also having other friends who lived close by. The Gills always seemed to be in a division below Charlton, so league matches were rare; I remember being on holiday in Scotland when the famous Powell-Peacock goal was televised to Big Match viewers in the mid-Seventies, and for some other reason, did not get to the Priestfield Stadium for the 1980 game either. That match was won by a Killer Hales goal, and the return visit in the last game of the season saw another Charlton victory and a promotion party too, meaning that the clubs didn’t meet again at first team level until five years ago. On that occasion, I did see Charlton play at Gillingham, though after the first minute goal had little to cheer about as Charlton lost 3-2 on a bitterly cold day. Nobody from that day except the fans remain to travel down the A2 once more so it will have little bearing on the fixture.

What we can be sure of though, is that the rivalry between the clubs will be at its highest, more because of the actions of Gillingham Chairman Paul Scally than any recent results. Scally has put his oar in whenever he can to put Charlton down, as you would expect from any vociferous Millwall fan (for that is what he is). Upset by Charlton’s action in offering a bus service to home matches, as well as away games, from Medway towns (and others), and latterly by Charlton’s reluctance to give them Chris Dickson for free, Scally has been on at the media for weeks bigging up this match. He’s also bigged up the ticket prices as well, so at least that aspect, and the fact that Charlton have sold out their entire allocation, will bring some sort of smile to his face. Yes, it will be a big game for Gillingham’s fans, and players, and directors, but then again Charlton have come to expect that during this League One season whoever we play.

It’s not that bad a time to be playing Gillingham either, as they have injury worries for their small squad, and even had to send back a striker (Vernon) just brought in on loan from Colchester after just 40 minutes action due to serious injury. Another loanee has also joined the club recently, Matt Fry, a young centre half from West Ham, and manager Mark Stimson is desperate to find another loan forward before the weekend if he can. Gillingham also have four ex-Charlton players on their books – Rashid Yussuf, Simon Royce, Barry Fuller and Mark McCammon, though McCammon is unlikely to be fit to play. The Gills have conceded 15 goals in their last six games, including four in a game twice, so it’s not just up front that they have issues. The team haven’t kept a clean sheet since Millwall were the visitors, well over a month ago.

For Charlton, I guess no news is good news, and hopefully after last weeks bruising encounter with Huddersfield all the team have come through unscathed. Defenders Christian Dailly and Frazer Richardson both had stitches in head wounds after the game so maybe they will borrow one of Miguel Llera’s headguards to wear this week? Presuming Nicky Bailey is also fit after the heavy tackles he took in that match, I expect Charlton to play pretty much their strongest team this weekend.

Of course, the strongest team may not be that which has played most matches this season, as it will be interesting to see if Parky reverts to the 4-5-1 formation preferred in the first dozen games or retains the 4-4-2 pattern used last weekend. In my mind, with Jose Semedo back in the team and fit for 90 minutes, it would be best to keep Izale McLeod up front, with Jonjo Shelvey, Dave Mooney, and Tamer Tuna in reserve. I am also presuming that the timing of Deon Burton’s hernia operation hasn’t been brought forward and that he is available to lead the line. It will be an interesting decision for Parky to take, bearing in mind that we have Mooney until the beginning of December, and that Burton will be out of action for three weeks when he does finally go under the knife. With seven games between now and 1st December, there is no obvious gap to be without Burton, so Parky will have to make that call when all others are fit (and not threatened with suspension as McLeod is); the recovery from the thigh strain that Clinton McKenzie had in training last week seems to be key to when Burton has his op, so it could be early next week?

This is the team I think Parky will send out to start the game being labelled as the Kent Derby –

Rob Elliot
Frazer Richardson
Kelly Youga
Christian Dailly
Sam Sodje
Jose Semedo
Therry Racon
Nicky Bailey
Lloyd Sam
Izale McLeod
Deon Burton

Subs from Randolph, Solly, Basey, Llera, Spring, Stavrinou, Wagstaff, Shelvey, Holden, Tuna, Mooney.

There is a real need for Charlton to push on and confirm that they are going to go all the way this season; the players were all geared up to get back to the top of the league last Saturday apparently, and they can play with that same knowledge again this weekend. Sure, local derbies are tough, and the home crowd will be noisy, just as they were at Orient (when we won) and at Colchester (where we lost) when Charlton filled an away section. Provided that our defence, and Semedo, can shackle the danger-man that is Canadian strike Simeon Jackson, then I can see Charlton winning this game quite easily – Pedro45 is predicting a 3-0 victory.

My one-to-watch in this match is going to be Therry Racon. I think our French play-maker was twice my one-to-watch last season and he scored on both occasions, so I’m hoping he can do so again. Playing back alongside Jose Semedo, Racon has the freedom to express himself and really drive the rest of the team forwards. While the other flair players, like Lloyd Sam, Jonjo Shelvey, and even Nicky Bailey have taken deserved plaudits, the consistency of Racon in the middle of the park has also been key to Charlton’s success this season. He played huge roles in keeping the team going while Semedo was out injured and now, back in tandem, I cannot see too many clubs in this league being able to get the better of them, as happened in the first few weeks of the campaign. Therry is still looking for his first goal of the season, and has been getting closer and closer as the weeks have progressed; hopefully, this week will see that net bulge once more for him.

I cannot finish this blog piece without a mention of some other news this week, namely that one of the other Charlton blogs is to call it a day (on a regular basis at least). New York Addict has written intelligently and well for most of the time my own blog has been trundling along, and interspersed his excellent Charlton news, views, and long-distance match reports with some biting wit (the email trails he hacked from The Valley mainframe are classics!). Coupled with an insight into the world of hedge-funds and what really happened with the banking crisis, his blog has always been a must-read for Pedro45. I wish NYA and his family a safe journey back to England and hope that his new home in The Chilterns does not prevent his attendance at The Valley too often. With Chicago Addick now based in Bermuda, and NYA coming home, will any other US-based Addicks please turn out the lights when they leave.

Up the Addicks!

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