Thursday, December 31, 2009

Team of the Half-Season

As we are just about at the half-way point in this League One season, and for a bit of seasonal fun, I wondered how the first half performances of Charlton’s players would compare with the rest of the division, and as such see how many of them may get into a League One team of the half-season? This is just my opinion and is obviously open to debate, so if you think I’ve made any errors or glaring omissions, please feel free to comment with your own point of view.

Obviously any such side would predominantly be made up from the Leeds team that has taken an eight point advantage at the top of the table by the half-way mark, but there are places up for grabs where Leeds have been struggling through injuries, and the first of these positions is in goal.

Casper Ankergren has played just 13 league games for Leeds, but is he any better than the rest of the divisions ‘keepers? I don’t think he is. Certainly Rob Elliot has made saves which have won points and broken opposition hearts too and there haven’t been too many other candidates for the best divisional side that I have seen. Lewis Price of Brentford is a decent goalie, as is Simon Royce at Gillingham, but I wouldn’t pick either of them above Elliot (left). The Huddersfield ‘keeper, Andy Smithies, is highly rated, but on the road the West Yorkshire team are very vulnerable and often concede, which is not the usually case for Elliot and Charlton. So the first position I have filled is Charlton’s very own Rob Elliot.

Jason Crowe has also suffered injury at Elland Road, so he cannot be confirmed as the team’s right back, and with Frazer Richardson also struggling fitness wise, the right back slot is open and it is therefore one of the hardest positions to fill in this side. I could suggest that Robbie Williams of Huddersfield could be the man to fill the gap, but he has played less than ten league games this season so far, and some of those appearances were in midfield. I am ultimately left with no other choice than to choose Alan Dunne of Millwall, who has been solid all season in a defence which rarely concedes many (except at The Valley), and he has chipped in with a couple of goals too.

On the left side, the choice to me seems a straight fight between Leeds’ Ben Parker and Charlton’s Kelly Youga, while Adam Drury (Norwich) is a solid reserve. Carlisle’s Ian Harte has scored more goals than the others put together, but he does take all the free kicks and penalties for that club, and their defensive record (which is part of his remit) isn’t that good. Parker is young and looks good for the future, but my pick (because I am slightly biased) goes to Youga, who has skill in abundance and has backed his forward forays with some excellent defending this season.

The centre back pairing would include Patrick Kisnorbo who has also been central to Leeds own defensive solidity, and also Christian Dailly, who has been a rock at the heart of Charlton’s make-shift defence, so it would be remiss not to see him included. I pick Kisnorbo over his usual defensive partner Leigh Bromby, just, and also pushing for a place on the bench is the impressive Magnus Okuonghae of Colchester.

In the centre of midfield, Charlton fans know the importance of Jose Semedo, but he isn’t a crowd pleaser and may not be the choice of his fellow professionals. Nicky Bailey on the other hand would walk into any team in this league, and you do feel that the players at other clubs respect him (by trying to kick lumps out of him at times!). Bradley Johnson at Leeds is also very highly rated and also scores goals, while Anthony Wordsworth of Colchester is one for the future who plays a bit like Martin Peters did all those years ago! Carl Baker, who scores most of bottom side Stockport’s goals, and Adam Lallana (Southampton) are both to be respected, but not quite in the league of Bailey and Johnson. For solidity, a worthy mention should also go to old hand Graham Kavanagh of Carlisle, but in this team, he would stand out like a sore thumb for being the slowest!

The left side of midfield has only one contender as far as I’m concerned. Others may disagree, but I was disappointed that Charlton did not sign Wes Hoolahan when they had a chance (to replace Andy Reid) a couple of years ago, and he is by far the brightest player in Norfolk these days. He walks into any divisional side picked this season.

That leaves one midfield position to fill on the right wing, and it is a straight choice for me between Lloyd Sam and Robert Snodgrass, with the Leeds player shading it by scoring more important goals and being more consistent. Andy Pilkington (Huddersfield) has a great shot on him, while Kevin Lisbie is a player that we know and love (or not) from the past; as with Lisbie, Jason Puncheon (MK Dons) is on a season long loan from a Championship club so I don’t think they really count in this task.

Most teams like this include three forwards, but I’m sticking with a 4-4-2 formation which means just two strikers. Although Deon Burton has played manfully so far this season, the choice is sure to be two players from the four top scorers that are Jermaine Beckford (Leeds), Richie Lambert (Southampton), Lee Barnard (Southend) and Grant Holt (Norwich, left). Jordan Rhodes of Huddersfield is worth a mention too, as are Easter (MK Dons) Forster (Brighton) and Jackson (Gillingham), who have all scored plenty of goals this year, but they would only make a subs bench at best in my opinion. My choice of attacking players from the season so far goes to Holt and Beckford, who would form an explosive partnership at this or a slightly higher level. If I did have to pick a third forward to start it would be Lambert, at the expense of Snodgrass, though I think the team is stronger as 4-4-2 rather than 4-3-3.

This is my team of the first half of the season, managed by Simon Grayson (of course) –

Rob Elliot (Charlton)
Alan Dunne (Millwall)
Kelly Youga (Charlton)
Patrick Kisnorbo (Leeds)
Christian Dailly (Charlton)
Nicky Bailey (Charlton)
Bradley Johnson (Leeds)
Robert Snodgrass (Leeds)
Wes Hoolahan (Norwich)
Jermaine Beckford (Leeds)
Grant Holt (Norwich)

Subs – Smithies (Huddersfield), Bromby (Leeds), Semedo (Charlton), Sam (Charlton), Rhodes (Huddersfield), Barnard (Southend), Lambert (Southampton).

The players themselves get to vote around February and March time I believe, so by then one or two of the players who haven’t made many appearances due to injury may make a bigger impression, but it will be fun to see how this side compares when the seasonal team is announced at the PFA awards in May 2010.

Happy New Year, and up the Addicks!


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