Thursday, August 19, 2010

Up For It!

Three games in, and Charlton can count themselves quite content with how the results have gone so far this season. Two league victories, and a great first half hour in the Carling Cup have left most of us fans smiling, even though the last hour at Shrewsbury wiped that particular competition from our aims this year.

With so many new players joining the club, it will always take a certain amount of time for them to gel, and play as a team should, but such is the positivity surrounding the Club at present, then we are quite happy with performances so far. Phil Parkinson looks to have bought wisely, and with Richard Murray about to assume sole responsibility for club ownership, he has even offered the odd-transfer payment to be made in securing Pawel Abbott and Simon Francis (and there may be more to come?).

Abbott could be the missing link that the team has been looking for in the last 24 months. While I respect the effort that Deon Burton made for the club, to me, he wasn’t the type of player that we needed, simply as he was too static and had very little pace. The glut of goals (including penalties) hid this at the start of last season, but after Xmas, when any scoring threat dried up, Burton was a liability. Sadly, at that time, we had few viable options. With Abbott in the side, we have more movement, more threat, and much more skill. Abbott is also just as good at the art of holding the ball up for the team, and (as we saw at Orient) is quite willing to play the lone striker role and run his heart out if it is required.

The addition of movement into the side has also seen Lee Martin join on a season-long loan from Ipswich. Martin was obviously out of favour with Roy Keane’s team, and this move will give him the opportunity to get his career back on track. If first looks are worth anything, then it does seem like we have made a great signing, as he has skill, speed, a great football brain, a fine shot, and a willingness to play as part of the team. Whether he plays most of the season up front, or on the wing, I think we have a genuine Player-of-the-Year contender here.

Simon Francis is another new recruit who has just about settled into the team now. Displacing Chris Solly after his man-of-the-match performance against Bournemouth was a tough choice to make, but Francis’s height was very necessary against Orient, and once he has his kicking boots fitted properly, I expect him to be another fine signing. Francis is a totally different sort of full-back to the man he replaced (Frazer Richardson), but no less an athlete. With Solly able to cover both full backs plus any midfield place from the bench, I expect him to get plenty of game time as the season progresses, and hopefully he can add to the terrific late goal he got at Brisbane Road.

Francis’s ex-Southend team-mate Alan McCormack has also had a goodstart to his Charlton career. Not someone I had remembered or heard of previously, I thought he may simply provide midfield cover from the bench this season, but a couple of decent displays in the first two league games show that he is much more than that. A decent tackler,and one who isn’t afraid to throw himself in front of shots show that he has a touch of the Nicky Bailey’s about him; the way he ghosted in and headed Charlton ahead last Friday indicate that he may not have ginger hair but he can score goals too. Bailey hasn’t been missed so far in SE7, and that is a great sign.

McCormack has also needed to step up to the plate as his holding midfield compadre departed in the opening game of the season when the referee brandished a straight red card at Jose Semedo. Although unfortunate, I can understand the ref’s viewpoint (he gets one look,and has to make a call…), but it is disappointing when those at the FA have a chance to watch it on video, and still come up with the wrong decision; we have no option but to suffer the three-game ban now. As for Christian Dailly’s red card, well, you can understand both offences picking up a yellow, and it was Dailly’s poor control that predicated the lunge that picked up second card. At least the Scot only misses one match.

With those two players – first and second in the fans poll from last season – missing on Saturday, others will need to step forward. Gary Doherty has those such leadership qualities, and though he was in part responsible for the Orient goal on Friday night (after Therry Racon gave the ball away cheaply), he has performed pretty well in his games so far. Not blessed with great pace, he does have great experience, and uses this to the full (much as Dailly does). With Johnnie Jackson playing well within himself at left back, the defence does look sound, and with cover in the shape of Matt Fry (who I expect to replace Dailly on Saturday provided he is fit from his calf niggle), Miguel Llera, and youngster Yado Mambo, it has meant that the clamour for the signing of Jon Fortune (who has been training with the club and played in another friendly this week) has abated.

All told, the squad has good balance, and some fine additions. I do feel that with one or maybe two extra signings we will have a squad capable of challenging at the very top of the league table. A bench that contains Tuna, Solly, Mambo, and Stavrinou is great for Valley Gold, but is a little short on experience for my liking over a 46-match season.

Next Monday sees the EGM at The Valley where Richard Murray will take sole ownership/leadership of the club. This is a good thing, make no mistake, but I do wish that it was easier to understand with respect to those fans that hold shares in the PLC when all the talk is of buying up the Football Club and Holding Company, and the transfer of inter-company debt. My shares may not be worth anything, but they are mine, and I would like to keep them! I’m sure it will all be clarified next week. This also leaves the club nicely poised to accept additional investment, but I’m sure that those talking to Murray will know that.

With season ticket sales up to around 9,000, and a top of the table clash at home on Saturday, it will be good to get back at The Valley; we may not see the opening six-game winning streak of last season, but I fully expect us to go two points clear at the top of the table come 4.45.

Up the Addicks!


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