Thursday, August 04, 2011

Up and At ‘Em

The squad rebuilt; fans optimism at a high; the players raring to go – don’t you just love the week before a new season starts!

But how will our Addicks fare this year? Is it back to the glory days, or more mid-table mediocrity waiting for the team to gel, or is it all doom and gloom and sack the manager time once more? Pedro45 gives his view on those teams Charlton will be coming up against…

It has to be an improvement this season, as the fans and owners will expect nothing less; Chris Powell just has to make it work, otherwise he can expect the same harsh boot that Phil Parkinson received last January.

Looking at the competition, and you can only do this on paper pre-season, Pedro45 thinks that there are six teams in with a viable shout for automatic promotion, and one of those is Charlton. With 15 new players signed, it might be that in some games the team look more comfortable than in others, but you would expect that. What we cannot have though, is all the excuses about the team taking time to gel, as that is what we had last year. Nobody expects a six-game winning streak at the start of a season, a fond memory from 2009/10, but neither do we want a repeat of a 13-game winless run as we had last year. A balanced start, with a strong finish is what would be nice, and I am confident that with the new players at his disposal, Powell is the man to lead the team to glory, even if they don’t quite make it up as Champions.

The other teams in with a promotion shout in my opinion are both Sheffield clubs – Wednesday and United, local rivals Huddersfield, plus Preston, and maybe surprisingly, MK Dons.

Sheffield Wednesday will be relying on Jose Semedo to do as great job in midfield for them as he did at The Valley for three seasons, and with David Prutton alongside, they will be strong in this area. They have an experienced manager – Gary Megson – but could suffer early anxiety if results don’t match that of near neighbours United in the early Autumn matches. Sheffield United will be hoping that their youngsters, who are pretty good if truth be told, can come to grips with the division; if they do, and can, then they might just about run away with the league, but if they can’t, and if the older hands brought in to help them struggle to adapt and gel (that word again..), then they may fade as Spring is sprung.

Huddersfield blew their best attempt at promotion when losing to Peterborough at Old Trafford in the play offs last May. They have retained the services of some of their better players (Jordan Rhodes for example) but have lost others, so a small amount of tinkering with their squad has been necessary. Lee Clark’s twitch may be more pronounced therefore as his side slip further away from the top of the table, but I still back them to make the play-offs, and they may be lucky in winning at Wembley this year.

MK Dons are a team that look pretty average, but if they had a genuine goal-threat, coupled with the usual solidity they have in midfield and defence, could make them strong. Sam Baldock has stayed with the club, but his problem is not talent, just fitness. If he plays 40-plus league games, then I think Dons will return to the play-offs, but otherwise, they may struggle to finish top half.

Preston have hard-man manager Phil Brown at their head, and keeping your team on the pitch at half-time at Deepdale on a cold Tuesday night is not much fun, so we can expect his team to be hard-working and strong. The have attacking talent (Hume, Mellor) and if they can stop shipping goals in the way they did while getting relegated last season and find some consistency they too may be right up with the top teams.

Of the rest, I don’t think relegated Scunthorpe have the attacking prowess that enabled them to bounce back to the Championship at the first time of asking two years ago, and last seasons other play off side Bournemouth have lost too many players to be much more than just above half-way this year.

Of the teams that had enjoyable seasons last year, Orient will be tough to crack if their team ethic is maintained, while Rochdale are like Bournemouth in that they have lost most of their management and better players in the summer. Both may flatter early on, but ultimately will fall short due to small squad strength.

Colchester look like a team in free-fall, now that the owner has not realised his required quick return from funding the new stadium, while Carlisle are too inconsistent, and Brentford’s bees have to fight over-expectation from having a former German international as manager, without sufficient resource.

Exeter and Yeovil may benefit in the short term from Plymouth and Bristol Rovers demise and pick up their better players, but they will have good days but average seasons I think.

Hartlepool and Notts County have both spoken about aiming for the top of the league, but only County have an outside chance, though with mad-dog Martin Allen in charge, anything is possible (including a poor season).

Oldham will hope Paul Dickov can unearth some team spirit and keep them up, while Tranmere and trainer/manager Les Parry will want to play a whole season like they did the second half of 2010/11 and not a whole season like they did in the first half of 2010/11! Walsall have changed much of their squad, and will be content to survive another year, if they can.

That just leaves the four promoted teams, and each have a chance to survive, but will struggle to get above half-way. Bury may find goalscoring a problem, Chesterfield will probably be the best footballing team of the four, while Stevenage and Wycombe will hope that their defences can keep enough clean sheets for them to win a few matches, though I think they are both in trouble.

This is how I think and hope to see the league table looking next May:

Sheffield Wednesday
Sheffield United
MK Dons
Notts County

Promotion party on hold then, but let’s keep our fingers crossed for a winning start to the year on Saturday!

Come on you Reds!


What a great team!

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