Monday, May 07, 2012
After such a fantastic year, culminating in the League One Title being won, and the trophy being collected on Saturday, this blog just had to make a short comeback in order to add my congratulations to a group of Charlton players who have excelled this season. Pedro45 has been mightily impressed with most (if not all) of them, and at the way that Chris Powell has managed the team over the last nine months. Will they all cut it in the Championship? Have they done enough to earn that new contract? Have they reached the peak of their careers? This is what Pedro45 thinks -
Not perfect, but a very good start to his career. His rebuilding of the team was (at times) inspired, with some key signings at crucial times (Kermorgant, Cort, Haynes, etc etc etc), and the way he fitted them into the squad without breaking the team spirit in any way was a tribute to him and his backroom staff in their judgment. He did slightly annoy me that, when he had the opportunity to rest players, he chose the same team week-in and week-out, and you did see late in the season that one or two players (Kermorgant, Jackson, and Hollands, for instance) were starting to look leg weary; I just felt that if he had taken the opportunity to rest players when he could, for a game here and a game there, that we would have actually been even stronger come the run in. The same was true with substitutions - Chris did not make them early enough on many occasions, either when winning, or when chasing three points. That said, it is very difficult to criticise when you look at the season's record and I am just being pernickity really. He has a fabulous back-room team with Alex Dyer, Damian Matthew, Paul Avory, Paul Hart, and his medical team (who need special mention for keeping so many of the side fit all year!), plus the Board (of course!) all doing an excellent job in supporting the manager.
The fact that Hamer is in the League One team of the season, as chosen by his peers, speaks volumes about the man. He has had a pretty good season! In replacing a (minor) Valley legend (in Rob Elliot), Ben was not going to be given an easy introduction to life in SE7, but he settled in fairly quickly, and soon after the pink wonder headed northwards, he came into his own. Tall and athletic, Ben struggled as those had before him with taking crosses cleanly, but his shot stopping and distribution were very good. Long raking kicks from hand out to lurking forwards ready to burst ahead were the norm, especially when Charlton held a lead, instantly turning defence into counter-attack. There were a few minor glitches; one after he was unluckily sent off on New Year’s Eve at Orient for handball and another after an ankle injury saw him replaced mid-game. He then returned probably a week early and his kicking suffered as a result. Then there was the mis-communications he suffered with his centre backs in early March which he (rather than the more culpable pair) seemed to be blamed for. Almost 20 clean sheets though is hard to beat and he can look back on a very fine first season in Charlton’s goal, and hopefully a few more to come.
Chances were few and far between for Sully, and in truth, he never let the club down. He played one of the League Cup games, and a couple of the JPT matches, but started just two league games – one when deputising after Hamer was suspended and the other after the title was secured. Not the biggest, classiest, or most adept goalkeeper to have represented the club, but what you can see in Sully is that comaraderie which every side needs. You know he would play whenever required, even on the left wing if called upon! I expect he will be kept for next year, but he will probably not be playing too much in the first team and will be the designated bench warmer once more.
With a year left on his contract, and an agent wiling to eek out as much as he could for him, it looked as if it was always going to end in tears for someone. Luckily, it didn’t, as Andy Woodman decided he fancied his young gloved mate as company in the cold north-east and Robbie glee-fully signed a Premier League contract. The few games he played for Charlton back in August were all won, so we should thank Robbie for his efforts for CAFC, and we do know that he is a fan and will wish us the best in years to come.
Another to make the League One team of the Season, Morro is not someone you would want to meet down a dark alleyway. Huge hearted, no messing, and hard as nails, he played in every league game bar one, scoring some important goals too. His partnership with Taylor was the rock on which the season was built, and the only cracks have come when the end has been in sight, probably through tiredness. A few mis-communications with Hamer in goal have highlighted matters recently, and he will have earned his Vegas holiday when that time comes. One thing that does concern me is that he has become a little Hoddle-esque – looking for the killer 50-yard pass – far too often recently - but that can be coached out of him. A possible legend in the making, Morrison should be OK in the Championship, and if he continues to improve, he could be an Addick centre back for quite a few years.
The other half of that rock is another uncompromising centre back but the half that has attracted far less plaudits. For why, I do not know, because Taylor was every bit as good as Morrison over the first 7 months of the season. His only goal came in the FA Cup, and that may be why (as Morrison’s goals came in league games), although he did have one or two efforts cleared off the line. Not quick, and not a great tackler, he makes up for this with great positional sense, and a vast amount of experience that more than compensates. Obviously well respected by his team-mates, Taylor was the vice-captain, and did a great job standing in as skipper during Jackson’s enforced absences. I have no doubt that Taylor will be at The Valley in 2012-2013, but it may be that he is the first reserve centre back if Cort and Morrison are still around too.
During my years watching Charlton, I’ve witnessed quite a few decent left backs play for the club (Kinsey, Reid, Minto, Barness, Powell, Konchesky, Hreiderssson…) and I have to say that Wiggins is right up there with the best of them. He may not be the best defender of the lot, but he is definitely one the best going forwards. It is quite astonishing to think that he has only scored one goal this year (away at Bury I think, or was it Rochdale?) even though he has had many terrific shots on target. He can beat most full backs at will, either with pace or skill, and his crossing is excellent both on the run and when he has more time. In addition, his partnership down the left hand side with Jackson has been superb, with both complimenting each other. An early contender for Player of the Season, his contributions have been consistent in the latter part of the season rather than meeting his previous very high standards. Despite defending not being his best attribute, Wiggins should be looking to pick up a few Welsh caps in the next few years, and I see no reason why he cannot hold his own in the Championship, or even go on to bigger and better things.
Can you believe that someone on Charlton Life actually asked if he really was only five foot three?!? Undoubtedly the fans Player of the Season (though not my choice), Solly has had a fine season. As a Charlton youth player come through the ranks, I do feel that a lot of his errors are overlooked, in the same way that if a misplaced pass gets intercepted his error gets a mild groan whereas if it was Stephens it would be derided. Maybe though, his errors, being so few and far between, are noticeable. He was definitely at fault for one of the Notts County goals, where he delayed his throw in so long then got caught out of position as a result. The main worry with him is his height, but despite these worries, the only time I can ever remember a goal coming from a ball played over the top to his side was against Wycombe when Beavon scored. Nearly every club tries to pick up on this potential weakness, but few succeed, which is testament to not only Solly, but the rest of the defence too. Always willing to overlap, he provides ample assistance down the right flank, and does have a seemingly telepathic understanding with Wagstaff. He did work well with Green too down that side, though Green offered less protection and back-up than Waggy. For some reason though, I wonder if Solly can cut it in higher leagues? More sides will try to exploit his lack of height and I’m concerned about his pace too being good enough for very quick forwards. (By the way, I’d love to be proved wrong here!)
The only word I can think of to describe Cort’s end of season performances is Immense! Sure, he may not be the quickest, but he wins nearly everything in the air, and is quick to throw his body in the way of shots if necessary. His first league start of the season saw Charlton’s first defeat, and in some ways that was his fault, as he missed an easy chance to equalise with a free header, but since then, whenever brought on or started, he has been great. Replacing a tired looking Matt Taylor after the Notts County reverse, it took another five games for the team to concede a goal from open play. A lot of this was down to Cort’s huge presence I felt. On loan initially, and recalled by Burnley so they could release him from his contract, he promptly singed for Charlton in January, and he will be a stalwart next year I think, playing in a division where he has shown himself to be more than comfortable.
Poor old Ceddy just hasn’t had much of a chance this season. The form and fitness of Wiggins has kept him out of the left-back spot in the team, and with others required on the bench, he hasn’t even been able to be a used substitute very much. Still very young, he has good potential, and will I’m sure be retained (provided he is OK with being Wiggins back-up once more?); he may even get a loan spell elsewhere if a similar scenario to this season is on the cards. The butt of many training ground jokes, “Doing a Ceddy” has become a favoured saying when you get something wrong; hopefully Ceddy will be able to turn some tables next year!
Hughes will consider himself a bit unlucky this season; when signed, he may have thought he would be playing every week, but the full back form and consistency of Chris Solly saw to that and with such other strength in midfield (where he can also play), his time has been very limited. He did play in the early season cup games, and did a reasonable job. Then, when called upon following Dale Stephens injury in October, Hughes was simply magnificent, playing the next six games which were all won. I first noticed him at Stevenage, where, not in the playing squad, he proceeded to have a pre-game training session on his own, lapping up and down the pitch against a stop watch for the best part of half an hour - it was impressive stuff! He did similar workouts whenever he was not playing, and you knew as such that when his chance came, he would be fit enough. Sadly for him, the signing of Daryl Russell saw him preferred in that midfield anchor role, and with a few thigh problems in the New Year, Hughes was never quite ready to retake his place, despite many calling for it when others obviously needed a rest. The memory of Hughes will not be of something he did, but in what he allowed others to do; while he played, Hollands scored goals for fun. It was Hughes professionalism that allowed this. Sadly, I think the Championship may be a bit too quick for him, though we know he will play if required.
He goes down the wing for me; he scores goals for me; he does all that is required for me and the rest of the Addicks family. JJ is our captain and leader on the pitch and off it, and what a season he has had. Good enough to be voted the second best player in the league (behind Jordan Rhodes), and part of the Players Team of the Season, recognition has come from all avenues. Amazingly, he is not Charlton’s player of the season (he came third), due to the strength of other candidates. Jacko has scored 13 goals, including a few penalties and some stunning free-kicks. Everyone mentions the two he got in consecutive weeks that did for both Sheffield clubs in January and, as many also mention, it was winning those two games that gave many the belief that this really was our season. A couple of injuries took him from the side, and though loanees Hogan Ephraim, Lee Cook, and Dany N’Guessan all did very well in his stead, Jackson reclaimed his left-midfield place as soon as he was able, such was the standard he brought to the team. He forged a great partnership with Wiggins down the left, and it did help that Wiggins pace could compensate for Jacko’s lack of it. Jackson’s calm play was only ruffled once that I saw all season – away at Stevenage – when he was desperate to maintain Charlton’s unbeaten start to the season; on that occasion, he started to rush things, and became frustrated, but this was just a blip. He seems to love life at The Valley, so I have no doubt he will be leading the team out next August, and at that time we will see if he can improve and show that he is even better than we (and possibly, he) even thought.
The return of the prodigal son, mark VII, saw GreenDog arrive back at The Valley a few years after being let go; this following fabulous displays in a poor Dagenham side that was relegated the previous year (including goals in both games against Charlton). The return started slowly, with illness preventing an opening day debut, and with Scott Wagstaff scoring in the first two games, it then took some time for Green to establish himself as first choice on the right. Once in the team, his value was evident immediately. A totally different player to Waggy, Green was cultured on the ball, looked for (and made) a million-dollar pass regularly, and created much that was good. His first time cross at Brentford begged for BWP to tap it in, such was the accuracy of the ball in from out wide. Not as slow as some people make out, and not without good skill too (evidence is his taking a fun part in Soccer AM tekkers slot), Green soon owned the right wing role. The only negative things for Green were his accumulation of yellow cards, many after he had initially lost the ball and tried a little too hard to win it back, that saw him suspended after Xmas, and further bouts of illness that saw him missing from the final few games as promotion was won. Still learning how not to be a big fish in a small pond, next season will be key for Green; he has the ability to be Charlton’s most creative player since Andy Reid, but needs to show more application in order to fulfil this ambition. If he keeps his head screwed on, he could save the club a whole heap of money!
Classy Dale started the season on fire, but then sadly for him a nasty ankle injury knocked him off his stride and put him out of the team for three months. Scorer of the season’s first goal (and what a lovely strike that was against Bournemouth), and also possibly the best goal (the last minute equaliser versus Bury), 2011/12 will go down for him as one of nearly but not quite. His form was not the best after the injury, and maybe he came back a bit too soon? He does do some great things, and looks fabulous when playing in the hole behind a lone striker (as he did when Charlton were protecting a lead late in the season), but too many misplaced passes upset some fans, and he is not considered a favourite by many. If Stephens can stay fit and recover his best form, then he is more than good enough for the Championship, but until we see that consistently, he will be one name not guaranteed a place in the forthcoming Charlton side as written by many current supporters.
Scott was one of few who survived the savage personnel cuts to the playing squad last summer, and with Green out of the side in August, Waggy made a great start to 2011-2012. A stunning volley (still wrongly attributed to Dale Stephens in some statistical circles) on opening day against Bournemouth set him on his way, and another goal came the following week. Sadly for Waggy, I think the pressure he felt with Green now on the bench told against him, and his performance levels did drop, resulting in the two switching starting roles. Then it was hard graft time as he slipped off the bench altogether, as others were brought in. Given an unexpected chance on New Year’s Eve due to Green’s suspension, the sending off of goalkeeper Hamer saw him sacrificed in a re-shuffle with little more than five minutes on the clock, and Waggy then had to bide his time yet again. He broke back into the team in late season, and we saw the good old Scott return, linking well with Solly down the right, putting in crosses, and scoring goals himself. His introduction at half time against Notts County (when 4-0 down) gave everyone belief for a short while even though the effort then petered out after two quick goals. He was the victim of a ridiculous sending off at Oldham, which he and we should just ignore. Will Waggy be good enough next year? It’s hard to say... His effort and fitness and link play with Solly are massive positives, but his inconsistent crossing and inability to beat a man regularly may go against him. It may therefore be another season where he is around but doesn’t make that many appearances, and that, sadly, may indicate it’s time for him to move on.
The rumour is that Pritch pitched up on work experience at Sparrows Lane in pre-season, and made some of the incumbents looked very ordinary, so he was offered a contract. And now you just cannot wipe the smile from his face! He had to bide his time, playing in the “Reserve” side in cup games initially, and he scored in the televised rout of FC Halifax. But with injuries and suspensions biting after the transfer deadline had passed, he strode into the first team picture and has been difficult to shift ever since. All effort, he chases and tackles for all he is worth. Possible lack of class may prevent him making such an impression in the Championship, but he has proven (not only to himself) that he can be a pro-footballer, and league one is not too high a level for him.
Roben Bover Izquierdo
Not a great year for Spanish Addicks, but at least Ruben can look forwards; a couple of interesting League Cup games where he was desperately unlucky not to score showed us his potential. With some minor injuries, and superb form elsewhere, Ruben found it hard to break into the first team picture on a regular basis, and he was shipped back to Spain to get game time on loan. I hope he returns as he did look like he might be a gem in the making, and one that could step up if his potential is fulfilled.
How Hollands had time to play such an important role for Charlton at the same time he became father of triplets is nobody’s business! Maybe he was just grateful to be out of the house and away from the noise, smells, and busy-ness at home, and by staying on the team, he could avoid it all for longer. The Autumn, when the kids were born, was a great time for him – celebrating the births with goals galore during a fabulous period where he scored for fun. All hustle and bustle in midfield, Danny is not shy to tackle, is combative in the air, and puts in a good stint when covering ground. Funnily, his running style is awfully laboured, but he just never stops, despite looking exhausted. After Xmas, and Danny ran out of steam a bit, not helped by constantly changing partners in the centre of the field. He did look like he could do with a rest, but that only came following his sending off at Oldham, where his tackle was only slightly late and never nasty enough to warrant a straight red. Those three games he then missed allowed him to revive himself (and change a few nappies I expect!) and he came back once promotion and the title were won (scoring the important equaliser on Saturday). He looked like being player of the year at Xmas (he had my mid-season vote), but did not come close to winning the overall title. He can though think back on a very successful first season in SE7 and look forward to being a regular starter in the Championship, where he should be more than capable.
I missed the JPT game against Brentford when Alonso played his one and only game for the club, so cannot comment specifically. Suffice to say that reports suggested he had a ‘mare, and he hasn’t figured anywhere close to the first team since. His contract now up, it’s time to wave Adios I think to Xavi’s brother.
Cook’s second loan spell in SE7 has gone better than the first, mainly because he has been fit. Unfortunately, his time in the team has been limited, but two efforts stand out: the first was his sublime cross for Dany N’Guessan to score against Walsall, and the other was the shift he put in playing for the nine-man team at Oldham, when he had to move inside after first Hollands, and then Wagstaff were sent off. I’m not sure if Cook will be back in Charlton colours in future, but we should wish him well if not, and say a big thanks.
With Russell out of favour at Preston, it was strange that he strode pretty much straight into Charlton’s first team on arrival in December and has been a regular choice when available since. The season has been fairly turbulent for him though, with two sending off’s and not enough game time really. He has scored a couple of (covered end) goals, but the memory will be of him being late in the tackle against Sheffield United, and the victim of a nasty foul at Huddersfield to which he retaliated. Both deserved red cards in my opinion, and Charlton were lucky that the former did not lead to the loss of any points due to James Beattie’s stupidity in the melee that followed. Still not wanted in Lancashire it seems, it would come as no surprise if Russell were to sign for the Addicks permanently, though he will have to improve his disciplinary outlook in order to be liked by fans in London.
I was really pleased when Chris Powell signed Paul Hayes – historically, he is classy, makes a bundle of goals, and scores his fair share too. And in his first few months at The Valley he did not disappoint. It was strange then that the new forward we knew we needed as back-up (Kermorgant) displaced him quite quickly, and most fans felt he had been hard done by. Come May, and we can now see the wisdom of that decision, albeit a harsh one from Hayes perspective. Hayes has some lovely touches, and he did link very well with BWP in those early months; he got some stick when he missed a couple of easy chances in home games, but generally, he was liked, as fans could see how hard he worked, and the benefit of his link up play was obvious to everyone. Even when Kermorgant took his place, many harked back to the style where the ball was not lumped forward so often and played along the ground in the way Hayes excelled. Even though the Frenchman was playing well, it would have been good to have Hayes on the bench, but first Clarke, then Haynes usurped him in the striker pecking order, and Hayes slipped out of the picture further. He did fabulously well on loan at Wycombe, and only returned when injuries and illness hit the Addicks, making an appearance at Huddersfield. Then he was out of the picture once more, much to Wycombe’s chagrin. Hayes is under contract next season, but I do feel that Powell may wish to move him on, as I can’t see him getting much game time next year if Charlton are to improve.
For a large part of the season, he really was better than Shaun! The start of the season saw him knocking in goals for fun, as partnerships with Hayes, and later Kermorgant, flourished. Blessed with good speed, nice control, and accurate shooting ability, this is balanced against apparent frustration, sometimes poor work ethic, and lack of clinical finishing that smacks of laziness. This might make him sound a poor player, but the thing is we know that BWP does work hard in most games, and can be deadly when he wants to, which makes him a very good player to have. The two goals he scored at Hartlepool were such clinical strikes that he looks at times as though he should be in the Premier League (and at other times, the bloke who sits behind me wouldn't have him in his pub team!). An in-joke was doing the rounds early in the season after Powell substituted him a couple of times on the trot when he had scored twice in a game, thus preventing any chance of a hat-trick, which he had never scored amazingly. Eventually, after a quite barren spell early in 2012, the flood-gates opened once more and he got that match-ball to keep after three goals were credited to him at Chesterfield (a couple of them took deflections, so there was a bit of a debate before it was confirmed…). His contract extended, after he played the requisite number of games this year, he will be a key player in Charlton’s Championship challenge; if fit, he could equal the number of goals he scored this season, and that amount would be crucial wherever in the league the Addicks find themselves.
Another player to return to The Valley after being released as youngster, Haynes looked good when used as a sub but again suffered from the frequent injuries that have blighted his career. He finally scored his first Charlton goal at Preston, headed another on Saturday, and with a good record in the Championship, he will keep pressure in the other forwards to perform next year. Obviously delighted to see Charlton promoted, he will mainly be used as he has been late this season, as an impact sub, or third attacker when chasing the game.
As well as Solly, Wiggins, Morrison, and Taylor played this season, my player of the year just had to be Yann. I felt he made such an impact, that without him, we may not have had the record breaking year we have just witnessed. Well known to Chris Powell through Leicester connections, Yann’s audacious spot kick that went wrong in a play-off semi-final was a mill-stone too heavy, and he scuttled back to France for a year to lay low. In London, we saw that weight removed, and boy, did he leap high without that extra baggage! When a player is, well, different, you notice him even more, and in these times where footballers are very much of a likeness, one who can leap and head the ball as well as Yann can stands out. His first Charlton goals were inauspicious and from close range (albeit both important), but he got a fantastic header that effectively ended Huddersfield’s long unbeaten run, and then a fabulous free kick on Boxing Day at Yeovil. A couple more free kicks from range came later in the season, and whenever Charlton had a dead-ball chance from 25 yards it was fascinating to speculate who out of Yann or Jacko might take the kick. Yann actually scored more free kick goals than Jacko this year (I think – 3 versus 2) though Jacko’s were the more important it is agreed. A real battering ram to play against, teams started to block him out when attempting to move for headers, and some sort of better tactic to combat this will be needed next year. Yann is another in a long line of Frenchman who annoy the English, and in consecutive home games we saw him being “attacked” by opposition players which saw them red carded, and Yann allowed to remain (once luckily). A real hero, I hope he can have a great a season next year for Charlton as he has this and that another club with lots of money doesn’t come in and make a silly offer for him.
Not generally well known in SE7 before he arrived on loan in March, I heard about Dany earlier from a Millwall supporting pal, who said he was dynamite. Sadly for Dany, he obviously blew up his spanner friends hopes, and eventually made the short switch on loan at Powell’s request. Renowned as a goalscorer on his debut, he did not disappoint, though whether he meant the larupped cross against Orient to go in, we will never know! Capable of playing wide or through the middle, he could be a valuable asset in the Championship, if his skill and attitude can be honed. I expect a deal to be done in a month or two’s time, and “I’m Guessing” for N’Guessan to be an Addick come August.
Marco van Benson only played briefly this year, with a finger injury – sustained after he scored in the league cup first round - keeping him out of early season games. A switch to Notts County fell through at the last moment then Benno was out of everyone’s mind until a swap involving Leon Clarke went through in early January. Never my favourite, he has done well at Swindon since, with division four his absolute level I feel.
While Clarke had done well at Chesterfield earlier in the season, it was his on pitch bust-up with Paulo di Canio that everyone will remember this year. Swapped with Benson, he looked a bit lumbering and off the pace whenever he did come on as a sub, so it wasn’t a great surprise when he was sent on loan to Crawley with a view to a permanent deal come season end.
With Jackson injured in November, Powell moved swiftly to bring in Hogan from QPR for a couple of months, and it was a wise move. He had good skill, worked hard, and seemed to be enjoying his time in south-east London. He also scored the crucial second goal against Huddersfield to break their unbeaten record. Unluckily for him, once Jacko was fit he went straight back into the team, and Ephraim returned to Rangers, before another loan spell in Bristol ended his season. We might one day see him again in an Addicks shirt, and he would be a good squad player to have.
Six foot seven inch Gough has recently joined Bristol Rovers, and hopefully he can build a career there by making saves and not having to pick too many balls out of the back of his net.
Pope did well in the reserves games he played this year, making him the third choice keeper; whether he can oust one of those currently above him is unknown but will take time and plenty of effort, though he is highly regarded. Cheap, and one for the future.
The cream of the new crop apparently, but yet to break into the first team picture. Another close season may see him get nearer to the chance he will want, but likely to be at right-back rather than midfield I think.
Since he made his debut late last year, he hasn’t progressed as well as wanted but, even if he had, chances near the first team would have been severely limited due to Powell’s selection policy of tried and trusted over youth and exuberance. Next season will be his make or break.
I once umpired young Joe when he was a 14-year old fast bowler playing for his local village in the Kent Cricket League. He was a mouthy little so-and-so even then. One for the future.
Record breaking; that says it all! Numerous club records - Most wins, least defeats, most points, most away wins, and least goals conceded. You cannot have hoped for a better season if you were a Charlton fan. With a great manager (who is still learning it should be noted…), great back-up team, fantastic board level support, and great youngsters coming through, all is rosy.
Next year will be tough, but provided the defence stays solid, the midfield combative, and the forwards score regularly, we should be OK. My season ticket is bought, and I'm looking forward to renewing acquantances with some of the teams we used to play regularly.