Sunday, October 26, 2008

Barmy Varney and Pride Restored

It says a lot about the downward spiral that we have been on in recent times that a draw at home to Burnley (no disrespect to the Clarets) left me leaving the Valley with a sense of joy, even though Pardew's favourite son Luke Varney missed what looked like an absolute sitter.

The first half was dour yet again with Bailey looking surprisingly out of his depth, perhaps Tuesday's error has shot his confidence and the pacy strike force of Varney and fit-again, well nearly, McLeod looking lost, even though Izale showed a few nice touches and suggested he has improved in his time away.

Like most of the goals we concede, it was not a spectacular one, ghosting through an array of bodies before nestling in Weaver's net. All this and the confusion of the offside goal which, with a little time to digest, we were lucky to have seen go in our favour.

Whatever AP said at the break seemingly worked as a combination of his words, Todorov's guile and some positive, vociferous support from the Valley crowd, gave the Addicks a lift. Burnley could have scored again but more importantly, we looked like we could find the net through some decent headers and the skilful Bulgarian's shooting. As it turned out, a Todorov header was our way back into the game.

There were many positives; Wright's debut, Yassin's pace and endeavour, Sam's cameo and of course, Todorov. Occasional defensive mishaps, an under-par Bailey and Varney's horror shot were my only bugbears.

But perhaps even more vital than a point to stop the rot was the feeling of pride that I felt at the end. We had not won, we could have lost and we look a long way from becoming a consistently dynamic force but it did not matter, the spirited Charlton, at least for 45 minutes, were back.

The climax of this game made me realise that we might not be zillionaires as at one stage looked a distinct probability and we might not be a great football team but whatever the division, whatever the result, Charlton Athletic are a club to be proud of.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Plucky Wednesday Provide Glum Saturday

For the second consecutive home game Charlton scored first but ended up losing. The result now leaves the Addicks in mid-table and perhaps perfectly sums up our start to the season; good in patches (with Reading a highlight) but average for the most part.

Saturday’s defeat grates because we didn’t deserve it, even though the defending for Wednesday’s goals was appalling. We created some decent opportunities and bar some resolute defending, the woodwork and Andy Gray smashing over when it seemed impossible to miss, we would surely have come away with three points.

The game at Selhurst Park now takes on massive importance as a defeat could leave us just above the relegation zone, while a win could put us back in the play-offs, albeit with a hell of a long way still to go. I just hope we do not leave empty handed as I won’t be able to stand the gloating of my fellow Croydonians.

Pards has indicated that changes are imminent with Zheng, Todorov and Ambrose pushing for starts, showing that despite an erratic opening eight games, we have the squad (at least on paper) to challenge every team in the league. Whether we will ever have the consistency is an entirely different matter.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Zheng and Other Business

After months of ifs, buts and maybes the transfer window has slammed shut and the player that was most likely to leave and join the riches of the Premier League is still here - Zheng Zhi. While being arguably our best player, he gets rough treatment from the fans, only some of which is deserved. Why he didn't leave remains a mystery, but he has stayed put and could play a significant part in the season if he is up for it. I would be delighted if, as the South London Press states, he may sign a new contract but that seems a little premature.

The criticism last season with a midfield that contained Zheng and Matty was that it was too lightweight and when Charlton played the physical sides, they were bullied out of a result. That problem may be eradicated if Zheng were to play with Bailey - a duo that I am quite looking forward to seeing in action - who gives us a bit of steel.

Will Zheng play against Wolves? He is fit, has had matches for China and would give us another genuine goal threat, so he should be in Pardew's thoughts. If we revert to a 4-4-2, which looks likely, it is probably between the Chinaman and Holland for the second central-midfield role alongside Bailey, with Racon injured and the talented Shelvey seemingly not quite ready to start. Even if he is only here until January, we are a better team with Zheng than without. Elsewhere Primus (I think) and Cranie have arrived and will add depth the the backline, though I do not believe that either will walk straight into the team.

We unfortunately could not follow up the superb performance against Reading with one up at Deepdale. Preston have come flying out of the traps so it wasn't too much of a surprise and I would be more disappointed if we played like that in a couple of months time when the side has bedded down. Wolves, likewise, have had a great start and while it seems inevitable that Iwelumo will score, we should feel confident especially after the way we dispatched Coppell's boys. If the away form picks up too, we may have half a chance of a good season. Fingers crossed.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The New Charlton?

Wow. Who knew that Charlton had that in them? There are always glimpses but very rarely the complete performance that dispatched newly-relegated Reading. Various blogs will give you a blow-by-blow account of the match so I'll make my analysis short and sweet.

Weaver - In my opinion, one of the best 'keepers in the league. Not too much to do on Saturday but seems even better with the organisational skills of Hudson in front of him.

Moutouakil - Needs a run of games. Excellent going forward and quick enough to get back and defend. Not the complete player yet but gives us a real attacking dimension.

Hudson - What else can you say. It is still early on but he is doing what we bought him for and more. The epitome of a captain - leading from the front.

Fortune - Another solid performance form Forch, if not as good as Swansea. He gave away a dubious penalty and will be worried by Primus' arrival but if he keeps his form then he will stay in the team.

Basey - Looked slightly nervous and given a tough time by Kebe. I think he is more of a left-midfielder than a left-back. Youga will have no problem reclaiming his place.

Sam - Gave the more physical Hunt a tough time but his decision making can still let him down. Will be wary of the fit-again Ambrose.

Holland - No longer the official captain but played like he was. No longer a spring chicken but played like he was. Matty still has a huge role to play shown by his energy and the alertness for his goal.

Bailey - The player we have been lacking since Scott Parker - tenacity and talent. Like Hudson, I don't want to get carried away but Nicky may prove to be a vital cog.

Bouazza - A geneuine left footer who can score and cross. Helped Basey out too down the left. Looks like another quality signing.

Gray - Like Pards said, an outstanding centre forward performance. Held the ball up, brought others into the game, great link-up play with Varney and capped it off with his penalty. Despite Iwelumo's bright start for Wolves, I know which Scot I would rather have.

Varney - His hard-work finally paid off. He may miss opportunities but he alwas gets in the positions to score. With a bit of confidence, he could be one of the Championship's top marksmen.

Preston are up next and the only change I anticipate is Youga for Basey. This is the real test and where we failed last year - following one excellent performance and result with another. With a stronger spine and still a bit of flair, I think we can do it, the boys now have to go out and prove it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Winning Ways

For the first time in a couple of seasons the Addicks won their opening game and regardless of the little niggles some have with the performance, the most important thing is that we are up and running with three points.

At times Weaver looked dodgy, though the soggy pitch could shoulder some of the blame. Semedo and Youga were rarely noticed at full-back which suggests that they did thier jobs effectively, while Captain Hudson and a rejuvenated Jon Fortune showed they could be a resolute combination in this division. Sam and Thomas threatened (if not all the time) and Gray and Varney seem capable of forging another solid partnership. Shelvey struggled and was removed before any further damage could be done but Racon looked neat and tidy and will hopefully play a pivotal role this season.

A cup run would be nice, to boost finances more than anything, and the likes of Bouazza, Basey, Holland, Dickson, Fleetwood and possibly Todorov will be looking for a run out against Yeovil on Tuesday. The Hornets are up next on Saturday where I would expect Holland to replace Shelvey in the starting eleven. They will be a tough test so let's just hope the calm optimism from the weekend is not extinguished.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bougherra and Brighton (briefly)

Another weekend, another victory but the shine was taken off with the announcement of probable futher departees. As I write this, it only seems a matter of time before Madjid joins West Brom for around £2million, a £500,000 loss on what we paid for him.

Boogie was probably our best defender but I don't think he is irreplacable. Martin Cranie (touch wood) is on his way and will provide versatility along the backline, with rumours Coventry's Elliott Ward, who worked with Pards at the Hammers, may join him. If likely captain Hudson continues his commanding pre-season form, our defence, with youth on its side, may be suprisingly effective.

It is the principle of Boogie leaving that is frusturating. After being promised a tilt at promotion, players are packing their bags and the optimism has drained, although I refuse to be too downbeat until I know all the facts and the eventual make-up of our squad. Possible futher exits that could actually affect us would include Thomas, Zheng, Ambrose (though Olympic duty and and injury may scupper the last two). Ones that wouldn't make a whole lot of difference would include Faye (except for his wages) and the forgotten man, Dean Sinclair. Bouazza/Etherington and a defensive midfielder would be nice in return.

Quickly on to Brighton. By all accounts a good display with the only dissapointment being that we didn't bang more in. JT was dominant and scouts will have been impressed, while Racon and Shelvey further boosted their claims for a date with Swansea after a cultured central midfield display.

Roll on August 9, whoever Tom, Dick, or Youga pulls on the Addicks strip.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Robson Bids Farewell

Charlton coach and former player Mark Robson has ended his association with the Addicks and decided to go solo. Whether a new coach is appointed in his place remains to be seen. I never quite knew what Robson's specific role was but he seemed to be a valued member of staff working his way up from the youth domain to to the first team and even as assistant manager during Les Reed's ill fated reign.

The official site credits him with the emergence of Sam, Arter and Basey as well as the now departed Jamal Campbell-Ryce (Barnsley) and Premier League newbie Michael Turner (Hull). Robson may have wanted to leave but you cannot help thinking that it was also a cost cutting measure. Whatever the reason, goodbye Robbo.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Ode To Tangoman

It would appear that Simon Jordan, my fellow Croydonian, is sick to the backteeth of the finance-led world of football and will sell Crystal Palace when he receives a suitable offer. The John Bostock affair looks to have finally tipped the mobile phone tycoon over the edge and before long he will have severed his ties with the beautiful game.

Mr Jordan has not been too kind about the Addicks over the years. He would not win a popularity contest down at the Valley and his fracas with our former chairman Richard Murray has gone down in folklore, but the orange one, as much as it pains me to say it, does talk sense. His observations on the role of football agents and the tribunal system are echoed by many and when he does finally hang up his sunglasses, the entertainment and honesty factor of English football will suffer as a result.

I may not like you Mr Jordan but I shall miss you.

A New Season Beckons

With our quest for Championship promotion beginning in just under three weeks time, there is much debate about how the campaign will turn out. There have been frequent departures from The Valley but little in the way of arrivals.

Messrs Bent and Iwelumo have followed Sankofa, Gibbs, Powell, Monteiro, Smith (and hopefully Faye) out of the exit door and as yet only former Eagle Mark Hudson and Cardiff reject Stuart Fleetwood have seen fit to don the new Charlton shirt.

Rumours are rife with Matthew Etherington - who Pardew seemed to bring the best out of at West Ham, Krisztián Tímár - the Plymouth defender culpable for destroying the knees of Svetoslav Todorov and Izale McLeod - and Bolton's Icelandic hitman Heidar Helguson all linked.

The first two are possible, rather than probable, but with the plethora of strikers already on the books (despite Bent and Iwelumo leaving) the Helguson story seems a little wide of the mark, even though AP has a penchant for acquiring forwards.

If we can obtain a couple of defenders, even with the likley loss of Bougherra and possibly Fortune to Preston, that area seems solid. Hudson looks strong and hopefully Youga, Semedo, Basey and Moutaouakil can come of age.

One midfielder may also suffice if Zheng cames back from smoggy Beijing reinvigorated, Shelvey, Wright and Racon step up to the plate and Ambrose, Thomas and Sam become more consistent (we can only dream). The arrival of an experienced 'keeper to support Weaver and Elliot would not come as a shock either.