Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A right-back to write home about

Charlton’s performance against Exeter on Saturday was not as intoxicating as we would have liked. In fact, it was pretty poor.

However, there were a couple of positives: the three points, of course, but also another excellent display from Chris Solly.

The Addicks right-back may lack the dynamism of Frazer Richardson – and, thankfully, Simon Francis’ concentration span – but he makes up for that with his intelligence on the ball.

Solly begins many of our attacks, has a fantastic understanding with the winger in front of him, Scott Wagstaff; and, as Saturday’s crossbar will testify, has a pretty fierce shot on him.

Yet, he has shown during the embryonic stages of this season that he is possibly the most defensively adept full-back Charlton have had in some time.

He has a diminutive stature – as forumers on Charlton Life never tire of telling you – but that very rarely proves his downfall, and he has come out on top in most of his duels with opposition wingers.

The Addicks youth product seems pretty unflappable, makes excellent decisions, and mops things up at the back very well when Michael Morrison and Matt Taylor have their dodgy moments.

It has taken Solly a while to cement a place in the Charlton side but now he’s there, he’ll take some shifting.

After Saturday’s trip to the Valley, I opted to watch football from my sofa the following day.

With a cup of tea and a quartet of crumpets at hand, I decided to peruse ESPN’s Serie A offering of Juventus v Parma, the first competitive game at the new Juventus Arena.

The hosts – augmented by a summer recruitment drive that saw them sign Andrea Pirlo, Mirko Vucinic and buccaneering Swiss right-back Stephan Lichtsteiner – were brilliant in claiming a comprehensive 4-0 victory.

What made the game even more enjoyable was the work of the co-commentator – Addicks alumnus Mervyn Day. Our erstwhile first-team coach made some very well–structured and incisive points, something that many ‘analysts’ fail to do. Well done Merv!

Charlton are back in action tonight against Preston in the Carling Cup, an extremely winnable tie even if Chris Powell, as expected, makes a cavalcade of changes.

Bradley Pritchard, Cedric Evina and Jason Euell are all likely to get run-out and we may even see Mikel Alonso – if he exists that is.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Someone new and someone new-ish

Shaun Wright-Phillips’ immediate future is still to be resolved, but his younger brother, Bradley, knows where he will be playing after penning an 18-month deal with the Addicks.

The 25-year-old has joined from cash-strapped Plymouth for an undisclosed fee and brings with him an excellent goal-scoring record – this season at least – having netted 13 times for the Pilgrims since September.

A slight concern is that the former Manchester City trainee is also carrying a knee strain – an ailment he insists is not too serious, but one that stymied a transfer to play-off chasing Championship outfit Reading earlier this month.

Further investigation reveals the Lewisham-born frontman has regularly suffered with a gammy patella since he arrived in Devon in 2009, so while Wright-Phillips’ merits are obvious, there is an element of risk to Chris Powell’s first signing as Charlton chief. I would, however, argue that it is a calculated gamble.

The Addicks have accrued someone with that sought-after knack of rippling the net and, because of Plymouth’s unfortunate financial plight, almost certainly for a knock-down price. The fact that Wright-Phillips is from the capital should also help him settle in quicker.

And the one-and-a-half-year deal ensures that should the ex-Southampton man’s knee flare up, or bust completely, he won’t become a financial burden, like the way Owen Hargreaves is rapidly becoming for Manchester United.

That’s quite a negative view, though, so let’s hope Wright-Phillips stays fighting fit and forges a potent partnership with one of Joe Anyinsah, Nathan Ecclestone and Paul Benson. I could even see the diminutive striker working well with the much-maligned Pawel Abbott – but I suspect the Polish Yorkshireman will have moved on from The Valley by the end of the month.

Those eagle-eyed readers amongst you will have noticed that I plan to talk about “someone new-ish” in this post as well, and that man is Alan McCormack.

The tough-looking Irishman has made an inauspicious start to his Charlton career due to a mixture of injury, a couple of sub-par performances and the presence of Therry Racon. But since caretaker boss Keith Peacock instilled the ex-Preston and Southend man on the right side of midfield, he has been quite impressive.

McCormack typified the spirit the Addicks showed at White Hart Lane and, by most accounts, was solid at Sheffield Wednesday as well. And against Plymouth, I thought the 27-year-old was superb.

He constructed a good partnership with former Shrimpers colleague Simon Francis down the flank, while his method of cutting inside and dragging Argyle’s left-back out of position allowed Francis plenty of space to bomb into. If the latter's delivery becomes more precise, that could bode well.

A central midfielder proving effective out wide. Have we found the new Nicky Bailey?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Powell and Plymouth

One legendary Addick (Keith Peacock) took charge of Charlton when Phil Parkinson was given his marching orders, and on Saturday another will be in control when Chris Powell begins his managerial career in earnest.

The pros and cons of Powell’s appointment have been raised far more concisely and analytically in other blogs, so I won’t dwell on it too much, though I will add it was a choice that pleased me.

While, like many others, I was a sceptic last Thursday when the odds of our much-loved left-back returning to the club as manager kept dropping, and he was eventually named as the new boss by all media outlets – excluding the official site, of course, which only outpours news when every conceivable I has been dotted and T has been crossed – I believe we may have stumbled upon the perfect candidate.

Despite being a Valley hero, Powell will bring freshness to a club that that has had an air of depression for too long. His beaming smile and positive attitude will certainly change the mood of the place for the better.

Add that to his respected coaching techniques, his will to win and the admiration he immediately garners for his off-field endeavours (PFA chairman, ambassador for the ‘Kick Racism out of Football’ campaign), and it seems that Michael Slater and Tony Jimenez – and possibly Peter Varney and Richard Murray – have selected well. For the first time since Alan Curbishley, the Addicks board have picked a manager on the up, one without the stigma of losing.

Powell’s namesake, Charlton groundsman Colin, does not believe our new head honcho will suffer a debut defeat on Saturday and neither do I, though I can’t quite take Colin’s view that we will “run riot.”

When I have written this blog before, I have gone into detail about our opponents’ strengths and weaknesses, but quite frankly, my eyes hurt and I have a cold, a cat that won’t leave me alone and an episode of Neighbours cued up on Sky+ – it should be a good’un because it looks like that perpetual plotter Paul Robinson is about to embark on another nefarious scheme.

So with all that in mind I’ll make my preview short; Plymouth may have secured a morale-boosting victory over MK Dons in midweek, but they won’t triumph at The Valley. Chrissy Powell’s Red Army will do ‘em 2-1 in front of a raucous crowd – raucous by Charlton standards, anyway.