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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Valencia 3 Charlton 1

A less than full-strength Valencia side that only contained 4 first-team regulars were far too good for Charlton last night. A completely reserve defence without Canizares, Miguel, Ayala, Marchena and del Horno and without the prolific David Villa in attack they never had any trouble from a Charlton team that only had one real attack in the first half. Perhaps they didn't know they were playing the reserves.

The game started very late, around 22.45 after various entertainments for the crowd of 35000 with the temperature in the mid-twenties being a major factor. First half goals from Morientes and captain for the night Baraja gave Valencia a comfortable 2-0 half-time lead and although Sorondo got away from his marker and pulled one back from a corner early in the second half we never looked likely to get a second. Six minutes from the end Silva had the chance of a free header and wrapped up the win.

Monica played a 4-4-2 with Marcus Bent appearing alongside Jimmy-Floyd up front and a midfield of Holland and Hughes with Rommedahl and Ambrose on the flanks. Myhre and Anderson each played half a game. Young, Ashton, Rommedahl, and a defender that the commentator laughingly referred to as Hermann were the only players to last the full 90 minutes. Kish and Sam came on for the second half and Charlton saw more of the ball as the heat began to tell. Obviously, Monica is at least getting the boys fit.

Charlton played this game with a more settled line-up with 19 players getting on the pitch but unfortunately the lack of chances created against a team of Spanish reserves will not serve to put the fans painful sensitivities at rest. And with Monica's starting eleven beginning to take shape it can only add to the consternation of the faithful that it still contains many of the old favorites.

Valencia: Butelle, Curro, Moretti, Albiol, Cerra, Pallardo, Baraja, Vicente, Angulo, Regueiro y Morientes. Subs: Mora, Silva, Gavilán, Edu, Jorge López, Aaron Ñiguez, Nacho Insa y Córcoles.

Charlton: Myhre (Andersen 46), Young, Hreidarsson, El Karkouri, (Sorondo 34) (Fortune 66), Ashton, Rommedahl, Hughes (Euell 73), Holland (Walton 80), Ambrose (Kishishev 46), Hasselbaink (Walker 80), M Bent (Sam 46).

Goles: Morientes (16), Baraja (29), Sorondo (47), Silva (84).

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Valencia Preview

Saturday sees the Addicks fly to Spain for a serious test against highly-rated Valencia. League winners twice in the last 5 years, in 2002 and 2004 they finished last season in 3rd place behind Barcelona and Real Madrid. In recent years they have twice made it to the Champions League final in 2000 and 2001 losing both times to Real Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively and in 2004 won the UEFA Cup. Clearly then one of the top teams in Europe.

Like ourselves they've had two pre-season games, both in a tournament at Emerlo in Holland. They beat the Dutch Second Division side Go Ahead Eagles 2-1 and then beat the Turks from Fenerbahce by the same score. That's typical Valencia - score 2 goals and close the game down. Always hard to beat, they have one of the best defensive records in Spain last year with solid centre-backs Ayala and Marchena and a dependable goalkeeper in Cañizares. The whole team always work hard but they don't score many goals.

They've surprisingly disposed of goalscorer but ugly geezer Mista and replaced him with Morientes, who as Mrs Nelson tells me is much better-looking and, of course, del Horno returns to Spain after his unhappy year at Chelski. They also welcome back skilful left winger Vicente from a season long injury that kept him out of the World Cup. So Morientes and David Villa as strikers. Villa's very good and will give our boys a real testing but personally if I was a Valencia fan I'd be envious of an attacking line-up of Hasselbaink and Bent. Hasselbaink had a very good year in Spain in 1999/2000 with Atletico Madrid scoring 24 league and he's well remembered. Shame Darren won't be joining him!

So a Valencia team that won't give Charlton as many chances as Hibs did on Tuesday and they'll be more than content to play keep-ball for long periods of the game. Ten-Thirty kickoff but it'll still be up in the 20's with lots of humidity as well. 25000 tickets sold ( well, probably given away more like ) but it shows the importance of a meaningless kickabout to a Spaniard.

So who is going to be in the Charlton line-up? Darren B still seems to have problems holding a knife so we'll still not see what form of cutting edge he makes with Jimmy-Floyd. Monica has certainly shown that he wants to see what the youngsters can do and he's already making some excuses for them after the Hibs game and showing how he wants to give them some experience while at the same time saying he doesn't expect the earth. Looks like good management to me. Bringing back James Walker after he had been supposedly released shows he's not afraid to follow his own instincts or maybe listen to advice from people he trusts.

The twenty-two players that were used against Millwall and Hibs would be quite a plane full but with the heat in Spain maybe a good idea. But we'll need to be at our best to handle this lot and its possible that because of that we'll get a better idea of Monica's first 11. However, with Monica proving full of surprises and seemingly determined to give as many players a game as possible, maybe we'll even see Lisbie make a showing?

Monica's interviews have emphasized the number of positives coming out of last Tuesdays game despite the defeat, and with end-of-week barbis creating the right atmosphere we seem to be getting half-way there. Unfortunately he's joined a team, not only of a couple of dozen players, but of several thousand pessimists and right now I just wish we would splash out a bit and get that creative midfield player that everyone wants. I'm getting to the stage that I don't care who it is. We do seem to have created lots of chances against Hibs and we did score 4 at Millwall I hear someone say but I remember Hughes, Kish and Holland from last season and I'm still having nightmares about it.
Likely Prediction : Valencia 2 Charlton 1

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Mistaken Identity - It was Jimmy Floyd

Always check your sources. Seems I was wrong to trust someone that was there to know who scored Charlton goals at Hibernian. Probably the truth being that the Scottish reporter was still in the bar while Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink scored after 3 minutes. People are clearly not used to seeing us score after 3 minutes, especially in an away game. When was the last time that happened?

The Hibs report gave the first Charlton goal to Thomas but of course it was Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink that was on the mark again. I knew I should have trusted Inspector Sands or even the bbc who have a short report here.

A goal after 3 minutes, perhaps our usual apprehensive approach has come to an end?

Hibernian 3 Charlton 2

So our first 3 goal defeat of the season but instead of one where we only wake up at the end of the game here we went 2 goals up through Thomas and James Walker (once again) before finally going down late in the game to a Hibs winner in the 75th minute.

Contrary to anything I believed, Monica choose to take not 22 but 24 players to Easter Road with 2 distinct teams being fielded in each half and lots of substitutions as well. As well as the 22 players on display at Millwall there were second half outings for 18 year old forward Michael Carvill and the 17 year old Finnish defender Jani Tanska as well as the 18 year old Icelandic midfielder Rúrik Gíslason that we signed from Anderlecht last August. Monica is certainly giving the youngsters a try out.

Myhre returned to the action for the first half at the expense of Anderson while Randolph was between the sticks for the second half. I wonder if that means anything.

Of the rumoured Salif Diao there was no sign and of course both Bent's were left on the sidelines. And once again Lislie was missing.

As far as the play was concerned it appears that Hibs were fortunate to win with their 3rd goal coming in the 75 minute. We had the best of the first half and scored in the 3rd minute when Rommedahl crossed for Thomas to control the ball on his chest before slotting the ball home. Rommedahl then missed a chance created by Hasselbaink and Ambrose, the keeper being quick off his line to save. Midway through the half the second goal came. Similar to the first, Rommedahl crossed again this time for Walker to score. Rommedahl then missed a one-on-one chance with the keeper after outpacing the defence but pushed the ball too far and the defence cleared.
Before half-time Hibs pulled one back with a 30th yard strike from Scott Brown.

The second half saw Charlton create further good chances with Gislason and Euell missing sitters before Hibs equalised on 62 minutes. There was time for an unmarked Sam to miss a sitter before Hibs finally when ahead.

So it seems our worries about not being able to create chances seem unfounded as we appeared to miss several easy opportunities. Overall its hard to tell what Monica's ideal first team will be but the first half 11 look more the part and now its off to Spain for a juicy encounter with Spains' third best team.

First Half: Myhre, Young, El Karkouri, Hreidarsson, Ashton, Rommedahl, Hughes, Kishishev, Ambrose, Thomas, Hasselbaink . Subs: Fortune, Walker, Walton, Sorondo, Ewell, Holland.

Second Half: Randolph, Walton, Sorondo, Fortune, Youga, Ewell, Holland, Sam, John, Gislason, Walker. Subs: Tanska, Carvill.
A full report can be found here hibernian.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Hibernian Preview

Tuesday night sees a trip across the border to play against Hibs in Edinburgh. This will be a much tougher proposition than the game against Millwall and will be for Hibs their last pre-season friendly before they take on Aberdeen in the Scottish League this Saturday. They will obviously field a full-strength side ( no place for kids) in preparation for the league game and after having played 4 Intertoto games are clearly fit and ready.

After hammering Dinaburg of Latvia 8-0 on aggregate in their first Intertoto round they eventually lost to Bruce Riochs' Odense of Denmark at the weekend on the away goals rule, so they'll clearly be wanting to put the disappointment of going out of Europe behind them.

With a game in Spain against Valencia at the weekend it's seems unlikely that a repetition of the Millwall game where 22 players were on display will be tried again. The toughest test of the two games may well be the Hibs game particularly as Valencia are calling Saturday a "Partido de presentación" ( a Presentation Game, eg showing off Del Horno and other new signings to the fans ) rather than a "Amistoso" (friendly). They will probably do as we did against Millwall and give as many players as possible a run-out in front of their fans for the first time this season.

As I can't see 22 Charlton players catching a flight to Spain for one game and Monica's wanting to give people a game it may well be that the stronger Charlton team will be against the Scots with the Spanish game one for the second string and youngsters to enjoy. Whatever happens it's clear that neither Bent will be on the pitch come Tuesday but will we see more of young Franck Dja Djedje ?

More news on the surprise inclusion of European U19 Championship winner Dja Djedje for the Millwall game comes with Dowie giving us some behind-the-scenes thinking: "I thought he did well. He's had a week's training with us and he's coped with it very well. He's showed great hunger and desire - that's the one thing I've been pleased about. He showed one or two little tricks and he was a bit unlucky with his chip in the first few minutes of the second half. He would have liked to have got a goal but we'll keep monitoring him. It's work in progress, we'll take a little time and reflect on it. We won't act in hast. It's just one of those things that we thought he was worth looking at especially when Marcus and Darren were going to miss the game.”

News of Marcus Bent is that he was injured for the Millwall game, while the manager is nursing Darren himself.
Of Darren, who sliced into his finger whilst attempting to make a sandwich, Dowie said: "We don't think it's going to be long, but we'll see how it heals. I would think by the end of the week he'll be starting contact training but we're going to take precautions with it. He's been training with me - non-contact training is fine - and his level of fitness is excellent.”

Before the actual contact training can start, its rumoured that Ainsley Harriet has been asked to provide a few one-to-one sessions, with slicing and chipping techniques the first items on the list.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Millwall 1 Charlton 4

An excellent start by Monica's finest, combining experience with lots of youngsters. Two completely different teams were put out separated by half-time and included old favorities such as Holland, Hughes and Euell, along with a 20 year-old Ivory Coast triallist striker,Franck Dja Djedje, borrowed for the afternoon (!) from Paris St Germain.

People returned who we thought had left ( El Karkouri and youngster James Walker ) and a couple or three were conspicuous by their absence ( Mhyre, Lisbie, Marcus B ).

Anyway a very good start to the season and we've still got Darren with his dicky finger itching to play a part.

Teams were:
Charlton (first-half): Andersen; Young, Youga, Sorondo, Fortune; Ambrose, Hughes, Holland, Lloyd Sam, Alistair John, Hasselbaink.

Charlton (second-half): Randolph, Simon Walton, Nathan Ashton, Hreidarsson, El Karkouri; Kishishev, Thomas, Euell, Rommedahl; Franck Dja Djedje, James Walker.

Goals: Hasselbaink 11, (the impressive) Marvin Elliott (Millwall) 42, Ambrose 45, El Karkouri 56, Walker 60

Friday, July 21, 2006

New Era Begins at the Den

Our boys have been back in training for a couple of weeks now and from the things that are being said they're pretty impressed with the new management. Luke Young, after at last signing his contract, comes out with what a captain is supposed to say, "I can't speak highly enough of how myself and everybody else have been impressed with the first couple of weeks of training.
It's been bright and forward-thinking and it feels as though everything is moving in the right direction."

Darren B. added "Training has been hard but good. The gaffer's come in and brought some new ideas and it's really exciting. I've loved every minute of it. All the lads are buzzing even though training has been really hard. It is as if everyone has had a massive weight lifted off their shoulders because we've got a new manager and everyone is starting out afresh."

So the players at least seem to be in the right frame of mind which, after the usual turgid end to the season can only encourage the fans. But we're not Charlton fans for nothing and there'll still be that nagging doubt that what we have is not good enough. Our Murray has tried to reassure us after Darren signed a new improved contract with "We'd like to get, ideally, another five players of which at least three will be fairly senior players,” said the Addicks chairman.
"We're working very hard on it. I know the season is still two or three weeks away but Iain would like to get them in as soon as possible so he can get them training with the other players. So we're working on it, I can't give you any promises, but the aim is still to get five.”

So that's the plan. Although he's no youngster at 34, the signing of Jimmy-F clearly demonstrates that the management think we belong in the top half of the table and gives us a true strike-force worthy of the name. But the main worry has to be the midfield. There's paper talk of Djimi Traore and Emerson Boyce, both defenders and Matt Oakley, a midfielder but surely not going to set the place on fire. We need that "Big Signing" that can create and influence the play - could it be Sidwell ? Its all gone very quiet for several weeks but that is after all how we operate.

Perhaps we'll see a completely new style of play. In all of Curbs years we never had an attacking duo of the likes of Darren Bent and Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink. Curbs liked to have good centre-backs but always seemed to want to fashion a team that played as he played with intelligent, creative midfielders that could make things happen. Over the years he had Jenson, Di Canio, Murphy, Smerton, Parker - all players that could create something but unfortunately this somehow meant that the team seemed to be built around them. The problem, of course, was that, for various reasons, they all walked out on him and he had to revert to Plan B, a play safe 4-5-1.

Darren B also tells us ""With him ( Dowie ) having been a striker as well it helps me out massively. "
And with the Chairman wanting more entertaining football perhaps having a former striker in charge will bring pleasant changes.

I don't think we won't get any idea on Monica's final team selection or formation from tomorrow's game. "It's far too early to give my cards away,” the Addicks boss told the club website. "In my mind I'm slowly forming my starting XI but all the players have come back in fantastic shape and there are about 20 players who could force their way into it.

The New Era starts here!