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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Another Pre-Season Clean-Sheet

With just 9 days to go before the real work begins, Pards let the boys loose yesterday in a benefit game for scout and ex-Aldershot player Paul Shrubb down there at Conference side Aldershot Town. Aldershot are most famous for being the second football league club to close in 1992 - Accrington Stanley were the first in 1962 - because of increasing debts and after rebirth as Aldershot Town they finished last season 9th in the Conference.
The game finished 0-0 with Todorov missing a penalty 15 minutes from time.
With a youth team playing the same night at Ebbsfleet, and losing heavily apparently, the only interesting thing about last nights game was always going to be the Addicks line-up. So it was: Elliot; Moutaouakil (Bougherra 88), Powell, McCarthy, Fortune; Christensen (Ambrose 70), Holland (Thomas 78), Faye (Reid 78), Sinclair; Iwelumo (Todorov 72), Walker.
Subs (not used): Weaver, Thatcher, Diawara.
You can draw your own conclusions but it would seem to be a case of leaving the strongest players (Reid, Thomas, Todorov, Diawara ) on the bench and seeing how the rest of the squad is shaping up. It can be argued that, at this stage of the proceedings, we should be beating the daylights out of a team like Aldershot but clearly that was not the point of the exercise and we wouldn't want to chance the possibility of any more injuries to key players at the hands of an enthusiastic Conference part-timer playing in front of his home crowd. There was even a suggestion in an Aldershot blog that the penalty miss was done on purpose so as not to avoid a perfect evenings entertainment.
Fitness, strength and team spirit seem to be the keywords in Pardew's pre-season dictionary with winning games not apparently an important issue. The most interesting statistic is that of the 7 games played ( 2 behind doors) 6 have resulted in clean sheets that would suggest that the glaring defensive deficiencies of last season have been rectified. Only time will tell.
Several players were missing from the action. Luke Varney has an injury, still not officially mentioned, as do Marcus Bent, Chris Dickson and Darren Randolph. Cory Gibbs and Jose Semedo were also not seen. The most interesting has to be the non-appearance of new discovered "gem" Jose. The man who has been playing so well in the defensive midfield that everybody sees is vital this season didn't apparently make the trip. Where was he? Perhaps Pards was playing psychological. Possibly, on the eve of unveiling "an experienced midfielder" that will do the same job, he doesn't want Jose getting all full of himself, he's still a youngster after all and a fizzy pop season is very long.
And on the subject of the exact purpose of pre-season its very interesting to compare the approach of the various managers and coaches. I don't mean individual games but the whole approach. Over here in Spain it's easy to see, just pay a euro get a copy of the Real Madrid fanzine AS, sorry sports paper, and there on Page 33 (!) - the first 20 or so are all about Madrid - you'll see a listing of every clubs pre-season, well the Primera teams, anyway.
Some of them clearly see lots of goals as the aim, both Deportivo and Mallorca scoring 21 in their first three games against local teams while the Big Boys, Barca and Real can't lower themselves to such depths and have to face Tier One opposition in Scotland and Germany respectively, although Real did strangely play one game in the UK against Stoke City last week. Next they're both off on some tournament or other and already Schuster's being grilled by the media on how it's possible to lose to mid-table Hannover 3-0 after all the money thats been spent. It's a hard life at the top.
Meanwhile you'll be pleased to learn that the busiest team of all with 12 pre-season games is our very own Valladolid, newly promoted to La Liga after 3 years away in the Spanish equivalent of the fizzies. Continuing in the same vein that won the Liga Two title last season, manager Mendilibar clearly sees fitness as the key to Tier One survival.
And lastly, up-top a picture of Pards wiping his nose and showing none of the worry, pressure or tension that being the favorites would inflict on a lesser mortal. Is he God or what?


Nadou said...

Interesting comments. But if you'd been there just one word would have summed it up - cack. We really were awful.

nelson said...

Yeh, Nadou, I kind of guessed as much, a 0-0. Maybe the word "benefit" brings out the worst in footballers. Giving something for nothing doesn't seem appropriate in this day and age somehow.