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Friday, August 17, 2007

Preview - Stoke City (away)

The Addicks continue the month of August by ploughing through the never-ending 'S's with a visit to the Britannia Stadium to play one of the few teams to have lost to Real Madrid in pre-season, Stoke City.
A member of the first football league in 1888, Stoke started off badly and finished bottom on goal difference. They're rumoured to be the second-oldest club in the world and have been messing around as Stoke City for 129 years ( and another 15 as the rather quaintly named Stoke Ramblers ) and sadly not achieving very much. A grand total of 52 years in the top flight ended in 1985 with the rather embarrassing total of 17 points and 3 victories, a total that was only 'beaten' by hapless Sunderland in 2006. Their other claim to fame is as the home club of Stanley Matthews although even he saw sense and left to play for Blackpool.
With Division Two Titles in a weirdly clockwork pattern of 1933, 1963 and 1993 it was unfortunate that by the time they won their last one someone had renumbered everything and they saw themselves in Tier Two instead. A League Cup win back in 1972 completes the major honours and now like a miserable old codger in striped pyjamas they take out their frustration on their opponents by emulating the playing style of the nineties-Wimbledon. They're Physical.
But it appears to work, at least at home. Ignoring the 3 promoted clubs, 'cause they'll not be causing us any trouble this season, 3 fizzy-pop teams stand out from last season as having a good home record - Southampton, Preston and Colchester - and all had a meagre 4 home defeats. However, there was one team with an even better home record who only suffered 3 defeats. The team - Stoke City. They also had the best defensive record at home with only 16 goals conceded in the 23 games. At the end Stoke finished in 8th spot, just 2 points adrift off the play-offs.
With just over 28,000 they've got a bigger ground than us and have spent exactly twice as long as us in the top flight but have settled into a long Tier Two existence with not a lot of money in the bank, their most expensive player being, wait for it, Sambeyou Bangoura of Guinea who cost £814.9 back in 2005 from Standard Leige. Obviously not a great success, they've just sold him for another strange figure, and a significant loss, for £270.9 to Boavista. Not a bargain, then.
After Saturdays game against Scunthorpe, a team that we have an even history against we now face one that we are currently trailing with 21 wins to their 23 victories. Our last visit to Stoke was in February 1998 and we came away with a 2-1 win thanks to goals from Robbo and Barness.
The Opponents
So who they got? Well, there's Dominic Matteo and Rory Delap in midfield. Ex-Palarse "Mr glassknees" Ricardo Fuller was last seasons top scorer with 11 and for last weekend's game at Cardiff he was partnered up-front by the man from Mali, the ex-Gills Mamady Sidibe. According to Wiki, he's known as 'Big Mama'- he's 6'4" - Sidibe is regarded as a target man with great ball control, but is sometimes criticised for failure to score rather simple goals. Sidibe has received praise from manager Tony Pulis for his "'ard work".
And there's another big 'un in the shape of 'the beast' Jon Parkin. Another 6'4" 14 stone giant he's been around a bit and spent 18 months at Hull scoring 11 goals before being loaned out to Stoke because of a reported 'poor attitude' in training!
The Addicks
So, enough of insulting the natives, what about the Addicks, who's going to play? Pards pencil will first of all put five players down to start:
That'll be first choice goalie at the moment is Weaver, with man-of-the match Yassin, defensive midfielder Semedo, Irish wizard Andy Reid and the revitalised Marcus Bent.
As for the rest, Sam ( even though transfer-target Thomas is reported fit ) and Ambrose, despite the signings of ZiZi and Racon, should make the midfield which leaves 4 places, left-back, central defence and a second striker up for grabs.
Thatcher played against the Iron but Chrissie Powell took the field at Swindon. In a physical battle it'll probably be the Thatch who plays. Central defence is between McCarthy, Magic and Fortune and Tuesday's clean-sheet and Fortune's knowledge of Stoke City where he played 10 games last season could see the partnership continue.
And to combat the dangerous aerial power of Stoke at set-pieces, who better than our own 6'4" Chris Iwelumo who also knows Stoke City having the annoyingly almost equal figures of 52 starts and 51 sub appearances ( and 23 goals ) after 3 years spent there and Pards may decide to include him up-front.
Weaver; Moutaouakil, Bougherra, Fortune, Thatcher; Sam, Semedo, Ambrose, Reid; Bent and Iwelumo.
Subs: Randolph, Powell, McCarthy, Sinclair, McLeod.

Pards' Thoughts
"Having said that, (You have to have different options in each position and we have the ability to change the team ), I'd like to play a settled side as much as I can this year. It's important that they learn to play with each other. A few have thrown me some posers tonight (Tuesday) in terms of team selection for Saturday."
And there's the key to our season. Lots of teams spent, spent, spent but its a settled side that's going to win the title. By comparison, in 2000 we had a core of 8 players that played more than 30 games to win the Championship.
Prediction ?
At last a bonus with being in the fizzies, in the fact that we don't have to quote Lawrenson's opinion. But in a game that Pards is not looking forward too, he would probably settle for yet another 1-1 draw.

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