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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Barnsley Preview

Shock, horror, a lucky point at Ipswich when we seemed dead and buried and we've now gone 2 games without losing and in both we've come back from the brink and got a point. Who can understand this team? Early in the season we'd score first and then collapse but now we start badly and don't wake up to what's going on till the last 20 minutes.
And there's more baffling news from the Ipswich manager Jim Magilton re Tuesdays game, "We had enough chances to win three games. If you don't take them, at one nil, it's always pretty precarious."
And then the baffling bit, "They have quality...."
A strange remark that will confound many at the Valley but if true you might be tempted to ask what the hell we're doing in 20th place but then I'm sure that most people could give us a reason.
So Barnsley next and its a must win game, not only from our point of view but for both teams because believe it or not here we are with a relegation six pointer and it's only November! And with Pards seemingly eager to walk to the block with his determination to give Varney yet another chance, I for one wouldn't give much hope for his head avoiding the block if we were to lose this one.
So what's our chances? Barnsley are the lowest scoring away team ( along with QPR) with just 2 goals in 7 games. Even the Addicks have now scored three times away from fortress valley. For the Tykes it's just 1 win, 1 draw and 5 defeats on the road, although it must be said that their only win was in their last game, 1-0, this week at Doncaster.
So they can't score away from home but down the other end, they've conceded only 11 on their travels, with 8 teams, even Wolves, having let in more goals away from home. They've also kept 5 clean sheets in all 13 fizzy games so far whilst the Addicks defence can only claim 3. But the clincher is their failure to score. Whilst Wolves lead the table with just 1 failure to score in 13 games, Barnsley are rock bottom in a listing of Fizzy non-scorers with 8 games from 13 that they have finished without scoring. Even the Addicks only have a total of 5 non-scoring games.
Goes without saying then that their favorite scoreline has to be 0-0, 3 in all, but promisingly they'd already had two defeats in London - 1-2 to QPR on the opening day and 0-3 to Palarse 2 weeks ago.
But there is some bad news 'cause they are improving and are now unbeaten in 3 games - with wins over Sheff. Wed at home and Doncaster away, either side of a credible 0-0 at home to Bristol City - and only have 1 defeat, that at Palarse in their last 5. And over the last 8, they've won three while the Addicks have only won 1 and while the Addicks have lost 4 in that period, they have only lost twice.
And while we scratch around waiting for Luke to score, the Tykes already have a proven goalscorer in number 7, the 24 year old Canadian international from Edinburgh, Iain Hume with 4 fizzy goals this season. Hume was a £1.2M buy in the summer and is ex of Leicester and Tranmere where he scored over thirty goals for each. It took him just 5 minutes to score on his debut at QPR in August and Pards, he needs to be watched carefully. And, of course, there's an ex-Addick Campbell-Ryce just waiting to score at the Valley to complete his own double of the year after scoring against us at Barnsley in April.
And if you were expecting a group of tough Yorkshire no-hopers, think again. In the team against Doncaster on Tuesday were a German goalkeeper, a couple of Brazilians, a couple of Jamaicans, an Argentine, a couple of Irish, the Canadian/Scot striker with just two Englishmen at fullback. A mixed bunch then but a team that although below us in the table needs taking very seriously.

The history couldn't be more comforting, unless of course, you're the nervous type. Barnsley after 21 visits to the Valley have never won and avoided defeat just 7 times, losing the remaining 13. But, of their last 8 visits to the Valley going back 17 years, they've only lost twice with no less than 6 draws.
One of their draws was of course last season. After ZiZi put us ahead with 8 minutes to go they equalised in the dying seconds and then midfielder Grant McCann missed a sitter in injury time and they will also be encouraged by the 3-0 win they had over us at Oakwell last April, with Campbell-Ryce scoring after just 11 minutes.
Team News -
First of all its an open letter to Pardew. I was wondering how to explain this to you, Pards, so I'll come out straight. The boy Varney needs a rest. No, he's not going to tell you, they never do that but if it's upsetting his confidence that you're worried about, don't worry, he already hasn't got any, last Tuesday proved that. Put him on the bench and let him hear the cheers when you bring him on because its obvious that the fans, despite everything, like him. And when you tell him, he'll probably thank you because the pressure that you are putting him under is not doing him any good, or the team. You only have to see what happens when we concede; they know they're beaten 'cause they have a striker that they know is not going to score. So do everyone a favour and start with somebody else.
OK, the team. Pards has already said that "I'll have to pick a side on Saturday which I feel will show more offensively than they did at Ipswich. Defensively I have no complaints. We were a bit erratic on occasions, but we put our lives on the line in the box, defended well and the goalkeeper was brilliant. So we'll take those positives into Saturday." So with that in mind, probably means 2 strikers ( Todorov and you know who) and 2 wide men (Sam and Bouazza). Bailey in the middle with.....Josh Wright.

The Team: Weaver; Moutaouakil, Hudson, Cranie, Youga; Sam, Bailey, Wright, Bouazza; Todorov and DICKSON.

Prediction -

Just when you thought we had touched bottom and couldn't drop any further Barnsley come calling. Never won at the Valley have Barnsley but they came close last time and I'm praying that Varney ( 'cause of course he's playing) will at last find out where the goal is. Back in July I forecast a draw ( as did Frankie) while 99% of the other forecasters on CAFC Picks forecast a win. I just hope I was wrong as was Toby Jones, the only one of 37 fans to see a defeat.....This is a game the team cannot afford to lose, and neither can Pardew's head.....

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ipswich Town Preview

After 3 agonizing hours at the Valley last week where we started brilliantly and ended, after more half-time corrections, in a charge-filled last 20 minutes, the lasting image that we'll all remember (after Varney's miss) will be the abysmal middle hour and a half where we played like frightened sheep and where our soft centre was all too clearly displayed.
So after coming so close to beating a team with only one defeat in 12 ( and completing our first comeback since the Black Death), we're off to play Ipswich who have had only 1 defeat in their last 9 fizzies ( conveniently ignoring a 1-4 home defeat in the Carling to Wigan in mid-September) and we all know who it was that they lost to.
But revenge is sweet, or so they say, and a thumping 3-1 win at Plymouth on Saturday, where they had a total of 11 shoots on target, will have set them up for just such a thing. Lisbie started for the first time in a month, and scored, and with 3 fizzy goals so far from only 6 starts ( plus another goal in the League Cup) is currently making Luke look a bit of a whoopsie.
And with Kevin odds-on to start up front, Ipswich have found scoring goals a bit easy. Twenty so far, only Reading and Wolves have more, they've hit 3 goals three times in a game and counting all games played they've apparently had double the shoots on target that the Addicks have had.
But their home form is nothing as good as last season and after losing successive home games to Preston and Wolves back in August, they then returned to last seasons form and beat Coppells Reading 2-0 and more recently enjoyed draws with Palarse and Swansea which have sandwiched a tasty 3-0 romp over Barnsley. So its a nice symmetrical home record of 2 wins, 2 draws and 2 defeats this season but which is currently only better than the likes of Derby, Forest, Southampton and Doncaster and in fact they have scored fewer goals, 9, at home than we have. So it's a decent away record of nine points that has taken them above us to 13th spot with 17 points.
And if you're looking for a weakness Pards, it comes with a certain frailty that we should know all about. There's one thing where Ipswich are currently the worst in the fizzies and it concerns points lost after going in front. In fact there's a couple of teams that know all about the art of chucking games away once they've taken the lead. Perhaps its due to their early goalscoring feats - they've scored first in 8 out of 13 games - but there are five games in which they have been in front and dropped points - in two of them they've lost, to Preston and Watford after scoring in the second minute both times, and in the other three they've drawn after leading thus dropping 12 points in the process, the worst in the Fizzies. Of course, second best in this shooting-yourself-in-the-foot scenario, are the Addicks after dropping 9 points in 3 defeats to Preston, Wolves and Sheff. Wed after scoring first.
As for the history, there's only a handfull of teams in the fizzies that we've played less times than Ipswich with only 17 seasons together before this one and our record at Portland Rd stands at 9-5 - that's 9 defeats to 5 wins, with 5 draws, so not bad. And after our win three weeks ago its neck and neck with 14 wins each and 7 draws. Our last visit though, back in March, finished 0-2, was our third defeat in row that pushed us down to 9th and ended all hope of promotion.
Team News - A storming last 20 minutes on Saturday can't hide the fact that when writing out his teamsheet there's not many names that are now already come pencilled in. After Bailey's wretched week and with Varney's glaring miss, you'd be pushed to expand on more than two people certain to start, namely Weaver and Hudson. But we know, of course, that Pards is not going to leave out Luke whatever happens - he's still the only player to have played every minute of our 14 games. Perhaps that's one of our problems. What effect could it have on the rest of the team playing behind a striker that's only scored 7 goals since Christmas? The effect on the performance against Burnley with the appearance, at half-time, of a striker that knows how to score was strikingly obvious.
Anyway, as for the defence, Pardew is set to continue with Moutaouakil and although Primus had a knock and was looking tired (!) before coming off on Saturday, it would seem sensible to continue with him and Hudson at centre-back. Left-back though has returned to be an issue with now Cranie, Basey and Youga all possibles.
Against a team that knows how to score we'll need attacking options and with his swinging free-kicks and corners as a bonus Basey should start at left-back.
As for midfield, Bailey's having a wretched time and seems to be going backwards and perhaps we should play the same team as 3 weeks ago with Ambrose and Bouazza out wide, Holland (on for 77 minutes in place of Bailey) in the centre with Wright taking the place of the injured ZiZi. Tods and Varney were up front.
The problem with a team forecast is that you have to explain whether its your selection or Pardews team that you showing. Well, at this point lets indulge ourselves and name a team that we want to see. I was going to reinstate Semedo in place of Bailey until I realised that the trio of Semedo, Ambrose and Holland failed 7 months ago to have any effect on our slump so Nick's back in.
Weaver; Moutaouakil, Hudson, Primus, Basey; Bailey, Wright, Holland, Ambrose; Todorov, Dickson.
Yes, I know we shouldn't play Bailey and Holland together but with Holland ( and Brother Ambrose) itching, perhaps, to return to their roots it would be a good time for them to convince the Tractors what they have to offer. And yes, I feel its about time to give Luke a rest and give Dickson a run.
Prediction: After leaving the Valley on Saturday feeling like a win, according to Pards, you wouldn't expect anything other than a correcting defeat to put things back in perspective. A 0-2 result seems about right in the circumstances but what would that mean to Pardews future? With Barnsley away to Doncaster and Southampton at home to Coventry, wins for those two and defeat for us would push us into the bottom three! Come on Pards, a point at least...

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Cardiff Calling....

After the heady news this week it comes as a bit of a surprise that we have to return to playing football and although players will often say that boardroom issues never affect them, perhaps we are about to find out what impact the arrival of sackloads of money will make to our performance. Perhaps someone should dress up as a sheikh to encourage the team to find their best form.
So its off to Ninian Park, where last season we won 2-0 back in the distant days of December 2007, to continue our good record against the Bluebirds and to complete the double over them after the win at the Valley the month before, and when automatic promotion was the foreseeable aim. With 11 wins in 30 League games there, and with 14 defeats and 5 draws its one of the best places to visit for the Addicks. We've been there 8 times since the heavy 1-6 defeat in 1971, and won 4, drawn 1 and lost the remaining 3, scoring 13 goals in the process.
And with our defence keeping a clean sheet for the first 25 minutes in every one of our 10 games, we face a team with the third best defensive record in the fizzies and equally determined not to give a goal away, that appear to save themselves till the end and have therefore scored 5 of their 11 goals in the last ten minutes. With only one defeat in the 10 games - a home loss, 1-2, to top of the table Birmingham - and unbeaten away from home with 1 victory and 4 draws, they disappoint at home with only 2 wins, 2 draws and that one defeat.
They have a couple of players getting the goals number 44 McCormack and one Jay Bothroyd who have formed the strike force for the last three games. Both scored in their last home game, a 2-1 win over high-flying Coventry, and although that was McCormack seventh of the season it was the first from Bothroyd. Scottish born McCormack is only 22 and has already played, and scored, in the Champions League with Rangers before he moved on to Motherwell. They also have Irish international Stephen McPhail and Stepney boy and ex-Orient Darren Purse in the squad.
As for the Addicks, what can we expect on this the dawn of a new era? Well, Weaver will be in goal and Varney will be up front and Mark Hudson and Linvoy Primus will handle the defence. As for our other core member, Nick Bailey, injured against Ipswich, nothing has been heard and the half-time substitution of Jonjo Shelvey against the Gills this week could be a sign that he'll feature at Ninian in his place. And perhaps Pards will be even more conservative, putting in Holland in a 4-5-1.
Youga, Ambrose, ZiZi and Bouazza all played the full 90 last time out and will all probably start. And after his stirring second-half against Ipswich, Jose Semedo will surely get the nod over Cranie.
Team: Weaver, Semedo, Hudson, Primus, Youga; Ambrose, ZiZi, Shelvey, Bouazza; Todorov, Varney.
Prediction: Strangely enough five of the best six forecasters on cafcpicks foresaw a defeat when mapping out our future - the other saw a draw - and this even after last seasons double. But will the appearance of the Emirs money make a difference or will we draw 0-0 as forecast by most. And will we fail to win two in a row since that memorable 3-1 win over Ipswich last December which, of course, followed the 2-0 win at Ninian Park.
Of course, anyone who's been around here for any length of time will tell you that after the good news this week it'll be typical form for the Addicks to lose 0-2 or something. Given Cardiff's record this year, a draw would be a good result and I can't see Pards sticking his neck out to win it, for a defeat at this moment wouldn't be good news for him so expect a stalemate with honours even, 0-0 probably.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Poet on a Horse

I was going to prattle on about how its almost a year since the 3-1 Ipswich win at the Valley - the last win before we embarked on our 10 wins in 35 scenario - but events would seem to have overtaken us. Because right now its our performance in the Boardroom rather than on the field which has taken front stage.
Whilst his football club has been slowly sinking, Richard Murray has obviously been rather busy and has received a helping hand, if you can believe the Mail on Sunday from Newcastle's ex-Director, Tony Jimenez. Grass obviously doesn't grow under the feet of Mr Jimenez for just 10 months ago he was handed the job of Vice-President at Newcastle in a new management team that included Jeff Vetere, former overseas scouting co-ordinator of the Addicks under Curbishley. Perhaps that was the missing link because before departing from St. James' Park this week Jimenez had the rather good idea of introducing Richard to Zabeel Investments after Newcastle owner Ashley had turned down the Dubai groups offer of £280m.
So anyway, instead of languishing in the doldrums and looking forward to the sight of Pardews' further tinkering, full of fear less we follow Leicester into Division One, we can now almost hear the pleasant tinkleing of hard coinage falling into our coffers and are now dreaming of being top of the world. What a turnaround!
It may not happen, there's talk of an investigation into Zabeel's still current ambitions concerning Liverpool, but Richard Murray seems confident and although his judgement on the relative merits of football managers has been called into question, there's surely less doubt over his financial acumen.
So for the inquisitive it's checking into the meaning of "due diligence" and for the socially conscious, worrying about Dubai labour laws and the tainted smell of oil money. We would prefer a scrap metal dealer, Richard, but in our situation, and with surprising debts of £20m that has been kept pretty quiet, beggars can't be choosers.
But nevertheless, I'm still haunted by the reaction of my local barkeeper, when he inquired how my English team was doing. "Fourteen in the Second", drew a true look of sympathy whereas "but we're about to be bought by Arabs from Dubai" was received with a look of disdain or was it contempt as if I was selling myself on the street corner. Well, the arabs have always had a bad press over here and have never been top of anyones party list. It took them 400 hundred years of hard battling to get rid of them and now their coming back although not, it must be said, with sack loads of money. Perhaps he's jealous.
As for the Addicks, will we change? If it goes ahead, most definitely, but nothing is ever guaranteed in life let alone football where finding the winning formulae is often more a series of short steps rather than a sudden jump over the fence. Patience will be needed and a poetry-loving, horse-riding ex-Sandhurst Sheikh would seem to fit the bill.
All we need to do is to pray that Pards, fresh from trawling the lower Leagues for gems, knows how to spend a tidy wadge of money, because visions of a little lost boy by the name of Simonson kept coming back to me.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Confusing Times?

With the games played total now into double figures perhaps we can accurately re-assess our expectations for the current season. We're now 10 games in and with just 4 wins and one draw ( and 5 defeats) we have so far accumulated just 13 points. So after 46 games, if we continue as we are, you'd expect about 59 points, 5 worse than last year.
Looking at the table we're 14th, 2 points adrift of the Play-Offs and 5 above the relegation zone and to tell the truth its not really what we were hoping back in August. But are we complaining? Judging from all the articles currently now circulating, seems we most definitely are. Can't say I'm overjoyed by the way things are progressing but what exactly did we expect.
For, with just 10 games played, and having just reached the month of October, our patience, is for some, completely expended. Its an almost universal "Pards Out" that's the call and not wanting to upset too many people, I have to say that I'm getting a bit tired of so much wingeing. I'm not going to go into detail about whats been said, you've all read the same articles as I have but seems to me that its all getting a bit over the top. Pardews' been insulted and had his comments and team selection ridiculed and its all become a bit too personnel for my liking. Perhaps we've been spoilt by the likeable Curbs 'cause I can't believe that we'd be saying the same things about him in his Tier Two days. Perhaps we've forgotten that it took Curbs 6 years to find the magic formulae or is it that since the mid-nineties our expectation levels have increased.
So as there's always two sides to every story I thought I would try to level things out. And I must admit right at the beginning that at times I do feel fortunate that I don't have to witness some of our displays this year and perhaps the frustation and anger is somewhat easier to deal with when you are a thousand miles away from the action.
Firstly perhaps we need to consider where exactly we are and remember who exactly we are. Of course the recent run in the Premier has given us expectations above the norm, you wouldn't expect anything else. But we are historically a Second Division club and of our 22ish managers only 3 have taken us into the "promised land". That's about one in every 7. Take a look at the Roll of Honour on Doctor Kish. One major success, back in 1947.
Not much to shout about and another pointer to what would reflect our usual level is an historical table. Over here in Spain, the Real Madrid sports papers wheel one out every now and again just to remind everyone how much better they are than Barcelona. The table lists all the points that teams have collected since the year dot, but only ones that they have gained in the Top Flight.
There's one somewhere for the English league but it's rarely published. If you could find it, it shows Charlton Athletic, after our 26 seasons in the old Division One and the Premier in a lowly 33rd position just behind Ipswich Town. With 20 clubs in the Premier, that means that our historical position would be about 13th in the Tier Two. As I've said, we're currently 14th.
Anyway, back to Pardew. When he took over nearly two years ago now, at exactly the seasons halfway point we were second to bottom, had 3 wins in 19 games with 12 points and were 6 points away from West Ham in 18th and 7 points away from the safety of 17th place. Goal difference was minus 20. He gained another 22 points from the remaining 19 games and finished up 4 points away from 17th position. Things got worse as the following summer saw a mass exodus and it continued last January when he lost his captain and playmaker Andy Reid. More players went this summer and with the last of Monica's signings also went the first of Pardews, Bougherra.
So with so many departures and money obviously tight, what have we left? A core of, Weaver ( how many screams were there when he arrived, now long forgotten), a new captain in Hudson - a gem apparently - and Bailey, lauded by Kish as the new Parker and all purchased for a pitance. We only need a forward that scores goals and the core of the team would pick itself, although it does seem to do so already. In the wings there's Basey, Shelvey and Wright and the promise of an U-18 team that reached the Youth Cup Quarters last season. And he's unearthed some gems in Semedo, Racon, Moutaouakil and Dickson that haven't cost the earth. And who's to say that he's not right in their needing a bit more polishing before they're ready?
Now I'm not saying that critisism doesn't help, we can read Ambroses' comments recently to know that the numerous comments after the appalling performance at Palarse seem to have raised the team but there has to be a limit and if not a responsibilty of what is broadcast over the internet, then there such be a determination to do the best for the team as we see fit. Perhaps thats what people have in mind but by turning personnel and vindictive we do no-one any favours.
In my humble opinion, none of the diatribes on Pardews' performance are ever going to have any effect, least of all because we can't afford it, and I sometimes wonder why all the critisism is directed towards Pardew when a closer look may accuse the Board of getting us into the situation that we are currently in. The wasted appointments of Monica and Reed spring to mind. And perhaps the thing that we need most of all right now is the steady hand of an experienced man that does look to the future of our club.