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Monday, September 28, 2009

Colchester United Preview

A bit of a stiff test ahead for the Addicks this week with two very difficult away games. We've never won at Colchester in the League and although we've only lost twice in our last six trips to Elland Rd after that Play-Off drama, Saturday will surely be the most difficult of the two.
And we enter what will be a revealing time for the Addicks with games against all of the other top 6 clubs over the next nine games. Not that our main rivals will have it easy either. Leeds had MK Dons last weekend, and follow that with a home game against Carlisle tomorrow - the last team to beat them at home in the League back in January. And then the Addicks come calling.
And whilst we return home for home games against Oldham and Huddersfield, Leeds have another couple of difficult successive away games at Bristol Rovers and then Millwall who disposed of them in last seasons Play-Off semis.
Anyway we start the difficult run against two of our bogeys, namely Colchester United and Aidy Boothroyd. After retiring from football aged 26 through injury, Boothroyd, still only 38, spent the following eight years coaching at Peterborough, West Brom and Leeds before becoming Watford's youngest ever manager at 34.
He then became only the 2nd manager in Watford's history to take them into the top flight when they won promotion to the Premier in 2006 after beating favorites Leeds 3-0 in the Play-Off final at Wembley. Their stay was short, however, and they were the only team to finish below us in 2007.

Times changes though and he's been out of a job since November last year when he left Watford "by mutual consent", Boothroyd became the U's manager on 2nd September and the combination of the two may be hard to beat.

Because his results against the Addicks are very impressive, from his point of view anyway. Four successive draws first in the Premier and then the fizzies and finally last season he achieved the double over us winning 1-0 at Vicarage Rd and 3-2 at the Valley.

And, of course, to level things up a bit we have our own ex's returning home. Parky had 3 successful years at Colchester between 2003-2006 taking them into Tier Two for the first time in their history and one of their most famous old boys is Mark Kinsella who signed on for the U's as a 17 year old. He stayed seven years, played 180 games apparently and 1998 was not his first win at Wembley, for he had won there previously with Colchester in the FA Trophy in 1992.

Currently 5th with 15 points with 3 home wins over Yeovil 2-1, the Gills 2-1 and Hartlepool 2-0 and only one home defeat to Leeds 2-1 at the end of August. And since that game against Leeds and also since Boothroyds' arrival, are currently on a run of 4 games unbeaten.

Number 20, is of course, Kevin Lisbie currently on loan from Ipswich. He's already got 23 goals for Colchester ( seven more than he got for us).

They also have the now 28 year old Kemal Izzet who left us for Colchester in 2001 without playing a game for the Addicks although he's been absence from the last two games after his sending off against Southampton.

Who Are Yeh
Number 18 Steven Gillespie is a 24 year Scouser whom Colchester splashed out their biggest ever fee - 400K - in the summer of 2008 after he'd scored 16 goals for Cheltenham in Tier 4.
They have four on-loan players and they'll all probably feature against the Addicks. Batth is a 19 year old centre-back on-loan from Wolves whilst another loanee is number 8 Irish U21 international 20 year old winger John-Joe O'Toole ex of Watford and the Blades both of whom he has played fizzy football.

They also have Nigerian striker Kayode Odejayi on a 3 month loan from Barnsley. He's tall, strong and will be a handful and was responsible for winning 2 penalties - Lisbie missed one and scored one in a game where he had to take three of them - on his debut against Hartlepool. He was called "unplayable" in the report on that game but Sammy Sodje will know all about him though, as they are both current Nigerian internationals.

The Dangerman

New striker Kayode Odejayi looks in worrying form but the rule of the ex's says that this weeks dangerman is quite clearly Kevin Lisbie. He was transferred to Ipswich from Colchester last season for 300k but it didn't work out and after just six goals all season is back at the U's on a season long loan where he's already equalled that total after 9 games. After his 10 years at the Valley and 176 games (108 as sub) he only managed 19 goals so he's obviously found his home at the U's for whom he's now got 23 in around 50 games.

Doing A Leicester?
Nine games in and Leeds had a meagre 17 points last season and were 4th. Leicester, meanwhile were top three points clear of Scunthorpe and had 22 points from 7 wins and a draw. But 9 games played is early days and the 2nd promotion spot would eventually go to the Posh, who after 9 games were in a distance ninth place.

The Addicks and Colchester clearly don't get on. Three times we have arrived in the same League together and each time one of us ups and leaves. Its as if we can't stand each other. Our two promotion seasons in 1974/75 and 1980-81, both of which we finished third in Tier Three, we did the leaving and then in 2007/08 the U's dropped out of Tier Two.

So only 3 seasons together make for a very short history and our league record at Layer Rd was not one to be proud of. Two previous Tier Three defeats, 3-0 in 1974 and 2-0 in 1981 in our promotion years was followed by a 2-2 draw in the fizzies in 2007 just two years ago.

And no surprise to see that there's only two players left from our team of two years ago - Jose and Lloyd Sam. The team was Weaver; Mills, McCarthy, Fortune, Powell; J Thomas (Reid 46), Semedo, Zheng, Ambrose; Todorov (Sam 72), Iwelumo (Varney 68) when we gave them a two goal start ( one from Kevin, of course) before Todorov and ZiZi scored. Twelve departures in 24 months and not surprisingly Reidie is the only one that I'd add to our current squad.

So no league wins but we have won there in the Cup, an 1-0 FA victory in 1984 and a previous League Cup 3-2 win in 1978. So overall its an embarrassing 4-3 to them with 2 draws.
But now, of course, we can forget our Layer Rd gremlins because the U's have moved to a brand stadium at Cuckoo Farm with a capacity of 10000.
The Team
An injured Jose meant a team change on Saturday after eight games unchanged. He was "almost fit" says Parky but wanted to save him for the important ones. Spring started and played the full 90, and amidst varying reports it would appear that he'll be unlucky to be sitting on the bench again against Colchester. And its all come a game too early for Matt as he'd love to show Aidy some style as, after working with him at Leeds, he was then one of Boothroyd's early signings at Watford.
So a return to our settled eleven then and with the added hope that Llera can avoid the dreaded 5th yellow before the Leeds game and before Sodje departs for international duty for the Oldham game. Perhaps Parky will surprise us and put Sammy in to start instead of Llera and use his knowledge of fellow Nigerian Odejayi.
A home team that has scored twice in three of their 4 home games - all won - against an away team that has scored 10 times in their 4 away games. The league's highest scorers with 20, against a team that has only scored 10 in their last 8.
But we've never won in Colchester in the League and Boothroyd hasn't lost to us in the 6 games that he's played against us and they are unbeaten since his arrival on September 2nd.
Its also another fixture where we can measure ourselves up against Leeds before the weekend for they are the only team to spoil the U's 100 per cent home record this season with that 2-1 win back in August. And while we continue to concede goals in the last 10 minutes, Leeds continue to do the opposite and have scored 6 of their 17 goals in the last 10 minutes.
So overall a 2-1 defeat here would not be a surprise but I have to go with a score draw with Lisbie getting a least one.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Exeter City Preview

First of all a big thank you very much must go to the seven directors participating in the 7 million investment to secure our finances for the remainder of the season. They are plc chairman Derek Chappell, club president and plc director Sir Maurice Hatter, football club chairman Richard Murray, deputy plc chairman Robert Whitehand, plc directors David Sumners and David White, and football company director David Hughes. And further news is that there'll be no sale and lease back of any of our assets and significantly the return of Richard Murray as plc chairman.
New investment is still being looked for but if Parky needed any reassurance of his immediate future then surely this is it. Whether any cash is available for new players is not mentioned but its a pity that it didn't happen earlier and not prevented the purchase of local boy, midfielder Jason Puncheon from Plymouth, currently on loan at MK Dons. Because at some point in the season our reliance on a scheme of filling any holes due to injury and suspension currently rests on Sodje, Spring, a misfiring McLeod and a variety of talented but unproven youngsters and may come unstuck in the winter mud.
So back to the football. Our unbeaten run continues at Norwich although not without a kick in the teeth to give away such a goal in the 93th minute. We knew that the last two games would be different to all the others and so it has proved with both Southampton and Norwich treating us more as equals than the other sides we have played. And it was surely a sign of the different abilities of both managers that Pardew sent his team out for a very strong first half (after a few choice words no doubt), while it was the new belief that new Norwich manager Lambert has given Norwich that caused them to keep fighting and to finish so strongly last Saturday. Or did we tire, as in the first game of the season - the only other time we have conceded two goals. And its worth pointing out that on both occasions, Parky has bought on attackers to get more goals rather that defenders to perserve the lead. Shame that in both games we failed to score again and instead did concede another goal, so will Parky bring on a defender/midfielder next time?
And although our good start to the season continues with a settled team and 20 points, perhaps any on-field luck just isn't on our side with goals disallowed, penalties not given and now fouls on keepers ignored. And our 9th game is against another midtable team. In fact of the eight teams we've faced, not one of them is in the current top 10. But after Exeter that's all going to change for our fixture list over the next nine games after the Grecians contains all the other five teams in the top six plus a tough away derby against ninth placed Gills. Colchester, Leeds and the Gills are all away with home games against Huddersfield, MK Dons and Bristol Rovers.
A good start is important to a teams confidence and gives a points base to build on but it's inevitable that changes will have to be made in those nine games when injuries and suspensions start to affect the team.
So its doubly vital that we get back to winning ways this weekend before we embark on that tough run. Manager at Exeter is Paul Tisdale, at 36 surely the youngest man in charge in League One. He's been there since June 2006 when Exeter were a Conference side and he lead them to the Play-Off final against Morecombe at Wembley in his first year where they lost 2-1. The following season, Tisdale again led them into play-offs and this time did even better with a 1-0 win against Cambridge United at Wembley on 18 May 2008 they won promotion back to the Football League after 5 years in the Conference. And a clear sign on the state of football in Exeter is that he is one of only four managers to have lead the Grecians to any sort of promotion.

And to add to his managerial status Tisdale then cemented his place as one of Exeter City's most successful managers ever by guiding the club to second place in their first season back in the Football League, in so doing becoming the first Exeter City manager to win successive promotions. Exeter are currently 15th with 9 points from 2 wins, 3 draws and 3 defeats.

Promoted teams always enjoy their first game in their new league and its not usually the best time to play them. We experienced this with Scunthorpe, Swansea and Wycombe over the last three years and Leeds had more of the same against Exeter on the opening day of the season.

They don't start tougher than an away game at Elland Rd, but despite Leeds renowned home record, and with only 10 men for the last 30 minutes, the Grecians held out until the 88th minute before the inevitable Beckford scored the winner in a 2-1 defeat.

After that, two home games against Norwich and the derby game with Yeovil both finished 1-1 before they travelled to Carlisle, in what must be the longest trip anywhere in the UK to play football, and won 1-0.

Their only real bad result then came at Gillingham where they lost 3-0 before an away draw with Orient 1-1. Last weekend they followed everyone's example and beat the hapless Tranmere - on a run of 6 straight defeats - at the smaller St. James Park 2-1, so as far as away games are concerned its one win, one draw and two defeats with only 3 goals scored and 6 conceded.

Of course, they have Stuart Fleetwood, who played 68 minutes last weekend but, according to the terms of his season long loan, won't be allowed to play on Saturday.

Who Are Yeh
In goal is an 18 year old Swede, number 46 Oscar Jansson, on loan from Spurs. And at centre-back they have number 29 Troy Archibald-Henville, another 20 year Spurs "starlet" on loan since January. Troy was hailed as "terrific" by boss Paul Tisdale during his loan last season. And the only player that you could possibly have heard of is Marcus Stewart, ex striker of Ipswich and Sunderland, now 36 and has dropped into midfield.

And their fourth loanee is the 21 year old winger Craig Noone from Plymouth who scored on his debut at Orient with a 35 yarder from the left wing. They also have 19 year old Liam Sercombe in midfield.

The Dangerman
Number nine is local boy 31 year old Adam Stansfield now in his 4th season at Exeter and who finally got off the mark last weekend with two goals against Tranmere in only his second game back after injury since Easter and is now top scorer. He was also named in last weekends Football League Tier Three Team of the Week.

What's The Secret?
Exeter are a team of a heady mixture of youth and old age. Two 36 year olds, Alex Russell and Marcus Stewart, control the midfield whilst an 18 year old goalkeeper and a 20 year old Spurs starlet are loanees in defence whilst midfielder Liam Sercombe is still only 19 and another loanee, new winger Craig Noone, is only 21.

To tell the truth, Exeter don't really like coming to SE7. Eleven league visits, plus two cup ties, makes thirteen games with 10 defeats, 3 draws and no wins and 1927 was the last time they avoided defeat in a League game at the Valley. Since then they've been back 6 times, 4 defeats in the League, all in Tier 3, a 2-2 draw in the FA cup, in distance pre-war 1934, and a cup defeat last time we played in 2003.

Although having said that neither team can be said to travel well for in our eleven visits to Exeter we've only won once, a 5-2 tonking in 1929 if you can remember that far back. So overall then is 11-9 to the Addicks with 5 draws.

But don't get to confident with home advantage, Parky, you may recall that two teams came to the Valley last season never having won there - Barnsley and Doncaster - and you know what happened next.

What Are They Saying?

Manager Tisdale after their away draw at Orient two weeks ago, "It was a slightly different set-up with the winger (Noone) coming into the side so it took a bit of time to find our pattern. Craig Noone got a goal which gave us the point, but he made so much space for himself and contributed so much to our build-up play, I'm very pleased."
So pleased that he'll probably repeat the 4-5-1 format this Saturday expecially as he's without the non-playing Stuart Fleetwood.

Unchanged for the ninth time? Seems like it and we can only enjoy the privilege of seeing eleven players who want to play for the club after hearing reports from the Fans Q and A last week.
A couple of comments from Cheltenham Addick on what Parky had to say make very revealing reading. Not only does he want players that want to play for Charlton first and foremost but at last gives a reason for our slide into Tier Three - too many players at the Valley for the money rather than the football. Obviously really, we could easily have guessed as much - but it's a new and refreshing side to Charlton that we have someone we comes out and says it in clear English.

Here's the eleven then:

Elliot; Richardson, Dailly, Llera, Youga; Sam, Semedo, Racon, Shelvey, Bailey; Burton.

Midtable or not Exeter have to be taken seriously. They have never won at the Valley, but they hadn't at Elland Rd either and in their first ever trip there for a League game on opening day in August they came close to grabbing a draw and stopping Leeds' home winning run which at that point was eleven straight wins.

And after winning promotion for the second year running, their confidence has only really been punctured by that 3-0 defeat at Gillingham and they will arrive at the Valley quite happy to be in midtable on nine points with only 3 defeats in 8 games and only a minus 3 goal difference.

So they will give us a game but after only 2 points from the last six, its time to get back on track. A 2-0 win for the Addicks and I don't care who scores them.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Norwich City Preview

Lets forget the guy above for a minute and spare a thought this morning for Phil Parkinson. On Saturday he'll make his third visit to Carrow Rd, Norwich in charge of Charlton Athletic. Eight months ago on January 13th the team travelled to East Anglia for an Third Round FA Cup replay with a record-breaking 18 winless games behind them. Eight of those were down to Pardew so this was Parky's eleventh game in charge but already his team had lost six and drawn 4 times in his first 10 games. All four away games under him had been lost including the fixture less than a month previous against Norwich with only a total of two goals scored in those four away games.
And after a 2-0 home defeat to Forest just 3 days ago and with that Leroy Lita goal giving Norwich their 1-0 win a month ago the prospects looked bleak. And if you had asked him for a forecast back then, he'd have told you that he would rather forget the Cup, losing against Norwich wasn't important, but breaking the losing run was vital if the Addicks were going to survive and he made six changes to the team that had lost three days before at home to Forest; and next Saturday's game away to Wednesday was vital.
But on a chilly East Anglian night it was a 6th minute Darren Ambrose goal from a through ball by Nicky Bailey that finally gave Parky his first win for the Addicks.
Will Parky allow himself a wry smile as the coach hurtles up the M11? Eight months in football is a long time but he can well remember the pressure and anguish he felt that night as he tried all he knew to break the run. His job was on the line, a new manager is expected to at least inspire a win and he was desperate for a result. But that was January and against all the odds he's still in charge and things had turned round dramatically. Top of the League with 6 wins so far ( just two less than the whole of last season) and unbeaten in 7 games, he knows that he'll walk into Carrow Rd a different man.
So what of Norwich today? Similar to the naming of our own likeable Les Reed, so to Bryan Gunn, goalkeeping legend with 390 games for Norwich behind him, was the goalkeeping coach when Charlton last came calling in January but when Glen Roeder was sacked the day after our win he was surprisingly handed the job as manager on 16th January, with no managerial experience behind him.
He won his first game 4-0 against Barnsley and the choice seemed inspirational but having got themselves 2 points clear of the relegation zone with a 1-1 draw at Birmingham in the last game in March a disastrous April and May with 5 defeats in 6 games spelled the end. If the Norwich board had any idea on the realities of football that relegation to Tier Three for the first time in 49 years should have been the end of the Bryan Gunn experiment but he stayed on and it just needed one league game in 2009/10 before he was sacked.
OK, it was 1-7 home hammering by little Colchester so perhaps no surprise really. And perhaps no surprise that the new manager, appointed just 5 days later, should be the very man responsible for the 7-1 defeat, Colchester manager Paul Lambert. The 40 year old Scot is most famous for his playing exploits with Borussia Dortmund in 1997 when they won the Champions League with a win over Juventus in the final. And if the name sounds familar to the Addicks then it should be because we've meet the man before in his first english managerial job.
League Cup Quarter Final at the Valley on Tuesday December 19th 2006 versus Wycombe Wanderers and he was the man in charge, masterminding our 1-0 defeat.
When he took over Norwich were 3rd from bottom with only a single point and he has moved them up to a midtable 14th with 8 points but, still, in this Division where its the bottom four that get the chop, they are only 2 points away from the relegation zone.
As we said Norwich opened the season with that disastrous 7-1 defeat at home to Colchester with our Kevin getting a couple. Two away games followed where they drew 1-1 with Exeter before losing again to Brentford 2-1. They first win then was another new-manager inspired win, a 5-2 dispatch of Wycombe at home in Lambert's first game in charge and then they won again away at Hartlepool 2-0.
In between times in the League Cup there's been more goals as they scored 4 without reply at Yeovil before exiting at Carrow Rd 1-4 at the hands of a Reidie inspired Sunderland with the little fat one getting two of his own. And they also got revenge over Brentford in a 1-0 home win in the Johnstone's Paint thing.
So there's been goals galore with a total 31 goals scored in those 7 games and it was a bit of a surprise to see a 0-0 draw against Walsall last week, although it was their third clean sheet in a row, a sign perhaps of Lambert's desire to start at the back. And then came Lambert's first defeat, 2-1 on Tuesday at MK Dons after having gone in front.
The nearest thing to the curse of an ex is Number 10 34 year old Jamie Cureton who played with Parky for three years at Reading and briefly joined him at Colchester when Parky was manager. He's played three times this season but has failed to score and was dropped to the bench for Tuesday's game.

Who Are Yeh?

Norwich have a couple of colourful defenders in right-back number 2 the ex-Liverpool Jon Otsemobor, most famous for the shooting in the buttocks incident in 2003, and at centre-half the Danish number 33 Jens Berthel Askou bought from Turkish club Kasımpaşa by that nice Mr Gunn during the summer.

Livewire winger Wes Hoolihan is someone that Pardew set his heart on in May 2008 but it never happened and he moved instead to Norwich and at the moment can't get a game.

And Tuesdays game leaves Lambert with some thinking to do. After three injuries he finished the game with three teenagers and two 20 year olds on the field. Midfielder Stephen Hughes was one of the injured and he was stretchered off in the 19th minute with full-back Adam Drury limping off 5 minutes later. Centre-half Michael Nelson was then injured as well in the second half. Whether all three will be fit to play on Satuday must be causing headaches for Lambert as he already has midfielders Jones and Gill out injured.

The Dangerman
Another of Gunn's signings for 400k is number nine and captain Grant Holt bought in from League Two Shrewsbury in July. After years spend in the Conference he found his level at Shrewsbury scoring 20 times last season. He's famous for his non-stop running and always scores on his debut ( except at Norwich ) and is top scorer with 5.

What's Their Secret?
The only secret I can find is that they play a left-winger cum striker on the left - number 16 Chris Martin - who likes to come inside and score goals with his right foot. He's done it twice now this season, the last time being his 16 second goal on Tuesday against MK Dons. He spent last season on loan at Luton and was their top scorer with 13 goals. Watch him, Frazer!

And Lambert seems to have sorted out the high scores with only 2 goals conceded in their last four games, and one of those a disputed penalty, so we may find goals hard to come by this weekend.

Who's Talking
In contrast to Parky, Lambert seems keen to use the loan window to bring new players in and inject some pace to get at defences. And he's also not too pleased with fitness levels at the club which may be important with only 5 days rest for his team.

Doing A Leicester?
Seven games in and Leicester had just won their 5th game 1-0 against Hartlepool and had 16 points, 3 less than the Addicks.

As mentioned our last visit was last January 13th in the FA Cup. Seven-One defeats are par for the course for a change of managers but so also is a defeat to Charlton. I've lost count how many times a defeat to us has been seen as life threatening and meant a sacking and this one meant the end for Glen Roeder and he was sacked the following day.

We have a good record against Norwich and have played them 70 times in the League, more times than anyone else in League One ( except Huddersfield, also on 70) and we've won there a credible 11 times, drawn 9 and lost 15 times. We came up with them from the old Second Division in 1986 and enjoyed top flight football for 4 years, only losing once in Norwich with the best result being a 3-1 win ( goals by Williams 2 and Mortimer) on October 1st 1988 when Norwich were top of the League. And since that win we have played there 8 times in the League and won 4 times, drawing 2 and losing only 2.

And more good news comes with the fact that we've beaten Norwich more times than anybody else in League One, 32 times out of 70 with 21 defeats and 17 draws.

The Team
Seven games unchanged has turned out to be a record start for Charlton and makes a pleasant change after last season when we used a massive 39 in the League. Parky was made to sweat a bit last weekend with injuries to Bailey and Racon but both started although it can't be too long before changes will have to be made.

On Tuesday we fielded a 4-4-2 in a reserve game against Ebbsfleet with Wagstaff and Holden on the wings with Spring and Stavrinou in the middle and it may be that these last two will be key to our success in the weeks to come. Spring played 12 games last season, the same as Semedo, while Racon only managed 19. With number 26 Alex Stavrinou celebrating his 19 birthday last Sunday it may not be long before he adds to his 2 hours spent in Charltons colours at Hereford.
As for now however its as you were with

Elliot; Richardson, Dailly, Llera, Youga; Sam, Semedo, Racon, Shelvey, Bailey; Burton.
This will be another stern test for Parky against a new manager and a team that have played three of the same teams at home that we have faced and all after his arrival at the club. They scored five against Wycombe, beat Brentford 1-0 in the JP Trophy and drew with Walsall 0-0 so not a bad comparison of results. But Parky will have had a full week to recover from dropping those points against Southampton whilst Norwich have had a hard game away at Milton Keynes on Monday. There's no reports of injuries from our camp whilst Lambert has his hands full not only searching the loan market but wondering who's going to be fit for Saturday.
We've also got an unblemished record away from home with three wins from 3 games, eight goals scored and only conceded once, at the Orient.
And Parky will be out to make it three wins in a row against the Canaries after seeing his team hit four against them at the Valley last May.
But it may be close and in their last 4 games they have only conceded twice so they will make scoring difficult but a win for the Addicks is on the cards, 2-1.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Southampton Preview

There's not many that would have predicted six straight games for the Addicks during this past summer of an errie, stony silence where the only background noise was the impatient gnashing of teeth. Is Parky pinching himself, I wonder? No, probably not, but I'm sure that after pocketing the best-start-to-a-season record, he's cursing his luck that game 12 ( and one that would equal that winning run of Curbs back in 2000) is against Leeds at Elland Rd. That's including the Norwich win, and, of course, assumes that we carry on winning.
And talking of Leeds, it seems that we are not the only ones in League One enjoying ourselves. Just when Leeds' fans were starting to feel comfortable in Tier Three along comes Simon Grayson to spoil everyones fun and gives the team a kick up the arse. They are now claiming all sorts of new club records because they have won all 8 games played this season (including Darlington and Watford in the League Cup) and since Carlisle's win at Elland Rd on January 10th claim to have won all 14 games played there. This, of course, conveniently ignores the most important game last season - their disappointing 1-1 home draw with Millwall in the Play-Offs in May that meant another year in the doldrums. (Perhaps that should the unofficial name for life in Tier Three). But help is at hand regarding their current winning run for no less than Liverpool arrive in a couple of weeks in the League Cup. And before we go there on October 3rd they also face Gillingham and their old nemesis, the unbeaten away from home, Carlisle.
Anyway back to the present. Next up for another home game are Southampton now owned by another foreign billionaire, the truckbuilder Herr Liebherr and managed by one Alan Pardew. What's a dull German doing taking over Southampton is a question that we can't answer, but as we all know Pardews' face by now we've included something that's bound to make Herr Liebherr's eyes water, a picture of one of his world famous trucks.
And talking of eyes watering, after failure to beat Burnley in the penultimate game of the season on 25 April 2009, which ended in a 2–2 draw, Southampton confirmed their relegation from the Fizzies. This also meant that they would start in League One (for the first time in 50 years) with minus 10 points, within six years of being FA Cup runners-up, UEFA Cup participants and the eighth placed team in the Premier League.
And this, of course, after the 23 April 2009 court ruling, where Southampton were handed a 10 point deduction, following their parent company going into administration.
But then along came their saviour. On On 8 July 2009 the administrators confirmed that the club had been sold to a buyer "owned and controlled" by German/Swiss businessman Markus Liebherr. The total amount he had paid has not been disclosed but it is believed to be around £13-15 Million.


Six games in and the Saints are still suffering that well known relegation effect - a complete lack of confidence and a belief that you belong somewhere else. Rock bottom to start with and after four draws they still are, with minus 6 points and a huge 11 points away from safety and a massive 24 points behind the Addicks.

And just when you thought things couldn't get worse, it seems that the fates continue to conspire against them for they haven't been given the best of luck with their fixtures so far with four of their opening 6 games against teams currently in the top eight. An opening day 1-1 at home to the Spanners after going in front and they then had the misfortune of having to travel to face the top League One scorers, Huddersfield. Drawing 1-1 after 67 minutes they then let in 2 late goals and suffered a 3-1 defeat and then followed another away trip and another defeat, 1-0 at Swindon. Things have looked up a bit recently with a run of three unbeaten games with three straight draws - 1-1 at home to Brentford, another 1-1 at Stockport followed last weekend with a 0-0 home draw with Colchester.

With neither of Pardews two latest transfer window signings cleared to play and with striker Marek Saganowski off on international duty with Poland, the Saints just couldn't score against 10 men Colchester last weekend after Kemal Izzet had been sent off in the 36th minute, even from 11 shots on target. Clearly, Pardews luck is getting worse as Colchester went all out to impress new manager Adrian Boothroyd in his first game in charge.

The main one, of course, is Alan Pardew who you recall makes a habit of beating his old teams. After leaving Reading on 10th Sept 2003, and forced to accept the farce of a months "gardening leave", he took over at West Ham on 18th October with Trevor Brooking being responsible for a managerless Hammers against Reading on 13th Sept 2003. And Pardew was probably smiling to himself up there in the stand as non other than Christian Dailly rose to power home the only goal of the game from a Defoe corner in the 17th minute. Dailly captained the side in the return at the Madejski the following April but couldn't save the Hammers from a 2-0 defeat
August 2004 at Upton Park saw him again against his previous team and he win again 1-0 but lost once more on his return to Reading in March the following year when he lost 3-1. We can't forget the 4-0 win over West Ham at the Valley in 2007, followed by a 4-2 win over Reading last season all of which means that he's won all his home games against his prior clubs but lost 2 and drawn once away.
But are we going to give him a hard time? There's clearly Addicks who don't personally like him and blame him for a lot of our woes but all thats in the past and thankfully we have a man now who has done what Pardew couldn't do - force a change of attitude in a sinking team. The three newcomers in defence have a lot to do with that but perhaps we shouldn't forget that Pardew snatched our midfield duo of Semedo and Racon out of the unknown and all for 550K Euros as well as signing captain Nicky Bailey.
And in the Saints lineup there's also our old favorite Chris Perry, who was released by Monica in May 2006 much to everyone's disgust, who has been with the Saints since March 2008 and played 40 games last season. There's also our old loanee Graeme Murty who was signed during the summer but he's out with a serious knee injury sustained in the League Cup defeat against Birmingham.

Who Are Yeh?
Two exotic players were reportably brought in by Pardew during the transfer window but both needed international clearance. One was central defender Radhi Jaidi, an out of contract Tunisia international, ex of Birmingham and Bolton is 34 and the proud owner of 100 caps for his country. Sadly it seems that this move is not going to happen.
And both teams have acquired new number 9's. While we apparently have signed the enigmatic Leon McKenzie, the Saints have been displaying the 25 year old striker Papa Waigo N'Diaye from Senegal. He joins on loan from Serie A side Fiorentina until the end of the season, and his clearance was received on Tuesday. After his impressive 20 goals in two seasons with Serie B Cesena, his figures of 2 goals in 7 appearances for Serie A Fiorentina as well as his zero for Serie B Lecca in another 6, clearly havn't served to discourage Pardew, who admits he can't wait to see him in a Saints shirt. But, like McKenzie, its unknown if he is fit to play a full 90 as it seems he hasn't played at all this season.
Another foreigner is 30 year old number 4 Polish international Marek Saganowski whose footballing passport has almost run out of pages. Spells at Feyenoord and Hamburg as well as time in Portugal and France, he's also played 33 times for his country and is a firm favorite with the Saints fans. He plays left midfield, Parky.
And there's 18 year old Jacob Mellis, another of those young Chelski starlets that can't find a home at Stamford Bridge and have to be loaned out. JonJo will meet Jacob in midfield if they haven't already met.

What's Their Secret?
Leeds travel to unbeaten-at-home Southend (draws with Millwall and Huddersfield, 3-0 over Orient) so only a defeat for Leeds will make it the old curse of top v bottom. There's also the added banana skin of the Divisions second highest scorers with 15 versus the poorest with 4. But take care, Parky, for while they can't score, there are no less than 11 teams in the Doldrums who have conceded more than their 7 League goals and that includes high-flyers Huddersfield.

But one thing that Parky said last Monday may be significant. "Of course that first win against Wycombe Wanderers was an important one, and we've moved on from there. We've worked hard on the training ground at seeing games through, and to be really solid in our shape in the last 20 minutes of games, and the lads have taken that on board." Because if you look at Southampton's goals against column you'll notice perhaps that 7 of the 9 that they have conceded in their 8 games (League and Cup) have come in the last 23 minutes.

Number 7 is Pardew's first Saints signing, 27 year old 6' 3" Rickie Lambert from Bristol Rovers, costing from 800k to 1m depending who you read. Lambert was last season's equal top League One scorer with Swindon's Simon Cox with 29 goals and he's already got 4 this season, three for the Saints. As West Brom paid 1.5M for Cox seems the Saints have the better deal.

Who's Talking?

Markus Liebher on buying the Saints said " I believe we have a superb opportunity to rebuild this great Club. Clearly, this will require resources, planning, hard work and patience. We will assemble a strong management team at every level of the Club (!). We will act rapidly, but also plan for the long term, because I am here for the long term. We should not expect instant success, but our fans, employees and other stakeholders can expect 100 per cent commitment from me and my team"

And after all that nonsense you've all dying to heard Pardews latest thoughts so we wouldn't disappoint. "I'm disappointed for the guys because we were good enough to win," said Pardew. "I thought Colchester defended superbly for long, long periods of the game, but chances still came our way thick and fast and we probably deserved the win. The team lacks a real athletic threat and a bit of pace but I can feel a little bit of nervousness about us too. We could have capitalised on them but we were too edgy."

Doing A Leicester
Leicester finished last season on 96 points, 7 points clear of the field, but after 6 games they only had 13 points from 4 wins, a draw and that defeat to the Spanners and due to their exploits in the League Cup and Johnstone Paints they were only in 5th place because everybody else had played a game more. And you'll be pleased to learn that the best they could manage all last season was a 5 win sequence in Nov/Dec.

But a word of caution. Its only September and while its tempting to expect the top three, the Addicks, Leeds and Huddersfield (top scorers with 17 goals) to finish the season in the same position, we should nevertheless expect some sticky times ahead. It has been known for the early pacemakers to sometimes fade away and the top three last year after 6 games were Oldham (finished 10th), Carlisle (20th) and Scunthorpe (6th).


Southampton are the first team this season that we have played with whom we have a negative history. Our first game with them in 1921 set the trend and ended up in a 0-6 away defeat and it'll be no surprise to learn that with their 103 goals scored in our 54 league games they join the select band of 15 teams that have scored over 100 goals against us. We recently shared 6 years together in the Premiership and after that memorable first 5-0 win at the Valley finished pretty even with 3 wins each and 6 draws before they were relegated in 2005.

Overall at the Valley, ignoring the one League cup game, its 11 wins, 9 draws and 7 defeats from 27 games but as we said overall its now good. We've won only a total of 17 games compared to their 23 out of 54, that's a losing record of 43%.

The Team
Our midfield trio of Semedo, Racon and Bailey will all be keen to show Pardew how far they have developed as a unit while Christian Dailly will also shake hands after their three years together at Upton Park. On form Lloyd Sam is another player that will relish another home game.

So unchanged yet again it seems. Sonje made the bench last weekend and Luke Holden made another appearance for the reserves on Tuesday against Dagenham so may join him on the bench. There's no team lineups for the reserve game but there was no mention of new man Leon McKenzie who has only played 5 minutes with Coventry this season so is probably not yet fit enough for Parky's liking.

Last season was 0-0 in this fixture and JonJo will remember the following clash at St Marys in April where he became the Addicks youngest scorer. But this, and the following game at Carrow Rd, won't be like the normal League One fare - its ex-fizzy teams squaring up to see who has recovered from relegation the best and the Saints may want to prove something. Whether they can or not is another matter.

But there's a lot of banana skins around this weekend; a losing history, the top v bottom curse, the second highest scorers against the lowest, an ex manager returning. All of which gives a sneeking impression that both leading teams may have to settle for a draw this weekend giving the chance to Huddersfield to close the gap if they can overcome Brentford at home.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Brentford Preview

So what a difference a new season can make. Tranmere, last seasons second best home team in League One and supposedly our biggest challenge so far, proved to be nothing of the sort and have now suffered three home defeats in a row all without scoring.
And, of course, there can be no bigger turnaround than the form of the Addicks. With only five wins this year before we embarked on our, hopefully short, League One cruise, we now have 5 League wins in a row, and head the table on a rapidly improving goal difference.

So what can you make of our man Parkinson? The man himself must have been extremely embarrassed when he picked up August's Handbook and turned to the 'Men in Charge' page. Of the 23 men at the helm of the Addicks in their 89 year League history, and ignoring Les Reed's very short reign, Parky's name at the bottom stood out with some alarming statistics of only 5 wins in 31 games and was by far the worst win percentage. As for the All Time High's page the only one that Parky has achieved, up till August, was the record for most defeats in a row (18).

But shaking off the additional pressure of the supposed takeover inhibiting progress and even the reported appearance of Curbs and Varney appearing together at the Orient game, Parky has stood up to it all and has not only instilled belief and confidence in the team once more but now bless him proudly holds the not insignificant record of our best start ever to a season in the whole of Charlton's history.

But, of course, us being Addicks, and with nothing achieved totally on merit, we've all noticed that our 5 wins have been against teams in the bottom half of the table. KHA has worked hard to dispel this damaging rumour but the truth is that the five teams we've played against have only won 5 of their 25 games. Take away the 5 played against us and nobody, not even our Parky, would claim much success from their accumulated 5 wins in 20 games.

But as if winning five games is not enough, we find another benefit of League One life which is the complete absence of an international break for the likes of us and without all the Big Boys in action we take centre stage and play this weekend as the best team in the land and, in Brentford, welcome our first top half team to the Valley. Four years younger than Parky, and one of the youngest managers in League One is 37 year old Andy Scott and he's the man currently in charge of the Bees after starting work there in May 2007 as assistant manager to Terry Butcher. After Butcher was sacked a few months later Scott took over in December 2007 and in his first full season got the Bees promoted as Champions of League Two.

Brentford are currently in 6th place with 9 points from 2 wins and 3 draws and no defeats. A 3-1 win at Carlisle (who have also lost at home to Exeter) on the opening day of the season, was followed by three home games in a week. A 0-1 defeat at the hands of Bristol City in the League Cup was followed by a boring 0-0 draw with Brighton while the following Tuesday saw them inflict on Norwich their only away defeat of the season with a 2-1 win.

A late Taylor equaliser gave them a credible 1-1 draw at Southampton but just when you expected them to win again, another disappointing result followed with 1-1 home against midtable Oldham. And they'll be a bit tired into the bargain this weekend after their Tuesday 1-0 away defeat at Norwich in the Johnstones Paint thing. Rules state that 6 first teamers have to play and the game wouldn't have helped Scott's preparation for Saturdays game. In fact 7 players of his normal 11 played the game.

So after an explosive start with those 3 goals at Carlisle, only 4 goals have been scored in their last 6 games but, they have a solid defence and apart from the goalless draw with Brighton have conceded only one goal in every game. But after promotion from League Two, and survival at this level a priority, they will be happy that after 5 games they remain unbeaten in the League.

Any Ex-Addicks?

There's a couple of ex's currently with the Bees although only one of them is fit. We all remember Charlie MacDonald scoring the only goal at the Valley in the cup against QPR in January 2000 but it proved to be Charlie's only goal for the Addicks and after spells at various non-league teams and time at Southend he now plays for Brentford. He scored 18 goals in their promotion year in League Two but, perhaps due to a dislocated shoulder back in April, he still hasn't played so far this season.

'Jet-propelled wing wizard' was how Myles Weston was described in the Addicks handbook in August 2005 but after progressing as far as the reserves he never made a first team appearance for the Addicks and was released in 2007. After two years and 66 appearances for Notts County he scored just 3 goals but after moving to the Bees he's already got 2 this season in his first game at Carlisle. But he comes at a price for the Football League Tribunal decided last week that the Bees must pay 25k for Weston as he is under 23 plus extra money based on appearances.

Who Are Yeh?

Manager Scott clearly knew that League Two players would find it hard at League One level so he has signed no less than 12 new players during the summer; Lewis Price, Alan Bennett (previously on loan), Sam Saunders, Steve Kabba, Carl Cort, Myles Weston, Danny Foster, Ben Stevens, Nikki Bull, Leon Legge, Simon Moore and Cleveland Taylor. Six of them started against Carlisle and after so many new faces you would expect to see some experiments with different lineups, but no, he appears to know exactly what he wants for after 5 league games nine of his squad have started every game.

Number 8 is ex-Palarse Steve Kabba who has Premier experience with Sheffield United and then moved to Watford in January in season 2006/07, but sadly he couldn't save either of them and both were relegated with the Addicks.

And not so funny as the real Alan Bennett, but captain nevertheless, is the Irish international from Cork, number 6 Alan Bennett who spent last season at Brentford as a loanee from Reading and he captained the side that lifted the League Two trophy. Sadly for both Bennett and Scott, it looks like we wouldn't see Bennett because he's is out injured at the moment.

And it's long-serving defender, 27 year old number 2 Kevin O'Connor, now with 306 games for Brentford behind him, who takes the penalties and scored with one against Oldham on Saturday.

Number nine is the player that the astute Bobby Robson once paid 7 million for, the now 31 year old ex-Wimbledon/Wolves Carl Cort who after a disappointing year at Norwich moved this summer to Brentford and now leads the line but has yet to score. And during that season spent with Norwich - he played against us twice - he only scored once.

Whats Their Secret?
On completing their last and 12th signing, the pacy 25 year old Jamaican right winger Cleveland Taylor from Carlisle, Scott made clear that "We have shown that we have a lot more pace, power and energy about us this year."
Doing A Leicester?
After five games last season, another Athletic was heading the table, Oldham Athletic it was with 13 points and alongside them were Carlisle. But was the days got shorter both teams faded away and Oldham finished 10th and Carlisle 20th...... The Divisions new boys, Leicester, were 3rd after 5 games with 10 points having just lost their first game, at home to the Spanners...
In 20 games played at the Valley Brentford have only won once and that was a 2-0 win back in the old Third Division South in April 1926, 83 years ago. Of the 20 games played, there's been 15 wins and 4 draws. Five of those wins were cup games and it was in the cup that we last played them, a 3-1 win in February 2006. But things are not so clever at their place and overall its only 20 wins ( and 12 defeats) in the 38 games.
Our last home League game against them was a 1-0 victory back in March 1993 when the Bees spent a year in Tier Two before disappearing again. It was a season where we won our first 4 games but then failed to beat Luton at the Valley in the 5th.
Who's Talking?
Sam Sodje, on signing for the Addicks, and clearly with Addicks blood in his veins, added his own measure of caution with, "You need to be consistent in this league and that's what Charlton have done. But it's still early doors and five wins is just the beginning, we need to maintain it every week"

The Team
Its a little hard to believe, and full credit to Parky and Murray, but we have reached the end of the transfer window, and with the exception of skipper Hudson, we have our squad thankfully intact. Everyone expected to see several players depart to provide the cash to continue but all of our crown jewels of Bailey, Shelvey, Racon, Sam and Semedo are still here and to encourage us even further the squad has been strengthened by the addition of three players.
Local boy from Croydon, Leon McKenzie, now 31 ( one year younger than Burton) he conveniently takes the number nine shirt vacated by Andy Gray and can show successful seasons at the Posh and Norwich as well as Coventry on his CV even though his scoring rate has been dropping over the years. Shame about these five wasted years at Palarse, Leon. But he's a experienced name and can only help to gee up the rest of the strikers to perform better. And he could be on the bench after his 5 minutes sub appearance last weekend for Coventry against Swansea. Cleared liked by the fans he received a "huge cheer" when he came off the bench.
And back again is another local favorite Sam Sodje. Easing Parky nerves and providing backup to our aging centre-backs, Sam will want to add to his 27 appearances as soon as possible.
And last of all is an ex-Liverpool youngster, 20 year old left winger Luke Holden who unbelievably already has Champions League experience with Welsh Champions Rhyl against Partizan Belgrade in July. He arrives on loan till the end of the year. Does this move herald the departure of Bailey at some point in the future or even a change to 4-4-2? Parky's simply said that he likes "his hunger and his determination" but with McKenzie also able to operate in left midfield Parky now has options on the left that he didn't have before.
So with all these additions, will we be unchanged for the 6th successive game? Why not. Bailey and Semedo made it into the Football League Team of the week ( as did Beckford and Johnson of Leeds) although Sam can surely claim a place on the right wing with his performance spurred by Scotty's goal and promptly gets two of his own. Proving that competition for places really does improve players performances.
Last season any team arriving at the Valley without a win there in 83 years would have the Addicks trembling with fear and the result would have been a foregone conclusion, but not now. And, while the Addicks have had a weeks rest since Tranmere, we face a team that have had a difficult midweek game at Norwich and furthermore a team that has only scored 4 times in their last 6 games in all competitions, a total we equalled in one game last weekend against Tranmere.

And after 5 straight league wins belief at the Valley is understandably high and although Parky will recognise this as our biggest test so far he will face it with added confidence after receiving the boards backing to bring in three new faces into the building.

He also knows that if we are to be a force in this Division this weekends game has to won and after seeing the impetus that Lloyd Sam received after Scotty’s performance against Walsall I expect the signing of three players to spur our players to new heights in another home win. Brentford only concede once every game so we may have to be content with a single goal win but I'll go with that, Addicks 1 (Burton) Brentford 0.