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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Huddersfield Town Preview

Much like our difficult start in our Premiership swansong in 2006/07 with Monica, our first four games this season are similarly difficult. An awkward promoted team first, an away derby next and then a revitalised Oldham lead by their new man Dickov. But we remain unbeaten and share top spot on 7 points with Carlisle, Oldham and Sheffield Wednesday.
And our next game this weekend gives us our second 37 year old opposing manager in successive games although the Terriers Lee Clark has been at it a bit longer than Dickov and has an even more impressive record with 40 wins in his 86 games in charge of Huddersfield, whom he took over in December 2008 after the Terriers had sacked Stan Ternent after a brief 6 month reign.

Clarks's boss is local businessman Dean Hoyle who took over as chairman in June 2009 and has apparently made money available.


Not quite the start that was expected of several teams this season, and that includes Huddersfield Town. An opening day 3-0 romp at the home of promoted League Two Champions Notts County was followed by a disappointing goalless draw at home to Tranmere, the first time since January that the Terriers had failed to score at home in a League game. And then after going 2 goals up away to the Posh last weekend that let in 4 goals in 23 disastrous minutes.

Their only other game was a 1-0 away win over Carlisle in the Carling which means they are still searching for their first goal at home and they'll be looking towards 22 year old winger Pilkington, currently on two goals and leading scorer Jordan Rhodes on 3 to get them come the weekend.

And apart from scoring the most goals at home last year, they only lost once, 1-3 against Norwich back in the middle of March.

The Opposition

Clark has been busy during the summer persuading the 30 year old Burnley Icelandic international Joey Gudjonsson to move to Tier Three. He only played 14 of Burnley's games in the top flight after 54 the season before, but after criticizing manager Laws on the internet back in April the only way was out. Clark's also snapped-up 31 year old full-back and Scottish international Gary Naysmith from Sheff. U. And with a policy geared towards youth he's also bought 21 year old Scott Arfield from Falkirk who is their third key signing during the summer. They also have 22 year old striker Joe Garner on loan from Notts Forest, who paid Carlisle over a million for his services in the summer of 2008. And up front in the last two games its been Garner and last seasons top scorer with 23, the 20 year old Jordan Rhodes.

So What Are They Saying?

Clark after their 0-0 home draw with Tranmere, "The team was poor - average at best a plus point it was a clean sheet. The two fullbacks played to their normal level. The team didn't enhance their reputation much. I didn't think we played with any intensity or any tempo. Tranmere came and did a good job. But with purpose we look a good side when we don't, we bring the opposition into play and give them a result like they did today."

And it gets better when you hear his remarks after last weekends defeat to Peterborough, "We stopped doing what we'd done previously to get us into a 2-0 lead, in total control, we stopped the intensity and tempo. We gave 4 absolutely disastrous goals away, we were very very poor. We lost our discipline, people weren't keeping their shape, weren't making decisions properly."


A little bit of history for our Parky who, on 4 April 2007, was due to be announced as the new manager Of Huddersfield Town. A press conference was scheduled to announce the appointment but just before the announcement Parky phoned the Club and told them he was staying with Charlton Athletic. Andy Ritchie was then appointed Huddersfield Town manager on 11 April 2007 but only stayed a year before being replaced by Ternent and then Clark.

And just to confirm his worth to the Addicks, Richard Murray added: "While Alan Pardew has done a fantastic job and grabbed most of the headlines, the role played by Phil since he joined the club in January shouldn't be under-estimated. He's played a key role in our recent good form, and I know he is determined to see that job through and ensure we remain in the Premiership." Well, we didn't but he's still here.

With 36 seasons together, we've played Huddersfield more times than anybody else in League One. And consequently we've had plenty of defeats up there, namely 16 in total. But with ten wins and 10 draws, there's other places we fear more.

The place now is a bit of a mouthful it being called the Galpharm Stadium after some healthcare company. Built in 1994 it was known as the McAlpine Stadium for the first 10 years after its builder but rather like selling your soul to the devil its name now is open to the higher bidder. How lucky we are to have the dear old Valley. In a nice, rather old fashioned way, most of the stadiums in Spain are named after people, although not often the name of the builder. Anyway, in our only game at this "new stadium" last season it finished a 1-1 draw, Kyel Reid equalising a Jordan Rhodes goal. The game before that at the McAlpine in 1999 we won 2-1 in the second win in our 12 game winning run having beaten Palarse 2-1, 3 days earlier. A injury to one of my favorites, Eddie Youds, at the McAlpine meant that it was his final game for the Addicks.

The Team

Another game against a former club for Pawel Abbott as it is for Akpo Sodje. Pawel only had a year at Oldham scoring 13 times but he had rather more success at the Terriers, playing 111 games and scoring 48 times in his three years there. As for Akpo he only played 7 games there before going out on loan but he'll remember Pawel as Akpo made his Terriers debut away at Port Vale on the day that Abbott got a hat-trick.

We'll see the return of Christian Dailly and Jose Semedo with Miguel Llera and Therry Racon standing down and the rest of the team will surely remain the same as there's really nobody else good enough to come in.

But there's one thing about last season that we need to improve. Our record against the other sides in the top 6 last season wasn't very encouraging with only 1 win (home to Huddersfield) in the 10 games although there was 7 draws and only 2 defeats whilst our away record against the top teams was also suspect with only 1 win, at MK Dons, against the top half of the table.

Parky only made one substitution against Oldham, Akpo on for Racon after 75 minutes and somehow didn't trust himself to make further changes. Against Peterborough, Huddersfield's young side - average age was 24, with seven players aged 23 or under - lost 4-2 after going 2-0 up. Perhaps Parky could have warned him because against Shrewsbury, when we lost 4-3 after being 3-0 ahead, our average age was very low at just 22.7, with 6 players 21 or under.

As for our chances, that may depend on how the Huddersfield full-backs cope with our two young wingers. The experienced 31 year old Naysmith will return at left-back after a one game suspension to give Wagstaff a hard game so perhaps its time to give more balls to Reid. But he'll be up against 23 year old Lee Peltier, ex of Liverpool for whom he's played in the Champions League against Galatasaray.

Anyway, here's the team, with ages

Elliot24; Francis25, Dailly 36, Doherty30, Jackson28, Wagstaff20, Semedo 25, McCormack26, Reid22, Martin 23, Abbott28. Average age 26...

A home team that haven't scored at home yet but were last seasons highest home scorers and they welcome us to the Galpharm thing having let in 4 goals in their last 46 minutes of football away at Peterborough. Maybe its that fact, or is it that the Galpharm doesn't sound particularly threatening but I just can't see a defeat on the horizon. Yes, I know that I thought we were going to lose the first two of the season but a draw against Oldham was an obvious outcome so this week the verdict is at worst a draw, say 1-1, but I'm hoping for a bit more.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Oldham Athletic Preview

If your perfect day consists of watching the Addicks stick a few goals in and storm to the top of the League then perhaps you'll get your dream day come Saturday. Because its an unexpected top of the table clash this weekend with League leaders Oldham Athletic coming to the Valley but one that gives us the opportunity of going clear at the top if we can get the three points.
The Latics, of course, have never won at the Valley in 23 attempts but got themselves a new manager last June in the shape of that little pest Paul Dickov and come with a new-look team and what appears to be a more attacking strategy. He's 37 now, and although he's still got a squad number, he won't be playing.
So what of Oldham? A battling 1-0 home win over Preston in their last pre-season friendly has been followed by two League wins out of two against Tranmere away 2-1 and Notts County at home 3-0. So how do they compare with the Addicks? Both the Addicks and Oldham have stuck three past teams in the current bottom 4, Orient and Notts County, while our other game saw us beat Bournemouth, healthy 5-1 winners over Peterborough at the weekend, while Oldham beat Tranmere away on the opening day who then when on to manage a surprising goalless draw at last seasons highest home scorers Huddersfield, the first time since January that the Terriers have failed to score at home; well apart from their Play-off nightmare against the spanners.
The Latics also went out of the League Cup, away to Scunthorpe 1-2, after leading, so on paper there doesn't seem much to pick between the two teams.

The Opposition
Like us they scored three times last weekend and broke a record dating back even further than ours not having scored three times in a game since February 2009, 64 games ago. Furman, Tounkare and Lee were the scorers. Ex-Cardiff striker Warren Feeney is their new boy up front replacing our Pawel Abbot but he was missing last weekend having returned with a groin problem after playing for Northern Ireland. Whether he'll return against the Addicks is unknown but definitely available will the 20 year old Frenchman, Oumare Tounkara, on-loan from Sunderland, where ironically he can't get much game time due to our Darren. According to the Black Cats, "the tall, powerful striker was a regular at reserve-team level last season, featuring on 12 occasions" and he's already scored his first first goal for the Latics.
But there'll probably be only 3 players, key central defender Reuben Hazell, left-back Paul Black and young midfielder Dale Stephens, left from their starting eleven against us last May.
Time for a banana skin or no? Oldham are one of eight teams that we face this season that have never won at the Valley, Sainburys or anywhere else for that matter, with the League numbers standing at 14 wins and 8 draws and they've even lost in the only cup game at the Valley. But 4, including last season's 0-0, of the last six League games at the Valley have been draws.

Whats Been Heard on the Streets?
A little bit of realism from Paul Dickov after their 3-0 win over Notts County, "We are delighted but we have to remember we are only 2 league games into the season and its important we don't get carried away. Its a start thats all."

And our very own ex-Latic Pawel Abbott clearly loves being an Addick, "As soon as you hear Charlton want you, there isn't much that is going to stop you.”
The Team
So what have Mark Konchesky, Mark Fish, Darren Ambrose, Jimi Traore and Jose Semedo all got in common? Well, they've all been sent off over the last 9 years in the Addicks first game of the season. Arguably, you could put the blame on two of them as the reason for losing the opening game ( remember which ones?) but that was definitely not the case against Bournemouth when the second-half arrival of Racon, Lee Martin and Simon Francis and some resolute defending got us started with a 1-0 home win. Forgetting the irrelevance of our cup exploits in midweek another three points were earned at Brisbane Road with another backs-to-the-wall display after Dailly had been sent-off.
They've made films about penalties but for me the brandishing of a red card is far more crucial. We're had them now for 40 years and they can alter the game completely with the ten man team usually defending gallantly till the final whistle. We only had 3 reds all last season (Sod off twice and Burton once) but we've got a couple already this year although the teams response to going down to 10 men against Orient must compare with our 2-1 win at Plymouth back in April 2008 when Weaver was sent off after just 3 minutes gone only for loanee Lita to score a couple.
And after 6 goals in 4 days last week Parky seems to have cracked the "goals for" problem with 6 players already on the scoring charts. Perhaps its all starting to come together, and with just a couple of difficult games coming in the next eight ( Oldham and then Huddersfield away on August 28th) we could just have the starting platform that we dreamed about. And, as already pointed out elsewhere, its the first time in an unbelievable sequence of 27 games (dating back to December 19th) in which we have failed to score more than 2 goals. No wonder Parky seemed relieved to get rid of so many during the summer.
And the number 10 shirt has been handed to newcomer Lee Martin, on-loan for the season. Parky spoke of surprises for the Bournemouth game but, away from home and without the internet, it took me till Monday to figure out who he was. Only 23, he started life at the Dons before Man U snatched him away for a mill but after several loan deals he signed for Ipswich in 2009 for around 1.5M. Not a regular striker, though, with 2 in 12 games for Plymouth his best figures in a crazy career through 10 clubs. In 16 games for Ipswich last season it took him 8 games to find the net and that was it for the year so he'll be glad to come to a decent club at last and its an insight into Parky's plans to hear that he's been after him for 18 months. And if you want workers we have two strikers that both appear eager to run till they drop.
So Saturdays strike force is a no-brainer but how are we going to manage without last seasons two most influental players, Semedo and Dailly. Its an early chance to see how important these two really are to the team and with Oldham possibly having only 3 from their starting line-up from our 2-0 away win in May, its a sign of our own evolution in that the Addicks will be even more unrecognizable with only 2 left in Miguel Llera and Therry Racon.
But we don't care about that. For the first time in ages, given our missing duo, our team sheet picks itself:

Elliot; Francis, Doherty, Llera, Jackson; Wagstaff, McCormack, Racon, Reid; Martin, Abbott


Two unbeaten teams, in the League anyway, and with one unbeaten manager with only two League games under his belt. A team that failed to score against us last season over the two League games and a team that has never won at the Valley.... BUT a lot has changed since then and after 22 non-scoring League games last year but having the meanest defence in the bottom 15, Dickov has turned it all around and put the emphasis on attack and they share with Bournemouth the position of League One leading scorers with 5 goals.

Seems to me that, unlike last year, there'll be goals this weekend but who'll be getting them? Ever pessimistic as far as the Addicks are concerned, its a 2-2 for me.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Bournemouth Preview......

Deep within the workings of the Football League computer programme we're clearly hardcoded as a bit of a rogue elephant, sorry element. They, at least, appear to believe that we have a special place in the scheme of things and have singled us out for special attention and have once again given us a promoted club as a home fixture on our first game of the season.
That's four in a row now, after Scunthorpe, Swansea and Wycombe, of which we've won 2 and drawn one so far. Scunthorpe were winners of League One in 2006/07 (score 1-1) and Swansea (score 2-0) were 10 points clear winners of League One back in 2007/08 none of whom could beat us. Last season it was Wycombe (3-2 to the Addicks) who were third in their promotion season, while this year we get AFC Bournemouth, up from 2nd last season, 10 points, and a difference of 48 in goals difference, behind champions Notts County.
To find our last opening-day away fixture before this run-in against the promotion boys you will have to enter the realms of nostalgia or was it fantasy and was, of course, our closing season in the Prem, 2006/07 against the then Pardews' Hammers when we went down 1-3 after Darren B had put us ahead from the spot in the 15th minute. One of Monica's 2M signings during the summer, Djimi Traore, then got himself sent-off in the first of his, unlucky for some, 13 appearances, after two bookings in 3 minutes and it was all downhill from there on.
And, correct me if I'm wrong, but you have to go all the way back to August 17th 2003 to find the last time we lost at home on opening day when Man City - Anelka and all - put 3 past Simon Royce in a 3-0 defeat. And, of course, it didn't matter because we finished the season in 7th spot, our highest ever in the Prem.
Anyway, dreaming aside, on Saturday we start our 5th season in Tier Three in the last 38 years. After a few years under fizzy american control, we've now gone German and call ourselves npower1, rather than just plain old Division Three. Why we have to put up with the confusion of the complicated handle of "League One" or "npower1" is beyond me, except that its the usual marketing ploy to make us believe that everything is better than it really is. Maybe they're under the delusion that more people are going to turn up for a League One game than a Division Three game.

The Opposition

Anyway, as already mentioned its new boys AFC Bournemouth who are arriving to be our first potential victims. The Cherries have experienced a turbulent time of it of late with relegation from League One in the season before we arrived with a 10 point penalty for going into administration and then had another massive 17 points deducted the next season in League Two for failing to follow the League's insolvency rules, employ a better lawyer next time. Despite this massive handicap they survived having sacked the lawyer and got themselves a new manager, Eddie Howe, and they won promotion to League One in his first full year in charge.

So who is this Eddie Howe? Bit of a youngster still only 32, and must be one of the youngest in this Division of ours. An ex-Bournemouth favorite, he was Harry Redknapp's first signing as Portsmouth manager back in 2002 but after injury forced an end to his playing career he returned to Bournemouth as assistent manager before taking over when Jimmy Quinn was sacked at the very end of 2008.

Bournemouth have 7 new signings at the moment including ex Addick, 20 year old Harry Arter from Woking. Others are Purches, Nelson, Wiggins, Lovell, Pugh, Symes. A 3-3 draw with Derby last week where Harry Arter was "increasingly lively, sharp and inventive and giving defenders all sorts of problems" was named MOM. Ummm. Harry got the push in last summers economy drive after just one appearance in a Charlton shirt, 34 minutes in a League Cup defeat at Luton in 2007, has another little gem slipped through our fingers?

So apart from Derby what else have they been doing pre-season? A 0-4 dubbing by a Spurs team containing many first teamers but then Fulham were at Dean Court on the 17th July a few days after dispatching Brentford 5-0 and took a full strength side with Murphy, Kon, Zamora, Gera etc and the result was a 1-1 draw. The Cherries received some sickly but ominous praise from the Fulham site, "Bournemouth should be applauded for the fashion in which they played the game on Saturday. The League One side will earn plenty of plaudits next season, as they deliver an attractive brand of football that Fulham fans have become accustomed to at the Cottage over the years."

Any Form Then?

No, not really. Of their last 8 away games last season, they only won 1 and lost 5.

Who gets Their Goals Then?

Number nine for the Cherries is one Brett Pitman aged just 22 from Jersey. He got 26 league goals last season, finishing second in the Division Four (League Two) goalscoring charts and 4 behind leading top scorer Lee Hughes of Notts County. They also have a new boy, 23 year old winger cum striker, number 7 Marc Pugh who got 13 goals last season for Hereford and was also their leading goalscorer.

Game History

A first league visit since April 1975, 35 years ago, it which the Cherries were victorious 3-2, Bournemouth take over as the only club in the Division to have won more times at the Valley ( in League games ) than they have lost. Currently the home stats stand at 3 wins for the Addicks, 4 draws and 4 league defeats. OK, there's not been too many games, with only 11 seasons spend together, and even I can't remember the last time we beat them at home in the League as it was back in August 1933, 77 years ago. That too was the opening game of the season after our relegation from Division Two the previous year and the game finished in a close-fought 4-3 win. And the following year they were one of only two teams to beat us at home in our 1935 Division Three South Championship winning season. But there's usually an up side to things and the three home wins we've enjoyed have been big ones, with a 5-0, a 6-2 and a 4-3.

The Team

Nice to get ourselves a number 9 once again in Pawel Abbot and this is what I had to say last October before Oldham's 0-0 draw at the Valley, "Clearly a favorite with Oldham manager Penney, who paid Swansea 100k for him while he was manager at Darlington, is Pawel Abbott. Current top scorer, number nine Abbott is a Polish U-21 international thanks to his mum, and is on 4 goals, although it must be said, Pav, that two were from the penalty spot. Penney said after signing Abbott for the second time in June, "I'm delighted to get this deal done as we have ourselves a proven goalscorer - Pawel's goal ratio is excellent". Penney's exit and Irish international Warren Feeney's arrival after being off-loaded by Cardiff meant that Abbott was a little surplus to requirements at Dickov's Oldham. And if you believe in miracles, you'll be pleased to learn that Pawel is the same age, 28, as SuperClive when he joined us in 1997 from Grimsby.

And once again we've shown no mercy on relegated Southend after grabbing Alan McCormack and have also snatched away their 25 year old right-back Simon Francis, their last seasons Player of the Year, for what appears to be a pittance. He's spent the last three years at the Shrimpers but started his career at Bradford City when he also apparently played for England U-19's. But he hasn't played any pre-season games and didn't feature at Watford so we may see Solly start on Saturday.

The number 10 shirt, previously worn by such contrasting notables as Kevin Lisbie and Darren B, is still currently vacant, a hint perhaps of another signing, or maybe Tuna, so far unnumbered, will be awarded it.

Elliot; Solly, Dailly, Doherty, Jackson; Wagstaff, Semedo, Racon, McCormack, Reid; Abbott.


Unless the Cherries suffer a bit from stage fright, which seems unlikely with their pre-season games against Spurs, Fulham, Portsmouth and Derby, I think we may have an uncomfortable afternoon. Last season only Notts County conceded less goals than the Cherries in Division Four but then again only Rotherham in the top 8 scored scored less than their 61. They have got Pugh from Hereford to rectify the lack of goals and their passing game should be good to watch. Arter will probably be on the bench, he's still only 20, but they have been scoring plenty of goals in pre-season and have good results too with home draws against Fulham and Derby.

The history is also on their side and my optimistic verdict is a cagey 1-1 draw.