Saturday, 30 July 2011

(Un)lucky Seven

What a game to miss. Unfortunately I could neither be there nor listen to the game on Charlton Live but it looks like I missed a seven-goal cracker at the new Den, with Charlton narrowly missing out as the score finished 4-3 to the home side.

Bradley Wright-Phillips is showing early signs of heading into the new season with the bit between his teeth again. Last season he was excellent and was scoring goals for fun, but I did wonder it if was a bit of a flash in the pan, a fluke season if you like. Bradley has been around a while and had never seen a return like last term. However he has never really been given a full season to show what he can do for a club, so maybe he just needed a proper run in a team before he showed what he is really capable of.

I haven't seen the goals, so I don't know if there were any defensive howlers, but shipping 4 goals isn't ideal, it's definitely something we are going to need to look at. In the games that I have seen this season, we look weakest at the back. I'm not convinced about the centre-back pairing, I'm not convinced with Solly either. I like him as a player, but his frame has got us into trouble in the past. Rhoys Wiggins has been a bit up and down in terms of form during pre-season, but he needs time to settle yet. By all accounts Rob Elliot had an excellent game, so there are some positives to come out of the game, despite the scoreline.

Overall though I'm pretty happy with the scoreline. Ok we lost, and apparently we were a bit unlucky not to have grabbed a draw, but once again we have shown we can compete with Championship sides. This must be a confidence boost ahead of the Bournemouth game. Just on the subject of Bournemouth, they managed a good win against Palace today at Dean Court. On the face of it, the 3-1 scoreline looked good and no doubt they will be keen to put in a similar performance against us on August 6th.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Ravens and Lions

A much changed and albeit weakened team took on Bromley at their Hayes Lane ground last night. Amongst the squad that took part were Jason Euell, getting another run out after his cameo against Woking on Saturday and Mikel Alonso who I thought had gone AWOL. Apparently he had one or two issues to sort out before joining the squad. Cedric Evina also managed to get a game after recovering from his recent injury.

Jason Euell opened the scoring after the ball fell at his feet following some good work by Bradley Pritchard. Tosan Popo grabbed Charlton's second after the half time break, managing to beat the keeper in a one on one. Future star Callum Harriot notched up Charlton's third, slotting a low drive just inside the far post, before landing a cross on the head of unmarked Ade Azeez who steered the ball past the Bromley keeper for the fourth.

Attention now turns our neighbours Millwall and Alan Dunne's testimonial game. In a world where contracts mean very little and loyalty is more or less non-existent, it's nice to see a player who bucks that trend. Dunne joined Millwall when he was 10 years old and has notched up almost a life sentence with the club (19 years).

I'm sure it will be a very competitive game as both sides will want to get one up on their adversary, but my fingers are crossed for a Charlton win. It will be nice to go into the new season with the confidence of beating another Championship side during the pre-season campaign.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The People's Champions

Charlton ran out 1-0 winners in an entertaining game at The Valley last night. Den Bosch brought a trophy with them dubbed the 'People's Cup' to signify the historical plight of our two clubs where the fans have intervened and managed to keep the clubs alive. The match itself was pleasant enough, but the major thing I wanted to see was how the team had progressed since my last match at Aldershot. It was definitely a step forward.

Our midfield four in particular, looked very assured and more importantly well balanced, unlike last season where there were square pegs in round holes so to speak. It was also nice to see that each one of them actually wanted the ball, and their range of passing looked impressive. Hollands does a neat job of breaking things up, Green is happy to keep getting balls into the box, and we all know what JJ is capable of. But, it was Dale Stephens that caught my eye the most, he had a superb game and was happy to sit in the middle of the park spraying balls all over.

Defensively we didn't look too bad, but I am still concerned of the lack of pace. Neither Taylor nor Morrison are quick, and I think that they might be undone with some of the pacey players that we have in League One. Rhoys Wiggins seemed to have a bit of an off night. I saw him at Aldershot and he looked good, and judging by other reports he has had a decent pre-season, but it didn't really happen for him tonight. Still, rather he gets it out of his system before the Bournemouth game.

I guess it's now time I eat a bit of humble pie. I don't know if Paul Hayes read my blog yesterday (I admit, it's doubtful) but he definitely had a spring in his step, it was as if he was trying to prove me wrong on what I said yesterday. He succeeded. He looked a totally different player to what I've seen of him before. He showed some great touches, got in some excellent positions and was unlucky not to score. I hope he keeps it up. BWP was his usual self, often doesn't seem to do a lot, but when the chances come along, he buries them. Not surprising then that only goal of the game came from Wright-Phillips, a stylish lob over the keeper.

All in all a good night's work. The rest of the squad will get a run out at Bromley tomorrow night and the others will likely be rested for the game against Millwall on Saturday.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Benson staying put

Reports today confirm that Paul Benson has decided to stay at The Valley. After accepting a £150k bid from Notts County, Benson failed to agree personal terms. It's a good decision for all concerned in my opinion. Benson scored 10 goals for us last season. Ok, it's not prolific, but I think that's not bad considering it was his first season, and we didn't exactly create much in terms of clear cut chances.

Benson is a grafter, he puts everything in and I firmly believe that we'll see a bit more from him this season should he get the opportunity. I think he was treated a bit harshly by some of our fans last season so he now has a chance to show them that they were wrong about him.

Clearly the goal (no pun intended) is to find someone to play alongside Wright-Phillips. Although many would be looking at a proper target man to fill this role, we have to actually look at what we've got; and actually it isn't much. With Benson back in the mix, we have to pick two from three strikers. BWP obviously picks himself so that only leaves one starting slot plus a bench warmer.

Paul Hayes has failed to impress me thus far, and it seems the two are quite similar players in some respects, but I feel that Benson will pick up more goals than Hayes over the course of a season.

There is still talk of the possibility that Jason Euell joining us however. I think Euell ideally would rather be playing a division above, but thus far nobody has offered him a contract. I read that Doncaster Rovers would like to bring him back on a more permanent basis after his loan spell there last season, but I think he would prefer to find a club more locally.

I have no idea what kind of wages Euell would be looking for and what kind of budget is left, but you can be sure that he will be taking a significant wage cut should a deal be possible.

Whether Euell comes back to the club or not, I hope Powell is on the lookout for another striker as three just isn't going to be enough.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Den Bosch at The Valley

Reports suggest that the 0-0 draw with Woking was largely a forgettable match. The squad featured was by no means our strongest XI with Powell opting to play some youngsters and fringe players. It's worth mentioning however that Jason Euell played a part in the match, and Powell commented that Jason still has a lot to offer and hinted that a contract for the former Addick was not out of the question.

Dutch outfit Den Bosch are next on the pre-season list. This will actually be the first game at The Valley during the warm up campaign so our new recruits will get to see what it's like playing in a good sized stadium. For some of them it's going to be a real surprise having been used to playing in stadiums which hold only a few thousand.

Den Bosch play in the Dutch Erste Divisie which is the second tier of Dutch football. Their greatest claim to fame, other than becoming Dutch Champions way back in 1948, is that they are the Club where Ruud Van Nistelrooy started his career as a 17 year old central defender. His manager at the Club obviously spotted that he was playing in the wrong position and switched him to an attacking role where he scored 12 goals in 31 appearances during the 1996-97 campaign, before getting a move to Herenveen.

This match should provide a good test for us. After competing well against both Bristol City and Cardiff in Spain, it will give us another chance to see how well the team have developed and I would expect to see as close to a full strength Charlton team as possible. For many fans it will be the first opportunity to see some of our new boys in action and hopefully they will give a good account of themselves.

Paul Benson's move to Notts County has hit a snag. Benson becomes the third player to fail to agree terms with a Club, although it looks as if this time it's more about the length of his contract than the money on offer. It remains to be seen whether County improve their offer of two years with an optional third year based on appearances. I'll be happy if he stays. I don't think we got to see the best of him last year and hopefully with his old team-mate Danny Green banging some balls into the box, we might get to see a few more goals from him.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Disappointing Draw

After some good results and more importantly good performances in pre-season thus far, the result at the EBB stadium felt a bit of a let down. Of course these are only warm up games intended to ready the squad for the League campaign, but I can't help feeling a little disappointed that we didn't do better.

I understand that the squad is still very new, but the team used is likely to be very close to the starting XI against Bournemouth, albeit with a couple of absentees with injuries. There are only a few pre-season games left now to get these players working together, so there is still plenty to be done.

We competed well but were guilty of trying to walk the ball into the net at times, we need to have more shots and take a few more risks. Our style of play has however improved dramatically and instead of being an eyesore there is actually some eye candy in terms of ball play, we just need to see a bit more confidence from players to take some shots on. Defensively we looked OK, Taylor seems solid enough but we need to see a bit more from Morrison, though Rhoys Wiggins looks to be a superb signing at this early stage.

In other news there are rumours that we have accepted a 150k bid for Paul Benson. After arriving from the Daggers I think many of us thought that he would do well for us, but for whatever reason it never really happened for him. I was however hoping that in his second League One season he might settle down and show some improvement, but maybe Powell already has a replacement in mind. It's clear we can't just let him go without bringing someone in as we are already short in attacking options.

Woking are next up as we travel to them on Saturday. I hope we see a better all round performance and hopefully a win.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Shots up next

After what must be viewed as a successful week in Spain, our next fixture sends us to Aldershot Town for our first of two fixtures against opposition in the Guildford area (Woking being the other match, which takes place on Saturday).

Aldershot looked doomed to relegation at the beginning of the year after a run of only two wins in ten games and their league position in freefall. The Club decided to replace manager Kevin Dillon with Dean Holdsworth and they managed to climb from 20th to 14th, only losing 4 games with Holdsworth in charge. So far they are unbeaten in pre-season, notching up a 4-0 win against local rivals Farnborough and a 3-1 win against Tamworth. Inverness Caledonian Thistle however managed to hold them to a draw.

The Addicks will go into the game full of confidence after their showing against Championship sides Bristol City and Cardiff City. Although we picked up our first pre-season defeat against Cardiff, it has been reported that we were always in the game and were unlucky not to score. It seems that the new recruits are settling in quite nicely and there is an excellent vibe about the team. They have now had plenty of time to start to get to know one another and Powell should be getting a clear picture of what his first XI is likely to be.

Speculation still surrounds Simon Francis and Alan McCormack. Both players are being linked with moves away with both Walsall and Brentford and or Bradford (depends which sites you read) being mentioned for McCormack and there might still be a possibility of a Bournemouth deal for Francis. I would imagine that both players would relish a move with their chances at making the first team looking fairly bleak with the influx of players over the summer. Neither player was really fancied by Chris Powell last term, and in fact although they both got opportunities, they never really took their chances and made a position their own.

I would expect to see at least a couple more faces before the season starts although this may only be in the form of loan signings. The Club have splashed out a fair bit already this summer, and I will be surprised to see further permanent acquisitions.

I hope to see us notch up another tomorrow night, although I expect it to be a tough encounter. Aldershot will give everything against a team of our stature but I think we should have too much for them.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Viva Espana

Through the wonders of Twitter, I managed to keep relatively up to date with Charlton's latest pre-season friendly against Bristol City, this despite the match taking place in Spain and me being in Gloucestershire at the time.

It seems the first half was a relatively tame affair, with only a few chances for either side. Best chance for City fell to former Plymouth winger Yannick Bolasie, but he could only manage to hit the Charlton upright. The Addicks should have scored through Sam Williams but he headed wide when unmarked. The half time whistle came to the familiar scoreline of 0-0, just as the Welling game.

Both teams made 11 changes in the second half and again, much like the Welling game, there were goals looming. Charlton opened the scoring with Bradley Wright-Phillips netting from close range. BWP almost scored a second soon after but for a good save by the Bristol City keeper. City equalised through Jon Stead after a mix up between Michael Morrison and Elliot. Apparently Morrison left the ball for Sullivan, but Stead nipped in and scored from close range. But the Addicks sealed the win after a decent cross from Ruben Bover Izquierdo was met by the head of Johnnie Jackson.

We apparently looked a "solid unit" and competed with City for 90 minutes, which is a good achievement considering City are in the Championship and we are a League One outfit with a completely new team. So far so good in pre-season. Two games, two wins, who could ask for more?

Monday, 11 July 2011

Positive Start

So our new look squad got it's first airing in our annual pre-season game against Welling United.  Although we clearly cannot look upon this game as a yardstick for the coming season, it was nice to see us notch up a convincing win to get our campaign off to a good start.  We need the games at this point, so the result wasn't really that important.  With such a number of new players coming in we just need time to get the lads playing together so they can develop a bit of understanding and adjust to the style of play that Chris Powell is trying to implement.

Over 2000 fans were inside the ground, and they got a glimpse of our new signings, a couple of trialists, and were treated to some well taken goals.  Pick of the bunch came from Danny Green.  The former Dagenham and Redbridge player struck towards the end of the second half with a belter from at least 25 yards which flew in off the underside of the crossbar.  It was a lovely strike and one I would love to see replicated against better opposition.

Sam Williams, on trial from Yeovil, opened the scoring after being put through by Paul Benson.  He coolly rounded the keeper and managed to guide the ball into the back of the net.  Not a bad way to show the Manager what he is capable of.  Michael Morrison popped up for the second.  After winning a free kick on the right hand side, the ball was floated in and Morrison rose to beat the Welling keeper and two defenders to the ball to head it into the net.  A few minutes later Green capped the score at 3-0 after receiving the ball, taking a touch and then letting fly.  Admittedly Green had been trying his luck for much of the game with little effect, some of his shooting left a lot to be desired, but clearly he has some ability and has something to prove.

It didn't all go the way of the Addicks however.  The first half was a hard fought battle and Welling had a few chances due to some poor defending.  Had we been playing a team with a bit more quality, the scoreline would have been a bit different.  Welling were competitive all day and didn't make it easy for us, though as time wore on, the part-timers began to fade and allowed us into the match a bit more.

The two halves saw dramatically different line-ups. Powell gave everyone an opportunity to get some time on the pitch, apart from a few notable exceptions.  Simon Francis and Alan McCormack were missing likely due to their impending transfers, and BWP was given the day off to attend a family function.  It will be interesting to see how the team selection develops over the coming weeks, we should start to build up a picture as to what our first team should look like when the season finally kicks off properly.

With a jaunt to Spain now planned where we will face Bristol City and Cardiff City.  I'm disappointed that we're not playing both these teams at their own grounds as they are a fairly short trip from home, but unfortunately I'll not be making the journey to Spain.  I wonder how many Addicks fans actually will.

For anybody who didn't manage to make the match, I found a link on you tube showing 12 minutes of highlights.  You can find the video here.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Adeus Jose

In May Jose Semedo declared how he wanted to stay at Charlton for the rest of his career, and today he left for Sheffield Wednesday.  It seemed an odd statement at the time, so I'm not totally surprised that he has gone.  I'm informed that he was offered a new contract but I understand that it did not meet his expectations.  Not surprising really as when Pardew brought him in we were only just out of the Premier League and he was probably on a nice little earner.  Today it's likely he has been offered a much reduced deal and is also facing the prospect of having to fight for his place due to the wealth of options now in midfield.

I liked Semedo.  He wasn't a great player, and he is definitely no "addicks legend" as some of the comments on twitter claim, but he was a grafter.  For the most part last season we were devoid of any passion and spirit, but one of the few players that had it in abundance was Semedo.  Unfortunately these attributes just aren't enough sometimes, and it is clear to me that even though Semedo worked his socks off and gave his all, he didn't have enough about him to help us push on and mount a promotion winning campaign.  He acted as a fairly decent stopper who would willingly throw himself into tackles to break up the opponents attacks, but after winning the ball he didn't really know what to do with it.  A bit one dimensional you might say.

Still, I do wish Jose all the luck in the world, but let's hope he has a stinker against us in September!

Monday, 4 July 2011

More to come?

So after an amazing week with plenty of transfer news and excitement, the weekend fell a bit flat.  The latest signing came on Friday afternoon in the shape of Matt Taylor of Exeter.  Taylor had a fantastic couple of seasons at Exeter but was hit with some back problems, and according to the City fans hasn't really recovered.  From what I've read, I understand that if his issues are behind him then we might have a very good centre back on our hands, if not then I guess we picked him up for free so it's no great loss.

I'm hoping to see another centre back come in this week.  Taylor may be the solid type who likes to win the first ball, but I think we need someone with some legs.  There are a lot of pacey players in this league, and we were undone more than once last season due to having no pace at the back. The board have been fantastic and definitely stood up to their promise of 'significant investment', but clearly the pockets are not bottomless.  It may be that we have to look into the loan market to find a partner for Taylor, or we may already have someone lined up and the deal will be tied up this week, time will tell on this one.

Another centre back is a priority as it's pointless building the attack if we don't have the ability to keep clean sheets.  We need the midfield to have the confidence to go forward knowing that the players behind them have what it takes to stop the opposition should the attack break down.  Of course the whole team have their defensive duties but if we have a good solid defence, then the attacking players have that piece of mind and can concentrate on creating and scoring the goals we will need to win the games.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Rise (or fall?) of the Underdog

Rhoys Wiggins has agreed a 3 year deal with the Addicks and becomes our second signing from AFC Bournemouth, after Danny Hollands put pen to paper back in May.  Powell has been chasing Wiggins for a few weeks and had two bids turned down, but he finally landed his man.  Personally I thought the Wiggins deal was dead in the water when we brought in Evina, but looking again at Powell's comments on the CAFC site, maybe the plan was always to play Evina as a winger.

'He's left-sided and can play left-back and can also push on and play wide left. He's got bags of pace and I feel he will boost our options on the left.'

Bournemouth fans are not happy however.  It seems they are disgruntled about Wiggins leaving them for another League One outfit and are consoling themselves with the idea that his reasons are purely financial.  I feel for their fans.  After a good season for them where they managed to reach the play-offs; this despite losing their Manager to Burnley in January.  They must have been looking for the Club to strengthen in an attempt to make a push for promotion in the coming season.  Instead they are losing their stars and not seeing much action in terms of replacements.

I remember when we lost Scott Parker to Chelsea.  We all knew that he wasn't going to dislodge Makele, Lampard, Essien or Joe Cole to get into the team, yet he chose to move to Chelsea and many Charlton fans cited financial reasons took him there over footballing reasons.  Bournemouth fans must be feeling something similar to this with Wiggins.  I guess it's slightly different as it's likely that Wiggins will be first team regular, but already some of the Bournemouth fans are looking upon our opening day clash as some kind of grudge match.

As a Charlton fan I'm finding this whole experience of being one of the big boys of the league a little strange.  After being underdogs for so many years and having to battle to keep our own players, and battle with other Clubs for signings, and being disappointed when a player chose to sign for a bigger club than Charlton, suddenly the boot is on the other foot.

As a League One player it must be quite over-awing coming to The Valley for talks.  We are still relatively fresh from the Premier League and we have a Premier League quality stadium, with Premier League quality facilities and owners who seem to be spending money like it's going out of fashion.  When they look at where they've been and where they have an opportunity to come, it must be extremely difficult to say no.

Ultimately though, it's what you do on the pitch that counts.  We've signed 9 players so far, and it would be reasonable to suggest that there will still be at least a couple of central defenders to come, but Powell and his staff are going to have their work cut out.  They have but a short period to bed the new guys in, to get their point across, and get them out there on August 6th ready to win some games and to win promotion. 

Some of these players are going to find themselves under more pressure than ever before, so they are going to have to be prepared mentally as well as physically.  I hope they are all up to the task.