Friday, 5 August 2011

CAFC Preview: Cautious Optimism

So here we go. Charlton kick off their season against Bournemouth tomorrow (unless of course AFCB win the toss, but no matter). 15 new faces have arrived on the playing staff so far, and I doubt that will be the final total. Chris Powell inherited a squad unsuited to his style of football, and the poor run last season, culminating in a 13th position finish, was partially due to a poor squad, and also due to a manager not willing to play the style of football the squad preferred (hoofball, basically). Despite being dissatisfied with the results, I was encouraged by the football we began to play, and I finished the season thinking that Powell would be the right man to lead us forward, as long as he could do good work in the transfer market.

And what good work he has done!

A sight many Charlton fans will be hoping to see
 (though with a red shirt on)
Of all the new players signed, I have to say that Danny Green looks to me to be the most exciting. He has an ability to whip a good ball into the area from most positions on the right hand flank. He works hard, cuts infield every now and then and generally looks very skilful. Dale Stephens looks like a very good deep-lying playmaker, with a good range of passing. Him and Danny Hollands, a hard-working player whose work on the pitch slips under the radar, will form a superb midfield partnership. With captain Jackson on the left, I am very pleased with what we've got in midfield, especially given that Mikel Alonso - an unknown quantity at present, but has played at a much higher level - as well as Ruben Bover-Izquierdo - an exciting young Spaniard with great skill and creativity - will occupy the bench.

The strike-force looks one player light. Paul Hayes will play behind Bradley Wright-Phillips, as he has a good record of providing the main striker with goalscoring chances. However I look forward to the games Paul Benson plays. I have to say a lot of Charlton fans are not convinced by him, but I like his high work-rate, and he is a good finisher in the box. Danny Green supplied many of the crosses for Benson to score for Dagenham and Redbridge, which is why I look forward to seeing this combination at the Valley. I still think a target man style player is required, but as Jason Euell and Grzegorz Rasiak are on trial, I would not mind at all if they both signed.

The defensive aspect is a little less assured. The two centre backs signed - Matt Taylor from Exeter and Michael Morrison from Sheffield Wednesday - arrive with mixed reviews having not been first choices at their previous clubs. From what has been said they are not great aerially, which could prove a problem against a number of sides that choose not to play the was Mr Powell does. Rhoys Wiggins is a promising addition at left-back, but his performance in the friendly matches suggest his greatest strengths are attacking as opposed to defending. We'll see. Andy Hughes has been signed from Scunthorpe, whose fans did not make happy noises regarding his ability. A right-back that can play on the left or anywhere across midfield, he has been tagged as a player who puts in 100% effort but is limited technically. Will he fit in with the Charlton style of play? From what I've heard of his time at Leeds, where he is somewhat of a hero, I really hope he does well for us, as I'd really like to like him as a player. He is someone who loves the fans, so he can't be that bad, surely!

The goalkeeper situation has taken a strange twist in the past week. Ben Hamer was signed from Reading unexpectedly last weekend, and immediately handed the number 1 jersey. This seems logical, as reviews of his loan spells at Exeter reveal he is a very talented keeper, and someone who I'm sure will be successful at the club. However, he replaced Rob Elliot as numero uno, who decided that his second choice was 44. Many theories have been devised, particularly on the Charlton Life message board (a great fans forum, by the way). His failure to agree a new contract has been said to have caused Powell to sign Hamer, and many think that now he will be off. John Sullivan, the other keeper, must be feeling rather bemused at the whole situation, having signed earlier in the summer on a free transfer.

Predictions are always difficult. A vast array of different things can happen in a football season. However, the signings made by Powell have given every fan a sense of cautious optimism regarding the new season. 3 years in League One is enough to drive any fan with aspirations of Premier League football mad. Patience has not been exhibited often at the Valley in recent seasons, but I feel it needs to be this year. It is unlikely that such a new team will gel instantly, and many have not predicted a victory in the opening game. But I do think that the team should be capable of automatic promotion, so that is what I will go for. I may as well...

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