Well it's here again.
New York Addick has provided a nice summary of his feelings during this summer with the aid of an academic grief model. I don't disagree with any of his post, but after the meeting with Richard Murray in June I was more than prepared for what has happened. Maybe my fellow bloggers and I (clearly the New York resident was not at the meeting) failed to communicate the situation properly. Maybe normal human behaviour is to deny what is right in front of you if you don't like it. Either way I am feeling a lot more comfortable with the financial dealings this summer than many Charlton fans, including my Dad who was more than aware of the situation.
However, irrespective as to what has gone on, we have a new season approaching and another chance for glory. My personal feeling is that we are going to be strong enough to compete this season, all be it not challenging for the title. There is no reason as to why we can not do what Hull or Stoke did last season. I think that West Brom were in a different class, as will be Reading and Birmingham, but we could still sneak into second place.
I went to the training session last week, and the Bilbao game on Saturday. The former was very interesting, and the camaraderie was evident. Pardew seems to be a funny man and is probably liked by the players. Comments like the jibe about health screening discovering that Nicky Weaver had the 'fat' gene were amongst the things that gave the impression that we are a happy bunch of mates that enjoy their days at work. My only worry with this approach is that from most of the places I've worked managers that are good friends with their employers often seem to struggle to motivate them when things are going badly. It is much harder to give your friend a bollocking than a subordinate. But what would I know, I've never even worked for a football club, never mind be a football manager. Besides if we get a good start and then go on a long run of good results he may not need to give anyone a bollocking.
The friendly against Bilbao ended in a 1-0 defeat, but we gave a decent account of ourselves against what we should concede were better opposition. The defeat could have been worse, and we did miss a penalty, but I would say that Bilbao showed more commitment in a friendly than any team I have seen, so I believe that we should be encouraged.
So, Swansea at home. I have a confession to make. I'm not actually going. In November 1998 I had a heart valve transplant, and was in bed attached to various machines when we lost to Everton, but other than that game, it is back as far as 27th August 1987 since I last missed a Charlton home game. We lost that one too, the red side of Liverpool beating us 3-0 at Selhurst Park.
I feel as though I was somewhat tricked. I cannot ever remember the football season starting as early as 9th August. We don't even have a major football tournament next summer to justify it. So I agreed to go to a wedding before the fixtures came out, and as my wife is looking forward to it, and I went on the stag weekend, I am missing our first home game of the season.
Fortunately, I believe that in my absence we will win on Saturday. I always start the new season with optimism irrespective as to the way played last ten games of the one preceding it. I do believe that a decent start will give us the platform to go on to win that elusive promotion that the club so desperately needs. It was clear last season that team spirit and confidence are much more important than the presence of a few individual talents that may or may not play as part of a team.
I think that having a smaller squad (and presumably avoiding loan players that merely want to play their was into their 'own' team or another one) will help to produce that team spirit that we were clearly lacking in the spring. I also believe that it will ensure that the current players will be less likely to be dropped for one mistake, which will, hopefully, remove some of the pressure that we saw in the run in. This will, I truly hope, reduce the number of long balls to the front men/man. Moving on Big Chris might also have in impact in this area.
Overall the squad is not as strong as it was last season, but I could make a decent argument for the first eleven being as strong. Most of those that have left made little impact on the first team last season. McCartly has been 'replaced' by Hudson which I believe makes us stronger. Bougherra will be a loss as would ZZ if, as I expect, he leaves. There is likely to be a new defender or two coming in which should help to some degree, and with Jonjo Shelvey (who, incidentally wasn't even on the back of the program until the Coventry game last season) we have a decent midfielder who adds to the squad and I have already said will be very influential this season. Big Chris, despite his goals, was clearly not in Pardew's plans all that much this season. He gave his all, and did everything that was asked of him and he goes with my best wishes, but in the end I just don't think he was good enough, or have the required talents for the way I (we) want us to play.
We have clearly not mamaged to find a replacement for Andy Reid, but to be fair the chap was valued at £4m with his injury track record. Who knows what he would be worth if he had been an ever present for the three seasons before we sold him. I guess that realistically we cannot afford a player of his ability in this division so we will have to find a way of winning without him.
Alan Pardew has (I believe rightly so) a good reputation as a manager, and I don't think that finishing in the top six should be beyond him this season. If we fall at the play off stage (assuming we don't lose to Palace) I will not be dissaponted at his performance. It is sad that after so many years in the Premier League this is the sum of our (mine anyway) aspirations, but we are where we are and we should accept it and make the best of what we have.
As for the team I am confident that this will be the best chance I have of getting it right all season so I predict (with confidence) that it will be Weaver, Semedo, Youga, Fortune, Hudson, Sam, Shelvey, Racon, Thomas, Gray and Varney. Clearly if we bring in any new signings I will amend this prediction, and I am expecting Hudson and Weaver to be fit to play which in Hudson's case is imperative.
As for the result I expect us to win by a small margin. I also think the game could be a little nervous unless we get an early goal. I will be receiving updates at the wedding via text message from my Dad, so I will be as nervous as the rest of you until we score.
Anyway I hope that you all enjoy the day, and I'll be bcak for yeovil on Tuesday.
Up the Addicks!