Well the new season starts tomorrow, but it doesn't quite feel like it. I don't want to open the debate about the importance of the Cups - especially this one, the Capital One Cup. However, there is almost no chance if us winning it, and the fact that the Semi-Final is over two legs means that we are about as likely to make the Wembley Final as we are to win it. Thus there is an argument that any points that this competition costs us is not worth it.
That might sound negative, and probably it is as I don't have a lot of interest in this competition, but it is just how I feel. For this reason I don't feel like the season is starting tomorrow, the league season is when it starts, proper, for me.
That doesn't mean that I don't want to go tomorrow, and I am going. It feels a little more like a pre-season friendly than an official first team game, but then these cup competitions have been a little bit like that for a few seasons now. It's ironic, the teams that can (and probably will) win it rest their best players as they are not bothered about it until they get close to the final, and the teams that can't really expect to win it rest their players as they don't care which round they get knocked out of, and most clubs fail to make much money unless they draw one of the top sides. The odds are against that as there are probably plenty of teams that will be too good to beat, that will not make any money, that you have to get past to face Man Utd at Old Trafford.
However, this season this match will probably be closer to our first team than the two games we played in the competition last year. I think it will probably be a good chance for Chris Powell to try out what he hopes to be his first team this season. Certainly there seems little point in playing a reserve side this close to the start of the season when we have been booking friendlies to get the players up to speed.
I'm finding it mush easier to predict our first eleven for this season that I did twelve months ago. There is little doubt that we will have the nucleolus of the side that won the third division title last season. The fact that we haven't really made any signings confirms that. Wilson is unlikely to dislodge Solly at right back, but could play wide midfield, and Cook is going to struggle to displace either BWP of Kermorgant. Kerkar has had some rave reviews, and we might want to protect Hollands due to his operation and subsequent late start to pre-season training, but other than that I expect the same team that started against Fulham.
It does look, from the pre-season games, that Cort is going to be favoured to Matt Taylor. I have said a few times that I'm not sure of the latter's pace in the Championship. When I say that I mean I'm not sure. I don't have any feeling either way and he could well be ok, but he is not the fasted centre half in the world, and I suspect that the Championship teams are all likely to have faster strikers. That is a factor of the divisional differences, the higher up you go the stronger and the faster the players have to be to survive. Either way the line ups this summer suggest that Cort might have taken Taylor's place in the side - something that looked like it was happening towards the end of last season anyway.
I think Chris Powell has been a loyal manager, and if anything he has kept sides unchanged for longer than I would have expected. I'm not saying that is wrong, just that I can see how a player can have to really wait his turn for a run in the side. I think this, actually, removes pressure from players in the team. One will feel less nervous about making a mistake if the end result isn't going to be an instant dropping to the bench.
Anyway I see the line up as being very similar.
There is an argument, of course, that we did do rather well with these players last season. There is also the question that we might have won promotion to the Premier League with this squad last season had we been a division higher twelve months ago. This is based on the fact that with 101 points we can't really have expected much more. I have mentioned before the last (and only) two times a team managed 100 plus points in the third division they were in the Premier League two seasons later. I'd take mid table this season and promotion next.
The noises coming out of the club - especially those reported on Charlton Life are worrying. There seems to be little doubt that a major benefactor to the club has walked away. This has left the club with a massive shortfall between what they wanted to do this summer, and what they can afford to do. This explains why we haven't signed any big names. However, there is always the possibility that those running the club believe that we have enough already to achieve this season's aims.
The worry for me is that we have spent a sum of money (rumoured to be between £400k and £500k) on a right back with rumours that Chris Solly is going to be leaving. If he is going to go I'm fine with that. It's not my first choice, but I am more than aware of the financial implications of running a business and sometimes assets need to be sold to balance the books.
If, however, we are not planning to sell Solly then one does have to wonder if that £400k plus could have been better spent elsewhere. This does, of course, ignore the fact that buying players is not the same as doing a food shop in Waitrose. You don't have to decide if you want to buy steak immediately and can browse the whole shop before making your selections. If you had to buy the steak there and then or it would be gone then you might end up with steak but not enough money for a nice bottle of wine.
Orient shouldn't really pose us many problems tomorrow if our players really want to win. The defeat against them on New Year's Eve was revenged at the end of March, and the players probably want to win the first home game of the season (even if it will feel like a friendly). Thus I'm going to go for a 2-1 win. I think the Orient players will want the scalp, but I don't think they will be good enough to beat the team that walked the division last season, even with no real additions to our squad since then.
I hope we have a decent crowd tomorrow night, but I'm not all that hopeful. The Olympics have only just finished, and we are still in tough economic times, and this is an unimportant cup competition against a team from a lower division that we have played six times in the last three years. Anything over ten thousand would be great.
Up the Addicks!