View From The Town End: Charlton

Ben Hoskins

So it's back to (away) comforts for Reading as they make a trip to the Valley to face Charlton. Ahead of tomorrow's game we spoke to Charlton blogger Al Gordon from God, Charlton & Punk Rock.

How would you sum up Charlton's season so far?

It's certainly one that will live long in the memory. On the pitch it couldn't have been less of a spectacle. A couple of weeks back I noticed we had the seventh best defensive record in the division, yet we were residing in the bottom three at the time. Goals are hard to come by, Church and Sordell between them have struggled to muster a dozen and we've only recorded 27 all season, the lowest in the Championship. I'll never really come to terms with having our French talisman striker, Yann Kermorgant, sold from under our noses by the new owner in the January transfer window.

Roland Duchâtelet brought in six players during that month including two strikers. Tuesday night at Leeds we saw the first goal from that crop.  In fairness it was one of the best you'll ever see and a nightmare for the commentators, it was scored by Iranian Reza Ghoochannejhad!

Other than the goal scoring problem, I'm glad to say the devotion is still there and the vast majority of the squad are still passionate about pulling on the red shirt. Johnnie Jackson is still the proudest captain of the club since Mark Kinsella and it's comforting to know that despite the turmoil behind the scenes there are players that love the club as much as we do performing out there. This is more than just badge kissing, Chris Powell built a team firmly grounded around his love of the club.

I whole heartedly believe that if Duchâtelet leaves the team alone for the next month we've enough fight to survive. If that relegates Millwall in the process then the season could well be seen as a success!

You've seen Chris Powell replaced by Jose Riga. Initially there seemed a lot of anger at the decision, has that softened at all?

Jose Riga isn't the problem and I don't think any Charlton fan regards him in a bad light. It was obvious from the start that Duchâtelet would replace Powell with a ‘yes man' that he, I suspect, had lined up when he bought the club. The fact that Powell was officially sacked on a Monday morning and Riga took a training session twenty four hours later says plenty.

What still hurts and always will do is the manner in which it took place. Having your better players sold and replaced with men you didn't really want undermines your position as manager of the team. That dreadful performance at Bramall Lane in the cup quarter final seemed such a sad way for Powell to bow out, although obviously he will always be remembered for the million wonderful memories he gave us.

A perfect gentleman, he is regarded as the nicest man in the game and deservedly so. Powell has been completely majestic about the whole affair staying not only professional but elegant as he went about every single interview. We were so proud to have him as a player, proud to have him as a manager, and so proud of him the way he conducted himself during such a difficult situation.

But in answer to your question, apart from a small minority jubilant as we scored a last minute winner against Bournemouth, it will be a long time before we sing Riga's name in the Covered End like we did Powell's.

I couldn't let this Q&A pass without again asking about Simon Church, with nearly a full season at the Valley what do you make of him?

Simon Church my Lord, Simon Church. He's got his own song! I'm still far from convinced but I suppose in many ways he's the archetypal Charlton player. Somebody that runs and runs, puts plenty of work in but is, on the whole, not quite as good as his opposite number on the other team.

Has another Charlton player missed so many sitters in one season? In his favour competition for places is very light with loan signings Sordell, Obika, and for a couple of weeks Tudgay doing little to oust the Welsh international.

In the late nineties we had former West Ham striker Steve Jones on the books. He was similar to Churchy in many ways chasing lost causes with little result. Jones was one of my favourites so perhaps I'm being a little harsh on Churchy, I know there are fans out there that adore our number nine. Sordell may be just as dreadful but at least he's eventually going back to Bolton. Church however we're stuck with for the foreseeable future. Perhaps Duchâtelet will move him on to Ujpest, the Hungarian outfit in his empire?


Who should Reading fans be wary of on Saturday?

Hopefully the goal at Leeds will have settled Reza Ghoochannejhad (or Dave as we like to call him) down and the goals will start to flow, but I doubt it. A couple of young midfielders are having a season to remember, a really bright illustration on an otherwise dreary canvas.

Jordan Cousins will get forward and link up play between the middle of the park and the strike force whilst not being at all shy to have a ‘pop' himself. Diego Poyet, son of Gus, has been a complete revelation at The Valley this year. He broke into the team from nowhere and has been immovable since. A deep playing central midfielder, he can pass the ball around with great vision as well as being completely aware of what is happening around him. I've seen him drop back into all four defensive roles within the space of half an hour as defenders have, one by one, been caught out of position. I am certain he was Powell's and is now Riga's first name on the team sheet each week.

We'll be very lucky to have either of these here come August. Perhaps I should make them some Simon Church masks?

Anyone Charlton fans are worried about?

The big Russian striker Pavel Pogrebnyak has got to be a worry every time we gift you with a set piece around our box. It's the midfield though that I think will be key. Both Guthrie and McCleary are quality players at this level, if we sit back and let you keep coming at us, which we tend to do with alarming frequency, your strength and firepower may just get the better of us.

We've a French reserve keeper, Yohann Thuram-Ulien, another member of the ‘Duchâtelet six' who refused to travel to Leeds because of his lack of opportunity in the first team. A player of Conference level ability, in his couple of appearances he's scared the life out of us. Should Ben Hamer miss the game for any reason then he's probably the player we'd be most worried about, much more so than any of yours!

Score prediction?

My score predictions have been way off the mark recently. We've had three Tuesday night 1-0 wins in succession but the Saturdays that fell in between have been a lot more detrimental to our survival bid. In theory a midweek win should give us momentum but that hasn't worked as of yet. I'll go for a 2-1 victory to your good selves, and I'll really stick my neck out and say Church as our goal scorer. As I said, they've been way off the mark and with good reason!

Any tips for Reading fans making the trip?

The main away pub is The Antigallican on the corner opposite the station. A better option is The Rose Of Denmark (turn left out the station and then left again at the crossroads and keep walking) which welcomes both sets of supporters and is always good humoured unless Leeds are in town.

The best bet of all is London Bridge for pre match refreshments. The Bunch of Grapes in St Thomas Street always serves a wonderful pint of Youngs!

One word of warning, make sure you eat before you enter the ground. The food available on the concourse really is best avoided. We may now be Belgian owned but believe me, there's no fine chocolate or wheat beer in sight.

Who are you tipping to make it up alongside Leicester?

At the beginning of the season I fancied Reading to bounce straight back. That doesn't look likely now, the quality of some of the more established Championship clubs has surprised me with both Leicester and Derby really upping their game. Burnley looked very good in SE7 a couple of weeks ago and that without two of their more influential players.

As long as they don't self-destruct automatic, promotion is obviously Burnley's to lose. As for the play offs, as much as I expect Derby to go close you can't ignore Wigan's love of Wembley. When it comes to big games they certainly know how to hold their nerve!

Thanks again to Al and you can follow him on Twitter @Algordon_cafc

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