Callum Miles looks at Powell's 2013-14 squad and assesses the prospects for this season
Welling United were brushed aside 5-0 in a commanding display, with young marksman Joe Pigott grabbing a hat trick as he led the line alongside every Addick’s favourite Frenchman.A pre-season tour of Spain followed, with comprehensive two and four nil victories over a Gibraltar XI and St. Mirren respectively with all members of the first team squad getting a suitable number of minutes under their belts. Meanwhile, a youth XI starring Diego Poyet, Ade Azeez as well as last year’s U21 captain Bradley Jordan overcome a tough test in Maidstone United to record 2-1 victory.
With four further pre-season fixtures to navigate upon return to the UK, the management looked to share the workload amongst the players abroad, with most players seeing a maximum of 45 minutes per game.
A tough fixture at AFC Wimbledon (from which a 1-1 draw results) preceded away trips to League Two Portsmouth and Dagenham & Redbridge. Charlton got back to winning ways as they came away with two comfortable victories to nil. A first team was beginning to take with key players such as Chris Solly, Michael Morrison and Yann Kermorgant playing upwards of 60 minutes in each fixture.
With just a week of pre-season remaining, Colin Powell’s testimonial match took the spotlight as Inverness Caledonian Thistle visited the Valley. Unfortunately, the only home fixture of pre-season resulted in what was also the only defeat. Inverness did a good job of nullifying the Addicks threat and got their reward when Josh Meekings scored under pressure to send the dedicated away support into raptures.
With just three days until the new season, the Addicks were finally able to bolster their forward line with the signing of trialist Simon Church as well as the impressive addition of England U21 and Team GB star Marvin Sordell, on season long loan from Bolton Wanderers. It may have come a little too late for the following Saturday however, as Marvin Sordell put in an unfamiliar performance alongside Yann Kermorgant at Bournemouth.
Charlton struggled at Eddie Howe’s newly promoted Cherries and it was reflected in the 2-1 scoreline. Bradley Pritchard’s sending off did anything but help matters. With an unconvincing display on the south coast, the League Cup provided Powell with an ideal opportunity to field fringe players hoping to stake a claim for a first team place.
Those fringe players most certainly did that. Simon Church and Joe Pigott worked well in tandem up front while Cedric Evina provided a threat down the left wing. Another youth product; Jordan Cousins offered additional energy and endeavour with his short cameo performance, earning a spot kick which his U21 colleague Joe Pigott converted for his first senior goal and completed a comfortable 4-0 rout.
The absence of talismanic skipper Johnny Jackson seemed telling in these early matches. A sloppy performance against Middlesbrough was suitably punished as Tony Mowbray’s men took their first away win of 2013 and nothing seemed to have changed when a ragged first half performance at Barnsley followed, yet the Addicks scrambled their first point of the season after fighting back from two goals down largely thanks to the impact of Jordan Cousins, who grabbed his first senior goal with a well placed volley.
Despite an improvement since switching to a 3-5-2 formation against Huddersfield in the League Cup and at home to Leicester last weekend where the Addicks picked up their first win 2-1 win, fans are struggling to understand why this season is proving a much tougher task than the ending of the last. It’s apparent to some that the squad is unsettled and unable to fully commit to the job at hand. Others have suggested that with too many players contracts expiring in the summer of 2014, commitment could be lacking based on lacking job security. One injury at this stage could end a career.
The men behind the scenes at SE7 in the past week have worked hard to this end in the first week of September to secure Chris Solly on a new four year contract whilst Joe Pigott was signed until the summer of 2016. Hopefully there are many more signings of key players to come as Chris Powell looks to tie down the core of his squad - Yan Kermogant does it appear have an option to extend his deal beyond 2014 based on starts. Added to this promising news, the addition of skilful winger Cameron Stewart on loan from Premier League newboys Hull City appeared to be a shrewd piece of business as the outgoing Danny Green and Danny Hollands made loan switches to MK Dons and Gillingham respectively.
All in all, it’s a tricky path we have to navigate this season. This writer is hoping that our Addicks won’t suffer from second season syndrome and can effectively inject the energy and enthusiasm of youth to surprise a few teams. It might be unrealistic to expect a play-off challenge, based on developments of the last three months, but Powell and his ability to find a bargain or two could be the key here.
It’s never boring being a follower of Charlton, is it?
(This article first appeared in Augusts TNT4 and has been brought up-to-date for our website version)