Our frequent away traveller and Valley Season ticket holder Craig gives his view on the core of Charlton's squad so far this season
It’s been a difficult campaign for the Addicks so far.
Serious injuries to our skipper, best player and talisman have deprived Chris Powell of key first team regulars and a lack of activity in the transfer market has deprived him of replacements. Whilst expectations, which were high after last seasons ninth place finish, are being revised it isn’t all doom and gloom and there have certainly been some bright spots and some players who have risen to the challenge.
Below I’ve reviewed all 14 players who have made at least six appearances so far this term. There’s still a long way to go so plenty of time for anyone to improve their grades by the end of the year and avoid summer school !
Lawrie Wilson (apps 10) A+
There’s nothing better in football than when a player proves everyone wrong. And when it comes to Wilson, I mean everyone. It’s not that he wasn’t considered a decent player before, he was – but that’s about it, decent. I defy anyone to claim that they weren’t worried when we initially heard of Chris Solly’s injury and pondered the hole it would leave on the right hand side of our defence. However Wilson sensed his moment had arrived and has transformed himself into a rampaging wingback, initially as part of a 3-5-2 formation which gave him license to get down the flank and cause problems in the last third. Since the formation reverted to a more standard 4-4-2 (or 4-5-1) Wilson has also shown that he is a very intelligent defender who can show he is a threat to both opposition attacks and defences. If the season stopped today he would undoubtedly be our player of the year. Chris who ?
Jordan Cousins (apps 6, goals 1) A
Revelation is a word often overused in football but due to my limited vocabulary it seems entirely appropriate to describe Jordan Cousins’ first quarter of the season. After watching a diabolical first half from the bench which saw Charlton trail Barnsley 2-0 at Oakwell in mid-August, Cousins was thrown into the mix and promptly scored a debut goal in a wonderful performance which saw the Addicks rescue a point. Since then Cousins has gone onto become a fixture in the Addicks line up, winning praise not only from fans but also in the press. His work rate and intelligence both on and off the ball are second to none and he seems to have improved the players around him, giving his midfield partner Dale Stephens freedom to get forward and create whilst providing a defensive shield which seems to have instilled new confidence into the back line. Comparisons with Scott Parker are inevitable. Parker probably left Charlton a season or two early and arguably never reached the heights he could have due to this. With the Premier League vultures circling Jordan Cousins would do well to heed that tale.
Richard Wood (apps 7) B
Richard Wood arrived from Coventry to little fanfare in the summer, and if the arrival of any player at all hadn’t been such a rarity this summer it could have passed us all by without anyone noticing. Wood started the season as decidedly fourth choice in the centre back pecking order, behind more established Addicks Michael Morrison, Leon Cort and Dorian Dervite. Since then Wood has seized his chances and forced his way into a starting regular berth. Whilst he may not be the sort of defender who is going to play the ball out from the back Wood does offer stability which is something the Charlton back line has needed desperately this term. Impressive performances against Nottingham Forest (home) and Blackburn (away) have arguably been the highlights so far and that both resulted in clean sheets is no surprise.
Yann Kermorgant (apps 7, goals 3) N/A*
It’s almost impossible to judge Yann Kermorgant objectively. To most Addicks he is more than just a player, such is the talismanic presence that he brings to the team. However we have lost that presence for much of this season as a persistent ankle has ruled Kermorgant out and twice decisions to return him to the side have proved premature. When our other strikers are not in prolific form there will be a pressure to rush Yann back as soon as possible - in contrast with his partner on the treatment bench Johnnie Jackson whose rehabilitation can be managed to a greater extent due to the performances of those who have stepped into the breach in the middle of the park. However in the long run this could prove disastrous to Kermorgant’s on going fitness; the requirement for goals should be fulfilled form other areas of the park (midfield – I’m looking at you!) rather than the forlorn hope that a half fit warrior can do the job.
Dale Stephens (apps 11) B
I was en-route to Nottingham last season for our game against Forest when I began to hear rumours of a bid for Dale Stephens from Aston Villa. When I heard the figure was reported to be £2m I was shocked, when I heard Charlton had rejected the offer I was positively stunned. Over the course of the proceeding season my reaction seemed justified and indeed shared by other Addicks who commented on the issue. This season has so far been a tale of two halves for Stephens. Initially it looked as though the Stephens of old: ineffectual and seemingly uninterested had returned from his pre-season break. This last four games have seen Stephens in form that we hadn’t seen since the glorious League One campaign of 2011/12. His passing and creativity has ensured that this new Stephens seems like a new signing, a signing which we desperately needed. The highlight of this run of form is probably the beautiful and incisive pass to Simon Church which resulted in the winning goal away to Blackburn. It can’t be coincidental that this dramatic improvement in performances has coincided with Jordan Cousins presence as a first team regular. Cousins frees Stephens from the defensive work to concentrate on more exciting things. There seems to be an innate trust between the two which has developed extremely quickly which has become very important to Chris Powell’s game plan. Whether Stephens is a long term fixture in the Addicks with his contract up at the end of the season is one question, however at present he seems to be the answer to our midfield creativity issues.
Ben Hamer (apps 12) C+
Cards on the table time. I wasn’t a huge Hamer fan before the start of the season. I thought he was prone to mistakes, offered poor distribution – especially when he had the ball in his hands and came across all Dracula whenever he had to deal with a cross. My initial perception seemed to be confirmed early on in the season, particularly after the poor 1-0 loss to Middlesbrough. However since then Hamer has slowly rebuilt, culminating in a performance against Blackburn which I consider not only the best of his Charlton career, but the most impressive I’ve seen from any Charlton ‘keeper for many years. His shot stopping, cross handling and distribution were incredible and one save from a Jordan Rhodes in particular was quite literally world class. I still worry that there is relatively little competition for Hamer and a few decent performances doesn’t a top goalkeeper make, but what has been proven is that the attributes required to reach a high level are all there – they just need to be displayed on a consistent basis.
Michael Morrison (apps 12, goals 1) C+
Michael Morrison started this season as he ended the last, uncharacteristically shakily. Whether it was a lack of confidence in the players around him or something else which has knocked him he was no longer the stoic presence in our back line, the proverbial rock against which opposition attacks would break. However slowly but surely his confidence, form and Charlton’s ability to keep clean sheets have returned with standout performances against Blackpool, Blackburn and Wigan in the past three games all resulting in shut outs. If Jordan Cousins has revitalised Dale Stephens then it seems that the presence of Richard Wood has encouraged Morrison to find his form, and long may it continue.
Rhoys Wiggins (apps 12) C+
A mixed bag for Rhoys Wiggins, who finally found himself included in a full Wales squad after what seemed like years of waiting on the standby list. Middlesbrough (home) and certainly Burnley (away) were not only low points of his season but of Wiggins Charlton career. However these have not been a regular feature and a player who has served the club so consistently well since coming in during the summer of 2011 is still very much in credit. Those two calamitous performances (and in fairness to Wiggins he was not alone in underperforming on those days) aside, Wiggins has been steady if not spectacular this season so far. He is still able to effectively move the ball from defence to attack which is an attribute which is often utilised to good effect to break down opposition attacks and give the rest of the defence the opportunity to regroup. There seems to be a good balance down the flanks with Wiggins on the left and Wilson on the right and that seems to transmit to the whole side, with Charlton able to greater dominate the middle of the park thanks to the tireless efforts of the wing/full backs (delete according to formation).
Simon Church (apps 11, goals 2) C
Simon Church was brought in a free transfer from Reading in what looked like the footballing equivalent of raiding the bargain bin in the hope that all the other shoppers had overlooked a gem. To begin with, it looked as though it was a move Chris Powell should have resisted, however for both club and country Church has slowly but surely built his performances this season from poor (against Bournemouth and Middlesbrough) to good (Nottingham Forest and Blackburn). He is now a player who, although unlikely to offer a prolific scoring ability, can bring with him an intelligent use of space and an ability to cause problems at the back with his running. Goals are the metric by which strikers are generally measured and as such it’s pretty unlikely that Church will ever be a world beater (he has never scored more than 10 goals in a season), but if he continues his progress he will prove that he is certainly good enough for this level and could prove good foil for a returning Yann Kermorgant.
Dorian Dervite (apps 9) C
Dorian Dervite’s biggest enemy is probably himself, or more specifically, his own versatility. He seems to plug gaps in both the midfield and defence but is unable to really make either his own. Pre the introduction of Richard Wood into the defence it looked like he could possibly be the man to partner Michael Morrison at the centre of the Addicks back line, however Dervite has suffered from always being pretty good, but without a very good performance to build a case for his permanent inclusion. Every squad needs a Dervite, I just wonder how much fun it is to be that guy and with the current form of Morrison, Wood and Jordan Cousins he will find his chances even more limited.
Bradley Pritchard (apps 9) D
If we were looking to hand out an award for worst individual start to the season in the history of Charlton Athletic then Bradley Pritchard would have to be a contender. A terrible performance against Bournemouth in the opening day fixture was compounded with an entirely needless red card for a very badly timed tackle. A two game suspension followed which seemed to give Pritchard the opportunity to re-group. It looked like this opportunity had been seized upon when he followed up with impressive performances in the home win and away draw with Leicester and Watford respectively. Since then it’s been a mixed bag for Pritchard, Millwall was a particularly poor performance in a particularly poor midfield but Blackburn and Barnsley away showed that Pritchard is capable of playing at this level and he remains solid if unspectacular on the right wing. You get the feeling if any option other than Danny Green existed on the right hand side then Pritchard wouldn’t be such a regular feature – when Chris Solly returns then Lawrie Wilson may be that other option.
Callum Harriot (apps 6) D
Is second season syndrome a real thing ? If so then Callum Harriot seems to be afflicted. Superseded by Jordan Cousins as the “new Scott Parker/Jonjo Shelvy/Chris Solly”, Harriot started the season in indifferent form. Gone was the blistering attacking desire which characterised his breakthrough last term when Harriot was such a menace on the left wing. Whether it’s a case of believing his own hype or simply a coincidental loss of form, Harriott has gone from first team regular at the end of last season to not even making the squad in recent weeks. The loan of Cameron Stewart and the return of Danny Green has created more competition for wingers and currently it is a competition that Harriot is losing. We know that the ability is there and Harriot needs to see this as a test to overcome rather than a knock to his confidence - only then can he begin to press a claim to return to the first team. Handling this situation will be a very important examination of Chris Powell’s man management skills.
Mark Gower (apps 6) E
Mark Gower was perhaps the fall guy for Charlton’s poor early season form. Whilst he brings leadership and a solid range of passing it seemed unfair to pair him with the other elder statesman of the squad Andy Hughes in the middle for the season opener at Bournemouth. Followed by a less than stellar performance against Middlesbrough (a game in which, in fairness to Gower, nobody excelled) and you can see why game time has been limited to fleeting starts and cameo appearances since.
Marvin Sordell (apps 7, goals 1) F
I wanted this to be a fair and balanced article which discussed the merits of each players and also their limitations. So I will try. Sordell has shown in brief glimpses that he has attributes which could - if they were employed more regularly - make him one of the standout players in this Charlton squad, if not the division. He has quick feet and is able to transfer the ball from left to right to create space and beat a defender. He can run into the channels to drag opposition defenders out of position effectively. He showed a predatory and incisive instinct in his one goal that made you feel that he could be a 20+ goal a season striker at this level. Sordell can do all of these things, he just doesn’t seem to do so regularly. Whether he doesn’t want to be here, thinks the club is beneath him or the set up doesn’t work for him is unclear, what is clear is that if something dramatic does not happen between now and January, Sordell will go down as one of the most disappointing signings in recent Charlton history (and there have been quite a few of those !).
*No mere mortal is fit to rate Yann Kermorgant
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