Both Charlton and Southend go into this weekend’s clash rather depleted up front. We know all about the Addicks’ woes, brought about by sale (Grant) and suspension (Taylor). The dissipation of Bowyer’s potent strike force happened in a flash: like a Karlan burst of speed or a nasty Accrington stamp.
A happier event, the birth of William Gregory Vetokele, now throws doubt on the full return of Igor. Despite the Angolan international’s star-turn in the U23s 6-3 victory over a young QPR side at the start of the week, Bowyer admits that paternal duties have kept him away since. Whether or not he’s fit and rested enough to make the team remains in the balance. Even if he does, there has been no opportunity for him to develop a partnership with new recruit Josh Parker.
Not unlike Bowyer, Chris Powell also endured a frustrating close to the transfer window, with a striker target from Walsall, Morgan Ferrier, slipping through his fingers in the last half hour. The opposition gaffer had been trying hard to replace Tom Hopper, who had hit 7 in 13 before a ruptured ACL consigned him long-term to the treatment room. It leaves the mid-table Shrimpers relying on the experience of Simon Dunn. The Irishman has hit three in his last four league games and has a disciplinary record to rival Lyle Taylor’s of seven yellows and one red.
The lad who has been stealing the Southend Echo headlines, though, is fresh-faced seventeen-year-old Charlie Kelman. Making his debut as a 71st minute substitute at home to Plymouth, he had the audacity to demonstrate just why you should never leave the ground early. With the match going into injury time and Southend 1-3 down, his looping, powerful strike from inside his own half is in the running for League One goal of the month, if not the season. Shades of David Beckham as a 20-year-old v Wimbledon? That was more than five years before Kelman was born…
This will be Powell’s first League One appearance in The Valley’s away dugout in Southend attire. His two previous visits to that pitch-side spot resulted in one loss and one win when in charge of Huddersfield. He has, of course, turned out in Shrimper kit on the SE7 turf before. One of the most memorable times was back in April 1994, on the day the “new” East Stand opened. He’d maybe admit it wasn’t the most impressive defensive performance all round. After an hour, Charlton led 3-0. Southend pulled one back, then two more in the 84th and 87th minutes. “Typical,” I said to my Dad beside me. “It’s just like being on the old East Terrace in the 70s.” Those were the days when the Charlton defence and attack seemed to have their own battle – the more the back-line let in, the more the forwards had to score. Showing a rare respect for our history, Alan Pardew waltzed his way towards the area and unleashed the winner just before full-time.
So will the dearth of front-line experience in both teams result in a dreary 0-0 on Saturday? Or will we have another feisty showdown, with feuds re-ignited from the closing minutes of the match at Roots Hall? Or will both teams defy the odds and deliver a goal fest? 90+ minutes will tell the tale. In any event, it is probably best not to leave early.