Friday, November 30, 2007

Burnley preview

As my wife and the countless women I've dated would no doubt confirm, I'm a terrible romantic (really terrible).

So it stands to reason therefore, that the Burnley fixture is the most romantic one for me, bringing back memories of our sole major trophy, the 1947 FA Cup. My Mum was born just two months later (a year ahead of my old man), and the rest as my biographer might say, is history.

I had never paid much attention to Burnley until I moved to New York, and became friends with a fanatical supporter of the Clarets. I had initially marked him down as an obsessive of the more cerebral thoughtful kind, until he told me that his 1-year old daughter was not 'permitted' to leave their apartment unless she was wearing at least one Burnley-branded item (of which she has several).

His Burnley souvenir collection is truly impressive, and includes naturally a 1947 Cup Final programme, as well as a wide assortment of other memorabilia. As he puts it eloquently, Burnley have a proud history but their appearances in finals and European competition are limited enough that it is realistic to 'complete' the collection (as I suspect he will).

Over some beers a few months ago, we struggled for many hours to think even of a single player that had represented both Charlton and Burnley (our wives meanwhile rolled their eyes and bemoaned their unfortunate alliances). Having left the pub disappointed, I awoke the next morning and received the text message I'd been waiting for......"JOHN PENDER". It was only a few minutes later that I banged my head against the wall with frustration (again to my wife's amazement) and shouted, "BRENDAN O'CONNELL!"

Pender is something of a 'forgotten man' as far as Charlton are concerned, but he was signed from Wolves in 1985 (as was John Humphrey), prior to the infamous 1985/86 season that saw the Addicks depart The Valley yet somehow maintain enough momentum to gain promotion. Compared to those players signed during the fateful summer of 2006, the signings by Lennie Lawrence notably of Pender and Humphrey, as well as Mark Reid, George Shipley, John Pearson and Steve Thompson were inspired.

After returning to the second-tier of English football in 2000, Burnley actually very narrowly missed out on the play-offs twice (finishing 7th in each of 2000/01 and 2001/02), but have been firmly bottom-half ever since. Despite a perfectly reasonable start to the season, the ridiculous short-termism prevalent in the game saw Steve Cotterill depart, and Owen Coyle recruited from St Johnstone. A stunning win at Watford on Tuesday night would appear to have given early justification however for the Board's decision, whilst from Charlton's perspective it softened the blow slightly from our own home defeat.

Pards would presumably have been tempted to make a change to his settled side anyhow, and the injury to Grant Basey has forced his hand. Although I have a strong preference for left-footers at left-back, I also think we would benefit from Yassin Moutaouakil's pace and flair on the right flank, requiring a shift across by Danny Mills (rather than a straight replacement by Chris Powell).

Elsewhere the performance of Chris Iwelumo was compared negatively to James Beattie's on Tuesday night, but that point of view conveniently forgets the difference in fee and wages between the two. Nonetheless, there is certainly an argument that the big man is left rather exposed and well-shackled at home, so the re-introduction of Luke Varney is warranted, perhaps in place of Jerome Thomas.

I thus expect us to line up as follows: Weaver, Moutaouakil, Mills, Sodje, Fortune, Reid, Semedo, Zheng, Sam, Varney, Iwelumo. Subs: Randolph, Bougherra, Ambrose, Thomas, McLeod.

NY Addick predicts Charlton 2 (Varney, Zheng), Burnley 0. Att: 21, 019.


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