Thursday, October 22, 2009

Gillingham preview

Reading through all of the lovely comments after my last post was a humbling experience.

I'm not sure if and how I want this blog to continue, but for the timebeing I will plough on.

I wasn't intending to call it a day until we returned home on a permanent basis anyhow, so I feel a little like someone who wakes up in the middle of their own funeral as the tributes are being read out.

Ironically as I'm now back in the UK without the family, I suddenly have a bit of spare evening time to write a preview.

Unfortunately I won't be at the Priestfield Stadium. I would have struggled to get a ticket in the Charlton end, and whilst I am not particularly averse to watching matches from the opposition stands, it looks as though even they will be sold out.

Anyhow for perhaps the first time in my life where a decision involving possible attendance at a Charlton match is concerned, I've shown admirable maturity and will instead be viewing some potential rental properties.

Indeed if a spell abroad has taught me anything about my love for the club, it's the realisation that missing games really isn't the end of the world.

Whether or not I will feel the same way when home games are only an hour's drive away again remains to be seen, but I suspect many regular match goers might surprise themselves when they realise how little they would actually miss it.

I've only made one trip to Gillingham (for a preseason friendly in the 1990s if my memory serves me right). It was certainly an eye-opener to learn that not all of the county of Kent looks like Royal Tunbridge Wells or Sandwich.

The Gills have never been a true local rival in my eyes, but a useful repository for former Charlton players no longer good enough or young enough for the mighty Addicks.

Even a number of their former managers have Charlton connections, including Keith Peacock and Mike Flanagan. Those with longer memories meanwhile will recall that Andy Nelson was Gillingham manager before joining Charlton in May 1974.

A swift look at their squad list hammers home the point....Simon Royce, Barry Fuller, Mark McCammon, and Rashid Yussuff all failed to make the grade at The Valley, although Royce served as a useful understudy during two spells.

Infact, I'm probably doing him a disservice. During the relegation season of 1998/1999, during which Sasa Ilic dominated the keeper's jersey until the turn of the year, Royce played eight matches and kept four clean sheets.

The talented but erratic Andy Petterson saw out the final few games of the season, before Curbs swiftly and sensibly signed Dean Kiely. The rest as they say, is history although for Petterson it was a complicated one.

Unless my data sources are playing a cruel trick on me, he was on the books of fully fifteen more clubs after leaving Charlton, making first team appearances for ten of them. Is this some sort of record?

Until the current decade, Gillingham's entire league history had been played in the bottom two divisions, and they even suffered the ignominy of spells in non-League.

Their most famous fixture was surely the astonishing Wembley play-off defeat to Manchester City in 1999, which for some clubs might have been impossible to recover from.

They conceded two goals in the final minute, having gone 2-0 up in the 81st and 86th minutes respectively, going on to lose on penalties.

In light of the riches that City now enjoy, one wonders how different they may have looked today, without Paul Dickov's late equaliser back then.

Nonetheless the Gills bounced straight back the following season under Peter Taylor, beating Wigan in the same fixture and thus winning promotion to the League's second tier for the very first time.

They managed respectable finishes of 13th, 12th and 11th under player-manager Andy Hessenthaler (Taylor having left for a disastrous spell at Leicester), before a 21st place finish was the precursor to relegation in 2004/5.

As seems to be a common occurrence (now afflicting Charlton), it required a further relegation in their case back to League Two, to permit a degree of stabilisation.

Current boss Mark Stimson joined in November 2007 after considerable non-League success with Grays and Stevenage Borough, and eventually turned their momentum back round.

He was not able to avoid relegation during his first season (despite some help from Chris Dickson), but they bounced straight back via the play-offs helped naturally by an ex-Charlton connection, this time Josh Wright.

Wright incidentally is now enjoying regular first-team football with mid-table Championship side Scunthorpe, victors over Newcastle in midweek. The decision to let him go was understandable perhaps given his rumoured fallout and midfield competition, but letting him go for nothing remains somewhat bizarre.

Gillingham's League One form this season is all over the place, with just one point gained away (at Walsall), but ominously only four dropped at home.

Wins over Swindon, Exeter, Millwall and Wycombe have helped push them to a respectable 16th position, suggesting that Stimson acknowledges that their home form alone may be enough to keep them up this season.

Pint-sized striker Simeon Jackson continues to win the plaudits, and in common with the above theme, all of his seven goals this season have come at home.

It is not clear whether Phil Parkinson's interest in the striker was real, or a cheeky riposte to the Gills' renewed interest in Dickson. Nonetheless let's hope he tries 'too hard' to make a point, rather than let his obvious natural finishing ability do the talking.

The 2-1 Valley win over Huddersfield was extremely timely, briefly catapulting the Addicks back to the summit of League One despite just two wins in seven.

As I suggested in my preview to that game, Jonjo Shelvey was sacrificed to allow a 4-4-2 offering Izale McLeod a first start which he grabbed with both hands (or one head in this case).

The second half return of Jose Semedo was the biggest boost however, the Portuguese is arguably the team's most important player.

If he is 100% match fit and with Gillingham's home form in mind, I would expect us to revert to 4-5-1. I'm not sure the formation was the problem in recent matches, but his absence from it.

Thus I expect us to line up as follows: Elliot, Richardson, Youga, Sodje, Dailly, Semedo, Bailey, Racon, Shelvey, Sam, Burton. Subs: Randolph, Llera, Basey, Wagstaff, Spring, McLeod, Mooney.

NY Addick predicts: Gillingham 1 (Jackson), Charlton 2 (Burton, McLeod). Att: 8,498.

11 Comments:

At 10:05 PM, Blogger ChicagoAddick said...

Ok, ok I'll leave a comment if it makes you feel better :-)

 
At 10:13 PM, Blogger CharltonChris said...

I aswell :_D

 
At 10:13 PM, Blogger CharltonChris said...

wow, too drunk to draw a proper smiley :-S

 
At 8:51 AM, Blogger StoneMuse said...

Great, still blogging :-)

 
At 10:04 AM, Blogger Ketts said...

Would only disagree in as much as I think McLeod will play instead of Shelvey.

Hope you find a suitable propery tomorrow & the move goes smoothly.

Have you got to transport furniture etc across the Atlantic or will you furnish from scratch when you buy a property?

 
At 9:07 AM, Blogger Phil said...

I suspect that once you've settled in, been to a few home games you're desire to get to as many games as you can too will return.
The realisation that you're only a couple of hours away will see tot hat.
My aunty used to live in Berko....very nice place as I recall.

 
At 9:09 AM, Blogger Phil said...

oops...that should read " your desire " of course...how embarrassing !

 
At 11:18 AM, Blogger Kings Hill Addick said...

I'll leave a comment too.

"Comment"

 
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