What are the main strengths and weaknesses in the Charlton side?
The slack defending in all departments needs sorting out for sure. The team needs to return quickly to delivering performances that are typical of Charlton Athletic – passionate, yet controlled, hardworking yet providing a good display of football for the supporters. Danny Murphy, Jerome Thomas, Alexei Smertin and Darren Ambrose are all good offensive players, who make plenty of good runs from midfield. It’s that quality in the side that means we can afford to sacrifice a second striker and play with an extra man in the midfield, but the problem we encounter is not having many who are prepared to match the defensive responsibilities fulfilled by Radostin Kishishev.
It must be frustrating being a Charlton fan as you seem to be the most inconsistent side in the Premiership! Why do you think this is?
Alan Curbishley said recently the hardest thing teams have to do when they visit The Valley at the moment is park their bus! Losing at home after taking a two-goal lead twice has irked everyone at the club this season. It took drastic measures to hold on and secure the points after going two goals ahead against Sunderland last month. With the best part of the second half still remaining, Curbs substituted all the offensive players to the bemusement of many supporters. It’s understandable though when half your team is lacking confidence and performing so badly the manager is left questioning whether he should sack half the players for the next game. Getting results has become more important with every league defeat, but at least the points accumulated at the start of the season have been something to fall back on now. The big disappointment lately has been performances that show very little in the way of joint team effort.
I’m a big fan of Darren Bent and he’s banged in twelve since joining Charlton in the summer. How good can he be and will he make the World Cup squad?
He repaid some of the transfer fee immediately with goals, and then overcame injury and illness to probably become the first name on the team sheet each week. It’s his first season in the Premiership while some of the others competing for a World Cup place already have that bit more experience at the top level. His contribution has been second to none though, and he is more than capable of staking his claim during the second half of the season.
Our meeting on Saturday is, of course, in the FA Cup. How important is this trophy to Charlton and what sort of side will you put out?
I expect Alan Curbishley will consider a cup run a good opportunity for the team to rediscover its confidence. As far as knowing exactly who will get the nod on Saturday, it’s extremely difficult to say because the manager has made extensive changes to the line-up after each game. So far that hasn’t worked out. So there’s a chance a new player or two could be added to the squad and they would probably get thrown in straight away. As has always been the case with Charlton budget for new players is limited, even despite a new shirt sponsorship deal just before Christmas. Three goalkeepers have played for the first team this season already, but if money was freed up the manager hasn’t hidden the fact he would like to bring in new faces. However, of those players already linked, Southampton’s Antti Niemi is not considering a switch at this time. Spurs are likely to block any immediate move for defender Anthony Gardner, whilst the club will encounter the obstacle of being unable to match Lee Bowyer’s current wages to substantiate the rumour the midfielder is on the verge of a return.
Going into 2006 Charlton are 12th in the Premiership. What is your aim for the end of the season?
First and foremost the drastic slide needs addressing. The sooner that is done the easier it can be for anyone to look at the remainder of the season with any degree of optimism. Once we have reached the relative safety of having 40 points on board we can put it all behind us, but it is going to require a level of consistency in performances that is seriously lacking right now.