Thursday, 10 September 2009

Southampton Preview

As Benjamin Disraeli famously once said, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. On the bare face of it, Saturday’s game against Southampton should be a walk over: we’re top and they’re bottom, we’ve got six wins and they’ve got none, and we’re twenty-four points ahead of them in the league. Even if it wasn’t for their ten point deduction, they would still be sitting in the bottom three. So how come I’m more nervous about this game than I have been for any other in quite some time?

Well, simply put, our winning run has to come to an end at some point and there is one man who will be determined to ensure that happens this Saturday. Alan Pardew has a point to prove and you can be pretty sure that his team will be pretty well prepared for this encounter. The last time he was at The Valley, he got booed off the field after we lost 5-2 to Sheffield United. He won’t have forgotten that, but then again neither have we. I’m sure there will be a lot of fans looking forward to giving him a little piece of their mind.

Following Charlton is an absolute joy at the moment and I really don’t want the feeling to stop. OK, we haven’t played the divisions stronger teams as yet, but you can only beat what they put in front of you and we’ve done it with aplomb. Watching us at Prenton Park a couple of weeks back was a great experience. The team played well, the fans were in good voice, there wasn’t a negative word said about the performance from those around me, and at the end the players came over and gave us a lengthy and heart warming round of applause. That alone made the trip worthwhile.

Saturday’s game will see the biggest turn out of the season at The Valley, although according to the official website Southampton will be bringing less with them than expected. Still, I imagine the away end will be lively and add to a fiery atmosphere. Those travelling up from the south coast will be hoping their team can return with something, although predictably Pardew has been pleading for time to gel his recruits into the team he believes will make the play-offs. To be fair to him, it is still early days, but I can’t imagine that his task over the summer was any more difficult than that of Phil Parkinson who had to sort out a demoralised mess of a squad.

Unlike Parkinson, Pardew has also been afforded the luxury of a bit of money to spend following the takeover by Markus Liebherr. Rickie Lambert has arrived from Bristol Rovers for a fee thought to be around £1 million, whilst Papa Waigo N’Diaye has been brought in from Fiorentina, albeit on loan but I can’t imagine his wages are insignificant. He has also swelled his back room staff by appointing Wally Downes (ex-Brentford manager), Dean Wilkins (ex-Brighton manager) and Stuart Murdoch (ex-Wimbledon). I wouldn’t imagine the pay off for that lot would be cheap.

So Southampton are well kitted out for a return to the Championship and are actually undefeated in three, even if they were all draws (including playing for an hour against 10 men against Colchester). This could be a difficult game for Charlton and I can see their front two, Lambert and Waigo, causing us a few problems. Pardew also had the advantage that he knows the majority of our squad and will be looking to exploit our weaknesses and nullify our threats.

In terms of personnel, it’s hard to imagine Parkinson will choose this game to start making changes when he’s won six on the spin with the same team. He may need to apply a bit of thought to who he goes for on the bench however. Will Leon McKenzie get into the match day eighteen for the first time? Regardless, unless there is a late injury, I would be very surprised if the following aren’t on the field in a red shirt at 3pm:

Elliot; Richardson, Dailly, Llera, Youga; Sam, Semedo, Racon, Shelvey, Bailey; Burton

With our following game being against Norwich City, we will be able to see how well we have adapted to the Championship compared to the two other relegated sides. I don’t think we can take maximum points from both and the warm fuzzy feeling of our 100% record may well be punctured. I know which game I would prefer to drop points in though, and it isn’t this Saturday when I am desperately hoping we can walk away with all three.

No comments: