Matt Riggs previews tomorrow’s traditional curtain raiser at Park View Road…
The calendar has been ticked off, the days counted down and pre-match pints arranged; Charlton’s traditional curtain-raiser is finally here.
The Addicks have visited Park View Road to face Welling United in their initial pre-season match ever since it became tradition in 2002, and it’s always been a chance for the fans to look at new faces, for the players to build fitness and, perhaps most importantly, to take a glimpse at a new Addicks strip. This season, Charlton will be playing in…purple.
But, on a more serious note, this fixture may be a little different to previous years. Most of the ‘old guard’ will still be playing for sure, due to the fact that boss Guy Luzon has only secured the signatures of three new signings, those being defender Partrick Bauer, midfielder El-Hadji Ba and forward Simon Makienok.
Two arrive with good pedigree playing abroad, though, Bauer having played over 40 games in Portugal’s top division last season, while Makienok’s goal ratio at former club Brondby IF was almost one every two outings.
Though Ba has signed from Premier League Sunderland, his chances were limited at the Stadium of Light and he was loaned out to Bastia, in France’s Ligue 1. From the minutes he did get with the Black Cats, however, many have been impressed.
Valley View: A look at the Addicks
The burning question is: how will they fare on a warm afternoon in Welling?
It’s clear that the club needs to act in the transfer window, and fast. The sale of Joe Gomez to Liverpool has further reinforced the desperate need for defenders and only Andre Bikey, who still looks set to depart, is a first-teamer present to partner Bauer.
Therefore, centre-halves Harry Lennon and Ayo Obileye, who both had loan spells last season, could be given time tomorrow.
Elsewhere on the pitch for Charlton, Yoni Buyens will no longer be a mainstay in the midfield following his departure, but it could be a role that Ba fills. Frederic Bulot’s permanent transfer still looks imminent after last season’s successful loan spell, but the failure to tie up his name in time for the weekend means you may find him on the teamsheet as ‘Triailist A’.
Up top, Tony Watt Watt Watt and Igor Vetokele now have Makienok breathing down their necks for a starting place, and Joe Piggott will be keen to impress during pre-season in his bid to nail down a first-team place despite ongoing interest from Southend United. Karlan Ahearne-Grant, you would think, will also be in the squad in some capacity.
The Opposition: Welling United…
In the opposite dugout, opponents Welling are a side fond in the hearts of many Addicks fans who have travelled for the inaugural friendly fixture on a yearly basis. Last season, they escaped relegation to the Conference South by the smallest of margins. In the end, goal difference kept them up as they finished 20th and Alfreton Town were relegated having gained the same number of points.
Manager Jody Brown was dismissed at the back end of last season as United struggled, and Loui Fazakerley, a defender for the Wings, was put in caretaker charge. Impressing in the role, he was handed the job on a full-time basis and leads the side into a new campaign in the newly-named National League.
We’ve met before: Previous encounters…
In terms of previous meetings, last season’s 2-0 defeat was the first time the Addicks had failed to register a win at Park View Road since 2009, when the sides contested a 1-1 draw. The four years inbetween have seen 12 goals scored and none conceded for Charlton.
And tomorrow? It really could be anything, from a rout for the visitors to a defeat that will leave some Addicks fans calling for Luzon’s head (you know who you are). Whatever the result, ‘a sunny afternoon daan Welling’ is always a nice way to begin the new campaign. But if Piggott doesn’t score another hat-trick, I won’t be happy.
Bring it on.
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