The Opposition View - Charlton
1. What were your expectations before the season started and have they changed at all over the course of the season? Did you expect a relegation battle and do you think you will survive?
Expectations were low, despite a great end-of-season run to end 2012/13. We'd failed to hold on to four strikers and as a consequence our ability to score goals was somewhat limited. Marvin Sordell and Simon Church arrived on the eve of the first league match, but both have struggled to score enough goals. A relegation battle was feared but not expected as much, although the situation is not a huge surprise given we've had two years of under-investment in the squad.
2. Simon Church divided opinion among Royals fans, with some arguing he was all work rate and no ability. How would you assess his first season at Charlton?
A similar story, really. He works extremely hard when in the side, but his finishing is definitely lacking in conviction and quality. He's scored a couple of very important goals, notably the winner against Sheffield Wednesday in the FA Cup, but a recent injury and the arrival of a couple of alternative options at the club has seen him slip out of the side.
3. Chris Powell was a very likeable manager and a good one at that. He was infamously sacked last month by your new owner, how much did you disagree with that decision?
I thought and still think that it was an outrageous decision. It was justified on the basis that Powell did not agree with the influence that the owner wished to wield over transfer policy, and for standing up for the club, it cost Powell his job. Being bottom of the table was used merely as a secondary justification, and having four games in hand meant that it was a rather false position regardless.
Powell was a wonderful ambassador for Charlton Athletic, and he'd overseen two of the greatest seasons we've seen for a long time. He had managed to do an extremely good job on a tight budget, and made everyone proud to support the football club. His sacking took with it the identity of the club that we had grown to love. Many still haven't forgiven the owner, and are disillusioned with his 'network' plan, which could see Charlton become merely a cog in his machine, rather than the independent football club it deserves to be.
4. What do you think of your new boss Jose Riga and is he a long term option?
Riga was ushered in on the morning of Powell's sacking, which suggested that it was definitely a pre-planned move. He doesn't have a contract and has not spoken of his long-term future, so that remains to be seen. His position as Head Coach emphasises the shift in the way the club is being run, as he no longer wields power over transfers. He has made modest changes in style, despite many falsely perceiving huge changes.
We've scored even fewer goals than before, but such has been the strength of the defence that all his wins have been 1-0 successes. His influence can be overstated, however, as the victories have been similar to those achieved thus far in the season, with the team spirit being our greatest asset. The players assembled by Powell have such belief and confidence in each other that the team continues to exceed the sum of their parts.
5. What was your view about new owners coming in pre-takeover and now post-takeover?
There was a lot of optimism, and Roland Duchatelet said all the right things, but his actions have failed to live up to those promises. The sale of key players in January, and the sacking of Powell has shattered any trust that many fans were willing to put in him.
Some are merely looking at results, and suggesting that his actions have been justified in recent weeks, but they fail to see the bigger picture of a man interfering with the nature of the club, with as yet unconfirmed plans. The huge fears that we will become a proving ground for players he's scouted before they are sold on for profit have yet to become clear, but a couple of incidents suggest that problems will emerge. Charlton Athletc Football Club's independent nature is under threat.
6. Who are your stand out players in the side at the moment?
Diego Poyet has come into the side in central midfield and looked experienced beyond his teenage years. Astrit Ajdarevic is also a talented creative midfielder, and one of the few players capable of carving out an opening on goal. The strength has been the back four, with Ben Hamer in goal performing extremely well. His penalty save in stoppage time at Elland Road on Tuesday was the difference between 3 points and 1. He's been called upon more often this season, and has demonstrated his class between the sticks.
7. If you could take any Reading player at the moment, who would it be and why?
Charlton's current weakness lies in the wide areas, where we've struggled to replace Cameron Stewart after his loan spell ended at the start of January. Jobi McAnuff would be a lively player who could make an impact in the side. Not that its going to happen...
8. What starting XI and shape do you expect to see on Saturday from Riga?
He's been playing a dynamic formation which involves three strikers on the pitch, but two of them in wide areas playing deeper as midfielders/wingers. Hamer in goal with the solid back four of Wilson, Morrison, Dervite and Wiggins, with a midfield trio of Jackson, Poyet and Cousins in front of that. As for the three he chooses up front, one is likely to be Ajdarevic, but he has rotated thus far and its difficult to pre-empt his selection. Reza Ghoochannejhad scored his first goal for the club on Tuesday, and looked sharp, so I'd say he was likely to start.
9. What is your prediction for the game?
Given that the victories have come against sides who have put in weak performances, I would say its likely that Reading take either 1 or 3 points from the game. Charlton's lack of goals does not look like being remedied, so if Reading can score then its likely they won't lose. But the joy of football is that its hard to predict...