Charlton injury crisis opens way for Andersen

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The Independent Football

The Charlton manager saw an influx of fresh blood as necessary to ensure he has the squad capable of staying the course after his team faded out of Uefa Cup contention and dropped down the table to 11th following a return of just one victory from their last 14 Premiership games of the 2004-05 season.

The likes of England Under-21 striker Darren Bent, in a £3m deal from Ipswich, and Darren Ambrose, from Newcastle, have both signed permanent deals this summer while Russian midfielder Alexei Smertin, Manchester United's Jonathan Spector and Internazionale's Gonzalo Sorondo have all arrived on loan.

The moves seem to have had the desired effect during Charlton's pre-season schedule, which included just one defeat - to AEK Athens on Saturday - from their eight warm-up games.

Bent's form in front of goal, along with that of Smertin and Ambrose in midfield, have allowed Curbishley to take plenty of positives from the build-up to the trip to newly promoted Sunderland on Saturday. However, the Charlton manager fears that his options at the Stadium of Light could be severely limited.

The Denmark youngster Stephan Andersen, 23, is set for an early taste of Premiership action following an injury to first-choice goalkeeper Dean Kiely, who is likely to be unavailable for around six weeks.

Jason Euell, subject of much transfer speculation over the summer, is also out for around two months after he dislocated his shoulder; centre-back Talal El Karkouri (knee) has already been ruled out of contention for Saturday's trip north; while the captain Matt Holland (shoulder) and Spector (hamstring) are, among others, also concerns.

Striker Shaun Bartlett (ankle) and Kevin Lisbie, recovering from an operation to remove a benign tumour from his nose at the end of last season, are, still working on their match fitness with appearances for the second string.

"I'll probably have a better idea on Wednesday once we see how some of the injured players are progressing," Curbishley said.

"We were without Jonathan Fortune, Radostin Kishishev and Jonathan Spector against AEK Athens, then I had to withdraw Alexei Smertin at half-time because he was feeling a knock.

"I was forced to play Gonzalo Sorondo even though he is nowhere near fully fit and will miss the first three games of the season anyway through suspension."

The Addicks manager added: "I am concerned about the injuries because I could have done without such a long list at this stage in our preparation.

"We knew that Dean Kiely and Talal El Karkouri would not be fit to face Sunderland. On top of that there are big doubts surrounding Matt Holland, Kevin Lisbie and Shaun Bartlett. I think most clubs would class it as having an injury crisis if seven or eight players were out."

With only the inexperienced youngsters Darren Randolf and Robert Elliot available as goalkeeping back-up, Curbishley turned to the veteran former Sunderland goalkeeper Thomas Myhre after being refused a request for special dispensation from the Premier League to bring in another loan player as cover.

And yesterday the Charlton manager further extended his squad with a deal to bring the young Portuguese defender Goncalo Brandao to The Valley for the season.

The 18-year-old centre-half - born in Brazil, but owner of a Portuguese passport - currently plays for Belenenses, who finished ninth in the Portuguese First Division last season, and will spend the 2005-06 campaign in south-east London after impressing during a trial period earlier this summer.

The Addicks have the option to make the move permanent, and Curbishley commented: "We are hopeful he will progress during the season and then we'll sign him."