Pardew predicting change in fortune

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The Independent Football

An imminent visit to the cockpit otherwise known as Fratton Park is occupying most of Alan Pardew's thoughts right now as he seeks to re-energise Charlton Athletic's flagging form at the wrong end of the Premiership table.

But Pardew is also looking beyond a fixture likely to prove especially challenging for his recently signed defender Ben Thatcher - whose infamous elbowing of Pedro Mendes when he last played against Portsmouth earned him a ban - and focusing on the horizon where he is anticipating the arrival of the cavalry in the form of three players returning from injury.

Influential midfielder Andy Reid, club captain Luke Young and top scorer Darren Bent are all likely to be back for the next match but one against Bolton.

While Pardew, who has only around £5m at his disposal for the current transfer period, has suffered only frustration so far in his efforts to persuade players to come to The Valley, he believes his side's fortunes are about to improve dramatically.

"The return of key players is vital," he said. "No matter what team you are at you need your big hitters at this stage. And we've had some good news on that front. I think Andy, Darren and possibly even Luke will be available for our next game against Bolton.

"Darren will be the biggest signing we make in this transfer window. The two games he played for me we drew and won - perhaps could have won both. He's a key player for this team and we think he could well be back after the Portsmouth match."

Charlton's immediate fixture list is daunting - after tomorrow's match at Portsmouth they face Bolton, Chelsea and Manchester United. But the next game after that is against fellow strugglers West Ham, and the man formerly in charge at Upton Park believes that will signal the key period of the season.

"Regardless of what points we get in the next four or five games, it's going to be that run which determines our position," Pardew said. "From West Ham onwards you like to think that we've got a fighting chance in every game.

"It's difficult to get wins in the Premiership when you are where we are, but not impossible. We are only two wins away from the group above us. But we need to be in touch, and at the moment we are not."

Pardew admitted he had not considered talking to Thatcher about what might be a tricky afternoon for him. "Ben will handle it," he said. "He has made it clear that what happened there was a moment of madness, and he has apologised for it."

Regardless of results, Pardew plans to take advantage of the fact that Charlton have the next two Saturdays free by taking his players for a trip abroad.

There will, however, be a strong accent on improving fitness. "It will be a boot camp," Pardew insisted.

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