TAL AND SIMON SEEKING BRAGGIN’ RIGHTS
Charlton pals face off in Israel v Wales tie
CHARLTON Athletic bosom buddies Tal Ben Haim and Simon Church will become the best of enemies when Wales travel to Israel next Saturday for their European Championship qualifier.
Since Ben Haim arrived in south London at the start of the season, the two have become almost inseparable, driving to Charlton’s Sparrows Lane training ground together each morning.
The pair have both played their part in Charlton’s renaissance under manager Guy Luzon, most recently with Church netting his first league goal of the season in the 3-0 romp at Blackpool last Tuesday that secured a sixth win from eight games.
But the next time they step out on the pitch, Ben Haim is expected to be charged with marking Church out of the game in the hope Israel can extend their advantage at the top of Group B in their bid to reach the Euro finals in France next summer.
After the Welshman broke his duck at Blackpool, he is desperate to repeat the feat and get one over on his mate in the process.
“It will be strange but as soon as the match starts I’m sure no one’s going to be thinking about how well they know each other,” said Church. “Personally, I know I’d love to score against him and that will be an extra incentive, definitely.
“It’s going to be a tough game, I know that from playing against him in training!”
Defender Ben Haim added: “It’s going to be a bit weird because we see each other every day, we travel together and we’re really good team-mates, but we’ll both be looking to do the best for our country.
“There’s no doubt that it’s a huge game for both teams, the winner will get an advantage and a boost in confidence.”
For Church, the international break will be a welcome distraction from what has been a difficult season for him at The Valley.
The 26-year-old striker has struggled with a shoulder injury and his future is in limbo with contract talks on hold.
He is the first to admit he has been questioning whether his Wales spot is in jeopardy, especially with Burnley’s Sam Vokes having recently returned from injury and promising Leicester forward Tom Lawrence also waiting in the wings. “Of course, there’s always a worry that if I’m not playing here then I might lose my place in the squad,” Church added.
“I’ve started quite a few games in the campaign but I’m not a permanent name on the list.
“I’m happy to be involved and I want to make sure I can make full use of this chance.
“I haven’t had as much game time as I’d like at Charlton, but I’m just concentrating on taking my opportunities when I get them. It was good to play against Blackpool and useful for my confidence to get a goal.”
The Addicks are now safely tucked in in mid-table. Those that booed Israeli boss Luzon in the first few weeks of his tenure are beginning to be won round and, for compatriot Ben Haim, this is no surprise.
“The new manager came with different ideas, the players have taken to it and now the results have started to come – we’re really happy about it,” said the 32-year-old.
“When we have video analysis we only look at our performance and our mistakes, we don’t think about the opponent.
“We only concentrate on what we’ve done well and what we’ve done less well and then we have to improve for the next game. We are certainly going in the right direction.”
PRIDE AT STAKE: Simon Church, of Wales, above, wants to score against Tal Ben Haim’s Israel
BOOST: Simon Church scores in the easy 3-0 win at Blackpool and Tal Ben Haim gets stuck in against Norwich’s Cameron Jerome