Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Robbo's retirement

You have to hand it to Gillingham, sneaking the sad news of John Robinson retiring underneath the entirely trivial matter of, um, John Gorman deciding to flee the Scally clutches and go to manage Wycombe.

I got the Raise the Roof DVD out tonight and replayed that moment when Robbo turned on a ball from Mark Kinsella and walloped it into the left hand of Manchester United's net, making it 3-3, in a game I really can't believe was nearly four years ago. Sad to see a hamstring injury has forced Robinson to retire at just 33, although, true to form, he cancelled his contract a month early to save the Gills from having to cough up for him to sit around doing nothing.

There's few players who have done so much for us as Robbo, and I hope we get to thank him at The Valley soon. His enthusiasm and commitment could just rub off...

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Charlton 0-4 Chelsea

Proper reports: cafc.co.uk, BBC Sport, Sky Sports, Sporting Life, chelseafc.com, The Observer, Independent on Sunday, Sunday Telegraph, News of the World, Sunday Mirror, Sunday People, Sunday Times.

Well thank heavens that's over. If Chelsea don't win the Premiership, I'll eat my Burro Derek Hales t-shirt. The best performance from a team I've ever seen at The Valley completely wiped us out. As sharp as Jose Mourinho's winter coat (it's on my Christmas list) and the man himself has just said on Grandstand, it was all about "control".

Unlike the clown-like performance from Raineri's mob last Boxing Day, once Chelsea had the ball, it hardly left their feet. Robben, Gudjohnsen, and Terry were superb - and while Petr Cech had little to worry about in goal, when he was called upon, he was fantastic. It's not just about control - it's speed too. You gawp at Arsenal when Henry or Viera accelerate up the field - most of the eleven Chelsea put out could leave them standing. You may, like me, have grave misgivings about the effect Abramovich's money is having - but let's be frank, his Frankenstein's monster is going to lay waste to the Premiership this season.

And to be honest, they left us standing so many times that it was hard to properly assess our own players. Jerome Thomas had a bright start and despite the letdown of Damien Duff's early goal, an equaliser remained a dim possibility. Although it seemed more likely to come from the feet or head of risk-taking defender Paulo Ferreira than it did from Jonatan Johansson, who looked scared out of his wits every time he blew a chance. It seemed a more evenly-matched battle by the end of the first half as Chelsea struggled to deal with Danny Murphy's corners - but the start of the second half saw the Pensioners storm out of the traps in terrifying fashion.

Two John Terry goals in three minutes killed us off - firstly from a lightning-quick Damien Duff corner, secondly after the kind of defensive foul-up which makes you wonder why you bothered getting out of bed. And then it was all Chelsea. "You might as well go home," chorused the Chelsea fans. Several thousand of our fans did just that.

Naturally, we saved our substitutions until after Chelsea's stylish fourth goal, from Gudjohnsen, with Thomas, Murphy and an awful Kishishev coming off in favour of Jason Euell, Dennis Rommedahl and Herman Hreidarsson. And we did put a bit of pressure on Chelsea on as the game wore on - largely thanks to Euell and Rommedahl, but frankly it was like a flea biting an elephant. A half-empty Valley greeted the final whistle - it's nice to know our fans are backing us when the chips are down.

But however we performed, at least you can say in May (or March) that you were there when Chelsea won the Premiership.

Wyn Grant has some very interesting views on where we go next, while Chelsea Blog's worth a read on this too.

(Apologies for the delay in putting up this match report - Blogger went arse-up last night, making nipping home early to write this a bit pointless...)

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Greedy Arse-holes

I wonder if the two empty seats next to me will be filled (at £45 a pop) for today's Chelsea game? I hope it doesn't sell out today, just to serve the club right for trying to squeeze so much out of prospective punters.

Worse, though, is happening over at Arsenal...

Season-ticket prices at Highbury have doubled in the past four years and fans are going to have to part with even more money long before the 60,000-seat stadium opens in August 2006 as Arsenal look to reduce the £375m debt built up by the development.

Existing season-ticket holders will be able to choose their seats in the new ground from next April, but they will have to pay a 15% deposit for that right at a time when they also have to find more than £1,000 to renew for the final season at Highbury. Anyone buying a season ticket for the first time will have to pay the whole amount up front.

Who needs Malcolm Glazer when English football has David Dein trying price everybody out of the game?

(By the way, I may be a little late with this, but if you possibly help it, don't drive to today's game - the Blackwall Tunnel northern approach is closed this weekend and the jams paralysed the area last weekend. I'm sure you'd like to be home by midnight, so take a train instead.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Dreaming of cold January days...

You've got to hand it to Alan Curbishley. When there's expectations to be damped down, he gets in there nice and early.

"ALAN CURBISHLEY is hoping to bring new faces to Charlton in January - but admits it may be a difficult job.

Curbishley said: "We have got a bit of money - that was announced last summer.

"But it's very difficult for clubs to let players go. They have got a short space of time to replace if they want to.

"So the only players who are going to move around are players who are not actually wanted by their clubs and they feel they have got adequate cover."

Now we're about six weeks from the window opening, hopefully we'll get something more juicy and hopeful than the washed-up old snippets pushed by inferior football websites and the gossip columns of the Sunday papers. Stephane Henchoz? Well, I suppose it'll give Danny Murphy a familiar face to turn to... and whatever happened to the Robert Huth rumour? I wouldn't rule that one out.

The trouble is with any of this, too, is that a player coming in for January has very little time to settle down in their new surroundings - the same problem we've faced with Jeffers and Murphy. So if you're looking for a miracle, go and watch some non-league football.

All Quiet In The East Stand understands Darren Bent is still at the top of Curbs' wishlist, although Ipswich's current form in the Championship could work against this. If their defeat to Sunderland causes them to falter some more, then it's good for us. I feel sorry for Ipswich fans - they've a good chance of promotion, yet they're still vulnerable to preying Premiership clubs after their best players. There but for the grace of...

An issue that's still live is Scott Parker - those rumours from a couple of months back forced lunatic genius Jose Mourinho to rack his brains to remember who that midfield fella was. Thankfully, they've died down, and I'm surprised we haven't seen a repeat of the "please don't boo me, I was young and stupid and Mr Raineri wanted to show me his puppies" stories.

Despite the likelihood that he'll get a game (or appearance in the shop window) in the Champions League tonight, it's got to be unlikely that Scott will return to Bobby Davro's old place a Chelsea player in February. With Parker's transfer to Chelsea coming right at the end of the transfer window, this one looks like it'll go on right up to the wire again. Everton are stomping around with their Rooney-sized wallet, and Newcastle could be another destination. It remains a possibility, but I'm not keeping my hopes up.

Anyhow, feel free to toss a few names into the hat here - I'm starting to get into the mood for wild speculation. It'll cheer me up on Saturday night.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Idiot of the week

If you're pissed off about yesterday and want to hear some idiot ripped to shreds, click here to listen to some idiot from the MK Lepers get ripped apart on local radio up there before yesterday's game against Luton. It's great stuff.

(They lost 4-1.)

Saturday, November 20, 2004

"Oh no, Man U are on the telly again"

An efficient Manchester United managed to suffocate the life out of Charlton at Old Trafford this lunchtime. Luke Young managed to deflect Ryan Giggs' iffy shot into the goal, while Paul Scholes scored an admittedly cracking sort-of-bicycle kick for the United follow-up. The worst thing about watching this on the telly? Like it is for every single TV game involving United - the expectation that this is going to turn into something like a Harlem Globetrotters' game.

But thanks to United's lack of sharpness in the first half, and Rooney's wastefulness in the second, we were spared another drubbing in the north west. But it coould have been close. Jerome Thomas was outclassed, and while that 4-5-1 formation is all very good if you're winning, it's rubbish if you're losing. To Manchester United. Jason Euell's presence was missed in the later stages, while Franny Jeffers came on too late. We let our heads go down in what became a typical Charlton away performance - a carbon-copy of last season's loss at Old Trafford. Nothing too disgraceful, but it does make me worry a little bit more about next week's Chelsea game.

Attack of the plastic Mancs

"Did you know Charlton have never beaten Manchester United before?", Eamonn Holmes just uttered on Five Live.

A second's pause.

"In the Premiership, of course," he corrected himself.

Actually, to his credit, he does have Glen Tilbrook on in a minute, although he will be talking about that dreadful song he wrote for Charlton a few years ago. Although this looks much more interesting.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Peacock shows his feathers

"I'm in the twilight years of my career but feel best qualified for the job at the moment and I keep learning all the time. I hold on to certain old philosophies and ideas but two-thirds of you has to move on." (more)

A good interview with Keith Peacock in today's Evening Sub-Standard, although the paper's weak claim to be the home of London football was somewhat undermined by a sidebar on Keith's favourite players referring to a bloke called "DEREK HAYLES".

I shan't be at Old Trafford tomorrow, but I shall be close to a TV and will try to share some thoughts with you at some point. Bet you can't wait.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Stand up if you love Charlton

The good and glamorous ladies of Netaddicks have reminded me of something I'd forgotten from last night. Richard Murray came out as an advocate of bringing back terracing at football grounds - something Peter Varney's spoken about before, and now the chairman's given it some fresh impetus.

Up in my seat in the East Stand, I can't say standing really bothers me. I get a decent seat, all I ask is that the swines around me sing every once in a while. Or shout. Or even look interested. But then I go away, get a crappy seat, and would rather be standing. There's got to be room for both in our stadium.

Murray said he'd gladly turn part of The Valley into a standing section - but doubted politicans would back it. "It's not politically correct at the moment." Surely what we need to do is prove it is politically correct, in the proper sense of the term - the best way of doing things to please all parties.

The Safe Standing Campaign website, alas, doesn't look like it's been updated for some time. But just the quickest of glances shows other clubs also back the return of standing areas - the thoughts of West Ham's safety chief on forcing people to sit are worth a read.

Murray mentioned last night that making people sit at football has led to a tendency for fans to expect entertainment, like you would in a cinema. I looked through the windows out onto the deserted, dark, stadium and was reminded of a theatre once all the patrons had gone home.

He hit the nail on the head. Bringing back standing at football would help fans feel involved again. Too many people see football as a passive activity - they watch it on the telly, watch it in the pub, by the time they get to a game they've forgotten how to get involved.

But football's a community activity too - and if people feel they can be more involved standing up, let's do everything in our powers to get the laws changed. There's room to accommodate both seating and standing, and reintroducing standing would benefit both groups, since the seated supporter would benefit from a better atmosphere.

And it could be the shot in the arm this dull old Premiership needs right now.

Save Wrexham

From Clubs In Crisis and Wrexham fan site Red Passion:

20th November 2004 is to be 'Wear Red for Wrexham' Day on which fans from clubs around the country turn up to watch their respective club dressed in red.

This will be a striking visual show of support for their cause and will show the North Wales club that they are not alone. It will also show the powers that be that the rest of football cares what happens to the club.

Anyone seeking more information on 'Wear Red for Wrexham' day should email:- fansbehindwrexham@hotmail.com

It is important that as many of you as possible turn up in red to show support so please make the effort and spread the word round your club.

Wrexham fans are among the best and have rallied to help clubs such as Doncaster Rovers and Brighton and Hove Albion despite facing problems of their own. It is time for the football community to return the favour.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The fans' inquistion

I snuck into BBC London's Fans' Forum recording at The Valley tonight - starring Curbs, Chris Perry, Herman Hreidarsson, and Richard Murray. I've not listened to BBC London's coverage of Charlton at all - mainly because I cannot abide the rest of the station's output (if there is such a thing as hell, it involves Jon Gaunt and Vanessa Feltz). But Tom Watt was an excellent host, despite being thrown by a gag about pizza toppings...

I shan't spoil it for anybody intending to listen - 8pm on Wednesday, BBC London 94.9FM - but there were illuminating comments from all four, including Curbs on referees favouring the bigger clubs, and on why those younger players aren't getting though (he says he's aware of it, but it's not for the want of trying), and Richard Murray on the £45 Chelsea tickets ("If you were a real fan, you'd buy tickets for both and they'd be £30 each."). Chris Perry's a great talker generally, and Herman will let you in on the secrets of booting players across the pitch.

Oh, and Paul Konchesky's been off the transfer list since the summer, did you know? Well, you do now.

One thing I doubt BBC London will put out, mind, because it concerns a rival station, was Curbs' response to his brother's comments on Talksport a couple of weeks back. "Well, he's my big brother, he's 63, he can look after himself. He laughs about it now." Turns out Who manager Bill owns shares in the club and has seats in the directors' box. "So, he thought he was entitled to have his say." A good event - and good to see the relaxed, amusing, self-deprecating Curbs that gets squeezed out between Gordon Strachan and Adrian Chiles on MOTD2. Just don't mention Herman's Elvis impressions.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Charlton 4-0 Norwich

Proper match reports: cafc.co.uk, BBC Sport, Sky Sports, Sporting Life, The Observer, Independent on Sunday.

Our best Premiership win since 2000, yet at times this felt like a cup tie. But despite this being the day English football's minnows get their day in the FA Cup spotlight, the top league's smallest team got a trouncing at The Valley.

Two Jonatan Johansson goals - yes, I was pinching myself too - in the first half saw us cruising against the Canaries. But a hairy start to the second half saw the promoted side nearly get back in it as they camped out in our goalmouth. If they'd have got something, I hate to think what would have happened.

But - in contrast to last weekend at Spurs - we pulled off a substitution just when we needed it. After 74 minutes, an ineffective Kevin Lisbie was yanked off for Paul Konchesky - and Konch was, for the first time in a long while, the right man at the right time to prod the ball into the goal with his first touch of the game.

Two minutes from time, Jason Euell showed just why he shouldn't be lingering on the bench by showing the imbeciles how it's done, knocking in a JJ cross four our fourth.

Maybe it was harsh on Norwich - but we could have had more against them. We'll have worse teams at The Valley this season, without a doubt. Norwich never gave up, and I hope in 24 months' time they'll be back up after a season down, stronger and bette than they were today.

But today was a good game for our confidence players - JJ, Konch, Euell - which on its own is worth our weight in gold. Kish, Danny Murphy, and - once again - Jerome Thomas played out of their skins today, while Talal El Karkouri's determination - and his boot of the ball into the Jimmy Seed Sand - won him new fans. Not sure what happened to Matt Holland - despite being baited by the Norwich fans, he never really quite rose to the occasion. But we've stored a cushion of points for some tough games ahead - Manchester United, Chelsea, and Palace. We're smiling today - and level on points with Manchester United. Let's make sure we're smiling in three weeks' time.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Can you hear the moaners sing?

No-ooo, no-ooo... the dust has settled after the Spurs victory, and I'm still smiling. Mind you, so are Spurs, who got their defeat out of their system tonight by beating Burnley in the League Cup. Was the Spurs win a freak result against a shell-shocked side? Hopefully we'll find out on Saturday when we play Norwich, when a win will be necessary to really ease our worries. Of course, it's a given that Matt Svensson will score against us, so go and put some cash on 2-1.

The biggest positive we can take from the Spurs game is the same one we've taken from the Boro and Palace matches - Jerome Thomas. At White Hart Lane he managed that little bit which has so far eluded him - scoring. I hope I'm not over-egging things here, but he's the most exciting player we've seen at The Valley for some time. There's clearly a difference between him and most of our other players who have been languishing in the reserves - Curbs went out and bought him, while most of our second string are home-grown players. But Thomas's success makes me wonder if it's time we took that gamble on bringing through some of the youngsters.

Obviously, the financial madhouse which is the Premiership discourages risk - why risk a kid on a game when there's potentially a couple of million at stake? Michael Turner's sale to Brentford last week raises a few questions about whether any of our youngsters have a realistic chance of breaking into the first team. But it'd be good to see Lloyd Sam or Neil McCafferty on the bench - and perhaps the increased competition would be good for the squad.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Tottenham 2-3 Charlton

A composed Charlton performance of the kind we hadn't yet seen this season saw us come away the winners at White Hart Lane. Two great goals from Shaun Bartlett - watch out for the second - and Jerome Thomas' first goal sealed us the win, aided by excellent performances by Danny Murphy and Chris Perry. It socks one to the Curbs Out mob, but they'll find ammunition in how poorly we reacted to Bartlett's sending-off for a handball - it took an eternity for us to substitute a tiring JJ with Jason Euell, in which time Jermain Defoe got a second for Spurs, leading to a heart-in-mouth finale for the Addicks. But all in all, a fantastic performance and the one we've been crying out for - savour the moment now, because all you'll read about tomorrow will be more "crisis at Spurs" headlines. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to hunt around for a bottle of champagne to take to the Blackheath fireworks.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Up for the Spurs

Crikey - Jacques Santini has quit Spurs on the eve of our game at White Hart Lane.

"My time at Tottenham has been memorable and it is with deep regret that I take my leave. Private issues in my personal life have arisen which caused my decision." (more)

It's been a strange old time for Spurs, and not a particularly happy one. Club icon Bill Nicholson will no doubt be formally remembered tomorrow, ahead of a memorial service on Sunday. On the field, the team has returned to the shambolic Spurs side we know and love, with fans bemoaning their lack of strike power, as Tottenham blog The Shelf bemoans. Sound familiar?

"Strikers should not be expected to drop into our own half to pick up the ball and will hopefully have the service on Saturday to stay around Charlton's box where they have a chance of doing something unusual like score. (more)

Two clubs going through the miseries - sounds like a 0-0 to me. But I hope we can take advantage of the Tottenham turmoil - not just to get away from the wrong end of the table, but to shut the "Curbs Out" gang up.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Just the right time for a holiday...

I think I chose the right time to take a few days away - buggering off to Prague and not looking at the internet does wonders for your perspective. I suppose I should mention Bill Curbishley's rather bizarre intervention on TalkSport, but I really can't be bothered, it seems to have added fuel to a rather pointless fire.

Instead, I'd like you to cast your eyes over the water. Hornchurch had been runaway leaders of Conference South, with rich backers and a determination to get the club into the Football League. Possibly the only professional club at that level, they were the Chelsea of the non-league scene, and recently put Gravesend & Northfleet out of the FA Cup, having walloped Dulwich Hamlet 9-0 in the previous round. Indeed, they were looking at buying ex-Addick Charlie MacDonald from his current, very successful, home at Crawley Town.

But cast a thought for their small band of fans.

Late last evening, the chairman Gary Calder and manager Garry Hill were informed that there would no longer be the funds available to sustain Hornchurch FC.

Players and staff were issued wage cheques on Tuesday, but these were all stopped.

Gary Calder said, "The party is over and the rollercoaster ride has come to an end. The club will continue playing football and will compete in the FA Trophy and the FA Cup. We are absolutely devastated".

The repercussions will be felt beyond Hornchurch - the club was being backed by the Carthium Group, which owns the Bryco and Coldseal windows firms. It's Carthium which has ceased trading, so along with Bryco/ Coldseal and Hornchurch, it was also backing Wealdstone, Yeading, Billericay Town and a couple of others, as well as the Conference and Isthmian Leagues' cup competitions.

So most of Conference South gets to breathe a sigh of relief, a group of fans get set to return to the Essex Senior League whence they came, and it just shows that at any level, even the most well-funded club can go spectacularly belly-up.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Red, white and...

Before I jet off to hide from Charlton (SE7 and Athletic) for a couple of days, just a quick thought. It was good to see the Red, White and Black anti-racism stuff on Saturday, wasn't it? Proof of how football can be a force for good in our lives, despite the mire the Premiership is sinking into. A quick round of applause, please.

Just a shame, though, that nobody at the club thought to remove the freshly-placed National Front sticker from a lamp post next to the East Stand terraces. Forget for a moment the good work in South Africa and all that - vigilance begins at home and all that, eh?