Saturday, December 29, 2007

What might have been (part 3189)

Manchester Evening News, 9th August 2004:

CHARLTON are poised to test City's resolve with a £2m bid for Joey Barton.

Addicks boss Alan Curbishley has long been an admirer of the spiky England Under-21 midfielder and is armed with money to spend after selling anchorman Claus Jensen to London rivals Fulham.

Curbishley has been pipped in the chase for Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy, who is poised to join Spurs today
[!!!!] and is now prepared to turn his attentions back to Barton, who played 70 minutes of Saturday's friendly win against Lazio. (more)

I wonder, eh?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Norwich 1-1 Charlton

Well, my lift was in better spirits so I was able to leave the tartan blanket and weak lemon drink at home as we chugged up to Norfolk. But Sam Sodje's dim-witted lunge at Darel Russell threatened to spoil matters, the defender walking off before a red card was even produced.

Shame, because we were looking good before then. It'd been a nervy start and Zheng Zhi's 21st minute goal, with a simple, low shot, was somewhat against the run of play. But it'd shattered the hosts' fragile confidence and we were purring.

What came after Sodje's dismissal, though, was something to be proud of. We continued to attack in the first half, and while the second half was a dogged affair a win never seemed out of the question, even after Russell's equaliser. Nicky Weaver's shot-stopping skills saved our skins, and Holland and Semedo were immense in midfield.

The one real blot on the landscape was Izale McLeod - brought on in the second half, he was substituted himself towards the end of the half after a lousy display. The end of his Charlton career must surely be approaching.

Norwich - now under Glenn Roeder - performed better than they did at The Valley, and were lucky with many of the ref's calls. Whatever happens to them this season, it's to their credit that they can still attract 25,000 people to the Carrow Road, week in, week out - even if their Premiership dalliance is becoming a distant memory. Our large away following didn't mean a lively crowd - it was a slightly odd atmosphere, and one of the few times at football where I've felt a little self-conscious after swearing. Probably because I had a copper over my shoulder. Ho-hum.

Indiscipline once again meant we had to do it the hard way, and arguably cost us a couple of points today. We need to hold our nerves for Leicester and Colchester - and whoever joins us in the January transfer window, hopefully they'll be wiser than Sam Sodje was today.

Canaries for Christmas

Merry Christmas! As the small hours of Boxing Day tick by at All Quiet Mansions, it hasn't escaped my attention that I've ignored the Hull match - frankly, the 1-1 draw wasn't an experience I wanted to repeat in my mind. While we had trouble coping with Hull's direct brand of non-football. I don't think we'll have the same trouble at Carrow Road as we prepare to face Norwich.

It's likely Danny Mills' last act in a Charlton shirt was to be sent off for verbally abusing the ref. To his credit, he's used his website to say sorry.

Using that wonderful word hindsight, I know perhaps what I said was not correct particularly in that situation and I’m sure if I could turn the clock back I would react differently, but turning the clock back is something we cannot do and I am really sorry for losing my self control and discipline and I just hope that those final few moments are not what the fans will remember me for. In my defence I will say that the challenge that led to the sending off left me with a bruised eye and that three of their four players booked were for fouls on myself. However I am not looking for excuses.

Going forwards, we will have to wait and see what the future holds for me and whether it be at Charlton, Man City or another club, I’m sure during the next couple of weeks things will become more settled and final.

It's funny, really, how an articulate and smart guy such as Mills can have such a self-destructive short temper. Then again, with his family in the north-west, the loan spell's held its own pressures for him. "On the flip side I won't miss getting up at 5a.m. in the morning to travel down on the train for training 2 or 3 times each week. Football and family life do not often mix well and this has certainly been the case for me," he wrote before the Hull match.

Despite all this, he's made a vital contribution to our promotion push. If he goes, he'll be badly missed. Fingers crossed, though, it won't be.

So he won't be at Norwich, and my own presence there isn't guaranteed, despite being in possession of a match ticket. In fact, the Norwich match has so far proved to be a bit of a curse for me.

My wallet, containing my match ticket, was pickpocketed on the Barcelona metro a couple of weeks back - I'd forgotten it was in there until I was in Spain. Charlton's box office was unable to supply a replacement for bizarre reasons which suggest the 21st century is yet to hit the Floyd Road ticket desk (because I'd, er, had the ticket bought for me on a matchday - online and phone sales are recorded, counter sales aren't) so I had to cough up for another one.

And Christmas Day brought news that my lift to Norwich might not happen after all, since our driver has spent the 25th laid up with what doctors call "the shits". Contingency plans for a last-minute, breakfast-time coach booking have been made, which'll take the cost of the match to £69 for me, and a tartan blanket's been ironed in case we're lucky. So it could be a interesting day. Or I could end up at Welling v Fisher (1pm kick-off if you're at a loose end.) Hopefully, all this hassle will be worth it....

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Darren Bent - a credit to his mum

A really good interview with Darren Bent in today's Guardian about his difficulties at Spurs, and with England. Good to see the big money move hasn't changed him.

This is his first interview since signing from Charlton Athletic and he is acutely aware that many of the questions might have a negative slant. Yet nothing is out of bounds and he does not insist on vetting what is written. His only request is that he is sent a copy of the photograph for his mother, Shirley.

And the only flicker of anger is when the conversation turns to Sven-Goran Eriksson, the manager who selected Theo Walcott ahead of him for last year's World Cup. "I saw him when we played Manchester City recently but I wouldn't even look at him," he says.

The nightmare before Christmas

Apologies for the break in service this week - I didn't have much to say about the West Brom match since I only saw a tiny segment of it, and then other commitments, a minor crisis and general Christmas stuff took me right out of the arena. I've not even read the proper blogs. And being on my hols two weeks ago means I feel like I've missed several episodes of a much-loved soap opera, and I'm expecting to come back this afternoon and find Sam Bartram back in goal, explaining away his absence by saying he'd only just popped out for a shower.

But at least I'm back in the traditional Saturday morning blogging mode, which is a frankly a bit crap if you write a football blog, because you're down the pub right now and I'm not. Hey-ho.

So, what do I return to? A NIGHTMARE!, that's what? Andy Reid? CROCKED! ZZ? BROKEN! Ambrose? KNACKERED! Basey? STILL BROKE! Varney? LURGY, MORE LIKE! Big Chris? MAYBE CROCKED! Danny Mills? GOING BACK TO MAN CITEH! Promotion? YOU'RE HAVING A LAUGH, AREN'T YOU?

Bugger. So I'm going to be watching today's match against Hull from between my fingers, to be honest. But there are bonuses - we might get to see the kids get a chance, and cometh the hour, cometh the man - Chris Dickson's been recalled from Gillingham. (I won't mention the fact that Ghana might want him for the African Nations Cup, because that might send him over the edge.)

So, Christmas - a time to relax? Hah! As we look back one year to the Wycombe farrago which marked our lowest point, hopefully this will be the time we show our strength to clamber out of the mess we tumbled into. Perhaps another anniversary - 50 years since our 7-6 win over Huddersfield - will inspire us. Some reaction will follow later in the weekend...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Di Canio on Capello

A busy week - was pickpocketed on my travels, so there's been lots of sorting stuff out after that - so I've not had time to touch on my experiences watching Barcelona v Deportivo, my annoyance at having not managed to see a second of the Ipswich match, and Dean Keily's pop at Curbs in the South London Press. Gutted not to be up at West Brom, but the time shift make it impractical to travel up to the Hawthorns, so the radio's fired up and the pub has been selected for the second half.

In the meantime, here's Paolo Di Canio's thoughts on England's new boss, from an AC Milan pre-season tour of the Far East...

"Why can't you just let me play the whole game", I said to Capello. "Because, Paolo, you've got to understand that we have to maintain a tactical equilibrium," he said.

"What equilibrium," I told him. "Against a bunch of Chinese who can't even play proper football? We're here to entertain!"

Capello just gave me a dirty look. He probably genuinely thought that 60,000 Chinese who had paid to see us had forked out their cash to see his 4-3-2-1 system in action, not to watch the likes of Baggio and Paolo Di Canio.

The next night we played in Beijing. Baggio, Lentini and I were up front. We took a 1-0 lead.

Naturally, Capello decided to take off a forward and send on a defender to protect the lead even though it was an irrelevant exhibition and he was leaving in two weeks anyway.

And naturally, I was the one he picked on. I got angry. Once again, I felt I had been singled out for speaking my mind.

"What the f*** are you doing," I asked him at half-time when he announced that I would be coming off.

"F*** off," he replied. Capello wasn't the kind of man who minced words. "You're coming off because you're not trying."

"You're crazy, you're sick in the head," I shouted back. "You go f*** off!"

Capello lunged at me; he always had a quick temper. I shoved him, we took a few swings at each other. I was furious. Capello is a big, strong man but I was not afraid of him. Milan's coaching staff steamed in and tore us apart. I was still livid.

"You can't treat me like this!" I yelled. "You already signed for Madrid, you are a nobody here! I still have my contract, you'd better learn to respect me!"

Capello must have had four people holding him back.

"Get the f*** out of my sight," he bellowed. "Go back to the f****** hotel!"

I looked him straight in the eye and replied: "You're not going to tell me what to do. Whether I go back to the hotel or not, it's up to me, it's my decision. You're going to stop deciding things for me!

"One thing is for sure, I'm not going to hang around here and look at your penis face any longer!"

He got his wish. I walked straight out of the stadium, grabbed a cab and returned to our hotel.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The loneliness of the long-distance fan

To: The Inspector (3:00pm)
You lucky sod. Regular updates throughout today's game coming up, but only if you promise never to send pictures like that ever again, weather is bloody horrible here.

To: The Inspector (3:08pm)
Goal! Great ball wide right Holland. Ambrose diving header from six yards. We're all over 'em.

To: The Inspector (3:21pm)
Much tighter game. Ipswich more in it. Great shielding of the defence by Holland.

To: The Inspector (3:33pm)
Two-nil! Big Chris from close range following a corner. It's all too easy.

To: The Inspector (3:34pm)
Total Charlton possession. Ipswich yet to have a single shot.

To: The Inspector (3:41pm)
Three-nil! Ambrose drive from outside the box after good play from Reidy.

To: The Inspector (3:44pm)
Still swarming forward. Ball nearly turned in by Reidy.

To: The Inspector (3:48pm)
Chants of 'You might as well go home'. Ipswich singing: 'We're gonna win 4-3'.

To: The Inspector (3:50pm)
Half-time. Total Charlton dominance. Comedy boos from a few wags as the players go off. Not a single shot from Ipswich - only Counago with any fight and he came on as a sub. Fine performances all over the pitch.

To: The Inspector (4:09pm)
Fireworks on the estate mark the restart. Two further changes by Ipswich. Charlton pushed right back. Weaver saves penalty!

To: The Inspector (4:16pm)
Ipswich miss open goal. Real trouble in the Charlton defence. Covered end responds with huge sound. Black skies open and lash the Valley with cold rain.

To: The Inspector (4:21pm)
Ref gives Charlton penalty, then changes mind after consulting linesman. All us again. Holland hits post with controlled drive.

To: The Inspector (4:26pm)
Ambrose has been a revelation.

To: The Inspector (4:31pm)
Goal for Ipswich. Back heel from Counago inside box after Charlton fail to clear.

To: The Inspector (4:47pm)
Last five of normal time. More chances at both ends. Reidy and Sam off to standing ovations. Varney and Semedo on.

To: The Inspector (5:00pm)
All over. 3-1. Could've been any number at the end though. What a game. Players come under the covered end to celebrate. Jonny Fortune looks disconsolate after being sent off at the death for attacking a farmer. Enjoy Barcelona!

To: The Inspector (5:15pm)
Yeah we were all over the shop second half, but we still could've scored another five. We won at home so its fiesta time. Adios.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Agony and ecstasy by the Med

Hostal Gat Xino, Barcelona: Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh! Why do I do this to myself? Book a holiday, then find myself in TORTURE because strolling through sunshine streets is no substitute for a rain-lashed Valley victory? I thought I´d just be able to play it cool like I try to do when I´m not at an away game.

Haha - yeah, right. The first text messages coincided with me passing an Irish bar showing Soccer Saturday. Then it was commandering an iBook in an Apple display in a shop. And then it was chaining myself to a hotel computer, frantically refreshing a Charlton Life thread and getting other info from the ground. And I´m supposed to be on holiday relaxing...

I´ll leave proper discussion of our win to Stuart, but it sounds as if Darren Ambrose was a revelation. But with Danny Mills picking up a suspension and Jon Fortune getting sent off at the death, a hairy second half will give the moaners something to get their teeth into.

And now it´s time I switched off, and returned to getting a rest...

Friday, December 07, 2007

Friday night's alright for Palace

Using the common sense for which they are justly famous, the Metropolitan Police have decreed that our match against Crystal Palace should be moved to Friday 8 February, with a 7.45pm kick-off. Because, of course, moving the match to an evening is going to cut the risk of trouble, isn't it?

I understand that a Friday kick-off is preferable to Charlton - it gives us more time to prepare for our next match (against Watford) and revenues are higher for night games than they are for early kick-offs on Sunday. But for crying out loud, what planet are these people on? People will just take time off, spend the afternoon getting smashed, while a big policing operation's going to have to work around the evening rush hour at London Bridge and in Charlton ourselves - a surefire policy to piss our neighbours off around SE7, and anyone else who needs to catch a train to do something frivolous like, er, get home from work.

Add this to the aggravation of Charlton suddenly being in love with 7.45 kick-offs (clearly done for the benefit of the silent fans that we bus in from Christknowswhere, for that extra 15 minutes is a godsend for anyone coping with public transport in London) which limits the choice of trains fans and coppers can squeeze onto. It is not the brightest of decisions, to put it mildly.

Still, it's something to look forward to...

I haven't mentioned the win at Cardiff since I wasn't there and so can't really add much that's sensible, but I'm pleased for those who went - the real fans and not the tossers that boo the team at The Valley. And I can't really say much about Ipswich since I'm not going to be there tomorrow - so I fully expect a win. So Stuart will be dispensing wit and wisdom while I go hunting for winter sunshine and text message updates from The Valley. See you next week.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The jitters set in

So we've got West Brom at home in the FA Cup third round, and you know what? I'm quite happy with that. Playing a Premier League side would have been a distraction, playing a lower league side would have been nervy, and we could do without the chance to make arseholes of ourselves at some non-league side. Instead, we get one of the best teams in the Championship, and it's more or less business as usual.

Anyway, we're proving too good at making arseholes of ourselves in the league, with an embarrassing 3-1 defeat at The Valley to Burnley. I've slept on it, thought about it, and I still can't explain what's going wrong. To be fair on Burnley, though, they're a tidy outfit and they did a job on us, while we weren't helped by a lousy ref who turned a blind eye to too many claret and blue digs. All this would be academic if Danny Mills hadn't handballed in the box in the second half, mind.

Theory number 1: We have a good side, but Pards doesn't know what to do with it.
This is what I'm leaning towards. We have a great midfield (even if it wasn't showing yesterday). We have two talented strikers and some wise heads in defence. But Pards can't get his formations and his squads right. Matt Holland wasn't much use for us yesterday, while the gaffer's attachment to Darren Ambrose baffles many (although I thought he had an okay match yesterday). Is the wing the right place for Andy Reid? And can Varney and Iwelumo really play together up front? Didn't we play some of our best stuff in a 4-5-1 formation, with Luke powering up the wing?

Theory 2: We're too lightweight/we don't have the pace.
Two contradicting statements which suggest the balance between grafters like Mills and artistes like Thomas isn't quite right. We've definitely toughened up since August, but our heads are going down too quickly - not helped by the crowd. One of Burnley's key men yesterday was David Unsworth, the ex-Everton man now resembling a beer barrel on tree trunks. Could we do with a couple of tanks in there? Or do we need the pace of Thomas?

Theory 3: Something has gone wrong in the squad. Discontent in the ranks? Who knows. I doubt, because team unity is one of Pards' strengths. But it's not easy for a relatively new team to gel together and there have certainly been losers - Paddy McCarthy is history already, and poor Izale McLeod hasn't even had a chance. Both are rumoured to be heading for early exits, a real shame for the latter who's had some terrible abuse from a Valley crowd which is quickly starting to resemble a minature version of White Hart Lane's whingers.

Whatever, while Watford have also slumped, we need to turn it around. Ninian Park's an unlikely place for a revival, but the boos from The Valley can't be heard in the valleys. I hope the real fans, the hardy lot that make the trip, are the ones that see us get back on track.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Charlton 0-3 Sheffield United

Well, Mr Testicles may have helped inspire Everton to a fine win in the Premier League on Saturday, but down in tier two we had top-flight ref Mark Halsey dropping bollocks all over the place tonight as Charlton were mugged 3-0 by a miserable Sheffield United side.

The only people outside south Yorkshire who'll believe it was a fair scoreline will be senile Daily Express readers who think they saw Princess Diana in a field taking Madeleine McCann for a ride on Shergar. But crap jokes ahead, tonight's freaky farce was a sharp reminder that no team can be taken for granted in this league, not even a bunch of misfits, cloggers, rejects, midgets and Paddy Kenny.

And especially when you gift them a penalty in the first half. Jerome Thomas brought both himself and Davis Carney down in the box, and gifted the Blades the only chance of the match so far, which James Beattie gleefully converted. Until then, we'd been more or less on top, and the only question was not if we were going to score, but when.

But going 1-0 down seemed to knock us for six, and Lloyd Sam was looking dangerously exposed in midfield. Bryan Robson's side's limited box of tricks came into play. Little digs in the back? Oh yes. Timewasting? Certainly. Halsey was happy to let them get away with it all game.

Of course, we should have been big enough to cope with it. But we weren't. Matt Holland and Luke Varney came on for Jose Semedo and Lloyd Sam. While Holland didn't add much to midfield, Varney kept pushing at open doors. Soon that goal would come, wouldn't it?

It didn't. One of those eerie Valley atmospheres, where fans seem to forget we're third from top and not third from bottom, made matters worse. A goalmouth scramble resulted in a second United goal, Halsey's delay in giving it seeming to sum up the night, Danny Mills getting the night's only yellow card for berating the linesman.

It seemed incredible, with the Blades playing as if they'd been relegated from Conference North, not the Premier League. But we allowed them to grind us down, and the third came as Chris Armstrong had only Weaver to beat.

A bad, bad night at the office. But Watford also slipped up - King Aidy's reality check continuing as they were slapped 2-1 at home by Burnley. The ball's in West Brom's court tomorrow - and at least we've got the chance to get over it on Saturday.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Preston up-ended - Weaver for England!

So the win against Preston was viewed in a nice warm home on TV, and the view from the bottom of the can of Heineken's a sunny one. It might not have been the most exciting of games, but it was a job done which helps put the pressure on Watford. Great to see Zheng Zyi and Luke Varney score, which will boost their confidence no end, and Nicky Weaver played a blinder - who said there's no decent English 'keepers? And while Andy Reid wasn't pleased to be subsituted towards the end of the game - yes, finally, Matt Holland became Captain Cleanshorts and the Masters of the Championship! - it was pleasing to see a Charlton performance which didn't hang on Reidy playing out of his skin. Onwards and upwards...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Oh, Scotty Carson...

I don't usually lose sleep over England, but I was screaming at the telly come about twenty to ten - Darren Bent up front, difficult chance... stirred a few memories in me.

But back in goal, as Kranjcar's ball bobbled up past Scott Carson, how many Charlton hearts sank? A nightmare debut, compounded by being left dangerously exposed by a terrible defence for the second. And the third. Nobody will remember those saves in the second half, just that moment eight minutes in when the ball looked safe... and it wasn't.

I hope Carson doesn't become a scapegoat for this. He was thrown in at the deep end of an appalling team by a mediocre manager. I can only remember him having one really bad game for Charlton - Blackburn away, the game which all-but condemned us. I couldn't help wondering before the match if he would be up to the pressure.

But for heaven's sake - he's 22 years old. This isn't going to be the end for him. At Charlton he conducted himself with commitment and with dignity - qualities too often absent from his new England team-mates after the past few years. In our relegation season, he often appeared to be the most passionate player on the field, despite the fact he was on loan from Liverpool. He's continued to do well at Aston Villa. He's a great lad, and he'll recover. He'll be back in that No 1 shirt. And tonight's nightmare will be well in the past.

And in 10-and-a-half years, he's got a damn good chance of having been first choice for a few years, getting ready for England's World Cup campaign as host nation.

England gets the team that England deserves - if it's going to set up a cash-crazy Premier League, where players can win the rewards and adulation they'll never get for a national side, while an ever-more spiteful press hounds out managers, then it gets the failure it deserves.

But the likes of Carson - and Darren Bent - deserve better than this. Decent young men, who we've had the privilege to see develop at The Valley, who will hopefully hang onto their values as their careers go on. And hopefully, by 2010, England will have sorted itself out to make sure it can give them something better than the crap served up in the Wembley rain tonight.

Miserly Preston relent

Good to hear Preston have backed down on their plan to exclude Charlton fans from a price cut at our match up there on Saturday. At least they had the sense to pull back from their shabby scheme - and well done to Peter Varney for getting it sorted out.

But well done too to supporters' director Ben Hayes for making his criticisms public, getting press coverage for what Preston had done - without him (and the posters on the Charlton Life message board who prompted him), Charlton fans would still be being charged twice the amount their Preston counterparts would be.

There's been some discussion over the past couple of years about the role of the supporters' director - if there's one thing we can thank Preston chairman Derek Shaw for, it's for doing something which reminds us how useful and how important that role can be.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The misery of Preston

I've got to be honest - I wasn't planning on heading for our away visit to Preston, switched to 5.20pm next Saturday so Sky can use it as a spoiler against Setanta's Premier League coverage. Isn't modern football brilliant, eh?

But news that Present have cut prices for home fans to £10 - while keeping the prices for away fans at £21 - leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.

For all the "real fans, real football" stuff the Football League spouts, Preston are allowed to do this under a "local promotion" rule the clubs voted in themselves. Supporters' director Ben Hayes is on the case - the Football League isn't happy with the situation either, but seems happy to delegate this sort of decision to clubs.

Ironically, Preston fans were the first to be affected when the new rules came in, but skipped it by going into the home ends where they received a generous welcome. PNE have told Ben that there's no question of this happening at Deepdale.

Of course, Preston are one of these big-ish teams that's been clogging up the second and third tiers for some time now - a glorious past now overshadowed by mediocrity on and off the pitch. It's worth pointing out that the decision was taken by chairman Derek Shaw to mark the start of "a new era" - he's just sacked manager Paul Simpson after a whole 17 months in charge. It's miserable numpties like Shaw that provide a reminder of why we need to get out of this league.

So, if you do go, why don't you give the bar and catering staff a quiet evening and boycott them? Perhaps you could visit the football museum another time? Or perhaps, Preston could change their minds. After all, their chairman has just changed his mind about quitting, so no decision is set in stone, is it, Derek?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Big Chris in the big league?

I saw a line in a match report today that caught me eye - this is from the Guardian, but you'll have seen it in other papers as well.

Charlton are entitled to believe they can rejoin the elite at the first time of asking. Should that happen the manager, Alan Pardew, admits the squad which goes up will be weaker than the one which fell. But he feels the foundations are there for a return.

Central to those plans is Chris Iwelumo, the 6ft 4in centre-forward signed on a free transfer from Colchester in May who has scored seven goals in 14 starts this season. "Chris [Iwelumo] is not another Darren Bent but he could be just as useful in the Premier League," Pardew said.

It feels stupidly early to be thinking about a Premier League campaign. But how does last season's side stack up against this one? Maybe the class of 2008 is weaker on paper than the class of 2007, but that's only a judgement on paper.

Okay, the defence is still a worry, but we have possibly the best midfield in the division - I really don't doubt that Lloyd Sam, Zheng Zyi, Andy Reid and Jerome Thomas could make it in the top flight (again). Darren Ambrose? Maybe. But then all of those players have some previous experience with us. It was a bit of a jolt to the system to discover last week that Pards feared Andy Reid would be poached in the transfer window - now that opens up some possibilities.

Up front, we've not seen the best of Luke Varney yet. Big Chris is the interesting one - at 29, is he really top division material? The real answer is it doesn't bloody matter - he's dynamite in this league, and he'll be a worthy addition to any Premiership squad if he keeps this up.

What we do have, though, is spirit - something lacking in last season's squad, especially after the sacking of Iain Dowie almost a year ago. Did we have the personalities to keep us up last season? Judging by Fat Eddie Murphy lolloping around in a Cardiff kit on Saturday, no.

But have we got the personalities to get us up this time around? It's coming together, definitely. We'll know after Christmas - what'll happen if we get knocked out of the Cup by some minnow? Or face a "glamour" tie and the chance to beat a top-tier side? Those tests are yet to come - it's still too early to even contemplate what'd happen if we went up.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Spanking Cardiff

A whole day's passed since our satisfying win over Cardiff - good, wasn't it? I was a little surprised at how poor Cardiff were, but it was great to see us finally get into our stride at The Valley. Good also, to see Sam Sodje get on the scoresheet - he's a player who's steadily improved over the weeks, while Zheng Zyi's goal will help him forget a few indifferent performances.

In fact, I found myself wondering early in the second half if it was time for ZZ to be given a rest - he always seems to be just too late for balls, or not using enough power when he did get them. But then he seemed to pick up his game, I began to appreciate the amount of donkey-work he actually does for us, and pow! - he got that third goal.

Plus, of course, there was the sterling work by Big Chris and Andy Reid - I hope their international endeavours don't take it out of them in the next couple of weeks. And while it seems to go against Pards' attacking instincts, we ain't too bad in his version of 4-5-1, and we can still play some decent stuff.

West Brom might knock us off our perch tomorrow, but at least that bad spell we went through's well and truly out of our system. Hopefully the break won't have the same effect when we play Preston in two weeks. At the end of the match, I looked around for the old git behind me who kept booing Chris at the QPR game. Guess what? He'd buggered off early, clearly not hanging around to give the team the ovation they richly deserved. The worst thing about supporting Charlton, too many times, is Charlton fans...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Arise Sir Chris

Get here, sign it, pass it around, tell your friends. Then tell them again.

Let's make sure Chrissy Powell gets his dues.

Chris Powell of Charlton Athletic is one of those rare breed of football players who works hard both on and off the pitch, for the same reason: enjoyment.

His work in the community is legendary, and what better example to the football world is there, than the man who makes so many community visits, and so many friends.

He has never once been questioned of his loyalty to the club or its fans, so much so, that he has been re-signed for Charlton on no fewer than three occasions.

It is his attitude to life, the community and his peers that make him the nicest footballer in the land, and the one with the biggest heart.

We'd like the government to recognise his hard work through bestowing a knighthood on him, to make Chris Charlton's first "sir".

(NB: This is the place to go to OFFICIALLY nominate someone for an honour.)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Big Chris heads for sainthood

Crikey - now that was a bit good, wasn't it? Somehow I feel a bit more envious of the 600-odd who went way out west to see Chris Iwelumo twist himself around to head home yet another last-minute winner. Because that was a bit special.

And no reaction was better than that of this poster on Charlton Life...

Amazing. Iwelumo scored and my wife (and I) felt the baby kick for the 1st time. No joke. I thought that she was shouting at me (from bed) to stop cheering but she'd felt the baby move for the first time. I joined her and could feel it too. Iwelumo is magic!!!

Great stuff. Of course, let's just pause to remember that the preceding 90 minutes sounded like a litany of missed chances, but away from The Valley of jeers we came good in the end. I hope these two away results mean we get behind the team on Saturday - and stay behind them.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Confessions of an obvious part-timer

So, yeah, I missed a win at Southampton on Saturday - but we'd only have lost if I'd have gone, so it was for the best. But seriously, it's great to hear of Big Chris doing the business, especially considering the grief he was getting from assorted fuckwits at The Valley against QPR. And you know what I keep on saying? When Andy Reid plays well, we all play well... on the downside, Jose Semedo's sending-off is a blow, but at least this means we can give Therry Racon a go in his place.

Hopefully we can do the same against Bristol City, but a win at Ashton Gate's going to be a tough ask, with Gary Johnson's team second behind Watford. Johnson's motivational skills have worked their wonders with defender Liam Fontaine, who grabbed his first senior goal after the City boss said he'd bare his bum in the window of Burton's if he scored. Commentary is on Five Live Sports Extra, thank heavens.

I saw a little bit of West Ham's draw with Bolton yesterday - which followed some strange comments from Alan Curbishley about our match against West Ham in February...

"That was rock bottom as far as I was concerned,” he said. “After the send-off Charlton had given me, when 26,000 gave me a standing ovation, I was getting slagged off by the same people and the West Ham lot too. It was horrible.” (more)

I don't recall much slagging-off of Curbs at the time from us. I wonder why he said that?

Friday, November 02, 2007

St Mary's prayer

Now, I've got a confession to make. I'm not going to Southampton.

I don't like the ground, it's a pain to get to, I don't know that many people who are going, I don't like the ground, I've just been landed with a dentist's bill to pay, I'd rather watch the fireworks on Blackheath, it takes ages to get to, and I don't like the ground.

And my last couple of away trips - to Coventry and to Wolves - have been so staggeringly underwhelming, I may have been scarred for life. So I'm giving this one a rest, and putting the cash towards, er, paying a nice lady in a white coat at the top of the road. In fact, with commentary restricted to Radio Kent's medium wave frequency (cheers, lads), I'm likely to hear little of the match at all.

But ticket sales have been healthy, and I really hope it's the right sort of turn-out - loud, supportive, and buzzing. If it's full of blanket-wielding moaners, it'll all just go wrong from the start. So if you're going, I'll have my fingers crossed for you. And I hope Jason Euell gets a decent reception from you lot, for he's a good lad who gave a shit about us, unlike some the arseholes who replaced him.

As for the team... we've had a week, the boos from Saturday will still be ringing in their ears, and Andy Reid's hopefully had a rest. Fingers crossed that they'll be a bit more lively tomorrow.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Charlton 0-1 QPR

Proper reports: BBC Sport,, Sporting Life, Sky Sports,

A load of old crap, resulting in a deserved win for the so-called Super Hoops of west London. And an indication that something has gone seriously wrong with our promotion push. (Or, as I just typed, "pish".)

But what?

It's hard to say. In the first half, I thought we looked a better side than the one which did so poorly against Plymouth - Lloyd Sam's return to midfield had settled us, and while Grant Basey had a few things to learn pretty quickly, he did okay as an emergency left-back and will improve with experience.

The turning point? It has to be in Pards' hands - taking off Jose Semedo at half-time. A defensive midfielder replaced by showboating second division winger Jerome Thomas? Strange. And that opinion came by text from a QPR mate watching on telly in Dublin. A voice in my ear closer to home suggested during the first half that Therry Racon would provide a livelier option. Whatever, Semedo wasn't doing much wrong, but if he had to go, then surely it should have been for the enthusiasm of Racon rather than a relative lightweight like Thomas. To to be fair, he's admitted his mistake.

And so it was that Adam Bolder scored an easy one in the 72nd minute, sending the Hoops into raptures and the Addicks into despair. It could have been worse, too, were it not for Martin Rowlands' comical penalty crashing off the post earlier.

So what has gone wrong? We started off badly after the international break and our confidence has plummeted since then. In particular, our front two look like they need counselling. In general, our strength as a team has evaporated over the past four weeks. Has there been some kind of falling out? Is there something we don't know?

And, once again, the crowd at The Valley doesn't help. I sometimes wonder exactly what Charlton fans expect to see. Sometimes I think back to the Charlton I knew as a kid, or as some bigot comedian from Kidbrooke would have hit, "Charlton nil", and I wonder if they's what they actually really enjoy, a chance for a good moan. One sad old specimen behind me only really got animated when Chris Iwulemo got substituted - he'd been moaning all game, and took great pleasure in condemning the big man as "shit". How quickly things change.

And it spreads like a disease. Booing the team off may have been justified, but it started before then. And when you see small kids dishing out wanker signs at our own team, I had to pinch myself and check that I wasn't standing in White Hart Lane. Yes, last season the likes of Marcus Bent and that fat fraud Hasselbaink deserved every little bit of abuse they got. But this lot? Seriously? Get real.

The scenes today reminded me of a visit to another London club. And, funnily enough, it was in the home ends at QPR, back in the 90s, when we beat them in the League Cup. And that was before QPR were relegated to the third division. If we want that to happen to our team, our fans are going the right way about it. We need to rebuild from here - and the fans have got to be as much a part of it as the team and the manager.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Todorov out for the season

As if to underline Rob Styles' sheer incompetence on Tuesday, it's been confirmed that Svetoslav Todorov is out for the rest of the season after the injury he sustained during the match, rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament and fracturing his knee. Styles issued 10 cards during that match, but Krisztian Timar didn't see yellow for the tackle which did that - which even surprised Ian Holloway.

It's clearly a blow - and for a player with a history of injuries, it's a terrible thing to happen. While he's not always been first choice up front, we've benefited from his experience and we'll miss him coming off the bench.

So where are our options up front? Chris Iwelumo's not had a happy couple of matches up front, but we know he's capable of doing a lot. The same applies to Luke Varney, who's taken longer to settle in than we might have hoped. Beyond those two... can we recall Chris Dickson from Gillingham? This may be time for the ex-Dulwich Hamlet star to really show what he's made of. It's an outside bet, but James Walker's out on loan at Yeovil, although he's due to stay there until the end of the year. Or will be see Zheng Zhi nudged a little further up front?

Not a decision I'd like to make - over to you, Pards...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Charlton 1-2 Plymouth

Proper reports: Sporting Life, BBC Sport,

So, who was it said the Championship was a refreshing change, eh? Hands up, let's see you...

Well, although this must in no way be allowed to detract from a poor Charlton performance - Plymouth had a game plan, stuck to it, and deserved to win the match, it was an agent from the World's Most Exciting League (TM) who royally buggered up the match for anyone with the misfortune to have paid good money to watch it tonight.

Step forward our old friend Rob Styles, dumped into the second tier while his fellow Top Name Referees were fancy-danning it in the European Big Cup.

For in the Championship, we've become used to a different sort of referee. One who only takes action if he really has to. It's frustrating because you can find yourself being roughed up, but generally you get used to the style of play and can judge what you can get away with and what you can't. In fact, we've had a couple of decent refs at The Valley so far this season.

But remember the Premier League? Refs who stuck to the letter of the law... but only on occasion? The maddening inconsistency? The irritating pedantry? Rob Styles brought all that and more to The Valley tonight, dishing out 10 red cards (including Todorov, McLeod, Bougherra, Moutaouakil, Mills and Sodje), imagining fouls that weren't, denying corners that were, and holding up the match for so long in the first half that it seemed as if we'd be lucky if we were out by midnight. By 80 minutes, we looked scared to make a tackle. Just like the old days, then.

Yet was this really more of a bad-tempered affair than your average second division match? Despite the antics of veteran clot Barry Hayles and fat-arsed Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, not until Styles got involved.

Styles received such abuse from the crowd that I understand he's asked for a police escort to leave The Valley - a request that's rightly been refused by the club. If this was a game in his home league, he'd be under at least some scrutiny. It's likely this tin-pot official will get away with this scot-free, which isn't going to make life any easier for the less well-known refs who usually work in this league.

Our first home defeat in six months was, though, largely of our own making. I don't think Alan Pardew will be starting us with a 4-3-3 formation again. Chris Iwelumo missed precious chances, while Luke Varney's looking worryingly shaky. Andy Reid looks like he's crying out for a rest, while Yassin Moutouakil didn't shine at right-back. It was Danny Mills who led by example, and it was his efforts that led to our goal, the ball farcically coming off Argyle keeper Luke McCormick. Without him, where would we be now?

Where we are now is sixth, where we were second on Saturday morning. Yes, this shows how tight this league is. If we want to get out of it in the right direction, we can't afford to be this weak and disorganised.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Fed to the Wolves

I don't think I can add anything to what's already been said about Saturday's defeat at Wolves - as mentioned elsewhere, we're not going to win every game in this division, and so we should at least come away from that defeat having learned a few lessons. Like "defend properly". Wolves weren't exactly on fire, and nor were we. In fact, the edginess of the first half reminded me of a Premier League match, where the teams are too scared to do anything.

I just came away cursing international breaks - Andy Reid played poorly, so the rest of team was dragged down by that. And there's very little time to rest or learn new tricks before Plymouth come to The Valley. Such is life. And with Southampton, Stoke, Plymouth, Barnsley, West Brom and Wolves all within three points of us, it'll be a hairy match.

Still, result and match aside, I actually enjoyed Molineux, a PROPER GROUND in a city centre with a proper crowd and proper atmosphere (even if they spent most of it lambasting Danny Mills). The 1,000 Charlton fans were spread along a long strip at the foot of the Steve Bull Stand, guaranteeing no atmosphere whatsoever. As fans, one to forget. Hopefully, the team won't.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

'Where's Jay?'

You know what? I'm such a Johnny-come-lately that I've never been to Molineux. That'll change in a few hours, for I'm munching the breakfast of champions and about to set off north. I'm praying Andy Reid is fit, but I'm also disturbed by the series of dreams I had in the night where I was going about my business where people kept coming up to me and saying "There's Jay Bothroyd"? That's me staying off the Sam Smith's lager, then. Freddy Eastwood could be more of a threat, mind.

It's going to be a very tough match - if we come out of this with a win, you can stuff your rugby because I'll be dancing in the streets of Euston. We shall see...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Llanera collapses

BBC Radio Kent is reporting that our sponsors Llanera have filed for bankruptcy, the second sponsor in just over two years to go tits-up after Allsports tanked in 2005. Thankfully Northern Rock are already tied in with Newcastle, and the firm is believed to have already paid its sponsorship cash for this season, meaning our exposure to the crisis is limited (and if we get promoted, it probably won't matter anyway).

Can't say I'll miss the endless pushing of naff Costa Del Sidcup developments (wonder what happens to the bloke who won the home last season?) but there's always room for their ultra-keen comedy Spaniard boss should we feel the need for a new pitchside announcer (come on, why is Warrington Pete still there?)

The international break and the rugby (which I'm weirdly immune to) mean this is a quiet weekend for us, although with Andy Reid in action for Ireland this weekend, it's worth noting his bar/venue The Runner is now open for business in Nottingham.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Some thoughts on the Barnsley match

Of course, a competent blogger wouldn't have gone out after the Barnsley game and got so wrecked that he couldn't string a sentence together after returning home, but what do you come here for? Trenchant analysis?

Anyway, of course I'm a bit frustrated after the match, but look at it another way - we were arguably lucky to get the point. I thought Barnsley were the best side to come to The Valley so far this season - well-organised, defended excellently and actually came to play football. Sure, they were weedy up front, but then all that changed after they nicked that 90th minute equaliser, and the five minutes of added time was a complete panic-fest. Fair play to 'em.

Whereas we're a bit narrow, shoving everything through Reid or ZZ in the middle... and boy, we were hesitant in front of that goal in the first half.

But results went with us (cheers Southampton for beating West Brom) and we remain second, albeit in King Aidy's lengthing Hornets-shaped shadow. It's a good position to be in, and there's a lot of work to do so far. We've had a lot of luck, but also displayed a lot of skill. And we're getting our reward for it.

It's also a big test up at Wolves in a fortnight - hopefully we'll have learned some lessons, be rested, and be up for it. And now I'm going back to the pub.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Up and down with the Tykes

Just to stop us getting carried away with being near the top of the table, Barnsley are next up at The Valley.

We last played them at home on the first game of the 1999/2000 season, when Craig Hignett's highlights lit up the The Valley like a Morrisons David Beckham. We'd just gone down, their Premier League stint came the season before ours.

It was also the day I decided, "bugger it, I can afford it now, and now they're down there'll be seats going. Let's watch Charlton again". We beat them, won the league, they slipped up in the play-offs. And then things went wrong for them.

Down to the third tier in 2002. Administration. The ITV Digital fiasco. Fans got set for the worst - setting up AFC Barnsley, just in case. It got worse - PETER BLOODY RIDSDALE turned up for a year. Mind you, Sasa Ilic did play in goal for them for a bit. I saw him let in four at QPR one night.

Then, somehow, salvation. A decent manager in the shape of Andy Ritchie. A play-off spot. A trip to the finals. Promotion on penalties.

But old habits die hard. They sacked Ritchie after a poor start to the season, and got walloped 7-0 by West Brom on the last day of last season. But they stayed up.

And here they are now, with the Oakwell rollercoaster taking an unusual turn - fourth in the league under current boss Simon Davey. They tonked Bristol City 3-0 during the week, and held handy teams like Stoke and Colchester to draws.

But they're still evidence any idiot can run a football club into the ground - see the stupid row they've had with the BBC over demanding more money for commentary rights (in an area where a radio station could easily broadcast a 24/7 diet of Blades and Owls).

Why bring all this up? It's just a reminder of what we could have been if we hadn't been such a well-run club. And that's given us security they don't have at Oakwell - so even if it does go horribly wrong tomorrow, well, we had to slip up some time.

But me, I'm looking forward to it. And with Lloyd Sam out, Jerome Thomas is going to come back, chastened and hard-working, and he's going to play a blinder. Isn't he?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

It's ticking over nicely

Three points and a job done at the KC Stadium last night, and a mysterious ten minutes of addled time* which sent me to the edge of the All Quiet sick chair (it's the Coventry cold, a nasty bug caught from all the sick buildings up there.) Indeed, the commentator on BBC London seemed to be pleading for mercy at the end of the match.

The main talking point's going to be the sending-off - Lloyd Sam joining the charmless Ian Ashbee for an early bath after the latter's agricultural tackle. The Tigers player who greeted Sam by trying to push him over, immediately before all hell seemed to break lose, went unpunished.

Of course, this is all too much for Hull manager Phil Brown, outraged at those BIG BAD CHARLTON BULLIES: ""The sport suffered tonight and I certainly won't be advocating the way the game was played to my players." (more)

Well, not until the weekend, anyway. Pards is outraged that "smiley boy" Sam saw red, and planned to appeal, although the FA are now making a mountain of this particular molehill by launching an investigation.

Amid all this noise, it's too easy to ignore that this was a great win for us. Let's face it, Hull are an inferior team. But they'll try to bully their way to victory. We stood firm, and prevailed. It was less of a match than a team bonding exercise, and we came through it fine. In fact, this season seems to be going to plan - early set-back, win in unwanted derby, a couple of tough draws, three points at some rough-house in East Yorkshire and our first mass brawl in yonks.

This week's story's not yet over - West Brom play Stoke tonight (a draw, please), and then we face fourth-placed (yes!) Barnsley on Saturday before another international break. Signing off this little bit of the season in the top two would be great stuff.

And it'd show the likes of Phil Brown just where he can shove his football theories, eh?

(* I'm keeping that error in there, it seems to sum it up quite nicely...)

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Coventry 1-1 Charlton

Is there a place on earth that is worse than Coventry? Is there a more ill-planned stadium than the Ricoh arena, designed for cars and cars alone? Conceived while they were still a top-tier club, the Sky Blues' ground would probably suit the do-as-you're-told Premier League, but it looks half-full in the Championship of Dreams, every chant echoing around the place, reminding the ground's tenants just what they haven't got.

For Iain Dowie's new side lack class, but he's instilled a siege mentality there that sees a limited team keep on going until they batter opponents into submission. Danny Mills' perfect first-half cross for Lloyd Sam's goal stunned the home team, ensuring we were on top in the first period.

But the pressure wore us down in the second half, and we seemed to tire visibly in the final ten minutes, with the defence all over the place. Their goal, in hindsight, was probably inevitable. Luke Varney had a quiet game and was replaced by Izale McLeod, who badly lacks confidence and didn't get much support in his forays up front.

How did Big Chris miss that sitter at the end? And what the hell was that final corner about? How bad was the refereeing again? Our luck had ran out. Danny Mills was awesome again - could we prosper without him?

It was a match which raised a few questions - but we got a point, and hopefully we can start to answer some of those questions and learn a few lessons. Win at home and drawing away's not a bad way to carry on in this league, you know.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Send Kelvin to Coventry

So, what did I miss while I was away? As Stuart's already mentioned, a League Cup defeat to Luton which was duly shrugged off by Pards like a bit of a fluff on a suit - "Nobody would remember it if we reached the quarter finals and finished eighth in the league.” Quite. Not sure how I'd feel if I'd forked out to have travelled to Luton to see a second-string team play, but hopefully this won't affect our morale ahead of Coventry - since I've forked out to go there...

Me, I was in Hamburg, investigating the cult of left-wing side FC St Pauli, which resulted in me failing to get a ticket for their match that night against Borussia Monchengladbach - space is hard to come by while their Millentor ground is being redeveloped, so I found myself in a nearby bar watching the match with a load of black-clad crusties. Maybe it was for the best, for St Pauli lost 3-0 to the league leaders, but it was an intriguing introduction to a club that's probably unique in western Europe and a fan culture that, for good or ill, simply does not exist in England.

It was picking up a couple of souvenirs in the club shop (passing on the club cigarettes) a couple of days later that I heard news of a Charlton fan that'd rather wear drag than be seen dead around a side like St Pauli - Kelvin MacKenzie.

The ex-Sun editor's been a Charlton fan since he, er, ditched Millwall in supposed disgust at their support sometime in the late 1990s. Over the past year, he's kept a column in his old paper in which he bangs on about stories he's read in the Daily Mail - a kind of hidden rebuke to the staff of the paper he left 13 years ago. And he's also been wheezing on about Charlton.

Thursday's column saw him weigh into the trouble surrounding the Crystal Palace match four weeks ago. I'm indebted to Charlton Life for the text...

Thanks to the Chief Executive of Charlton, Peter Varney, I have learned of a shocking ambush of law-abiding fans by a gang of thugs from Crystal Palace.

The Charlton fans – mainly families – were making their way to the ground by train from London Bridge to Norwood Junction when the train stopped at Sydenham.

About 25 louts boarded the train and began attacking Charlton fans immediately.


There has always been fierce rivalry between the two clubs – Charlton put them down from the Premiership a couple of years back – but there has never been this kind of violence.

The answer must lie in the orange-u-tan Simon Jordan, who is the current owner of Crystal Palace.

Jordan has been consistently attacking the Charlton fans, rederring to them as imbeciles and morons.

This, of course, leads to the violent element of a football club – and every club has one – believing they have been given the go-ahead from the boardroom to physically attack the rivals.

So I hope you are proud of yourself this morning, Mr Jordan. A child with a broken nose, terrified families on an innocent day out - and all because you couldn't keep you big gob shut.

The last thing we need, frankly, is this sad old has-been trying to stir up more bad feeling between us and Palace, a month after we played them.

I really hope he's taken journalistic licence and has quoted Varney from a programme rather than personal contact - because Kelvin MacKenzie is no friend of Charlton Athletic. He's a Millwall fan who ditched his team when they were in terrible straits and we were on the up. (In fact, it's been suggested he adopted Millwall as his team to give himself kudos as a swaggering young hack.) Why this sudden concern for us? Because talking football in his column helps him look like a man of the people. Talking about violence too... except he's four weeks late with it.

And, of course, this is the man who lied about the Hillsborough disaster. And still isn't man enough to apologise. Like some old embarrasing racist grandad, MacKenzie can't help repeating the slurs of the past because he's too small-minded to know about anything else.

His newspaper career was founded on shit-stirring - a handy quality as a tabloid editor, but when innocent families are getting attacked by Palace "fans" on trains, the last thing they need is this dinosaur weighing in, making matters worse. We don't need vermin like Kelvin MacKenzie attaching himself to our club. And I hope those in charge of our club have the good sense to disassociate themselves from him.

In short - Kelvin, fuck off and shut up, would you?

(Next week: some thoughts on Jim Davidson.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

We are concentrating on the league

Luton 3 - Charlton 1 (AET)

A shadow Charlton side succumbed meekly to League One Luton Town after extra time at Kenilworth Road.

It started well with a goal for debut boy Dean Sinclair after just four minutes. From then on it was pretty much all downhill, with the Hatters bossing the game and Izale Mcleod shanking at last four good chances.

Unsurprisingly perhaps Pardew didn't seem that fussed. A team showing ten changes from Saturday took the field, and he seemingly put Jon Fortune on upfront after we went two-one down in extra time.

Frankly the best thing to have come out of the night was the start of a new series of the peerless Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe.

I'm off to sulk. A very short report can be found on the Beeb.

Monday, September 24, 2007

JT: Stop taking the P

Good to see Pards in the papers this morning, reading the riot act to Jerome Thomas, arrested but not charged after an incident in Bournemouth earlier this month. Turns out he's also playing the Billy big-bollocks at Sparrows Lane.

"He wasn't picked because of his mindset at training. It's got nothing to do with off-field activities.

"It's more about what happens on the field and the discipline that's needed at this level.

"He needs to learn quickly there's a certain etiquette at this club in how we react when we lose and how we congratulate each other when win - that's why he's not involved at the minute."

Shame, because last season he was a player that Pards was backing vocally - and look how JT is repaying him. Of course, our performances show he's not needed. I'm probably the 1,000th person to say this, but who needs Thomas when we've got Lloyd Sam giving us his all? As Frankie sayeth...

"Lloyd Sam is not the finished article yet, but he's fast, he's tricky, he's direct, he's full of energy, and he's a Charlton type. Everything Jerome Thomas used to be before he turned into a preening tosser.

Hopefully we'll be seeing a lot more of Lloyd Sam in the future - and a lot less of Jerome Thomas."

Aye to that.

I'm off for a few days, and am hoping to post from some terracing in Germany tomorrow, if someone can sort me out with a ticket. Failing that, Stuart has his "it's only the League Cup, it doesn't" matter words all lined up for as soon as the final whistle goes at Kenilworth Road. Don't you, Stuart? In the meantime, auf wiedersehen...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Charlton 2-0 Leicester

A crap game, with Leicester easily the worst team to have visited The Valley in many years - Gary Megson's not been in charge long, but he's a job on his hands if he's going to make that steaming pile of cack shine.

As for us... we did it pretty professionally, Big Chris and Luke Varney scoring from close range in the first half, generally the team worked well, although we lived off our wits in the second half as we started to flag a bit. We've a punishing schedule of matches right now, with Luton, Coventry, Hull and Barnsley all out to test us in the next fortnight - it's imperative we stay up to the pace.

What concerns me a little is that easy wins like that could make us complacent - yes, I know you don't give a monkey's about Luton (nor do I, I won't even be in the country) but if a loss against Luton damages morale ahead of Coventry, which is going to be our first really big game of the season, then that's going to be a bad thing.

But Pards is alert to this, promising to shuffle the pack and maybe bring back Matt Holland and Yassin Moutaouakil for the League Cup clash. In the nicest possible way, I hope they give him a selection headache for next Saturday...

So, second we are, with Watford getting a draw at QPR, and Bristol City failing to go top thanks to an injury-time equaliser from Burnley. The table's starting to take shape around us, and you can start to see the real quality in this league and compare us with the others - we're outplaying teams quite comfortably, while Watford and Bristol City might have come in different directions, but they're both tidy sides under great managers. And don't forget West Brom, who punched the wind out of Scunthorpe's sails today and are now third behind us. We've averaged a very healthy two points per game - 16 reasons to be cheerful, I reckon.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Charlton sponsor curse goes on...

From the Financial Times...

The international credit squeeze claimed its first victim in Spain on Thursday as Llanera, a Valencian real estate group, admitted it was in emergency talks with its creditor banks in an attempt to stave off bankruptcy.

A spokesman for the company told the Financial Times it was seeking to renegotiate €300m ($419bn, £209bn) in debt owed to suppliers and local savings banks in Valencia – a popular holiday destination for north Europeans.

“We have a liquidity crisis and we are talking to our banks in order to avoid filing for protection from creditors,” Llanera said on Thursday. The company blamed a slowdown in the Spanish property market for its predicament.

It's been rumoured for a while, this. Heaven knows what it means for us, but hopefully the club will say something. They've got their fingers in many pies in Valencia (even backing an orchestra), and over here also back London Irish rugby club. The deal was said to be worth up to £6.6m in the Premiership.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Road and rail hassles for Saturday

Proving the only safe way to get to The Valley is to walk...

- Greenwich Council has decided to make Greenwich car-free-day this Saturday, rather than a Sunday which it usually is.

It'll mean part of the Greenwich one-way system is closed, which is going to screw up the A206 something chronic. You have been warned.

Shame, because on a Sunday it's usually a good little event, but clearly the flickering Greenwich Council brain cell has failed again. Duuuuuh.

- Just to encourage you to use public transport, there are fewer trains to Charlton on Saturday (six per hour instead of eight) and none at all from the Medway Towns - more details here.

Joined-up thinking? Forget it.

Morts and Sasa are City Addicks

A tad late with this, but if you fancy a pint in the company of Paul Mortimer and Sasa Ilic, then City Addicks is your place to be - it's free, it's a good laugh, and it's on Thursday evening at the Trump Tavern, just off Cheapside. More details here.

And guess what? I won't be there because I'm seeing Prince instead. So you'd better go, because how else am I going to find out what happened?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Charlton 2-0 Norwich

Well, it was a long time in coming - Norwich didn't so much park the bus but park cattle all over the Valley pitch tonight, and while we dominated the match, it was hard to break them down. Especially as the Canaries appeared to decided to elbow their way through the game in the second half, senior pros Darren Huckerby and Dion Dublin getting involved in their own little battles with Danny Mills.

It was a test of character that we sailed through, mind - Monty Panesar-a-like ref Singh missed a few penalty shouts, and was looking the other way as Dublin brought Chris Iwelumo down in front of goal, conveniently ignored by the lousy linesman in front of the East Stand. It just wasn't cricket, and with Andy Reid looking like he couldn't hit the proverbial cow's arse, it was all looking set for a frustrating 0-0 draw.

Until... Pardew replaced the impressive Luke Varney with Izale McLeod, who was then brought down by balding Spurs reject Gary Doherty. Cue a long-overdue penalty, which Reid fired home. 1-0.

Sixty seconds later, McLeod is felled again, and he flings himself rather handily into the box. No nerves this time - Reid fires home another one.

And just to rub it in, Dublin got a deserved straight red for fouling Mills as the 90 minutes were up - and then tried to wait in the tunnel afterwards... mad to see how a team full of supposedly wise heads could lose it like that.

But we stayed together - and kept a clean sheet. It was pure slapstick at times, and we're not world-beaters yet. But with Bristol City on top of the league right now, it's proof that the game's still wide open for the team that works hard enough. This sets us up nicely for Saturday - let's hope we can build a little bit of a run off this result.

Alistair John stabbed

Disturbing news from Stevenage, where our former young winger Alistair John, who joined the Conference side after being released during the summer, is in a comfortable condition in hospital after being stabbed outside his home.

Chairman Phil Wallace told his club's website: "We don't quite know the full details of what happened yet.

"Only that Ally left his house to go outside to see a group of people, was stabbed and staggered back inside.

"The reports we've had are that he's in hospital but in no danger and that no organs have been damaged, so we're relieved to hear that above all else." (more)

Of course, another one of our ex-kids, Kevin Lisbie, had a far more satisfying weekend, knocking one past us at Colchester. Good to read his generous comments in Monday's papers, though - interesting to note the comparison between us in the early 90s and the Us now...

Most big clubs have got big training grounds, big stadiums and everything, so they sometimes get caught up in that, but here we just concentrate on football," the Colchester striker said. "It's like when I first got to Charlton, exactly the same as that. We're a very good side and we just enjoy playing. We know what we've got and we'll work at it, and we go into every game looking to win it." (more)

Norwich tonight - under Pards' old assistant Peter Grant these days - and hopefully I'll be in full voice after being knocked out with a cold yesterday. They're only a point behind us in the incredibly-tight Championship table - it's important we see them off. You can read more previews of the match than you'll ever need at the East Anglia Daily Press site.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Return of the ropey defence

I wasn't at Colchester - couldn't get a ticket - so ended up following the match via WAP while taking in the sunshine. A 2-2 draw seems respectable to me, they're a difficult team and that new young striker they've got - Lisbie? - seems a handful. Imagine what such a promising talent could have done for us, eh?

But it seems to be that defence again - Tuesday night's match against Norwich feels set to be another rollercoaster if we don't sort things out sharpish. News of injuries to Todorov and Big Chris is also worrying. We can only come back from 2-0 deficits so many times, can't we?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Oh what an atmosphere...

And there was me thinking, "Ooooh, better update the website, haven't done anything with it since last weekend." International breaks when your team's in the second-tier are even quieter than they are when you're in The Most Exciting League In The World (TM). And, if, like me, you're club-over-country, then there's been the happy memories from Crystal Palace to sustain us. Aaaah....

But not everyone had happy memories - Charlton fans were attacked on a train at Sydenham station on the way to the match, and there's a high-profile police appeal for information. Less high-profile is what's happened to an 11-year-old boy caught up in the violence - the club managed to track him down, and he's going to walk out with the team at a home match soon.

On an odder note, the official site's barmy Your Views section rocked to the sound of people complaining about the raucous atmosphere at the game. "What is this necessity to stand up?", asked one old coot, while another came out with something straight out of the Daily Mail...

Eventually we all have to wake up and realise that during my lifetime (70 years ) we have allowed standards of behaviour to slide inexorably downhill.
My wife and I went recently to see with great anticipation the show Billy Elliot in London, having enjoyed the film.
We were astonished to find that the "F" word was used throughout, often by young children, without adding anything whatsoever to the show.

Priceless. Mind you, I understand the boot was on the other foot for England fans on Saturday, with Wembley Stadium packed full of families who buggered off after about 75 minutes - a pal told me he was in front of a woman who spent the match feeding her baby?

But where do you draw the line? Where's the balance? And on a related note, the old debate about ticket priorities reared its head again last week when Colchester tickets sold out - with Valley Gold members given first dibs. The club are going to desperately need to sort out some kind of priority system, because if the season continues the way we hope it does, this row is going to come up again and again.

Anyhow, and there I was in the kitchen just now, thinking what a shame it was the reserves are now at Northfleet, because I wouldn't have minded popping down to see Luke Varney's appearance tonight. And guess what the result was? We beat Southampton 8-4, with Varney getting a hat-trick. It's looking good...

Sunday, September 02, 2007

A Palace postscript

So there I was today, in my local, watching the Aston Villa v Chelsea match, and one of the other regulars walks up to me.

"That bloke over there, that's..."

Sod off is it! And I let him be. A few minutes later. a volunteer wanted over to the bloke over there. And it was...

It was bloody Andy Reid!

He was out to watch the All-Ireland hurling final with a couple of mates, and stayed on to chat and sing (yes, sing!) with a load of people.

And guess what? He's a really nice, smart, clued-up chap. And he can sing, too. He's a real pleasure to chat to, and I'm still a bit thrilled now. He's a class act, and meeting him was a fabulous way to round off a great weekend.

By contrast, Simon Jordan has been bragging about his wealth in the Sunday Times. None of that would buy a tenth of Reidy's class...

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Crystal Palace 0-1 Charlton

I still can't wipe this grin off my face. It could have been positively lethal in the petrol station off Holmesdale Road, SE25, as I refuelled on the way to the longest 202 ride home in history. But the only other customers were Charlton fans, and the lads behind the counter seemed as interested in their local club as the bloke who lives next to Selhurst Park who supports Liverpool, who beamed as broadly to us this afternoon as he did on that December afternoon in 2004.

But one crucial thing was different this afternoon. Our team's reaction to our win. We celebrated like our lives had depended on it. Andy Reid went wild. Fuck Premiership niceties, this was a Championship battle, and we prevailed. The difference between the Pards class of '07 and the Curbs class of '04 was clear. And it augurs well for the future.

Was starting with just Big Chris up front wise? I don't know. Todorov's introduction in the second half changed the game, but maybe Palace's "committed" style of play could have overwhelmed a 4-4-2 Charlton. As it was, it was an even first half, and we grew in confidence in the second half, before Toddy lifted the ball over Darius Danesh in the Palace goal.

Andy Reid was a hero, Danny Mills was just great - I can't tell you how good it is to have him back in a Charlton shirt. And Sir Chris Powell? His experience shone through. Let's face it, we were great. And let that be an end to it. (I'll forget the scary end to the match when we wobbled, it might wipe the smile off my face.)

Coming home, I borrowed a programme from the kids on the bus as we inched through Sydenham. The "view from the stands" bit at the back droned on about us not being real rivals, drivelled on about our time at Selhurst and then trotted out the old fiction that "the more magnaminous Charlton fans would admit that we helped save their club" (or something like that).

Which, 20 years on, we know is bullshit. Nothing more, nothing less. It is fiction.

And yet Palace are still content to trot out this crap in their programme. And if they keep on doing that, they're going to be nothing more than scum in my eyes.

I'm glad we tramped them back down into the dirt today. Now, it's time to celebrate...

Derby day blues

Now, if this was a normal matchday Saturday, I'd be beaming. I'd be effervescent if I could spell the word. We've done some great bits of dealing in the transfer window.

OUT! goes Amady Faye, to the team the Guardian's Fiver mailout calls the Pope's O'Rangers. Despite sporadic flashes of talent, that's another waster off our wage bill. Funny, of course, how your reward for helping a team go down is a ticket to the Champions League, but that's modern football for you. I heard an unsubstantiated rumour during the summer he'd actually gone missing for a short while. Worth noting too that his agent is the charmless Willie McKay. Curiously, Newcastle's website still lists him as a player...

FACK ORF! to Marcus Bent, who can think about his cock in the more pleasant surroundings of Wigan, some 205 miles away from Chinawhite. Curbs' last and arguably worst-value signing, he is living proof of the decline of the Premier League into greed and vanity. Slappers of the north - you know where to go. Hope he gets the clap.

And it's HELLO AGAIN! to Danny Mills, on loan from Human Rights FC. I'm really thrilled about this. He was great in the late-90s, and his sale in 1999 gave us the funds to invest and plot our way back to the Premier League. Not only will he shore up our iffy defence, but judging from his appearances on Radio Five Live last season, he sounds like a decent chap as well.

And it's a big Addicks WELCOME! to Sam Sodje, on loan from Reading, but possibly better known for his heroics at Brentford a couple of years back. And he's got that Sodje brand of quality. Good stuff.

(Incidentally, Danny Murphy finally escaped his Tottenham hell (oh, the heart bleeds) by going to Fulham, home to Alexei Smertin. Fulham's relegation clock can start ticking...)

And now, onto today. Lots of people are getting excited about our trip to Palace - I'm not. I'd rather not be there. For a start, I'm a lover, not a fighter, and I tend to get irritated by people rubbing their hands and declaring something a bit "tasty" or a bit "naughty". I don't want to go there. They're below us. I'd rather not have to visit their third-division dump. But this is what relegation is about. And this, is what we have to do.

But what's this afternoon really going to be about? It's going to be about travelling to a shithole of a football ground, being harrassed by the police and taking hours to get home. Of course, the Met Police would rather put 500 extra officers on than move it to an early or Sunday kick-off, and would rather send out threatening letters to fans who've had minor brushes with them advising them "not to travel to Croydon" (er, so South Norwood's okay) than concentrate on doing anything to avoid ramping this bloody fixture up.

And, frankly, I don't really want to give Simon Jordan the satisfaction of having his name sung loudly by opposing fans. We're Charlton. We're better than them. I couldn't give a stuff about Palace, whose fans' own tedious attempts to wind us up should just be dismissed. By the way boys, we own our ground - what about you?

Let's just beat them on the pitch, and then leave them to wonder what a proper football club must be like.

And after all, as one QPR fan reminds us, there's more important things to worry about.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Preparing for Palace

Oh, I'll deal with everything else tomorrow - I'm too worn out from the street parties thrown to mark Marcus Bent's departure - but I can't let this one go...

A former TV reporter has appeared in court charged with breaching a court order which bans her from contacting the chairman of a football club.

Tara Stout is accused of calling, sending text messages and a CD-ROM containing revealing images of herself to Crystal Palace boss Simon Jordan.

A court order restrains her from contacting Mr Jordan or his family, Southwark Crown Court heard.

Ms Stout, 36, of Clapham, south London, denies breaching the order.

Marvellous. And before you ask, yes, that was today...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Charlton 4-3 Stockport

C'mon, where else in London would you get entertainment like that for a tenner? A laboured start, but then we were cruising after a fine goal from Svetoslav Todorov, and Zheng Zhi's penalty.

Second half, and getting home in time for Newsnight was looking certain... until our defence fell apart. Again. Saturday's result was reversed, with Stockport suddenly winning 3-2, their tiny band of fans jubilant in the Jimmy Seed.

But Lloyd Sam's great free kick put us back level, and who got the last minute winner? Paddy McCarthy, who'd been consistently crap all game, headed home a corner. Pass the smelling salts. A relief to win, but that wasn't a good enough performance - and Alan Pardew knew it, puffing his cheeks out at the West Stand crowd at the end of the game.

Despite our defensive worries, there was still a bit to celebrate. I got a great view of Jose Semedo - and he's a terrier, isn't he? Possibly the hardest-working player on the pitch, there wasn't a ball worth chasing which he didn't put in a challenge for. Todorov's experience is a real benefit to us, while Zheng Zhi's class is still showing. And French newcomer Therry Racon was very impressive indeed.

And whatever the bloody result, after the horrifying news from the City Ground (itself coming after the death of Sevilla's Antonio Puerta), at least we've been fortunate enough to be able to remember a match for happier reasons.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Big Chris brings relief

Crikey. I still haven't really got over yesterday's win over Sheffield Wednesday - and nor will the small knot of Addicks fans who walked out at half time, spending the second half sunning themselves by the Thames at the Anchor and Hope.

But for a guide to the sort of thing we'll have to get used to this season, you didn't have to look much further than yesterday's dramatic turnaround. But what the hell went on in that first half? Wednesday, frankly, are rubbish, yet we made them look like world-beaters - Ben Thatcher was woeful, Jerome Thomas looked like he was allergic to the ball, Darren Ambrose was terrible, Marcus Bent was invisible and Andy Reid was moping around on the right like a man who'd just heard some seriously bad news. We played like we were scared. We were crap.

I couldn't help thinking of our match against Tranmere in October 1999 - two down at half-time, 3-2 winners at full-time. I remembered being faintly optmistic we could turn it around then. And guess what...?

But how did Pards turn it around? Was it bringing on Zheng Ziyi? Probably. Replacing Bent with Todorov? Possibly. A ferocious half-time bollocking to go with being booed off the pitch? I think so.

And salvation came from Chris Iwelumo. How long has it been since we had a striker who wasn't afraid of using his size in the box? And he's not at all bad with the ball, is he? Zheng Ziyi showed us his pace will help at this level too, but generally we tightened up, sharpened up, and scared Wednesday witless.

It wasn't all brilliant. We still looked dangerously out of sorts in defence. But we lived off our wits to get that win, and I haven't enjoyed a half of football so much for a long, long time. Dramatic turnarounds, dramatic disappointments - get set for months of this sort of thing as we inch our way through this long, long season.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Championship chumps

Well, there was fat chance of me going to the Britannia Stadium on a Saturday tea-time, so our defeat to Stoke City was endured on telly, the pain eased by being in excellent company.

And it was crap, wasn't it? Sad to see how quickly we managed to impersonate a poor second-division side - with Paddy McCarthy's poor performance in defence summing it up. And Yassin Moutaouakil's ankle injury is worrying.

But these are still early days, and it'd be unwise to worry too much about our slow start to Championship life. We'll just leave that kind of thing to our old chums in the Premier League...

As an unsettling backdrop to all this, yesterday's Independent linked us with bids from Nigerian and Russian investors.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Charlton's City conundrum

So we might be off the mark thanks to a League Cup win at Swindon (oh, you must be joking, I went to see Prince instead) which sees us with a home tie against Stockport.

But suddenly, it all goes uncertain!

RNS Number:2185C
Charlton Athletic PLC
16 August 2007

The board of Charlton Athletic Plc ('Charlton' or the 'Company') notes today's
press speculation
in relation to its strategic direction.

The board of Charlton confirms that it has retained Seymour Pierce Limited to
consider a range of strategic options, which may or may not lead to an offer
for the Company.

A further announcement will be made in due course, as appropriate.

Oh. Reuters snapped into action - "Charlton Athletic said it was up for sale on Thursday, joining a growing list of clubs changing ownership", everyone else calmed down but noted Seymour Pierce's links to the takeovers at Chelsea and Aston Villa.

And later, Charlton released a new statement adding that any options could "include further investment from existing shareholders and/or new investors".

So, what does this mean? I don't know, I can't read Richard Murray's mind. And anyone who thinks they can is probably a fool.

But - despite current stock market turmoil - now would seem a sensible time to sniff around for options for the future. Is a deal already done? Or are we at the start of a long process? Who knows? But I draw your attention to a line from the Telegraph to show you what's at stake...

Earlier this week, George Burley, the Southampton manager, admitted that the sales of Gareth Bale and Chris Baird had been made to avoid the threat of administration in the club's third year outside the Premier League and first without parachute payments.

So, that's the mess the Saints are in. But where will we be in 2009?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Charlton 1-1 Scunthorpe

Hmmmm. I thought this was going to happen. In fact, I should have put money on 1-1. "Relegated, rebuilt team getting its act together at a lower level slips up as promoted side going in the other direction are roared on by a huge travelling fanbase." Or, as the Scunny fans put it, "that's why we're champions". Yeah, of League One.

And they took their League One recipe for success to The Valley with them - a blend of tugs, trips, blocks and all-round time-wasting, allowed to simmer by referee Trevor Kettle and a staggeringly incompetent linesman in front of the East Stand. Our corners became their goal kicks, perfectly good balls became offside.

But Scunthorpe will not improve after today. We can. And we will. Marcus Bent had a fine game, showing effort and maturity that was absent last seaon. Yassin Moutaouakil had a great game in defence, Andy Reid and Lloyd Sam showed useful touches, Nicky Weaver was assured, and substitute Chris Iwelumo showed he could mix it with the muckiest of them.

But we need to be sharper up front - Bent and Reid both missed glorious sitters. And we need to be marking players properly, because we allowed Scunny's Iriekpen to score after a corner because we were half-asleep.

I'm not too bothered by the result - Palace's thumping win at Southampton pisses me off more. We can learn from this. It was never going to be easy. And we can now see the size of the task ahead of us. Welcome to the Championship.

Two hours to go...

And I'm not in the pub. I'll fix that in a bit.

But this is it. No more people asking if you've renewed your season ticket because we've been relegated. No more being treated as also-rans by the pundits. Scunthorpe are here. I reckon it'll be a draw. Seriously. I think it'll take a while for us to gel as a side in a new league. I'm still optimistic about our season, but it could be a bumpy landing back in the second tier. I just hope we're patient enough to treat the rough times the same as we treat the good times - because there will be rough times in this league.

And it's time for a fresh start. I might even clap Marcus Bent. Bring on the Iron!