Thursday, January 31, 2008

Cheers, Reidy

So, it happened.

Sunderland have signed Andy Reid from Charlton in a deal worth up to £4m (subject to team and player performance).

The Black Cats pushed through the signing this evening, just hours before the transfer window closes at midnight tonight. (more)

I'm gutted, to be frank. He's a gifted player, and a top chap to boot. But business is business. It's (up to - I'd like to know the variables) four million pounds we didn't have this morning. We're getting defender Greg Halford on loan in return. And, possibly more significantly, ex-QPR left-winger Lee Cook is coming on loan from Fulham.

"It was a tough call for all parties, and also Andy himself, but I feel we've coped well without him since he has been injured.

"The situation that Sunderland are in, he's going to find that very difficult to refuse. He's on Championship money and he'll be going to Premier League money.

"It was a difficult decision, but we have to look at ourselves and say 'are we going to let this affect us or will this make us stronger?' Hopefully, the latter will happen.” (more)

It's not so bad. It could be a stunning piece of business for us, even - Pards compares it with his selling of Jermain Defoe at West Ham, replacing him with Bobby Zamora, who was struggling at Spurs. Frankly, I'd rather trust Pards on this than the miseries who've been clogging up message boards all day.

"We're just a selling club!" - Er, who isn't? Every club up to about Manchester City and Tottenham is a selling club, ultimately. We held out to transfer day and got a bloody good deal.

"What a greedy bastard Reid is!" - Two points. Firstly, if you're in your mid-20s, and have had a career interrupted by injury... wouldn't you want to take some cash? You could be out on your arse in a couple of years! He could open up a chain of bars with that cash! Secondly, I think cash may have actually had less to do with it than we may think - if you're an Irishman like Reid is, wouldn't you be tempted if Roy Keane and Niall Quinn came calling?

"Why sell our best player?" - Because we've been offered a huge pile of cash, and have discovered we can get by okay without him? Lee Cook's arrival gives us some options as well.

"What's Richard Murray/ the board doing?" - Er, it's their money. You match the money they've put into the club, you get the right to moan. Until then, shut up.

I actually wonder how well Reid will do at Sunderland - he's so far failed to really impress as a Premiership player, but his barrel-on-legs physique and quick wit meant he was dynamite in the second tier. It's a bit of a gamble for Roy Keane - but it's an opportunity for our ex-captain.
I hope he makes the adjustment well.

More importantly, it looks like a good deal for us. Good luck, and thanks, Reidy - and welcome aboard, Halford and Cook. Just ignore the moaning fans, would you?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Stick it up your bollocks, Keano

Oh, will Cork's most famous dog-walker please sod off?

Sunderland are understood to have launched a bid to sign Charlton's Andy Reid.

The Black Cats have failed with numerous bids to land Stephen Hunt from Reading and manager Roy Keane now looks to have turned his attentions elsewhere.

The 25-year-old, who can operate down the left or through the midfield similar to Hunt, has been a key figure for The Addicks this season and has played 23 times.

However, Sunderland's offer - believed to be around £4million - could be too good for Charlton to turn down. (more)

Sky is right in one respect - £4m could be too good to turn down. It's a bit of a worry.

But Reid was central to our good run earlier in the season, and he provides a much-needed alternative midfield option. He's also our most technically gifted player. It'd also be folly to sell him without getting a replacement in, and we'll need a strong squad for the battle ahead. The transfer window closes in 25 hours - I hope (and suspect) that Reid will still be a Charlton player by then.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Charlton 1-0 Stoke

All Quiet in the East Stand's 1,000th post - and thank heavens it's a happy one. Lloyd Sam used his head and got us the kind of win that perhaps I'd expected to see more of in the Championship - not particularly entertaining, but something fairly comfortable against dull opposition. Having just seen Tony Pulis (Tone, Tone, please, mate, ditch the baseball cap) call his team "honest lads" on Sky Sports News just now, I'm going to have to nip to the library in a bit to double check the definition of "honest" in the dictionary doesn't mean "time-wasting and putting in little digs in an effort to get sent off".

To be fair on them, they came with a plan - to spend all night defending, and they did it damn well. Indeed, perhaps we should have spent all season camped out in our own goalmouth. But then the last time Stoke City were in the top division, Phil Collins was in the chart with Easy Lover.

As for us... Andy Gray had a good enough debut and he'll get better. But we struggled to break down Stoke's defending, and until Sam headed that 82nd minute winner, it was getting frustrating. Nicky Weaver was outstanding, keeping us in it with a few fine second-half saves, but generally it was a dogged team performance roared on by a fine crowd, hampered by our lack of ability to get that final ball right. But no-one ever said this was going to be easy, West Brom got a beating tonight and suddenly it's all to play for - we're four points off the top.

In fact, whisper it quietly, but the end is in sight - there are eight home games left, five of which are against current top-six contenders: Palarse, Watford, Bristol City, Preston, West Brom, Wolves, Southampton and Coventry. That just about says it all, doesn't it?

Monday, January 28, 2008

All Stoked up for 7.45

Enjoy the weekend off? I did, I went to Dartford to check out Princes Park, and I'll try to mention it properly another time, because it's bloody terrific what they've done down there.

In the meantime, we're back in business on Tuesday against Stoke - be warned, unwary travellers, it's a bloody 7.45 kick-off. Because nobody has to get back from work, do they? I'm always a little surprised that football starts earlier in the evening than other entertainments - gigs and films start nearer to half-past eight or nine o'clock, for example. In Spain, of course, night games often kick off at 9pm, but there's a warmer climate there (and Barcelona memorably kicked-off against Seville at five minutes past midnight in 2003... and still got 80,000 fans.) In recent years, most upper-division London clubs have kicked off at 8pm, to stay consistent with Sky's TV kick-off time.

While I'm not demanding we play beyond last orders, pushing kick-off forward puts pressure on south-east London's flimsy transport network - which affects more than just Charlton fans (as anyone that's ever got the 6.30pm from Charing Cross on a match night will know.) And recent timetable changes have made rail travel to Charlton from central London a bit of a hassle around 7pm, with longer gaps between services. Trust me, I deal with it every day. So check before you travel.

But hey, our friends from deepest Kent will get to bed 15 minutes earlier, eh?

Could be worse, mind - mid-week league kick-offs in Germany are rare (they actually call such weeks Englisch woche because we're so fond of them) I discovered in Hamburg last year that second division (2.Bundesliga) matches in Germany kick off at 5.30pm so they can be screened on TV as an appetiser to the top division fare later on. Imagine trying to swing the afternoon off for that...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The blossoming of Ambrose

A funny thought struck me in the rain at Watford last night. Darren Ambrose has been playing bloody well lately, hasn't he?

Seriously, for a player who seems to have attracted stick almost every time he steps onto the field, he was absolutely immense for us yesterday. Chasing balls, setting up chances, taking his own chances... and being rewarded with a slightly-lucky equaliser which saw us take a point off the Hornets. Yup, he blew a couple of chances, but overall, I thought he was sensational yesterday. Our two frontmen of Big Chris and Luke Varney never quite clicked, but Varney gave it his best, Andy Gray made an impressive debut, and if Chris Dickson hadn't (justifiably) thought he was offside when he went one-on-one with Richard Lee, we could have been celebrating a big, big win.

It feels like a disappointing result, considering Watford's bumpy home form (much like us, they seem cursed with nerves at Vicarage Road) but a point at one of your promotion rivals ain't to be sniffed at. As Pards said in his post-match chat with ITV, Watford's goal - about the only decent chance they had for most of the second half - could have crushed us, and a for a minute, it looked like it had done. But it didn't. And now we've played the top teams away from home, we need to make sure The Valley is a place our opponents are scared of, rather than relish.

Taking a leaf out the book of the Charlton fans at Watford would be a start - the best atmosphere I've experienced at a match in a long, long while, probably aided by the majority of the crowd staying on their feet, and Watford turning the lights off in the stand during the match. I'm not sure that singing "D-I-C-K-O!" for Chris Dickson will catch on, singing "C-A-F-C" after a round of Chase The Sun might just, though...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Gray day for Watford

Cracking news ahead of the trip to Watford, as Burnley striker Andy Gray signs on the dotted line for us, and could well be in the team at Vicarage Road...

"I'm at the stage of my career where the chance to go to a club that had been in the Premier League for a long time, and has a great chance of getting back there, couldn't be ignored," he said.

"Everyone wants to play in the Premier League, it's where I want to play, and hopefully I can help the club get there." (more)

...but sad news for James Walker as his Southend medical goes badly wrong.

Could be an interesting day today. I'm off to Watford - if you're joining me, watch out for major works on the Tube on the way. Come on you Addicks!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Confessions of a part-timer, part 6341

The nearest I got to watching any Cup action tonight was a brief glimpse inside the New Den from a passing train, as a I sped to spend my Tuesday night watching a friend of a friend make his comedy debut in a club above a West End pub. I knew we were a goal down, and with the interval coming at the end of the match, I made a quick call to see what the latest was.

"2-1 down? Well, at least we'll get that bloody week off at the end of the match," I said.

"There's still a couple of minutes to go yet!"

"Meh. I knew I'd jinxed it by taping Match of the Day."

I turned my phone on again an hour later.

"Dicko! 2-2!"

"You have missed a call from..."

"Lost on pens 4-3"

WHAT? Eh? What? A little while later, I sat in front of my telly, fast-forwarded through Liverpool and Spurs, and saw what I'd missed. A veritable maelstrom of rain at the Hawthorns, and a bloody brave fightback, capped by Chris Dickson's debut goal. I bet I'm not the only one gutted not to have seen that with my own eyes, especially his celebrations.

And as for the penalties... poor old Luke Varney must have taken another knock by blowing the first spot-kick (as well as that first half chance from a McLeod cross), but with the TV microphones picking up Nicky Weaver's yell as he saved from unkempt slob Jonathan Greening (cut your hair, son), I felt a bit guilty for not going...

But it wasn't to be. As mentioned beforehand, and as Pards said after, it's a bit win/win for both sides, really - whether West Brom will really welcome the distraction of a Cup run is a moot point (and they played Peterborough in the League Cup earlier this season). As for us, we get a week off to rest and regroup. Neither side really needed the 120 minutes + penalties + pissing rain - but that's the magic of the Cup, eh? And if you did go, while I supped beer and laughed at jokes (my pal's pal was very good, by the way), you've got my huge, and sincere admiration. See you at Vicarage Road...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

James Walker to Southend

The first Charlton deal of the transfer window - and it's an exit, as we lose young striker James Walker to Southend for £200,000. Shrimpers chairman Ron Martin is puffing his cigar contentedly this evening:

"James is someone we have identified as an excellent prospect. He has been out on loan over the past few years and during that time has continued to make fantastic progress.

"He set League One alight during his time with Yeovil and I know they were gutted to have lost him.

"We've a real star in the making at the Club now and I'm very excited about the signing." (more)

And this was a player released by Alan Curbishley before he left Charlton, but kept on by Iain Dowie when he came to the club. I remember seeing him tear sides apart in the reserves as a 16-year-old, and somehow I've a feeling this may come back to bite us some day. But... it's £200,000 we wouldn't have got if Dowie hadn't rescued Walker's career. It's a great deal for Southend, who are having a tricky time in League One following their relegation last season from the Championship. Good luck to him.

As for us... next to nothing to report on the transfer front. Persistent rumours linking Andy Reid to Sunderland look like wishful thinking on the part of the Black Cats. The captain faces another couple of weeks on the sidelines after being injured before Christmas, and may have to fight his way back into the side. But cast your mind back to November, and this report from the Daily Telegraph, where Alan Pardew made a gentleman's agreement with the Irishman - commit to Charlton, and I'll make you captain.

"I sat him down and told him I didn't want to get to the January transfer window and lose him. I wanted him to commit himself for the season where he hopefully plays all year and has something to show for this at the end of it.

"This would be better for me, for him and the club. He agreed to do that, and fair play to him. At the moment that's paying off."

Perhaps things will change this week - although the window's being distorted slightly by the two opposing trends of QPR being suddenly very rich indeed, and Luton Town holding a fire sale. So I'm going to start a rumour all of my own. Jerome Thomas can go and showboat at some struggling Premier League mediocrities for a couple of million, and we can go and really splash some cash. What do you reckon?

Donkeys lashed

So, good, wasn't it?

The same 16 that were named against West Brom in the Cup lined up to face Blackpool, and the flowing stuff we saw against the Baggies really bloomed against the Seasiders. Every man played his part - great to see Darren Ambrose get a decent match under his belt, while Zheng Zhi and Kelly Youga were superb. Credit to Blackpool for playing a decent, fair game, but we were simply too good for them. While I'm at it, Monty Panesar-a-like ref Jarnail Singh had a damn good game as well - shame to discover that, since he's in his mid-40s, he's unlikely to make it into the top tier of refereeing.

So where does this leave us in our own battle to get back into the top tier? Well, Izale McLeod had a decent match today, and Luke Varney's goal will have boosted his confidence, so maybe 4-4-2 with them up front is the way to go for now. We'll still have the experience of Big Chris on the bench, and Chris Dickson looks like a handful - although if he'd passed to Iwelumo instead of firing into the side netting when the two namesakes came on as subs, we might have been celebrating a bigger win.

It's funny how quickly confidence can flow back into the veins. While we're never going to have the best of crowds, at least the early leavers got a good jeering from the upper north - best performance in ages, and you can't be arsed to stay to applaud the team? Don't bother coming at all next time. But most of the complaints I heard were ironic, and it's good to see the moaners shut up. The minute's applause before the game for those connected with Charlton who have passed away did its bit to lift the atmosphere as well, I thought.

And after this? This result makes the West Brom replay on Tuesday look less like a chore and more of an opportunity to flex our muscles. Watford away next Saturday is looking juicy, especially as the Hornets lost on Saturday. Scunthorpe's going to be an good day out, and with a Warnock-inspired revival further along the South Circular, we're set for a cracking match against Palace.

In which we'll give them a good shoeing, of course. It's good when things are looking up, eh?

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The draw no-one wanted

Ah, ferchrisakes, a bloody draw! I returned to my old East Stand roots for the West Brom Cup match, and was reminded what a bloody good stand it is to watch football from. It's not a stand for cheerers, or any kind of noise whatsoever, but what a great view of the pitch it provides, eh?

As for the match... funny old match, wasn't it? No real skill on both sides, but lots of chances, especially on our side. Quite incredible to see people filing out of the ground with five minutes to go, but then very little surprises me at The Valley these days.

It was great to see Kelly Youga get a game, and the lad did well, didn't he? I'm reminded how Jerome Thomas's debut performance in a League Cup defeat to Crystal Palace sealed his place in the team, and hopefully the same will apply here. I thought Izale McLeod was disappointing up front once again. Others will disagree, and I'm happy to be reminded that I know sod all about football once again, but I simply don't think he's got it in him - he looked very lightweight.

Brilliant to see Chris Dickson get his chance, though - he seized it but with only 10 minutes to go, he didn't really get much time.

Neither side will have wanted the draw, but a replay's what we've got, when really what we need are a couple of weeks off. It'll be interesting to see what Pards does in the transfer window - we'll need new bodies just to keep our squad fresh for the Watford match on the 19th.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

5th after Christmas - DISASTER!

Well, I had my money on another 1-1 draw - but I wasn't banking on an abject performance against a nimble, if limited Colchester side.

But, to be honest, I can take a crap performance. In a season of 46 matches, I can deal with a couple of home games where we're ravaged by injuries and sendings-off, and we lumber around like old men. Crap football is crap football. You know that next week, it might be better.

You know there are things that are fixable. You know someone needs to sit Paddy McCarthy down and have a word about those inner demons - to encourage the ones that got us the equaliser at Leicester (kudos to those who went) and to quell the ones that helped him haul down Kevin Lisbie, formerly of this parish, to help him take the lead for Colchester.

And you know we need a few more ideas, a bit more imagination... but that's why we're now in the transfer window. We've 30 days of speculation, bullshit, misinformation and guff to come. But we've also 30 days to improve the side.

So I can take crap football, because there's always next week.

But what I can't take is crap fans. I swear I heard my first boo today after seven seconds. It set the tone for a game where almost every misplaced pass after Lisbie's opener was jeered. Some twat behind me was lambasting Chris Iwelumo - who's the nearest we've got to the bionic man - for lack of effort. Unbelievable, when the man gives it his all, even when he's off-colour as he was today.

And it just built up. What the hell do our fans expect? Do we expect a silky display against a clunky side like Colchester? If so, dream on. In the long, hard slog that is the Championship, the Valley crowd is becoming a 12th man for the opposition.

With the onset of a new year, and one that's particularly uncertain for me in a couple of ways, I was wondering about my commitments for the year. It wouldn't be a bad Charlton performance that'd deter me from renewing my season ticket. It's the thousands of tossers in the stadium who make matches a miserable experience. Do they seriously think their grumblings have no effect on what they see on the pitch? It was like petulant parents watching a school side - when Darren Ambrose panicked and mis-hit badly towards the end of the match, I wondered if he'd have done better in a more supportive atmosphere.

Maybe they've thought twice about buying tickets for the Cup match about West Brom. I hope so. Because it'll be nice to attend a match where the crowd gets behind the home team. Maybe it'll happen on Saturday at The Valley. I'll keep my fingers crossed...