Thursday, March 31, 2005

Money, Charlton, and the telly

The only surprise about Richard Murray's comments about there just possibly being too much football on TV is that the Premier League actually responded - if they're starting to get twitchy about bad publicity, perhaps the penny has finally dropped. I don't know how easy it'll be to put the genie back in the bottle, though. Sky loves its Football First coverage - widely blamed for a drop in away fans, although will anyone really miss one of those bloody pay-per-view games? If the odious Malcolm Glazer gets his way and buys Manchester United, we'll all be screwed, anyway, because he'll want to break up the Premier League's TV rights deals and sell United's coverage on his own.

Strange comment from the League here, mind:

Charlton, and our other member clubs, are working extremely hard at maintaining attendances at high levels... (more)

Which is why Blackburn and Fulham play to full houses every week, eh? Incidentally, Fulham have followed Charlton in advertising on the side of buses - the Fulham Express will no doubt follow next year.

By the way, I did eventually get a proper reply from an anonymous Premier League person to my complaints about the final day fixture fiasco - perhaps Joanne Revell has some uses after all.

As for the club's financial results themselves, it all seems to be business as usual, although Wyn Grant notes wages are now a painful 73% of the club's £20m turnover. Such is life in the Premier League. There's been a few murmurings about Charlton being a takeover target for Philip Anschutz, the US billionaire whose firm is now running the Dome, off the back of a single quote in The Times. To be honest, though, just about any Premiership club would be a target for the seriously-loaded - remember the talk about Colonel Ghadaffi's son buying Crystal Palace, or the apocryphal talk of Roman Abramovich eyeing up Spurs before his plane took him over Stamford Bridge. We're probably just one of 20 takeover targets, to be honest. Some people may shudder at the thought of their club being owned by "a conservative Republican ideologue and a devout Christian", mind.

Monday, March 28, 2005

AFC Wimbledon 3-0 Dorking

Proper reports: AFC Wimbledon, The Big Tissue.

See, that's what happens when the bloke in front of you cranes his neck to see a goal... huge celebrations at Kingsmeadow tonight as AFC Wimbledon notched up their second successive promotion. Next season, they'll be in the Isthmian Premier Division, and I won't need so powerful a magnifying glass to find their results.

The last time I was at Kingsmeadow to see the Dons, it was when they lost to Colne in the FA Vase on a freezing January day, with Terry Eames in charge and a bitter row on the pitch after. Today was a fine spring day, and new manager Dave Anderson really has taken the fans' club onto the next level - the Dons play a calm, crisp game, and went 2-0 up in the first-half without breaking sweat, thanks to goals from Steve Butler and a fine free kick from Sonny Farr. Indeed, they made a vicious, physical Dorking side look like a pub team - Peter Maynard's crude challenge resulting in Micky Woolner being stretchered off. Amazingly, none of the Dorking players got sent off. Mind you, it's always funny heading Wimbledon fans complaining about their opponents hoofing the ball around.

The second half was more subdued, with Leon McDowall grabbing a third after being set up by New Zealand international (!) Shane Smeltz, who typifies the inspired signings Dave Anderson has made since he took over. "The chairman would like to invite you all to a disco, and to drink some beer," quipped PA man Chris Phillips as the match came to an end, and for 3,321 fans at Kingsmeadow, it was a cue to party. Dorking's chairman chipped in, coming to the mic to wish the Dons the best in his marvellously clipped tones.

The FA commission which allowed the old Wimbledon to move to Milton Keynes said forming a new club would not be "in the best interests of football". Tell that to the Combined Counties League and Isthmian League clubs who've had a windfall from the Dons' travelling army of 1,000 fans. It's nearly always a great atmosphere at Kingsmeadow itself, with the Dons fans still enjoying an amazing adventure - but will the good times continue next season? I hope so. With Anderson at the helm, and quality players like Smeltz, Farr and Rob Ursell on the field, there's no reason they shouldn't.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Crawley Town 2-2 Leigh RMI

Proper reports: Crawley Town FC, Leigh RMI Mad, Unoffical RMI Online, BBC Sport.

Fine entertainment for the neutral, frustration for the home fans as All Quiet In The East Stand travelled to Broadhall Way Broadfield Stadium to check on how John Robinson's getting on in the Conference. Crawley took a 2-0 lead, but lost it as a determined Leigh side - already relegated - scored twice to snatch a point, giving them a princely total of 15.

There were a couple of Charlton shirts in the 1,831 crowd - despite this being Palace territory - and as well as Robinson, there was former striker Charlie MacDonald to check on. How did they do? Well...

Robbo is the same as he always was. He was booked in the first half after a spot of fisticuffs with a Leigh player, threw himself about a bit, and looked committed to the Crawley cause. But the end result isn't all that good these days. "Too old and too slow, Robinson!," hectored the annoying man beind us. Still, he's a joy to watch, if only to watch him go through the gamut of facial expressions.

Charlie Mac got a goal, but blew several chances. He's a commanding presence in the box, but his final touch can be pretty woeful. Sound familliar? At the final whistle some sections of the crowd vented their fury at him - he was a covenient scapegoat for the way clumsy Crawley let slip their lead.

The game itself was patchy, Leigh soaked up a lot of Crawley pressure, with help from keeper Jon Worsnop, until Allan Tait headed home their opening goal. Charlie MacDonald got the second. But Leigh grew stronger and looked more dangerous on the break, with Gary Williams and Lee Mulvaney evening up matters to see jubilation break out in the Railwaymen's dug-out. Leigh could even have taken all three points, with Andy Little saving well from Mark Drew. A patchy game, but ending in excitement - and not a bad little ground either. While Crawley's fans were furious to see the lead - and their play-off chances - slip away, it's been a successful year of consolidation in the Conference. I wonder if Robbo and Charlie Mac will be there for their second season there?

Easter non-league football festival

Hands up all of you who think the decision to make Easter a football-free zone is a crock of you-know-what... I hate it, although it's not strictly true - there's games in League One downwards over the weekend.

I'm off to one today - hopefully you'll see something from it later. If you're left kicking your heels this Easter, find a crisp tenner and put it into the grateful hands of these clubs...

Crawley Town v Leigh RMI (3pm, Conference play-off contenders meet Manchester minnows. Robbo-tastic! Manager Francis Vines recently arrested after a derby with Dorking, beat that, Jose!)

Kingstonian v Salisbury City (3pm, Isthmian League Premier Division - famous old Kingstonian are rock-bottom and in a terrible mess, you could just post the tenner, and not bother with the game, I guess...)
Erith & Belvedere v Uxbridge (3pm, forget England, relegation-threatened Deres face Southern League Division 1 East play-off contenders)
Dartford v Maldon Town (12noon, Southern League Division 1 East, Dartford are mid-table, Maldon are set for the play-offs)
Fisher Athletic v Wingate & Finchley (12noon, Fisher are second in Southern League Division 1 East, despite playing to average crouds of 93 at Dulwich's ground)
Thamesmead Town v Ramsgate (3pm, Kent League Cup semi-final, Thamesmead beat Erith Town 6-0 in their last game)
Erith Town v Deal Town (3pm, Kent League, relegation scrap for masochists. Erith have no website and a record attendance of 136)
Beckenham Town v Sevenoaks Town (12.30pm, Kent League)

Gravesend & Northfleet v Forest Green Rovers (3pm, the Fleet need to establish themselves in mid-table Conference mediocrity)
Welling v Basingstoke (3pm, Welling aren't whipping boys any more, but are still in Conference South relegation bother)
Dulwich Hamlet v Cray Wanderers (3pm, south-east London derby in Isthmian League Division 1, Cray having a great season, Dulwich not)
AFC Wimbledon v Dorking (3pm, non-league glory-hunting at its best)

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Fratton for free

Whatever West Brom can do, we can do, er, half as well - the club's paying for coach travel for our away trip to Portsmouth on 9 April. It's a fine gesture - the first time they've done this since 2000 - and one to be applauded. It's an odd choice, mind - if I remember correctly, we sold out our 1,700 allocation to Portsmouth last season with no free coach travel, and if you're a first-timer to away games, Fratton Park's hardly going to encourage you to start travelling. It's also a pretty easy place to get to by train. Norwich on the 23rd would seem to be a more appropriate choice - it's pretty costly to do by train, for one, and I'd imagine we could take a large number there.

But Portsmouth's the kind of place where 1,700 vocal Charlton fans would be needed, so hopefully plenty of fans will take up the offer. It's also good to see the club trying to rouse the away support - after all, it worked for West Brom, didn't it? Now all we need is Messrs Murray and Varney on the Intercash stand with us, giving it their all...

Meanwhile, the end-of-season rumour mill gets into full swing, with Deano denying a move to Manchester United in between a few round of golf on Sky Sports News, and The Sun floating the possibility that we're after offloading Francis Jeffers and Dennis Rommedahl, which is almost certainly bullshit.

But, it makes one thought spring to mind - if you were offered £2m in the summer for Jeffers or Rommedahl, would you sell?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The referee's a Trotter

Oliver Holt in today's Mirror:

I STILL can't understand how Premier League referee and Bolton fan Mark Halsey is allowed to get away with training with the team every week.

On Saturday, Halsey refereed a game involving Charlton, Bolton's rivals for a European place. He sent off Charlton defender Talal El Karkouri and Charlton lost 4-1.

I'm not alleging impropriety on Halsey's part. I'm just saying I think he's become utterly compromised as a referee.

Because if the authorities recognise there's a potential conflict of interest by banning Halsey from refereeing Bolton, surely they also have to ban him from games that could have a direct influence on Bolton's season.

Didn't know that. Interesting stuff. (Ta to Forever Charlton for the heads-up.)

One glorious year...

Good heavens, if it isn't All Quiet In The East Stand's first birthday. If anyone had told me 12 months ago the site would take off like it has done, I'd have laughed at them, and then been too scared to do it. If stats are your thing, this place usually gets about 200 page views each day, going up to 500-600 after matches (or when I get a link off Forever Charlton).

Thank you if you've commented, e-mailed, or even hunted me down over what's on the site - I hope it's provoked a bit of debate somewhere along the line. I'd also like to thank the person who's managed to come here after typing "biggest wanker SE7" into a search engine. Cheers.

One year ago this started after a poorly-refereed match which ended in defeat. I hope in a year's time, I'll be able to write the 2nd birthday post after a match which has ended in a win... now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to shake up a celebratory can of Tizer.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Lions and the Darts

Anyone following the ructions at Millwall? It's like EastEnders but with slightly better acting.

REG BURR has launched an amazing attack on Dennis Wise and Ray Wilkins.

Lions president and former chairman Burr has savagely accused Wise of signing up his old pals.

"Wise has just brought in all his mates and Wilkins is a disaster, at fault for the tactics and the players.

"The club is in a worse position now than we have ever been. We need a manager like Gary Johnson at Yeovil or Martin Allen at Brentford."

Of course, Reg. Meanwhile, Wise is at war with incoming chairman Jeff Burnige, and has attacked the club's board for not giving him enough cash for players. The trouble with all this is, of course, that it makes a perfect backdrop to a last-ditch sneak into the play-offs, doesn't it? If you were desperate enough to ask me, I'd say Wise has done a good job there on next-to-sod-all resources - perhaps raddled Reg reckons they could have beaten Manchester United that day last May. With bickering like that, who would take the Spanners on when Wise walks?

A happier ending, and one that's fit for all the family, is going on at Dartford (oh dear, mind your speakers) - their plans (or rather, Dartford Council's plans) for a new stadium at Princes Park were revealed last week. Take a look here at what's looking like an impressive little ground. Can't see what that "spirit of Dartford" stuff's all about - there's not a bit of Burberry in sight... they're playing Maldon Town at Stonebridge Road at noon on Saturday, if you find yourself missing football this weekend.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Curbs on 4-5-1

For those who didn't see it yesterday or on Netaddicks today, Alan Curbishley returned to The Observer yesterday to discuss the joys of 4-5-1...

It seems that 4-5-1 has been blamed for turning Premiership matches into dull spectacles. But I want to dispel that myth. Yes, it is a pragmatic formation, but it can be fluid, attack-orientated and exciting to watch. And, crucially for a manager, it can win you matches. (more)

It's been a bit irregular, but I'm enjoying reading Curbs' thoughts - aside from the obvious interest, like Gordon Strachan's old Observer column and Neil Warnock on the BBC Sport website, it's better to read it from the sharp end, than Alan Hansen talking up Liverpool again.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Charlton 1-4 West Brom

Proper reports:, BBC Sport, Sky Sports, Sporting Life, Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph, The Observer, Independent on Sunday, Sunday People, The Guardian, The Times, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mirror, Addick's Diary,, West Brom Boing.

"Blip" is a four-letter word, and that's the only four-letter word which can really describe today's bewildering game. There's another four-letter word which describes Mark Halsey ("cheat" is five, of course), and I hope he's happy with his day's work. Bryan Robson and his irritating band of fans will be.

To be fair, Halsey - the man who wobbled under pressure from Arsenal players in a game against Fulham, leading Chris Coleman to rightly brand him "crap" - didn't drive the Baggies' getaway car, although he certainly kept the road clear for it. It was second-half sub Rob Earnshaw at the wheel, a neat second-half header watched by our entire defence from the other side of our goal-mouth starting matters. If that was folly, the third was suicidal, almost our entire team freezing on the spot in the belief he was offside to allow him to chip in a third. Was he offside? Does it matter?

His third, and Albion's fourth, came just before the end after Halsey decided Bryan Hughes had fouled Richard Chaplow at the back of the goal-mouth. Presumably deciding this was denying him a goal-scoring opportunity (maybe he was distracted by small green rabbits or some other hallucination), he blew up for Earnshaw to cruelly remind Curbs why he spent much of 2004 studying his form at Cardiff.

Step back, though, and you'll see where the damage was done. As you'd expect, 24 hours after Curbs talked him up at the pre-match press conference, Danny Murphy had a poor game. With Murphy stuttering, Matt Holland stumbled and had a poorer game, and the game was lost in midfield - despite the efforts of a classy Jerome Thomas, a pleasingly sparky Jonatan Johannsson, and attack dog Paul Konchesky.

Talal El Kakouri's sending off was a shadow over the game - although he looked unlucky for his challenge on Gera. Not that Halsey reacted in the same way when Paul Robinson chopped down Jerome Thomas, of course.

For the Baggies, relegation will be too good for them if they come back waving foam hands and bellowing "boing boing", shouting some crap about "cockneys". But substitute Darren Moore was solid in defence, and ex-Everton stalwart Kevin Campbell seems to be enjoying a new lease of life with them.

Compare this with the Tottenham game for a second - on Wednesday, we denied Spurs three points in addition to winning. Today may have been a screw-up, but it wasn't a disaster. Beat Manchester City in a fortnight, and this will be just another bad game.

As for Mark Halsey, he's still be a crap ref in a fortnight.

Friday, March 18, 2005

The All Quiet 100,000

Blimey, almost forgot this, but All Quiet In The East Stand passed the 100,000 page view mark at five-past-two today - if you're an AOL UK customer and you came here after lunch, it was you, congratulations! You win this recommendation from me - get a decent ISP!

There's a bigger landmark just around the corner, so I'm keeping the fizzy Ribena on ice for now, but thank you for your support.

Baggies trousered?

Tomorrow's our penultimate Saturday 3pm home match - and despite the physical battering we got on Wednesday, it's good to hear Radostin Kishishev is our only injury worry ahead of our meeting with West Bromwich Albion. The Baggies' official site appears to indicate they're taking a full 3,000 allocation - please, let's take this lot seriously and shut them up early. As the reality of their situation dawns, I doubt they'll be the shower of crap they were in December - after the Spurs performance, let's not slip up on this banana skin.

Train troubles: There's a reduced service through Charlton on Saturday - just four trains per hour instead of the usual eight. That close co-ordination over transport's paying off, eh? Charing Cross and Waterloo East are closed, with all trains going to and from Cannon Street, while the trains to Charlton from Blackheath and Lewisham won't be running, and neither will the ones which from from Sidcup and Crayford, according to the poster outside Charlton station. Frankly, I'd get here now and camp out, if I were you...

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Charlton 2-0 Tottenham

Proper reports:, Sporting Life, Sky Sports, BBC Sport,, Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Times, London Evening Sub-Standard, Daily Mirror, Independent.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Ha ha ha ha ha.

Two special goals, one special game. It's pointless me even trying to come up with any semblance of a match report, the double over Spurs has rendered me almost speechless with happiness. There wasn't a single Charlton player who didn't play a big part in our win - aside from Murphy and Thomas, it was Konchesky, the ghost of Spurs past, who roamed up and down the left, terrifying the Lillywhites, who deserves the most plaudits. This was a game made for 4-5-1 - and, for a time, 4-5-0 when Bartlett was injured and Jason Euell had yet to come on. While we came out on top of an even first half, we suffocated Spurs in the second half, and it's the second game on the trot (after the Newcastle cup game) the N17 side's come off second best to a gritty defensive display. Indeed, for most of the match, Dean Kiely might as well have been relaxing with a good book.

What caught the eye? Danny Murphy leaving Fredieric Kanoute on his arse in the second half, an appalling display from ref Chris Foy, Murphy bollocking Jonatan Johannsson for neglecting to pass to him in good, goal-scoring positions twice, loads of niggling Spurs fouls, and how the hell did Michael Brown stay on the pitch?

The best Charlton performance (and best game) since we beat Chelsea on Boxing Day 2003, Wednesday night will burn long and bright in Charlton fans' memories - let's hope we can keep home fires burning into Saturday and beyond.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Is Joanne Revell a real person?

Well, I got my response from the Premier League late this afternoon about the fixture farce. I asked why the League went to Uefa so late to ask for permission to stage the game, and questioned the excuse which had already been dished out to fans. My response went like this:

Thank you for your email regarding the change of date of the last game of the Premier League's 2004/05 season. Unfortunately, it has been necessary to move the last day of this season from 3.00pm on Saturday, 14 May to 3.00pm on Sunday 15 May.

The reason for this change is that we have to seek dispensation from UEFA to play during the closed broadcast period...

...and so on. Which makes me wonder if "customer strategy executive" Joanne Revell is actually a real person, or just a made-up name. Because nobody would have a "customer strategy" of not actually reading the bloody e-mail, would they?

Of course, if you want your very own, personalised Joanne Revell piece of bullshit, just e-mail Who knows, you might be able to get it framed as your very own memento.

In the meantime, in the absence of any supporters' club or supporters' director commment, Peter Varney keeps on kicking against the pricks.

The whole episode is a nonsense and I am not surprised that our postbag is full of letters from extremely annoyed fans. What sort of message does this send to them? (more)

Well, the message starts with "f" and ends "uck you", doesn't it? It might be worth considering that the next time you pass a Barclays cashpoint, or fancy a bottle of Budweiser.

According to Varney, it's the Scottish Premier League to blame - the SPL's infamous "split" will mean its fixtures drag on into May, and so it objected to English games being televised on the Saturday. However, the SPL hasn't actually confirmed any of its May fixtures yet. Not a sensible situation.

Hopefully Varney will cause enough of a stink at the Premier League's next meeting to get something done, even if it's a promise that this situation won't occur in the future.

You don't have to be stupid...

Look, it's the world's most stupid man, and he's coming to Greenwich! Stock up on razors, icky cola and cheesy mobile phones because...

Ah, yes, David Beckham's $occer Academy. Why the Dome? Is it because the current empty, yet expensive nature of the Dome is an accurate representation of what's inside Little David's head?

And why on our patch? Naturally, you wouldn't expect an idiot who grew up in East London supporting Manchester United to actually be aware of things like "local teams", but the only Charlton represented at Beckham's ego-fest is bald bore Bobby. It's not just us, the launch was on the north side of the Thames, where West Ham once had copyright on the word "academy".

With our community scheme doing great work in the area, isn't it a little worrying that the thickest clown in the circus is planning to set up camp on our doorstep?

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Premier confusion

The reason for this change is that we have to seek dispensation from UEFA to play during the closed broadcast period which runs from 2.45pm to 5.15pm on Saturdays, in order to play simultaneously whilst also fulfilling our broadcasting contracts. In order to gain permission to do this, UEFA require that the leagues from the other home nations do not oppose our request. On this occasion UEFA did receive an objection and were therefore unable to facilitate our request.

Thanks to everybody who's been in touch about the Premier League's ballsing-up of the final day's fixtures - the standard excuse that's been trotted out is reproduced above. However, it does not ring true. The "closed broadcast period" is there for a reason - to encourage people to get off their bums and go to games.

But who else is playing on 14 May? The Football League? No. The Conference? No? The lower leagues? No. The SPL? No. The Scottish League? No. The Welsh? No. The Irish League? No. The Eircom League? No. And the Scottish FA Cup final's on the 28th. So who the hell could be objecting?

The only other games scheduled for that weekend are the two Conference play-off finals at Stoke and the six Football League play-off semi-final first legs, the days/times of which are yet to be decided.

All of which will also want live TV coverage, so it isn't in either the League's or the Conference's interests to block a valuable window in which games could be shown. The Conference play-off may well be the one whose coverage gets squeezed out, which would be a shame.

And in any case, since the only leagues in action that weekend in the UK and Ireland are in England, shouldn't they just be able to co-ordinate this themselves without having to go to Uefa? Very, very odd. It'd be interesting to see if the football press takes this any further - but I wouldn't hold your breath, considering it took Peter Varney's attack to get any coverage in the first place.

In the meantime, here's breaking news from Millwall.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The final day farce

If anyone needed proof that the Premier League is an organisation dedicated more to the furthering of Freddy Shepherd's leisure-time pursuits than the interests of its customers, today's sudden switch of the final day's fixtures to Sunday 15 May should finally convince them. At Charlton, the club didn't know until somebody spotted it on the dreadful website.

Peter Varney gives it both barrels here - which may well have led to an unconvincing excuse (UEFA having received an objection to the games being televised on Saturday) being belatedly posted on

But All Quiet In The East Stand is right behind Reg. In fact, every Charlton fan - and every fan of every Premiership club - should be joining him in protesting. Here's why:

  • The last day of the Premiership season has taken place on Saturday for a few seasons now. Fans are used to this, and some will have booked holidays or made other arrangements for Sunday 15 May.

  • Some clubs have even sold tickets for these games - we've sold our away allocation for the Palace game already.

  • Sunday games are inconvenient for just about everyone except television companies.

  • There is no good reason to move the games to Sunday, except for television - the Football League and the other leagues will have finished their regular programmes by that weekend. An "exciting finish" (as if) to the season would be no less thrilling if it were on a Saturday.

    The Premier League has already succeeded in creating a competition where the prime motive is fear of failure, not desire for success. Now it thinks its customers are to be treated like unpaid extras as it flogs its unconvincing drama around the world. It's time to tell chief executive Richard Scudamore what you think.


    Phone: 020 7298 1600

    Post: 11 Connaught Place, London W2 2ET

    A phone call is better than an e-mail, a letter is better than a letter or a phone call. But an e-mail is better than thinking "they'll ignore it", and doing nothing. Make sure the Premier League knows your anger. You'll feel better for it. And if you don't complain now, don't whine the next time they try to get away with this.

  • Reading, writing, but not arithmetic (yet)

    I forgot to mention this earlier in the week, but All Quiet In The East Stand has a warm write-up in this month's edition of When Saturday Comes. Stand back, we're taking over!

    A Charlton fan explores unknown territory by reporting back from reserve-team games played on cold Monday nights and throwing in the odd flippant comment and anecdotal observation among the serious business of clueing readers up on Jason Euell's performance against Tottenham stiffs.

    The full text can be found here, courtesy of Ipswich's very own Portman Road Blog.

    Meanwhile, an All Quiet reader needs your help on a special centenary project - if you've editing or publishing experience (it's not absolutely essential, but an eye for a good tale is) and can spare some time to help out on something which is a little hush-hush but will hopefully be rather special, e-mail cafc.centenary AT and offer your services.

    Tuesday, March 08, 2005

    Return of the Premiership malaise

    It's easy to feel a hint of jealousy, isn't it? A full house, a passionate crowd, a team with Englishmen at its core securing a narrow win, a side to be proud of, a dramatic result to claim a second-leg cup victory, and the hope that this season is going to be one full of success.

    So it's hearty All Quiet In The East Stand congratulations to Southend United, who go on to meet Wrexham in the LDV Vans Trophy final. Was there any other result tonight?

    I still had the chants for Franny Jeffers ringing in my ears last night when I nipped into The Valley for the second half of our reserve game against Derby. It was a cracking little game with plenty of the first team players left out against Fulham. How was Franny? Sadly, he looked like he'd rather be anywhere else than a largely-empty Valley on a cold Monday night. Back to reality? Oh yeah.

    Jason Euell looked as solid as ever, and a down-looking Dennis Rommedahl looked pretty handy too. Lloyd Sam was outstanding, while Derby's young side had the confidence to try a few audacious shots at Stephan Andersen - one of which had the temerity to go in. Proper reports from Addick's Diary and Netaddicks, if that's your kind of thing.

    There's been an enormous amount of debate, on here and elsewhere, about the merits of our 4-5-1 formation, and the less-than-exciting football we've been serving up lately. We're not the only ones - I'm assured that Fulham fans put down their hampers to chant for 4-4-2 too. It's an issue largely - as you'd expect - ignored by the media, although Monday's Guardian had a little stab at it.

    But the facts, frankly, line up like this. The Premiership is a bent league skewed in favour of the clubs which perpetually win the thing. English football as a whole is hobbled by the crooked nature of its top league. At least 15 clubs in the Premiership are little more than cannon fodder for the five which are easily able to qualify for the Champions League. We may as well go and watch Scottish Division Three.

    Okay, Everton have a great chance of securing a Champions League place, and good luck to them. But they're hardly tiddlers, are they? And Big Cup qualification gives them a head start in attracting players in the summer - which means even less to go around for the rest of us.

    Because the Premiership is such a bent league, it doesn't reward adventure. Each place in the league is worth roughly £2 million. That's a lot of money to put at risk just for giving Francis Jeffers a run-out when you don't have confidence in him, never mind putting on the kids, like Millwall are doing now. We have a team containing obvious weak links, and 4-5-1 covers them up.

    We aren't the only team to suffer this, and anyone who uses this as a stick to beat Alan Curbishley with needs to remove their head from their backside. Mistakes may be made in individual games, but his strategy so far has been sound, if not electrifying.

    What can we do about it? A few fans are talking about the unthinkable and voting with their feet - that flat £50 rise in season-ticket prices strikes an odd note when many fans simply aren't enjoying themselves like they used to. Even though we're eighth. Say it again. Eighth in the league.

    While it's difficult to fault our board for navigating a sane passage through the selfishness and stupidity of the Premiership over the past few years, it's hard to think of a way ahead that will bring excitement and success, that doesn't involve selling out to a Russian billionaire. Unless you want us to get relegated and start again, that is.

    Unless the Premiership becomes a less financially fiddled league, unless its fortunes are tied more closely to the Football League, it's going to get worse. What we, as fans, can do about it, is uncertain, but as Charlton fans, we shouldn't be taking it out on the manager who has so far kept us in the top half of the table for most of the season. We should be taking it out on the greedy bastards who are skewing the league for the rest of us. And hey, some of those were at Stamford Bridge tonight. No matter how good that game was, or how much Alan Green is wetting himself on 6-0-6 right now, while ignoring some bloke who's called up to talk about Southend.

    Ah, he just had a caller from Hereford on 6-0-6 demanding Sir Alex Ferguson should leave Manchester United. See how stupid he sounds?

    Saturday, March 05, 2005

    Fulham 0-0 Charlton

    Proper reports:, BBC Sport, Sky Sports, Sporting Life, Press Association,, The People, The Observer, Independent on Sunday, Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Times, Addick's Diary, The Times, The Guardian, The Independent, The Sun .

    The sound of David "Diddy" Hamilton on the Cottagers' mic always takes me back to easier, cosier days when he was a continuity announcer on Thames TV. Even if he did announce the game as a "south London derby" - eh?! But it was the spirit of another bit of 70s TV needed on a deeply frustrating afternoon in chilly SW6 - Mike Reid bellowing "Runaround!" Preferably at Shaun Bartlett.

    We must have taken 5,000 fans to Craven Cottage, who put on a loud and proud performance. We dominated a lacklustre Fulham on the pitch too - but two easy goals which Shaun Bartlett should have smashed home went begging, and that set the tone for the rest of the 90 minutes.

    On the up side, it's a useful point on a day when Spurs, Boro and Liverpool all lost. Paul Konchesky, Danny Murphy and Radostin Kishishev were all outstanding. We controlled a packed midfield and - on the whole - defended solidly.

    But with Fulham looking particularly limp - with their 13,000 home fans ignoring Chris Coleman's call to get behind the side - it could have been so much better. Shaun Bartlett was struggling to keep up at the front of the field, and appeared to give up altogether 20 minutes before the end. This could have been a game in which to revert to 4-4-2 - especially with the home team looking very poor indeed after Claus Jensen was replaced by Collins John. The only thing against us was erratic ref Steve Bennett. It was getting like the home game against Birmingham - get Jeffers on, and we've got a bit of pace, surely?

    The Charlton fans roared for Francis Jeffers and bellowed "4-4-2" (not just the Fulham fans, and the Observer. And the Times - LATER: A Fulham fan has since pointed out to me they were singing this in the Hammersmith End.). What did we get? Jonatan Johansson and more of the same. Franny was, well, neglected.

    The frustration in the Putney end was so strong, boos greeted the final whistle. Should Curbs have gambled by putting Jeffers on? The majority of fans at the Cottage today have just one answer. It'll be interesting to see what neutral observers think, but since very few journalists take us seriously, along with Fulham's pathetic support, get set for a few "if this is the best the Premiership can offer" moans in the press tomorrow. Ho-hum. Oh, and there's a Fulham fan on 6-0-6 now having a go at Coleman for not playing 4-4-2. Hmmmm.

    Still, onwards and upwards, eh?

    Wednesday, March 02, 2005

    The pain on the train

    Looking forward to Saturday's trip to Fulham? I am, actually, and it's likely this could be the best Charlton away turn-out for some time. Good. Just be warned, though, that there's engineering works on the Tube this weekend, which means the District and Circle lines through Embankment - and Cannon Street or Victoria, for those who like that kind of thing - will be closed.

    The way around this (from south-east London) is to either take a mainline train from Waterloo to Putney and walk to Craven Cottage from there, or to pick up the Picadilly line somewhere like Leicester Square or Green Park and change at Earl's Court for the working bits of the District line. Easy when you know how.

    Engineering work tends to be planned around home games - with Network Rail cleverly spotting that, thanks to our Cup record, the fourth, fifth, and sixth-round weekends provide the ideal opportunity to shut down the Greenwich line. See, they're not that stupid.

    However, a key line in today's club e-mail bulletin reveals where stupidity really lies...

    The date of Charlton's Premiership clash with Tottenham Hotspur will finally be set in stone tonight. At present, Alan Curbishley's side is due to take on Spurs at The Valley on Wednesday, March 16th (8pm).

    But the date of the fixture will be brought forward to the previous Saturday, March 12th (3pm) should Martin Jol's team exit the FA Cup at the fifth-round stage later this evening.

    However, Charlton station is due to be closed on Saturday, March 12th so
    should Spurs lose, a Valley fixture that day is still subject to police approval.

    Right, so Charlton are thinking of hosting a London derby on a day when there's no trains? What bright spark thought of that one? When I went along to the East Stand expansion exhibition, club minions seemed pleased as punch they'd managed to secure some extra train services on match days. And did anybody spot the ad in the Leicester programme urging supporters to catch the train? It's going to be a pain in the arse for thousands of fans - and whether it's Charlton, or the Premier League in charge of this, it's a reminder of how low fans are actually regarded by the football establishment.

    Okay, I know this isn't the most exciting thing in the world - and I wish I had more thrilling things to write about right now - but with the council now consulting on the East Stand, and idiots like the "residents' liason committee" stomping around, ready to pounce on evidence of hundreds of extra cars coming into the area, you'd have thought the club would have seen this one coming, wouldn't you?