Saturday, September 30, 2006

Charlton 1-2 Arsenal

"The Premier League is upside down..."

Bottom of the league, but funnily enough feeling optimistic this evening after an exciting clash with the Woolwich rejects. Arsene Wenger recieved warm applause to mark 10 years in charge of Arsenal, and his side today displayed all the hallmarks that have made the Gunners so successful, and helped change English football - strength, speed... and cynicism.

And despite the stunning goal which won Arsenal the match, the antics of referee Mark Clattenburg made Charlton fans see red - it was as if the original ref dropped out and Robin Van Persie's dad took charge of the game instead. Kevin Lisbie played like a man who hadn't started a game in a couple of years (erm...) and wound up being subject to kicking practice for several Arsenal players.

But it was appalling defending which saw us lose the match, and while Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink may have set up Darren Bent's opener, he's having trouble getting his wheelchair into position most of the time. How he must be grateful it becomes illegal to discriminate against the elderly from midnight.

Andy Reid's comeback was muted, Amady Faye was subbed at half-time, Kish came on in his place and huffed and puffed but couldn't blow the Gunners down. The funniest thought about a player was about Hreidarsson, from the West Ham fan I took with me - "your number 3's got the turning circle of a London bus".

So, rock bottom for the international break. Sod it, I'm off to the pub.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Les says... the kids are alright!

To Bromley, where Les Reed spoke to the local supporters' club tonight. Being a Johnny-come-lately kind of fan, he's a figure I've heard more about than found out for myself. But you know what struck me about our assistant head coach? The man has conviction by the bucketload, enough to put dissenters from the church of Dowie back on the straight and narrow.

Quietly spoken, he answered the questions put to him about the current team, the way he works with Iain Dowie and Mark Robson, and a few about his time with the England squad, at great length and with a great deal of honesty. Think of the evening as a masterclass.

For me, the most important thing he raised was his faith in our younger players - James Walker's earned himself a contract extension after initially being released last season. If we hit a striking crisis, he'd be happy to throw them in, while academy players now get the chance to train with the first team. He's clearly got a very clearly-defined bigger picture for the future.

As for our current problems, Reed acknowledged the way our team's heads dropped after Aston Villa's second goal was a concern. But he emphasised we've been down to the "bare bones" (especially for the Carlisle game) and is optimistic things could turn around after the international break, when our new signings return from injury.

One other thing intrigued me - in his 1990s spell with Charlton, he said it was easy to see leaders in the dressing room, with the likes of Mark Kinsella, John Robinson, and Stuart Balmer all wanting to lead the squad. But a decade on, it's harder to find leaders in football teams - players are more insecure than they used to be, and that was something he found in his time with England too. So psychology becomes ever more important, as well as teaching players the leadership skills they may have picked up naturally before.

Fascinating stuff, and it was good to get a glimpse at the wider game plan for the new-look Charlton. But the scores of Arsenal fans at Victoria station earlier in the evening on their way to the Holloway Goonerdrome for tonight's Porto game was a reminder of our more immediate challenge - even a point from our game against them will be enough to change perceptions of our season. And if we can hold Chelsea away, who knows?

Monday, September 25, 2006

It could be worse (etc)

At least we aren't Millwall, who sacked Nigel Spackman this morning.

Click here for some pretty amazing footage of Ray Wilkins dealing with some of the Spanners' finest minds outside the Den on Saturday.

And if current promotion and relegation trends continue, Fisher Athletic will overtake them in 2008.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Aston Villa 2-0 Charlton

A fresh start for Villa fans in the Brum sunshine - a new chairman bringing in new money for his new manager to spend. Meanwhile, it seemed like the same old shite for Charlton fans in their new spot at the foot of the Doug Ellis stand - our new manager, who's blown all the money already, has now got five defeats out of six under his belt. This match featured the Premiership's version of Bill and Ben, Matt Holland and Bryan Hughes in midfield, and our performance was just as wooden.

I've just heard Iain Dowie claim on Match of the Day that we dominated the first half - I'm not quite sure which game he was watching, but it didn't look that way to me, and anyway it's no bloody good "dominating" if you can't score for toffee. Darren Bent's lack of form returned to haunt him and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink strolled around like we should be grateful he turned up.

The second half was woeful - the experiment setting Dennis Rommedahl free doesn't seem to be working, especially when he drifts towards the centre of the field just as we need him out on the wing. Even star of the moment Amady Faye didn't have a particularly good game, but maybe he was as dispirited by the mediocrity as we were.

An annoying afternoon was capped by some twattish antics from some of the "youth" at the back of the away end - for heaven's sake, a row with a steward is always one you're going to lose, so grow up. On the field, it was Villa's youth - Gabriel Agbonlahor and Luke Moore - who did the damage, while our players strolled around, perhaps only concerned about their next pay day.

I don't care that we've got a raft of injuries. We didn't look like we were even trying. And this is a team playing for a manager that's supposed to be famous for his motivational skills. Dowie, sort it out.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Sign of the times

This has appeared by the Bugsby's Way warehouses.

It's probably a wind-up. It's not good, though.

(LATER: It is.)

Bottle boy

Remember my rant about how stupid it was that we insist on serving beer at The Valley in pints, rather than in bottles? Well, supporters' director Ben Hayes got onto the case, and has managed to come up with a result.

"At present we don’t even have a certificate to sell soft drinks in bottles but have been allowed to do so as a five year “trial”. I would like to pretend that in the face of fierce opposition I argued eloquently the case for bottled beer and finally won the day. The truth is that I was pushing at an open door. The club, and especially the Conferencing and Banqueting Manager, would love to sell beer in bottles as well as draught." (more)

It's now down to Greenwich Council to see if it all fits in with the paperwork. It's not an earth-shattering change, but it's proof it is possible to have a supporters director who gets things done... and tells you about it!

Now, why do they sell pints for £2.95, meaning everyone has to fumble around for 5p change behind the bars?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Charlton 1-0 Carlisle

An insipid night of League Cup drudgery against a Carlisle side who, frankly, should have taken us to pieces in the first half if they'd been any good. The worrying thing? This wasn't a second-string team Iain Dowie put out - apart from left-back Nathan Ashton, who made a fine debut - these were all first team players.

Yet why play Dennis Rommedahl against a team who were in the Conference two years ago? Our League One opposition made him look a fool. Why play Marcus Bent, surely only here for the wages, when Kevin Lisbie was wasting away on the bench, with his whole bloody career to play for? And why wasn't another stinker, Darren Ambrose, subbed?

There were some positives - as well as Ashton's performance, Faye continued to play well and Luke Young oozed class. But I found myself willing Carlisle to put on a better show for their 500 fans, to make a game of it. Apart from a spirited spell early in the second half, they weren't much cop, frankly. And when keeper Anthony Williams couldn't deal with a shot from Rommedahl, it lay there waiting for Darren Bent to lift his - and our - spirits slotting it home.

But it was crap, and at least it's over. We won, but tonight posed more questions than answers. The trip to Aston Villa on Saturday's going to feel like a very long one.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Not up for the cup

I've had it. I bet you've had it as well. I had it after slipping into the pub yesterday afternoon.

"Told you Dowie was shit, eh?"

Actually, I don't think you did... but never mind. I'm still sulking after Saturday, although I still maintain we'd have lost it under Curbishley and have been bored to tears. As always, we're not alone in having a wretched start, and I hear Spurs fans booed their team off at White Hart Lane yesterday - news which brought a smile to my face. Five games do not prove Portsmouth are the best team, and nor do they prove that we are the third worst. Ask me again when we turn the clocks back.

Anyway, tomorrow brings the League Cup (no way I'm plugging that grim lager) match against Carlisle and... I can't be bothered, to tell you the truth. Someone offered to get me a ticket today and I forgot to call them in time.

Of course, if we'd have had a Pompey-style start to the season, the visit of our distant cousins from League One would be treated like an excuse for a lap of honour. With the start we've actually had, it looks about as appealing as a session on the end of the Acme Arse-Kicking Machine. I'd take a 5-0 kicking from the Cumbrians if it meant we started winning some games in the league again.

And at £14... sorry, that's taking the mickey. Part of me wants to spite Carlisle for being so greedy. A small part of me remembers Millwall v Southampton is only costing a tenner, while we can also see Harry Redknapp on THAT edition of Panorama as well. Although whether I'll be able to resist the lure of The Valley when I come home from work tomorrow is another matter. Ho-hum.

Still, I can always return to Saturday's match programme for inspiration and diversion. Oh look, a feature on the leader of Hastings Council who was a Chelsea fan until 2000. Oh, great. Anyone fancy a fiver on Millwall tomorrow?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Charlton 0-1 Portsmouth

Being narrow-minded is a poor thing in today's broadminded world, and it didn't help Charlton as we slipped to a defeat against a mediocre Portsmouth side, whose claim to be top of the Premiership is as convincing as their claim to have a Premiership-standard ground,

It all started well, Marcus Bent cracked one onto the crossbar in the opening seconds as part of an attacking line-up also featuring Darren Bent and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.

Our all-new, fluid midfield - Dennis Rommedahl, Omar Pouso, Kish and Darren Ambrose - formed a refreshing changed from the old routine, but was a bit too bloody fluid. I didn't think much of Pouso, Kish had nobody to supply balls to, and Ambrose seemed a bit timid, despite putting in some great runs. Whenever you needed a bit of midfield solidity, it wasn't there. And EVERYTHING went through the bloody middle.

Even though Rommedahl had his free-ranging role, even he seemed to drift to the centre. Setting Dennis free worked in parts - a stinging second-half volley went inches wide, and he had free rein to show off his box of trick - but didn't in others, as his lack of confidence was quickly seized upon by Pompey's players.

After a hot-and-cold second half, swapping Marcus Bent for Jon Fortune could have made us more solid, and taking an ineffective Pouso off for dull-but-reliable Matt Holland might have shored up the midfield, but as Iain Dowie said in his post-match interviews, we didn't pass with intent - we didn't look at all threatening.

In retrospect, it shouldn't have been a surprise when sub LuaLua's shot deflected off Fortune and trickled past Scott Carson's fingers.

This is the game people were going to judge us on - I know we have a raft of injuries, but we fell short of the challenge. Yup, it will be a long season. Although, of course, we could have played a dull 4-5-1 and still lost. Does Dowie's positive thinking come in concentrated doses?

Insane pre-match optimism post

Only half-an-hour to go - who's going to read this? The streets outside are crowded, just now outside All Quiet Towers there was a little boy who looked like all his Christmases have come at onces, with his grandad telling him: "When you see a police horse, that's where the ground is."

It's Dennis Rommedahl's big day too, according to Ian Dowie:

"Dennis has got everything - he's a naturally good crosser of the ball, he's got blistering pace and he gets goals. You need to give him a bit of freedom to attack and make sure you don't shackle him. If you tie him down too much you lose his effect. He's one of those players that if you see him on his day - just like last Saturday [against Chelsea] - you think he is electric, so we're looking for that on a consistent basis." (more)


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Train pains for Pompey

Because the people who run the overground trains are barely competent tossers who couldn't find their arse with both hands (except when it comes to sucking up to the government for subsidy, or cashing in their share options), there's hardly any trains to Charlton for Saturday's match against Portsmouth.

And, of course, it took the club until the Thursday before the game to notice, and turn the thing into a weak plug for the Valley Express - as well as getting the kick-off time (12.45pm) wrong in the e-mail bulletin. What is going on in the press office right now?

Anyway, here's an attempt to provide some useful information, based on what's on the Southeastern Railway website. Don't plan your journey via the National Rail website, the details aren't in there.

Coming from central London? There will only be TWO trains an hour (instead of eight) from Cannon Street and London Bridge to Charlton, calling at Deptford, Greenwich, Maze Hill and Westcombe Park. The times haven't been announced. My advice would be to get the Jubilee Line to North Greenwich and get the bus or take a stroll (drop in at The Pilot, why don't you? It's full of Charlton memorabilia now.)

Coming from between Charlton and Slade Green? There are no trains at all between Charlton and Plumstead (special buses run instead) and four trains an hour between Plumstead and Slade Green.

Coming from Dartford and beyond? Trains from Gillingham will call at Eltham, Blackheath and Lewisham on their way to Charing Cross. Pint in Blackheath Village, anyone?

And that's the lot. Of course, it'd be nice to think the club, the Premier League, and the rail firms could get together to avoid this sort of cock up. But that's as likely as that Pompey pillock with the bell shutting up, of course...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A load of old crock

Yeah, it's been a bit quiet around here lately - mind on other things, international break, didn't bother with the Chelsea game, yeah, I know. Anyway, back here now.

And to what? News that Andy Reid's injured, so's new arrival Souleymane Diawara, and so's Djimi Trarore. With Portsmouth coming to town at the weekend. Oh, great.

In fact, Trarore's the worst off, with a hairline fracture to the fibular of his left leg. Is it me, or is Trarore just going to be one of those perpetually unlucky players all bloody season? One stupid sending off, one nasty injury. And it's not even the middle of September. I've a funny feeling he won't make any more than 20 appearances for us this season.

Ho-hum. Speaking of Portsmouth, they've been fined by the Premier League for ripping off their fans by changing their kit a season earlier than promised. However, they'll only have to pay the penalty if they do the same again in the next three years. The enormous sum hanging over them? £7,500. Good old Premier League.

And finally, with Kevin Blackwell surely staring at a P45 after Leeds were hammered by Sunderland at home, do you reckon our former lord and master would pick up his phone if Ken Bates rang? Or is New Zealand the best place for him to be right now?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Battling at the Bridge

No, I'm not paying £48 to sit in a tin shed at the wrong end of the Fulham Road, and in fact I spent the first half of our match at Stamford Bridge sound asleep in my bed.

I didn't even bother listening to until mid-way through the second-half, when I found out we were on Five Live Sports Extra. (I'm not a fan of the BBC London commentaries, you see.) This is what happens when you allow your league to be dominated by the joyless spivs of Chelsea. So naturally, that's my cue to fire up the computer and wax lyrical about a game I didn't see.

Sounds like we put up a good fight, though - for those who went or watched it on funny foreign telly, were we hard done by when Marcus Bent's goal was disallowed? And how funny is it to have Frank Lampard screw up a penalty?

Trouble is, of course, everyone will be dribbling on about this being "our worst start to a Premiership season" (TM). So what? We're four games in, for heaven's sake. Two of which have been against the league's two best teams. Hopefully the spirit we showed at the Bridge will endure.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Now the international break's over...

...I can wake up again. Did I miss much? Darren Bent didn't play for England? Oh, you stun me. But Andy Johnson? Dear, oh dear.

Although I did miss the little saga involving Stephan Andersen - all set to go to Leeds on loan, then they backed out because we wanted a recall clause. He's one angry young man.

"It is simply not right," explained the 24-year-old Denmark international.

"The clubs had agreed, but I think they wanted Fulham's Tony Warner and used the clause as an excuse."

Judging by Scott Carson's early form, Andersen's going to have to spend the next few months learning how to take deep breaths and count to 10... shame, really, because he's a good keeper. Although, if Norwich's chief executive is to be believed, he could have had a move there (in exchange for Robert Green) if he'd accepted their wages. Hmmmm.

In the meantime, Richard Murray's admitted to breaking the bank to back Iain Dowie - crikey, this could be a white-knuckle season:

"We have shown we mean business by backing Iain Dowie in the transfer market," the Charlton chairman declared.

"We have spent a large chunk of next season's budget as well, but we felt that it was a risk worth taking because it is a big season, bearing in mind the new, big-money Premiership TV deal comes in next year.

"A lot of the guys we have brought in are on big wages as well, but we are happy with the squad we now have."

Murray added in the South London Press: "We have taken on a lot of debt, certainly a lot more than in the past.

"But we feel that the debt is manageable and we wanted to ensure that we were competitive this season."

Chelsea away on Saturday, you won't catch me adding to their pile of filthy lucre - let's just hope we haven't suffered too much in terms of injury during the break. Especially Luke Young...