Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Watford travel details

Right, so you've got your £10 ticket in your grubby mitts, but you've forgotten how to get to Watford, haven't you? Because I've encountered more than a few confused conversations about how to get up there, here's my advice, because since it's a bit fiddly.

If you have an Oyster card: Fill it up with pre-pay and take the Metropolitan line to Watford, which is about 15-20 minutes walk away from Vicarage Road. The full return fare from zone 1 is £6 on an Oyster card (you won't pay more than £7.30 on pre-pay). If you've got any kind of travelcard on your Oyster, you'll pay a lot less (if you've zone 3 or beyond, you'll only pay £2 return).
If you want to go this way without an Oyster card , you'll need to ask for a travelcard which includes Zone A (£7.80 from zone 1, £4.90 from anywhere else). Don't get a zone 6 ticket - it won't work.

If you don't have an Oyster card (or want to go drinking): Buy a straightforward rail ticket to Watford Junction (cheap day return from Euston is £7.40) - Vicarage Road is half-an-hour's walk from there. Watford High Street station is nearer, but trains are much slower and less frequent. Don't buy a travelcard, since they're not accepted by rail to Watford Junction. And if anyone tells you to go to a "Watford Stadium" station, it shut in the 90s, so tell them to pipe down.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Charlton 4-0 West Ham

Proper reports:, BBC Sport, Sky Sports, Sporting Life, Independent on Sunday, The Observer, Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Times,

What an awesome afternoon. It's really hard to know where to start, so I'm not really going to bother. But here's what I'll remember about this afternoon.

- It wasn't that our performance was awesome. We just did the simple things properly, and had the hunger to succeed. While - Carlos Tevez aside - the opposition looked like clowns.

- Individual performances? Step forward Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, who played like he should have played all season - teeing up that goal for Darren Bent was a delight. And Alexandre Song's tackling was just sublime. Scott Carson was under-employed as we ran riot in the first half, but was a tower of strength once more in the second half.

- The crowd. Just fantastic. Alan Curbishley must have wondered what had come over us. And who had the bright idea of calling Paul Konchesky "Britney"?

- We did all this without Reid, without Bougherra, and without HH. But we'll need them, because we'll have much tougher games like this to come. Starting at Watford.

- The post-match interviews. Pardew diplomatic, while Curbs looked like a haunted man. And that Icelandic berk's just given him another vote of confidence. While you're out celebrating, spare a thought for the poor sod.

On which note, I'm off to celebrate...

Pards on today's game

Dark clouds gathering over The Valley this morning - and here's what Pards has to say about today:

"I can't just say it's another game because it isn't. It does feel a little bit different. I am a little bit more nervous about it and naturally so because it wasn't so long ago that I was manager of West Ham, running in front of their fans and doing my job for them.

"There was a lot of emotion involved when I was at Upton Park and my love for them won't ever die. I want them to do well, I want them to survive and I want us to survive. Obviously tomorrow I want to win but after that they can win every game as long as we do, too."
(The Guardian)

"Almost winning the FA Cup Final last season was my biggest game by some distance. I’ve had other bigger games than this, such as play-off finals. This is a big game, but it has to be taken in context. A team that loses will still have a chance. You only have to look at Portsmouth [last season] to know there is enough time left." (The Times)

Meanwhile, The Guardian, The Independent and the Daily Telegraph have all written the same story about Curbs. Nice work.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Apply some pressure

"What's my view?
Well how am I supposed to know
Write a review
Well how objective can I be?"

Finally, the pieces are about to fall into place. Darren Bent is back from injury. So is Luke Young. If the play-off match of 1998 had a £10m price tag on it, then tomorrow's encounter with West Ham has, potentially, over three times that riding on it.

Not that defeating West Ham will ensure our survival. A win for us tomorrow can only be the start - others will have to help us finish the job off. We have to hope that Wigan's good form is short-lived, and that Newcastle start whacking nails in their coffin at the JJB on Sunday.

It's been a strange experience keeping half an eye on the Hammers this past couple of months. Their pride means the pressure is greater. Alan Pardew arrived at The Valley with little for us to lose, our hope torn to pieces by the Dowie debacle and the baffling interlude of Les Reed's reign. But the weight of history is already showing on Alan Curbishley's shoulders. Tomorrow marks 14 years since Bobby Moore's death, and the ghosts of claret and blue glories must be keeping him awake at night.

"I like to wait to see how things turn out
If you apply some pressure"

We all know Curbs' strengths - he turned us from second division no-hopers to a mini-Premiership powerhouse. But we also know his failings. He struggles to arrest poor form - and left a legacy of end-of-season slumps at Charlton. And - by his own admission at times here - he finds it hard to deal with big names. West Ham's baby Bentley boys must be wondering what has (failed to) hit them.

And Curbs also knows only too well that the man who took West Ham to an FA Cup final last season was sat in his seat just 11 weeks ago. Second season turmoil saw Alan Pardew get the Boleyn boot, but biscuit baron Eggbert Magnusson's tasteless tirade - "There was a cancer we had to cut off" - said more about the Irons' new owner than it did about our manager. Indeed, Curbs has already had - drumroll, please - the vote of confidence! Oh dear.

Why all this about Curbs and West Ham? Aren't they history? I hope they will be at five o'clock on Saturday. But everything coming out of Charlton suggests quiet confidence. Read Alan Pardew in today's Daily Mirror. He can use words to inspire, while Curbs runs from them. Just ask any of Charlton's press people how awkward he was to deal with.

Now we have a real leader in charge. Sure, on paper West Ham may think they have a stronger team. But we have real strength - confidence, and a quiet belief that we can do the job. We're not setting ourselves up for failure - we know what we can do. We just have to go out and do it. We can deal with it. Can West Ham?

Sing your hearts out tomorrow. And apply some pressure.

(Maximo Park lyrics - copyright acknowledged and all that.)

The West Ham build-up begins...

Alan Pardew in the Mirror: "They are a great club with great fans but the bottom line is I'm paid to be manager of Charlton and I'll do everything I can to get the win that takes them above West Ham. I'll try and take the emotion out of it. I have to. I do feel I've something to prove, but only to myself."

And on Darren Bent: "If he is sold it will be determined by market forces. The market forces are determined by the price Shevchenko has gone for, and the new contracts that players like Didier Drogba have signed. There is big money in the game and big figures are going to get accepted.

"We have a prize asset and the prize asset in terms of Darren is a striker with a guarantee of Premiership goals, and a team player. Forget about anything else because there are a lot of Premiership strikers who are not team players. No one concentrates more on the team than myself and that is why Darren will have the armband on Saturday."

Phil Parkinson on Pardew, to the BBC: "Alan is very relaxed the way he goes about his business and there is no way any pressure will be transmitted to the players. Rather than telling them they have got to win we are telling them what they need to do to win and we are focusing on those processes rather than the outcome."

Thursday, February 22, 2007

City Addicks off

Were you thinking of going to City Addicks tonight with Robbo? Well, sadly he's had to pull out due to illness. You'll have to fret about Saturday elsewhere now!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Of smears and scapegoats

In the last 48 hours, the leftovers from the Iain Dowie era were finally tied up. Firstly, the man himself took over at Coventry yesterday, and suggested tales of his time at Charlton may not be all they're cracked up to be.

Asked whether he felt a smear campaign had been conducted at Charlton, he replied: "I think that may have been the case. I know for a fact there were no altercations with players. Do I ever go for a run before a game? No. Was my brother in the dressing room? No. So most of them were lies but throughout this I have tried to keep dignified silence. I think dignity is very important in football." (more)

Dignity, eh? To give him credit, he said he'd "learned lessons" from his time at Charlton, and tonight he led Coventry to a 2-1 win over Southampton. Of course, Dowie's other big challenge - that court case with Simon Jordan - is yet to come. Good luck to him at Coventry, mind.

And today saw Andrew Mills - the general manager in the structure Richard Murray set up around Dowie - leave the club, along with rarely-seen players Gonzalo Sorondo (who spent more time playing under Dowie at Palace) and Omar Pouso (signed by Dowie). Mills, to my mind, was rather unfairly made a scapegoat for some of the poor signings of the Dowie era - he was only the gopher who did some of the leg work for the head coach and chairman, after all.

Perhaps he shouldn't have been given such a high profile when Dowie's appointment was announced, because it wasn't really explained to fans what he actually did - many thought he was identifying and providing players. A botched attempt to sign Scott Brown and Kevin Thomson from Hibernian didn't help matters, although his watch did see Scott Carson, Zheng Zyi, Soulemayne Diawara and Andy Reid come in. He's also been credited with Alan Pardew's recent signings too.

So Murray's fabled structure is history. I wonder, was it the structure or the personnel at fault? But I'm told things aren't really that different - after all, Alan Pardew did bring scout Paul Haverson with him from West Ham (along with Phil Chapple), and Phil Parkinson's getting on with work as his assistant.

As for the players who have gone - I'd forgotten they were still around, to be honest. There wasn't really a place left for Sorondo, while Pouso was just a hideously unlucky signing. At least they're off the payroll, I suppose.

The pain in Spain comes from CAFC

It's Tuesday morning. It's bloody early. There's something not quite right in the Inspector Sands household. My voice is almost gone. I feel rotten. It is time to return to bed. But first, a quick call to cancel work for the day...

...and there's a message left on my phone. From... hold on, that's Maidstone, isn't it? A perky Spanish voice pipes up. "Hello!..." and from there the rest is largely inaudible. Yup, it's that bloke from Llanera trying to flog me his Costa Del Sidcup gaffs.

Now, let's get a few things straight. Firstly, I have not permitted CAFC to pass on my details to their "partners" - getting a CAFC-branded Llanera mailout the other day was bad enough, but cold calling is just rude.

Secondly, under the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003, it is unlawful for Llanera to make unsolicited direct marketing calls to individuals who have indicated that they do not want to receive such calls. I just cut and pasted that from the Telephone Protection Service website. So it's also illegal. So I've reported them via TPS, and if you're also signed up with TPS, I'd encourage you to do the same. I don't care that it's Charlton, they shouldn't be doing it.

Thirdly, if Charlton actually had a decent customer database, rather than cold-calling all season ticket holders, they might realise that I'm probably unlikely to buy family accomodation in some Spanish resort, and that this sort of thing pisses off more people than it impresses.

But "marketing" is the new Charlton god. It's all well and good when you're trying to promote the club - but the database is so basic that season-ticket holders who buy match tickets because they've forgotten their books get included in the mailouts non-ST holders get. And they can't stop going on about it. Remember how pleased they were with themselves with the Les Reed calls before the Wycombe game? (And how long ago does it seem now?)

When the Mail on Sunday took the mickey out of our reminders to people that we've the biggest match in years coming up (and frankly, I don't blame them), old Reg went into a flap, rather than just letting it lie.

But still, we invite the barbs by boasting the West Ham match is now a sell-out - did anyone seriously expect otherwise? West Ham's pals in the media now have more ammunition to tear us to pieces. If I was a West Ham fan, I would. Because this draws more attention to our own failings (poor football in recent seasons, a lukewarm fanbase) than it does to our successes (getting people to buy match tickets.)

I've nothing against the club promoting itself - in fact, I'm all for it. I don't see enough of it around my neck of the woods, in fact. But for heaven's sake, use your brains, chaps. And before you get touchy about criticism, get your own house in order about "marketing" first, eh?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Stand up and be counted

You probably don't think much of Clive Tyldesley as a commentator, but he's also a thoughtful writer in the Daily Telegraph. Here's his take on the safe standing issue:

The tension between the sitters and the standers and the stewards caught in the crossfire is not healthy. No wonder a website dedicated to the campaign is called '' because half the people in these sections want to do one thing and the other half want the opposite. And the poor club security officials are the ones who have got to adjudicate. A new threat to safety is emerging and it has got to be addressed. (more)

Speaking of which, you can also sign the petition to the Prime Minister:

Robbo's a City Addick this Thursday

The answer, my friend, is Robbo in the pub... John Robinson is going to be at the City Adidcks gathering at the City Tavern off Cheapside (five minutes walk from Cannon Street/ Bank/ St Paul's stations). It's always a good night and a chance to find out a few things you didn't know before. We're sworn to secrecy about what Lennie Lawrence told us last time - and believe me, you wouldn't want Lennie after you if you blabbed. It all starts at 6.30pm, and yes, mine's a Guinness, thanks.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Curbs' training shows results

While we've been relaxing in Spain, old Curbs has been making his Hammers stay behind in Chadwell Heath for double training. But this is no consolation to Anton Ferdinand, who's Baby Bentley's taken a knock - "There was no indication that it was West Ham fans, I have to say," he grunted, indicating that Rio must have use of the family brain cell this week.

Of course, older members of the squad have been leading by example - for example, Teddy Sheringham decided to get some training in by taking his pet racist for a late night walk. Perhaps she needed to go poo-poo or something.

Such dedication to the cause, eh?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

What the FA is going on?

The Charlton Life blog asks some pertinent questions about the FA's handling of the Osei Sankofa affair, and why the court attempt to overturn his ban has been surrounded in secrecy...

I am not suggesting that the disciplinary process is biased, indeed last season's figures which show over 25% of all appeals being upheld indicates that is not the case. My concern is the vice-like grip the FA has over the procedures. They have total control of a process that is about as transparent as a brick and may be at odds with the law. (more)

We're seeing plenty of challenges to the FA's processes at the moment - Wigan are rightly furious after the fiasco they endured at Arsenal at the weekend, and further down the leagues, AFC Wimbledon (which I have a small shareholding in) announced their intention to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport after being kicked out of the FA Trophy for unwittingly fielding an illegible player, whose status was only discovered once he was booked (if he'd been a dirty player, he'd have been spotted sooner and the Dons would have been saved a massive points deduction).

This is the 21st century, but the processes of the FA belong to the days when Blackheath were members. It's time for the FA to get its house in order - because with the Premier League becoming more and more power-hungry, its days could be numbered if it doesn't.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Another morale-boosting, erm, defeat

Well, well. A 2-0 defeat at Old Trafford yesterday, but by most accounts - and the last half-hour which I managed to watch - we acquitted ourselves well. Good, also, to see Zheng Zyi, Song and Boughera make their debuts. Should we survive, we might just have the makings of a decent side next season.

Elsewhere, things went to plan with Watford showing up West Ham at Upton Park, and outrageous luck saw Arsenal beat Wigan at the Emirates today. Despite their defeat, the Latics' fine performance remains a worry.

A weekend off for the FA Cup, then it's That Match - the time for talking will soon be over, and Pards is taking the squad off to Spain this week to instil some more of his philosophies.

We’ll be getting down to hard work, but there will also be room to relax. We have some go-karting planned, a table tennis tournament and Matt Holland is preparing a quiz, which we hope isn’t about farming and pigs and cows and whatever he does out in Ipswich.

"We’ve done not bad, but now is the time. This is the start of the recovery. After the United game, we have to kick in and kick on."

At Sparrows Lane, the decorators are in, and the players have been told to stay away from the office staff's computers...

"I say to the secretaries, 'Don’t let the players into your area'. "They say that the players want to look at the internet. Now the banter is that they may put up a kiddie gate. Not a bad idea, but the players would go over the gate or open it.

"The girls have to learn to say, 'This is my area'. It’s a small thing, but it’s an example."

So if a Charlton player asks if he can check his e-mail on your computer, do the decent thing and say no, okay?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Put your money on Charlton (and other stories)

- Nope, I'm not going to Manchester United on Saturday, but I can tell you that we're a stonking 28/1 to beat the Red Devils on Betfair, while "official Charlton bookmakers" Paddy Power are offering a comparatively miserly 20-1. So, if you've a fiver that's begging to be spent...

- I missed Andy Reid's appearance at Bromley Addicks the other night, but by all accounts he was a very nice chap, and confirmed the famous "lost near Newcastle" story about Iain Dowie, but said it wasn't so bad as it was made out to be.

- Speaking of Mr Dowie, our ex-head coach's court battle with Simon Jordan was due back in court today, ahead of a further hearing in the summer.

- I'm a bit late with this, but David Cameron responded to the safe standing campaign on his website, saying the Tories would look into the issue. Very non-committal, but not the heads-in-the-sand attitude of the current administration.

- Got Freeview? Watch out for a big battle over Premiership TV rights that's coming to your screen soon. Last week, Setanta Sports announced it'd be charging Freeview viewers £11/month for a limited period to subscribe to its sports channel - which will carry what's now the pay-per-view games next season. And today, Sky announced plans to offer Premiership football to Freeview users. The catch, though, will be the removal of Sky Sports News (and Sky News) from Freeview. Which is not good, even if SSN did tout that old cobblers about West Ham bidding £18m for Darren Bent.

- And finally, let's enjoy our annual chortle at West Ham's Valentine's night package, which for just £75 includes a "sumptuous four-course meal by candlelight", free house wine and "a gift for the lady" (a signed picture of Curbs?). Oh, and a chance to make the earth move in the West Ham Quality Hotel for a further £65. Hmmm.... night in with a bag of chips and the Brit Awards, anyone?

Monday, February 05, 2007

The wonder of Welling

Sad to hear of the death of Welling United general manager Graham Hobbins earlier today - chatting with the Hobbins brothers at Park View Road while buying friendly tickets seemed as much of a summer institution as the match we play there each pre-season.

Among the sadness, it's worth reflecting on the work Graham and his brother, Barrie, put in at Welling - the club only formed as a parks side in 1963, and took over the then-disused Park View Road ground in the late 1970s - rising from the old Athenian league to the Conference in less than a decade, an amazing achievement.

Welling lost their Conference status in 2000, but are second in Conference South now and in the FA Trophy quarter-finals - success in either competition would be a fitting tribute to Graham Hobbins. Imagine what it'd be like for them now in a bigger, better Conference? Good luck to them - I hope they do it for him.

Incidentally, they're raising money to replace the floodlights damaged in the recent storms by building a "Welling Wall" - to find out how to help, click here.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

A reminder of yesterday's atmosphere

Even Jose heard. If we can keep this going...
(Fine mobile phone work from andytheaddick, so please show your appreciation on his page. And the Covered End drummer, last seen in a local hostelry sporting a glowing blister on his thumb...)

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Charlton 0-1 Chelsea

Proper match reports:, BBC Sport, Sky Sports, Sporting Life, The Observer, Sunday Times, Sunday Telegraph, Independent on Sunday, Sunday People, Sunday Mirror, Mail on Sunday,

Opposition view: Chelsea Blog

So the Chel$ea freak circus creaked into town, nabbed three points through an Amady Faye cock-up which gave puppy dealer Frank Lampard tons of room, and didn't do much else. Andriy Shevchenko did sod all, ending my fears that he'd dive for a penalty like he did when I saw him at the World Cup, and Michael Ballack didn't do much better. As Jose Mourinho's childish bleatings and the odious Peter Kenyon's chest-beating show - you can't buy class.

Class is something we're short of as well. But we had guts and it showed. I don't know what Alan Pardew's said to Marcus Bent, but he led by example today, sniffing blood in Chelsea's play and charging around after them. Ben Thatcher was excellent in defence, while Talal El Karkouri also had a good match. Jerome Thomas down the wing was a threat. Faye had an odd game, letting balls go but also getting our two chances - and blowing them, with a robotic-looking Petr Cech in excellent form. In our goal, Scott Carson also rose to the occasion, with a couple of excellent saves.

We rode our luck - later on the excellent Salomon Kalou clipped the post for the Blues, but Didier Drogba seemed to get away with at least four or five handballs.

I feel annoyed we didn't get a point - but to have hassled and harried Chelsea as we did, and limited their lead to a single goal, is still a morale-boosting achievement. We face a tough one next week against the true class of Manchester United, but we can be proud of today. Wigan's win is a blow, but there's still plenty of hope.