Friday, June 29, 2007

The week it really hit home

How do you really know when you've been relegated? Is it when someone folds up the "Barclays Premiership" sign outside reception, pops it in a van and drives off? No. Is it when we change to the Championship pages of news websites, and no longer have any decent stories written about us? No.

It's when we spend a week waving P45s and selling our best player. The loss of Darren Bent was never going to be pain-free. In his actions on and off the pitch he remained a cut above his peers, and at 23 he can only get better.

Is he worth £16.5m? Well, it's a stunning piece of business by our board, helped by our old friend Curbs across the river pushing his price up a couple of weeks back. You'll have to ask Spurs fans if they think it's a good deal for them, but in a week that saw the awesome Thierry Henry, who is 30 in August, switch to Barcelona for £16.1m, it's worth pointing out Bent has a long future ahead of him, while Henry is getting ready for his final few years in the sun.

In fact, Spurs told the Stock Exchange this morning that the deal was for up to six years, which indicates the best years of Bent's career will be in a white shirt. Or one of those horrible half-blue anniversary shirts. If they manage to hang on to Dimitar Berbatov, that'll be some pairing up front. Spurs blog The Shelf greets the news like this: "Hats off to Charlton for holding out for their fee and hats off to the Spurs board for paying big money when need-be."

But a word about Spurs' conduct during all this - as The Shelf notes, reports of Spurs' interest have been knocking around since 12 May. The Evening Sub-Standard and London Lite have been particularly diligent cheerleaders for the cause, even when he looked set for West Ham. This is a club that does its business via journalists, via unattributable briefings to favoured hacks.

Even the way today's news was handled, with pictures of Bent in a Tottenham top appearing on their website at 7.30am (I bet those weren't taken at first light at 5am, mind) appears to have been designed to benefit favoured journalists, running around with their scoop yesterday. If Spurs ever want to be considered a "big" club, then perhaps they should be a little more upfront in their transfer dealings. And against this background, against the drip-drip-drip of media pressure from Spurs, it makes our board's decision to hold out until we got a decent sum of money all the more admirable.

Maybe Benty's departure was a smokescreen for the devastating news of Bryan Hughes' departure to Hull - blimey, did he really make 89 appearances for us? His finest moment, for me, was being part of the team that beat Chelsea in the League Cup at Stamford Bridge in October 2005. Perhaps under-rated by many, it was probably time for him to move on. I don't think he ever had what it takes to compete with the best - perhaps he knows it, rejecting moves from Premier League sides - but he was a reliable squad player and I hope he does well with the Tigers, who will no doubt benefit from his experience.

But Matt Holland is staying - hurrah! I don't know about you, but I'm looking forward to the new series of Captain Cleanshorts and the Masters of the Championship. He'll be joined by co-star Jose Semedo, from Sporting Clube de Portugal - a Portuguese under-21 centre-half who came on a free.

Finally, the repercussions of the women's team fiasco rumbled on, with Charlton fans divided as to the merits of the decision to disband the women's team. Peter Varney's holding out hope for a saviour, but it seems that too many bridges have been burned already, with Keith Boanas' decision to leak the news to journalist Tony Leighton casting the board in an unfavourable light. But midfielder Danielle Murphy's ludicrous assertion that the Charlton board were content "to sit in their lovely Laura Ashley offices and drive in their fast cars" may well have backfired on her.

Whatever the merits of Charlton's decision - which saves £306,000 on the bill for the next season - it perhaps points to deeper issues in the women's game rather than issues inside a football club which suddenly finds itself needing to save cash. But it won't stop dim arguments being made on both sides of the debate, perhaps best summed up by one small-minded twerp on that sensible debate-free zone, the mailing list, who greeted Murphy's rant with the words "stop whining love". When the chips are down, and cool heads are needed, it's hard to get away from pillocks like that.

Still - it's less than a fortnight until Welling, a new team's coming together, and hey - we might sell Marcus Bent by then...

Confirmed: Dazza to Spurs for £16.5m

Not the picture anyone wanted to see. But an initial £15.5m from Spurs to us, who've acted shabbily during this entire process, is a cracking bit of business by our board. I expect a thank-you from Ipswich for their £2.58m share of that too. How much - if any - Pards gets is another matter, after Iain Dowie pissed away so much money last year.

So, what to think? I'd rather go back to bed and pretend it was all a dream, and at some point later day, wake up and look forward to another season of Premier League football... but it ain't gonna happen, and this is the reality of the situation. We have new heroes now. And little Darren's history.

In Darren Bent, Spurs have something special. Don't fuck him up, Tottenham.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Sky matches - don't hold your breath

Sky has announced which Football League matches it'll be covering this season, and between now and November, we feature a total of... TWICE!

Yup, the first away trip to Stoke is wisely moved to an evening match (5.20pm, 18 August) and the we have to wait until the end of November, when it's another away game - that'll be nobody at Preston for a 5.20pm kick-off on 24 November, then.

So who picks these, then? These are dafter than the Premier League TV games. And wot no Palace match?

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Money... in a rich (wo)man's world

It's been a week to talk about money. Just up the road from The Valley, I was at the Dome on Wednesday to see what happens when great sums of money are chucked after even more great sums of money - it becomes the O2 and it becomes a bit odd. Another nourishing round of what-ifs took place in my head... what if we'd taken the option of a move to the peninsula? We'd be there now...

So what might might happen to West Ham? They might take some of their £30m Premier League money away and give it to Sheffield United. How much is Darren Bent worth? More than £15m if you are Charlton, less if you are Spurs. How much does it take to send a former league club out of business? £820,000 to the Revenue if you're Scarborough. A French under-21 full-back whose arrival will probably ease the way for Luke Young's departure? £400,000. And how much is Iain Dowie's legal bill? Don't even go there.

And how much is a women's football team worth? We don't know, but evidently it's too much for us after our men's team screwed up royally, with reports indicating we're shutting it down this week, something rumoured a couple of weeks back. In the small world of women's football, this will make a big noise.

Captain and England defender Casey Stoney, angry at the closure of the women's section, said: "I'm disgusted with the club - the men get relegated and we get punished.

"The club's only trophies in recent years have been won by the women's team - and in the last four seasons we were the only side apart from Arsenal to win major honours.

"Seven weeks ago we played in front of a record crowd at the FA Cup final - that's now our last match and I'm totally gutted for everyone involved on the women's side."

Women's football's not my bag, and I've no idea of the finances involved. But... are we sure about this? The women's team commands great PR for us. It wins things. It encourages girls to get involved... and to become Charlton fans. It's something we should be proud of, and tossing it aside because of the failures of overpaid flops like Marcus Bent, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Dennis Rommedahl doesn't put us in a good light.

And should we return to the Premiership, we'd have lost the goodwill we've built up in the women's game should we want to revive the team. Just think of the hassle we went to in taking over the old Croydon club in the first place! (And now Crystal Palace are due a few quid... no, don't even think about it.)

On the flip side, of course, a women's football team is a luxury for a commercial outfit. After all, the most successful women's team of recent years has been Arsenal's. Which takes us back to the top again - how much was Thierry Henry worth again?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Goodbye Kish

"He's not the perfect player, but in determination, he sets an example his more highly-paid colleagues would do well to follow." (18/01/07)

"The thinking man's hero of the 2005/6 team. Provided the oil which made the Murphy/ Smertin machine move so well. But while the others threw a hissy fit and stopped playing, Kish kept on. And kept trying. Not the most skilful of players, but if you want an example of all the virtues that are good in football - look at Kish." (29/05/06)

My views haven't changed - it's just a shame we can't cheer Radostin Kishishev out of the front door as he leaves after seven years. In fact, it looks wrong to see him with those creeps Allen and Milandaric. But times change. Good luck at Leicester, Kish.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

West Ham's Bent bubble bursts

So, breaking news as I type - Darren Bent's turned down a move to West Ham, after a day which has seen Charlton fans idly dream of just how we'd spend a £16m barrow-load of loot... and would we really want Haydon Mullins anyway?

What does all this mean? Has he turned them down because he's got his eye on somewhere else? After all, Spurs' lapdog papers, the Evening Stunted and London Shite have continued to insist that little Bent could be riding his chopper towards N17 rather than E13.

Indeed, joining the two evening rags in being spoonfed by Spurs is Sky Sports News' Andy Burton, who says that "sources close to Bent say he is interested in a move to White Hart Lane".

However, I'd like to point out Andy Burton's reliability in matters Bent - in January he claimed West Ham were going to be bid £18m for Darren, a story which was entirely false and was, unusually, denied by both West Ham and Charlton. So I wouldn't believe anything he says, frankly. Perhaps Spurs should put up and shut up.

The situation's this - West Ham are the only club to have matched Charlton's £15m valuation of Bent. So they've spoken to him. And he's said: "No thanks."

Beyond that... who knows? Is he staying, or holding out for a better offer? Peter Varney's looking forward to him staying - but would he say anything else?

(Incidentally, the reports of huge wages in store for Bent and others have raised eyebrows and led to criticism - but biscuit magnate Eggert Magnusson has said some of the reports are "factually wrong". Except for the ones your PR people leak to the papers, eh Eggy?)

Anyway, I'm now going to have an early night before I get depressed at the sound of Charlton fans getting their hopes up too much...

Out with the old, in with the new

So, yeah, fixtures, Scunthorpe first up, Palace away on 1 September, hmmm.... yup, we're a Championship club now. Look, we're even on their website!

Without a huge number of London teams to play this season, and with more midweek games, there's a few eyebrows raised. Boxing Day sees us travel to Norwich (while Palace are at Coventry and Watford play host to Cardiff), so not many beers up there this season. Blackpool away is in late February (mmmm, bracing), while two aggro fixtures have become midweek games - those at Cardiff and Bristol City. Saves me trying to work out some excuses for not going... all fixtures subject to tinkering by Sky, who will air matches at 5.20pm on Saturdays and 1.15pm on Sundays, mainly because that's when Setanta will be showing their Premier League games.

As the fixtures were released, Mr Justice Tugendhat pronounced the old season over by awarding Crystal Palace three points against Iain Dowie in their court battle. It doesn't seem as if we've been found guilty of anything by implication - well, Reg seems happy enough with it, anyway. Dowie's issued his own statement, and it remains to be seen what the settlement will be. As for Jordan? Pretty muted by his standards. I wonder if Tango Man's going to tone down his act this season?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Daily Mail: '£16m + Mullins for Darren Bent'

From Thursday's edition of Middle England's favourite tabloid:

"West Ham swooped for Darren Bent last night in a £17million deal guaranteed to send shockwaves through the transfer market.

The Hammers have agreed to pay £16m for Charlton’s England striker with midfielder Hayden Mullins, rated at £1m, heading to The Valley as part of the package.

Bent, 23, has agreed personal terms on a five-year contract worth £75,000 a week and will fly home from holiday in the Caribbean for a medical.

The transfer should be completed by the weekend to confirm another coup for Alan Curbishley and his big-spending West Ham board."

The Mail generally tends to have the measure of things Charlton, so it's looking like the end, my friends... but we'll see.

In any case, Thursday's going to be a big enough day as it is - 10am sees the publication of the fixture list and the Mr Justice Tugendhat's judgment on Simon Jordan's case against Iain Dowie. Close season? Dull? Never...

But by the time I get back to this site tomorrow night, the shape of the season ahead will be clear. And the book can hopefully be closed on our wretched 2006/7 campaign.

Swindon's nice this time of year, eh?

An historic day for all Charlton fans. The League Cup draw at Swindon means we're in the first round of the thing for the first time since 1997 and... nah, I can't be arsed either. No disrespect to Swindon, but I can barely be arsed with the League Cup in the second round, so it'd be misleading to think I can be arsed with it now.

Nope, the historic moment was... the disappearance of the Premier League logo from Funny, that, because the new one looks like it should be on some butter or something. Not that anyone's gone to to cut and paste coca-cola.gif in its place, mind. But it'll come. And I did stop for a second in Piccadilly Circus yesterday to see if our name was appearing up on the big Coca-Cola screen, although I didn't see it. See, real football, real fans - doesn't it have a ring to it? Like a midweek cup game in Swindon in August?

Yeah, I know...

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Bent into proportion

Anyone that's read this for more than five minutes will know I generally give a wide berth to transfer speculation - most of it's blatant rubbish, or it'll just get your hopes up for something that's not going to happen. With Darren Bent on his hols, the festival of bullshit about our youthful talisman hasn't quite got into full swing, but still there's plenty of unattributed, lazy bollocks out there being served up to people as if it's gospel. ("Oooh, let's buy a copy of the Evening Stunted, copy what's in it, and then base a whole blog around it! Cracking idea!") All this stuff needs to be looked at with a cool head and in context.

So today's Sun demands a closer look.

RAFA BENITEZ has made an enquiry for Darren Bent.

The £14million-rated Charlton ace has become the No1 summer target for Liverpool boss Benitez after Barcelona hitman Samuel Eto’o revealed he wants to stay in Spain.

West Ham are also keen but rate the England star at nearer £10m.

The Hammers have already indicated they can pay Bent in the region of £60,000 a week and it is unclear whether Liverpool will match it.

The vast majority of Charlton fans would, I'm sure, be much more comfortable with Bent moving to a proven big club like Liverpool. I'd be delighted for him if he went. So, in a way, I'm hoping this is true. But, of course, this story could be a vehicle to lever money out of lesser teams like Spurs and West Ham (the latter, of course, have been reported as needing £35m to hang onto cheaters' trinket Carlos Tevez).

There was also this flyer about Valencia going for Bent, dutifully carried by the South London Press. Of course, the fact that Valencia is the home of our sponsors Llanera has nothing to do with why Reg and Pards might have taken themselves off to the Mediterranean...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Championship side takes shape

Alan Pardew's thinking for the forthcoming season is becoming clearer with the signing of Leicester captain Paddy McCarthy for £650,000. He turned down an improved deal from the Foxes to come to us. Described as a "combative defender", he probably isn't the subject of this track by The Corrs. Leicester fans seem to think they've done pretty well out of it - due to a habit of picking up too many bookings - although he does have one fan on YouTube. We'll see.

Meanwhile, Dennis Rommedahl scored twice for Denmark tonight as they beat Latvia 3-0. Hey-ho.

Spotty and Curbs, sitting in a tree...

A pearly-king messenger from north of the river delivers news...

West Ham United are delighted confirm that Scott Parker today completed a £7 million transfer from Newcastle United.

"I'm delighted Scott has agreed to sign for us," said Curbs. "Our relationship goes back some time to when he first joined Charlton as a schoolboy.

"He's coming to the Club knowing full well that we're trying to push forward and he wants to be part of that. Firstly he wants to improve our team; then he wants to improve his chances of forcing his way back into the England scene.

"He has been captain of Newcastle over the last couple of seasons and he is exactly the type of player that I wanted to bring to the Club. He's very experienced but still young and I'm sure he's going to be a big asset to West Ham."

Well, you didn't want to hear that, did you? For me, Parker's departure started our slow slide back out of the Premiership - and let's not forget the bad blood between Curbs and Parker which existed three-and-a-half years ago. While, in all honesty, it was quickly resolved after Parker's departure, it still seems strange to see them reunited.

From Curbs' book, Valley of Dreams:

"He said it over and over again. He told me that at Charlton we were never going to win the Premiership and probably never going to get into the Champions League. We may not even win a cup. He wanted the chance to be involved in all of those things and he wanted to be in the England team. As far as he was concerned I was denying him the chance to do all of that."

Good luck with all that at West Ham, eh Spotty?

(See also: West Ham/ reported /Darren Bent / said to be/ £18m/ guffguffguff/ etc.)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Cowardly Spurs' sub-Standard stunt

Back from Barcelona only to find I missed, um, nothing. Which isn't such a bad thing, I suppose.

Coming home, mind, provided the usual slaps in the face - the squalid dump that is Gatwick Airport rail station, the hopelessly puny trains back into town from there, the Evening Stunted moaning about a bloody logo, and then, on a billboard in Charlton Church Lane, this from Tottenham Hotspur's in-house rag...

Tottenham's negotiations with Charlton over the signing of Darren Bent are in danger of breaking down after they made an offer of only £8million for the striker.

Spurs manager Martin Jol is determined to sign the England international, but the club are a long way short of the club's £15m valuation.

In danger, eh? Poor ickle Spuds. North London's most over-rated club using its lapdog newspaper to bully us into selling Benty? Should have had a sweepstake on which date that story would appear. They can, of course, shove it up their arses.

Of course, if you were Darren Bent, the cards are all in your favour. Which would mean the choice is clear - hang on at Charlton for a bit, or sod off to a decent club for a fat pile of cash and move onto The Next Step. And I don't see Spurs falling into that latter category, do you?