Friday, August 31, 2007

Preparing for Palace

Oh, I'll deal with everything else tomorrow - I'm too worn out from the street parties thrown to mark Marcus Bent's departure - but I can't let this one go...

A former TV reporter has appeared in court charged with breaching a court order which bans her from contacting the chairman of a football club.

Tara Stout is accused of calling, sending text messages and a CD-ROM containing revealing images of herself to Crystal Palace boss Simon Jordan.

A court order restrains her from contacting Mr Jordan or his family, Southwark Crown Court heard.

Ms Stout, 36, of Clapham, south London, denies breaching the order.

Marvellous. And before you ask, yes, that was today...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Charlton 4-3 Stockport

C'mon, where else in London would you get entertainment like that for a tenner? A laboured start, but then we were cruising after a fine goal from Svetoslav Todorov, and Zheng Zhi's penalty.

Second half, and getting home in time for Newsnight was looking certain... until our defence fell apart. Again. Saturday's result was reversed, with Stockport suddenly winning 3-2, their tiny band of fans jubilant in the Jimmy Seed.

But Lloyd Sam's great free kick put us back level, and who got the last minute winner? Paddy McCarthy, who'd been consistently crap all game, headed home a corner. Pass the smelling salts. A relief to win, but that wasn't a good enough performance - and Alan Pardew knew it, puffing his cheeks out at the West Stand crowd at the end of the game.

Despite our defensive worries, there was still a bit to celebrate. I got a great view of Jose Semedo - and he's a terrier, isn't he? Possibly the hardest-working player on the pitch, there wasn't a ball worth chasing which he didn't put in a challenge for. Todorov's experience is a real benefit to us, while Zheng Zhi's class is still showing. And French newcomer Therry Racon was very impressive indeed.

And whatever the bloody result, after the horrifying news from the City Ground (itself coming after the death of Sevilla's Antonio Puerta), at least we've been fortunate enough to be able to remember a match for happier reasons.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Big Chris brings relief

Crikey. I still haven't really got over yesterday's win over Sheffield Wednesday - and nor will the small knot of Addicks fans who walked out at half time, spending the second half sunning themselves by the Thames at the Anchor and Hope.

But for a guide to the sort of thing we'll have to get used to this season, you didn't have to look much further than yesterday's dramatic turnaround. But what the hell went on in that first half? Wednesday, frankly, are rubbish, yet we made them look like world-beaters - Ben Thatcher was woeful, Jerome Thomas looked like he was allergic to the ball, Darren Ambrose was terrible, Marcus Bent was invisible and Andy Reid was moping around on the right like a man who'd just heard some seriously bad news. We played like we were scared. We were crap.

I couldn't help thinking of our match against Tranmere in October 1999 - two down at half-time, 3-2 winners at full-time. I remembered being faintly optmistic we could turn it around then. And guess what...?

But how did Pards turn it around? Was it bringing on Zheng Ziyi? Probably. Replacing Bent with Todorov? Possibly. A ferocious half-time bollocking to go with being booed off the pitch? I think so.

And salvation came from Chris Iwelumo. How long has it been since we had a striker who wasn't afraid of using his size in the box? And he's not at all bad with the ball, is he? Zheng Ziyi showed us his pace will help at this level too, but generally we tightened up, sharpened up, and scared Wednesday witless.

It wasn't all brilliant. We still looked dangerously out of sorts in defence. But we lived off our wits to get that win, and I haven't enjoyed a half of football so much for a long, long time. Dramatic turnarounds, dramatic disappointments - get set for months of this sort of thing as we inch our way through this long, long season.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Championship chumps

Well, there was fat chance of me going to the Britannia Stadium on a Saturday tea-time, so our defeat to Stoke City was endured on telly, the pain eased by being in excellent company.

And it was crap, wasn't it? Sad to see how quickly we managed to impersonate a poor second-division side - with Paddy McCarthy's poor performance in defence summing it up. And Yassin Moutaouakil's ankle injury is worrying.

But these are still early days, and it'd be unwise to worry too much about our slow start to Championship life. We'll just leave that kind of thing to our old chums in the Premier League...

As an unsettling backdrop to all this, yesterday's Independent linked us with bids from Nigerian and Russian investors.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Charlton's City conundrum

So we might be off the mark thanks to a League Cup win at Swindon (oh, you must be joking, I went to see Prince instead) which sees us with a home tie against Stockport.

But suddenly, it all goes uncertain!

RNS Number:2185C
Charlton Athletic PLC
16 August 2007

The board of Charlton Athletic Plc ('Charlton' or the 'Company') notes today's
press speculation
in relation to its strategic direction.

The board of Charlton confirms that it has retained Seymour Pierce Limited to
consider a range of strategic options, which may or may not lead to an offer
for the Company.

A further announcement will be made in due course, as appropriate.

Oh. Reuters snapped into action - "Charlton Athletic said it was up for sale on Thursday, joining a growing list of clubs changing ownership", everyone else calmed down but noted Seymour Pierce's links to the takeovers at Chelsea and Aston Villa.

And later, Charlton released a new statement adding that any options could "include further investment from existing shareholders and/or new investors".

So, what does this mean? I don't know, I can't read Richard Murray's mind. And anyone who thinks they can is probably a fool.

But - despite current stock market turmoil - now would seem a sensible time to sniff around for options for the future. Is a deal already done? Or are we at the start of a long process? Who knows? But I draw your attention to a line from the Telegraph to show you what's at stake...

Earlier this week, George Burley, the Southampton manager, admitted that the sales of Gareth Bale and Chris Baird had been made to avoid the threat of administration in the club's third year outside the Premier League and first without parachute payments.

So, that's the mess the Saints are in. But where will we be in 2009?

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Charlton 1-1 Scunthorpe

Hmmmm. I thought this was going to happen. In fact, I should have put money on 1-1. "Relegated, rebuilt team getting its act together at a lower level slips up as promoted side going in the other direction are roared on by a huge travelling fanbase." Or, as the Scunny fans put it, "that's why we're champions". Yeah, of League One.

And they took their League One recipe for success to The Valley with them - a blend of tugs, trips, blocks and all-round time-wasting, allowed to simmer by referee Trevor Kettle and a staggeringly incompetent linesman in front of the East Stand. Our corners became their goal kicks, perfectly good balls became offside.

But Scunthorpe will not improve after today. We can. And we will. Marcus Bent had a fine game, showing effort and maturity that was absent last seaon. Yassin Moutaouakil had a great game in defence, Andy Reid and Lloyd Sam showed useful touches, Nicky Weaver was assured, and substitute Chris Iwelumo showed he could mix it with the muckiest of them.

But we need to be sharper up front - Bent and Reid both missed glorious sitters. And we need to be marking players properly, because we allowed Scunny's Iriekpen to score after a corner because we were half-asleep.

I'm not too bothered by the result - Palace's thumping win at Southampton pisses me off more. We can learn from this. It was never going to be easy. And we can now see the size of the task ahead of us. Welcome to the Championship.

Two hours to go...

And I'm not in the pub. I'll fix that in a bit.

But this is it. No more people asking if you've renewed your season ticket because we've been relegated. No more being treated as also-rans by the pundits. Scunthorpe are here. I reckon it'll be a draw. Seriously. I think it'll take a while for us to gel as a side in a new league. I'm still optimistic about our season, but it could be a bumpy landing back in the second tier. I just hope we're patient enough to treat the rough times the same as we treat the good times - because there will be rough times in this league.

And it's time for a fresh start. I might even clap Marcus Bent. Bring on the Iron!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

ZZ's back! With added Izale!

Blimey! How did Pards pull this one off, then? How have we managed to re-sign Zheng Zyi on a permanent deal for £2m? Now that's the kind of attacking midfielder we could do with as we look to take the Championship by storm. Before we get the rose-tinted specs on, some of his performances after that goal against Newcastle weren't all that last season, but a player of his quality - and international appeal - gives us a phenemonal lift as the new season starts.

(Since it's my birthday today, I could make the tired gag about really wanting Zhang Ziyi as a present, but this will do, however I won't.)

Also coming from a land of dubious morals, comes another striker - enter Izale McLeod from MK Scum for £1.55m. He may come from the most hated club in League Two, but he scored 21 in 34 for them last season and has second tier experience from Derby.

It's all coming together, but it won't include Souleymane Diawara, who showed flashes of greatness for us in the Premier League. Relegation wasn't good enough for his agent - what kind of turds was Dowie doing business with when he was here? - and he's off to Bordeaux for an initial €3.9m (£2.64m), which could rise to €5.1m (£3.45m), representing a loss on the £3.7m we paid for him.

Pards is not happy.

"I didn't want to lose Souley. His agent played a massive part in his departure and I'm currently considering whether to report him to The Football League and the relevant authorities. As a person Souley was a good guy, and I wish him all the best at Bordeaux and thank him for this efforts here."

Still, forget him. ZZ's here, Izale's here - I'm even starting to get excited again...

Pards the realist

Take a look at today's Independent - Pards is there, and well worth reading.

"There are a couple of things I remember from West Ham when we were in the Championship. We had more technical ability than other teams but that playing style wasn't always an advantage. Likewise now we have a small advantage in ability but that can easily be eliminated with lack of organisation, lack of commitment, lack of team spirit. The one thing that, above all, I do know about this division is not so much that you will get beaten unexpectedly, because you will, it's how you recover from them." (more)

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The League's killed our commentaries!

Well, not our commentaries, since I rarely listen to them - partisan commentaries aren't really to my taste, but each to their own - but news that Charlton are having to pull live commentaries from will go down like a sack of condemned Surrey meat with fans outside London or Kent.

Until now, BBC London has provided live commentaries on Charlton games, which have aired on their website, BBC Radio Kent's, and our official site. (And, of course, on the London and Kent radio stations.) All those commentaries were free because of the BBC's licence fee - you pay the wages of those commentators through your telly tax, so you're not allowed to pay for it again.

It's a situation the Premier League was happy with - clubs are free to do what they like in new media. There's no benefit in sharing out the spoils there when can make millions in Malaysia.

But things are different in the Football League, which outsourced all of its club sites some years back to an outfit called Premium TV. You'll know them - crap websites which you have to sign into.

These days, Football League Interactive and Premium TV charge fans £35/year to listen to online commentaries through its World sites. Because of this, the Football League says we must charge fans to listen to commentaries. We've told them to sod off, because we can't (because they're provided by the BBC.)

Which means we'll be in a unique situation in the Championship this season in not having live commentaries online. Only us and Southampton don't have PTV websites. They provide commentary for an introductory £20/year through its radio partner Radio Hampshire (which used to be the club-owned station The Saint).

Is this wrong? I don't think so. It doesn't make sense to sell out to PTV because we might only spend a year in the Championship. And selling our commentaries out to PTV would also put us on the slippery slope of losing control of our website.

And, I really don't care what you think of this, but I reckon they do a damn good job at - it's usually well-written, on the whole it's pretty good at getting stories up quickly, doesn't have those irritating "listen to your club wherever you are!" promos, and it's free to use without sign-up. Yes, it may fall over under moments of high demand, but that's the price of independence.

So before our overseas fans spit their dummies out of their prams, that's the situation. Of course, you might find sneaky peer-to-peer websites offering free commentaries elsewhere. I wouldn't condone that... well, actually, I bloody well would condone it.

And it'll only be a season until we're back up and things will be back to normal. Won't it?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Charlton 1-2 Sporting Braga

"So what happened then?""

I dunno, it was baking hot, I still don't recognise half the players and I wasn't in my normal seat. Go and ask him, oh, he wasn't there. Er, ask them here instead.

"So who scored, then?"

Well, it was a Ben Thatcher comedy own goal, and then I missed Darren Ambrose's second-half goal because I was still in the bar.

"Who played?"

Errrm, most of them? Todorov and Iwelumo didn't look all that together up front, Moutaouakil looked alright, so did Semedo, and, errrrr, Marcus Bent looked lively for a couple of minutes. No sign of Jerome Thomas, though, for he's injured. And Jon Fortune played because he doesn't want to go to Stoke. Errrr, that's about it, really.

"What were Braga like?"

Bloody good - the weather suited them more than us. It was a good work-out for us. If only I could work out who the chuff was playing.

"And where were you for Gillingham and the midweek games?"

Er, couldn't be arsed with Gillingham, couldn't make Ebbsfleet or Aldershot.

"Right then. See you for Scunthorpe, then."

See you for Scunthorpe.