Sunday, September 30, 2007

Coventry 1-1 Charlton

Is there a place on earth that is worse than Coventry? Is there a more ill-planned stadium than the Ricoh arena, designed for cars and cars alone? Conceived while they were still a top-tier club, the Sky Blues' ground would probably suit the do-as-you're-told Premier League, but it looks half-full in the Championship of Dreams, every chant echoing around the place, reminding the ground's tenants just what they haven't got.

For Iain Dowie's new side lack class, but he's instilled a siege mentality there that sees a limited team keep on going until they batter opponents into submission. Danny Mills' perfect first-half cross for Lloyd Sam's goal stunned the home team, ensuring we were on top in the first period.

But the pressure wore us down in the second half, and we seemed to tire visibly in the final ten minutes, with the defence all over the place. Their goal, in hindsight, was probably inevitable. Luke Varney had a quiet game and was replaced by Izale McLeod, who badly lacks confidence and didn't get much support in his forays up front.

How did Big Chris miss that sitter at the end? And what the hell was that final corner about? How bad was the refereeing again? Our luck had ran out. Danny Mills was awesome again - could we prosper without him?

It was a match which raised a few questions - but we got a point, and hopefully we can start to answer some of those questions and learn a few lessons. Win at home and drawing away's not a bad way to carry on in this league, you know.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Send Kelvin to Coventry

So, what did I miss while I was away? As Stuart's already mentioned, a League Cup defeat to Luton which was duly shrugged off by Pards like a bit of a fluff on a suit - "Nobody would remember it if we reached the quarter finals and finished eighth in the league.” Quite. Not sure how I'd feel if I'd forked out to have travelled to Luton to see a second-string team play, but hopefully this won't affect our morale ahead of Coventry - since I've forked out to go there...

Me, I was in Hamburg, investigating the cult of left-wing side FC St Pauli, which resulted in me failing to get a ticket for their match that night against Borussia Monchengladbach - space is hard to come by while their Millentor ground is being redeveloped, so I found myself in a nearby bar watching the match with a load of black-clad crusties. Maybe it was for the best, for St Pauli lost 3-0 to the league leaders, but it was an intriguing introduction to a club that's probably unique in western Europe and a fan culture that, for good or ill, simply does not exist in England.

It was picking up a couple of souvenirs in the club shop (passing on the club cigarettes) a couple of days later that I heard news of a Charlton fan that'd rather wear drag than be seen dead around a side like St Pauli - Kelvin MacKenzie.

The ex-Sun editor's been a Charlton fan since he, er, ditched Millwall in supposed disgust at their support sometime in the late 1990s. Over the past year, he's kept a column in his old paper in which he bangs on about stories he's read in the Daily Mail - a kind of hidden rebuke to the staff of the paper he left 13 years ago. And he's also been wheezing on about Charlton.

Thursday's column saw him weigh into the trouble surrounding the Crystal Palace match four weeks ago. I'm indebted to Charlton Life for the text...

Thanks to the Chief Executive of Charlton, Peter Varney, I have learned of a shocking ambush of law-abiding fans by a gang of thugs from Crystal Palace.

The Charlton fans – mainly families – were making their way to the ground by train from London Bridge to Norwood Junction when the train stopped at Sydenham.

About 25 louts boarded the train and began attacking Charlton fans immediately.


There has always been fierce rivalry between the two clubs – Charlton put them down from the Premiership a couple of years back – but there has never been this kind of violence.

The answer must lie in the orange-u-tan Simon Jordan, who is the current owner of Crystal Palace.

Jordan has been consistently attacking the Charlton fans, rederring to them as imbeciles and morons.

This, of course, leads to the violent element of a football club – and every club has one – believing they have been given the go-ahead from the boardroom to physically attack the rivals.

So I hope you are proud of yourself this morning, Mr Jordan. A child with a broken nose, terrified families on an innocent day out - and all because you couldn't keep you big gob shut.

The last thing we need, frankly, is this sad old has-been trying to stir up more bad feeling between us and Palace, a month after we played them.

I really hope he's taken journalistic licence and has quoted Varney from a programme rather than personal contact - because Kelvin MacKenzie is no friend of Charlton Athletic. He's a Millwall fan who ditched his team when they were in terrible straits and we were on the up. (In fact, it's been suggested he adopted Millwall as his team to give himself kudos as a swaggering young hack.) Why this sudden concern for us? Because talking football in his column helps him look like a man of the people. Talking about violence too... except he's four weeks late with it.

And, of course, this is the man who lied about the Hillsborough disaster. And still isn't man enough to apologise. Like some old embarrasing racist grandad, MacKenzie can't help repeating the slurs of the past because he's too small-minded to know about anything else.

His newspaper career was founded on shit-stirring - a handy quality as a tabloid editor, but when innocent families are getting attacked by Palace "fans" on trains, the last thing they need is this dinosaur weighing in, making matters worse. We don't need vermin like Kelvin MacKenzie attaching himself to our club. And I hope those in charge of our club have the good sense to disassociate themselves from him.

In short - Kelvin, fuck off and shut up, would you?

(Next week: some thoughts on Jim Davidson.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

We are concentrating on the league

Luton 3 - Charlton 1 (AET)

A shadow Charlton side succumbed meekly to League One Luton Town after extra time at Kenilworth Road.

It started well with a goal for debut boy Dean Sinclair after just four minutes. From then on it was pretty much all downhill, with the Hatters bossing the game and Izale Mcleod shanking at last four good chances.

Unsurprisingly perhaps Pardew didn't seem that fussed. A team showing ten changes from Saturday took the field, and he seemingly put Jon Fortune on upfront after we went two-one down in extra time.

Frankly the best thing to have come out of the night was the start of a new series of the peerless Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe.

I'm off to sulk. A very short report can be found on the Beeb.

Monday, September 24, 2007

JT: Stop taking the P

Good to see Pards in the papers this morning, reading the riot act to Jerome Thomas, arrested but not charged after an incident in Bournemouth earlier this month. Turns out he's also playing the Billy big-bollocks at Sparrows Lane.

"He wasn't picked because of his mindset at training. It's got nothing to do with off-field activities.

"It's more about what happens on the field and the discipline that's needed at this level.

"He needs to learn quickly there's a certain etiquette at this club in how we react when we lose and how we congratulate each other when win - that's why he's not involved at the minute."

Shame, because last season he was a player that Pards was backing vocally - and look how JT is repaying him. Of course, our performances show he's not needed. I'm probably the 1,000th person to say this, but who needs Thomas when we've got Lloyd Sam giving us his all? As Frankie sayeth...

"Lloyd Sam is not the finished article yet, but he's fast, he's tricky, he's direct, he's full of energy, and he's a Charlton type. Everything Jerome Thomas used to be before he turned into a preening tosser.

Hopefully we'll be seeing a lot more of Lloyd Sam in the future - and a lot less of Jerome Thomas."

Aye to that.

I'm off for a few days, and am hoping to post from some terracing in Germany tomorrow, if someone can sort me out with a ticket. Failing that, Stuart has his "it's only the League Cup, it doesn't" matter words all lined up for as soon as the final whistle goes at Kenilworth Road. Don't you, Stuart? In the meantime, auf wiedersehen...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Charlton 2-0 Leicester

A crap game, with Leicester easily the worst team to have visited The Valley in many years - Gary Megson's not been in charge long, but he's a job on his hands if he's going to make that steaming pile of cack shine.

As for us... we did it pretty professionally, Big Chris and Luke Varney scoring from close range in the first half, generally the team worked well, although we lived off our wits in the second half as we started to flag a bit. We've a punishing schedule of matches right now, with Luton, Coventry, Hull and Barnsley all out to test us in the next fortnight - it's imperative we stay up to the pace.

What concerns me a little is that easy wins like that could make us complacent - yes, I know you don't give a monkey's about Luton (nor do I, I won't even be in the country) but if a loss against Luton damages morale ahead of Coventry, which is going to be our first really big game of the season, then that's going to be a bad thing.

But Pards is alert to this, promising to shuffle the pack and maybe bring back Matt Holland and Yassin Moutaouakil for the League Cup clash. In the nicest possible way, I hope they give him a selection headache for next Saturday...

So, second we are, with Watford getting a draw at QPR, and Bristol City failing to go top thanks to an injury-time equaliser from Burnley. The table's starting to take shape around us, and you can start to see the real quality in this league and compare us with the others - we're outplaying teams quite comfortably, while Watford and Bristol City might have come in different directions, but they're both tidy sides under great managers. And don't forget West Brom, who punched the wind out of Scunthorpe's sails today and are now third behind us. We've averaged a very healthy two points per game - 16 reasons to be cheerful, I reckon.

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Charlton sponsor curse goes on...

From the Financial Times...

The international credit squeeze claimed its first victim in Spain on Thursday as Llanera, a Valencian real estate group, admitted it was in emergency talks with its creditor banks in an attempt to stave off bankruptcy.

A spokesman for the company told the Financial Times it was seeking to renegotiate €300m ($419bn, £209bn) in debt owed to suppliers and local savings banks in Valencia – a popular holiday destination for north Europeans.

“We have a liquidity crisis and we are talking to our banks in order to avoid filing for protection from creditors,” Llanera said on Thursday. The company blamed a slowdown in the Spanish property market for its predicament.

It's been rumoured for a while, this. Heaven knows what it means for us, but hopefully the club will say something. They've got their fingers in many pies in Valencia (even backing an orchestra), and over here also back London Irish rugby club. The deal was said to be worth up to £6.6m in the Premiership.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Road and rail hassles for Saturday

Proving the only safe way to get to The Valley is to walk...

- Greenwich Council has decided to make Greenwich car-free-day this Saturday, rather than a Sunday which it usually is.

It'll mean part of the Greenwich one-way system is closed, which is going to screw up the A206 something chronic. You have been warned.

Shame, because on a Sunday it's usually a good little event, but clearly the flickering Greenwich Council brain cell has failed again. Duuuuuh.

- Just to encourage you to use public transport, there are fewer trains to Charlton on Saturday (six per hour instead of eight) and none at all from the Medway Towns - more details here.

Joined-up thinking? Forget it.

Morts and Sasa are City Addicks

A tad late with this, but if you fancy a pint in the company of Paul Mortimer and Sasa Ilic, then City Addicks is your place to be - it's free, it's a good laugh, and it's on Thursday evening at the Trump Tavern, just off Cheapside. More details here.

And guess what? I won't be there because I'm seeing Prince instead. So you'd better go, because how else am I going to find out what happened?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Charlton 2-0 Norwich

Well, it was a long time in coming - Norwich didn't so much park the bus but park cattle all over the Valley pitch tonight, and while we dominated the match, it was hard to break them down. Especially as the Canaries appeared to decided to elbow their way through the game in the second half, senior pros Darren Huckerby and Dion Dublin getting involved in their own little battles with Danny Mills.

It was a test of character that we sailed through, mind - Monty Panesar-a-like ref Singh missed a few penalty shouts, and was looking the other way as Dublin brought Chris Iwelumo down in front of goal, conveniently ignored by the lousy linesman in front of the East Stand. It just wasn't cricket, and with Andy Reid looking like he couldn't hit the proverbial cow's arse, it was all looking set for a frustrating 0-0 draw.

Until... Pardew replaced the impressive Luke Varney with Izale McLeod, who was then brought down by balding Spurs reject Gary Doherty. Cue a long-overdue penalty, which Reid fired home. 1-0.

Sixty seconds later, McLeod is felled again, and he flings himself rather handily into the box. No nerves this time - Reid fires home another one.

And just to rub it in, Dublin got a deserved straight red for fouling Mills as the 90 minutes were up - and then tried to wait in the tunnel afterwards... mad to see how a team full of supposedly wise heads could lose it like that.

But we stayed together - and kept a clean sheet. It was pure slapstick at times, and we're not world-beaters yet. But with Bristol City on top of the league right now, it's proof that the game's still wide open for the team that works hard enough. This sets us up nicely for Saturday - let's hope we can build a little bit of a run off this result.

Alistair John stabbed

Disturbing news from Stevenage, where our former young winger Alistair John, who joined the Conference side after being released during the summer, is in a comfortable condition in hospital after being stabbed outside his home.

Chairman Phil Wallace told his club's website: "We don't quite know the full details of what happened yet.

"Only that Ally left his house to go outside to see a group of people, was stabbed and staggered back inside.

"The reports we've had are that he's in hospital but in no danger and that no organs have been damaged, so we're relieved to hear that above all else." (more)

Of course, another one of our ex-kids, Kevin Lisbie, had a far more satisfying weekend, knocking one past us at Colchester. Good to read his generous comments in Monday's papers, though - interesting to note the comparison between us in the early 90s and the Us now...

Most big clubs have got big training grounds, big stadiums and everything, so they sometimes get caught up in that, but here we just concentrate on football," the Colchester striker said. "It's like when I first got to Charlton, exactly the same as that. We're a very good side and we just enjoy playing. We know what we've got and we'll work at it, and we go into every game looking to win it." (more)

Norwich tonight - under Pards' old assistant Peter Grant these days - and hopefully I'll be in full voice after being knocked out with a cold yesterday. They're only a point behind us in the incredibly-tight Championship table - it's important we see them off. You can read more previews of the match than you'll ever need at the East Anglia Daily Press site.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Return of the ropey defence

I wasn't at Colchester - couldn't get a ticket - so ended up following the match via WAP while taking in the sunshine. A 2-2 draw seems respectable to me, they're a difficult team and that new young striker they've got - Lisbie? - seems a handful. Imagine what such a promising talent could have done for us, eh?

But it seems to be that defence again - Tuesday night's match against Norwich feels set to be another rollercoaster if we don't sort things out sharpish. News of injuries to Todorov and Big Chris is also worrying. We can only come back from 2-0 deficits so many times, can't we?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Oh what an atmosphere...

And there was me thinking, "Ooooh, better update the website, haven't done anything with it since last weekend." International breaks when your team's in the second-tier are even quieter than they are when you're in The Most Exciting League In The World (TM). And, if, like me, you're club-over-country, then there's been the happy memories from Crystal Palace to sustain us. Aaaah....

But not everyone had happy memories - Charlton fans were attacked on a train at Sydenham station on the way to the match, and there's a high-profile police appeal for information. Less high-profile is what's happened to an 11-year-old boy caught up in the violence - the club managed to track him down, and he's going to walk out with the team at a home match soon.

On an odder note, the official site's barmy Your Views section rocked to the sound of people complaining about the raucous atmosphere at the game. "What is this necessity to stand up?", asked one old coot, while another came out with something straight out of the Daily Mail...

Eventually we all have to wake up and realise that during my lifetime (70 years ) we have allowed standards of behaviour to slide inexorably downhill.
My wife and I went recently to see with great anticipation the show Billy Elliot in London, having enjoyed the film.
We were astonished to find that the "F" word was used throughout, often by young children, without adding anything whatsoever to the show.

Priceless. Mind you, I understand the boot was on the other foot for England fans on Saturday, with Wembley Stadium packed full of families who buggered off after about 75 minutes - a pal told me he was in front of a woman who spent the match feeding her baby?

But where do you draw the line? Where's the balance? And on a related note, the old debate about ticket priorities reared its head again last week when Colchester tickets sold out - with Valley Gold members given first dibs. The club are going to desperately need to sort out some kind of priority system, because if the season continues the way we hope it does, this row is going to come up again and again.

Anyhow, and there I was in the kitchen just now, thinking what a shame it was the reserves are now at Northfleet, because I wouldn't have minded popping down to see Luke Varney's appearance tonight. And guess what the result was? We beat Southampton 8-4, with Varney getting a hat-trick. It's looking good...

Sunday, September 02, 2007

A Palace postscript

So there I was today, in my local, watching the Aston Villa v Chelsea match, and one of the other regulars walks up to me.

"That bloke over there, that's..."

Sod off is it! And I let him be. A few minutes later. a volunteer wanted over to the bloke over there. And it was...

It was bloody Andy Reid!

He was out to watch the All-Ireland hurling final with a couple of mates, and stayed on to chat and sing (yes, sing!) with a load of people.

And guess what? He's a really nice, smart, clued-up chap. And he can sing, too. He's a real pleasure to chat to, and I'm still a bit thrilled now. He's a class act, and meeting him was a fabulous way to round off a great weekend.

By contrast, Simon Jordan has been bragging about his wealth in the Sunday Times. None of that would buy a tenth of Reidy's class...

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Crystal Palace 0-1 Charlton

I still can't wipe this grin off my face. It could have been positively lethal in the petrol station off Holmesdale Road, SE25, as I refuelled on the way to the longest 202 ride home in history. But the only other customers were Charlton fans, and the lads behind the counter seemed as interested in their local club as the bloke who lives next to Selhurst Park who supports Liverpool, who beamed as broadly to us this afternoon as he did on that December afternoon in 2004.

But one crucial thing was different this afternoon. Our team's reaction to our win. We celebrated like our lives had depended on it. Andy Reid went wild. Fuck Premiership niceties, this was a Championship battle, and we prevailed. The difference between the Pards class of '07 and the Curbs class of '04 was clear. And it augurs well for the future.

Was starting with just Big Chris up front wise? I don't know. Todorov's introduction in the second half changed the game, but maybe Palace's "committed" style of play could have overwhelmed a 4-4-2 Charlton. As it was, it was an even first half, and we grew in confidence in the second half, before Toddy lifted the ball over Darius Danesh in the Palace goal.

Andy Reid was a hero, Danny Mills was just great - I can't tell you how good it is to have him back in a Charlton shirt. And Sir Chris Powell? His experience shone through. Let's face it, we were great. And let that be an end to it. (I'll forget the scary end to the match when we wobbled, it might wipe the smile off my face.)

Coming home, I borrowed a programme from the kids on the bus as we inched through Sydenham. The "view from the stands" bit at the back droned on about us not being real rivals, drivelled on about our time at Selhurst and then trotted out the old fiction that "the more magnaminous Charlton fans would admit that we helped save their club" (or something like that).

Which, 20 years on, we know is bullshit. Nothing more, nothing less. It is fiction.

And yet Palace are still content to trot out this crap in their programme. And if they keep on doing that, they're going to be nothing more than scum in my eyes.

I'm glad we tramped them back down into the dirt today. Now, it's time to celebrate...

Derby day blues

Now, if this was a normal matchday Saturday, I'd be beaming. I'd be effervescent if I could spell the word. We've done some great bits of dealing in the transfer window.

OUT! goes Amady Faye, to the team the Guardian's Fiver mailout calls the Pope's O'Rangers. Despite sporadic flashes of talent, that's another waster off our wage bill. Funny, of course, how your reward for helping a team go down is a ticket to the Champions League, but that's modern football for you. I heard an unsubstantiated rumour during the summer he'd actually gone missing for a short while. Worth noting too that his agent is the charmless Willie McKay. Curiously, Newcastle's website still lists him as a player...

FACK ORF! to Marcus Bent, who can think about his cock in the more pleasant surroundings of Wigan, some 205 miles away from Chinawhite. Curbs' last and arguably worst-value signing, he is living proof of the decline of the Premier League into greed and vanity. Slappers of the north - you know where to go. Hope he gets the clap.

And it's HELLO AGAIN! to Danny Mills, on loan from Human Rights FC. I'm really thrilled about this. He was great in the late-90s, and his sale in 1999 gave us the funds to invest and plot our way back to the Premier League. Not only will he shore up our iffy defence, but judging from his appearances on Radio Five Live last season, he sounds like a decent chap as well.

And it's a big Addicks WELCOME! to Sam Sodje, on loan from Reading, but possibly better known for his heroics at Brentford a couple of years back. And he's got that Sodje brand of quality. Good stuff.

(Incidentally, Danny Murphy finally escaped his Tottenham hell (oh, the heart bleeds) by going to Fulham, home to Alexei Smertin. Fulham's relegation clock can start ticking...)

And now, onto today. Lots of people are getting excited about our trip to Palace - I'm not. I'd rather not be there. For a start, I'm a lover, not a fighter, and I tend to get irritated by people rubbing their hands and declaring something a bit "tasty" or a bit "naughty". I don't want to go there. They're below us. I'd rather not have to visit their third-division dump. But this is what relegation is about. And this, is what we have to do.

But what's this afternoon really going to be about? It's going to be about travelling to a shithole of a football ground, being harrassed by the police and taking hours to get home. Of course, the Met Police would rather put 500 extra officers on than move it to an early or Sunday kick-off, and would rather send out threatening letters to fans who've had minor brushes with them advising them "not to travel to Croydon" (er, so South Norwood's okay) than concentrate on doing anything to avoid ramping this bloody fixture up.

And, frankly, I don't really want to give Simon Jordan the satisfaction of having his name sung loudly by opposing fans. We're Charlton. We're better than them. I couldn't give a stuff about Palace, whose fans' own tedious attempts to wind us up should just be dismissed. By the way boys, we own our ground - what about you?

Let's just beat them on the pitch, and then leave them to wonder what a proper football club must be like.

And after all, as one QPR fan reminds us, there's more important things to worry about.