Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Charlton 0-3 Sheffield United

Well, Mr Testicles may have helped inspire Everton to a fine win in the Premier League on Saturday, but down in tier two we had top-flight ref Mark Halsey dropping bollocks all over the place tonight as Charlton were mugged 3-0 by a miserable Sheffield United side.

The only people outside south Yorkshire who'll believe it was a fair scoreline will be senile Daily Express readers who think they saw Princess Diana in a field taking Madeleine McCann for a ride on Shergar. But crap jokes ahead, tonight's freaky farce was a sharp reminder that no team can be taken for granted in this league, not even a bunch of misfits, cloggers, rejects, midgets and Paddy Kenny.

And especially when you gift them a penalty in the first half. Jerome Thomas brought both himself and Davis Carney down in the box, and gifted the Blades the only chance of the match so far, which James Beattie gleefully converted. Until then, we'd been more or less on top, and the only question was not if we were going to score, but when.

But going 1-0 down seemed to knock us for six, and Lloyd Sam was looking dangerously exposed in midfield. Bryan Robson's side's limited box of tricks came into play. Little digs in the back? Oh yes. Timewasting? Certainly. Halsey was happy to let them get away with it all game.

Of course, we should have been big enough to cope with it. But we weren't. Matt Holland and Luke Varney came on for Jose Semedo and Lloyd Sam. While Holland didn't add much to midfield, Varney kept pushing at open doors. Soon that goal would come, wouldn't it?

It didn't. One of those eerie Valley atmospheres, where fans seem to forget we're third from top and not third from bottom, made matters worse. A goalmouth scramble resulted in a second United goal, Halsey's delay in giving it seeming to sum up the night, Danny Mills getting the night's only yellow card for berating the linesman.

It seemed incredible, with the Blades playing as if they'd been relegated from Conference North, not the Premier League. But we allowed them to grind us down, and the third came as Chris Armstrong had only Weaver to beat.

A bad, bad night at the office. But Watford also slipped up - King Aidy's reality check continuing as they were slapped 2-1 at home by Burnley. The ball's in West Brom's court tomorrow - and at least we've got the chance to get over it on Saturday.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Preston up-ended - Weaver for England!

So the win against Preston was viewed in a nice warm home on TV, and the view from the bottom of the can of Heineken's a sunny one. It might not have been the most exciting of games, but it was a job done which helps put the pressure on Watford. Great to see Zheng Zyi and Luke Varney score, which will boost their confidence no end, and Nicky Weaver played a blinder - who said there's no decent English 'keepers? And while Andy Reid wasn't pleased to be subsituted towards the end of the game - yes, finally, Matt Holland became Captain Cleanshorts and the Masters of the Championship! - it was pleasing to see a Charlton performance which didn't hang on Reidy playing out of his skin. Onwards and upwards...

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Oh, Scotty Carson...

I don't usually lose sleep over England, but I was screaming at the telly come about twenty to ten - Darren Bent up front, difficult chance... stirred a few memories in me.

But back in goal, as Kranjcar's ball bobbled up past Scott Carson, how many Charlton hearts sank? A nightmare debut, compounded by being left dangerously exposed by a terrible defence for the second. And the third. Nobody will remember those saves in the second half, just that moment eight minutes in when the ball looked safe... and it wasn't.

I hope Carson doesn't become a scapegoat for this. He was thrown in at the deep end of an appalling team by a mediocre manager. I can only remember him having one really bad game for Charlton - Blackburn away, the game which all-but condemned us. I couldn't help wondering before the match if he would be up to the pressure.

But for heaven's sake - he's 22 years old. This isn't going to be the end for him. At Charlton he conducted himself with commitment and with dignity - qualities too often absent from his new England team-mates after the past few years. In our relegation season, he often appeared to be the most passionate player on the field, despite the fact he was on loan from Liverpool. He's continued to do well at Aston Villa. He's a great lad, and he'll recover. He'll be back in that No 1 shirt. And tonight's nightmare will be well in the past.

And in 10-and-a-half years, he's got a damn good chance of having been first choice for a few years, getting ready for England's World Cup campaign as host nation.

England gets the team that England deserves - if it's going to set up a cash-crazy Premier League, where players can win the rewards and adulation they'll never get for a national side, while an ever-more spiteful press hounds out managers, then it gets the failure it deserves.

But the likes of Carson - and Darren Bent - deserve better than this. Decent young men, who we've had the privilege to see develop at The Valley, who will hopefully hang onto their values as their careers go on. And hopefully, by 2010, England will have sorted itself out to make sure it can give them something better than the crap served up in the Wembley rain tonight.

Miserly Preston relent

Good to hear Preston have backed down on their plan to exclude Charlton fans from a price cut at our match up there on Saturday. At least they had the sense to pull back from their shabby scheme - and well done to Peter Varney for getting it sorted out.

But well done too to supporters' director Ben Hayes for making his criticisms public, getting press coverage for what Preston had done - without him (and the posters on the Charlton Life message board who prompted him), Charlton fans would still be being charged twice the amount their Preston counterparts would be.

There's been some discussion over the past couple of years about the role of the supporters' director - if there's one thing we can thank Preston chairman Derek Shaw for, it's for doing something which reminds us how useful and how important that role can be.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The misery of Preston

I've got to be honest - I wasn't planning on heading for our away visit to Preston, switched to 5.20pm next Saturday so Sky can use it as a spoiler against Setanta's Premier League coverage. Isn't modern football brilliant, eh?

But news that Present have cut prices for home fans to £10 - while keeping the prices for away fans at £21 - leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.

For all the "real fans, real football" stuff the Football League spouts, Preston are allowed to do this under a "local promotion" rule the clubs voted in themselves. Supporters' director Ben Hayes is on the case - the Football League isn't happy with the situation either, but seems happy to delegate this sort of decision to clubs.

Ironically, Preston fans were the first to be affected when the new rules came in, but skipped it by going into the home ends where they received a generous welcome. PNE have told Ben that there's no question of this happening at Deepdale.

Of course, Preston are one of these big-ish teams that's been clogging up the second and third tiers for some time now - a glorious past now overshadowed by mediocrity on and off the pitch. It's worth pointing out that the decision was taken by chairman Derek Shaw to mark the start of "a new era" - he's just sacked manager Paul Simpson after a whole 17 months in charge. It's miserable numpties like Shaw that provide a reminder of why we need to get out of this league.

So, if you do go, why don't you give the bar and catering staff a quiet evening and boycott them? Perhaps you could visit the football museum another time? Or perhaps, Preston could change their minds. After all, their chairman has just changed his mind about quitting, so no decision is set in stone, is it, Derek?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Big Chris in the big league?

I saw a line in a match report today that caught me eye - this is from the Guardian, but you'll have seen it in other papers as well.

Charlton are entitled to believe they can rejoin the elite at the first time of asking. Should that happen the manager, Alan Pardew, admits the squad which goes up will be weaker than the one which fell. But he feels the foundations are there for a return.

Central to those plans is Chris Iwelumo, the 6ft 4in centre-forward signed on a free transfer from Colchester in May who has scored seven goals in 14 starts this season. "Chris [Iwelumo] is not another Darren Bent but he could be just as useful in the Premier League," Pardew said.

It feels stupidly early to be thinking about a Premier League campaign. But how does last season's side stack up against this one? Maybe the class of 2008 is weaker on paper than the class of 2007, but that's only a judgement on paper.

Okay, the defence is still a worry, but we have possibly the best midfield in the division - I really don't doubt that Lloyd Sam, Zheng Zyi, Andy Reid and Jerome Thomas could make it in the top flight (again). Darren Ambrose? Maybe. But then all of those players have some previous experience with us. It was a bit of a jolt to the system to discover last week that Pards feared Andy Reid would be poached in the transfer window - now that opens up some possibilities.

Up front, we've not seen the best of Luke Varney yet. Big Chris is the interesting one - at 29, is he really top division material? The real answer is it doesn't bloody matter - he's dynamite in this league, and he'll be a worthy addition to any Premiership squad if he keeps this up.

What we do have, though, is spirit - something lacking in last season's squad, especially after the sacking of Iain Dowie almost a year ago. Did we have the personalities to keep us up last season? Judging by Fat Eddie Murphy lolloping around in a Cardiff kit on Saturday, no.

But have we got the personalities to get us up this time around? It's coming together, definitely. We'll know after Christmas - what'll happen if we get knocked out of the Cup by some minnow? Or face a "glamour" tie and the chance to beat a top-tier side? Those tests are yet to come - it's still too early to even contemplate what'd happen if we went up.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Spanking Cardiff

A whole day's passed since our satisfying win over Cardiff - good, wasn't it? I was a little surprised at how poor Cardiff were, but it was great to see us finally get into our stride at The Valley. Good also, to see Sam Sodje get on the scoresheet - he's a player who's steadily improved over the weeks, while Zheng Zyi's goal will help him forget a few indifferent performances.

In fact, I found myself wondering early in the second half if it was time for ZZ to be given a rest - he always seems to be just too late for balls, or not using enough power when he did get them. But then he seemed to pick up his game, I began to appreciate the amount of donkey-work he actually does for us, and pow! - he got that third goal.

Plus, of course, there was the sterling work by Big Chris and Andy Reid - I hope their international endeavours don't take it out of them in the next couple of weeks. And while it seems to go against Pards' attacking instincts, we ain't too bad in his version of 4-5-1, and we can still play some decent stuff.

West Brom might knock us off our perch tomorrow, but at least that bad spell we went through's well and truly out of our system. Hopefully the break won't have the same effect when we play Preston in two weeks. At the end of the match, I looked around for the old git behind me who kept booing Chris at the QPR game. Guess what? He'd buggered off early, clearly not hanging around to give the team the ovation they richly deserved. The worst thing about supporting Charlton, too many times, is Charlton fans...

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Arise Sir Chris

Get here, sign it, pass it around, tell your friends. Then tell them again.

Let's make sure Chrissy Powell gets his dues.

Chris Powell of Charlton Athletic is one of those rare breed of football players who works hard both on and off the pitch, for the same reason: enjoyment.

His work in the community is legendary, and what better example to the football world is there, than the man who makes so many community visits, and so many friends.

He has never once been questioned of his loyalty to the club or its fans, so much so, that he has been re-signed for Charlton on no fewer than three occasions.

It is his attitude to life, the community and his peers that make him the nicest footballer in the land, and the one with the biggest heart.

We'd like the government to recognise his hard work through bestowing a knighthood on him, to make Chris Charlton's first "sir".

(NB: This is the place to go to OFFICIALLY nominate someone for an honour.)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Big Chris heads for sainthood

Crikey - now that was a bit good, wasn't it? Somehow I feel a bit more envious of the 600-odd who went way out west to see Chris Iwelumo twist himself around to head home yet another last-minute winner. Because that was a bit special.

And no reaction was better than that of this poster on Charlton Life...

Amazing. Iwelumo scored and my wife (and I) felt the baby kick for the 1st time. No joke. I thought that she was shouting at me (from bed) to stop cheering but she'd felt the baby move for the first time. I joined her and could feel it too. Iwelumo is magic!!!

Great stuff. Of course, let's just pause to remember that the preceding 90 minutes sounded like a litany of missed chances, but away from The Valley of jeers we came good in the end. I hope these two away results mean we get behind the team on Saturday - and stay behind them.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Confessions of an obvious part-timer

So, yeah, I missed a win at Southampton on Saturday - but we'd only have lost if I'd have gone, so it was for the best. But seriously, it's great to hear of Big Chris doing the business, especially considering the grief he was getting from assorted fuckwits at The Valley against QPR. And you know what I keep on saying? When Andy Reid plays well, we all play well... on the downside, Jose Semedo's sending-off is a blow, but at least this means we can give Therry Racon a go in his place.

Hopefully we can do the same against Bristol City, but a win at Ashton Gate's going to be a tough ask, with Gary Johnson's team second behind Watford. Johnson's motivational skills have worked their wonders with defender Liam Fontaine, who grabbed his first senior goal after the City boss said he'd bare his bum in the window of Burton's if he scored. Commentary is on Five Live Sports Extra, thank heavens.

I saw a little bit of West Ham's draw with Bolton yesterday - which followed some strange comments from Alan Curbishley about our match against West Ham in February...

"That was rock bottom as far as I was concerned,” he said. “After the send-off Charlton had given me, when 26,000 gave me a standing ovation, I was getting slagged off by the same people and the West Ham lot too. It was horrible.” (more)

I don't recall much slagging-off of Curbs at the time from us. I wonder why he said that?

Friday, November 02, 2007

St Mary's prayer

Now, I've got a confession to make. I'm not going to Southampton.

I don't like the ground, it's a pain to get to, I don't know that many people who are going, I don't like the ground, I've just been landed with a dentist's bill to pay, I'd rather watch the fireworks on Blackheath, it takes ages to get to, and I don't like the ground.

And my last couple of away trips - to Coventry and to Wolves - have been so staggeringly underwhelming, I may have been scarred for life. So I'm giving this one a rest, and putting the cash towards, er, paying a nice lady in a white coat at the top of the road. In fact, with commentary restricted to Radio Kent's medium wave frequency (cheers, lads), I'm likely to hear little of the match at all.

But ticket sales have been healthy, and I really hope it's the right sort of turn-out - loud, supportive, and buzzing. If it's full of blanket-wielding moaners, it'll all just go wrong from the start. So if you're going, I'll have my fingers crossed for you. And I hope Jason Euell gets a decent reception from you lot, for he's a good lad who gave a shit about us, unlike some the arseholes who replaced him.

As for the team... we've had a week, the boos from Saturday will still be ringing in their ears, and Andy Reid's hopefully had a rest. Fingers crossed that they'll be a bit more lively tomorrow.