Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Charlton throw in the towel?

Uh-oh, we're in trouble...

Charlton have placed their trust in Phil Parkinson to steer the club away from the wrong end of the Championship table, the club announced on Wednesday.

Parkinson, who has been overseeing first-team matters on a caretaker basis, has now been confirmed as the club's permanent new manager.

And football club board chairman Richard Murray has revealed that Charlton will be looking to bring as many as four new players into the club in January.

He said: "After discussing the situation yesterday, the overwhelming feeling was that Phil was the best man to lead us and rescue us from our current plight."

Oh dear. That's not good. Parky's a decent man who's tried his best, but hasn't been able to conjure a win since he took over (losing five and drawing three). Bring on the Orient!

I hesitate to condemn him utterly - given the chance to build up his own squad, he could well find his feet. Remember what he did at Colchester on a tiny budget. But this smacks of a decision made for financial and not footballing reasons - it's cheaper to give Parky the chance to bring some fresh blood in than to pay him off and give a new man no cash to work with. Thirty months after handing Iain Dowie great sums of cash to waste on a load of crap, this is where that horrible mistake of summer 2006 has finally left us.

Worse still, our relegation rivals Nottingham Forest have been able to get a grip on the situation by dispensing of hapless Colin Calderwood and look set to bring in Billy Davies, who turned us down 30 months back.

Out of adversity, you can build up a certain kind of spirit, but every one of those players in red has looked on a downer for the past couple of years.

Hey-ho. So, what to expect? We'll probably hope to raise funds by offloading Zheng Zhi, Darren Ambrose and Nicky Weaver. Not sure why Weaver's been dropped, but he's been an easy scapegoat for some fans and Rob Elliot's been capable (and cheaper) in his place. Ambrose is back from Ipswich, and anyone who thought we had any intention of keeping ZZ has been inhaling the laughing gas. That'd give us, say, three or four million quid? From there, you can see how Parky could assemble a group of cut-price fighters.

But it's all a desperate gamble. For those moaning, complaining and losing sleep - hold tight. Relegation could usher in a whole new set of dire circumstances, and - unless we do a Leicester - will see us dance on the edge of a razor blade. I fear the times when our support will really be needed - like Charlton needed their fans in 1984 and in the early '90s - are yet to come.

We're in the middle of a brutal reality check, and worse is likely to come. Struggling at the foot of the Championship may feel like a nirvana compared to what's to come. That'll the time to lose sleep. Not now.

So, 2008 ends with the wheels having fallen right off the Charlton bandwagon, with alarming speed. Changes at the top of the club haven't helped, with the old Richard Murray/ Peter Varney double-act replaced by a triumvirate of Derek Chappell, Murray and Steve Waggott. Is it working? There's definitely murmurings about Chappell (see this Charlton Life post from mailing list stalwart Doug Chapman) which to my mind smack of a certain generation of fans trying to play politics instead of giving Chappell a chance. And what is clear is that the board are tired and want out. Relegation limits their chances of being able to sell - or get the money they've loaned to the club back.

As 2009 dawns, the challenge is to stay united and relatively positive. I just hope it isn't too much for us.

Whatever challenges the new year brings, I hope it's a good one for you. See you on the other side...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Teach Yourself Relegation - it's easy!

Merry Christmas! So, what did you get for the festive season? Well, aside from a point against Queen's Park Rangers, I got myself a Teach Yourself Relegation kit. It's so easy, even a four-year-old could learn it. It's great - just the other day, I was reasonably optimistic, but today, we're going down! Yes, bring on Leyton Orient, we're on our merry way to League One! Hooray! Balls to the Championship - hey, we've got our Charlton back, as complete toilet as we were in 1980! Woo-hoo!

But how does Teach Yourself Relegation (TM) work? Well, firstly, you've got to slip certain key phrases into your vocabulary. For a start, spit out the words "the board" every now and them. Go, on, try it. That's not good enough. Say it with venom, like you've just been caught doing 95 down the A2! That's better. Use it in phrases like "the board should Do Something", and "why aren't the board doing anything?" Pretend the board isn't comprised of people who are seeing their money go down the drain. Imagine the board have burgled your house. There, that's better.

Secondly, just recite after me. "Too many loan players. They aren't Charlton enough." Go on. That's right, you're getting there now. Now, let me show you this picture of Hameur Boazza. What did you say? "Lazy"? Aaaah, you're getting there now. Forget the fact he was tearing up trees down the wings yesterday, he's obviously lazy! (Even better, why don't you go to a national newspaper and slag off Keith Gillespie? You'll feel vindicated when he scores against us at Bramall Lane.)

It's not just the language lessons. Teach Yourself Relegation (TM) comes with a variety of back-up materials. Take part in message board discussions with like-minded moaners who could find the merest trace of dogshit on a diamond! Revel in half-baked conspiracy theories about splits in the boardroom! Get on a e-mail list full of weirdos. Find yourself sympathising with grown men who claim to be having sleepless nights about a rubbish football team. And... finally... start lashing out at the "rose-tinted". Go on, have a go! How dare the bastards interrupt our right to be bloody miserable!

YEAH! You've done it! And before you know it, it'll be a beautiful day in August 2009, and we'll be kicking off the season at St James's Park, home of Exeter City, and enjoying the chance to sup Devon ales and stand on terraces.

It'll be great, and you'll have your Charlton back! So, Teach Yourself Relegation (TM) - available now at branches of Woolworths, Zavvi, and the club shop in Bexleyheath. Hurry!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Bristol flyer brings thoughts of Lennie

A couple of weeks ago, a journalist spoke to me about Charlton's plight. As far I'm aware, because I didn't stamp my feet and accuse Steve Waggott, Derek Chappell and Phil Parkinson of ruining my Christmas, my quotes weren't used.

But I was asked who I thought should be the next Charlton manager. Shit. I've no idea. Most managers are tossers, aren't they? Erm, erm, erm....

"Well, I'd like to see go right back and bring back Lennie Lawrence. Now he knew how to motivate a team of men."

The hack grinned. "Back to the old school?" Damn bloody right.

And since then, that thought's stayed with me. Lennie Lawrence was the first Charlton manager I can remember (apart from Alan Mullery, but he doesn't count) and I got to meet him just over two years ago at a City Addicks night. He'd quietly gone upstairs to the room above the pub while the night's organisers were expecting to meet him downstairs. Nobody quite noticed him at first. But that tight handshake, gritty south-east London growl, to-the-point language... yup, it was Lennie. Good old, familiar Lennie.

And he scared the hell out of me.

In fact, I'm still not sure I dare repeat anything he said that night. But I did get to ask him about Iain Dowie's sacking, which had taken place a few days beforehand. He shook his head. "Shouldn't have appointed someone from Palace," he said. "Never works." He still knows, you know.

Lennie turned 61 earlier this month, and has been director of football at Bristol Rovers for three years, forming a successful partnership with youthful first-team coach Paul Trollope. They took the Gas up into the third tier in their second season in charge. At the weekend, the Bristol Evening Post put two and two together and came up with...

Lennie Lawrence and Paul Trollope are thought to be on a list of potential targets for Charlton Athletic as they look to appoint a permanent successor to Alan Pardew, writes Chris Swift.

Phil Parkinson – formerly Pardew's assistant – is in charge at The Valley on a caretaker basis and has been told he will remain in the job until at least the start of the new year.

But the Championship strugglers are looking at a number of other options and Bristol Rovers' managerial duo are understood to be among them.

I imagine the BEP's Chris Swift took a bit of a festive flyer with that one... but then again, why not? The man is a class act. He kept the club going when we were facing meltdown - and then kept us in the old first division without a home or any cash. A former schoolteacher, he demands respect and is a brighter man than many of his fellow managers. But has also earned respect throughout the game, having overseen 1,161 matches - a quarter of those at Charlton. Even Sam Hammam called him "the one true gentleman" he had met in his time screwing football clubs, while Lennie even helped put Steve Gibson in touch with successor Bryan Robson after he got the push from Middlesbrough.

In this post-Curbs era, Lennie's achievements at Charlton have been unjustly overlooked. Maybe it's time to revisit those achievements. And among all the whining and moaning about how the club's being (apparently) so badly run at the moment, how there's no sense of our history (we're crap again, doesn't that help?) and how even fans of Millwall/ Gillingham/ Thamesmead Town/ Villacourt Rovers are looking down on us, maybe a real blast from the past is going to be the only thing that saves us.

And no, I don't mean the comfortingly dull platitudes of Mr Curbishley.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to SEND FOR LENNIE.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bring me sunshine

As if a stinking cold didn't have me feeling low enough, I checked the football results. Another perfunctory Charlton defeat.

This post isn't about how bad it is now. But to draw attention to the heart and soul of football, beating, of all the places, at Luton Town.

One of the few teams who have genuine cause to feel sorry for themselves following a 30 point deduction at the start of the season, Sky Sports News reports on a tribute to the late, great Eric Morecambe at Luton's game against Morecambe yesterday.

Son of the seaside town but a Director of Luton Town for many years, fans from both sides wore trademark glasses and flat cap (even Eric's brother) to show their appreciation for a man who put both Towns on the map. Current Luton director Nick Owen and managers Mick Harford and Sammy McIllroy also donned the specs and tweed cap for post-match interviews.

We've been hit hard, and its shit right now. But if Luton can still see the funny side, can't we? Christmas party against QPR? Perhaps some nostalgia might help...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

'None of us are sleeping well'

You've got to hand it to them. On a night when many would have preferred to return to their warm homes to prepare for Christmas, Steve Waggott, commercial director Steve Sutherland and managing director Steve Kavanagh prepared to face the fans.

Well, all 15 or so of them, anyway. The three Steves had agreed to chat before a supporters' club quiz night. The low attendance probably had more to do with the time of year, late publicity and an even later change of venue. Heaven knows what the Sky Sports crew outside, fishing for stories, thought of it.

How did they do? Well, I'll stick by my usual not-talking-out-of-school role of if you want to know, go to the damn thing in the first place. But Mr Waggott seems to be keeping his cards close to his chest. Are we in a rush to appoint a new manager after Tuesday's debacle? It was hard to tell for sure. We've had plenty of serious applicants (not the 40 reported recently) - but you and I both know that it'd be cheaper and easier to keep Phil Parkinson on.

Indeed, tomorrow's South London Press says Richard Murray is going to do just that, for now. (Both the Daily Mail and the Evening Standard both claimed Parky would be sacked would be sacked if we lost to Coventry - ooops.)

For me, the limp nature of Tuesday's display pulled the rug from under Phil Parkinson's feet. My own thought is that a new manager needs to come in ahead of Monday's televised match against Derby. But this is real life, not Championship Manager - and if he's still there on Monday, which it seems he will be, then he deserves our support.

Is there a sense of panic around The Valley? I didn't detect it, but Mr Waggott did say: "None of us are sleeping well." But as is normal with these things, the most valuable information is in the context and the small details that are supplied in these frank chats. Wider economic issues mean everyone's facing a tough time at the moment. We've just got a situation that's tougher than most...

I coped with Tuesday by escaping to a pub and getting free beer for helping put up their Christmas decorations. If the Sun's to be believed, Richard Murray coped by giving the players a bollocking. Fair play. I could have done a "where did it all go wrong?" post, but I suspect we all know. Boxing Day's 5th anniversary of the 4-2 win against Chelsea will have a bitter tinge if we're still struggling.

(Steve Waggott and Derek Chappell are appearing at the Bromley Addicks fan group at Bickley Working Men's Club, Tylney Road, BR1 2SH (nearest rail: Bickley) on Tuesday from 8pm, should you want to hear this stuff from the horse's mouth...)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The season of goodwill to all men

As it descended into farce in the stands, we lost another football game.

Monday, December 08, 2008

View from the bottom

You can walk my path, you can wear my shoes
Learn to talk like me and be an angel too
But maybe you ain't never gonna feel this way
You ain't never gonna know me, but i know you
I'm singing it now-
Things can only get better
They can only get better if we see it through-
that means me and I mean you too
So teach me now that things can only get better,
They can only get, they only get, take it on from here
You know i know that things can only get better

I sometimes lose myself in me, I lose track of time
And I can't see the wood for the trees
You set them alight
burning bridges as you've gone
I'm too weak to fight ya
I've got my personal hell to deal with, then you say
Walk my path, wear my shoes, talk like that-
I'll be an angel then
Things can only get better
they can only get better, now i found you
Things can only get better, they can only get better,
now I found you
and you and you
You have shown me prejudice and greed
And you've shown me how I must learn to deal with this disease
I look at things now in a different light than I did before
And I've found the cause
and I think you can be my cure
So teach me to...
Walk your path, wear your shoes, talk like that, I'll be an angel and
Things can only get better.......

(Thanks to Valley PA man Big Dave Lockwood for the inspiration.)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Better the devil we know?

A few days on from the 0-0 against Southampton, how are you feeling? I didn't post after Saturday's match because I couldn't quite work out how I felt, but I'm feeling cautiously optimistic. Is Phil Parkinson the man to pull us out of this mess? I don't know, but...

- He's already got the team playing differently. More passing, a little more fluid.

- His signings so far have been good. Keith Gillespie, Deon Burton and Jay McEveley had good games, and the decision to ship Luke Varney out showed the decisiveness that we lacked under Pardew.

- He's carefully talking the team up, rightly praising Jon Fortune, and generally avoiding the Pards trap of talking about himself rather a lot. We've a lot of bruised egos who need rebuilding here.

- Already, you can see an idea of the team he'd like to build. A mixture of experience and youth, but united by commitment. Pards' sides were, arguably, on the young side, and were they really dedicated to the cause? Parky - maybe by getting Mark Kinsella to shout in their faces a bit - is reminding them what it's all about.

So, is he the man for the job? It's too early to say, but I think the signs are looking good. There've been a reported 40 applications for the post (did we put an ad in the Mail this time?) with Sam Allardyce tipped by some as an unlikely saviour. Can't see it myself, but you never know... in the meantime, Parky's the man we've got, and while he's not hogging the limelight, hopefully he'll be letting his players write his job application for him. Those who make the trip up to Blackpool could be in for something sweet - I hope.

While Burnley (again, that mix of youth/experience/commitment) neatly turned over Arsenal reserves in the box, our own future stars, including Jonjo Shelvey, were beating Blackburn at The Valley in extra time in the FA Youth Cup. See, it doesn't have to be all misery around here...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

QPR 2-1 Charlton

Oh dear. Oh no...

Thing is, we started out so well. It's weird to think that until we fell asleep for Blackstock's second, that was the most enjoyable Charlton match I've been to for months.

The passing was good, we seemed to have lost the fear, the crowd was tremendous, Jose Semedo worked his arse off and it was great to see Racon back (he deserved that goal). Gillespie adds some much needed balls to the team, Waghorn was very good and we bossed most of that first half. Those lads were putting a huge amount of work in, and QPR were dreadful.

Haven't seen it on TV, but the ball appeared to go out of play before Blackstock's first and we were caught on the hop for that. QPR came back stronger in the second half, Patrick Ayegeman came on and caused us all kinds of problems, but just when it looked like we'd weathered the storm...

Varney's miss is a hard one to forgive under the circumstances - on a night when the team worked hard, he really stuck out as a bad'un. Whoever gets the manager's job, getting shot of him is going to be high on his agenda. Bouazza was lousy in the first half but got his act together later on.

Unlike that dreadful, spinless game at Reading two years ago when the players showed they didn't want to play for Les Reed, I think it's fair to say this lot do want to play for Phil Parkinson. Will Parkinson get the job? I don't know. But he managed to get them playing well for great spells of the match.

Varney's reflects our season, really. Parkinson's inherited what should be a football team, but instead, he's got a collection of brittle individuals. Moulding them together and firing them up is going to be a tough job. Mark Kinsella was playing a prominent role in the dug-out and before each half, which could be significant.

As for Saturday... hopefully, that team will get the backing it got at Loftus Road. We've just got to get on with it now - and get ourselves out of this mess.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hail to the caretaker

So, I had Sky Sports News on during Sunday, and a familiar-sounding voice emerged from the telly. Hold on, he's got some front speaking so quickly, hasn't he? I turned around...

... and it was Phil Parkinson. Doesn't he sound just like his former boss? (Even though he was born in Lancashire?) This is the problem that many Charlton fans will have with Parky - he could still be Alan Pardew's man, tainted goods from the old regime. Linked very soon after Curbs' departure with the job here, he went on to leave Colchester, where he'd done a stellar job on little cash and with few expectations, to go and bugger it up at Hull City.

That terrible spell with the Tigers lingers as the sole doubt in my mind, but for now, Phil Parkinson is what we've got, and we owe it to the man to get behind him. He is said to hold some differing opinions to our departed boss on the strengths and weaknesses of our team, and deserves every chance at giving it a go. You may whine on about Les Reed, but I can point out Alan Curbishley and Lennie Lawrence as men who emerged from The Valley's shadows to achieve greatness. There's no reason why Parky can't - a couple of good results, and he could have a little more to celebrate on his 41st birthday on Monday.

As for Pards, what hasn't been said already? A couple of meetings over the past month sealed the issue for me. The words on his managerial tombstone will probably read: "Didn't know his best team." A recent City Addicks meeting saw an angry chap challenge Richard Murray on this. "Well, can you name our best team?", the chairman responded. And you know what? Nobody could agree on a back four, never mind a first XI. Pards' failure to mould a team - that basic thing that we pay managers huge sums to do - was his undoing. A terrific motivator, yes, but a leader of men? Get away.

The other meeting which sealed my view of him took place three weeks ago, in a bar in Manhattan, watching the US election results start to trickle in alongside New York Addick, a fine chap whose support of the Addicks puts the backing of a feckless chancer like me into the shade. Remember, this was off the back of the Burnley game (which we'd both seen, even - unwittingly - lining up in adjacent immigration queues at JFK the following day).

As the whoops of Obama's fans started to fill the place, and the just before the sense of optimism and excitement became just too irrestible, he reminded me just what a ludicrous figure Pardew was becoming, with his rotten excuses and insistence that he'd change it all the following week... but that his sense of self-belief remained huge. Stuck among angry losers at The Valley and online, I'd forgotten just how stupid our situation was - heading towards farce. I suggested we refer to him as Alan Pardew - Undiscovered Genius (TM) from then onwards.

Performances did improve, if results didn't - and you can see the veins bulge in Pardew's face when he's asked about his future by Sky Sports after the game. Despite rumours of a big pay-off, I suspect it'll be a bitter parting, and would put good money on him having a pop at Charlton fans before the year's out.

That fact is, though, that by jeering even mediocre performances, we deserve it as richly as Pardew deserved the boot. The angry loser element in our fanbase threatens to destroy what we've built up over the years, and turned The Valley into a welcoming venue for our opponents. This needs to end if anyone is to achieve any kind of success with our team.

As for the future, who knows? Long-term, despite the Zabeel setback the club remains very much in the shop window; fancy a Championship club where you can choose your own manager? Got a few million? Come on down. The summer changes at the club now sees Richard Murray wielding less influence, as plc chairman Derek Chappell and chief executive Steve Waggott assume greater responsibility. Murray will be looking to hand over a healthy club with a bright future to new owners - and that, frankly, is why Pardew had to go.

In the meantime, I've made a last-minute decision to go to Loftus Road (tickets available on the gate) for tonight's battle of London's most underwhelming sides. Can we do it against QPR? As everyone around us in that bar in NYC said three weeks ago, yes we can. Come on you Addicks!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pardew out, Parkinson in for QPR

All Quiet In The East Stand understands Alan Pardew has left Charlton, and Phil Parkinson will be in charge for the game at QPR on Tuesday.

I might even go to Loftus Road now...

1940: Confirmed - "mutual consent" yada yada yada. I'm off down the pub.

Pardew: The endgame

Rumours flying around as I type about Alan Pardew's future - the performance in most of today's 5-2 defeat to Sheffield United would suggest he doesn't have one. Except that spell in the second half when we seemed to play with a bit less fear than before. is creaking, which feels like an omninous sign...

When the end does come, it's going to be bitter. Today's programmes carries a couple of pops at fans - "our small band of travelling fans who loyally followed us" to Plymouth and Birmingham. With the atmosphere as it is, what the hell does he expect? Later he went on to quote Frank Lampard's criticism of England's irritable supporters - which would have been fine earlier in the season when merely mediocre performances were being booed, but seems a little late now we're so desperately bad at home. I didn't see it myself, but some fans say Pardew sarcastically applauded the home fans after he trudged off following his worst ever defeat at Charlton.

At the end, Pardew admitted the performance was "bloody awful". You don't say.

"Of course I fear for my position when the results have been so poor. My ego isn't that big but I still believe in what I can do.

"My record coming to this club has been good but it's been difficult here. When I arrived they were on the slide and I haven't been able to stop that.

"We're in a sticky situation and I have to accept whatever decision is made. In terms of this week we have put every effort in and it hasn't worked out.”

The mason's just chipping those words onto his tombstone now.

He ain't too proud to beg

Charlton manager Alan Pardew told BBC London 94.9:

"We really need the fans to stay strong for us. If we don't come up to standard and we don't get the result, then by all means the criticism can come at the end. We can't have them turn against us during the game. It is going to be a problem for us, and certainly Sheffield United will play on that."

I think he's begging.

Friday, November 07, 2008

To those about to travel, I salute you

I considered travelling to Plymouth this weekend, my first away trip in some time. The knock on effect of flying back from the Canaries put paid to any thoughts of a four hour plus trip to the west country though. While umming and ahhing, a chance remark from my other half made me think. "I can't imagine how much you'd have to love Charlton to travel that far for less than two hours," she said.

Now I make no apologies for going over the support debate once again. I still can't understand the pointless negativity, although I thank everyone who took the time to explain their attitudes in my earlier post. But I also don't understand the level of loyalty which leads the Addickted to travel to the ends of England (and Wales), often on a Tuesday.

So perhaps rather than focusing on what divides us, we - all of us - need to start looking at what unites us. Pardew isn't going anywhere. He seems a stubborn man, while there's no stomach or cash to sack him. We're stuck with him, he's 'stuck' with us. In many eyes he might not be the right man for the job. But with the club sweating cash, right now he's the only man. Same with the board.

Then there's the playing staff. Often in the past I heard it said: 'how much does the crowd influence the players' performance?" Well look at the fear in the players as hate rains down after a missed pass. Then turn and you might just see something similar flash across the face of guy sat near you.

The home and away fan, the kid for a quid or the octogenarian who saw us lift the Cup, we're all in this together, aren't we?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

3-0 and I walked out at half-time

As I type this now, it's nearly half-past four, and I'm in my front room, a quarter of a mile from The Valley. A little while ago, I heard "Charlton 'till I die!..." echo around the streets outside on this miserable, cold afternoon. I've decided not to turn the telly or radio on, but listen out for the crowd instead. But I can hear nothing, just the pitter-patter of rain outside.

(Ah, after Hudson scored, I can hear the crowd livening up a a bit. Lots of ethereal ooohs and aahs in the air.)

Yup, I'd had enough at 3-0 down. It's likely the boo-boys will get their man - Alan Pardew looked a haunted man who knew the game was up the last time I saw him, and I'll be surprised if I see him there again. I won't even pretend the performance was anywhere near excusable in the first half, but I knew I wasn't going to be in for a fun afternoon when one of the trio of Jon Gaunt-a-likes behind me started moaning after 45 seconds, 85 seconds before Jon Macken scored Barnsley's first from a woefully under-defended corner.

I haven't posted to this blog for a while because, frankly, going to Charlton is depressing me. Going to sit in front of a load of miserable bastards and watching crap football hasn't been an experience I've wanted to revisit. And yes, there are people probably taking delight in this because they've wanted Pardew out for a year or so.

Well, they've probably got their man, and we'll probably be in the relegation places. Satisfied?

Of course, Pardew isn't helping matters. Andy Gray's been a dud up front for a long time but he still got to start today, and while I won't pretend there's been a glorious recent past of playing short balls on the ground, we seem to be flailing around in the air instead of taking charge on the pitch. As the waters rise above our manager, he seems ever more determined to stick with ways which really don't work.

While The Valley was once united in adversity, it's now a cauldron of self-doubt and self-hatred. Even Cristiano Ronaldo would struggle with fans like ours. But then again, our team's had enough time to prove itself - and it hasn't. Moreover, Chris Iwelumo's stellar performances for Wolves suggest Pardew's man-motivating tactics really aren't what he claims they are.

Where do we go from here? I don't know. Well, I know where I'm going from here - on a plane to New York, tomorrow, and when I return on Monday week, I expect things will be rather different.

An almighty boo has just rung out - whoever picks up the pieces after today has a tough job on their hands. I wish them well. I don't know if I want to be there to join them...

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Well the last few weeks have been fun haven't they? First we were quids in, now reports suggest we're £20m in hock. But that's just been a sideshow to the team's slide on the pitch. We've been plunging downwards in tandem with the financial markets.

It all came to a head for me today though, with a fan comment included in this BBC report of the Dubai pull-out. I understand the sentiment, but are we really thinking about League 1 with 30 games of the season left?

Where's the fight, where's the belief gone? The team plays like they're stiff with fear. The management seems increasingly desperate and railing against individual players. But what shocks me most is how quickly our support is replaced by raw fury.

A bloke in the upper North on Tuesday night offered 60 minutes (I arrived late) of unceasing abuse of every member of the playing staff. This wasn't banter like we used to rib Robinson and lionise Leaburn's limitations. This was pure venom. He was calling a kid like Youga a "cunt", telling Pardew to "fuck off" and bollocking Lloyd Sam five minutes after his introduction. No one near him stopped his bile. Then enough joined in to really ram home the point.

The club appears to be tearing itself apart internally at a time when it most needs to pull together. The performance I saw on Tuesday was at times absolutely awful. But the boos have got worse then when we fell out of the Premiership, louder and more angry then the jeers that didn't galvanise the team last season.

What's causing this? What do people think they'll achieve? I honestly want to understand. And maybe the new fan's representative will need to. Never mind the prophecy about League 1. Right now we risk losing something much more essential than status or points; the very bond between club and fan.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

So, where from now?

I don't even want to look at the table. After tonight's 2-0 defeat to Bristol City, I didn't even want to hang around to the bitter end like I usually do.

There's definitely a sickness surrounding The Valley. And no, it's not the cold I still can't properly shake off. Yes, it's the crowd - who turned as soon as Lee Trundle scored that simple, simple goal - but yes, it's the team too, unable to communicate with each other and becoming much, much less than the sum of their parts.

I've no idea what Alan Pardew's saying to the press right now, but he's got a hell of a lot of explaining to do. I wasn't at Cardiff and didn't see highlights, but chatting after tonight's match, we thought back to the win over Ipswich, and remembered that it didn't feel much like a victory, because it was achieved in such a haphazard manner, yet Pards was talking about having put in "more technical players".

Whatever, it's probably going to be a sleepless night round at chez Pards this evening. If it goes wrong against Burnley, the Valley moaners' prophecies may become self-fulfilling...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Don't tell me to dance in the street, but...

So where were you when you first heard about the tentative deal for Zabeel Investments to buy Charlton? I had yesterday off work, had a big night on Thursday, and wandered off for a little siesta at about half-past four before heading out again.

Two-and-a-bit hours later, my phone was full of messages, my upstairs neighbour heard some dazed, sleepy bloke downstairs yell something unprintable, and people I knew were on Sky Sports News (damn! missed my chance!), and a little bit of my world looked like it'd changed forever.

And since then, we've learned all about Zabeel Investments, seen its nice website, and found that it is run by Sheikh Hamdan Al-Maktoum, poetry-loving son of Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed, and they'd also flirted with Liverpool and Manchester City. Yes, there is serious money here.

But what to make of it? Well, I'm conflicted. Let's be upfront about one thing - I can't leave my personal politics at the turnstile. This is coming out of oil money, and the world's addiction to oil is killing it. Dubai has an appalling record of the treatment of its foreign workers, while its legal system is hardly a shining example of fairness by western standards. Let's get that out of the way.

Secondly, deals like this are killing English football. When Manchester City were bought by investors from Dubai's fellow emirate, Abu Dhabi, earlier this season, I was left wondering what the point of the English professional game was. Years back, when clubs rushed to float themselves on the stock market, satirists drew cartoons of fans cheering share prices. Now they're waving wallets, boasting about who's got the richest clubs.

In terms of the wider picture, no good can come of this. Football is changing for the worse.

But without the deal... what's the future for Charlton? Left behind as clubs are revived by fresh capital from elsewhere, doomed never to fulfil our potential as the media focuses ever more on a smaller number of big clubs? Maybe. Say the positions were reversed, and the oil sheiks had moved in on Crystal Palace? How would we feel then?

If we want to be in with a decent shout of competing in the professional game, we'll need money. Richard Murray's not been in a hurry to sell up - and if he says he's a good deal, I'll trust him on that. He's thrown too much money into this club for him to risk its future. And I'm reassured by news that Murray should remain with the club if the deal goes through.

Of course, we need to be on our guard. What happens if the old guard and the new guard fall out? Would we see a situation along the lines of that at QPR, where the new owners talk of it being a "boutique club"? And... what happens when everyone gets bought by rich Arab owners? Maybe, in a few years time, I'll be disenfranchised and end up pitching up at Dulwich Hamlet on Saturday afternoons. But then... what's stopping that happening anyway?

After a rollercoaster 25 years, the continued security of Charlton Athletic is something to be grateful for. But please don't expect me to be dancing on the street or wearing a tea towel on my head when the deal gets done.

Zabeel: What the papers say

THE GUARDIAN: Charlton Athletic were last night the subject of a takeover bid by the Maktoum family in a deal that would seem to end Dubai's interest in Liverpool.

The Valley club's efforts to play down the deal last night by insisting there is "no certainty" that the "indicative" bid will become a formal offer will not restrain unbridled excitement in south-east London. The involvement of Sheikh Hamdan Al-Maktoum, son of Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed, through his Zabeel Investments vehicle would make the ascendancy of a club that dropped out of the Premier League with only 34 points in 2007 almost a certainty.

Superficially there would seem to be few motives for taking over a club who lie only 14th in the Championship today. But there was an influential link with Liverpool in that Rothschilds, the investment bank, had represented the five-times European champions and also worked for Charlton.

The Valley club have been scouring the market for fresh investment in recent months but few could have considered that the Dubai ruling caste would be interested in a Championship club. One close observer of Dubai's football negotiations expressed surprise at the deal, saying: "They usually go for the front of the grid."

Buying Charlton may appear a strange choice but their location in London and the fact that they own the freehold on their stadium and training ground makes them attractive. Their manager, Alan Pardew, is understood to be aware of the deal and has already been reassured by the club's board – and the prospective new owners – that his job is safe and that he will receive funds in the January transfer window.

Zabeel is not interested simply in throwing money at football. It is understood to have had talks with Mike Ashley, the owner of Newcastle United, but regarded his asking price of £480 million as too steep.

Instead of bidding for an established Barclays Premier League club, it has followed the lead of Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore, who took over Queens Park Rangers for an investment of £14 million and are looking to take them into the top flight — a more economical way of acquiring a Premier League club, if it comes off.

Charlton are fourteenth in the Championship after losing their Premier League status in 2007 and may not seem an obvious attraction when, for example, Portsmouth are reported to be on the market for a similar amount. However, while the South Coast club are in the Premier League, they cannot match the solid foundations of the London club, who have a modern stadium with good facilities and plans to expand.

THE SUN: After failing with attempts to buy Liverpool and Arsenal, businessman Mohammed Al Hashimi — whose company Zabeel Investments is worth more than £3billion — is poised to take control at The Valley.

Should his offer be accepted by Charlton’s shareholders — and this seems certain — Al Hashimi will also wipe out the club’s debts of £20m.

Current chairman Richard Murray, in charge at the club since 1995, will advise the new owners and remain at the club.

For the time being at least, Alan Pardew’s position as manager seems to be safe.

The Sun's headline? Next it's Valley of the Kings.

Zabeel: Inspector Sands' Facebook feed

Well, someone close to Inspector Sands, anyway...

Charlton fan A fumin, no arabs for charlton please!! fuck off with your dirty oil money! 22:49 Fri

Charlton fan B is wearing a tea towel on his head. Give us your money Dubai! 20.56 Fri

Newcastle fan A is laughing at toon, Mike Ashley has lost another Arab, this time to Charlatan hahahaha. 20:22 Fri

Charlton fan C
is wondering if he should have 8 Gerrard or 9 Rooney on the back of his CAFC shirt next season... 20:08 Fri

Charlton fan D doesn't mind the global economic crash - he's just seen the football news!!! 19:46 Fri

Charlton fan E is cautious about takeovers. 19:45 Fri

Charlton fan F is very sad at the prospect of waving goodbye to a true community club. What's the price of "progress"? 19:28 Fri
- Charlton fan N at 19:33: mate its amazing news!
- Charlton fan F at 20:17: I used to criticise Fulham, Blackburn et al for buying success and was proud of what we achieved purely through good management and on the pitch.
- Charlton fan O at 20:26: exactly =( I honestly refused, and perhaps still am refusing, to believe it because I just feel like part of what charlton is will have died. It's desperately needed, no mistake. But still really sad to see what we can never be proud of again.

Charlton fan G is hoping you Palace, Millwall and West Ham fans are going to fill your cars up this weekend, cause we'll like to buy a few more players. 19:14 Fri
- Palace fan A at 21:06: I'm so glad I don't drive. you'll not get a penny off me. a PENNY!

Charlton fan H
loves the people of dubai , Joe Cole in a red shirt would be nice. 19:13 Fri

Charlton fan I can't believe that Charlton are going to be rich!! 19:12 Fri

Charlton fan J is out on the pub crawl and unsure about the arabs! 19:11 Fri

Charlton fan K is thinking... Dubai group make bid for Charlton. COME ON SON! 18:14 Fri

Charlton fan L is in shock. Dubai is coming to Charlton!!! 17:14 Fri

Charlton fan M is a tad sheikhen up by news from the Valley..... 17:07 Fri

Friday, October 10, 2008

Dubai takeover bid - first, decisive reaction

I really haven't a clue what to make of this.

But oh, my word... it could be an exciting future ahead - but a scary one too.

Anyone else think the rescue boat's pulled up, and we've no choice but to get in it - whatever the risks? Hmmm. More on this later, one I've been to the pub had a proper think...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pards poser after Palace defeat

Well, 12 years of barely-challenged supremacy had to come to an end at some point, but tonight's limp defeat at Sellout left a nasty taste in my mouth. I think plenty of us, in all honesty, saw it coming. I think I did too - defeat's sometimes better taken on your own, and I ended up perched towards the foot of the grotty-as-ever Arthur Waite stand, and ended up walking out seven minutes before the end, taking out my frustrations on that sodding great hill that takes you up to Crystal Palace Park. At least I'm a bit fitter for the trip...

So, what have we learned? We have learned that we are bloody awful at a 4-5-1 formation. Luke Varney had no chance at the head of that. We have learned that we are bloody awful at a long ball game. Especially when you play a fairly muscular side like Palace. Okay, our weaknesses on the wings may force us into hoofing the ball, but we looked undeniably better with the ball on the ground. We have learned we still have serious problems in defence. Well, the increasingly erratic Kelly Youga, for a start. And I'm still scratching my head as to what Martin Cranie actually brings to our side - at Forest, he seemed to add a few IQ points to the back four, but they weren't in evidence tonight.

My deeper worry, though, is the team itself - it's less than the sum of its parts. For all Bailey's efforts, for all Varney's toil, it's as if our players simply don't believe they can take on the best. So we get run ragged by the likes of Victor Moses, or outclassed by Ben Watson, let our heads drop, and tamely surrender.

Which surely comes back to... the manager. Sorry, Pards, this defeat has your fingerprints all over it. There's no point saying you plan to shake the team up when you said exactly the same thing three days ago after another defeat. His implication that our tactics involved playing long balls is also worrying.

So, we've got a problem. The Evening Sub-Standard - which hates Charlton as much as it loves the current mayor - stuck its oar in with a "vote of confidence" story. Or, as Sky regurgitated it - the "dreaded vote of confidence".

The Dowie/Reed fiasco aside, we aren't one of those mug clubs who go through managers every couple of years. Instability wrecks sides. But I've a nasty feeling we're on a slippery slope. Only one man can change it. Pards - it's down to you, mate. Make us believe in you again.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

On the edge of a crisis?

"Crisis" is an over-used word in football. When your badly-run bank has to be taken over by the government, that's a crisis. When your football team doesn't win a match, it's a mere misfortune. But I'm not alone in feeling something deeper is amiss at Charlton right now. But I can't put my finger on what's quite wrong.

I should have known we'd lose yesterday when that pillock of a pitch announcer drivelled on about facing Sheffield Wednesday "on the back of two clean sheets". I wasn't at the win over Doncaster Rovers, but the day out at Nottingham Forest was pleasant enough, and I still wake up in sweats over Andy Gray's shot being saved at close range.

Alan Pardew tweaked our suspect defence ahead of the Wednesday clash - with returning loanee Linvoy Primus coming in for the hapless Jonathan Fortune. But did it do any good? Er... no. Luke Varney's opener was swiftly overturned by a nightmare three minutes which saw two goals go in and left defenders and goalkeeper yelling at each other.

Much like at Forest, a frantic (and entertaining) second half saw us batter the Owls' goal - but to no avail. (Did you see how good we were for that spell with just three at the back, by the way?) And then the boos ran out yet again...

There's definitely something broken at Charlton. I've dealt with the fans often enough, but our ridiculous level of expectation just makes The Valley a welcoming place for opponents. Our team's good enough to beat any of its rivals in the Championship. Most of them are level-headed pros rather than the oafish blinged-up dimwits who spoil the Premiership. But the spirit isn't there. Is it the manager? Alan Pardew says he's now got players who can play his way, rather than having to adapt to a team created by his predecessors. But it's clearly not working. Unfortunately, I really fear that if we lose to Crystal Palace on Tuesday, it'll start a chain of events that we may live to regret.

So, what to do? I haven't a clue. I fear that getting behind the team is beyond too many Charlton fans, who just use their visits to the Valley to take out their frustration. I've got a nasty feeling about Tuesday's trip to Selhurst, since we've had it our way there for what seems like an age - that can't go on forever. It was always going to be a big fixture - this could end up being our biggest for a couple of seasons. Here's hoping it's for the right reasons.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ravaged by the Wolves

There was a different context to this weekend's match for me. As some readers may know already, I was in the Midlands last week at the funeral of a Wolves-supporting pal of mine who I was hoping to have seen at yesterday's match. Think it's desolate in Wolverhampton on a matchday? You try it on a wet Tuesday morning when you're in a black suit. But there's a certain class attached to the old gold, and I don't just mean memories of George Berry's afro.

After the service and a tipsy wake, I discovered the funeral cortege had been driven through the grounds of Molineux. The traffic was stopped so the cars could pause at the statue of Billy Wright - and the club staff stood, in their blazers, to attention. Like I said, a certain class.

Class brings expectations, but Big Mick McCarthy's showing every sign of delivering on them this season. Yes, Nicky Bailey's goal was one of the best I've ever seen at The Valley - but Wolves showed a resillience that we, at the moment, can only dream of. And how good a striker is Sylvan Ebanks-Blake?

I thought both sides looked a bit fuzzy in the first half - international break and all that. Wolves looked like they missed Big Chris Iwulemo, who's been - surprise, surprise - doing the business for them since he moved north. I expected a sharper match in the second half, but instead we just seemed to wither away. The defence gave up - Jon Fortune increasingly looking like the weakest link, while Martin Cranie didn't do much to impress on his debut. Alan Pardew is delighted we still have Zheng Zhi - and so am I after having seen our midfield implode. And despite those great runs, Luke Varney's still flattering to decieve.

There's a lots of things we can learn from Saturday's match - me, I'm lumping a fiver on Wolves to win the division; and it's just an awful shame my pal isn't around to see them top of the league.

For us, there'll be better days, and hopefully one will come at Doncaster on Tuesday.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

On the wrong frequency

I spent Saturday cursing our clapped-out rail network for preventing me from making an easy journey to Preston - who else was tempted to make the trip after our defeat of Reading?

But later on, I was praising our terrible trains for saving me from seeing a match in which, by all accounts, we were very much second best. However, it wasn't as if I could hear very much of it, since BBC London decided not to cover our match.

In fact, the BBC's local station for the capital, which has exclusive commentary rights for Charlton matches, opted to broadcast West Ham v Blackburn on both its 94.9 FM and DAB services. Unfortunately, this was the same match 5 Live was covering. Not sensible.

It's not just us - I wouldn't have minded if they'd neglected us in favour of QPR's trip to Bristol City, we share a crowded patch for football clubs and to be honest, I'm happier hearing us on a London-wide station than a parochial commentary on a community station.

Ah, but what about BBC Radio Kent
, you say? Well, yes, they did cover the game... but you try picking that up in Charlton. You can't.

There's a broader issue with BBC London having too many radio rights, not least because there isn't the competition - the commercial stations have given up on commentaries. LBC haven't done it for donkey's years, Capital Gold (and Xfm) gave up two or three years back, and Talksport dropped their London opt-out a few years back.

Which leaves you with just BBC London trying to serve a load of clubs - and doing it badly. Even if they're just trying to chase the audience, doing West Ham (at home!) when 5 Live are doing it as well is insane. Ad it's the kind of thing which makes people question the licence fee.

If I was them, I'd prioritise the Championship sides and cover us/Palace/QPR aways, and maybe the odd Premiership game if it isn't being covered elsewhere.

But I guess they don't want to be seen as an "inferior" station to 5 Live, fit only for second-tier commentaries.. yet by continually following what 5 Live does, that's all they are ever going to be. And it's what we're lumbered with this season.

If you feel the same way as me, you could do little worse than drop the BBC a line here.

An iffy pint at Arsenal

A public information announcement...

Following Newcastle United chairman Mike Ashley’s Ashburton Grove appearance in the Toon end with pint in hand, the Football Supporters’ Federation is looking for any fans ejected and/or prosecuted for drinking in sight of the pitch this past weekend to come forward.

Drinking alcohol is sight of the playing area at professional football matches has been banned by law since 1985. The same activity is perfectly lawful at all other sporting events. If you’re a fan of rugby league or rugby union – no problem. Likewise cricket, American Football, speedway, horse racing. Even tiddlywinks as far as we know. Breweries and distilleries are a major sponsor of football.

We know of many supporters who’ve been banned from attending matches for three years for the “crime” of having a tipple whilst watching the game. Why? There are plenty of laws that the police can use to prosecute people who become abusive or violent though alcohol consumption. Being drunk in a public place is a criminal offence.

Why should the law abiding majority of football fans be singled out? If you’ve been ejected, banned or prosecuted for drinking in sight of the pitch, particularly this past weekend, get in touch with the FSF NOW at: info @ or on 08702 777777 (Mon-Fri office hours).

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Births, death and a midfield marriage

A fledgling Charlton side came out on top in a highly entertaining early kick off at the Valley. But is this the birth of a good side? Just what did we learn from playing what was a largely intact Premiership side in Reading FC?

The Inspector was at the game in body but not in spirit, having heard of the untimely death of a friend, so my observations will have to do.

Charlton seemed to get at Reading throughout, much as veteran Championship teams did to us last season, which is encouraging for the campaign.

Defensive weaknesses remain, particularly in gifting a goal on the stroke of half time. And the lunacy of singing 'easy, easy' so early was rightly punished. Didn't seem to teach the crowd, who sang it again at 4-2 just before two near misses from Reading in the closing stages.

Speaking of the crowd, unlike the majority I didn't actually think the referee gave too much against us, and the penalty in the first half looked a good decision.

Nick Bailey (who is the spit of Graham Stuart from the stands) looked a decent player and his midfield partnership with Matt Holland offers real promise.

Both strikers looked handy in their own way. Andy Gray looked particularly strong and up for it against pretty decent Reading centre-halves. Bouazza's shot was an early contender for goal of the season too.

Not one single boo throughout, long may it continue.

Stephen Hunt looks like he's wandered off the set of Life on Mars. Decent player though.

So a great result to kick off the bank holiday weekend. Please spare a thought for the Inspector's departed friend, and enjoy your DIY.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Watford 1-0 Charlton

Proper reports:, BBC Sport

Hmmmmmmm. Going down to a soft goal (Jonathan Fortune, what were you doing?) I can kind of, sort of take. Because these things happen. And you can fight back from those. But having the match totally skewed by a bad ref, a linesman who didn't want to correct him, and the tedious, time-wasting antics of Aidy Boothroyd's golden shower is a tought one to swallow.

The sending-off you probably know about already. Kelly Youga - who wasn't having a good game - crashed into the Hornets' Tamas Priskin as they entered the penalty area. Priskin obligingly fell like a sack of spuds into the penalty area, and man-in-black Iain Williamson whipped out his red card.

Meanwhile, the linesman in front of the empty East Stand stayed still. He had a better view of the incident than the ref, but didn't flag for an offence. Nor did he advise the referee as to what he saw. The away fans went ballastic. Substitute Chris Dickson, running up and down the touchline, pointed at him and laughed, Nelson Muntz-style, and made spectacle gastures behind his back. He wasn't much cop, this fella.

Indeed, not was Williamson, who set his stamp on the game early by booking Watford's John Eustace after three minutes but later took a more lenient view of the home team than the three yellow cards he gave them would suggest.

As for us, it wasn't a great first half but our 10 men came at Watford strongly in the second half, to the extent that I'm sure Boothroyd was running scared with the tactics he employed against us - we had a frantic spell late in the game and surely deserved better. The goal aside, our defence seems better, and our midfield ticked over nicely with newcomer Nicky Bailey slotting in well with Therry Racon.

Unfortunately, that's now tempered with news that Racon may have fractured his metetarsal after going off injured.

Our other big problem, though, is up front. No matter how much Alan Pardew might want it to work, the Andy Gray/ Luke Varney partnership just isn't doing the business. Chris Dickson looked lively when he came on, but is he experienced enough to start? Or are we waiting on Todorov to return from injury? That - as well as Racon's injury - may be the biggest puzzle at the start of the season.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Charlton 0-1 Yeovil

Well, as a choice of entertainment this evening, there wasn't really much choice. There was Bonekickers on BBC1, the tale of a group of young, inexperienced group of hunters delivering bad lines and stumbling into stupid situations they should really have avoided. And at The Valley...

Yup, the booing cowards in the stands got the result they wished for as a youthful Charlton side stumbled out of the League Cup to a Yeovil side who did what their travelling band of fans asked for, and a little bit more on top. A fairly even first half was punctuated by a easy goal by the Glovers' Paul Warne, which sailed by a defence which was probably working out if they'd set their Sky boxes for Don't Blame The Builder on Channel 4.

As the second half wore on, our confidence dropped and until a frantic finale, the League One side took charge. Particularly culpable were Yassin Moutouakil, disappointing in defence, while Luke Varney was wretched up front, playing in a panic - a criticism that can also be levelled at Grant Basey. Scott Wagstaff was subsituted early after looking well out of his depth, Jerome Thomas flattered to deceive once again, and as a whole we didn't look like creating anything if the match went on all night.

There were bright spots - but from three players who won't be ever-presents this season. Matt Holland worked his arse off, Jonjo Shelvey's energy livened up the team, while at the death Rob Elliot sprang out of goal and made several runs to meet late corners... almost getting a late equaliser. He got closer than Luke Varney did all night.

Just 6,239 there tonight, of which 6,000 will have wished they weren't. Yes, the League Cup is a distraction we could arguably do without - but tonight's performance suggests that with such slim pickings in our second string, we'll have to work hard to create something to get distracted from in the first place...

Monday, August 11, 2008

Swansea, Yeovil, and being potless

Just for the benefit of those pillocks who keep moaning about us selling players, may I present Mr Richard Murray in the South London Press...

CHARLTON chairman Richard Murray has admitted that the Addicks could have gone into administration if the directors had not pumped £15million into the club.

“If the directors hadn’t put in that money, it would have been a very dire situation for us,” Murray said.

“Looking at the squad, it would have been extremely hard for us to raise £15m from player sales alone and also have a competitive team.

"There was a risk we could have gone into administration without that investment."

And remember, just take a look at Watford's current issues as well. The team that went out on Saturday is likely to be the initial bedrock of the coming season.

And they'll have to learn from the mistakes they made against Swansea - who were in control for too many spells for comfort - but we didn't do badly at all against the Welsh side. Will Gray and Varney gel into a deadly duo up front? It's too early to tell, really, but they do look sharper than before. Mark Hudson's a tireless worker and I enjoyed Kelly Youga's hard graft in defence. Matt Holland's new contract will be worth his weight in gold if he can produce cameos like he did at the weekend. But Lloyd Sam seemed to have run himself into the ground a little too soon, and that defence did look a bit shaky from time to time. But it was a deserved win, and a great lift for the start of the season.

Yeovil return to the Valley tomorrow in the nobody-gives-a-toss round of the League Cup. No indications yet as to whether Pards will give the youngsters a chance to prove themselves, but Yeovil have never been fools - having given a Premiership incarnation of Charlton a fright in the FA Cup in January 2005, when they were new in the fourth division. We were crap that day, and we'll have to do better than that to overcome a side which now features one-time Brentford scoring ace Lloyd Owusu and sometime QPR stars Terrell Forbes and Marc Bircham.

Want more? Have a look at Yeovil site Ciderspace's exhaustive guide to The Valley and its environs - and watch out for cider drinkers in Greenwich tomorrow...

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Once more, unto the breach

I was talking to a West Ham fan in the pub last night.

"Fing is, about Charlton, is the atmosphere down there's shit."

"I know. They get on the players' backs too early. If we don't win the first couple of matches, it'll get nasty."

"They don't get behind the team."

"I know. But most Charlton fans are a load of old...- "

"But why is that?"

"Because they're a load of old...-"

"I'd have Pardew back any day. He brought the youngsters through with us."

"Well, he's got to do it again this season, we haven't got a pot to piss in."

"And you know Curbs wants to go back to your place?"

"Oh, please, no..."

So here we go again. I shan't waste your time with another load of pre-season preview guff, except to say that this is the year Alan Pardew has to prove himself - because he'll have to mould kids like Jonjo Shelvey and Grant Basey into worldbeaters if we're to pull ourselves out of the second tier. Can this be done? I hope it'll be fun to see. We've said goodbye to Big Chris Iwelumo and Majid Bougherra, and need to prepare to say farewell to Zheng Zhi as well. Getting shot of wasters like Marcus Bent and (hopefully) Amdy Faye isn't enough. The books need balancing in a league where we lose £3m each season before we kick a ball. Fingers crossed Shelvey will fulfil his potential - but we won't need to sell him.

With Mark Hudson assuming the captain's armband, who else is coming in? If we do get anyone new in, they'll be loans, like winger Hameur Bouazza, in from Fulham this morning. Last year Pardew didn't know his best team. This year, he won't have so much choice, but the man himself admits this might be a good thing.

So, new season, new blog - the comments are back - and hopefully a new spirit down at the Valley. And since it's my birthday today, I'm determined to enjoy myself. Come on you reds!

Friday, August 08, 2008

Faye's nearly gone...

From Stoke City's official site:

Charlton Athletic star Amdy Faye has joined the Potters on trial and could feature in this evening's game against Osasuna.

Faye, 31, is a Senegalese international having represented his country on 18 occasions.

The talented midfielder
[hahaha] spent part of last season on loan at Scottish giants Rangers, where he went on to make a number of appearances including one in the UEFA Champions League.

Here's hoping, eh?

Faye to finally f- off, paper claims

Please, please, let this story from the Mail be true.

Stoke are close to sealing a £1m deal for Charlton midfielder Amdy Faye.

City boss Tony Pulis is desperate to add top-flight experience to his promoted squad and Faye, 31, has played in the Premier League at Portsmouth and Newcastle as well as Charlton. The Senegalese spent last season on loan at Rangers.

That's it. Well-known hack Sportsmail Reporter wrote no more. It's two years today since Faye joined us, and at Dulwich Hamlet last week you would not have believed he was the so-called Premier League footballer still earning, by Championship terms, an obscene pay packet. He lolloped around the Champion Hill pitch like he couldn't give a toss.

Actually, he's brilliant. He's quick, smart, tough, an instinctive footballer, a great thinker and an erudite conversationalist. He's a leader amongst men. I have the day off today and can hold a map. Tony, I'm sure me and an All Quiet reader who can drive (any volunteers?) can get him to the Britannia Stadium before the day's out. Go on, son. You know you want him.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Charlton on the web, 07-08-08

A bumper crop to start what'll hopefully be a regular feature...

- Guess what - the kits are selling out! ( Yup, people moan about them, but they still buy them in their droves...

- Mark Hudson is our new captain ( Guess what! I've just seen a bear leaving the woods wiping his bum!

- Pards - lessons have been learned ( They'd better have been. See also the South London Press.

- Addicks chief monitors Sodje (News Shopper) Is Sam on his way back?

- Blues turn down Bailey bid (Southend United OS) - The Shrimpers midfielder is after a move, and we want him.

- Richard Murray: This is a huge year (South London Press) The big man speaks. "As this is the last year we’ll have the Premier League parachute payments, on top of the problems caused by the credit crunch, we have had to raise about £5million this summer.

- Telegraph London Championship preview ( Their man reckons we'll be sixth. "Midfield is a worry. The redoubtable Matt Holland was a super box-to-box midfielder but he is 34 now and needs somebody dynamic alongside him. Pardew has silenced his critics before - and I'm backing him to do it again."

- Scotland ready to play some part at Charlton (Wales Online) Swansea are coming - and striker Jason Scotland's getting over injury.

- Villa in talks with Luke Young (BBC Sport) Good to see him set for a decent club. Did we get a sell-on clause?

New season, new look, same attitude

It's been a while, hasn't it? Welcome back to All Quiet In The East Stand after a fitful summer of sporadic updates. Frankly, there hasn't really been much to say, has there? To be honest, it was touch and go whether or not I'd carry on with the site or not, but one thing I had decided was that if I did carry on, I'd tart it up a bit.

So yeah, isn't the banner above classy? One hitch at the moment is that the comments thingy is broken, for which I apologise - hopefully it'll get fixed soon. It's still a work in progress, so I'll be fixing and tweaking things as we go on. Any thoughts, please drop me a line at inspectorsands (at) hotmail .co. uk - damn, means I'll have to start reading my inbox for once.

The new-look All Quiet started to take shape in a bar in Barcelona a couple of months back. Blowing the froth off a cold one, waiting to go to a gig, I realised there was something not quite right about Charlton stuff on the web. I used to love reading the Charlton Life forum, and I hold the people behind it in the highest regard, but it'd become unreadable. It'd been taken over by miseries. The same old miseries that made last season so crap for me.

Yup, it'd become the mailing list. And it was the drivel posted there that spurred me into starting All Quiet back in 2004. My Charlton support had come full circle. But I couldn't let the old whiners win.

Because believe it or not, football's not the be all and end-all of life. There was a time I was more interested in women and music. I probably am again now, actually. Football's just a small part of a rich and varied life. And that's the way it should be.

Let's face it, if you're middle-aged-man (or one stuck in a young man's body), stuck in a dull suburb with a woman who doesn't fancy you any more, unable to get it up as often as you'd like, pissed off you can't get away with casual racism any more, that the cost of petrol for your trips to soulless retail parks are too much, grumbling about "do-gooders" and agreeing with Jon Gaunt and Richard Littlejohn, then you're the reason why I'm getting back behind this blog again. Because you don't go to football for fun any more. You just go to moan. If your life's crap, do something about it. Don't inflict your backward worldview onto the rest of us.

And Charlton isn't your club. It's my club too, and I'm nowhere near as small-minded, petty, and boring as you. And I want my fun Saturday afternoons back. Get behind the team, have fun, and forget your problems. Or sod off and leave the rest of us alone.

Nobody ever said this season was going to be easy. But bugger it, I'm going to enjoy myself. Shouldn't you be doing that as well?

Thankfully the Charlton blogosphere (hate that word) has always been a bit more positive and level-headed than message-board and Bores-Behind-Me idiots. So I'm looking forward to diving back into the fray again.

The other new addition this season is that my co-conspirator Stuart will be taking a bigger role in writing the blog, because even I get bored with hearing myself all the time.

So, welcome back - whatever happens this season, stay proud to be an Addick.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Addicks react to Marcus Bent transfer

"At the time I spoke to Cardiff and the manager there, the club seemed very excited about signing me. They're striving to get into the Premiership by building the new stadium and such like. But for me personally when Birmingham came in it was lot more appealing because I think it's more likely that Birmingham are going to get back into the Premiership." - Marcus Bent, 16/7/08

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Team Bath? Early bath, more like

Friendly: Bromley 1-0 Charlton - report
Charlton started their 2008/09 preparations with a whimper as we went down 1-0 to Bromley at Hayes Lane. Not the most engrossing of matches, a small-ish crowd, but a decent evening to lollop around and wonder just who the blimmin' heck it is wearing that number 4 shirt. And, in my case, to miraculously manage to throw the ball back to Bromley's keeper while still keeping hold of an ice cream. They don't teach kids that kind of skill these days, you know.

But on a night when the veteran Hayes Lane announcer was the highlight, by ending every announcement with "got it?", there were a few bright spots. Well, one big bright spot - Stuart Fleetwood made his debut in an Addicks shirt as a sub, and looked far and away the best player on the pitch, looking both lively and intelligent. Chris Dickson made his comeback up front, but made a lacklustre pairing with Team Bath forward Sean Canham, on trial but not looking up to the job. Three players from non-league football - it probably inspired the Bromley lads a bit.

This was, essentially, a reserves night - Mark Kinsella taking charge in the dugout, a suited, booted and tanned Pards across the pitch in the stand. What will he have learned tonight? Not a lot. Still, hopefully it'll get better from here. Got it?

Monday, July 07, 2008

Here we go again, then...

Euro 2008 is just a memory now, and Wimbledon's just over, so naturally, our thoughts turn to... the start of the pre-season. Yup, it all starts again at Hayes Lane, Bromley, at 7.45pm on Tuesday.

Now, the traditional curtain-raiser is at Welling - as it is on Wednesday. But I can't make that, so I'm kicking off 2008/09 by heading south to Hayes Lane. In theory, it's a reserve friendly, but hopefully there'll be a few first-teamers coming down for the game, which also kicks off the Conference South side's preparations for the new season. Hopefully I'll get around to putting a few words up on Tuesday night - I need to warm my blogging skills up once again as well...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A quick thought on the kit...

For those whining about our kits next season (for heaven sake, it's a bloody football kit, it doesn't matter that much) here's the genius way Conference side Stevenage Borough are advertising their new kit...

Stevenage Borough are pleased to confirm the arrival of the new home kit for the forthcoming season.

Doesn't that make the heart beat that bit faster?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Fleetwood confirmed on fixtures day

Fixtures day's just magic, isn't it? Suddenly, the pain of last season fades, and the bright optimism of a shiny new season takes centre stage. Swansea, under bright blue skies, at The Valley on 9 August. The unlikely seems just a tad romantic. Heavens, even having Yeovil in the League Cup's started to make my mouth water a bit. (Hey, we'll probably lose.)

Indeed, the return of the Swans for the first time since 1983 still feels a bit shinier than, say, Hull's debut match in the top division - at home to Fulham. Pass the Pro-Plus, would you?

Slightly annoyed that Doncaster Rovers is a midweek trip, and that hopes of a summer trip to Blackpool have been dashed again, and Palace on a school night... twice? Oooooh. Anyhow, there's some interesting stuff about how fixtures are compiled on the Football League website.

Close-season business continues with Forest Green Rovers' Stuart Fleetwood joining us for a fee to be decided. Let go by Cardiff a couple of years ago, he returns to the Championship after tearing up plenty of Conference trees. Like Chris Dickson - who cost us a pittance from Dulwich Hamlet but must surely be worth £200,000 or so now - he should be a shrewd bit of business at the very least.

Not much big money to splash around, of course, but the undisclosed fee we're getting from, er, Crystal Palace for Paddy McCarthy will do its bit. A nice guy who's a real presence on the pitch, he simply didn't put in the performances across the season to make himself indispensable. Hopefully he'll do well... and move to a proper club soon.

Finally, I've decided to put my money where my big trap is this season. Get yourself to Ladbrokes, and stick some money on us to win the League. The Magic Sign is currently rating us at a mighty 18/1. It was just too tempting for me...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

'Wake up! Wake up! It's Monday morning!'

Oh, my, was it all a dream? The last time I was awake, I was reading this...

The loan signing of Scott Sinclair from Chelsea could turn out to be a magnificent piece of business. He’s a young lad, but he’s unbelievably talented and will be a serious asset for us in the remaining games. His pace, skill and eye for goal will frighten other teams... (more)

... and then that was it! Gone! Out! Sparko! Then I wake up, it's not even Monday morning, it's Wednesday night, and it's raining at Euro 2008! I remember the season ending, and it all being rubbish, and being carted away by the doctors after seeing Fulham win - but Chris Powell leaving? Say it ain't so!

And Osei Sankofa? And... and... Cory Gibbs?! Noooo!!

My oh my, what to do next? How to cope with us signing Crystal Palace captain Mark Hudson? And the news that we've mended Svetoslav Todorov? Well, by extending a warm welcome to our former foe - get the feeling we've signed someone who'll be here for a while yet? - and promising to learn how to spell Toddy's first name properly, of course. And it's good to see the MK Scum friendly was binned in favour of one down at Brighton. Hurrah.

So, welcome back to All Quiet In The East Stand, lurching back into life after a few weeks off to recover from a thoroughly miserable end of season. Of course, there's bugger all happening at the moment, but I've been getting a little bit into Euro 2008, forgetting about domestic football and reminding myself that the beautiful game doesn't have to be dominated by small-minded cynics who are only happy when everyone else is as down as they are. Dare to dream? It's what we're here for, isn't it?

And what do we need for a brave new season? A rubbish kit, that's what! Come on, that away kit on young Wagstaff doesn't even look like a football kit, does it? It looks like something that's going to be stretched around bulging beer guts in Dartford in months to come, covered in beer and sweat. Because that's what it is. And that home kit? Feh. And just to rub it in, we're now sponsored by a sub-brand of JD Sports which sounds like a girls' drink. Oh, and club press office - the nearest branch of the JD Sports is actually in, er, Charlton. Never forget your roots, eh?

Actually, we're not the only one with kit woes - Arsenal have lost their white sleeves, prompting one fan to wail to the Telegraph: "Can you imagine Nike messing about with Barcelona's shirt or Man United's shirt? We will look more like Charlton Athletic next season." The pleasure is all ours, lads. Do you want Jerome Thomas back, while we're here?

So, that's the 2008/9 season coming up - like last season, but hopefully less crap. Now, what's the odds on Turkey to win the Euros, with Kazim-Richards to score the winning goal, eh?

Friday, May 30, 2008


Just blowing the dust off the old blog while the Inspector is blowing the froth off a cold one in foreign climes.

Anyone else suffering football withdrawal? Fixtures ain't out until 16th June and new season isn't until 9th August. Sodding Euro 2008.

Football hibernation seemed to come early to Charlton this season and despite the Champion's league and play-off finals I feel like I've been without football for ages.

Still, rounding up the news we've got a new centre-half to shore up the defence and lots of young lads blooded around the country are back and raring to be involved.

Even Captain Cleanshorts has offered some stirring words on the official site. He's obviously taken one look at Dean Windass hauling his old bones around Wembley and decided he too fancies a last hurrah in the Premiership. Frankly whatever it takes to get us out of this stinking purgatory.

Now, can I possibly make the online season ticket renewal thing work. Any tips?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Ups and downs

And for the avoidance of doubt, yes, Fulham's survival is still f***ing pissing me off.

But more seriously, Danny Murphy's header deprived us of what would probably be a beatable London rival in the Championship. It's hard to see Mohamed al-Fayed propping up a second-tier Fulham, and their win at Portsmouth may well have saved the club. For now.

So alongside Derby, we'll have the trickier prospects of Birmingham and Reading. The Blues will be a strong side for years to come, whatever David Gold does with the club after being abused by fans who seem to have forgotten their long years in the wilderness. As for Reading - John Madjeski's talked about pulling out in the past, but I can't see him turning his back on the side he took to the top flight. As we proved this season, past Premier League form is no guarantee of Championship success, but the second tier will have three new clubs with strong foundations - and bountiful parachute payments.

Speaking of which, I'm hoping Watford prevail in the play-offs for that reason - that's one less richer side in the league - but it doesn't look like happening, does it? Hopefully Bristol City will prevail again over Palace - but the thought of Hull in the Premier League still feels completely batty. Mind you, so did the thought of Wigan, and Reading...

Not convinced our lot would have survived play-off scrutiny - I reckon we're better off out of it this summer. Next season...

Monday, May 05, 2008

That's why we're Charlton

Not a dry eye in the house on Sunday. Funny, before Chris Powell netted his last goal for Charlton, we were musing on what would happen if we were granted a penalty - seconds later, that question was an academic one.

Chris Powell's cameo was a nice touch from an unsentimental manager - but Alan Pardew's decision to replace Jonjo Shelvey, who'd had a scintillating home debut, with the veteran defender 22 years his senior seemed to mark the changing times. With question marks hanging over the futures of Matt Holland, Jerome Thomas, Darren Ambrose and Jonathan Fortune, the team that Curbs built may soon lose its last representatives. With Shelvey, Basey and Wagstaff in Sunday's squad, the future is starting to assert itself.

Of course, we left it until the last game to look more composed, more settled than we'd done since that Stoke game in January. But it was always going to be that way, wasn't it? With the gang of moaners behind me having decided to spend their afternoon elsewhere, I enjoyed myself at The Valley for the first time in months.

Damn, looks like I am back next season, aren't I?

Friday, April 25, 2008

MK no way - part two?

Charlton are due to play MK Dons in a friendly at the end of July, All Quiet In The East Stand has heard via sources at Franchise FC. This seems to have a ring of truth about it - it's apparently a hangover from the Izale McLeod signing - which is why I'm publishing this rumour. I'd dearly like to be wrong, but...

We've been here before, of course - fan outrage saw a proposed friendly against the Franchise axed in the spring of 2003. Five years may have passed, but the Franchise are still the pariahs of English football - instead of building up their own club, Milton Keynes City, they stole someone else's. Bearing in mind our own history, we should not be endorsing this.

Peter Varney, 5 May 2003: "Following last Thursday's announcement of plans for the game in Milton Keynes, there has been an overwhelming response from our supporters expressing their concerns.

"We pride ourselves on listening to our fans and in the light of their reaction we have taken the decision not to proceed with this fixture.

Hopefully this rumour is wrong and I'll be left looking rather stupid. But if it's right, I hope there's another huge protest. This cannot be allowed to happen.

Just how much we'll miss Reg...

Did you see Peter Varney doing the rounds yesterday? Here he is on Sky Sports News and on BBC London talking about the inequality the Premier League has created.

"If we played Manchester United at the Valley on a Wednesday and Wigan Athletic on a Saturday, we would now in the future play a weakened side against Manchester United because we would see the Wigan game as being the vital game in terms of the league that we are really playing in."

All hypothetical, of course, and I couldn't agree with him less about having Rangers and Celtic join the English system (they can keep their religious bigotry to themselves, thanks). But when Reg (I know he hates being called that really, but...) bows out, it's proof that we'll miss a fantastic ambassador for our club. Hopefully he won't be lost to football as a whole - studying the calibre of those in charge of the sport, I hope some day we see him back, putting some of his common sense into action at a higher level.

Monday, April 21, 2008

All over

And so, at Loftus Road at about ten to five, we succumbed to the inevitable. A 1-0 defeat by Queen's Park Rangers, together with Palace winning at Watford, extinguished the play-off flame for this season. Did I stand and mourn? Did I rant and rave? Did I heck. I was already on the Central Line.

One of the difficulties of the second half of the season has been that almost every single match I've been to after since win over Palace has been the bloody same. It's been the miserable version of Groundhog Day. Lacklustre performance, a restless crowd, ooops-we've-conceded one, an outbreak of boos, someone calls Darren Ambrose a wanker, someone else spends the whole bloody game slagging off Leroy Lita, and deep inside there's a feeling I'd rather be anywhere, anywhere else than watching Charlton Athletic, particularly among Charlton fans. Football can still excite - hell, I went to AFC Wimbledon a couple of weeks ago and had a great time. But entering The Valley would be enough to leave the cheeriest person with a deep-seated, disturbing loathing for the human race.

As others have mentioned here, remember the optimism we felt when we smashed Palace into the back of beyond? It feels a very, very long time ago - now the place is filled with pessimism and recriminations. In fact, being stuck in the Championship for another season feels worse than the pain of relegation 12 months ago.

At least we knew we were going down, we had the possibility of a fresh start and to get rid of wastes of money like Hasselbaink, Marcus Bent and Dennis Rommedahl. Fast forward 12 month, and Big Fat Jimmy's going to Wembley, Bent has been scoring freely for Wigan and, er, Palace are heading for the play-offs.

Should any Fulham fans be reading this - firstly, hello. Secondly - this will be you next season if you don't sort it out.

So, where did it all go wrong? In time-honoured fashion, allow me to state the bleeding obvious.

1) Selling Andy Reid. There's a pub in Greenwich where Reidy used to go with his mates for a jam session on a Sunday night. It's a quieter and duller place without him. And so's The Valley. He may well represent the best £4m that Roy Keane will ever spend - just ask the Mackem who lives downstairs - but Reid's departure to Sunderland robbed the team of possibly its smartest player, one who could read the game and respond. It also deprived us of a natural leader (as did the departure of gobby Danny Mills). Something went flat once he went. Of course, he could have got injured again and spent the rest of the season laid up, but the team clearly misses his presence. The board's gamble went wrong.

2) Bad transfer business.
Luke Varney's had all season to prove himself - unfortunately, it seems we ended up with a dud. It took Andy Gray until last week's match against Southampton to prove himself, but he plodded around Loftus Road on Saturday like a donkey after a skinful. Scott Sinclair - feh. Izale McLeod - who? Ah, that's showbiz. And whisper it... has Zheng Zhi really been worth the money? Of course, in any rebuilding of the teams, there'll be the odd lemon - but it's worth remembering Chris Iwelumo and (latterly) Paddy McCarthy have been, on balance, good to have around. But we've been anything but shrewd in the transfer market, and while our team are, by and large, decent and honest professionals, they've just not been good enough. Another painful clear-out looks on the cards for the summer.

3) Todorov's injury. Remember? That robbed us of a great, smart striker. That, and other unlucky breaks, have conspired against us.

4) Stop hoofing it up in the air you clueless buffoons.
Keep it neat and simple. On the ground. There's a reason why Brian Clough was one of England's greatest managers, you know. At one point, we were a pretty good passing team, you know. Well, at least I think we were.

5) The stadium being full of miserable gits. Probably summed up by the denziens of the East Stand's pathetic inability to keep the big Killer flag upright, for fear they'd spill their flasks onto their tartan travel rugs. The Valley needs a bloody great clear-out. Not just of players, but of fans expecting too much of a fragile team which really never got going. It's not just us - Wolves fans have had it since the dawn of time and Watford are also going through convulsions. 13,000 fans who get behind the team are better than 23,000 fans, half of whom jeer every misplaced pass. It's been like being stuck with a load of bad-tempered cab drivers, and this has to have transmitted itself onto the pitch. A football club is nothing without its fans - and our fans have gone AWOL.

There are other issues - boardroom uncertainties, team selection (is Pards swift enough with the substitutions?), but that's enough to be getting on with.

But there's one thing we can't argue with - we weren't good enough this season, and we'll be a second division side for a while longer. For all his talk and undoubted leadership skills, Alan Pardew had better get it right next season.