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.

Monday, April 14, 2008

All quiet over there

Apologies for the continued lack of updates - real life's got in the way and it's been hard to come up with any new observations about things. Back once I've worked out the quickest route to Swansea City. Off which junction of the M4 was it again?