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...