Wednesday 31 December 2008

Phil Parkinson is permanent manager

Phil Parkinson has been confirmed as Charlton's permanent manager. This is not a decision I find surprising, as everything I had heard suggested that this was the likely outcome. It will not be a popular decision with most of the Addickted, but is probably sensible in the circumstances given the financial constraints; the difficulty of avoiding relegation; and the difficulty of recruiting an alternative.

Davies in at Forest

Billy Davies, who turned down the Charlton job leading to the appointment of Iain Dowie, looks favourite to become Forest manager: Davies

Forest have given priority to appointing a new manager ahead of the crucial clash with Charlton on January 10th.

Welcome back, Darren Ambrose

Some Charlton fans have regained their favourite scapegoat player. It hasn't worked out at Ipswich. Let's hope we can use him to good effect at The Valley: Ambrose

A devalued currency

It's not just the pound that has been falling against the euro, to the chagrin of the Blackheath Addick, but the value of Charlton Athletic pounds has been falling fast as the club faces the prospect of third division football. This has been the worst season for the Addickted since the return to The Valley.

I don't think a blame game gets us anywhere. Apart from anything else, many of the problems at The Valley are structural rather than related to particular personalities, although clearly the departure of Peter Varney was a blow. However, until we get the reporting and decision-making structures sorted out, there will be no quick fix. Any new manager needs the right set up to work in.

I suppose one consolation is that it can hardly get any worse in 2009. Meanwhile, Leamington are on track to win the BGB Midlands Division, currently enjoying a nine point lead.

Best wishes to all the Addickted for 2009.

Tuesday 30 December 2008

So, farewell then, Martin Christensen?

So far unconfirmed reports from Sky Sports suggest that the Danish winger has been let go on a free. It's very difficult to evaluate Christensen as we never saw him in a first team shirt. So, if the story is true, that's £250,000 down the drain. Read the Sky report here: Forgotten

The W Formation

I had a recent enquiry about this old style formation and I have now received a more authoritative account of it by someone who played at the time:
'The W formation comprised of two fast, or tricky wingers, a centre forward. The two inside forwards were playmakers, and would see-saw depending on the flow of play behind the front three. The wing halves were also play makers charged with turning defence into attack. The cetre-half ( my playing position) was defence, and the pivot position for the full backs to operate the off-side trap when feasible. Of course this all went out the window when the Hungarians showed another way of playing the game, which I witnessed at Wembley. I often wonder if reverting to the old style ocasionally, would confuse the opposition.'

Hull is the new Charlton says Luke Young

His remarks about the Charlton side he played in are well worth reading in the context of our current difficulties: Warm

Monday 29 December 2008

Interim supremo to bring in new players

Now billed as Charlton's 'interim' supremo, Phil Parkinson intends to bring in up to four new players during the January transfer window, he has told the club's E mail bulletin.

He said: 'We've mapped out how we want the squad to look. Steve Waggott, Richard Murray and the board are all working together and we're talking to players. Ideally, if we are going to bring players in, then we want to bring them in straight away. We have a squad written down with new additions of how we'd like it to look in an ideal world, and we're speaking to players' agents and other managers all the time, although there is no guarantee that any of those players will come.

We need to bring some players in to give everyone a lift; the supporters and the current group of players. Nothing lifts a team more than one, two or even three or four new bodies walking into the building. It lifts the training ground and certainly lifts the dressing room.'

There are some supporters who might be given a lift by Parkinson's departure, but clearly they are not living in the same ideal world as he is. He certainly isn't talking like a dead man walking.

Falkirk boss puts his hat in the ring

Falkirk manager John Hughes has declared his interest in becoming Charlton manager:

One leading fan who is also a sports commentator gave this assessment: #On the plus side, he's very passionate, has a solid track record (at Falkirk), would be a fresh face from the outside with new ideas, might know some players that he could bring in (on the cheap) that could do the job. He is the type of manager not afraid to sort things out.'

'On the minus side, he's very passionate (began the season in the midst of a
6-game touchline ban), has only managed in Scotland (although in the Scottish
Premier League), does anyone at Charlton know him?'

If one goes for the fresh broom argument, then there is a case for looking north of the border, even if one does have to pay for an interpreter. As far as I know, he is also the first manager to declare a public interest in the job (although admittedly in any higher level English job).

Sunday 28 December 2008

The poisoned chalice

The best case scenario for Charlton now would be for someone to buy the club who had reasonable funds at their disposal. They could then not just appoint a new manager, but undertake a fundamental review of the overall structure of the club. One might say that this is an impossible dream. I don't think it's out of the question, but I am not saying it is going to happen.

If this does not happen, then I think the way forward is not as simple as the 'get rid of Parkinson and bring anyone in' school would argue. Supposing the next manager fails as well? Where do you go from there?

The problem is that the position is not likely to be an attractive one to a manager of the right calibre. First, whoever comes in is going to have to achieve a very challenging win ratio to avoid relegation. And that is going to have to be done with a squad that is deficient in a number of respects. In my view the debate about our problems - as is so often the case in football - has focused too much on the manager and not enough on the shortcomings of the players. Some of them are talented enough for the Championship, but the sum of the parts is not good enough.

Moreover, any new manager is going to have little money to play with, particularly after Parkinson is paid off.

I am glad I am not on the board because I am not sure what I would do in these circumstances. I would keep looking for a buyer, but the board have been doing that anyway. I would cut back the size of the squad in January. There are simply too many players to whom we are paying wages who never feature. And I would see if I could find a good playmaker for central midfield at a realistic price and wages - which would probably be too big an ask.

I think my judgement about the managerial position would be influenced by whether there was a good manager with League 1 experience who was available and up for a very difficult challenge. Whether such a person exists I simply don't know.

What I think is clear is that either Parkinson needs to be replaced or he needs to be confirmed as manager for the rest of the season. Which way the board will go I simply don't know. It's not a call I could make myself without more information about the available alternatives.

Charlton fail to hold on to lead

The Addicks failed to hold on to a 1-0 half time lead at Bramall Lane today, eventually losing 3-1 to Sheffield United. Bouazza put the Addicks ahead with a 20-yard low drive on 33 minutes. The Addicks maintained their lead until 65 minutes when Quinn equalised and this was the first of three goals the Blades scored in a 15 minute spell.

Waghorn and Gray were relegated to the bench, although both came on late in the game. Burton started up front. Holland also started with Semedo not even on the bench. Elliott was preferred to Weaver in goal and Shelvey was an unused substitute.

Five Charlton players were booked: Bailey, Burton, Cranie, Hudson and McEveley.

Charlton are now firmly bottom of the table, four points behind Southampton. Doncaster and Forest both won, putting them five points clear of the Addicks.

Saturday 27 December 2008

Parkinson to stay?

The board has given a strong hint that caretaker manager Phil Parkinson will be staying on a more permanent basis and given funds to spend in the January transfer window: Phil P

'Sailor' Brown leaves us

We are sorry to announce the passing earlier today of Charlton legend 'Sailor' Brown at the age of 93. More here: Brown

Bumper crowd sees hard fought match

A bumper crowd of 876, the second largest of the season, saw a hard fought and competitive match at the New Windmill Ground this afternoon. Leamington ended 2-0 winners, but Bromsgrove Rovers, urged on by their vociferous support, were effective opponents and threatened to score more than once.

Brakes had a number of chances to score in the first half. Bello put the ball over the bar, then the lively James Husband created an opportunity right by the far post, only to see the ball put out for a corner. Then, after a great run, Bello just missed. Finally, Marcus Jackson put in a fierce shot, the keeper parried it, but Jai Stanley was on hand to make it 1-0.

Meanwhile, Rovers had lost former Birmingham City player Sam Alsop to injury, but he was replaced by another Blew, Devion Hamilton. Adam Cooper picked up a yellow card.

Rovers threatened after the break and Mozza had to be lively in the Leamington goal. Subsequently, Rovers hit the woodwork and they looked dangerous on the break. But the always involved James Husband tore in from the wing to make it 2-0 on 90 minutes.

The Silver Biscuit goes to play maker Marcus Jackson who even managed to get an effective kick at the ball while he was on the ground.

The manager question

While it's always difficult to assess the varied views of the Addickted, I would guess that the majority view is that Phil Parkinson has failed to turn things around and should be replaced sooner than later.

Why, then, might this not happen? First, there is the cost: Parkinson would have to be bought out of the rest of his contract. Of course, the cost of relegation would be greater but the board may be reluctant to admit that their 'Plan B' failed. Second, the board may think that the real problem is with the players and no manager that Charlton could afford could turn them into a winning outfit. Third, it may be that there is a takeover in the offing and the new board might want understandably enough to choose their own manager.

When it comes to replacement, there are two schools of thought. One favours an internal replacement with Mark Robson a name being increasingly mentioned. Apparently he left because he did not like the way Pardew was doing things. Other names mentioned are Mark Kinsella and Steve Brown. Mark Bowen would bring Charlton connections and relevant experience.

The other school of thought is that the club needs a complete clean out of anyone associated with the failed regime. Various names then come into the frame, although none of them seem too likely.

The rumour mill is suggesting that Curbs may come back until the end of the season to steady the ship and I think that most of the Addickted would welcome that.

Blades without keeper

Sheffield United may be without keeper Paddy Kenny for tomorrow's clash against Charlton. He has been dropped for disciplinary reasons. They have also lost defender Ugo Ehiogou who picked up an Achilles injury at Molineux: Blades

JJ joins Hibs

Former Charlton striker Jonatan Johansson has joined Hibernian. The 33-year old is hoping to feature in the derby against Hearts next weekend: JJ

Friday 26 December 2008

Bailey 'scores' twice to earn draw

Nicky Bailey had two goals attributed to him as Charlton battled for a 2-2 draw at home to Queen's Park Rangers at The Valley, while supremo Phil Parkinson was sent off.

McEveley was back in the line up for today's clash between Charlton and Queen's Park Rangers at The Valley with Grant Basey slipping back to the subs' bench, reports Petts Wood Addick Janice Styler. Shelvey was on the bench, but Elliott was preferred in goal to Weaver. There were six changes to the Super Hoops side that beat Preston at Loftus Road as some players were rested. Helguson was on the Rangers bench that was studded with quality.

An early shot by Semedo was wide. Bouazza put in a ball in, the keeper played the ball out and Waghorn was not able to control it on the edge of the area. Rangers launched a counter attack. Charlton won the first corner of the game after McEveley foraged down the left.

Rangers won a corner off Fortune, Lee Cook going across to take it. Rangers threatened through Hall, but Elliott was able to take the ball as it bounced in front of him.

Rangers were awarded a free kick in a dangerous position on the edge of the 'D'. The ball went over the wall of four, which did not look well lined up, and Lee Cook scored against his former loan club. Once again Charlton had gone behind to a set piece.

Charlton won a corner which was well taken by Bailey, Bouazza took the second corner but Rangers were able to break. Cranie blocked the attack. Alberti got a yellow card for a challenge on Semedo.

Charlton won another corner taken by Bouazza, but Rangers eventually managed to clear. Charlton won another corner but Rangers were eventually able to clear and looked dangerous on the break.

Waghorn threatened after some work by Gray and Sam, but Cerny in the Rangers goal was able to reach it first. A volleyed shot by Bailey was blocked by the Rangers defence. Bouazza had the ball on the left in a promising position but then played it back to the halfway line. McEveley picked up a yellow card.

Sam put a good ball in, Waghorn back heeled it well to Gray in a crowded penalty area, but Gorkss was able to defend for Rangers. A Rangers break was dealt with by Hudson, but Rangers won a corner. Hall put in a shot which was punched out by Elliott who made an excellent reaction save despite the problems caused by the low winter sun.

Cook was booked for some afters with Semedo. Alberti tried to go for a shot, but was blocked by Bailey and then Cook fed Blackstock and Elliott had to save from an on target header. The ball should have been cut out by two Charlton defenders.

Charlton were awarded a free kick, but Bailey's effort went over the wall and then over the crossbar. Two minutes of time were added on. Bouazza put in a shot and the Charlton players appealed for handball by Ramage, but without success. Fortune was felled by Blackstock.

Charm merchant Connolly was the third Rangers player to go in the book and the referee then blew the whistle for half time as boos rang round The Valley. Charlton had failed to make a shot on target.

Half time: Addicks 0, Super Hoops 1

Charlton won an early corner after a foray by Bouazza. The corner from Sam was collected by Cerny. Sam went down the wing, cut inside, put a superb cross in, Bailey anticipated well and scored with a header from a few yards out.

Hall got a vital block as McEveley and Bouazza combined. Gorkss failed to prevent the corner. Bouazza played the corner short and it was unproductive. Alberti made way for Ephraim, formerly a Hampsters trainee.

Blackstock found himself in a good position, although being pulled wide by Fortune, but Elliott coped well and the ball went out for a goal kick. Fortune seemed to have a slight limp after he defended a ball. Lee Cook was taken off to boos and Ledesma, an Argentinian on loan from Genoa, came on.

Bailey made a good challenge on Ephraim. From practically nothing, Blackstock (who got both the goals at Loftus Road) turned in the 18 yard box and put the ball past Elliott to make it 1-2. The Charlton defence was not in evidence, although Fortune did seem to be in some discomfort.

Burton was brought on in place of Waghorn in the hope that experience might tell. Cranie was booked. Semedo made a challenge on Ledesma, Hudson chatted to the referee and the card was just a yellow.

Burton fell over Leigertwood and got Charlton a free kick which led to a corner. Bailey's effort was blocked by Gorkss on the near post.

The ball came in, Cerny punched it and it looked as if Hogan Ephraim obligingly put the ball in the back of the net for Charlton, although the goal was attributed to Bailey. Basey came on and Bouazza went off, a bit of a puzzle given that Bouazza had been putting in some decent crosses. Shelvey had been prepared to come on, but returned to the bench. Shortly afterwards Di Carmine was replaced by Helguson, once rumoured to be a Charlton target on.

Basey whipped the ball in from the left, Sam leapt and made contact but it just went wide of the left hand upright. Rangers won a free kick and Charlton's marking looked suspect. Burton broke away, but Connolly was able to clear. Rangers threatened and the ball went on to the roof of the net.

Semedo found Sam with a good ball, Burton went for a chipped shot and it was over the bar. There were suspicions of a handball by a Rangers player. Charlton won a corner and Semedo made way for Matt Holland. Basey's corner was very poor and Hudson turned it past the post.

Four minutes of time were added on. There were appeals again for a handball by Connolly. Rangers broke, Helguson put in a shot from the right, the ball hit the woodwork, it looked as if they had scored, but it was ruled out. The refree marched across to the Charlton bench and sent off Phil Parkinson.

Sam put in a grass cutter and Cerny collected. Cranie blocked a Rangers attack at the expense of a throw in. Bailey blocked a ball in by Gorkss. Every Charlton player was back for the corner, Elliott punched the ball away. Elliott had to turn the ball past his near post for another corner, the four minutes having been played. Elliott punched it out and the whistle went.

Charlton fought hard for the draw, but they are only one match away from the 1955 league record of sixteen matches without a win and could well achieve it at Sheffield United.

Super Hoops

Quite a thoughtful and sensible match preview from a QPR blog which identifies some of our weaknesses: Hoops

This could be Phil Parkinson's last match in charge at The Valley, but it is far from clear who might replace him. If I was to guess at the most likely replacement, it would be Aidan Boothroyd - available and fairly cheap.

As for the match, it looks like a 1-1 draw to me.

Wednesday 24 December 2008

Gillespie to return

The Boxing Day match against Queen's Park Rangers will be the last game in a Charlton shirt for Keith Gillespie, reports the club's E mail bulletin. He has been recalled to Sheffield. He will thus be in a position to play for the Blades against Charlton two days later and will be able to spill the beans on Charlton's secret formula of a leaky defence, an absent midfield and forwards who can't find the target.

The Addicks have been informed by the parent clubs of Hameur Bouazza, Jay McEveley and Martyn Waghorn that they will not be given permission to play for Charlton in the FA Cup third round fixture against Norwich. This could make for an interesting line up and a chance for some of Charlton's younger players.

One piece of good news is that Jay McEveley has returned to training after dislocating his shoulder. Phil Parkinson is considering recalling him for the Boxing Day match against the Super Hoops. McEveley has been one of the more impressive loan signings, bringing attitude and an ability to cross the ball.

Trollope rules himself out

Paul Trollope (and by implication Sir Lennie Lawrence) has ruled himself out of the 'race' for the post of Charlton manager: Trollope

Paul Ince does seem to be prepared to accept the poisoned chalice, but like the New York Addick, I have little enthusiasm for him as a candidate.

Brakes do a Charlton

Brakes did a Charlton at Sutton Coldfield Town last night when they succumbed to a last minute equaliser in what was effectively the last kick of the game to record a 2-2 draw. Five minutes earlier Michael Batchelor, known for his hate-hate relationship with Leamington, has scored a spectacular own goal, but having scored the equaliser, he ran the length of the pitch taunting and gesticulating at Brakes fans (and picking up a booking).

The result felt like a defeat, although there is no doubt that Brakes missed ex Reading ace Guy Sanders, in many ways the fulcrum of the side. Hopefully, he will have recovered for Saturday's big home match against Bromsgrove Rovers (given the expected size of the crowd buses will provide a park and ride service).

To have reached fifty points by Christmas is a substantial achievement and Brakes have established a clear lead over the chasing pack, of which Nuneaton Town (formerly Borough) pose the greatest threat. This was the only second time they have dropped points this season, once again through an away draw.

Tuesday 23 December 2008

'We're doomed' says Killer

Derek Hales fears that Charlton are doomed to be relegated and is particularly critical of the over use of loan players: Killer

Ince for Charlton?

Sacked Blackburn manager Paul Ince is apparently being lined up to take over at The Valley, according to this story, although it was the Currant Bun that raised it first: Ince

What with the Millwall manager and Lennie Lawrence, not to mention various local favourites, there is no shortage of candidates, but as yet there is no vacancy.

Leamington are away at Sutton Coldfield Town tonight in another crucial match in the BGB Midlands Division title race.

Monday 22 December 2008

Wry indeed

The club's E mail bulletin has revealed that there may be no Rickshaw service from Rye on Boxing Day because of lack of demand. Why have the Addickted of the East Sussex town withdrawn their support? Can they no longer stomach what is served up on the pitch? We would be pleased to hear from any Addicks in Rye.

Linvoy Primus has left The Valley to return to Portsmouth. Many Addicks have fond memories of him as a young player, but he did not really make a major difference to Charlton's defence in his spell as a loan player (when he was selected). Indeed, Fortune, now that he is back, seems up to the task.

Charlton memories

Someone who was involved in training with the club in the late 1940s has sent us these memories:

'I had been picked up by the Southend Club, and after playing a few games they had arranged for training sessions at the Valley, as they did with other players that lived in the area it wasn't much as far as I was concerned, mainly stamina work, and kicking around in the car park, apart from the track, we weren't alowed on the pitch, I guess that would have been the Groundsman's decision depending on the few days previous weather conditions. However it didn't last long, as I was at night school at Woolwich Poly doing the Higher National Certificate at that point, my father found out I was skipping classes, and came down hard as he thought that education was more important than playing football. This all happened after I had come out of the army, I was in pretty good condition as I had been playing for the Regiment,where we were treated like professionals, by the RSM. who was a football fanatic, no duties just training, and playing. We had several players in the team who were playing for League Clubs on week-ends, services games were played mid-week, I can remember one game against the Air Force at Boscombe Down who had Mortensen, and McCormak as their two inside forwards, I played another game against the Woolwich garrison which was full of International players, they were all PT instructors, and I suspect kept there just to play football. Those were the days of the leather ball, which on a wet day could feel like a medicine ball, the W formation, and boots had leather studs, and a hard toe cap,I can remember as a kid lusting after a pair of "Mansfield Hotspurs" which were the top of the line boot, used to lace them up and sit in a bucket of water to mould them to your feet, when the had dried out, lather them with tallow, and dubbin to make the leather supple. That all changed when Bert Williams brought our a new design, which was more like a running shoe, forerunners of to-days boot. A top line player got fourteen pounds a week, a tradesman, for instance a Fitter, and Turner, made three pounds fifteen. What happened to it all?'

Interesting times at The Valley

Steve Waggott reflects on his first eight months as chief executive: Waggott

Sunday 21 December 2008

Prepare for third division football

It's time to be thinking about the template for a third division diary because that's where the arithmetic suggests that Charlton is heading. The strategic review will probably decide that Phil Parkinson cannot get us out of our current mess, although I am not sure whether anyone can.

Big Sam has made a quick turn around at Blackburn, but he had far better quality players to work with there. I'm really not sure that we can put out a team of eleven players good enough for the Championship. A fundamental problem for a long time has been the fulcrum of the team, central midfield. Holland is tiring; Racon and Zheng Zhi are injured, although the news on Racon is encouraging; Bailey and Semedo are error prone.

To those who would say bring in Shelvey and Wright, I have not been too impressed when I have seen them play. If playing 16-18 year olds is the answer, why isn't the Wolves team made up in this way? The fact is that young players, through lack of experience, are prone to making catastrophic, match changing errors as we saw with Basey on Monday night.

Getting rid of Phil Parkinson is going to cost us more money we can ill afford. At least Parkinson talks more sense than his predecssors. Any new manager is going to have been a low cost solution who has experience at the lower levels of the Football League. That is why the reports emanating from Bristol about Sir Lennie Lawrence are interesting.

The blame game is on with indvidual members of the board being targeted. I don't think this gets us anywhere. It's a combination of factors that has led to our present position. For example, if both Zhneg Zhi and Racon had been available for most matches, would we be in our present plight? I don't think so.

Saturday 20 December 2008

Lita's goal finishes off Charlton

Charlton were unchanged from the team that drew against Derby reports Len Bentham from Carrow Road. Norwich won the first corner and this led to a second, Elliott punched it out. The Canaries continued the pressure with a free kick in a promising position. It was headed away by Hudson and eventually led to a free kick by the corner flag, but the ball went out of play for a goal kick.

Good pressure from Waghorn led to the first Charlton corner, followed by a second, again from Bailey. Marshall punched it clear. Semedo played an awful ball which went out of play. Bouazza did not make good use of a ball from Waghorn. A move started by Hudson led to a super cross that came in from the left from Basey, Bailey was about three yards away from it.

Cranie conceded a corner as Lita advanced. Lita scuffed his shot from the corner and it went over the bar. Fortune cleared from the next corner, Semedo broke away, but then conceded a free kick. Bell fed Lita, but his effort was not on target and he was offside anyway.

Following a free kick, Hudson put in a super dipping volley with his right foot and Marshall diving to his right had to tip the ball over. Marshall was able to gather from the corner and release Norwich. As the half hour approached, Bailey put in a poor pass to Gray. Semedo tried a shot which was not too far wide with the keeper beaten.

The home fans started to get a little restive. Roeder came down from the stands to the dugout to weave his magic. Sam was brought down by Drury who received a talking to from the referee. An effort by Norwich was blocked by Sam. Croft was challenged well by Basey. An offside decision against Norwich angered the home fans.

As the minutes ticked down, Norwich won a corner. Charlton had to do some defending, but Elliott was eventually able to claim the ball. Semedo went down injured. Two minutes of time was added on. The referee gave a free kick to Norwich for handball right of centre from the Charlton goal. The free kick went over the wall and not too far wide, the closest the Canaries had come since the opening stages. Charlton had matched Norwich, in particular the defence had kept Lita quiet, and it was time for one of Delia's pies.

Half time: Canaries 0, Addicks 0

Lita broke through, the flag stayed down, but he put it wide when one on one with the keeper. Lita and Bell combined well, but Hoolahan's shot deflected and went out of play for a corner. Charlton were awarded a free kick following the corner. Elliott was given a yellow card for time wasting.

Bouazza put in a shot on target from a tight angle that was gathered by Marshall in the Norwich goal. Clingan fed Lita, he chested the ball down in the area and beat Hudson to put the ball in the corner of the net, scoring against his former loan club just after 60 minutes.

Waghorn was taken off and Burton was brought on. Former Blackpool player Hoolihan was taken off and former Wimbledon and Newcastle ace Cort was brought on. Elliott made a poor clearance under pressure. The momentum was with the Canaries while the lack of confidence in the Charlton team showed. Bouazza made a poor pass which was typical of an indifferent game by the winger. Bouazza put in a ball that was neither a cross nor a shot.

Lita beat Hudson, but his shot took a deflection for a corner, leading to a second. Semedo was taken off and Todorov came on for the last quarter of an hour. Hudson had to be alert to clear at the expense of a Norwich corner. An error by Bailey led to a second. Bouazza tried a shot, but Marshall saved well, leading to a Charlton corner which was cleared by Norwich.

Sam was taken off in favour of Gillespie. Croft dispossessed Burton but caught him in the eye. Pattison was taken off by Norwich. Burton got in between two defenders, but there was a handball and he got a yellow card.

Four minutes of time were added on. But it was to no avail, although they tried a little harder in the last few minutes. Charlton had not had a shot on target in the second half, although once again the midfield was deficient, especially Bouazza and Bailey. This was not an impressive performance.

Elsewhere, Brakes won 3-0 at Malvern Town, all the goals coming in the first half.

Clamp down on blogs?

The motivation for this is political, but football blogs could be affected, certainly in terms of what they said about managers and players: Blogs

Friday 19 December 2008

'Creaking defence' at Norwich

Local sources claim that Norwich has a 'creaking defence' and there is concern in the camp that Charlton are going to take all three points off them at Carrow Road tomorrow: Fears

But, of course, Charlton's defence is more than capable of making schoolboy errors and may well be unlocked tomorrow by Leroy Lita who is apparently available in the January transfer window for just £300,000.

This is the sort of match we need to win to escape from our current predicament. Whether we can do it, I simply don't know. I would certainly go for an attacking formation and retain Gray and Waghorn up front. 600 tickets have been sold to the Addickted.

Leamington are taking the waters tomorrow away to bottom club Malvern Town. They need to give the Waterboys the kind of 6-0 drubbing they handed out to the Bones in their last away game.

Elsewhere news comes that former manager Les Reed has been drafted in as assistant manager at Bishops Stortford. On this basis, where will Pardew end up?

Thursday 18 December 2008

Paintballing session to boost morale

Charlton are hoping that a paintballing session will boost morale and bond the team after Tuesday's last minute disappointment against Derby: Bonding

Tuesday 16 December 2008

Dickson on transfer list

Chris Dickson has gone on the transfer list at his own request, frustrated at the lack of playing opportunities at Charlton: Dickson

I can understand his frustration, but I have always been sceptical about the strategy of swooping up non-league aces who then get loaned out or play in the reserves, even if it did get us plaudits in the Non-League Paper. There's a big gap between the Championship and non-league and it can't be bridged that easily or quickly - and we haven't got the luxury of time.

I anticipate a very modest fee and an opportunity at a lower level which may give Dickson a deserved opportunity for career development.

Monday 15 December 2008

Last minute equaliser denies Addicks three points

The shock news that Nicky Weaver had been dropped in favour of Rob Elliott in goal greeted Charlton fans arriving at The Valley tonight, writes Petts Wood Addick Janice Styler. Having fallen foul of the five player rule in previous games, Waghorn joined Gray up front. Basey slotted in at left back and Semedo started in central midfield. Sam was brought in on the wing. The kick off was delayed after the Blackwall Tunnel was closed and the Rams held up, eventually having to resort to the Woolwich Free Ferry. 20,989 seats had been sold.

Fortune had to head over his own bar as Varney bore down on goal, leading to the first corner. The corner was taken short and the offside flag went up against the Rams. Waghorn almost capitalised on an Albrichtson stumble, but the Derby full back made an important challenge. A Varney cross was headed away. Fortune had to deal with a further threat from the lively Varney.

Waghorn went down injured off the ball after being caught by a trip by Darren Powell.
Long ball play was prevalent from both sides. Fortune went into the advertising hoardings rather awkwardly under pressure from Luke Varney. A Basey free kick took a deflection leading to the first Charlton corner on 17 minutes.

Bouazza broke well down the left, Sam hit the inside of the post and Bailey scuffed the follow up shot. Waghorn burst through and hit it against Bywater's chest in the Derby goal. Derby threatened but the shot went wide. Charlton won a free kick in a decent position after charm merchant Darren Powell fouled Waghorn.

The ball went from Sam to Semedo who fed Gray, Powell was the wrong side of Gray and the striker was able to take control and make it 1-0. Waghorn was struggling with his dead leg. Hudson was dealing with Ellington well while Varney had faded.

Half time: Addicks 1, Rams 0

Derby took off Kamierczak and brought on Kris Commons. Charm merchant Darren Powell brought down Bouazza as he advanced on goal and received a yellow. Bouazza's effort went over the top of the bar. Derby made another substitution, Zadkovich being replaced by Giles Barnes.

Bouazza and Waghorn interchanged well but Bouazza put the ball over the bar, missing a golden chance. Teale put in a shot and Elliott made a super save, then Basey made a good challenge on Varney at the expense of a corner. Charlton faced some pressure, before winning a throw in. Bywater had to made a double save, firstly off Bouazza and then from Sam. Derby threatened and put the ball in the net, but the offside flag went up, a decision that went Charlton's way.

A handball decision was given against Semedo and referee d'Urso pointed to the penalty spot. Ellington rolled the ball slowly home to make it 1-1. Sam bore down on goal, he fed it back to Waghorn and with great composure he made it 2-1 on 63 minutes.

Darren Powell, in constant danger of a red, was replaced by the youngster Tomkins. Waghorn put in a decent cross to Bouazza but he did not take advantage of it. Connolly put in a dangerous challenge on Basey but got away with the yellow. Cranie dealt with a threat from Ellington at the expense of a corner kick.

Waghorn was taken off in the final game of his loan spell to a standing ovation and was replaced by Burton. The tiring Sam was replaced by Gillespie. A curious offside decision was made against Burton. As normal time came to an end, Charlton applied some pressure.

In time added on, Gillespie showed his experience by winning a clever free kick. Then on the stroke of full time Ellington fired it home with a half volley that gave Elliott no chance after an awful header from Grant Basey. After a battling performance, luck deserted Charlton again. The three points would have pushed them up the table.

Two teams in trouble

Two teams in trouble meet tonight for the televised clash between Charlton Athletic and Derby County at The Valley. One might think that Charlton were in the deeper trouble, but Derby manager Paul Jewell is under pressure and could be the victim of the 'curse of Charlton' tonight.

Derby fans are insisting that nothing less than a win will do if he is to save his skin. Some are reading the result off the table, but others seem less confident. None of them mention Luke Varney as their secret weapon.

If Charlton can score the first goal and then hold on without conceding for ten minutes, I think that they might have a chance of taking all three points tonight. It would also be a help if we had a referee who did not try to demonstrate that he was not a 'homer' by giving every marginal decision to the away team. (Turns out the referee is going to the banker from Billericay, Andy D'Urso. Trust a glamour referee to turn out when the cameras are there).

To get a view from Derby that focuses on Phil Parkinson go here: Derby

Petts Wood Addick Janice Styler will be providing tonight's match report. Enjoy the game!

Saturday 13 December 2008

Yuletide vote of confidence for Phil

Phil Parkinson will remain as Charlton's caretaker manager until at least the start of 2009, the Charlton board has announced. In a detailed statement explaining the current position of the club, and outlining both the immediate priorities and Charlton's strategic direction, the club's directors have given Parkinson their full backing over the hectic festive period.

'As there can be no further changes to the playing squad until the transfer window opens on January 1st, and as Phil and his coaching and backroom staff know the players, it is our view to give Phil a run up until the end of the year, when there will be a strategic review of the position,' said football club board chairman Richard Murray.

'We have been very busy behind the scenes, and there has been plenty of interest in the position. But Phil knows the demands of the Championship and is stamping his own managerial style on the team during this interim period.'

It was also revealed that there had been a number of tentative enquiries about buying the club since the Zabeel deal failed, but no firm offer.

Friday 12 December 2008

Team gutted by poor performance admits supremo

Leamington boss Jason Cadden admits that 'The lads were gutted with their performance' on Tuesday night when they won a faltering 2-1 victory against Bury Town and 'said they want to put it right on Saturday' when they face fourth placed Leighton Town at the New Windmill Ground.

Brakes won 6-0 away at Rothwell Town last Saturday, but Cadzy described the home performance against Bury as 'not the standard we're used to and we're not impressed.' Brakes have only dropped two points all season in an away draw, but there are growing concerns that at some point in the season the team may lose a game. On Tuesday a number of passes went astray and the team lost possession at times. 'Before you know it we'll be a laughing stock like Charlton,' grumbled one supporter.

We will be the only Charlton blog covering tomorrow's match.

PP gets vote of confidence

Richard Murray has given Phil Parkinson more time to turn things round at The Valley after Tuesday's defeat by Coventry. I can't access the SLP site at the moment to link to the full story, but it's consistent with what I believe to be the case: that if there is going to be a change of manager, it won't be until the new year.

Should Parkinson be removed it will be necessary to find funds to pay up the rest of his contract.

Burton will sign a permanent contract from 1 January.

Thursday 11 December 2008

The loaned players question

A widely held view among the Addickted at the moment is that we have too many loaned players. If the argument is put in the form that the proportion of loaned players in the team is too high, I can see something in that. I can also see the argument that players who come for a year (like Scott Carson) are to be preferred to shorter term loans as they are more likely to gell with the team as a whole. However, a lot of the instability in the team is to do with switches of 'permanent' players.

It is argued that loan players are less committed to the team. All football players are hired hands and many of them are fans of other teams. There was a particular generation of Charlton players - Johnnie Robinson, Steve Brown, Mark Kinsella among others - who had a special kind of commitment to the club. But those golden days are over, perhaps never to return.

There doesn't seem to be any hard evidence that the play of loaned players is worse (except when they are returning from injury which was a problem last season). As far as incentives are concerned, they are usually trying to rebuild their careers and hence should want to outperform.

There is a view among Charlton fans - which I don't accept - that we are already relegated and therefore we should starting 'blooding' young players for next year. This appeals to the 'Roy of the Rovers' streak among Charlton fans who would like to see a team made of ex-Academy players overcoming impossible odds.

Look at any non-league team and you will find it full of ex-Academy players from good clubs. Most of them are not good enough to make the grade. And for the few thart are, if you start playing them too early or too often, it can damage their career as their confidence is undermined by the inevitable bad performance which happens to all players from time to time.

Let's look at one much criticised player, Martin Cranie, who is featured in the latest Four Four Two. Cranie recalls, 'When I heard Charlton were interested, I couldn't wait to sign. The stadium, support, facilities, they're better than Portsmouth's.'

Asked 'Why is the team struggling?', Cranie says: 'In my early games, we took the lead a couple of times, but would then concede an equaliser and our heads would drop. We need to go on the front foot and take the game to our opponents more. There's no need to panic. The table doesn 't take shape until Christmas.' Cranie says that 'I'd be more than happy' to stay at Charlton after his loan runs out at the end of December.

Charlton Pathetic

According to the Currant Bun Richard Murray stormed into the dressing room after Tuesday's defeat and lost his rag with the team:

One interesting point in the story is the suggestion that Mark Kinsella might replace Phil Parkinson.

Apparently also in today's issue, Charlton fan Kelvin MacKenzie mocks the slogan 'More than a football club' by commenting 'Not even a football club.'

Wednesday 10 December 2008

A personal note

Travelling down on the train from Coventry yesterday to go to the House of Commons, a passenger across the aisle asked if I was Wyn. It turned out that he was a Charlton supporter, but he was also not going to the game. He had first come to Britain as an exchange student from Germany in 1983 and had been sent to Dartford. He was invited to The Valley and from then on he was an Addick.

He was confident that we would win against Coventry and felt that such a win would give the side the confidence they needed. I was less confident than he was and, of course, the Addicks lost again. I think that I had a better time in Committee Room 9 of the Commons.

7.500 people who had tickets (albeit some of these were comps) did not turn up and there were only 13,000 or so in the ground. The amount of the jackpot prize says it all: £706. The team were booed off at the end of the game by those who had bothered to stay.

Those who were there said that it was an inept performance. One lister said, 'The problem feels systemic, not one player out there looked even comfortable let alone confident. A run like ours hardly breeds confidence but Coventry were no better than the side we beat 4-1 at the back end of the year.' Losing McEveley was a blow. (It now appears that he has dislocated or perhaps even fractured his shoulder so one of our best loan signings will be out for some time).

The usual calls have gone out for yet another change of manager by the weekend, but I can tell you it isn't going to happen. Arithmetically avoiding relegation is getting an increasingly challenging task and it would be an exceptional manager - which I doubt Charlton can afford - who can turn this team around.

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Injury hit Coventry looking for three points

Coventry City are ravaged by injuries, but are hoping to avenge their 4-1 defeat at The Valley at the end of last season tonight: Sky Blues

Charlton are going to win a match sooner or later and I am going for a 2-1 win.

I won't be there, but enjoy the game!

Barmy Bardsmen

Stratford Town found that they were three players short for a recent away game when they went in their car to Market Rasen in Lincolnshire rather than Market Drayton in Shropshire. It is understood that there is going to be a whip round to buy them a sat nav for Christmas.

With a home game against Alvechurch the following Tuesday, the manager was confident that all the players would find their way to the Anne Hathaway Stadium. Unfortunately, four of them were involved in a car crash on the way to the ground. No one was seriously injured but some of them will be out of action for a fortnight.

Monday 8 December 2008

The brutal truth

I'm off to give evidence to a European Parliament Committee in Brussels today and it's a House of Commons reception tomorrow evening so I will be up the river from Charlton. Can't say I'm that disappointed to be missing the game against Coventry which I normally look forward to. Charlton must get a win eventually, but this one looks like another draw.

In all the calls for a new manager to be brought in, one uncomfortable fact is often overlooked: perhaps the players are not good enough. Our defence may have stabilised a little, but often gets caught out at set pieces. The midfield would be stronger if Racon and Zheng Zhi were available, but, as it is, it often goes awol and provides poor service to the forwards.

And we can't score goals because we lack a proven goal scorer. Sometimes I wonder if we shouldn't recall Fleetwood and give him a chance to see what he can do.

The one ray of hope is that I wouldn't rule out a takeover. The club's position may lower the price somewhat, but that only increases its attractiveness given the quality of the assets and the potential of the catchment area.

Sunday 7 December 2008

Devils cast out

Coventry Blaze continued their winning ways in the Elite Ice Hockey League at the Skydome Arena Coventry in front of the Sky cameras tonight when they beat Cardiff Devils 4-2.

Things looked good for Blaze when they went ahead just after one minute through Barrie Moore. However, the Devils equalised just two minutes later. It looked as if a descent into Hades might be on the card when Devils then went 2-1 ahead during a five on four. The drum beat of the Welsh contingent speeded up. With the net tender out of his goal, Blaze managed to equalise on 12:45, Moore scoring again. It all went off on 14 minutes when the referee had to pull fighting players apart.

Devils have a strong defensive reputation and it was 17:38 in the second period before Weaver put Blaze ahead. Devils continued to look dangerous and it was nearly nine minutes into the third period when Kelman effectively put the match beyond doubt. There was still time for giant Devils player Brad Voth [sic] to be sent to the sin bin yet again amid the jeers of the home crowd.

I learnt some new sin bin offences tonight: checking from behind and abusing an official.

Now for Charlton versus Coventry ...

Saturday 6 December 2008

End of the pier show

The weather was cold but sunny as Charlton faced Blackpool at Bloomfield Road today in front of a crowd of 6,648, including 321 Addickted among them away correspondent Janice Styler. An early Tangerines corner was cleared. Blackpool then won another corner out of nothing. The corner was taken short and Gillespie volleyed clear. Bouazza put in a good cross but it was a few yards ahead of Andy Gray. Hudson had to deal with a Blackpool attack.

A fierce shot from Bouazza was blocked in a crowded penalty area. Charlton were playing some good passing football in a low key start. After McEveley put in a good ball to the far post and Burton headed back Gray hit a shot from five yards out on the turn and the keeper (ex-Addick Rachubka) made a good diving save. The Charlton corner was poor.

Bouazza gave the ball away and McEveley had to intervene. Blackpool won a corner which the Addicks had to defend into the low sun, but Weaver caught the ball well. The Tangerines won another corner. Charlton were able to clear. The home crowd was very quiet.

Bouazza forced a corner kick, but it was disappointing again, but Charlton played the ball back in, and Rachubka had to put the ball over the crossbar. The corner was defended well as Burton threatened. Bouazza put in a shot from outside the area that was not too far wide as Charlton continued to dominate.

A crunching tackle from behind came in on Burton and the yellow card was shown to Evert. McEveley continued to be very lively. Bailey had to scramble the ball away as danger threatened. Cranie blocked a cross well. A header from Burgess 3 yards out went up in the air and over the goal. Blackpool were getting more involved.

A Blackpool effort came off the crossbar, a chip having beaten Weaver, and bounced out for a dubious corner. Weaver pushed the ball out for another corner and the Tangerines headed wide. Semedo did well with a good ball forward which nearly caught Blackpool out.

Blackpool won a free kick and two blocked shots led to a corner. Blackpool had a chance, but Cranie and Fortune converged on Dickinson to deny him the opportunity. Hudson required treatment before the corner could be taken and limped off in some difficulty. The ball from the corner was cleared off the line by Bailey.

Three minutes of time were added on. Blackpool won a corner which was cleared by Cranie and was followed by a second which ended in an Addicks goal kick. The referee had a word with Semedo.

Half time: Tangerines 0, Addicks 0

Blackpool threatened, Weaver made a good save with his feet, but the flag was already up. Then from a corner Dickinson headed past Weaver at close range to put the home side ahead. Charlton showed themselves vulnerable to a set piece once again. The home crowd came to life.

A shot from Semedo took a deflection and the keeper had to dive to his right. Blackpool won another dubious corner. The defence did not look too secure, but Charlton cleared. Then Dickinson burst through the centre to make it 2-0 for the home side on the rebound after Weaver had saved his first effort well.

The Addicks won a corner but were not able to make anything of it. Bailey put in a good shot which was tipped on to the crossbar by the keeper who then saved it. Bouazza ran forward well, but was tackled. A cross from Gillespie went into the arms of the keeper after a good interchange of passes.

Bailey felt he was fouled inside the penalty area. An effort by Burton making use of a low cross in from the right went just past the post. Chris Dickson and Lloyd Sam came on for Andy Gray and Keith Gillespie.

Dickson used a ball from Cranie to put in a stinging effort but it was straight at the keeper. Hudson defended well. Sam lost out, but Semedo was able to put in a powerful challenge. Weaver had to concede a corner after Fortune unwisely played the ball back. Cranie required treatment. Weaver collected from the corner but fell awkwardly and required treatment while Cranie was led away with a shoulder injury. Weaver was hobbling and in some degree of discomfort. A defender had to take the goal kick.

Holland came on to replace Cranie and Semedo moved to right back. Blackpool had a free kick 35 yards out. Dickinson's effort was straight at Weaver. Blackpool had a chance to make it three but the unmarked Southern headed past the far post. The Addicks didn't really like look getting back in the game. Dickinson was taken off so that he could receive his standing ovation.

There were four minutes of stoppage time but Charlton went a second 90 minutes without a goal and eleven games without a win. Sadly, relegation form and the Seasiders chanted 'Going down' at the end. The Addicks went to the bottom of the table.

After a good start in the first 30 minutes the Addicks were rocked by two Blackpool goals early in the second half, fulfilling the New York Addick's prediction of a 2-0 defeat.

Elsewhere it was Bones 0, Brakes 6 as Leamington maintained their run for the BGB Midlands Division title.

Shelvey to stay says PP

Charlton supremo Phil Parkinson has insisted that Jonjo Shelvey will stay at The Valley despite interest from a number of Premiership clubs:

Notwithstanding what has been said to Sporting Pravda could a sufficiently attractive offer be refused in current circumstances?

Friday 5 December 2008

Allardyce in for Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, a favourite among many Charlton fans to take over at The Valley,is tipped to take over at Sunderland: Allardyce

The second favourite is former Addicks supremo Alan Curbishley, but doubts have been expressed about whether he has the charisma to fill Roy Keane's boots, given that Keano had apparently lost the dressing room.

The notion of Allardyce coming to The Valley was always an unlikely one in the club's present financial situation given how much he would cost and the number of backroom staff he would bring with him.

Should the Parkinson/Kinsella combo look unlikely to keep Charlton in the Championship, then I would forecast that Boothroyd would be the most likely (which is not the same thing as the most favoured) candidate. The alternative would be to look lower down the leagues at talented managers like Darren Ferguson.

Blackpool hope to overcome poor home form

Blackpool have hit a patch of poor home form, but hope to put things to rights against Charlton:

Thursday 4 December 2008

Welsh international back for Blackpool

Blackpool should have Welsh international David Vaughan back for the clash against Charlton on Saturday: Tangerines

I went to this fixture last year when we lost 5-2. For those who think that Basey is under utilised, this was an appalling performance on his part. However, the real problem with playing at this exposed ground with only two sides enclosed is the wind that comes off the Irish Sea. It swirls and gusts in unpredictable ways and I felt that one of the goals should have been attributed to W. Wind. It gives the home side a considerable advantage as they are used to playing in such conditions.

It would be too much to hope for a calm day by the Irish Sea in December.

Wednesday 3 December 2008

A win at last

Charlton beat Blackburn 2-1 last night in the FA Youth Cup in extra time after the two teams were 1-1 at full time. I have lifted these comments from a member of the Glynne Jones list who was there:

'The second goal was scored by Jonjo Shelvey. It was miles offside - but it makes a change to get a decision go our way for a change.

There were some excellent performances tonight - Chris Solly and Yado Mambo and Carl Jenkinson in defence looked very solid; Sam Long, playing in midfield rather than his usual defensive role, made some excellent surging runs and his goal was a result of one of them; Steve Lozano-Calderon put in a terrific performance on the wing - he's small but very nippy, with good control; in goal Callum Christie made some brave saves and his distribution was very good and fast; the forwards, Ben Godfrey and Tamar Tuna (then Lewis Perkins) worked very hard but were up against a very strong Blackburn back four.

All in all a good performance and a deserved victory. Good also to see some of the players out on loan like Rashid Yussuf and Scott Wagstaff had come back for the evening to support their mates - it shows the togetherness among the young players.'

Monday 1 December 2008

40 applicants in for Charlton job

Forty applicants have expressed interest in the manager's job at Charlton. Apart from the usual suspects, these include Sam Allardyce. However, as we have noted before, the board will give Phil Parkinson a chance to show what he can do before hiring in an outsider:

The battle of the strugglers

How the FA Cup draw against Charlton is seen in Norfolk:

I suppose my optimal draw would have been away to someone like Manchester United, a respectable quick exit and some cash to help us with our problems. My nightmare would have been someone like Histon away: very little cash and the prospect of humiliation.

A home tie against Norwich City isn't going to do much for the coffers (I am sure the club will price tickets sensibly) but defeat by them would not be a major headline. We could use one or two players we see less of and that might increase the attraction of the fixture to the Addickted.

Some might argue that we need to concentrate on our relegation struggle, but a win in the cup could be a morale booster and produce a more lucrative fourth round tie. Knowing our luck, we will draw, lose the replay and have a key player injured.

Sunday 30 November 2008

Vipers lose their sting

After a 0-0 draw on Saturday at Charlton I needed some goals and I certainly got them at the Coventry Arena tonight where Coventry Blaze demolished Newcastle Vipers 9-2 in the elite ice hockey league. Quite a considerable contingent of Geordies had made the trek from Newcastle.

After Blaze went 6-1 up Vipers changed their net tender but to no avail, although Blaze failed to score the 10 Blaze fans were chanting for. What would be a red card offence in football gets two minutes in the sin bin in hockey and Vipers certainly lived up to their physical reputation.

Two minutes before the end it all went off and Vipers No.37 Derek Campbell had to be restrained by the referee as he tried to continue the argument. He received a game misconduct as well as a two minute penalty.

With Leamington having won their vital match 3-0 on Saturday and regained their place at the top of the BGB Business Midlands Division it hasn't been such a bad sporting weekend.

Saturday 29 November 2008

Close, but no cigar

Charlton secured a 0-0 draw at home to Southampton at The Valley today. A draw was probably a fair result. Charlton edged the first half, ending in a storming finish when only the heroics of the Saints keeper kept the Addicks from scoring. Charlton faded in the second half and Southampton looked more like scoring.

The Addicks looked like a more effective unit with greater pace and commitment and more fluent passing, although they still looked a little vulnerable defensively at time. What was pleasing was to see two players left up the field when we were defending corners.

The huddle was reinvented for the start of the game and Charlton started in fine attacking form, although they were caught out a few times in the early phase of the game by the offside trap. Hudson wisely put the ball out for a Southampton corner.

McEveley made a good run and put in an excellent cross and Gillespie was just off target. Semedo won Charlton a corner, followed by one won by Bouzza. This was a game in which both sides won a lot of corners but were ultimately unable to make anything out of them.

Bouzza and then Gray sent half chances wide. The Saints looked dangerous and won a corner. Charm merchant Jordan Robertson had a go at Weaver and received a yellow card. Charlton conceded a rather foolish corner to Southampton which was followed by a second for the visitors. McEveley once again created danger with a good cross, and won a corner, but the ball was sent in too high to be useful. Gillespie had a shot on goal.

Bouazza stormed in and the much travelled Davis in the Saints goal made a very good save at the expense of a Charlton corner. As the half drew to a close, Charlton piled on the pressure and won a succession of corners. If the Addicks were to have won the match, it would have been then. At one time it seemed as if the ball was bound to go in, but Davis rose to the occasion. There was a handball call, but all that was given was another Charlton corner.

Half time: Addicks 0, Saints 0

Immediately after the break Saints took off Jordan Robertson and brought on Alex Pearce. At first I thought that this was simply because of Robertson's yellow card and the risk of him being sent off, but in fact the visitors changed their formation and upped their game. Central defender Pearce is on loan from Reading and scored twice in his first three matches for Saints.

Saints won an early corner and this was really the result of hesitancy of Charlton's part near the halfway line. One lesson that needs to be learnt is that one can't dwell on the ball too long, although this is a fine balance, as one doesn't want panic clearances either. Bouazza burst through, but instead of taking a shot - which he is well capable of from distance - suddenly stopped and the chance was lost.

Saints put in a dangerous curling ball from distance and the alert Weaver had to push it over the bar and on to the roof of the net. However, I took encouragement from the fact that the subsequent Saints corner was well defended which is not always the case.

After another miss by the Addicks, Gray was taken off and replaced by Todorov who received a warm welcome from the Southampton fans. McEveley likes to get stuck in and received a yellow card for a foul.

Starting with a free kick, Saints applied some pressure, winning two corners, but Weaver dealt with the situation well and make a good save. The tiring Gillespie was replaced by Sam.

Southampton were awarded a free kick in front of the D, but the Charlton wall stood up well, the ball rebounding off it twice. Weaver made two great saves to keep Charlton in the game. With Semedo looking increasingly erratic, Holland was brought on to steady the ship before Saints could take a corner.

Three minutes of time were added on and Charlton made increasingly desperate attempts to get a goal, but a half chance was lost when Bailey overhit the ball.

As I know that many keen fans do not buy the programme (or live overseas and don't get it until later, if at all), a couple of points from it are worth mentioning. It is evident from a couple of pieces in there, including one from the chief executive, that the board are not going to be rushed into a decision about a new manager. This is sensible, as we have suffered from hurried decisions in the recent past. I would expect Parkinson to be caretaker until the end of the year which will give the board the chance to see him in this role and decide whether he can make the step up.

I think that the programme is worth buying for Colin Cameron's articles alone. (I once covered a Charlton youth game at Rushden and Diamonds and Colin interrogated me rigorously about whether the last goal in a 6-1 victory was an own goal or not to make sure the records were correct). Colin points out that he doubts that many Championship clubs had £22m made available to them to rebuild their squads after relegation, £11m for Dowie and £11m for Pardew (and these sums do not include signing on fees or the cost of bringing in loan players). As Colin notes, '£22m is a considerable sum of money and should have brought more success than proved the case.'

On the way back, a crowd of chanting Southampton supporters faced a line of police on the overpass at London Bridge, almost blocking it. I am not quite sure what had happened, but a Saint who was not involved told us someone had shouted 'Portsmouth'. The same Saint confessed with some shame that they were visiting Portsmouth tomorrow for a festive fair. The rivalry between these two clubs takes some beating anywhere in England.

Match analysis

Homer the Cherry Hound was indisposed after being bitten on the nose by Dave the Hampster and Ivy the Terrible resumed her role. She did not think that there was any one really outstanding player but awarded the Silver Bone to Jonathan Fortune for a credible performance after returning from a long period out injured. Waver made a couple of great saves and looked more confident again, justifying the trust that Parkinson has put him in. For me calls to bring in Elliott were another example of the 'Roy of the Rovers' mentality that afflicts some Charlton supporters. However, I wish Weaver would not send some balls so high in the air that air traffic control at London City has to be alerted. McEveley is a Danny Mills look alike who was a great addition at left back. Youga is too erratic and Basey is still a work in progress. McEveley forged forward well and can put in a good cross. He made a couple of mistakes, but the overall performance was impressive. Cranie received the attention of the Southampton fans because of his Portsmouth associations, but put in a solid performance and was one of the players that improved in the second half. Hudson had an excellent game and put in some important clearance. Semedo was very involved and he is a player I thought was not rated highly enough under Pardew. However, at times hesitancy cost him and at one point he was going round in a circle before finally losing the ball. But the position he plays in is in my view one of the most demanding on the pitch. Bailey was dropped at QPR because Parkinson thought that the negativity at the club had hit him hard, but he had to be brought back on because Racon picked up a knock and a swollen knee. On this performance, I would prefer Racon. Gillespie had a very good work rate and was clearly very committed, although he tired towards the end. He is an improvement on Sam. Bouazza faded from the game in the second half and was one of the reasons our performance deteriorated. The signing of Burton was used by the 'Parkinson out' crowd as evidence of the caretaker manager's uselessness, but in he displayed considerable energy and worked well with Gray. The performance of Gray was fine, he just needs to score more goals. Mind you, it doesn't help if you are bearing down on goal, are held back and the referee awards a free kick against you while giving shirt tugging gestures. Todorov showed his lack of match practice when he came on, but started to get more involved and was almost decisive at the end. Sam was greeted with derision from the row behind me, having replaced Ambrose as their scapegoat player. I thought he tried hard, but the lack of real quality showed. Holland had a cameo, but he made a couple of important tackles towards the end.

Hiss of the Match This has been given by Juneau the Soccer Cat to the referee. He was one of those referees who likes to demonstrate that he is not a 'homer' by giving marginal decisions to the away team. With both the handball calls, there is always an argument about whether it is ball to hand or arm than the other way round but I don't think he was going to give us the benefit of any doubt.

Crowd rating The crowd responded to the greater effort and commitment shown by the team, although there were more empty seats than I expected with some stalwarts missing. I was contacted by The Observer just before the game as the selected fan reporter had gone to the rugby (much good that it did him!) 7/10.

The fringe supporter

The typical image of a football supporter is someone who 'inherits' an allegiance to a football club and follows it through thick and thin. That would certainly fit my case (well to an extent) and many of the hard core Addickted who read the blogs and contribute to the lists and message boards.

However, as we know many younger people tend to become followers of a big club. For example, the now grown up sons of a friend formed an allegiance to Everton when the Toffees counted for something. One of them chose to go to university in Liverpool so that he could attend home games more regularly. A friend of mine who expressed little interest in football in the past now goes regularly to Manchester United.

The sports studies literature also suggests that there is a lot more 'churn' in support than is generally believed. Fans abandon less successful clubs and switch to other ones. For example, David Mellor was apparently a Fulham fan before he switched to the Chelsea shirt. Somewhere I visited yesterday has seen a sudden upsurge in declared Hull City supporters.

Yesterday I had to do some business with an American living in North London whom I had not met before. In the course of conversation he revealed that he qualified as a 'member' of Charlton as he had been sent the Red Card.

When Charlton were in the Premiership and he had friends or relatives over from the States who wanted to see a soccer game, he had taken them to The Valley. His reasons were:
1. He could get tickets easily, whereas it was almost impossible to get them at the nearby Emirates
2. The price was very reasonable
3. It was a 'great' stadium with a good atmosphere and his visitors always enjoyed the experience.
4. The stadium was easy to get to by public transportation.

He doesn't go to The Valley any more. If he fancies seeing a game, he goes to the Orient. He can decide at 1.30 p.m. whether to go. He can cycle to the stadium, park up his bike and be home by 5.30 p.m.

The moral of this story is that if Charlton can recover its standing, there is great potential for developing the support base, above all in the growing Thames Gateway. That is why I think there could still be a successful takeover bid for the club.

Friday 28 November 2008

Easy three points is Saints' view

Southampton fans will be out in force at The Valley to collect what they see as an easy three points. Having won one match away and drawn at home, they think they are on a roll. If in fact the team and the fans are over confident, that may help us. They may just be reading off the result from our last two matches and football is not like that, especially with a new manager on his home debut and some changes in the team.

Incidentally, a disappointment for Jason Euell fans is that the striker is apparently suspended.

Read more here about the view from the Solent: Saints

New Forest born Homer the Cherry Hound has been appointed match analyst for the game.

Meanwhile, in a dash for cash all Addicks merchandise has been slashed by a dramatic 25 per cent for the rest of the year. Please make all cheques payable to the Alan Pardew Leaving Fund.

Two six pointers

Charlton face Southampton at The Valley tomorrow in what is an important match for both teams and may well end in a draw which would not suit either of them. I will not do a match preview as such as that is done better on, for example, Charlton Athletic Online.

As it happens, Leamington also have a six pointer tomorrow. They have only dropped two points in the British Gas Business Midlands Division all season (in an away draw), but so competitive is the league that Atherstone are one point ahead of them. The Adders are the visitors at Harbury Lane and again a draw is a possible outcome.

Leamington are a very successful non-league side at their level, yet there is a clear difference in standard between non-league and the Championship. Yet Charlton have gone in for acquisitions of players who were at time non-league players: Dickson, Fleetwood, Varney. Indeed, we were singled out for praise in the Non-League Paper as the top side that took non-league players seriously (yet others had the rule run over them at Sparrows Lane). My view is that it is quite a big ask to upgrade, even if one has been playing in League 1. One therefore wonders what the rationale behind the policy was.

Discussion continues among Charlton fans about the next permanent manager and the 'search' process. Now I may have missed something here, and others may know more, but my understanding in relation to Parkinson runs something like this: having been caught out without a successor to Curbs, the board put Parkinson in place as a contingency successor to Pardew should he leave for any reason.

My reasoning therefore is that Parkinson is a little more than a 'caretaker', hence his ability to undertake (no doubt in consultation with Steve Waggott in his much vaunted training ground role) a series of what are transfers in all but name. This does not mean that he will necessarily be confirmed as permanent manager. My guess is that he will be allowed a run of matches to see what he can do before any final decision is made.

Many Charlton fans already want to dump him which seems a bit harsh after what appears to have been an improved performance on Tuesday: losing 2-1 away is a bit better than losing 1-3 or 2-5 at home. The general argument is that he is contaminated by association with the Parkinson regime, but there is little hard information about what his role actually was. Normally reliable sources do not seem to know much, but what I have heard suggests that Pardew was in the driving seat.

There has been another outbreak of negativity and pessimism among Charlton fans, a theme on which Inspector Sands has often written and once attracted comment in the Sporting Post. Although one can exaggerate the impact of the crowd on the team, a ferbile atmosphere in the ground tomorrow won't help. Whilst I don't want to sound like the irritating pitch announcer (another sacking I am still waiting for), this is an occasion to get behind the team.

Thursday 27 November 2008

Reshaping of side continues

'Caretaker' boss Phil Parkinson has continued to reshape the side. The E mail bulletin reports: 'Phil Parkinson was delighted to land striker Deon Burton this afternoon. He told the official website: "There's no fee involved for Deon and he's a player I've admired for a long time. What concerned me slightly is that if Andy Gray got injured, we lacked a hold-up player and I was struggling to find two strikers who complemented each other."' [I think one of the problems with Gray is that he is not much of a hold up player].

'But with Deon here, it gives me the option to replace Andy and they also have the ability to play together. [A possible hint for Saturday?] All over the football pitch, you need partnerships and it's important you get the right balance in all areas.'

'Today's second loan capture of Jay McEveley from Derby County has pleased Phil Parkinson, with the caretaker boss explaining why Luke Varney has moved in the opposite direction.'

'"I'm delighted to bring Jay in," said the caretaker boss. "Despite his young age, he has got a lot of experience, both in the Premier League and the Championship. He's a big, strong, athletic full-back, who will give us much-needed consistency in that area.'

'"I felt Luke needed a change of scenery to kickstart his career and it was a chance for the club to recoup a large chunk of the transfer fee paid out for him."'

I don't think it has worked out for Varney at Charlton, his strike rate has been very poor and there was another miss for close range at Loftus Road on Tuesday with the ball being sent into the stands from about eight yards.

Varney for Derby

Luke Varney is being signed by Derby on loan:

Varney will thus be returning nearer to his home city of Leicester. He also at one time played for Midland Alliance side Quorn.

I know that many Addicks like him for his pace and commitment. I value skill above everything else and in particular the ability to get the ball in the back of the net, particularly given golden scoring opportunities.

Perhaps he can do it at Derby but then that would raise questions once again about the training regime and the state of morale.

Wednesday 26 November 2008

Helguson loan off

Word from Bolton suggests that this projected loan is off and that he will join the Super Hoops after all:

Phil Parkinson has a plan to tackle the left back problem which has plagued the side all season given the erratic nature of Youga's play by bringing in Jay McEveley from Derby County:

Non-loan players are going to be a clear minority in the side soon.

Tuesday 25 November 2008

Disappointment at Loftus Road

After staying at 1-1 for much of the match, Charlton lost 2-1 to Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road tonight. Blackstock scored the opening and decisive goal for Rangers with Thierry Racon drawing level from a Bouazza cross on 30 minutes.

The stats do not look too bad, certainly compared with some recent performances: 10 goal attempts for each side, of which five were on target and five were off. Corners were shared four four.

Waghorn was started, but was replaced by Varney on 62 minutes and it was Varney who missed a chance to score Charlton's second from six yards out. Cranie was replaced by Sam on 82 minutes. Hudson picked up a late yellow card.

I wasn't expecting too much from tonight's match, although for a time a draw seemed possible. Charlton have sunk deeper into the relegation zone, but there is still a long way to go.

New supremo makes his mark

Charlton 'caretaker' boss Phil Parkinson is already making his mark. The signing of Kevin Gillespie from Sheffield United took place at his instigation at 8 a.m. on Sunday. At least Parkinson recognises that crossing a ball is a key skill in football.

Now the club's E mail bulletin reports, 'After being named as Charlton's caretaker manager on Saturday evening, Phil Parkinson has moved quickly to stamp his authority on the Addicks by asking reserve-team boss Mark Kinsella and head scout Phil Chapple to be part of his first-team coaching set-up.' Phil Chapple will be remembered for his 'never say die' attitude at Charlton, once appearing back on the pitch at Ipswich with a massive bandage on his head after a collision with the Tractors keeper had seen him stretchered off. (We won 5-1 and some wurzel tried to give chase to me afterwards).

Parkinson revealed Chapple and Kinsella would be helping him out as he prepares to take charge of his first game at Queens Park Rangers tonight (8pm). 'I'm looking forward to it,' said Parkinson. 'I'm sad for Alan [Pardew] and what's happened but I'm prepared to take on the responsibility of turning this round and I think it's all important we all understand the seriousness of the position we're in.'

'I've bought Mark Kinsella and Phil Chapple into work at first-team level and I feel that's important as these are two people who understand this club more than anyone, and I want that to rub off on the lads.'

Super Hoops

I have to say that the Super Hoops are a London club I don't like very much. To me, they are always a third division south club, but a short spell of success in the top flight gave their fans excessive expectations. These have been reinforced by the takeover, although this has not led to instant success - I recall QPR fans predicting on 606 that the question in a few years' time would be whether they or Real Madrid were the biggest team in Europe! Of course, they have suffered from the curse of Dowie.

I don't much like their shoebox of a ground or their excessive security either. I can't be there tonight anyway as I have to go to a funeral this afternoon which always puts football in perspective.

If it was a club outside London I would link some stories from the local evening paper, but that is not an option in Hammersmith. Nor do they seem to have that many fan sites and those there are do not seem to be up to date. Admittedly, my trawl was a quick one, but perhaps we are better served at The Valley in that respect.

The team is still traumatised and I would not make any judgements on the basis of tonight's results either about them or the capabilities of Phil Parkinson. The majority view seems to be that he was deeply implicated in the former regime and is hence contaminated.

I haven't been able to get much concrete information on the role that he played in the set up, but maybe others know more than I do about that and are hence better placed to make a judgement. For now, he is the Charlton manager and I would make what admittedly sounds like a hollow plea for those going to get behind him and the team as they are the club for now. In fact I am sure the Addickted will give it large.

One positive development is that I have reached a modus vivendi with an old friend who has always been a bit scathing about Charlton which she regards as a rather down market club (as indicated by her admittedly amusing skit on a Rickshaw in reverse).

Anyway she now goes to Old Trafford which is reasonable enough for a resident of Greater Manchester - indeed she is probably in a minority in that respect. Becoming a United fan has made her more accepting of my support of Charlton. As she said, 'it's in your blood' and that is probably as a good a defintion of Addicktion as any. We may moan, we may complain, we may despair, but we stick with the club.

Gillespie signing

I am more enthusiastic about this than the muted response of most fans would indicate to be the general view. He has not been playing at Sheffield United because he fell out with the manager there and he does bring experience which the team needs, quite apart from Sam's erratic play on the wing:

Monday 24 November 2008

Big pay out for Pardew?

The Currant Bun claims:
'Alan Pardew will get £1million from Charlton — before he has hardly had time to open his Advent calendar. Pards, axed as boss on Saturday after the 5-2 home defeat by Sheffield United, is set for a total pay-off of £1.6m. But under the terms of his contract, £1m must be paid within 12 DAYS — and that means Thursday, December 4.

The former West Ham chief had the clause written into his deal when he signed a 3½-year contract as Les Reed’s replacement on Christmas Eve 2006. The huge immediate windfall is believed to be one of the reasons the cash-strapped Championship club kept faith with Pards for so long.'

Sunday 23 November 2008

Parkinson rallies the troops

I think this is the right line to take in the circumstances, although of course anyone can talk the talk:

At least he admits we are in a relegation dogfight which Pardew never would. And he has had the players in for extra training, but he admits that morale is very low.

I can see why many think he is part of the problem rather than part of the solution, but at least we have to back him while he is caretaker. We can't afford the luxury of more negativity.

Curbs on Radio 5

Happier days?

Curbs is currently on. He is being interviewed alongside other 'football personalities' such as the Turnip.

Curbs made clear that there is no back to the future for him. As he put it, he served a 'long apprenticeship' at Charlton, i.e., he implied that he had stayed too long. During this time he achieved two promotions and was then accused of being 'boring mid-table Premiership' which clearly still rankles. He argued that Charlton needed to get someone else in to do a rebuilding job, which sounded sensible to me.

A fan texted in and pleaded with him to come back, but Curbs pointed out that he was just one of 22,000 or 23,000. He made a joke of it.

He is clearly still looking for a Premiership job. As he put in, a manager will fall by the wayside sooner or later and there will be a vacancy which might suit him. Whether he is right about that, we shall have to wait and see. But I doubt whether he is short of the readies to pay the gas bill in the meantime.

However, it was reported that his wife was across in the road in the new shopping mall. Curbs did say that he had now been out of work for ten weeks, but he was enjoying the absence of pressure. It had been particularly difficult at Upton Park because he was an ex-West Ham player and a West Ham fan. So no illusions about having a place for Charlton in his heart.

I was his kit sponsor for many years and got to know him reasonably well. Like any human being, he has his faults. He can be quite stubborn which was probably a virtue when he was building the club up but became a problem later on.

Curbs has just been complaining about players knocking on his door and asking for a place which he had a moan about to me when he was managing Charlton. I don't think he was the best man manager in the world, and he did tend to bear grudges. But, all round, he was and is very capable. He is mainly talking about the Hampsters now.

I don't think he is the answer to our present dilemma. I would still not rule out Parkinson becoming the permanent manager (as a forecast outcome rather than something I am advocating). It would be a low cost solution and I suspect it has been Plan B for some time. Indeed, the board's reluctance to get rid of Pardew may be in part because they were uncertain about Parkinson.

The fact is that there is little public domain information about much how much of a role Pardew allowed him, although I would suspect not much. While he is caretaker for a few matches, the fans can form a view. But for now he is the manager and I hope that fans will back him, at least in a temporary capacity.

Saturday 22 November 2008

Thanks Mr Pardew for all you tried to do

As my train approached Leamington The Observer rang with the news that Alan Pardew had left Charlton by mutual consent. The words that sprung to mind were those used by the newsreels when Neville Chamberlain resigned as prime minister. Alan Pardew is a decent man and in many ways a talented one but it wasn't working out for him or for Charlton. After today's 2-5 defeat by Sheffield United, the board finally bowed to the inevitable.

As Pardew left the pitch after the defeat he directed an ironic wave at the booing Covered End. That said it all really, along with his attempt in his programme notes to blame the negativity of the fans for recent poor performances.

Before the end of the game the Covered End had been chanting 'We Want Our Charlton Back'. After the match some two hundred or so fans made their way to the West Stand where they chanted 'Charlton till I die' and 'We want our Charlton back'. Reports suggested that an emergency board meeting had been convened and one rumour said that Keith Peacock was present.

It was noticeable today that Phil Parkinson stepped out of the dugout a few times to speak to Pardew and it is Parkinson who will be caretaker manager for Tuesday's match at Loftus Road.

The Observer was very insistent when they rang me last night that Chris Powell would be manager before Christmas and that this was reliable information. Equally, Talksport predicted that Curbs would return to The Valley, but I am not convinced that would be right for him or us (even though I was a great fan of his). I also doubt that it will happen. Speculation about Allerdyce is just that.

Before his removal was confirmed, Pardew told the media, '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.'

Colin Cameron had some interesting stats in today's programme. During Pardew's nearly two years in charge there have been 109 player movements involving all kinds of transfers, excluding trialists. 36 players came in and 73 left. Martyn Waghorn became the 50th new boy in three and a half seasons.

We crave stability in the squad and in the team.

I am not going to provide a detailed analysis of the match beyond the comments provided by our dog reporter Monty Martin. Hopefully, there is going to be a fresh start at The Valley: certainly it is difficult to see how things could be worse.

I know there is a view that the players aren't talented, but I think that most of them are - and we actually saw flashes of this yesterday. What we need is a settled team, the right combination of players, the right tactics and a restoration of confidence. I think that 'anyone but Pardew' could do that, not because he is a bad manager - I supported his appointment and I hope he finds another one - but because it just went sour for him.

If he felt he was not given enough money, he could have resigned with dignity then. The board have not handled the post-Curbishley period well and, as Charlton fans, I think they know that. But I still have confidence in them and calls for their resignation are ridiculous.

What we need now is a period when fans support whoever is in charge. The realistic target now is to avoid relegation. With business rates of £1m a year on the stadium before you think of maintenance costs we cannot afford to be a third division club. In addition, something I didn't realise is that the Championship television deal becomes much better next year, but lower league clubs lose out relatively. (See yesterday's story in the Pink 'Un): FT

Match analysis

Normally effervescent match analyst spaniel Monty Martin who is normally very lucky for us has been in hangdog mode since the game. However, I have pointed out to him that he may have brought us good fortune in terms of a dignified exit for Alan Pardew. He has now filed his report from his home in the beautiful village of Blewbury, Oxon: Blewbury

No Silver Bone has been awarded. Weaver had an absolute shocker of a game, suggesting that his errors at Birmingham may be a part of pattern. However, it may just be that he needs his confidence restored, but it is unusual to see Charlton supporters jeering their own keeper. Monty was puzzled why Elliott was not brought on, but perhaps that would have finally wrecked Weaver's confidence. Given that we conceded five goals, it seems odd to argue that Hudson had a decent game, but he put in some good work. Primus scored one of the best goals I have seen this season from Bailey's free kick. It was a free header but it was very well taken. He did make some defensive errors, however. Youga was hapless and hopeless, scored an own goal and was eventually taken off. His 'chats' with Pardew in which his recurrent mistakes were pointed out to him do not seem to have done much good. Bring back Basey. I still rate Moutaoukil. He did make a serious error, but I think that he has the commitment and determination to be part of a reinvigorated Charlton as is evident from his programme interview. Bailey provided the free kick that led to the equaliser, but somehow his game seems to have deteriorated under the Sparrows Lane training regime. Holland give his all as was recognised in the applause he got at the end. He actually showed a good turn of pace at one point. Sam is totally inconsistent and was a favourite target for the row behind me. When he is good, he is very good, but often he is not good at all, in fact he is hopeless. Over to you, PP. Semedo picked up a yellow card which he is prone to do. Once again it was a curate's egg of a performance. Bouazza scored a great goal and fluffed a chance to score another one. But for long periods he didn't seem to be involved at all. It was odd to play a 4-5-1 formation but if one does Gray can't do it because he can't hold the ball up in the way that, say, Leaburn could. He was also totally isolated much of the time. Todorov seemed out of it most of the time when he came on. Waghorn showed plenty of pace, but then so does Varney, and his main contribution was to win a corner. Given that we were doing badly, why not give Racon a chance? He looked good earlier in the season.

Monty Martin writes: 'It's a while since I have seen Charlton play, as I am now resident match analyst at Didcot Town. I thought that the Blades were gifted such a flattering scoreline by appalling defending, particularly by Weaver. Charlton looked quite fluent at times, particularly when they were three behind and they could just play without pressure. It's all about morale really. The fight back starts here.'

The view from Sheffield

Alan Pardew is described as 'beleaguered' in the Sheffield Star which makes much of the decision of Ian Harte not to come to The Valley (although I don't see this as the biggest blow we have suffered): Harte

Meanwhile, a Tyke who has joined the side to 'strengthen' them reckons that the Blades are en route to the Premiership: Tyke

Of course this is the sort of pre-match commentary one would expect to be pumped out by a provincial evening paper. The Blades are a bit of a yo-yo team so they could be in contention: they are also a rather well run club. I expect they think they are on to an easy three points today. We must try and stop them.

Spaniel match analyst Monty Martin is in an ever more excitable state than usual after being selected to contribute to The Observer tomorrow.

Enjoy the game!