Monday 31 March 2008

Now It Really Is The Red Army

Charlton really will be the Red Army after it was revealed that the club is on the verge of signing a sponsorship deal with the Chinese armed forces. ‘After our last two experiences, we were looking for a sponsor who wouldn’t become insolvent – and no one can see the Chinese army going bust,’ explained a club spokesman.

‘There were a number of pluses from the Red Army’s point of view. First, there is Zheng Zhi. Second, the fans already chant "Red Army" so no change will be needed there. Third, they liked the fact that the Valley Express service is affectionately known as the "Rickshaw". Last but not least, they thought that we had a very correct line in our Long March towards the Premiership.’

‘There will be a few changes. There was a feeling that the nickname “Addicks” was redolent of opium dens and henceforth the club will be known as the Red Dragons. The team will come out to the East Is Red rather than the Red, Red Robin. The East Stand will be re-named the Mao Tse Tung Stand.’

The new sponsorship will mean a big step up for Rick Everitt who will become the club’s first Political Commissar. He will be responsible for rooting out any hints of bourgeois deviationism. Fortunately, he has kept his Little Red Book and his Collected Works of Marx from his student days. ‘I do know the difference between Groucho Marx and Karl Marx,’ quipped the genial enforcer.

Pards in shock loan move

This time it really is chocks away

Alan Pardew has been busy bringing in loan players this year, but now the manager himself has been loaned out in a surprise move. He will be joining British Airways for the rest of the season in a bid to sort out the mess at Terminal 5.

A British Airways spokesman said, 'We feel that this management experience could help us, but in particular we are hoping to make use of his big book of excuses.'

Pards has already sorted out what he thinks is the nub of the problem. 'If only the passengers would stop complaining about cancelled flights, lack of explanation of the strategy and inadequate hotel provision, staff could get on with their jobs. Indeed, even better would be if there were no passengers at all. Then T5 would function perfectly.'

Introducing Milton Palmer Jnr.

Paul May having long gone to other ventures, it is good to have some help with the blog again. I am pleased to introduce Milton Palmer Jnr., an American addick living in London who will be writing for the blog until the end of the season, getting his hand in with some pointless (in more ways than one) games. Milton introduces himself below:

Hi folks! My family hail from Marion, Ohio which was the home and is the resting place of Warren Gamamiel Harding. He would have been one of our greatest presidents if he had not been let down by his associates. His lady wife was known as the 'Duchess' and I guess she must have been related to your royal family just like our current president George W. Bush.

I went to school at the University of Idaho on Moscow, Idaho which is one of our most highly rated veterinary schools in the U S of A. I then went to grad school at U Dub, known to you as the University of Washington in Seattle.

While I was there I took my girl for a boat trip out on the sound one day. The captain of the boat had a decal in his cabin with a symbol that looked like the sword of your legendary King Arthur and the words 'Charlton Athletic'. I asked him about this and he said that he had lived in London for a while and Charlton were a franchise on the city's south side, but not the roughest part where there was a club called the Mechanics or something like that.

Now I had been brought up playing American football and baseball, but I am also something of a basketball and hockey fan. But I got kinda interested in the soccer game and went to see the Seattle Sounders a few times.

When I got an assignment in London I thought I would check out this Charlton club (for sure I wasn't going to go to Chelsea with its Ruskie owner). I thought the club was kinda cute and I really loved the accents, so I signed up for a season ticket.

Boy, has this season sucked! Wolverhampton really rippled the old onion bag on Saturday and that summed up how it's been. Charlton have had problems in offense, defense and the mid-section.

For my first posting I want to look at our defense. Goal tender Nicky Weaver has a tough call. In hockey the goal is much smaller and the goal tender, who is usually a big guy, can more or less fill it when he has his padding on. Weaver is inclined to rush out of his goal instead of sticking to his line which is clearly marked on the grass. If we put some padding on him he would occupy more of the goal mouth and be less able to do wild rushes down the pitch.

Looking at the quarter backs, Sodje is too short. A guy that size would get laughed off the basketball court. As for the Irish guy, he needs some athletics training as he cannot run very fast.

What we would need on the wings is some pace so that the backs can thunder down the pitch. The Thatcher guy should go back to putting straw on peoples' rooves in your old world villages. I wouldn't bring back the guy with the weird haircut. No siree, the role belongs to the guy who has proudly worn the jersey of the United States of America, a graduate of an even finer school than the University of Iadho: Cory Gibbs.

On the right side I understand that the loan player's family has quite a nice business selling motor and cycle parts so he can go and manage one of their branches. We ought to bring back that African American guy with the name that sounds like a drive by shooting, Motorkill or something.

I am really looking forward going down to the quaint west country on Saturday to see Charlton playing at Plymouth. I want to see the famous bowling pitch of Drake. The Plymouth franchise are called the 'Pilgrims' and this recalls the role Plymouth played in founding that city on the hill, the U S of A.

Have a good one!

Sunday 30 March 2008

An inspirational message from Iceland

Yes, it's your old pal Olfaur. I am still following the fortunes of the Charlton club from Grindavik and a friend in need is a friend in deed as you say in your country. Of course, now that Mr Curbishley has gone to the Ham West club, and it is owned by Icelandic persons, I also keep an eye on their doings.

As you may heard, we are in deep do do in Iceland right now. Our currency is falling fast, inflation is going through the rafters and I hope you do not have any of your savings in an Icelandic bank.

For myself I am glad that I am not in the financial services, but the good old fashioned industry of catching the fish. If all else fails, we can still see you a few cod for the fish and chip shops. As you know I first became an Addick when I saw the man with a haddock on a stick after the great victory at Wembley.

I heard that Big Dave Lockwood said after the match yesterday on the tannoy 'Keep the faith' but in tones of great dolefulness. Now I do not quite know what Mr Pardoo has been up to, as the Charlton club does not feature so much on the Icelandic media since Mr Hreidarrson went to the Portsmouth club, but it doesn't look good to me. It is also not such a smart idea to blame the paying customers when they don't like what is served up in front of them.

It doesn't matter whether it's a plate of cod and chips or a football team. If it is not good enough, it is not the customer who is in the wrong. It is the man who caught the cod or the lady who fried it. Similarly, if Mr Pardon selects the wrong players or gives them the wrong tactics, is that the fault of Bill from Barnehurst?

When we crew our fishing boats we like to train up our best youngsters for the job. Of course, sometimes there is an unexpected vacancy and we have to bring someone from outside in to help, a loan if you like. But we only do that as an emergency measure. We do not build a crew of strangers to go and fish in dangerous seas.

As it is with fish, so it is with football. Unfortunately I had to leave England after some young entrepreneurs in Liverpool made off with my van and its fish. In those days the players of the Charlton club played for each other, as a team. They knew each other and they had bonded together for the cause.

Bring back those days and you will make the No.1 Icelandic Addick a very happy man.

'Cracking Game, Shame You Lost'

This was the text message from Joe the Saint after Charlton lost 2-3 at home to Wolves at The Valley, conceding a last gasp goal after they had equalised in time added on. Sky described the game as 'brilliant' and neutrals on the train home from Charlton thought they had got their money's worth.

However, for Charlton fans it was the effective end to a very disappointing season. As so often this season, sloppy defending cost us the points. We did score two good goals and we upped our game in the second half. We were playing the ball on the ground more, although passes were still going astray.

So what now for what the Financial Times described yesterday as one of the three 'big' clubs in the Championship? Someone said in the gents afterwards that it was a merciful end and even with a strengthened side we would not have survived in the Premiership. But it is difficult to see any of the teams who might go up surviving either and the stats are against them as Colin Cameron demonstrated in yesterday's programme. The gap between the two leagues is widening.

Unfortunately, many fans will not renew their season tickets next season, further depriving the club of much needed resources. I will renew mine, but I may not make the long trek from Warwickshire so often unless the quality of the play improves. The board have decided not to go down the route of outside investment and I am not sure that it is available. It is most likely to come from China, but present political tensions militate against that (although there may be some news on sponsorship for next season soon).

If I want to see guys hoofing the ball around, I can drive ten minutes to the New Windmill Ground. And they invariably win (as their did yesterday 2-0 against Bishop's Cleeve). Indeed, seeing former Coventry City first team player Ben Mackey juggle the ball past three players and then turn the ball in the box to hit in a sizzling shot matches what is available at The Valley.

We need to get back to basics: playing as a team, keeping the ball on the ground, passing accurately, showing some pace, chasing near hopeless causes. This is a team that lacks confidence and it is up to 'Super' Alan Pardew to restore it. To the 'Pards out' crowd, I would say we can't afford to pay him off and there is no ideal replacement who would be prepared to come to Charlton.

Getting off the train, some Americans confidently asserted that 'Wolverhampton were not strong in the offense.' I wish that were true. Charlton started the game in a very lacklustre fashion. Wolves won an early corner, but it ended in a goal kick. Thomas and Lita tried to combine on a couple of occasions, but there was no end product.

Ambrose lost the ball. Nothing new there then. Lita put in a not particularly challenging header which was caught by Hennessey in the Wolves goal. An Ambrose effort went wide, but I thought there was a deflection and there should have been a corner. Given later failings it is worth noting that Paddy McCarthy provided good defensive work at the expense of a throw in.

Then Wolves burst down the wing with great pace, put in an excellent cross to allegedly overweight Sylvan Ebanks-Blake who made no mistake in firing the ball in the net. Once again Charlton were 0-1 down at home and we have only come back from such a deficit once this season to win (against Sheffield Wednesday).

Ambrose lost the ball again, but then a great run by the midfielder won Charlton a free kick in a promising position. This led to a Charlton corner, it was collected on the other side of the goal by Thomas to play it back in, there was a flick on and Greg Halford was on hand to score a classic centre forward's goal and make it 1-1.

Danger loomed again when Wolves hit the post and Weaver was caught out of his goal. But somehow Wolves managed to put the ball wide.

Half time: Addicks 1, Wolves 1

Thomas put in a good ball to Holland, but the Charlton captain dithered and lost the opportunity. Thomas won a free kick and Halford's effort went off the bar with the help of the keeper. The resultant Charlton corner was played out. Jerome Thomas put in a good tackle to halt a Wolves attack. Zheng Zhi turned provider for Lita, leading to a Charlton corner.

Iwelumo gave a good ball to Lita and he put a cross right across the front of the Wolves goal but there was no one there to connect with it. Lita had a golden chance when he was one on one with the keeper but put the ball straight at him.

Zheng Zhi went on a good run down the centre of the pitch. Further good work produced a Charlton corner. The fading Thomas was pulled off in favour of Lee Cook. A Wolves corner led to a Charlton free kick. Wolves pulled off historic figure Michael Gray, who had been having quite a good game, and brought on Darren Gibson.

There was some trouble off the ball and both Neil Collins and Semedo received a yellow card from referee Stroud. Then Collins fouled again and was warned by the referee. Lee Cook put in a sizzling shot from way out which was only just wide. Charlton won a corner, but Cook's disappointing effort was caught by the keeper.

Iwelumo was fouled yet again and the referee having found his cards gave a yellow card at last to charm merchant Lee Craddock. Hard man Lee Cook received a yellow for a foul. Wolves pulled off Jarvis and brought on out of favour bench warmer Freddy Eastwood for whom a loan deal to Coventry fell through at the last minute.

Paddy McCarthy was outwitted down the wing and Ebanke-Blake outmanoeuvred the stretched Charlton defence and the ball went in off the post to make it 1-2. It was a brilliant move and possibly the best goal I have seen at The Valley this season. Semedo was taken off and replaced by Luke Varney in the last throw of the dice by Pardew.

Luke Varney put in a decent shot and Hennessey nearly spilled the ball. Ebanke-Blake was withdrawn and replaced by Kevin Kyle. An effort by Luke Varney went wide. Four minutes were added on. Lita forged through and made it 2-2 and they thought it was all over. But Wolves kept up the pressure with two corners and Henry scored to make it 2-3.

The Burnley chairman was prescient when he contacted me recently to say how much he liked what I had written about his club. Charlton look like the new Burnley: a mid-table Championship club unlikely to be promoted or relegated. For those who like to read off results from recent form and predict relegation next season, football isn't like that.

Pards does have a record of getting teams up in their second season down and at least clubs next season won't treat their match against us as a cup final against a 'Premiership' club. It's ironic that we used to grumble about Curbs making us a mid-table Premiership club. At least when we were last mid-table in the second division, we had hope of better things (which came sooner than we hoped). Not any more.

Match analysis

Normally bouncy springer spaniel and match analyst Monty Martin was unusually subdued after the game. But he perked up when he awarded the Silver Bone to Greg Halford. The much criticised player took his goal well and in the second half he put in a searing shot from distance which the Wolves keeper had to push over the bar. At the end of the game, he sunk to the ground with his head in his hands, showing his commitment to the cause. Wolves had three shots on target and they all went in, but I would not particularly blame Weaver as he was let down by his defence. Thatcher had a solid game at left back. Many fans favour McCarthy as Player of the Year on the grounds that he is the most improved player, but there was little sign of it yesterday. He was at fault for the second goal. Sodje was at fault for the third and decisive goal. I have been something of an advocate of Semedo but I thought he had a poor game. He is too inclined to foul when he gets caught out and I think yesterday was his eigth yellow card of the season. Holland looked as dejected yesterday at the end of the game as he did after the away game at Burnley. Once again he was committed, workmanlike and showed a few nice touches. But he is not going to get us out of the Championship. Ambrose did show some energy and pace, but his contribution is too up and down. Thomas was lively in the first half, but showed signs of fading. In the train going to the game I heard some Americans describe him as an 'exciting player'. I suppose that is one way of putting it. I thought that some of the flick ons by Iwelumo worked quite well, but he is too inclined to invite fouls or to foul himself. Lita got booked for his goal celebration, but it showed what it meant to him and it is an important psychological hurdle overcome. Unfortunately it has come too late in the season for us. I thought that when Zheng Zhi came on he contributed to the lifting of Charlton's game. If he decides he does not want to stay at a mid-table Championship club next season - and who could blame him - we shall miss him. Forgotten figure Cook looked quite lively but his contribution was mixed to say the least. Varney got an enthusiastic reception from the Addickted when he warmed up at half time, but he was not on the pitch long enough to make a difference.

Hiss of the Match This was awarded by Juneau the Soccer Cat to Wolves charm merchant Jody Craddock. It was interesting that the programme reminded us of how Kevin Muskrat ended the career of Matty Holmes.

Crowd rating The boo boys started half way through the second half. I can understand their frustration, but the crowd is turned very easily and I am not sure that it helps. However, the crowd got behind the team when they lifted their performance in the second half. 6/10

Saturday 29 March 2008

Where will I watch the play offs?

Martin Thompson (left) in action for Brakes against Colchester United

After their 2-1 defeat at bogey team Stourbridge on Easter Monday, Leamington have little realistic chance of overhauling Evesham United for the one automatic promotion place. Moreover, key player Josh Blake broke his jaw in the encounter with the Glassboys. Although he played on he had to go to hospital afterwards to have a metal plate inserted and will be out for the rest of the season. With other players missing (including two on holiday) Jason Cadden has recalled Martin Thompson (Clunesie) from the Bardsmen.

Nevertheless, Leamington are firmly anchored in second place with a good lead over the team in 7th (Chavtown). They should be in the play offs and they may well win through. In any event coming 2nd in your division in a promotion season would be a considerable achievement and is better than a relegated team ending up mid-table.

It is, of course, all still to play for, at least arithmetically. If they can beat Wolves today, Charlton will be still be in contention for 6th place. However, as I get the train out of Leamington this afternoon and look across the fields to the distant New Windmill Ground I will be bound to ask myself, is my long journey to London and back (it's quicker to get to Blackpool or Burnley) worth it? Or should I have stayed in Leamington to watch the Brakes take on the Villagers (Bishop's Cleeve)?

Charlton has tried to boost morale with an inspirational message from Jerome Thomas, but I can't overlook the fact that in our last four outings we have scored only two goals and both of those have come from defenders. I don't entirely blame the strikers the service from midfield is poor.

I saw Wolves play us at Molineux and they effectively demolished us. Will today's match put a rare smile on the face of Mick McCarthy? Away from home, Wolves tend to be draw specialists, drawing eight, winning five and losing only five. I fear another draw today which would mean little hope of a play off place.

In a bid to boost our chances, senior match analyst Hooch the Pooch has allocated lucky spaniel Monty Martin from Blewbury, Oxon to cover the match as match analyst. 'Monts' became even more excitable than usual when he heard the news.

Friday 28 March 2008

Wolves plan to out muscle Addicks

Wolves plan to out muscle Charlton in the clash at The Valley tomorrow, but their leading striker Sylvan Ebanks-Blake has indignantly denied claims that he is overweight, explaining that it is all part of the plan to out power the Addicks:

Meanwhile Addicks supremo Alan Pardew has insisted that his side is ready for take off and will get beyond the end of the runway this time. 'Magic' Bougherra played 45 minutes for Algeria during the week, while Cory Gibbs demonstrated his mobility by sitting on the bench for the United States.

'Old Mother Riley' was due to be referee the match, having apparently being demoted from the Premiership, so I was expecting a lot of fussy interventions and interruptions to the flow of the match. However, he has apparently been taken ill (stage fright?) and has been replaced by Keith Stroud. He comes from Gillingham (no, not one, the town in Dorset) and is on the list of Premiership referees.

Scott Sinclair joins Palace

After just three appearances as a substitute for Charlton, 19-year old Chelsea winger has opted to join Crystal Palace for the rest of the season. Leroy Lita will, however, remain at The Valley for the rest of the campaign as he searches for his first goal for the Addicks.

It is possible that Sinclair will find Selhurst Park a less challenging environment as the crowds there are smaller than at The Valley.

After the news was released, small groups of fans gathered at The Valley and Sparrows Lane wailing and rending their clothes. Fred Grumbler from Slade Green said, 'As soon as I heard the news I got on the train and came up to the ground. If Palace go up at the end of the season and we stay down, the board and Pardew will have some questions to answer.'

Pravda (the South London Press) is also reporting that Lee Cook is about to leave The Valley. The Fulham player was bigged up in the programme when he arrived, but has struggled to find his fitness.

Wednesday 26 March 2008

Zheng Zhi captains China in scoreless draw

After the match, why not visit the KFC in downtown Kunming?

Zheng Zhi captained China in their 0-0 draw at the Tuodon Stadium, Kunming today. China failed to convert a 89th minute penalty and the result is a good one for the Socceroos.

The near capacity crowd roared the national side on, but China were often timid and lacklustre: perhaps they have been watching Charlton DVDs.

Zheng Zhi's best effort came after 31 minutes with an excellent attempt that was saved by Schwarzer in the Australian goal.

Hopefully, this disappointing effort will not affect the developing links between Charlton and China where important annoucements are expected soon. From an Addicks performance, Zheng Zhi will be too knackered to play on Saturday against Wolves. However, I am sure he was too disciplined to pop into the local Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Zheng Zhi Fit for Socceroos Clash

Street scene in Kunming

Following training yesterday, Charlton's Zheng Zhi has been ruled fit for today's clash with the Soccerroos in China's south-western city of Kunming, according to normally reliable ruling circle sources.

However, the Chinese authorities are relieved that Shao Jiyai from the Bundesliga is available again to play against the Australians in the so-called 'Group of Death'. The Aussies are complaining that the 1,900 metre altitude of the city gives the home side an advantage.

The People's Daily commented: 'Shao's return should give a boost to China's thinly spread offense, which had to rely heavily on England Championship club Charlton midfielder Zheng Zhi in its first match.'

Sources in China are indicating some interesting developments in relations between Charlton and potential Chinese sponsors.

Tuesday 25 March 2008

Racon shines for Seagulls

Charlton loan player Therry Racon shone in Brighton's 0-0 draw away at Forest yesterday. He was a key part of the midfield diamond and the Seagulls may make a move for him at the end of the season:

Sunday 23 March 2008

Racon a hit at Brighton

Therry Racon seems to have been a hit with Seagulls fans after his part in the 2-1 win against Swindon.

The Argus says: 'Frenchman Therry Racon, signed on loan from Charlton for the rest of the season, impressed on his debut. Sound in his defensive duties, he was also accomplished in possession and his energy levels were excellent considering it was his first senior outing since Boxing Day.'

I know that managers must get annoyed with amateur comments from fans. We don't have the coaching badges, we don't have the experience and we don't see the players on the training ground.

I don't want tinkering with the team. But I would have thought that Racon did enough against Bristol City to be given another chance with us. I guess I just don't get it.

Zheng Zhi heads for Kunming

Once dubbed the 'wild man of China', Charlton's Zheng Zhi heads for Kunming in China's south-western province of Yunnan to play Australia on Wednesday. Kunming was the base of the Allied forces in the second world war and the 'Tiger' bar next to my guest house commemorated their role with many interesting photographs when I visited there.

I was sent to Kunming by the European Union as a last minute desperate measure when they need someone to speak for them at an environmental conference. A rather nervous EU minder turned up from Beijing and I was given a tough time in an interview by the local television station. They had done their homework and posed some tough questions about air pollution in London.

My hosts found out that I was interested in football and a fan of 'Charl-ton' and 'Mr Curbish-lee'. While I was there Chinese television did a very good feature on his working relationship with Keith Peacock. They took me to the training ground that will be used by Zheng Zhi before the game (see picture above). I also visited the 'superstore' (see picture below).

China has a very substantial ethnic minority population and they have a number of privileges, including being allowed to have more than one child. Party cadres also have that privilege and my minder in Beijing, Jenny from the 'Department of Party History', had two siblings. I did manage to escape in a taxi and go to an alley where I was able to negotiate a good price in dollars for some excellent wall hangings which I now have around my house. (Thanks to Derby County fan Shaun who set up the trip and gave me this tip).

Kunming has a very interesting ethnic minority 'theme park' displaying housing, customs and dances. While I was there the local Thai minority was celebrating its water throwing festival and I was lucky to avoid a soaking. One display featured some very tall people of a vaguely Afro-Caribbean appearance. I was told that they had been head hunters in the forest until the 1980s and from their sullen appearance they looked ready to start again any time. Suddenly it clicked. 'So these are the local Millwall?', I asked.

I was also driven a couple of hours from Kunming to the area inhabited by the Yi people. On my arrival I was offered a hors d'oeuvre of fried wasps which I had to decline. However, the shout soon went up of 'Lao Wai, Lao Wai' which loosely means 'elderly outside person' and I posed for a series of photographs with local people. Song is very important for this group and a rather halting rendition of 'Valley Floyd Road' went down well with people starting to hum the tune.

What the trip will do for Zheng Zhi's ability to play for us is another matter. Beijing is quite a way and Kunming is a long internal flight from there.

Saturday 22 March 2008

I love you ref!

This was the unusual cry from the Harbury Lane End today as Leamington beat Bedworth United 3-0 in pursuit of the BGB Midlands Division title. It probably wasn't because of the decisions taken by Miss Sian Massey, although those were of a high standard.

There was a biting wind and a snow shower before proceedings began. Before the start of the match Miss Massey somewhat oddly ran over to the Sheepside Stand and gave us some verbal, but as the loudspeakers were on we couldn't hear what she was saying. She then walked away with a shrug of the shoulders.

The oddness of the occasion was enhanced when a few minutes after the start of the match the Burger Side lino suddenly went haring down the tunnel. Proceedings were halted and he returned to derisive cheers with a new flag.

The next incident was when a Greenback was suddenly prone on the ground. Miss Massey did not hand out any cards, but called Bedworth manager Liam O'Neill out of his dugout and gave him a right talking to.

While the wind did not help, Brakes had difficulty finding their usual rhythm in the first half to the despair of most of the crowd of 611. Jamie Towers hit the bar and then the ball was cleared off the line. Bedworth's No.11 shirt, a charm merchant if there ever was one, was booked by Miss Massey to his disgust.

Half time: Brakes 0, Greenbacks 0

I positioned myself behind the goal for the second half and found myself sitting next to two French supporters. Playing down the slope and no longer against the wind, Brakes put their foot on the accelerator and Liam Reynolds slotted the ball in the net on 58 minutes. We then had a long delay while a fallen Bedworth player was stretchered off. Three bags of frozen chips were rushed to the dressing room to apply to his wound.

Ben Twigger [sic] was the third Greenback to have his name taken by Miss Massey. Andrew Kemp in the Bedworth goal was playing a blinder while Mozza surveyed events from afar.

On 78 minutes Josh Blake made it 2-0 provoking a chorus of 'Walking in a Windmill Wonderland'. Meanwhile word had filtered through that Evesham United were 2-1 behind. [I now learn that this was a false report and they beat Romulus 1-0] Former Reading ace Guy Sanders sealed the match by scoring to make it 3-0 on 87 minutes.

Midlands media moan at Baggies' bad luck

It's always interesting to see how the Midlands media handle matches between Charlton and a team from the 'Heart of England'. I remember that years ago when times were hard and beating Port Vale 2-0 away was a result (you could even buy the video), Central Television complained that 'Charlton were anything but athletic'.

Yesterday was apparently a hard luck story for the Baggies, denied by a win by a [far from] dubious offside decision and the bar getting in the way of Gera's shot. My view is that a draw was a fair result. West Brom are a better side than us, but we battled away (well, most of the team most of the time anyway) and, although it was far from perfect, we did attempt to play football.

At least Pards held his hands up in the programme and had the decency to admit that in his search for automatic promotion he 'muddled with the team and have now put our play-off position in jeopardy. I take full responsibility for that.' I think that many Charlton fans would have settled for a play off place, but now we may not get that. Thanks, Pards. However, I think that he deserves another go next season. The 'Pards out' crowd forget how much money it would cost to get rid of him and it is not clear that there are good replacements available (the notion that Allerdyce would come to Charlton seems like a fantasy to me and if anyone is long ball, he is).

When we came past Deptford Creek it seemed to be half full and half empty which confirmed my intuition that the game would be a draw. It was good that the team had shooting practice before the game as they have difficulty in finding the target, but it was indicative that Ambrose blasted over.

At the start of the game Thatcher defended well to avert early danger. Then Lita burst through. He should have scored, but was muscled off the ball. Thomas actually fought for the ball. The Addicks had a free kick but Deano saved. Semedo casually gave the ball away, provoking a spell of panic defending. But then a Baggies corner was defended well.

A Charlton free kick created the opportunity for Halford to head the ball in the net at the far post. As Joe the Saint commented, Pele is an ex-Saints defender so no wonder they were in a mess. Also, Deano did not anticipate well.

Thomas snatched at the ball and sent it well wide. Hard man Darren Ambrose committed a foul and gave the Baggies a free kick. The lively Thomas won Charlton a corner but it was unproductive. Lita won the Addicks a corner, but the Baggies broke from it and won a corner for themselves. It was taken short and when the ball was played back in, Sodje defended well with a forceful kick out of danger.

Hard man Ambrose fouled again and was given a long talking to by referee Mr Friend (who was studuiously neutral). On 41 minutes Phillips, who always has an eye for goal, seized an opportunity and the ball bounced in off the bar to make it 1-1. I thought that Weaver could have positioned himself better.

Gera committed a cynical foul against McCarthy, who was obviously a barrier to his ambitions and left him on the ground. Referee Friend let Charlton play on to win a corner and then awarded a yellow card against the Baggies charm merchant. From the corner, Sodje had a chance to score but blasted the ball over. However, he is a defender. In the two minutes added on, referee Friend awarded two more yellow cards, one to a Baggie and one to Semedo.

Half time: Addicks 1, Baggies 1

The referee actually picked up a foul throw which is unusual. There was good work from Holland. An effort from Lita went wide. Matt Holland won a Charlton corner. Gray turned provider for Thomas and his sizzling effort was just off target. Weaver spilled the ball and nearly landed us in trouble. Charlton won a corner through good work by Thatcher and Sodje's effort was just over. At the other end, Halford provided good defensive work.

The Baggies won a corner, but their attempt on goal went over. The Baggies put a dangerous ball across the face of the Charlton goal. It all went off in the Covered End. I wasn't quite sure what happened, but the stewards piled in. An error by the East Stand linesman on an offside decision enraged the crowd and a screwed up paper ball just missed him.

Semedo was taken off and replaced by Zheng Zhi. A run by Thomas won Charlton a corner. A Charlton free kick went over. Lita was replaced by Iwelumo, encouraging the long ball. The Baggies pulled off Miller and brought on danger man Bednar. The Charlton midfield started to disappear. The Baggies started to open us up as both sides searched for the winning goal, but I thought that it was more likely to go to the vistors.

Iwelumo was held in a wrestling hold. If that happened in ice hockey, it would mean a spell in the sin bin for the offender. Ambrose was at last pulled off and replaced by Cook but what that amounted was replacing our ineffective player by someone else's. The Baggies continued to press with two corners and in our desperation we played a Youga air ball. Then menace Gera hit the bar with a fierce shot from distance. In the four minutes of time added on we continued to try to press forward but Deano was up to anything we could throw at him.

Joe the Saint texted in to say that we still looked good to him. Well, it was better, but I doubt whether it will get us promoted.

Match analysis

Ivy the Terrible had some difficulty in picking the winner of the Silver Bone as she felt that no one player was really outstanding, She thought it might go to the Feesh on the big screen, but after phoning a friend in the form of senior match analyst Hooch the Pooch she decided to give it to Paddy McCarthy for a dogged and solid performance which shows devotion to the cause. I thought that Weaver was looking below his best, spilling the ball at one time and taking risks in coming way out of his area. In contrast Deano seems to have learnt to come off his line and, although he was at fault for our goal and his positioning was dubious on other occasions, he played with great confidence in the last quarter hour of the second half. Sodje was solid in defence but missed at least one golden chance to score. It's ironic, of course, that we rely on our defenders (McCarthy, Halford) to get the ball in the net. I thought that Thatcher was very competent. He doesn't get forward as much as Youga, but at least he does the required job in the defence. Halford is a favourite target for moaners. The row behind were shouting that he was useless and should be taken off when he scored a well taken goal. Quite frankly my mum knew more about football than the lot in the row behind me (although admittedly her speciality was shouting abuse at the ref). I also thought that Halford showed some nice touches in the game, once brilliantly playing the ball across the pitch and evading opposition defenders to shouts of 'you don't know what you're doing' from behind me. I don't know what to make of Semedo. He had to be taken off both because he picked up a knock and was in danger of being sent off. Up to then he had had a bit of a mare, but the performance of our midfield deteriorated sharply after he went off. Thomas remains an enigma. With the cameras on, he put himself about more and showed the real skill that he does have. But he tends to fade out of the game and this became more pronounced as the game went on and the midfield seemed to have been swallowed up in some chalk cavern left over from the history of The Valley. Holland cannot be faulted for commitment, but sometimes the quality is not there. Ambrose was a waste of a place in the team, shame that Racon was sent to Brighton. Ambrose has talent, but he is hopelessly lightweight. Gray showed a few nice touches, but was not really influencing the match. I would give Lita credit for really playing his heart out. For example, he would storm over to try and prevent the Baggies building up an attack. We looked worse after he went off. Zhi is probably looking forward to his visit to Kunming - my favourite Chinese city - but he added nothing when he came on and looked completely knackered. I have to attribute my comment on Cook to equine magnate John Window: 'Bryan Hughes with gloves on and not half as good.' I am afraid that the arrival of Iwelumo confirmed the view of those who think that he is Leaburn without the skill.

Hiss of the Match

Juneau the Soccer Cat gave the Hiss of the Match to the inept East Stand linesman (in contrast, the West Stand lino was exemplary). She also thought that the referee was good on the whole, picking up on a foul throw and not being afraid to use his cards. Inept linos have been a real problem this season. The ProZone analysis from the Ipswich game showed that all three of the disallowed goals were onside (certainly Sky Sports thought the first one was at the time). How differently would we be feeling (and placed) if we had won that match? I know that it's supposed to even out over the season, but I am not sure that it does. If I was a conspiracy theorist, I would believe that the officials had been told 'we don't want Charlton to go up this season, make sure that every marginal decision goes against them.' In reality, I think that some of them are just inept.

Crowd rating The Addickted did their best to get behind the team after recent disappointments. There were fewer Baggies than I expected, although they were giving it large at London Bridge later with the incest song. 7/10.

Friday 21 March 2008

Let's play football

There has been plenty of experimentation at The Valley this season, but this afternoon let's stop playing like we are a park team and actually try to play football. The team are capable of it as they have shown in some matches.

Here are some simple rules:
1. Keep the ball on the ground as much as possible (especially in today's blustery conditions where the wind could play as big a part as at Blackpool - indeed I cannot remember a period when wind has been such a factor in matches, but then that's climate change).
2. Only hoof the ball out of defence or into the stands when it is unavoidable as an emergency measure (there are times when it is the right thing to do to avoid danger, but it shouldn't happen that often).
3. Try not to give away unnecessary corners, but defend them properly when they do occur as this is when we seem to be vulnerable. Don't crowd the box with players who get in each other's way but leave an outlet up the pitch so we don't see the ball coming back in again straight away.
4. When we do win a corner try and make it a decent one (don't get Ambrose to take them all the time). No short corners which rarely work. Don't overhit the ball so it becomes a throw in to the other team. Equally, don't put it so close to the keeper that he can easily catch it. A nice curving ball into the box which the keeper has to come for and perhaps misses.
5. Try and keep possession, but above all don't pass the ball to an opposition player. Charlton players are in RED. Don't panic on the ball, think before you hoof it.
6. When we get a break, try and power up the pitch before the opposition defence can regroup.
7. Try and anticipate the game and get yourself into position rather than standing around ball watching.
8. Don't give away unnecessary fouls, marginal decisions will go against you.

I'm sure there are other things, but if we could achieve those, it would be a great improvement.

I think that our biggest problem this season has been the 'Tinkerman' strategy followed by Pards. Of course, one has to change formations for different matches and that involves some changes in players. Injuries also have an effect and the early loss of Todorov was a blow. Nevertheless, by now we should have settled on a core to the team.

One of the problems is that the team are simply not used to playing with each other and hence cannot gell. It would be interesting if a statto could work out how many pairs of players have played with each other (excluding Weaver). For example, how many times have both Moutaoukil and Varney started? Varney, of course, is injured for today and Bougherra is still out (another loss).

And another thing. Why has Racon only played the whole of one game (the away victory against Bristol City) plus a cameo at Palace? I didn't see him on either occasion, but I am now told that he looked all right. Now he has been packed off to Brighton to develop him, although he is 24 years old. I know that managers see the players on the training ground all week and hence know things that we don't, but why couldn't he have been given more chances at Charlton?

I could accept not making the play offs if we could see that we were building a platform for next season, blending some exciting younger players (and we do have them) with experience. But on the form table we are now a relegation side. Of course, we could win today, and I hope (but doubt) that we will. Even if we did, I would not think that it was sorted.

Enjoy the game.

PS: Keri has just featured the game on Radio Scilly (see links) and announced that I am a Baggie! This is not a good omen.

Keri has also announced that the weekly match between Woolpack Wanderers and league leaders Garrison Gunners which had been re-scheduled for Saturday is now going to be played at the Garrison Field stadium on Sunday after all. And we thought we had fixture problems!

Thursday 20 March 2008

Thinking about the Baggies

Whilst I cannot yet contemplate tomorrow's match, I do feel able to think about the Baggies as a club and a team. When I first went to The Valley in the early 1950s WBA (as they were usually referred to then) were regarded as one of the top teams in the country along with their Black Country rivals W****s. A visit from either team often meant a defeat.

However, I note that on 6th February 1954, a match that I might have missed because the weather was 'foggy and very cold' we drew 1-1 against the league leaders West Brom despite being effectively down to nine men. Kiernan had to go off to have a damaged knee treated before returning as left back, whilst the somewhat injury prone Ufton had to play with two damaged ankles. And all for the maximum wage!

That year the Baggies finished 2nd in the table behind, yes, W****s. The following year they finished towards the bottom, but we lost 1-3 at home to them and it is that match that shaped my early impressions of them.

In more recent times a friend and colleague was a Baggies season ticket holder. Sadly, he died several years ago and his heavy smoking undoubtedly had something to do with his premature death. He is also one of those people whose posthumous reputation exceeds the one he enjoyed in his lifetime. I have seen younger people describe themselves in print as 'neo-Bulpittians', his best known book has just been reprinted in a 'world classics' series and in early September I will be chairing a commemorative meeting on his work in the intellectual capital of the United States, Boston Ma.

My friend was very much a West Londoner, but when he came to the Midlands he moved to Solihull which is the most up market part of the Birmingham conurbation. His nearest club was Birmingham City, but no one would choose them unless they were up for a ruck. He also ignored Villa and chose to go across the conurbation to support the Baggies.

I have long lost my London accent. Indeed, one friend (who went to the same convent school as Marianne Faithful) insists that I never had a London accent and that my support for Charlton is some kind of retro invention. She thinks Charlton is resolutely down market and once had supporters of other clubs in stitches in the bar of an up market hotel in St.Andrew's with the notion of a group of Charlton supporters going in a reverse Rickshaw to a Kent restaurant.

My Baggie supporting friend kept his London accent (indeed, I think that he exaggerated it). One hot August day he gave me a lift to The Hawthorns to see the opening match of the season. The legendary Stacey Caldicote was in the Baggies line up and Charlton lost 1-0.

The Black Country accent is very distinctive, even in relation to that of Birmingham. My friend had a season ticket and after the match he said, 'The bleeding geezer wot sits next to me finks I know everythink about this club. He must fink I have lived in this manor all my natural.' This seemed somewhat unlikely.

Baggie supporters are very fanatical. In a sense they are bit like Portsmouth fans. Both come from areas that have relatively stable populations, where people live quite close to where they work. The Black Country still has quite a bit of manufacturing left and it is not unknown for people to live a few hundred yards from the factory they have worked in most of their lives.

They can be a bit unpleasant at times. When we beat them 2-1 at The Hawthorns a few years back there were a few nasty comments afterwards. This was at a time when we were playing as well as we have in recent years (before Danny Murphy got the sulks) and we could sing without too much irony 'It's just like watching Brazil.'

It seems to me that the Baggies are perhaps the only genuine footballing side in the division (Bristol City are also candidates) and also the only one that could go up and stay up. By this time I expected them to have a solid lead at the top of the table. Instead, we have 'lump the ball up the pitch and clog the opposition' Stoke City with their very unpleasant fans. However, the Baggies have been distracted by the 'magic of the cup' and have some games in hand.

I think that the Baggies and Bristol City deserve the automatic promotion places. However, I still want to beat West Brom tomorrow. Whether we can do it is another matter. My hunch is that it will be a draw.

The perils of blogging

I received two contrasting messages yesterday. One was notice of an intended action for defamation. I should hasten to add that this was not football related and did not relate to one of my blogs or even something I had written, but to a blog which sometimes syndicates my material with my permission.

I have always been aware that electronic publication is subject to the laws of defamation (although I am not sure that all bloggers are). I try to word things carefully, but blogging is a very spontaneous medium and sometimes one is repeating material derived from other sources.

In contrast I received a message from the chairman of Burnley Football Club. He is delighted with what I have written about the club and wants permission to use it for PR purposes! I am quite well diposed to Burnley as I think that they are an authentic club that are well run and punching well above their weight.

Wednesday 19 March 2008

Am I bothered?

I'm now back from Essex and the Sainsbury's basement bunker in High Holborn, but cannot summon the energy or enthusiasm at the moment to reflect on Charlton's match against the Baggies. This feeling has been reinforced by a timely reminder that blogs are subject to the law of defamation.

That of itself is a disincentive to blog, but I may find myself subject to new constraints soon anyway. The possibility of adopting a new role in life has been on the back burner for some time, but now appears to be undergoing a revival. After all these years, it's just possible I may find myself working in London again.

When I was travelling down to Essex, two chavettes got on the train at Basildon. This was about mid-morning, but it soon became evident from their loud conversation that they had been at an all night party. Most of it is not repeatable on a family blog, but I was interested to learn that some Essex boys insist on wearing their trainers in bed.

After a while, one of them said (in an appropriate Estuary accent), 'Some people say I talk posh. Do I talk posh? Do you think I'm posh?' I suppose she was posh in the sense that when Kate Nash affects an Estuary accent for her songs (as distinct from the classless accent she has in interviews), the result might still be considered 'posh'. Thus, Nash renders 'bitter' as 'bittah' just as these young women rendered 'daughter' (when discussing what to tell their mothers) as 'daughtah'.

What has this got to do with football? Absolutely nothing. But it avoids me having to think about Friday, particularly given that Good Friday somehow always seems to be an unlucky day for me. A devout Christian might say that that is a consequence of my lack of observance. However, in the Midlands, Good Friday (which is not a bank holiday) is a normal working day, certainly in the kinds of manufacturing activities that are found in the Black Country.

No doubt, however, the Baggies will turn out in force to reinvigorate their promotion campaign and make use of the acoustics of the Jimmy Seed to collect their three points. Perhaps by tomorrow I will have found some grounds for optimism.

Laugh of the day

At the age of 25, Jermaine 'Judas' Defoe still doesn't know how much he earns as he hands his pay cheque over to his formidable mum (she of the free house fame). She also vets his girl friends.

Mind you, I suppose he had the last laugh when he played against us at The Valley.

Sunday 16 March 2008

A break from football

I must say that I am not enjoying my football very much at the moment and it's nice to have a break from blogging even if it is for work. Tomorrow I shall be spending the night in Westcliffe on Sea (!) after a conference there; Tuesday sees me at a workshop at Sainsbury's in High Holborn; and then back for a workshop here on Wednesday.

Hopefully by Wednesday I will be feeling a little more positive. At the moment I really can't see - or know - the way forward for the club.

Gallows humour

Apparently a journo on one of the tabloids has suggested that if Alan Curbishley is sacked at West Ham, he might return to The Valley. Perhaps Pards would then return to Upton Park?

Some simple considerations:
1. Curbs is not going to be sacked
2. Pards is not going to be sacked
3. If both of them were sacked, we should move forward not go back

I was Alan Curbishley's sponsor for many years and I came to know him reasonably well and develop a respect for him. He is the only football manager to have a book on the Common Agricultural Policy dedicated to him. I also made sure that he had a supply of champagne to celebrate victories.

But by the time he left us he was getting stale at Charlton and perhaps should have left earlier. The board didn't have a Plan B well in place and appointed relegation specialist Ian Dowie. Many Sky Blues I know are deeply upset about the state Dowie and his brother left the club in. This was followed by the Les Reed fiasco, which must be one of the low points in the club's recent history.

Charlton fans, particularly the longer serving ones, are a loyal and patient lot. They are not Spurs fans with excessive expectations. But there is a limit to what even they take, particularly when expectations have been raised by the club.

Not so long ago people were complaining about mid-table Premiership mediocrity. Let's hope that it's not going to be mid-table Championship mediocrity: welcome to the new Burnley. Or a struggle against relegation next season.

I am trying to keep the faith, but I have also sent off for Ice Hockey for Dummies.

Saturday 15 March 2008

Charlton slump to 9th

Charlton's occupancy of the 5th slot in the Championship came to a dramatic end today after the Addicks were beaten 2-0 by Ipswich at Portman Road. If Burnley had not lost at home to Wolves, Charlton would have been 10th.

The Tractors themselves overtook Charlton. Hull beat Southampton 5-0 despite despairing chants of 'come on you fog' from Saints supporters. Palace beat Barnsley 2-0 to overtake Charlton while Plymouth won at Bristol City for the first time in 77 years. Elsewhere, the Baggies went down 1-4 at home to Leicester City while new leaders Stoke drew 0-0 at Vicarage Road. In the Forest of Dean, Leamington achieved a comvincing 3-1 win over Cinderford Town, Marcus Jackson scoring twice.

Charlton lined up 4-5-1 with Lita up front and Halford retained at right back. The Tractors signalled their intent with two early chances. In the opening minute, Weaver fumbled the ball and lost it after receiving it from Semedo, but fortunately Ipswich shot over. Weaver redeemed himself later with a good save before the first quarter hour was out.

Then the keeper made another error to let Ipswich go ahead on 20 minutes. Garvan put in what was intended to be a cross, Weaver missed it and such was the force of the cross that it went in off the post.

Charlton were unlucky when a good run by Ambrose set up Zheng Zhi who put the ball in the back of the net, but the linesman had already raised his flag in a somewhat questionable decision.

Semedo was booked on 26 minutes and McCarthy (unsporting behaviour) on 32.

From the Forest of Dean, the half time score is Cinderford Town 1, Leamington 1 (Mackey 29).

Half time: Tractors 1, Addicks 0

Charlton started the second half brightly, but then the news filtered through that Palace had gone ahead 1-0 against Barnsley. On 53 minutes Haynes made it 2-0 for Ipswich, putting Palace ahead of Charlton in the table.

Semedo was taken off in favour of Iwelumo on 59 minutes, making use of the three strikers on the bench, but he made little initial impact. Varney and Gray were brought on at 82 minutes in a last despairing throw but to no avail.

The stats look better for Charlton than the result: 13 shots to Ipswich's 10 (but many wayward); 6 shots on target to 5 (but too often at the keeper); and 7 corners each.

A club spokesperson denied that the defeat was a setback: 'Relegation is not an option. We are confident that we will be offering Championship football at The Valley again next season. Indeed, I understand that the board will soon be giving Alan Pardew a vote of confidence.'

Friday 14 March 2008

It's being so cheerful as keeps me going

This was the catchphrase of Mrs Mopp in the popular wartime radio show ITMA and it is a slogan that Charlton fans might bear in mind. I have always thought that the Australian caricature of 'whingeing Poms' had an element of truth in it and more recently an American author has suggest that the British wallow in being miserable:

There are certainly some football fans who are never happier than when they are slagging off their team. I am reminded of the Bloke Behind Me who stormed out when we went 2-0 ahead against Stockport. 'You might miss some more goals,' someone shouted (he did). 'That's what I'm afraid of,' he replied. (This is an entirely true story).

At Burnley on Tuesday night when I thought we put up a decent fighting performance and were unlucky not to get a point, two elderly blokes behind me - who from the power of their voices must have sold fruit and veg in Woolwich Market at one time - started shouting 'You overpaid [deleteds]' at the departing team. According to another blog, Sodje gave as good as he got to some moaning fans. Good for him.

Just because we were in the Premiership last year doesn't mean we have a divine right to bounce back. I know that the performance against Preston was poor, although again there is a bit of glass half empty: they are on a run and beat Wolves on Tuesday. I know we haven't had a run all season, but suppose we started one now?

Automatic promotion is finally off the agenda, as I thought it was for some time. But once you get in the play offs all you have to do is win one pair of matches on aggregate and one other match. It doesn't matter how badly you played against Colchester United or Queen's Park Rangers during the season.

Having said all that, I'm not actually going to Ipswich tomorrow. It's partly logistical. I was parked up in Burnley two hours after leaving work (it took a bit longer on the way back because of the wind). This is less time than it takes to get to The Valley, never mind the hassle of trying to get on a train at London Bridge or catch a bus at North Greenwich on a Tuesday evening.

Ipswich is actually quite an awkward cross-country journey. I keep hoping that we can commandeer one of the 'Racing to Get You There' minibuses owned by Racing Club Warwick that I sometimes see trundling through affluent Warwickshire villages empty as they engage in a vain search for the socially excluded in need of transport. We could then have a Warwickshire Rickshaw.

My memories of Portman Road are very mixed. I did see us beat Ipswich 5-1 with Leaburn scoring a hat trick, but I was chased across the car park afterwards by an indignant combine harvester mechanic. Super Kevin Lisbie went on a brilliant run after coming on as a substitute to snatch a 1-0 win. But then we lost 2-0 on a wet afternoon, only distinguished by Karim Bagheri making his one appearance in a Charlton shirt and actually making contact with the ball. (Moral: don't let the Foreign Office influence who is in the squad).

I think that Lita is going to score for us tomorrow. He should be partnered with Varney. If Bougherra is still out, I would go for Sodje and McCarthy again in central defence, Thatcher on the left, Moutaoukil on the right if available. Ambrose should be just behind the front two so he could score against his old club again and local lad Matt Holland should also feature. I would probably go with Thomas because he can penetrate defences and hope for a decent cross. I'm not sure about the fourth midfield player, as I would like to include Zhi, but don't want Ambrose on the wing which is not his position.

Fans argue that they are entitled to boo the players if they under perform. The problem is that this is a team sadly lacking in confidence. I can understand booing at half and full time but not during the game.

I am going for a 2-1 win for Charlton (Lita, Holland) to consolidate their favoured 5th place. Enjoy the game!

Thursday 13 March 2008

Train thugs who attacked Addicks jailed

The courts have taken a tough line with so-called Palace supporters who attacked Charlton fans on a train, imposing long jail sentences:

Sinclair still an Addick

Reports of Scott Sinclair's return to Chelsea appear to be false. The News Shopper is not the South London Press, more Isvetzia [sp?] rather than Pravda, but this reports appears to be authentic:

News and the blogosphere

The Communications Dept. at Charlton is in an almost impossible position. They cannot release any news until every i is topped and every t is crossed. Hence, we often read about transfers first on, for example, Sky Sports News.

An internet rumour is circulating that Scott Sinclair has returned to Chelsea. This is not entirely surprising given one of the many leaks at the recent EGM. Indeed, another Charlton site has already specified the reason which relates to the fact that the youngster found certain aspects of the Valley experience challenging.

Football clubs are often reluctant to release news because it may give rivals a commercial or playing advantage. However, like any other club, Charlton is quite leaky. In the past I have received information from employees (not current ones) and I sometimes wondered if this was a form of 'kite flying' to test fan reaction, just in the way that government departments leak possible policy plans. There are also at least two people on the Addicks list who appear to receive inside information from Sparrows Lane.

In an ideal world, there would be more transparency. If I had understood how bad the club's financial position last summer when they axed the women's team, I would not have cancelled my player sponsorship.

I sometimes think that the club finds it difficult to know what to do about the expanding blogosphere around The Valley. To his credit, Peter Varney organised a bloggers' meeting, although I was unable to go because I was abroad. But what would I do if I was in his shoes? Would I ignore the blogs altogether? Or attempt to engage with them?

I don't know the answer and I won't have to answer the question as the club is not going to advertise the post of chief executive and I won't be able to do a New York Addick and put in an application. It would certainly be more interesting than working on bovine diahorrea which is what I have been doing this morning.

Morale low at Ipswich

If Charlton fans are fed up, then so are supporters of the Tractors. A section of the away support jeered them at the end of the 4-1 defeat by rampant Barnsley. Manager Jim Magilton is angry, whilst the chairman is trying to reassure fans that their season is not over: Tractors

This could work two ways for us. It could motivate them to come out and thump us. Or it could give the Addicks the chance they need to re-start their promotion campaign. For all the negativity around The Valley, Charlton are still 5th after Hull lost at Cardiff (leading to the Taffs moving six places up the table) while West Brom could only draw at home to Palace whom we have beaten twice this season.

I know we are not playing good football. But no else is (with the possible exception of Bristol City). It's a mediocre division and that's why we need to get out of it. If we don't, there is a risk that many fans will vote with their feet and we will be in even deeper trouble.

Wednesday 12 March 2008

Expect more cold, wet Tuesday nights in Burnley

Matt Holland's dejected face and body language said it all as he tramped off the pitch at Turf Moor last night while a few of the Addickted tried to raise his spirits with applause. Charlton can be expecting to play on a cold, wet windy night in Burnley next year after their 1-0 defeat there. As my Burnley supporting friend put it, neither team could or should go up. Pardoxically, they still remain 5th in the table.

Without The Valley crowd on their backs, it wasn't as bad a performance as against Preston on Saturday. Charlton struggled valiantly for an equaliser after they went down to a superb Burnley strike. But a number of players were unable to take changes. As my friend commented, Charlton are no longer a footballing side but zwang the ball around the pitch.

We were in Burnley a little over 2 hours after leaving Coventry. As we drove down the hill, we could see the whole town laid out before us. We went to the pub for some steak and ale pie and mushy peas and received the casual friendly welcome that one would not find in the south.

It is interesting to reflect on the phenomenon of Burnley Football Club. By many criteria Burnley is one of the poorest towns in England. It is also has a large population of Kashmiri extraction who do not generally go to Turf Moor. The population of Burnley is around 60,000: all right there are other places nearby like Bacup, Colne and Rawtenstall, but they not major urban centres.

Leamington has a similar population: it supports a Step 4 non-league club which on a good day can get around a thousand supporters, i.e., one person in sixty, but probably one in a hundred if you count those who come from outside the town. Estimates suggest that about half of the average home support of 12,000 at Turf Moor comes from the town itself. Even taking no account of the ethnic population, and counting the old and infirm and the very young, this means that 1 person in 10 turns out for a home match. This is a club that is punching well beyond its economic weight.

Although I took quite extensive notes last night, I have been too busy to write them up today so I will simply give my overall impressions. The first half was largely uneventful. It wasn't altogether pleasant as I had an excellent view of Palace reject Kiraly's rather ample backside, given that he was motionless much of the time. However, he does have some consideration for the public as he wears tracksuit bottoms.

The team were clearly under instructions not to concede an early goal which seemed like good sense to me. It frustrated the home crowd and my friend in the Bob Lord Stand reported that local moaners were in full flow by half time. Thomas created a couple of chances and on one occasion he put in an angled shot but it went over the bar. One other occasion Lita failed to connect with a promising cross.

I thought the match might be heading for 0-0 when Burnley scored with an excellent goal from outside the box. It was a strike of a quality we have not seen at The Valley for some time.

There was no lack of effort by Charlton to get back into the game and the home support became increasingly nervous. We created a number of opportunities, but just couldn't find the back of the net. Sodje, Lita and Ambrose all failed to put the ball away.

We also increasingly resorted to fouls, perhaps out of over enthusiasm. We were also caught on a number of occasions by the offside trap. The Burnley programme speculated that both teams might be in the play off finals, but that would be quite an odd outcome on their performances here. But then most of the other teams in the division are not much good either. This is a league in which Stoke are top by virtue of grinding out results.

Match analysis

Senior match analyst Hooch the Pooch was grumbling constantly about the effect of the weather on his joints, but managed to find time to award the Silver Bone to Chris Powell. No, he wasn't playing just to my right was a little boxed enclosure with all the squad players who were not on the bench (one of whom was somewhat worryingly wearing specs to watch the match, I thought that was reserved for referees). Chris took the time to come over and chat with the Addickted, sign programmes and pose for photos with fans. A great guy. Weaver was furious with himself for the goal, but it was a strike that no one could have stopped and he made some good saves. Sodje was on form in defence, but missed a chance to score.
I was concerned with McCarthy injured himself stretching for the ball, but he recovered and it was another solid importance. The equally solid
Thatcher was a great improvement on Youga's antics on the left. Halford has come in for a lot of stick but I thought he was ok.
Semedo was a bit disappointing and was often outwitted by the Burnley players, eventually picking up a deserved yellow card for a desperate foul.
Holland battled away as always and was gutted at the outcome.
Ambrose was again a disappointment, although I thought his corners were better than on Saturday. Thomas was perhaps the best player at prising open the Burnley defence but, as always, the end product disappointed.
Gray picked up predictable stick from the home support. I wish, instead of telling the small number of people at the EGM, the club would come clean on what is going on. I suppose it is the player's own wish as he does not want to invite sympathy. He was poor. Lita was seen by my Burnley supporting friend last year when he said that he was much sharper. He looks rusty and arrives a few seconds too late at chances. Zhi was rightly started on the bench, but when he came on he looked refreshed and made a difference.
Varney lacks that final polish that would make him a good player.
Iwelumo was predictably fouled and was not able to turn things round.

Hiss of the Match

This was given by Juneau the Soccer Cat to the weather. Yet another match where the quality of the play was affected by strong winds, plus hailstorms walking to the ground and during the match. As a consequence, the pitch was in waterlogged condition. Incidentally, if anyone wants to blame the referee, he was fussy and self-important, but in no way biased and gave us a good four minutes added on at the end.

Crowd rating: 9/10. I think the three hundred or so Addicks who turned up deserve this for making the long journey from Selkent. They also kept up a good range of chants, of which the most amusing were 'We've got more fish than you' and 'We want our fish back.' I think that a model fish was being tossed around at the back of the crowd.

Tuesday 11 March 2008

The trek north

I am one of just over 200 fans who have bought tickets for tonight's match at Burnley. I expect some more to turn up on the gate, particularly those who live up north, but if we get 300 we will be lucky. Cue chants of 'Is this all you bring away?' Leamington will probably have more at Cinderford on Saturday.

I had to come in on the bus this morning which took me one hour from door to door rather than 15 minutes by car. M6 notwithstanding, it will be a mad dash to get to Turf Moor by kick off. I have a heavy working day tomorrow so don't expect an early report. What we do for our Addicktion!

A Tuesday night away fixture that far north is never going to be that attractive to those living in S.E.London and Kent, although I know that some faithful supporters from the West Sussex branch are coming. After Saturday's shocking performance, there is little encouragement to come. If we play like that we will lose 4-1 which is the sort of margin we used to beat the Clarets by at The Valley with the Bloke Behind Me screaming 'they're all over you Charlton.'

A lot of things about football fans puzzle me, but the reading off results from the table, form etc. is one of them. Having played badly on Saturday, the team have all the more incentive to play well tonight. If we lose, our chances of a play off place are looking grim. But we can play much better than we did on Saturday.

I was hoping Andy Gray would start against his old team, but now I know the 'personal reasons' all I can say is that there are many things that are more important than football. Similarly, I understand that Greg Halford suffered a bereavement last week and should have been given compassionate leave on Saturday. Why did not Pards not start Moutaoukil?

I understand that Cook is far from fit which makes him an appropriate recruit for Charlton, although I do not think we have lost out financially. Sinclair is reported to be suffering from a rather unusual problem according to Sparrows Lane sources and should not be played for the time being.

I would therefore play 4-5-1 with Lita up front. He might have done a lot better on Saturday if he had had some decent service. I would rest the knackered Zhi and put Ambrose just behind him which is where he plays best. I would bring Semedo in to use his cultured skills to protect the defence while Holland would start as well. Sam's injury on Saturday looked quite nasty so guess that we should play Varney as a winger.

Bougherra's injury seems unduly persistent, but I would not bring in Fortune as someome recommended. I would stick with Sodje (who can score) and, of course, McCarthy who is now a candidate for player of the year (who would have thought that early in the season?) Moutaoukil on the right and Thatcher on the left if fit. If he isn't, I would seriously consider starting with Powell, so bad was Youga on Saturday. I'm glad I'm not the manager.

I really have no idea of the score, but the Sub-Standard is said to be predicting, 'ADDICKS BRACED BY NORTH' and I am going for a 2-1 win for Charlton.

Monday 10 March 2008

Burnley prepares for 'massive game'

It's grim oop north and the former mill town of Burnley has the worst urban devastation I have ever seen outside of the United States. But the relatively small Lancashire town has made its impact on the football map, winning the league championship which is something we have never done. At one time Burnley was seen as the club that had royal patronage, but was before the present generation of Gooners and Villains.

Anyway, they're all talking in the old mills turned factory outlets about tomorrow's 'massive game' with the southern softies:

'We are Burnley, super Burnley from the north. Everyone hates us. We don't care.'

Curbs versus Pards

There is a slightly odd feature each week in tbe programme which compares Charlton players with the intention of finding the all time best Addick. Last Saturday Mark Kinsella knocked out Sam Bartram which is not surprising when you consider that one of the criteria is Google hits. Of course, it's not meant to be taken seriously.

But the position of Alan Curbishley at West Ham is serious. After three successive 4-0 defeats, which he never faced at Charlton, he faces not just the vote of confidence, but the sack: Curbs .

'It's just like watching Charlton', chant the Hampsters. But what do Curbs do for us? He won the Championship twice and established us a mid-table Premiership club, but he is not too popular at The Valley these days. In large part this was because of the defensive, cautious style of football he favoured which kept us up, but was often not that entertaining to watch.

So what about Pards? It seems to me an overreaction to a very poor performance on Saturday to talk about sacking him. We don't want another Dowie/Reed scenario. The most likely replacement in the event of a sudden departure would be Phil Parkinson. He's a decent enough manager, but I think that he would probably establish us as a mid table Championship club.

The performance on Saturday was the worst I have seen for a long time, but we need to keep a sense of proportion. We are still 5th in the table and that reflects the fact that a lot of other teams in this division lack consistentl quality, but occasionally can pull it off as recent cup results testify. As a celebrating Stoke fan noted on 606 last night, the Baggies now have a cup run on their hands and it may scupper their promotion hopes.

Some fans are saying they don't want us in the play offs at all. This seems perverse, because the money would be useful if nothing else. We also have an ability to rise to the big occasion. Of course, if we won, we would probably be relegated from the Premiership. But then we would have a year of Premiership money and two more years of parachute money rather than a nervous last year on the money we have become used to.

I go to Burnley tomorrow with optimism because I know we can play better than we did on Saturday, particularly if we make a few much needed team changes, in particular at left and right back, while also giving Zhi a much needed rest.

Sunday 9 March 2008

Back to Winning Ways

I saw Coventry Blaze beat Belfast Giants 4-2 at the Coventry Arena tonight to be presented after the game with the Elite Hockey League title. Over the last three years the title has been won either by the Blaze or the Giants. Winning the championship was a great consolation for Sky Blue refugees from the Dowie regime at the Ricoh and it also ended a poor sporting weekend on a positive note.

Ironically it was the first ever [ice] hockey game I have seen live. In a way it was like being transported to North America with the Canadian flag prominently displayed and adverts from Canadian airlines. The rhythmic and coordinated charts were reminiscent of baseball.

It was a great advantage for the pitch announcer to glide about on the ice and spotlight individual blocks for an applause competition. It also greatly aided the mobility of the referee and the linos and it was an odd sight to see them gliding around. I also liked their striped uniforms, similar to those won by prisoners in old movies. Before face off we were reminded that we were still in the UK when we asked to stand for God Save the Queen. I think the last time I did that was at Buck House.

Giants had the edge in the first period with 16 shots on goal to 9 for Blaze and it was no surprise when they went 1-0 ahead. The second period was fast and furious with Blaze scoring three goals to one for the Giants. Their passing looked increasingly fluent and thet were helped when Giants had two players off in the sin bin. I would prefer this system in football and it was also helpful to be told what the offence was: holding; high sticks; slashing; or, most oddly, displacing the goal. Giants keeper Lyle hit the post with his stick in frustration when Blaze went ahead and he was at fault for the third when he was caught out of his goal.

After going 4-2 ahead in the third period, Blaze started to play more defensively, but the excitement mounted as the seconds ticked down with chants of 'Championes'. We were able to see the medals being presented to the players, but it was rather odd joining a sell out crowd for their decisive match after a long season. Will I be back? Yes. It won't displace football, but it's an exciting game to watch.

Saturday 8 March 2008

Hit and Hope Football Brings Defeat

Alan Pardew was at least prescient in one thing when he prepared for today's match. As he wrote in trhe programme, 'a win against us this afternoon would be another vital step in [Preston's] survival bid.' Charlton handed them the three points gift wrapped. Yet the Addicks remain in 5th position,

The performance replicated Pardew's account of the game against Bristol City: 'we just couldn't string three passes together. We really had an off night in terms of retaining possession and building on it ... we just made some naive passes that kept costing possession, something that is unlike us.' Well it was very much like us again today. There was too much reliance on the hit and hope long ball and the hoofed clearance - and it can't be blamed on Iwelumo as he wasn't on the pitch until near the end.

The team had four loan players which says something about our squad. Until we get a reasonably settled team, we aren't going to get anywhere. Pardew has to get a grip and I am hoping to see a changed performance when I go to Turf Moor on Tuesday night. I am pleased to hear that Pards is having the team in on Sunday.

Preston faced the unusual situation of a player being injured in the warm up, Chilvers having to be carried off the field. This seemed to have no adverse effect on them and they signalled their intent with an early corner. Then Zhi won Charlton a corner. It was played out, but a shot came in that was deflected just wide, leading to a second Charlton corner that was caught by the keeper.

A Charlton corner was overhit and went out of play, although the strong wind played a part. A Preston corner was followed by one of Youga's famous air balls leading to a North End throw in and then another corner for the visitors. Weaver pushed the ball out, Ambrose part cleared, but Preston won a throw in. Fortunately, the end product was nothing more than a Charlton goal kick.

Halford put in a good long ball (there are ones) to Varney but the resultant Charlton corner was caught by the keeper. A mistake by Youga let Priskin through on goal in a one on one with Weaver, but the keeper stood his ground and the shot went wide.

Matt Holland put in a shot from distance that drew a save (thus invalidating the claim by the Bloke Behind Me who was wallowing in his negativity that the Preston keeper did not have to make a save all half). Preston won another corner. Zhi did well to advance, but his effort was saved. Sam went down (he appeared to be in some trouble during the warm up) and went off to be replaced by Sinclair.

For a moment it looked if Brown was offside, but Sodje was down on the ground and played him onside and Brown made no mistake in putting the visitors ahead. What immediately became evident was a lack of pattern in Charlton's play. Youga forged forward, but put a shot well wide to the jeers of the visiting supporters when he could have passed to his left.

A Charlton free kick was taken by Ambrose and produced a Charlton corner, but the move ended in a goal kick. Preston won a free kick near the corner flag. This led to a Preston corner. Youga turned provider for Varney and the result was another unproductive Charton corner. An effort by Sinclair was well wide. Matt Holland defended well. As we entererd the three minutes of time added on, the Bloke Beside Me said that he would take 0-1 at half time with the hope that we could regroup in the second half.

Half time: Addicks 0, Invincibles 1

Gray was brought on in place of Varney. Preston were not simply trying to hang on to their lead and an attack created a chance which went just wide. Charlton won a corner, but once again it was caught by the keeper. Preston had a corner, but it looked like a Charlton one as the ball went out of play. The next one was overhit and a third was unproductive.

Nothing worthy of any note occurred until 71 minutes when Priskin, who had looked a little error prone, was taken off and replaced by Neil Mellor who was once a household name at Liverpool but has had injury problems.

Lita went on a run, but his shot was blocked for a Charlton corner. Sinclair won a corner for Charlton, the ball was played back in and McCarthy found the back of the net. But Charlton are always most at risk when they have got back in a game and Brown turned well eight yards out for a well taken winning goal.

Halford was taken off on 82 minutes and replaced by Iwelumo. Ambrose won Charlton a corner. Iwelumo won a free kick. It was taken by Ambrose whose shot was a good one, but the keeper was able to move to make the save for a Charlton corner. That was about it.

We can't say that the result was an unfair one. We replicated our poor form against teams fighting relegation such as Queen's Park Rangers, Colchester and Scunthorpe. To complete the weekend, Leamington lost 2-4 at home to Chavtown, possibly finishing their title hopes.

Match analysis

Ivy the Terrible was asked by The Observer after the match to justify the award of the Silver Bone to captain Matt Holland (who ended up with dirty pants) and her answer was 'effort, commitment and skill.' Weaver didn't have that much to do, but he let in two goals. Youga had a 'mare of a game, constantly sending the ball up in the air or hoofing it forward. Sodje also made more than a few errors. McCarthy took his goal well and is appropriately described by Steve from Croydon as a 'good, honest player.' Halford has his long throws, but does he have much else? I was surprised to see Sam starting but it turned out to be a cameo as he was injured early in the game. Ambrose didn't really contribute much. His corners are very ordinary and rarely pose a threat. Zhi generally had a poor game and I just wonder if he is tired. Lita has pace and had one good effort blocked, but I am sceptical on this performance about whether he is the answer to our hopes. Varney tries hard but his distribution was suspect in the first half and it was not a great surprise to see him substituted. Sinclair had his chance, but failed to live up to his billing. Gray is a cultured footballer, but when will he score? Probably against Burnley on Tuesday. Iwelumo gave the Preston defence some problems, but was unable to turn the tide.

Hiss of the Match This awarded by Juneau the Soccer Cat to the East Stand linesman who was either half asleep or did not understand the offside rule (or both).

Crowd rating: I think that the lack of patience of the crowd was a problem. For example, Zhi conceded a throw in when a back pass would have been a more sensible option, but he was being urged on by the crowd. Booing during the game does little to help a team suffering from lack of confidence. In his remarks after the game, Pards felt that the lack of patience of the crowd had encouraged players to take the cheap option and hit it long. 3/10.

Friday 7 March 2008

Reading off results

There at least three ways of 'reading off results':
1. Reading results off the table. Though this may sometimes be possible in the Premiership, one lesson that we have learnt this year is not it doesn't generally work in this division, particularly for Charlton.
2. Reading results off previous form against the team you are playing. This would have predicted the defeat at Blackpool but not the win at Sheffield United. And I don't think Tom Finney will be turning out for Preston tomorrow.
3. Reading results off recent form. This is probably the best guide of the three, and Preston seem to be on a mini run at the moment, having defeated Leicester away. Given Charlton's inconsistency, paricularly against teams fighting relegation, this does not bode well.

All this is another way of saying I have no idea what the result will be tomorrow, although I am going to put 2-0 on the pub jackpot. The arrival of Lita, who apparently is going to start, gives me hope. He should offer a combination of pace and accuracy. Despite his disappointing cameo on Tuesday, I would also start Scott Sinclair.

At the back I would start with Weaver, of course. Given that Bougherra is still injured, I would keep faith with McCarthy and Sodje. Youga had a bit of a mare on Tuesday, particularly in the second half, but his pace could be useful against the rather static defence I saw at Deepdale. For similar reasons, I would bring back Moutaoukil, given that Halford can offer long throws but not much else.

In central midfield it is, of course, Holland and Zhi, demonstrating our lack of options there, although I would consider replacing Holland by Semedo. Given his current eye for goal, I would play Ambrose.

I'm looking forward to meet the Chicago Addick again tomorrow and the New York Addick for the first time, along with Ken Jennings from CAFCPicks who is over from Victoria Island.

My thoughts are already turning to my trek north to Burnley on Tuesday as I think this will be a crucial match in terms of our hopes of a play off place.

Thursday 6 March 2008

McLeod out for nine months

Striker Izale McLeod is now on the Sparrows Lane treatment table. Charlton striker Izale McLeod has been ruled out for up to nine months after damaging knee ligaments while on loan at Colchester. The 23-year-old was making his second substitute appearance for the Us when he was stretchered off in Tuesday's 4-1 defeat at Plymouth.

He sustained a spontaneous dislocation to his knee, which in turn led to the rupture of his anterior ligament. He has also suffered significant damage to both of his collateral ligaments along with a torn meniscus. Sounds very nasty!

He will be in a brace for three weeks before undergoing reconstructive surgery, followed by intensive rehab to get him back to fitness. It represents further disappointment for the former MK Dons player who was never able to get a run in the first team at Charlton.

Peter Varney leaves

Chief executive Peter Varney is to leave the club at the end of the season for personal reasons. Popularly known as Reg, a sobriquet he did not like, Varney has been at the helm for eleven years, ones of continuous development for Charlton.

I have had my disagreements with Peter Varney over the years. But there was no doubt
that he was Charlton through and through and he was always ready to listen to comments (including a lot of gripes from fans) and make a robust response.

'Enjoy the game' was his catchphrase. What a shame that often we didn't, but it wasn't his fault.


When my father used to do the football pools, the pools company used to provide you with a book of alternative 'perms' that you could use to generate different combinations of your chosen results. Of course, it didn't help that much because you were invariably let down by one of your 'banker' results, while the more unlikely draws remained as elusive as ever.

Pards now has an incredible combination of players he could put into the team on Saturday. A mathematican might be able to calculate how many possible combinations there are. However, the choices (excluding loan players and the chronically injured would appear to be):

Keeper: Like Batram, Weaver is the one certainty on the team sheet.
Defence: Thatcher, Youga, Powell, Bougherra, Sodje, Monteiro (loan not cleared?), Fortune, McCarthy, Halford, Moutaoukill
Midfield: Semedo (rarely used, a big mistake in my view), Holland, Ambrose, Zhi, Sam, Thomas, Sinclair, Cook, Racon
Strikers: Varney, Iwelumo, Lita, Gray

It's difficult to predict what the team will be, but Pards has a tendency to give new signings some practice in warming the bench.

Just for fun, here is the least likely starting team: Elliott; Powell; Fortune; Monteiro; Moutaoukill; Sam; Cook; Racon; Semedo; Iwelumo; Gray.

It all went off at Blackpool

Seems that those of us who made a hasty exit after the defeat at Blackpool missed a demonstration by Tangerine supporters against the board: Oyston

Be grateful we have the board that we do.