Friday 31 October 2008

No Campo for Ambrose deal

Chief tractor driver Jim Magilton has denied reports of a swap of Ivan Campo for Darren Ambrose, although he did admit that he and Alan Pardew had had a conversation about the ageing player:

Dickson may be in with a chance

Alan Pardew may start Chris Dickson against Barnsley tomorrow as he continues his search for someone who can find the back of the net. That person is evidently not Luke Varney but that fact does not seem to have been assimilated at Pardew Towers.

Pardew stated, 'I do feel that we have impact strikers and it was good to see Dickson come on and make an impact because he has come on as sub before and not, so that was a good sign. I want somebody to score us goals. [Don't we all?] In training there is nothing between my strikers at the minute, Dickson included.' [Why do I find this worrying?]

Given that Andy Gray is likely to be unavailable, and may be for some weeks, because of a serious family illness, I would have thought that there was a case for Todorov starting with Dickson. Elsewhere, I would agree with Pedro that Bouazza should start rather than Ambrose and Basey should be preferred to Youga.

One of our problems at the moment is that is a case of 'Fortress Valley - not!' Any team can look at our record in the Championship and turn up thinking that they have every chance of going away with three points. Barnsley are on a little run at the moment and Jamal Campbell-Ryce will be eager to impress at the club for which he retains an affection. See here: Jamal

Like Pedro, I think that Charlton will continue their current mini run as draw specialists with a 1-1 result which will probably leave our position in the table unchanged. The Sub-Standard says: 'PARDS PONDERS POSITION.'

I have had to go to London twice this week for meetings - I'm off again today, hence the early posting - and I just hope it will be third time lucky.

Hudson rallies the troops

The skipper has issued a rallying call in Pravda aka the South London Press:

The comments response to the piece on Pardew show an interesting division of opinion and some good arguments on either side. Barring a defeat by Barnsley, I think that he will be with us for a while yet.

The move of Stuart Fleetwood on loan to Brighton, where he faces the Spanners tomorrow, has caused some bemusement. It's difficult to know whether he is good enough to perform at Championship level while he continues his tour around League 1 clubs. It may be well be that is his level, but it is a level that the club could find itself at next year.

Thursday 30 October 2008

The manager makes a difference

He may not be a role model for football governance, but our 'Arry has already transformed the football scene at Spurs as last night's 4-4 draw with the Gooners at the Emirates shows. Phil Brown at Hull is also an example of how one can make silk out of a pig's ear, despite last night's defeat by Chelsea. And, dare I say it, Alan Curbishley achieved as much as was possible for Charlton given the resources available.

Football is a confidence game. Leamington are demolishing all their opponents in the BGB Midlands Division because morale is so high. You only have to look at the way the heads of the Charlton players go down if, as happens all too often, they go 0-1 behind. Even if they are 1-0 ahead, they are clearly nervous.

Some say that the players are not good enough. Pardew has now signed quite a few of them and, to be fair, he has made some good signings: Weaver, Hudson, Bailey. However, he is far too reliant on loan players, to a disastrous extent last season. We also buy players and then put them out to grass (or at least to Cheltenham or Dutch clubs).

My main issue with Pardew is his endless tinkering with the side. His defenders say that the fans couldn't name their best 16 this season. First, they are not paid to do that. Second, if the players were given the chance to get to know each other in a settled side, we might find out.

Charlton fans are long suffering and they put up with a lot. The Sunday Times claimed that a demonstration was planned for last Saturday if we had lost. I am not in favour of demonstrations personally. First, I think that Pardew is a decent man who has done his best, it is just that his best is not good enough.

Second, the board are Charlton fans and they feel the pain as well, but they are constrained in what they can do by the financial situation. But that situation will get worse if nothing is done and fans demonstrate silently by voting with their feet.

What the board needs to understand - and I think this is understood by intelligent people, of whom there are many within the club - is that this is not the usual moaners as identified by Inspector Sands (shortly sadly to move on from his job on the underground) who are complaining.

At Ipswich fans were chanting 'Pardew out' and 'You won't have a job in the morning' before Charlton scored and started to look interested in the match. What was significant, according to what I have heard, is that hardly anyone told them to shut up.

Of course, if you get rid of a manager you have to replace him. But I think we have reached the stage where almost anyone with football experience would do better because they were not Pardew. If you brought Jason Cadden in from Leamington he would have everyone's spirits up and, what's more, there would be lots of fun with his hair styles. (The former hair stylist is claimed to have the best barnet in West Midlands non-league football).

My serious suggestion would be to let Parkinson and Kinsella see what they could do. It could hardly be worse than the disorganised, demoralised performances we have been seeing.

Tuesday 28 October 2008

Addicks secure away point

Ipswich must think that Charlton are their bogey team after the Addicks secured a 1-1 draw at Portman Road tonight somewhat against the run of play. Ipswich had 29 goal attempts against nine for the Addicks and only three of those for Charlton were deemed to be on target. The result was described by Sky Sports News as a lifeline for embatlled Charlton manager Alan Pardew.

Youga was back in Charlton's side with Basey not even on the bench. The favoured Varney and Todorov started up front. It was 30 minutes before Charlton got a shot in on goal, a Matt Holland effort that whistled into the stand. Then on 37 minutes Garvan predictably put the Tractors ahead. Jon Stead was booked for Ipswich on 45 minutes.

Half time: Tractors 1, Addicks 0

Weaver showed his quality early in the second half with two good saves, one from the lively Garvan. Then Ipswich keeper Richard Wright send a long clearance down field and Lisbie burst through only to put his shot wide. It was ever thus.

The turning point in the game came when Youga hand balled in the box on 56 minutes, receiving a yellow card and Ipswich were awarded a penalty, but Nicky Weaver made the save.

Semedo replaced Moutaoukil on 69 minutes whilst Bouazza replaced Sam and the tiring Todorov was replaced by Dixon on 78 minutes.

Then Charlton scored with what was their first threatening shot on target. Bouazza who had just come on put in a cross, enabling Nicky Bailey to score on 82 minutes. Cranie received a late yellow card.

Charlton remain in the 20th place they have made their own, just as they occupied 5th
place for a long spell last season, but Saturday's opponents Barnsley are on the same number of points. One worrying observation was that by the Sky Sports News commentator that Charlton's body language was all wrong.

The need to score goals

Charlton face Ipswich at Portman Road tonight. The Tractors have a good record at home and they will want to get revenge for their somewhat unfortunate (from their perspective) recent defeat at Charlton when two of the three goals were scored by the famous Welsh international, Owen Goal.

We have a leaky defence and a midfield that often goes awol. However, leaving those substantial problems aside, one can't win matches if one doesn't score goals and we have scored one in three.

I think one of the problems here is Luke Varney who is a like a rabbit caught in the headlights when he sees the goal in front of him. A few years ago Varney was playing for Quorn in the Midland Alliance at the same time that Leamington was in that competition.

The line between success and relative failure in football is very thin. Leamington have a side made up of former Academy players at Villa, Blews, Sky Blues and the Baggies (one or two have played in the Football League). There is a lot of hoofing the ball, but also some fluent passing and occasionally one sees flashes of real skill which suggests that one or two of these players could have made the grade if they had had a lucky break.

In particular, like Varney, they are good at penetrating defences at speed which is why the Brakes have a 100 per cent league record. But I wouldn't take Josh Blake off his postal round and sign him up for Charlton. My point is that Varney lacks the experience and polish that players with a consistent Football League track record have. He may have shone at Crewe but there is a difference between League 1 and the Championship - note the way in which Forest and Doncaster are struggling.

We don't lack strikers, although we have never seen Fleetwood play. It is possible that he may be recalled from Cheltenham when his loan spell ends, given that Pardew is increasingly clutching at any straw - and Fleetwood could just be the firm branch he can grasp to get out of the raging torrent sweeping him and the club towards Relegation Falls.

No doubt Pardew will go for 4-5-1 tonight with Todorov or Gray lonely as a cloud as long balls whistle past them. Given that we will probably lose anyway, I would shake Ipswich with an attacking 4-4-2 formation with Varney on the wing. I would put Todorov up front, perhaps replaced by Gray in the second as he tires and combine them with Dickson. I would drop Bailey who has been having a bad run. Mouto2 at right back, Cranie and Hudson in the centre and Basey over Youga at left back. Holland, Ambrose and Sam to complete the midfield. It may sound crazy, but it's no crazier than anything Pardew has done.

My prediction: a 2-0 defeat, another outing for Pardew's big book of excuses, and real pressure on us for the game on Saturday.

The board's charm offensive

The board has been reaching out to fans through Charlton Life and the Glynne Jones list and all credit to them for that. There has been a feeling that communication between the board and the fans has not always been as good as it was in the past and following the disappointment of the Zabeel bid, something needed to be done to lift morale, although the best tonic would be an improvement on the pitch.

Derek Chappell's comments on Charlton Life can be found here: Chappell

The old joke asks how one can make a small fortune: start with a large fortune and buy a football club. Not only do some fans expect the directors constantly to dig into their pockets more than they have already, but some even accuse them of taking money out of the club.

Hence it is worth reproducing what David Sumners said on the Glynne Jones list:

'The only money I've ever taken out of the club since 1995 is

1. The benefit of being a member of the club health insurance scheme.

2. Interest on the loan and the convertible bond, and on the latter we've
just deferred the September interest payment.

I've always paid the train fares etc for any away travel out of my own
pocket. Believe me, even taking account of where the stock markets are now,
any investment would have made me more money than that of my investment in

There is no doubt that the board are fans and what one would really likely to know is what they think of Pardew, their public expressions of confidence notwithstanding. Obviously I don't expect them to come on a web board and say, 'We told Pardew, if you lose at Ipswich and against Barnsley, you're out.'

One of Pardew's comments after Saturday was, 'I felt the squad needed a shake up but coming in at half-time in the dressing room, we could see we hadn't got the balance of the side right.' Indeed, but what he did he think he was doing in the first place? McLeod is unproven in my view, but in any case he wasn't match fit. If you wanted someone to run around, why not start with Dickson?

I do think that Pardew has lost the plot, if indeed he ever found it. My hope and expectation would be that the board will not stand idly by as the club drifts closer to League 1.

Monday 27 October 2008

Your referee at Ipswich

Ipswich have landed an East Anglian referee, Kevin Wright, supposedly from Cambridgeshire, but really from Cromwell's county of Huntingdonshire where he is the fitness training coordinator for referees.

The campaign for respect for referees provoked a lot of debate on 606 on Saturday evening. Some said respect should come with the uniform, others that it should be earnt. There is a real problem in getting referees at the lower levels, although some of the best referees there that I have seen have been women.

'Inept' and 'shambolic' are some of the descriptions of Mr Wright to be found on the internet. A typical one is here:

Of course it's very easy to blame your team's failings on the officials. But Mr Wright does seem to attract more than the usual level of complaints. He does seem to have special vision, as he see things that no one else has noticed and misses things that everyone else has seen.

Enjoy the game.

Sunday 26 October 2008

Curbs in running for QPR

Alan Curbishley is seen as an early favourite for the managerial vacancy at Queen's Park Rangers, where he would replace his successor at Charlton, rocket scientist Iain Dowie. El Tel (never mind the quality, feel the width) and Steve Cotterill are also being talked about. As I recall, El Tel favoured West London when he enjoyed an occasional social drink.

Curbs has said that he would favour a Premiership berth. However, with serious money behind them, the Super Hoops have to be favoured over struggling Charlton. With our 'Arry going to Spurs with a £5m pay off for Pompey (which may stave off administration), follow the money is never bad advice. In any case, 'never go back' is good advice.

Ironically when Curbs was taking Charlton up the Football League, the Super Hoops came in for him after we had beaten them 4-2 at Loftus Road, the fans saying that they would like a 'young, attacking manager'. It was the first serious approach for Curbs and I think that Richard Murray had to up the readies.

My table of most ludicrous fans runs as follows:
1. Spurs
2. Newcastle United
3. QPR

Because they had a few years in the top flight, they have forgotten that they were once a Third Division South club. Indeed, their up turned shoe box of a ground and their over zealous security guards both suggest an outfit too big for its boots, never mind Rodney Marsh and his constant belittling of Charlton.

But if anyone can get them to the Premiership, Curbs can. It will also make for an interesting tie at The Valley on Boxing Day.

However, often well informed sources have suggested that it is more likely that Curbs will end up at Portsmouth.

Saturday 25 October 2008

Kiwi traveller's sharp shock

The brother of Steve from Croydon (formerly Sidcup) returned to The Valley today for the first time since we were in the Premiership. He was amazed by the scene of footballing devastation he saw before him. He could only recognise two of the players and was shocked by the disorganisation and lack of creativity.

What he saw was a game of two halves. In the first half, Charlton barely threatened the Clarets goal, while Burnley, showing effort and determination rather than skill, took the lead. With two substitutions at half time, Charlton came back into the game and scored an equaliser through Todorov. But somehow Varney missed an open goal and a chance to make it 2-1. Charlton remained in 20th position. Elsewhere, Leamington maintained their 100 per cent league record, winning 4-0 at AFC Sudbury.

At Blackheath, someone who I am sure who is a vicar there got on the train wearing a very smart cashmere scarf in claret. Before the game we saw equine magnate John Window come on to the pitch with two of his grandsons and there was quite a nice picture of one of his nags in the programme. The message from the club chaplain in the programme seems to have caused more controversy, although I must look up the passage from John and see whether it applies to managers.

Burnley tested Weaver with an early stinging snap shot which he managed to hold on to. Right from the start of the game it was evident that we were going to having trouble with possession and this problem persisted in the better second half. Rule 1 - which even Leamington's players know - is pass to a player wearing your own colours, not to the opposition. Rule 2 is don't let yourself be dispossessed through dwelling on the ball while thinking about what to do with it. Notwithstanding Rule 2, Rule 3 is don't hit panic shots either out of defence or in a supposed attack.

We saw an early illustration of the importance of these rules when the below par Bailey, dallying on the ball, managed to be dispossessed and only the intervention of Hudson prevented a very dangerous situation developing.

Burnley surged forward and the lino raised the offside flag. However, the rather wet referee, who looked as if he could not wear a ten gallon hat without looking foolish, waved played on and after some customarily pathetic attempts at defending the ball was in the net. The roars of the crowd led the Dallas Cowboy to run over to the east stand lino for a discussion of the offside rule which led to the goal being disallowed. Not surprisingly, this did not lead to shouts of 'yi-ha' from the Clarets, two of whom engaged the referee in a very animated discussion.

This only reinforced the view of Burnley that they are victims from the north, even though the referee was from Derbyshire, and fired up their players who compensate with passion what they lack in talent. A Burnley throw in led to a Burnley corner. While Charlton corners rarely threaten, this one produced predictable panic in the Addicks' defence and with Weaver unsighted Thompson put the ball in the net for the visitors.

Varney displayed what he had learnt in the Midland Alliance by putting the ball wide when he should have held it up and laid it off. A bizarre call went out over the loudspeakers for a gentleman from Helsinki to visit the ticket office after the game. What was he doing at such a rubbish match? Were they going to give him his money back? Or had he paid in Icelandic krona and their value had gone down during the match? We shall never know.

Moutaoukil had to put the ball over the crossbar to prevent a Burnley goal. The Burnley corner led to a second. Primus seemed to be incredibly slow, giving the ball away for a Burnley attack. Moutaoukil won the ball well. Charlton won a free kick, but an effort by Wright was way off target. Weaver gathered the ball comfortably for a free kick. Wright battled for the ball well.

Burnley powerhouse Wade Elliott fouled Bailey and received a yellow card. Time added on produced no cheer for the Addickted and boos that have been heard during the course of the match when Basey made a hash of things rang round the ground again.

Half time: Addicks 0, Clarets 1

To be fair to Pardew, at least he realised that changes had to be made. Off came the sluggish Primus, Cranie switched from left back to centre back where he was far more comfortable, Lloyd Sam came on and Todorov replaced the hapless McLeod.

The first signs were not encouraging when the inconsistent Sam gave the ball away. Cranie defended calmly by heading the ball over for a Burnley corner. Varney forged forward but was offside.

Moutaoukil forged down the right, he fed the ball to Ambrose over on the left. Ambrose put in a very good cross, but manager's favourite Varney headed it straight at the keeper.

Steven Caldwell went off for Burnley and Stephen Jordan came on. Bailey got a yellow card for a foul which gave the Clarets a free kick in a potentially dangerous position, but it was cleared.

Following another Burnley substitution, Moutaoukil won the ball well leading to a Charlton corner taken by Basey. This was followed by a second, but then the visitors were able to break and won a free kick. Fortunately, this opportunity was wasted. Stephen Thompson came off and Robbie Blake came on for Burnley.

Sam was fouled, leading to a Charlton free kick and the skilled Todorov made no mistake in converting it with his head to allow the Addicks to draw level. Shortly afterwards it looked as if the Addicks might have scored again, but the ball hit the side netting and went round the back of the goal.

A sizzling Burnley shot came off the upright and the alert Moutaoukil headed the ball out for a corner, followed by a second. The tiring Wright was replaced by Holland. Ambrose put in an effort from distance that was not far wide.

Varney created an opportunity by forging forward. Danish madman Jensen in the Burnley goal came racing out and Varney rounded him with an open goal in front of him. However, he hesitated because he wanted to make sure, not having the confidence to score from a few yards, albeit that the angle was tight. This allowed an advancing Burnley defender to intervene and preserve a share of the points for the Clarets.

Bailey won Charlton a corner and three minutes of time were added on, but Charlton could not impose themselves on the game.

Two after-the-match reactions. I heard a Burnely fan saying into his mobile how great Burnley had been and how fantastic it was to come to a big club like Charlton and get a share of the points. One wonders what planet these people on, supposedly the same one as the fan commenting on the 606 website who said that they didn't want Charlton to be relegated to League 1 as they had enough big clubs there. Forget talk about Burnley being the new Hull. They're not.

Pards said that the draw felt like a win and in odd way I could see what he means. At least we ended the goal drought and at least we showed some fight in the second half. But many of the players are not good enough and they still fail to play as a team. It may be mild now, but it's going to be a long hard winter.

Match analysis

Hooch the Pooch: gets a silver biscuit out of his barrel for Todorov

Ivy the Terrible awarded the Silver Bone to Moutaoukil. He made some errors, but he also displayed real verve and pace which made a contribution to the game, particularly in the second half. As Senior Match Analyst emeritus Hooch the Pooch has reminded Ivy that it is possible to give the Silver Bone to a player who comes on in the second half and transforms the game, i.e., Todorov who receives a silver biscuit. Weaver was hardly to blame for the goal which came through a forest of legs. It was good to have Hudson back and he was calm and authoritative. For me Cranie continues to fail to impress, whatever position he is tried in. Primus had a quiet first half and was substituted. Bailey again made a number of errors in terms of giving away possession. Ambrose attracted more than his share of abuse from the row behind me and he certainly won't get stuck in, but he did forge forward well at times. Basey was reasonably competent, but not that inspiring. Wright received a warm ovation from the Addickted when he was substituted, but that reflected their affection for an Academy player than for what he contributed on the pitch which was quite limited. McLeod hared around on the pitch to no effect whatsoever. It was a bizaare selection, given that Dickson would have offered as much pace and probably more skill and it was a reflection of the extent of Pardew's desperation. Varney is simply not a striker, for all his pace and penetration. He lacks the required competence and composure in front of goal. He would be better as a winger. Todorov showed when he came on that he is one of the few quality players that we have. He saw his chance and took it. Sam made some errors and I wish he would not drift inside so much. But he did make a useful contribution. Holland displayed his usual enthusiasm and workrate.

Juneau the Soccer Cat awarded the Hiss of the Mach to Alan Pardew. He stood impassively in the technical area for much of the match with his arms folded on his chest. Then late on he discovered he had a watch and pointed to it as a reminder that the clocks are going back tonight.

Crowd rating I don't blame the Addickted for getting frustrated in the first half, but they got behind the team in the second, drowning out the relatively small number of Clarets in the Jimmy Seed stand. 6/10.

Dad blocked Charlton deal

The Financial Times is usually well informed on business matters and has an interesting slant on the failed Charlton bid. It reckons that the head of the Dubai royal family blocked the deal because it might get in the way of his aspirations to buy Liverpool.

The FT says: 'People close to the situation said that the changing UK economic climate was unlikely to have been a significant factor ... Dubai's ability to turn itself into a global trade and business hub may be at risk from the financial crisis, with Moody's, the rating agnecy, estimating that Dubai's debt is close to 100 per cent of gross domestic product.'

The report continues, 'Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Makoum, has long coveted Liverpool FC. The purchase of another English club by Zabeel, a group that is widely acknowledged to be an investment vehicle for his son, Hamdan bin Mohammed al Maktoum, would almost certainly scupper his chances of buying a more prized asset such as the Premier League club.'

I think it might be possible to successfully challenge the conflict of ownership rule in court, but Dubai would not want the adverse publicity in the current context of debate about foreign ownership of clubs.

We should also note that the debate about a two-tier Premiership has been revived. This was an idea in which Richard Murray has expressed interest in the past, no doubt hoping that Charlton could slot into Tier 2. However, as put forward, the plan envisages two divisions of 18 clubs, but no promotion or relegation into the Football League below. Another reason for not becoming a League 1 club.

Friday 24 October 2008

Down The Football League We Go

Equine magnate John Window is sponsoring tomorrow's match against Burnley. At least he won't have to diversify into camels now. Here he can be seen receiving advice from Hermann Hreidarsson about why Icelandic banks would be a good place for his savings.

8th January 1994: My return to the 'new' Valley, no East Stand then. I went with a Burnley supporting friend and we sat in the lower tier of the Jimmy Seed, the only time I ever have, with Charlton fans behind us. Charlton won 3-0 with goals score by Pardew, Leaburn and (Kim) Grant. That combination can't have happened too often.

17th September 1996: Charlton 4, Burnley 1 in the league cup. 'They're all over you Charlton,' screams the Bloke Behind Me, before he storms out in disgust.

The season before last: Burnley 2, Hull City 0. Charlton are still in the Premiership, but I take a look at what Championship football is like again.

Last season, Burnley 1, Charlton 0. A damp winter night in Lancashire and I decide that Charlton probably aren't going back to the Premiership. The Chairman of Burnley contacts me to thank me for what I have written about the club.

This morning I took my car over to Stratford on Avon for a service and, having made my way through the Japanese tourists outside the Birthplace and the noisy French school parties, my bus back took me past the sparkling new Anne Hathaway stadium complex of Stratford Town. The Bardsmen were there on the superb training pitch, getting ready for tomorrow's big match. What was happening at Sparrows Lane, I wondered?

Well, now we have some clues. The club's E mail bulletin tells us: 'Alan Pardew has been busy working on the new formula he believes will help Charlton get their season back on track against Burnley tomorrow.'

He said: 'I'm going to change the team a bit [not again!], and I'm going to change the formula of the way we play as I need to put something in place that's going to get us better results over the season.' [Might this be goals?]

Really, there are only three things wrong with the team:
1. The defence is threadbare and prone to panic, although thank goodness Hudson is back tomorrow.
2. The midfield often loses its shape, starts to defend too deep and then finds there is no defence behind it.
3. We don't have a reliable goal scorer. We certainly don't have a Sir Clive Mendonca and we don't even have a Gary Nelson.

Some like Varney - whom Pardew is sticking with tomorrow - because of his pace and penetration. These are positive qualities, but a striker also needs an eye for goal and an ability to put the ball in the back of the net.

After leaving the Anne Hathaway Stadium, the bus passed by the Home Guard Ground (really), the home of Alveston, the No.2 team in Stratford. Are Charlton soon going to be the No.2 team in South-East London? It's possible.

On Tuesday night, the Bristol City fans chanted, 'Once you were good, maintenant vous etes merde'. It was difficult to argue with them. Odds on Charlton for relegation are now shortening at 11/2.

A rampant Burnley must think they are on to three easy points tomorrow. The one thing that might help us is over confidence on their part. I am going for a 2-2 draw which will resolve nothing.

Your referee tomorrow is country music fan Robert Shoebridge. He started refereeing after a 'short unsuccessful playing career'. After many years in the non-league, he broke through into the National List three years ago. Apparently the highlight of his career was refereeing a tournament in Dallas which no doubt helped him to add to his country music collection. So don't be surprised if you see a referee in a ten gallon hat tomorrow. His biggest fan is apparently his wife. He sounds like rather a nice guy actually, so let's hope the 'man management' skills he claims to possess are in evidence tomorrow.

Dowie sacked again

The man who brought rocket science to Championship football, Iain Dowie, has been sacked at Queen's Park Rangers: Dowie

Dowie must now be the most sacked manager in Championship football, having been removed by Charlton, Coventry and the Super Hoops as well as leaving Crystal Palace.

The president of the Iain Dowie Appreciation Society commented, 'This latest sacking is something of a triumph for our hero as he lasted 15 games with Rangers as against 12 at The Valley.'

After the dust has settled

There has been an interesting discussion on the list run by Glynne Jones about why the bid from Zabeel Investments was withdrawn. We may never know the real story, certainly not for some time. In any case, the bid has been withdrawn and we have to dust ourselves down and move on.

One view that has been expressed is that if we went down to League 1, the atmosphere at The Valley would be more positive as we would lose a lot of the moaners. But I think that some of the worst moaners are long-standing Charlton fans. And, in a sense, they do have something to moan about, although the likes of the Bloke Behind Me were moaning when we were doing well in the Premiership.

It's not just the lack of results, particularly at home, or the often shambolic performances. If you go back to the mid-1990s, we had some mid-table outcomes in the old Division 1 and even flirted with relegation at some points at the season. But the players then did have character. Gary Nelson may have been a self-described journeyman, but you knew that he always gave his all.

Moreover, at the time we felt that we were on an upward trajectory and rightly so. Crowds were increasing with the help of the Target 10,000 scheme and we felt that our performance on the pitch would continue to improve (as it did). Voice of the Valley provided a focus for fans that blogs cannot, not that I am asking Rick Everitt to bring it back - times have changed. Now we feel that we are on a downward trajectory.

If we are relegated, attendances will drop below 10,000 and the stadium will only be a third full which won't help with the atmosphere. Even if we stay up, I expect to see a big fall in season ticket sales.

Fans are more fickle than hard core fans often realise - or are prepared to accept. A friend of mine was a keen Seagull, he was even involved in singing on a record for them. Then he moved to Argentina and managed to support both Boca Juniors and River Plate. Now he lives in Norwich and has become a Canary.

But even people who don't move can switch their allegiance in response to success or failure. As Szymanski and Kuypers point out in Winners and Losers supporters are about as fickle as the average player, 'both are driven by success.' They note, 'Many fans do remain loyal to a club through thick and thin ... However, beyond the hard-core there are many supporters who are willing to switch allegiance towards more successful teams.'

We have to get more success on the pitch. If that means a change of manager, the board have to bite the bullet.

Thursday 23 October 2008

Takeover off

The following statement has been issued by the club:

The board of Charlton Athletic plc was today informed by Zabeel Investments that it will not be proceeding with the proposed acquisition of Charlton Athletic plc. Zabeel Investments has informed Charlton that the decision not to proceed was taken on the basis that its focus moving forward will be on domestic opportunities in Dubai that complement the current Zabeel Investments portfolio.

This, combined with the current debate around foreign ownership of football clubs and the worsening economic climate in the UK, contributed to the decision by Zabeel to pull out. Furthermore, Zabeel Investments has made it clear to Charlton that this decision was not made as a result of any discoveries during the due diligence process.

Contrary to press reports, Zabeel Investments has confirmed to Charlton that it has not approached any other club since it made an indicative offer for Charlton on October 10th, not has it authorised any approach on its behalf.

Some initial thoughts

The FT report we highlighted earlier this week noted a crucial meeting in the UAE about the effect of the global economic crisis took place on the Saturday after the takeover bid was announced. It is also evident that to some extent the bid has been a casualty of the political storm about foreign ownership.

I think that the future for the club is now as bleak as it has been since 1984. Although we may escape relegation, it is a real threat, given poor performances on the pitch. If we were relegated, we would face a double whammy of losing the parachute payments and also a sharp fall in season ticket sales. Indeed, even if we stayed in the Championship, season ticket falls would probably decline sharply after this season's poor performances. Hopefully, the club can avoid administration.

In my view this takeover was the last best chance to take the club to a higher level. At least the club should survive, but the already low expectations of Charlton fans will have to be lowered even further. It's going to be a bumpy ride.

Wednesday 22 October 2008

Deal nearly done

After some of the most desperate days in the club's history, reports are circulating widely that the deal for the club to be taken over by Zabeel Investments is nearly complete. It may be finished in time for Saturday's match against Burnley, allowing fans to celebrate the news before seeing the club slump to another home defeat. But now there is light at the end of the tunnel - and it is not an oncoming train.

Thw takeover of Charlton by Dubai based Zabeel Investments is being conducted in Kent at the offices of the club's solicitors Vertex Law at Kings Hill near Maidstone, who sponsored last night's match.

A team of lawyers and accountants representing Zabeel and chief executive Mohammed Al Hashimi have descended on Kings Hill for the process of due diligence.

There are persistent rumours that Dennis Wise may have some sort of role at The Valley, but these have received no independent confirmation. It may be that Peter Varney will return in some kind of role, a development which would be warmly welcomed by most of the Addickted.

Pardew taken over by alien lizard - claim

America's National Enquirer is about to publish a story claiming that the body form we know as Alan Pardew has been taken over by an alien lizard. The lizard is a lifelong Palace supporter and has a visceral hatred of Charlton.

It has been observed that Pardew spoke good sense when he first came to The Valley, but more recently has been talking gibberish. It was thought this was because he had bought a copy of David O'Leary's Big Book of Football Excuses and was listening to tapes of Let's Speak Ronglish. In fact it may be that the lizard's translator microchip is malfunctioning.

The Enquirer also speculates that the bodies of some players have been taken over by another group of lizards who support Millwall.

Read about the pattern in Pardew's press conferences here:

Tuesday 21 October 2008

The slide continues

Charlton's slide towards League 1 under the stewardship of Alan Pardew continued at The Valley tonight as the Addicks 0-2 to Bristol City. Saturday's opponents, Burnley, enjoyed a convincing 3-1 win at Coventry.

The stats favour Charlton. The Addicks hit the woodwork once and had 22 goal attempts to 17 by the visitors. They were ahead in terms on on target shots by 13 to 10. They had nine corners to Bristol City's five, but they were clearly unproductive.

Pards staged a double substitution on 57 minutes, taking off Gray and Ambrose in favour of Chris Dickson and Lloyd Sam. On 75 minutes he tried his final throw of the dice by taking off Bouazza and bringing on Todorov.

Advance sight of Pardew's comments suggest the following: 'We aren't getting the rub of the green at the moment. I thought we were on top for the first thirty minutes, but then they got the ball in the net which put us up against it. Then they got a second goal in the second half and it was game over. There were a few people out there I was not happy with and they know who they are.'

Given the uncertainty about the club's ownership, nothing is likely to happen soon. But Parkinson and Kinsell as caretakers could hardly do worse.

Why I will not be at The Valley tonight

Like Alan Pardew, I have some good excuses. I have an important meeting at work and it would be difficult to get away in time to get to London. I wouldn't get back until about 1 a.m. and I have to be up at 6.30 a.m. tomorrow.

To be honest, though, I usually have made it to mid-week evening matches in the past and I don't feel that motivated to go. Moreover, I am sure I am not the only season ticket holder who won't be there.

Alan Pardew has admitted, 'Where we stand at the minute is not ideal by any means but there's a long long way to go and if that character comes out Tuesday night like it did Saturday then we'll get a positive result. If we take that effort and form into Tuesday night we'll get a strong result.'

Those who were at Cardiff said that we played quite well until they scored and then our heads went down. It's a team that's lacking in confidence. Bristol City are ten places ahead of us in the table, but we are only separated by three points. A win tonight would give us an important boost.

However, we have serious defensive problems with Fortune injured, Hudson suspended and Primus only half fit. Cranie can be moved to the centre leaving room for a rare appearance by Moutaoukil, given that Semedo is also suspended. Apparently, consideration is being given to playing Youga at centre back which, given his erratic if often inspired play, should be a sight to behold.

Josh Wright has been recalled from his loan spell in Brentford which is a sensible move in the circumstances as it gives us more options.

Like many of the Addickted, I am frustrated with Pardew. But he isn't going to go soon, sacking him would leave a further hole in our finances and there is no readily available alternative, other than Phil Parkinson as 'caretaker'.

In any case, the club is still in a state of limbo while due diligence proceeds. The puffs of smoke have been looking grey rather than white in the last few days, but until there is an announcement to the contrary, there is still hope that a deal can be done.

I notice that the club has told the News Shopper that the story about Zabeel switching their attention to Everton looked as if it was made up as there was no quotes or other substantiation. Moreover, the club insisted that due diligence was proceeding and one can't expect it to be completed that quickly, even if reports in the Mercury suggested that it might be a done deal by the weekend.

It would just be my luck if the deal was announced this afternoon and the new owners appeared on the pitch to acknowledge the salaams of the crowd.

Monday 20 October 2008

Dubai exposed to financial crisis

Dubai is not impervious to the world economic and financial storm, the Financial Times argues in a detailed analysis today. The report notes, 'One test of Dubai's financial stability will be its ability to refinance debt.' Two leading government companies have to repay debts of $10.8bn in 2008 and early 2009.

The pink 'un reckons that while a soft landing is predicted for much of the Gulf, the biggest risk is in ambitious Dubai. With little oil wealth of its own, Dubai has relied on debt to finance its diversification. Estimates by ratings agency Moody's say government-backed Dubai companies' leverage has risen to $50bn, exceeding 2006 gross domestic product.

Let's hope that the relatively small sum required for a much needed Sheikh up at The Valley is still available.

Sunday 19 October 2008

Tony Adams rumours

Tony Adams, currently helping Our 'Arry at Portsmouth, has been linked with a possible managerial move to Charlton in the event of Alan Pardew departing. You can read about his career here: Wikipedia

I don't give these rumours a lot of credence and, if there is anything in them, I do not think it would be a good move for the club. He was hardly a success at Wycombe Wanderers and apart from his time with the Chairboys, his managerial experience his limited to being a No.2. That is quite a bit different from dealing with the pressures of being in charge.

I share the frustrations of many Charlton fans about Alan Pardew in what is, after all, a results game to quote a cliché which nevertheless contains a kernel of truth. Papers like the Sunday Times are already writing off the proposed takeover as a dead deal, although news organisations have a habit of following a narrative started by one of them.

If it does go ahead, one would think it likely that the new owners would be likely to give Pardew at least until the January transfer window to see if he can turn things around. The existing board's patience may be tested by a run of poor results. It is one thing to give up on promotion, but another to be sucked into a relegation battle.

Time moves on

Last Friday I took my oldest granddaughter to the ballet in Oxford, just as I once used to take her mum. As it happened, it was at the New Theatre where I had seen my granddaughter on stage the other year in The King and I as one of the king's many children. The dressing rooms, she solemnly informed me, were not up to the standard she expected.

A little while ago she and I were in my basement den room at home and she was looking at some Chinese wall hangings which I picked up in alley in Beijing for dollars some years ago, once I had escaped the attentions of my minder, 'Jenny' from the Department of Party History. My granddaughter asked me to translate the Mandarin characters and I had to admit that I couldn't. She then pointed to the globe in the room and the relative sizes of the British Isles and China. The implicit message was clear: this was the 21st century.

There are two Charlton morals in this story. The first is this. All of our daughters have been to The Valley, but none of them is really interested in football, nor are our granddaughters. Our grandson already shows signs of interest in a football, but I expect he will start out by watching Southam United or Leamington and then pick a big club to follow. So our family association with Charlton will come to end after not far short of a hundred years.

Nevertheless, I would like to think that Charlton has a competitive future as a club, by which I mean at least being in the Championship and hopefully in the Premiership, but not in League 1 or League 2. This is a more than an issue about SAP (Super Alan Pardew), but about the kind of financial backing that you need to succeed in the modern game. The Premiership model may be modified somewhat as a result of political pressure, but it will not disappear.

The second moral I draw from my story is this: the balance of economic power in the world is changing fast. Although the number has been increasing for some years, I would estimate that this is the first year when about half of my third year Economics class is Chinese or other Asian (Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese etc.) There are plenty of other nationalities as well: the first class paper was given by a Norwegian evidently educated in the United States. All this makes for a cosmopolitan learning environment. What you can't escape from is growing global interdependence.

This leads me to believe that the current offer is the last best chance for Charlton to step up a level. There won't be another bus along in a minute. There are not that many people in the world at the moment with cash in hand and most of them are in the Middle East or Asia. The day of the sovereign wealth fund has arrived.

I know that some fans are concerned about the club's identity despite the pledges given by the prospective new owners about our community work etc. Like Inspector Sands, I think that there are Charlton fans who are happiest when the club is struggling. They like us to be plucky little Charlton fighting against the odds. I have really had enough of that and would like a taste of success again.

A prominent Addick who is sponsoring next Saturday's match says that he has not lost faith, but he has lost interest. I understand where he is coming from. I would always keep my season ticket and my Valley Gold subscription, but I might re-consider how frequently I spent five hours travelling to and from The Valley.

Similarly, although I intend to keep this blog going, I may have to change what I post and when. In 2009 I am going to be out of the country some of the time in Australia and Chile and, if all goes well, spending some time inside government. I have also had a couple of interesting football related offers.

One has been bubbling along for a year, but might finally come to something if I can spare a day to visit a northern city. Another was made to me out of the blue yesterday. Neither may come to anything, but at least it is interesting they were made. They wouldn't stop me being a Charlton fan, but they might affect how I organised my time.

Saturday 18 October 2008

9 man Charlton lose at Cardiff

Two sending offs gave Alan Pardew his alibi for Charlton's 2-0 defeat at Cardiff City today, although the Addicks had gone 1-0 down in the first half. Semedo had only been on for five minutes when he was sent off on 51 minutes for a professional foul. Then Hudson departed on 67 minutes for a second bookable offence, although it is arguable that one of the bookings was harsh.

The stats tell a story: 14 to 7 goal attempts for Cardiff and 6 to 2 on target, although corners were more evenly balanced.

Charlton started quite well with Luke Varney testing the home keeper Ted Heaton on 13 minutes. But then after Nicky Weaver had parried a shot from Whittingham on 18 minutes, top Championship scorer Ross McCormack pounced to make it 1-0.

Semedo replaced Cranie at half time, but then the free kick following the sending off of the 'distraught' player allowed McCormack again to score from 20 yards from the resultant free kick. And that was that, really (except for a yellow card for Bouazza at the end of the game). Oh, and Bothroyd, didn't score.

Charlton dropped back to 19th and those who said that it doesn't matter very much whether the club is taken over or not should reflect on how it might fare in League 1.

We don't do cups

Turning out in a red kit supplied by Charlton kit suppliers Joma, Leamington fell into another Charlton tradition today. Having already been knocked out of the FA Cup, they went down 3-2 at Unibond League Glapwell to exit the FA Trophy. This is in spite of having won every single match in the Southern League.

Just a one and a half hour drive from Leamington found us in a very different part of the Midlands in the former Nottinghamshire coalfield. We nearly ended up in Glapwell Colliery Cricket Club as we searched for the stadium and staff at the friendly ground addressed me as 'my duck' in the distinctive North Notts accent. What is relatively small village has done well to sustain a Unibond Division 1 team which was only set up in 1985.

They seem to have some sort of link with Notts County as they play in a similar kit and some of the managerial team and one or two players have had County associations. Their most experienced player had extensive Football League experience with Northampton, Cheltenham and Hereford, while their 36-year old goalkeeper played out of his skin.

It was amusing to four lads scramble over a high wall just before the game began, doubtless they were not counted in the disappointing attendance of 203.

In contrast, the Brakes started off as if they had come for a stroll in the warm sunshine and the home side came close to scoring in the first minute. After 14 minutes, pressure from Glapwell in the form of three successive corners finally led to their opener being scored from close range.

Glapwell then had a penalty, which fortunately for the Brakes winged off the upright. Such chances as came the way of Leamington led to balls soaring high over the crossbar, leading to chants of 'Johnny, Johnny Wilkinson' from the Leamington faithful. Indeed, not having watched a non-league game for a few weeks, I had forgotten how much hoofing there is. In flashes, Brakes showed the ball control and passing fluency that has served them well, but it was too infrequent. Then Glapwell then made it 2-0 just before the break and it looked like game over.

There were rumours that danger man Marcus Jackson had been carrying an injury and he was withdrawn immediately after the break and replaced by Stanley. Brakes continued to be in some danger and one attack had to be cleared off the line to prevent a 3-0 lead.

Josh Blake was replaced by James Husband, a sensible move giving them more width. Subsequently, Towers was replaced by former Birmingham City Academy player Liam Reynolds. Brakes started to step up a gear and they got back in the game with a strike by Stanley.

Corbett blasted over when he was through with a good chance and Bello hit the post from a narrow angle. However, as they tried to press forward, Brakes were exposed on the break. Having won a corner, Glapwell scored with a tap in from a crowded goalmouth. However, Brakes were straight back up the other end and made it 3-2, the culprit this time being Owen Goal.

As Brakes tried to get the equaliser which would have won the game, the inept referee gave the first yellow card of the game to Glapwell. He and his assistants didn't seem to realise that there is a handball rule in football.

The card was raised for four minutes added on, and Brakes tried to score the equaliser that would have taken the match back to the New Windmill on Tuesday. It seemed like an occasion for that old cliché: the team that wanted it more won. The victory was greeted with the usual delerious World Cup winning scenes when Brakes lose, with youngsters chanting 'Who are ya?'

Brakes will now have to concentrate on the league - oh, and the Birmingham Senior Cup.

More Zabeel rumours

This time it's the Sun saying that they have decided to buy Everton instead:

In many ways I think that the Sun is a better newspaper than many people allow and their political coverage is often very well informed (they had, at least until recently, a first class political editor). The other side of the coin is when a journalist there asked me if I could get him on a boat on the EU's 'wine lake', no doubt accompanied by some young ladies displaying their assets.

I don't attach much credibility to this story because I don't think Zabeel do business in this way. But until the deal is signed and sealed, I will be nervous. I think it could be just in time for the Bristol City game.

Since I first posted this story, a normally well informed person has stated on the Glynne Jones list: 'For what it's worth, Charlie Wyett [the writer of the story] is someone well known to Charlton, who lives locally and knows the club. If the Sun have put the story on the back page - and I haven't seen the paper - they obviously believe it is credible.

In many ways I think that this takeover is the last best chance for Charlton. If it does not go through, the future is bleak.

Friday 17 October 2008

croeso i Gymru

It's now almost a week since the Sky cameras went to The Valley and it's easy to forget that there are still matches to be played. Last week when Ben Hayes was in front of the Sky cameras, he said something to the effect of 'If we go and lose 2-1 at Cardiff next week, we have to realise it isn't the end of the world.'

It would, however, have quite a big effect on our position in the table. We could advance quite a way or fall back again. However, I think the most likely result is a draw which would probably see us move very little, although the table is so tightly packed one never knows.

The Bluebirds, like many teams that play in blue (Millwall, Birmingham City, Manchester City) have a reputation for having unwelcoming fans. Of course, their main rivals are down the road in Abertawe. I was there in the spring for the first time in many years and I was interested in how much Cymraeg was being spoken, particularly by younger people. One reason, I am told, is that, having learnt it in school, they can talk about topics in Welsh without their parents understanding what they are saying or planning.

There isn't much Cymraeg spoken in Cardiff, even though it is the home of the Welsh Assembly Government, the Llywodraeth Cynulliad Cymru. Nevertheless, the sense of Welshness is strong, even if it is focused on egg chasing. And it has to be admitted that the Millennium Stadium is an iconic building, better than Wembley in many respects. Quite where Cardiff City are in their plans to move out of Ninian Park, or their relationship with football finance wizard Peter Ridsdale, is something I am not fully up to speed on.

Certainly, Wales has never been part of Alex Salmond's famous 'arc of prosperity', even before the bubble burst in Iceland and the Celtic tiger of Ireland ran into very serious trouble.

My lack of facility in Cymraeg has given me a problem in the last week. In the new year, I am expecting to spend some time on secondment in government. This will be mainly in London, but will also include a devolved administration and I am told that there will be a warm welcome for me in Belfast.

All this has little to do with the match and, indeed, we will not be sampling Welsh hospitality, but heading to a small village in Derbyshire called Glapwell which has somehow managed to sustain a Unibond team which was only formed in 1985. The Brakes face them in the FA Trophy. Although Leamington have won all their matches in the league so far this season, their record in cups has been less good.

Jason Cadden: every match won in the BGB Business League Midlands Division this season

Supremo Jason Cadden may not put out his strongest side. He faces Romulus at the New Windmill Ground on Tuesday and the fixture against them is always one of the most challenging in the season, even leaving aside their small handful of rather obnoxious fans. I suppose one saving grace is that they don't turn up dressed as legionnaires. In any event, we expect to be the only Charlton blog covering the game at Glapwell.

Very reasonably Charlton cannot make any comment on the progress of the negotiations while due diligence is taking place. Some sources think there will be an early conclusion, others that it may take longer. In the interim, I find it quite difficult to focus on the football until I know what sort of future the club has.

Thursday 16 October 2008

Zheng Zhi blow

Charlton midfielder and China international Zheng Zhi has been ruled out for at least two months after undergoing an operation on a foot injury, reports the club's E mail bulletin.

The 28-year-old suffered a foot problem during a training session the day before the Ipswich Town game at The Valley at the start of the month. He declared himself fit to play against the Tractors, and completed the full 90 minutes.

However, the discomfort in the Chinese captain's foot failed to subside, and a routine scan on the injury revealed that he would need an operation.

'We've lost him for two or three months," said Alan Pardew. "It's a big blow when you consider we've been waiting for him to get fit.' As a precaution, the club has secured the right to recall Josh Wright from Brentford while extending his loan for a month.

I think that Zheng Zhi has suffered from playing too much football. I know that players played quite a lot in the 1950s, running up and down the East Terrace all week and then walking to the ground with their boots on a Saturday. But on muddy pitches, the pace of the game was not as demanding as it is today.

The world turned upside down

On message?

This song was originally a Royalist protest against Cromwell's attempt to ban Christmas and other festivities. For many years it was believed that the British played the tune when they surrendered at Yorktown to the Americans. It's a nice story, but is probably untrue: Yorktown

The relevance here is the turmoil in the international financial markets and the demand this has caused for greater regulation, not least of sport, a bandwagon which the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the Rt. Hon. Andy Burnham, is jumping on. (Tessa Jowell, who used to hold the job had an affection for Charlton, but that may help us now she is Olympics minister).

Whilst there is a good case for effective financial services regulation, although achieving it is another thing, I don't have a lot of faith in regulating everything that moves. Governments make a mess of a lot of the things they get involved in, regardless of the party in office.

Still, if this is the way things are going, it may help Charlton in the short term: we have been seen as 'on message' by New Labour. Ted Heath never evinced any interest in Charlton (not that he had any small talk anyway), despite the number of his constituents that supported the club. It was only recently I discovered that he was a Gooner.

Contacts may need to be developed with Dave and his chums, although they don't seem to be much into football, more an egg chasing crowd. If regulation restored more competitive balance to the Premiership, this might give clubs like Charlton the chance to return to the heights the club occupied just before the Second World War.

Indeed, had the war not occurred, I think that we might have won the championship. That's another charge against Hitler and his gang. Perhaps someone could work this into one of those spoof videos on YouTube where Hitler loses it because Spurs (or some other club) have lost again and threatens to tear up his season ticket.

Wednesday 15 October 2008

Charlton's starlet

Sky Sports have a very positive piece on Jonjo Shelvey:

My only concern about this sort of piece is that it encourages the view that we should put out a team of youngsters from our own Academy. I think that in Shelvey's case he was played too much before he was full ready and that didn't help him.

Of course, the other side of the coin is that if you don't play him, someone else might snap him up. It could be argued that we have lost some good young players in recent years, but it's often difficult to tell how good they are at a young age. Also, there may be someone very good in their favoured position.

Tuesday 14 October 2008

Done deal by Saturday?

Charlton supporters could be celebrating their new owners in the Welsh capital on Saturday according to the Telegraph:

I'm surprised how much pessmisim there has been among Charlton fans about the deal being completed, given that everything I have read and heard has suggested positive vibes, both about the likelihood of success and the new owners.

As Inspector Sands has suggested, Charlton supporters do enjoy a good wallow in gloom. Of course, I wouldn't like them to have the ridiculous excessive expectations of Spurs or Newcastle supporters, but there is a middle course.

I'm not expecting overnight success, but the club will have a future that is more exciting, more cosmopolitan and more in tune with the new economic realities of the 21st century.

Someone will no doubt point to reports in the FT and elsewhere on a slowdown in the Dubai economy, but this is really a slowdown in a very high rate of growth. For the new owners, the point about Charlton is that a relatively small investment for them should bring good returns in terms of prestige.

Zabeel in for West Ham?

The Grauniad is suggesting that our prospective investors have switched their attention to West Ham:

Frankly, I don't believe it as I don't think that's the way Zabeel do business. Since I first posted this story, it has been specifically denied by Zabeel.

Of course, as someone commented yesterday, various branches of the Dubai royal family could buy the whole Premiership if they wanted and some Championship clubs as well. If they are different entities making the purchase, and different branches of a very large family, this may be permissible under the existing rules.

Just as they can race their horses against each other, they could have a special competition for their clubs in Dubai.

According to the Daily Mail (which does sometimes get its Charlton stories right), the deal with Zabeel could be completed this week:
Done deal

This is consistent with the reports from wire services that Charlton has made a Rule 2.10 announcement in accordance with the City Code on Takeovers and Mergers which is one of the necessary steps towards completion of the deal. It is also consistent with what I have been hearing.

Sunday 12 October 2008

Championship match fixing scandal

BBC Sport reports:
'The Football Association is to examine match-fixing allegations involving a Championship match sent to them by the Sunday Telegraph newspaper. Bookmakers reportedly detected a "massive movement" in bets in Asia in an unspecified Championship match at around half-time.

As well as the FA, the Sunday Telegraph has sent a document to the Gambling Commission over the betting patterns. "We will consider any evidence brought to our attention," said the FA.'

I'm sure it's not us despite the unsuccessful floodlights 'scam' and events some fifty years ago. Maybe it's without foundation, but it would be interesting to know which teams were involved.

Saturday 11 October 2008

Fleetwood scores penalty

Loan player Stuart Fleetwood scored a penalty for Cheltenham today in their dramatic 4-3 victory over Colchester United.

Playing for the first time for his native heath, former Chris Iwelumo missed a sitter in front of goal in his country's 0-0 draw against Norway. Speaking in quite a broad Scots accent after the game, Iwelumo said that he would just have to move on. As he did from Charlton to Wolves.

Liechtenstein, dismissed as a 'pub team' by Mick McCarthy, managed to contain Wales to a 2-0 win. Their keeper saved a penalty from Craig Bellamy. Why in these circumstances is this always described as a 'missed' penalty when the keeper has saved it? A missed penalty is surely one that goes wide or hits the woodwork?

Elsewhere, Leamington shook off new off-the-pitch troubles to win 4-1 at Aresley Town and maintain their 100 per cent record in the BGB Business League Midlands Division.

Friday 10 October 2008

Dubai takeover bid for Charlton

Charlton's prospective new supremo, His Excellency Mohammed Ali Ali Hashimi

A Dubai based group has made a takeover bid for Charlton, fulfilling the wildest dreams of some Charlton fans.

The club has confirmed they have received 'an indicative cash offer' to buy the club from a Dubai-based investment company. The club confirmed in a statement that it will enter a period of due diligence with Zabeel Investments.

The statement added: 'Should the offer be made formally to shareholders, the board would recommend shareholders to accept it. There is, however, no certainty that a formal offer will be made.'

Information on the potential new owners can be found here: Zabeel

An interview with the Zabeel chief executive from the New York Times is here: Interview

Founded in February 2006, Zabeel Investments is a Dubai-based diversified investment company focused on the areas of commercial real estate development and management, private equity and asset management across a wide range of economic sectors in the UAE.

From its base at Dubai International Financial Centre and under the leadership of Executive Chairman HE Mohammed Ali Al Hashimi, Zabeel Investments has built up an AED 12.4 billion portfolio in its first year, incorporating property development, construction, hospitality, media, finance and education.

The new supremo has issued a statement in which he praises the passion of the Charlton fans, the heritage of the club and its commitment to the community and his expressed his determination to get the club back to the Premiership.

Richard Murray has said that he is convinced the sale will be good for Charlton and for the local community, confirming that the new owners will respect the club's distinctive traditions. The board would not sell to buyers who did not meet those criteria.

Sky Sports News have just reported live from The Valley that the deal may be completed in a few days. Ladbrookes have slashed the odds on the Addicks being promoted. Jubilant fans were already gathering outside the Superstore.

Sky paid a warm tribute to Richard Murray for all he had done for the club which I am sure would be endorsed by all fans. They talked about him 'walking away into the sunset' but I think that most fans would like him to have a continuing role and my sense is that he could be involved in some way if he wished.

Sky interviewed supporters' director Ben Hayes. Ben hinted that the prospective owners had considered a number of clubs, but were impressed by Charlton's potential in terms of such factors as the availability of planning permission for future ground development; the Thames Gateway expansion; and the status of Greenwich as an Olympic borough. The club had been well managed and had good structures in place.

He sensibly suggested that a long-term view needed to be taken and the goal was to get back into the Premiership. The club would continue to build steadily as it had in the past.

Charlton are now serious contenders. It's a bit difficult to gauge the overall reaction from Charlton fans so far, although one fan told the list run by Glynne Jones that he had been up drinking champagne all night. Some obviously have reservations about foreign ownership. My view has always been that it's not the nationality of the owner that matters, but their sense of responsibility.

New York Addick has a thoughtful post as usual. He also knows quite a lot about Dubia, whereas for me it is just a place where I change planes on my way from Birmingham to somewhere like Osaka or Perth. It always seems to cost a fortune for a coffee and I have a big stash of loose change. Perhaps I'll be able to spend it at The Valley now?

Inspector Sands has a good round up of press reaction. Paul Nottage, chair of the supporters' club speaks about 'guarded optimism' among supporters here: Nottage

Equine magnate and leading Charlton supporter John Window is reported to be considering buying a few camels for his Bexleyheath stables.

This brings to mind the remark made by Peter Varney about not seeing any sheikhs at The Valley. I remember that I had flown in from Valencia, I think, and was staying overnight at the Holiday Inn Express in North Greenwich. I picked up a London free paper and it said that a Middle Eastern consortium was going to buy Charlton.

Peter Varney's reaction was to say that he hadn't seen any sheikhs at the last home game. I thought at the time that it was a rather silly remark, as they generally turn up in expensive suits these days, but now I realise that it may have been a rather clever remark and that once again I underestimated the wily Varney.

One issue that is yet to be resolved is the question of the free season ticket offer if we are promoted to the Premiership, but indications seem to be that this will be kept by the new owners.

A weekend without football

This is currently the favourite picture on the Coventry Blaze web site

No Charlton match this weekend, of course, with England in action - I don't count watching that on television as seeing football. Leamington are away at Aresley Town which appears to be in some particularly god-forsaken part of Bedfordshire. It's nearly two hours drive from the Royal Spa and the Bloke Behind Me lives in Bedforshire, so I'll give it a miss although I haven't seen the Brakes for a while.

I did think of going to see Rushden and Diamonds in the Conference, but they are playing Torquay on Sunday, presumably in front of the Setanta cameras. I do have the option of going to the Coventry Arena on Sunday evening to see Coventry Blaze play Hull Stingrays, but as it looks as it might be a nice weekend, I might just focus on the garden.

In any case, it's been a frentic week with the media. Today my press officer has been touting me as an expert on Iceland which is a somewhat dubious claim to say the least, but given that the only real expert is in Aberdeen, I can see where he is coming from. Sky News have just been on the phone seeing if they can get a satellite truck to me, but it seems they are too far away in the Friday traffic. But at the moment I am on stand by, so I'll just have to wait around for a while.

The new talking point at Charlton is the possible return of Ambrose to Ipswich. Would we miss him or should we 'cash in' and let him go? For me, he shows real talent now and then in a match, but often seems to drift out of the action. For a striker I think it's fine to be a goal poacher, appear to be nothing for a while, then suddenly pounce and score: in a sense that was what Sir Clive Mendoca did. But for a midfielder?

The other Olafur's story

Standing firm amid the ice: His Excellency Olafur Grimsson, the president of Iceland

This story has limited Charlton content, except that many Charlton fans live in Kent (as Rick Everitt loses no opportunity to remind us) and therefore they may have an interest in the substantial sums of money that Kent County Council has lost to Icelandic banks.

In 1974 I was at an international conference in Edinburgh which I had a hand in organising. (One of my main tasks was to ensure that the Soviet delegation fulfilled their wish to see the Scottish crown jewels). A big, strong young man bounded up to me and introduced himself as Olafur Grimsson. He made a strong impression on me.

He was the first person from Iceland I had met, but as a consequence I became quite interested in this starkly beautiful country. I followed his career with interest and he is now in his fourth term as president of Iceland. He has probably been the most controversial president in the country's short history, using his veto for the first time and marrying a glamorous (Israeli) second wife shortly after his popular first wife died.

What I have been conscious of in Iceland is how tenacious the people are, not surprising given their small numbers and climate. We saw this tenacity in the Cod Wars when Britain was smartly double crossed. Cold on the surface, they are deeply patriotic and will explode like volcanoes at any slight to their country's honour. The film Reykjavik 101 gives some idea of what a strange country this is. Think also of some of the pop stars they have produced. They certainly punch well above their weight.

As The Times said yesterday, there has always been a strong whiff of Thai-style crony capitalism about Iceland. Some years ago I received a tip from an Icelandic source about a company on the London stock exchange that was about to be taken over. I didn't act on it, but I could have made myself a small fortune if I had.

More recently, ill intentioned people have started totally false rumours that the current financial boom was started by the recycling of Russian money that did not meet the highest standards of international financial probity. Given that Russia has offered to step in to avoid the country going bankrupt (as happened in the 1930s to Newfoundland), the Icelandic Government would be well advised to knock these false rumours well on the head once and for all.

I would not have let any of my money near an Icelandic bank, so what do Kent County Council think they were playing at? Of course, the interest rates were high. But, if it is too good to be true, it probably is. For months the Financial Times has been running stories about how the highly leveraged Icelandic economy was increasingly in what George Bush Snr. called deep do do. Perhaps someone in Maidstone could have picked up a copy of the FT and taken the money out?

It will be interesting to see whether Iceland repays one krona. Somehow I doubt it.

Incidentally, since I first wrote this story I have learnt that Olafur is out of action with heart trouble. I hope that he gets well soon, as his stabilising influence would be valuable in this situation.

Wednesday 8 October 2008

Spare a thought for Olafur

With the Icelandic economy collapsing, spare a thought for self-styled No.1 Iceland Addick, Olafur Johansson. Olafur contributed occasionally to this blog and also wrote in fanzine Voice of the Valley.

Olafur lives in Grindavik so is away from the hothouse atmosphere of the Icelandic capital. As he works in the fish business, he will not be short of something to eat, even if his diet gets a bit monotonous. Will his favourite Mama Mia pizza parlour in Grindavik survive the crash?

At least he is not a Hampster.

Radio days

The club's welcome decision to introduce a subscription match commentary for fans recalls for me the 'radio age'. There would be second half commentaries on top flight matches before Sports Report. One day for some reason we were not at The Valley and heard Charlton v. Bolton Wanderers on the radio.

By that time they had dropped the practice of an announcer reading out numbers over the commentary which corresponded to where the play was on the pitch. You could match this up with a cut out 'n' keep diagram from the Radio Times. This may have been the origin of the phrase 'back to square one'. See Square One

So let's go back in time. Of course what one can't re-create in words is the clipped, 'received' pronounciation of the commentator.

'Welcome to The Valley, the home of Charlton Athletic Football Club, on this rather chilly November afternoon. There's been quite a bit of rain during the week so the pitch has got churned up during the first half and there are a few pools of water.'

'It's a good crowd of 38,742 and many of them are massed opposite us on the great East Terrace of this historic ground. And now the players are coming out on to the pitch. Mr Urqhart, the referee, from Great Yarmouth, has blown his whistle and proceedings have commenced.'

'Hammond has passed to Ufton and he is running forward with the ball. Oh, he's been tackled by Bracethwaite. Now Higginbottom has the ball for Bolton and he's advancing on the Charlton goal. Bartram has come charging out of his goal. Higginbottom tries a shot. Bartram has saved. You can hear the appreciative shouts of the crowd from behind him in the Covered End.'

Were they better days? Other than we were in the top flight, no.

Tuesday 7 October 2008

A message from our sponsor

Our sponsors, Kingdom Signs, are shortly to move into new premises in Didcot ('Growing with Didcot' is one of their slogans) which will be opened by His Worship the Mayor of Didcot early next year. Occasional match analyst Monty Martin has a day job in reception at the company. They have revamped their web site: Signs

The Pards debate

It's been interesting reading the arguments for and against retaining or getting rid of Alan Pardew as manager on the list run by Glynne Jones over the past few days. Of course, in reality it's an irrelevant discussion because any decision will be made by the board and they can't afford to get rid of him (his detractors would say we can't afford to keep him).

I have become increasingly disappointed with Pardew. He seems to be the ultimate Tinkerman: always bringing in loan players, who then often disappoint and block the development of our younger players; always changing the squad and fiddling with the formation. Surely after 18 months he knows who his starting 16 are?

And he's not that starved of resources compared with other Championship managers. For me, and many others, the final straw was the Sheffield Wednesday game. I think that our players are individually than those of the Owls and we have more resources. Yet they won. Of course, it could have ended up another way, but 'might have beens' don't count in the table.

The main argument for retaining Pardew is, who would you replace him with? This sort of situation sends some Addicks into 'Roy of the Rovers' mode, advocating heroes like Mark Kinsella or Chris Powell who have no first team managerial experience. Their day will come, but not yet.

The likely successor would be Phil Parkinson and I simply don't know enough about him to assess whether he would be an improvement.

I suppose we just have to hope that Pards will get his act together. It's possible he could get us in the play offs, but they are a 1 in 4 lottery chance and just because our lucky number came up last time, we might not succeed again. Indeed, it's quite likely we would go out in the semi-finals. Then we will have to adapt next year to a £11m loss of parachute money plus a likely fall in season ticket numbers.

The board has now appointed a managing director and it seems that Steve Waggott is going to be spending more time at Sparrows Lane, although quite what he will be doing was not clear from the programme notes. Presumably he will not be advising Pards on his training routines, so is he going to inspect the quality of the meals or check that the kit is laundererd in as energy efficient a way as possible? We live in hope that he can make a difference.

Monday 6 October 2008

Can you speak Pardew?

Alan Pardew tells us in the club's E mail bulletin in relation to Jose Semedo, 'The problem perhaps is his utility so maybe he's made a little statement about right-back today and maybe I should take heed.' Does this mean that Pards thinks that he is a jack of all trades and master of none?

However, the Charlton supremo does say that Cranie will have to sweat a little over his right back position. Given that Cranie is really a centre back and the principal full back position he has apparently played in is left back, perhaps he would appreciate a change of scene.

If you're near Boreham Wood tonight you could go and see Charlton reserves play the Hornets in the Combination Cup Group B. You couldn't make it up! It's almost as exciting as Katie Smith's announcement on Radio Scilly that people on St.Agnes were picking blackberries and making jam.

The real interest would have been if a forgotten figure, Izale McLeod, who has now recovered his fitness, had led the Charlton attack as appeared possible at one stage. I know that some of the Addickted rate McLeod, but I was always doubtful about his quality.

Sunday 5 October 2008

Dowie under threat at QPR

A number of sites are reporting that former Charlton manager Iain Dowie is under threat at the Super Hoops and may be replaced by Alex Ferguson's son, Darren, who has proved a chip off the old block in his management of Peterborough. A typical report is here: Dowie

Following his lack of success at Palace, Charlton, Coventry and now QPR, one would have thought that someone would work out that Dowie hasn't got what it takes at Championship level. It's not rocket science is it? But no doubt some other club will take him on if he is let go.

Now, has that vacancy at Woking been filled? They seem to like people with a link with Charlton.

Saturday 4 October 2008

Charlton get some respite

Charlton moved up to the respectable lower mid-table position of 14th after today's 2-1 victory over Ipswich Town which saw own goals scored by both sides. However, they are only two points off the lowest play-off place and five points clear of the relegation zone. The win gave the club a welcome respite ahead of the international break. Although it was an improvement on recent performances, the Tractors were far from impressive and there is a lot to be done if the Addicks are going to mount any sort of challenge for a play off spot. For me this was exemplified by kicking free kicks by the line out of play.

The pitch announcer asked at the beginning of the game, 'Is there anywhere else you would like to be?' which brought wry smiles and a few comments from those around me.

After the referee had stamped his authority on the game by yellow carding Bouazza for a minor foul, he gave us a free kick in front of goal which I thought was a little fortunate, but when we often fail to get these marginal decisions. In any event, Bailey made good use of it, driving the ball along the ground and into the corner of the net to make it 1-0 on five minutes.

What worried me about our play after the opening goal is that we looked too comfortable rather than going all out for the second goal which would have effctively put the match beyond reach.

Varney launched an attack and there was a hand ball shout. Primus provided good defensive work. Bailey was injured, but there was no booking. He had to limp off and was replaced by Holland. Credit to Hudson as captain for giving the referee his views about this piece of ineptness.

Ambrose powered in and was not far wide. Kelly Youga provided good defensive work, clearing to avoid danger. Todorov put in an effort that was way off course. With Ipswich threatening, Primus defended well and took the right safe option by putting the ball out for a corner. This ended in nothing more than an Ipswich throw in.

The East Side lino took an odd offside decision and then gave a throw in the wrong way. As the crowd gave him a piece of their mind, a voice was heard to shout: 'Don't fret lino, they're being nasty to you.'

A Charlton free kick went straight at Wright in the Ipswich goal. Hudson provided good defensive cover. Ipswich took off Paddy Miller and brought on Pablo Courago. Holland controlled the ball well in midfield to prevent an Ipswich attack developing.

Youga managed to miss a header downfield and after a display of inept defending, an under pressure Cranie put the ball in his own net on 33 minutes to make it 1-1. Why is that we can never defend a lead?

Bouazza put in a neat cross in front of an open goal, but there was no one there to connect. A goal from Ambrose was rightly judged offside, but it was a nice move. Ipswich won a corner, a flustered looking Zheng Zhi gave the ball away and Weaver made a good save at the expense of another Ipswich corner. Ipswich won a free kick in direct line with the goal, for what I am not sure and their effort hit the crossbar.

Half time: Addicks 1, Tractors 1

Cranie was replaced by Semedo after the break. Luke Varney put in a shot which tested the keeper and won Charlton a corner, but this was unproductive, ending in an Ipswich throw in.

The Tractors won a corner, the ball was played back in and the ball ended up on the roof of the net. Luke Varney burst through and was brought down on the edge of the area. Many of the Addickted thought that it was inside, but I thought at the time that it was only a free kick. For me it was telling that none of the players claimed a penalty. The free kick was cleared and then the referee awarded Ipswich a free kick for reasons known only to himself.

Semedo put in a good cross which produced a Charlton corner. Ambrose put in an excellent cross and under pressure from Bouazza an Ipswich defender put the ball in his own net to make it 2-1. Pardew by this time was actually becoming a little animated.

Charlton kept falling for the offside trap, Varney in particular needing to watch his positioning. On 67 minutes Todorov was withdrawn and Gray brought on. Quinn and Darren Ambrose were given a long talking to by the referee who clearly likes the sound of his own voice.

The ever popular Ivan Campo was taken off and replaced by Owen Garvan while Stead was replaced by super Kevin Lisbie. Pessimists around me said 'that will be worth at least one goal to them.' Matt Holland provided a good defensive header.

An Ipswich free kick led to an Ipswich corner, but their effort went over. Semedo had a go and it was an effort worth making even if it went wide. Weaver made a good save. Three minutes added on gave the referee the chance to book Gray.

If we had got a point against Wednesday and one against Palace, we would have actually had the same number of points as two of the teams in the play off places. The likes of Burnley, Coventry and Plymouth are far from invincible and we should be able to mount a challenge to them. Whether we can remains to be seen.

Elsewhere, Leamington beat Chesham United 2-0 to go eight points clear at the top of the British Gas Business Midlands Division.

Match analysis

Ivy the Terrible took the unusual step of awarding the Silver Bone to someone who came on as a substitute at half time, Jose Semedo. Even so, the Covered End were singing his name by the end of the game and it was a creditable and lively performance by the out-of-favour player. Weaver had to make a couple of important saves, but was otherwise not troubled too much by the far from sharp shooting tractors. He needs to work on how he puts the ball forward. Youga has some sublime moments, but also makes some basic errors like playing the ball forward to a position no one can reach. Hudson was once again solid and reliable. Cranie once again failed to show the quality he is supposed to have and capped his underwhelming performance with an own goal. He was rightly withdrawn in favour of Semedo. Primus was generally reliable. Bailey scored a great goal and then had to be withdrawn.
Holland who came on for him showed once again that he is reliable and committed. Ambrose had his moments, but was not that involved.Bouazza was lively and involved and set up the winning goal. Zheng Zhi was clearly not match fit and was getting hustled off the ball. He should not have started. Todorov exchanged words with Varney for getting out of position, but did not contribute that much himself. Varney was once again able to break through from time to time, but I remain unconvinced that he will score many goals. Gray was an improvement on Todorov when he came on, but that was about all.

Hiss of the Match This was awarded by Juneau the Soccer Cat to referee Grant Hegley who deserves another suspension for incompetence. He yellow carded Bouazza early in the game for an innocuous foul and yellow carded Gray at the end, presumably because he told him what a wally he had been, but he ignored fouls by the Tractors which were as bad as that committed by Bouazza. His East Stand linesman was also hopeless, although one must make allowance for the fact that his hair kept blowing in his face.

Friday 3 October 2008

Your referee tomorrow

Is Grant Hegley. He presided over our 2-1 defeat by Preston last season, but the Hiss of the Match went to the East Stand lino for his lack of understanding of the offside rule.

Hegley has the rare distinction of being a referee actually suspended for incompetence. Many of them are incompetent but do not pay the price. He caused controversy in 2005 after being charged with less than proficiently applying the Laws of the Game after failing to send off Sheffield United's Keith Gillespie after the final whistle of the match against Reading on 1 October. He was suspended for 14 days.

The state we're in

It seems to me that the club is in a bad a way as it has been since the return to The Valley. An underlying fundamental factor is the lack of money which will get even worse next year without any parachute payments (I am working on the reasonable assumption that we won't be promoted).

It would be unreasonable to expect the directors to dip into their pockets any more than they have. And if a foreign investor of the right calibre and with sufficient dosh was going to turn up at The Valley, they would have done so by now (although, in the longer run, I do not think that all hope is lost with the owners of the Dome).

Then we have not so super Alan Pardew. I was pleased by his appointment, so that's something I got wrong. It seems to me that he has lost the plot, if he ever found it in the first place. One of the characteristics of our Premiership promotion push was that we had a reasonably settled side, barring injuries and suspensions. And, although the likes of Gary Nelson might describe themselves self deprecatingly as journeymen they were good, honest footballers.

Pards says he is going to make two or three changes for Saturday. One would be filled by more confidence by these moves if one felt that he knew what was wrong with the team and how he would remedy it. But that confidence is not there and the confidence of the team as a whole must be sapped by the run of results. Even if we go ahead tomorrow, I have no confidence that we will stay ahead. Remember that this is a team that has won only 9 out of 34 Championship matches.

Once again there are injury worries for Saturday. Primus is highly doubtful with a back injury. (Since writing this piece I have learnt that Primus may well be fit after all, so less juggling may be needed than I feared). Youga at the left can be very erratic: he often gets forward well, but is not reliable defensively. There may be a case for Basey there, although I am not sure about that.

In midfield, if Zheng Zhi is fully fit, he would certainly add something and it would have to be at the expense of Holland who gives his all, but is beginning to show his age. Despite a somewhat disappointing performance last Saturday, I would keep Bailey. By some accounts, Bouazza was our best player at Palace. Sam is inconsistent and Varney on the wing is always an option with Gray and Todorov up front. But I expect it will be Gray and Varney.

Ipswich come into the game off a 3-0 win against an admittedly struggling Barnsley. Super Kevin Lisbie will be keen to show again what we are missing. Lisbie's career at The Valley was blighted by illness and injury. He could score some great match winning goals (not least one at Ipswich) but he could also miss the simplest of tap ins. It was the right decision for the club and the player to let him go.

I could save myself a journey to London and go and see Leamington play Chesham United where the odds must be on a win given their 100 per cent league record. But, of course, I will be at The Valley. Will my spirits be lifted by a win? Yes, because it will take us away from the relegation zone. But I don't think it would indicate that the fundamental problems have been solved. What is clear is that Pardew is here to stay for some time, unless he goes of his own accord.

I know it sounds crazy, but I am going for a 2-1 win against the Tractors. And, although I think we will have a lower mid-table finish, I do not think we will be playing in League 1 next season.

When O'Leary left Villa, Pardew made one of his best investments by buying his great big book of excuses off him. It will be interesting to see what he says in the programme tomorrow. Meanwhile, for a preview of Pardew's new look team go here: