Sunday 30 November 2008

Vipers lose their sting

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

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

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

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

Saturday 29 November 2008

Close, but no cigar

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

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

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

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

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

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

Half time: Addicks 0, Saints 0

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Match analysis

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

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

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

The fringe supporter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday 28 November 2008

Easy three points is Saints' view

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

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

Read more here about the view from the Solent: Saints

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

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

Two six pointers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday 27 November 2008

Reshaping of side continues

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

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

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

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

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

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

Varney for Derby

Luke Varney is being signed by Derby on loan:

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

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

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

Wednesday 26 November 2008

Helguson loan off

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

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

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

Tuesday 25 November 2008

Disappointment at Loftus Road

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

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

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

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

New supremo makes his mark

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

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

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

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

Super Hoops

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gillespie signing

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

Monday 24 November 2008

Big pay out for Pardew?

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

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

Sunday 23 November 2008

Parkinson rallies the troops

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

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

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

Curbs on Radio 5

Happier days?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday 22 November 2008

Thanks Mr Pardew for all you tried to do

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

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

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

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

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

Before his removal was confirmed, Pardew told the media, 'My record coming to this club has been good, but it's been difficult here. When I arrived they were on the slide and I haven't been able to stop that. We're in a sticky situation and I have to accept whatever decision is made.'

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

We crave stability in the squad and in the team.

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

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

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

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

Match analysis

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

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

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

The view from Sheffield

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the game!

Friday 21 November 2008

Methane breathing referee

Steve Tanner from Somerset is tomorrow's referee. He replaced Graham Poll on the FIFA list and is widely suspected to be an arriviste from the same methane breathing planet as Poll. His use in the Premiership confirms this.

He has a poor record for incompetence and bad decision-making, in particular for continually slowing up the game with unnecessary free kicks. One comment about him is, 'Steve does tend to like a card or five so expect a Referee that continually stops play as he doesn't seem able to use man management.' Normally easygoing managers have been driven beserk by his decisions.

Enjoy the game.

Loan players

He came from Portugal ...

Loan players can make a significant contribution to a team. My favourite Charlton loan player of recent years was Millwall hater Jorge Costa. He gave his all for the shirt and he displayed real skill.

I am more sceptical of loan players from bigger clubs looking to get some fitness after a long period bench warming or on the treatment table. And I question the point of bringing in a talented youngster when we have some of our own who haven't been given a proper chance. BTW, it looks like the Rams have beaten us to the signing of Darren Powell which doesn't bother me very much.

But once they are on the pitch and wearing the shirt, they are Charlton players and I certainly don't want to get on Waghorn's back if he fails to score within five minutes. Perhaps he will have a magical ingredient that will make a difference.

The estimable Pedro45 says that surely Waghorn must start. However, remember that we are living in the Alice Through the Looking Glass world of Alan Pardew. So I expect Waghorn to appear off the bench on 68 minutes when we are looking for the winning goal. Like Pedro45, I think that this match has a 1-1 draw written all over it - Charlton to score first and the Blades to equalise from a set piece four minutes later.

Pedro45 - who among some very good blogs probably does the best pre-match preview - raises the issue of Weaver. I would be surprised to see him dropped, particularly given that we don't really have an alternative. Should we get one? We have been linked during the week with a loan (Blackburn's Jason Brown).

Being reserve keeper is one of the most difficult jobs in football (someone based a fictional film on it once). I remember all the years that the super loyal Eddie Marsh was understudy to Sam Bartram. And on these few occasions when Marsh did appear, it was clear that he was nowhere near as good.

We are sponsoring Leamington's reserve keeper. Cadzy had obviously been speaking to Pardew about tinkering because he abandoned the winning side on Tuesday and saw the Brakes go down 1-2 at home to Bromsgrove Rovers in the Birmigham Senior Cup (admittedly not the greatest competition in the world, but we could have got the Baggies or Wolves in the next round).

This included playing the reserve keeper. He was obviously a fan of Bartram as he would come charging out of his goal and halfway down the pitch as he tried to shoot. I knew Sam Bartram and this guy is no Sam Bartram and the outcome was to be expected, to the delight of the knot of away Bromsgrove supporters. Moreover, despite having won all their league matches this season except one that they drew, the Brakes have been toppled off the top of the table by the Adders.

I'm not going to predict the Charlton side tomorrow as I don't have a random number table with me and, in any case, Charlton Athletic Online does a much better job of this.

I am on my lonesome ownsome tomorrow as my wife has decided not to make the long trip down to London and match analyst Ivy the Terrible will be staying with her. The Association of Canine Match Analysts has made a bold move and brought in Monty Martin who works in reception at our sponsors, Kingdom Signs. The effervescent spaniel has a good track record of bringing luck to the team when nothing has been going our way. We certainly need a lucky break.

Finally, copying Pedro, my one to watch: Blade supporter Professor Andrew Gamble FBA.
Britain's leading political economist, he lives in Sheffield, but holds a chair at the University of Cambridge. He is a Blade (and a rather fanatical one) rather than an Owl. Although he is writing a quick book on the financial crisis, he may well be in the Jimmy Seed Stand tomorow.

Thursday 20 November 2008

Blades Up For The Fight

Declaring 'we fear no one' seems a bit odd given current morale at The Valley, but Sheffield United are clearly out to claim all three points on Saturday:

We have early sight of the Sub-Standard's forecast which is: PARDEW PINCHES POINT.

Tuesday 18 November 2008

Harte has a change of heart

We understand that Ian Harte has had a change of heart and will not be signing a two month contract at Charlton after all.

We should not be relying on players out of contract and loan players returning from injury, however talented. Having signed players like Fleetwood, why not try them out? Or if they are not good enough for the Championship, why did we sign them in the first place?

We need a smaller squad, fewer loan players and a team that gets used to playing with each other. Fortunately, I am going to see such a team tonight: Leamington.

Apologists for Pardew

The apologists for Alan Pardew are now out in force in the blogosphere and on the lists. Now, I think that Pardew is a decent, sincere man who wants to do his best for the club. The problem is that it just isn't working out at Charlton. You only have to look at his passive, almost dejected body language at pitchside.

Pardew's stock has been rising since he gave a courageous and impressive performance at the NW Kent 'branch' of the supporters' club. No one has doubted that he can talk the talk, but those who think that he can walk the walk as well point to two battling away performances at Plymouth and Birmingham.

Battling and committed performances are fine, although I suspect that Charlton supporters overrate them relative to grinding out a result. What he now has to do is to replicate those performances in front of a critical Valley crowd.

It also looks as if it might be a depleted Valley crowd. Admittedly uncorroborated information reaching me suggests that 'walk up' ticket sales for Saturday's match against the Blades are well down on what one would expect at this stage. It won't look too bad on the day because quite a few organised junior groups are coming, plus there is a large number of complimentaries. And, of course, season ticket holders who don't come will be counted in the crowd.

I think that there are at least three worse sides than us in the division and I think that we can probably string together enough results to avoid relegation. But I don't think a lower mid-table finish will inspire season ticket sales for next year.

Of course, the optimists point out that Palace were languishing near the bottom at this stage last year and ended up in the play offs. Arithmetically, the division is tight. But I doubt whether we have the skill or will to do it however many loan players we bring in.

The apologists for Pardew say that he is a fine manager who has hit a patch of bad luck - quite a long one when you consider his Championship record at Charlton with, I recall, just seven wins. Others say he has not had enough money, but other managers have been more successful with fewer resources.

Perhaps their strongest argument is that we can't afford to sack him and that there is no suitable replacement available. Well, can we afford to keep him? And there are plenty of managers out of work, even if one discounts internal solutions.

The manager does make a difference. Just look at what Martin O'Neill has achieved at Villa. We can't afford someone of his calibre, but we could afford someone who raised morale and stopped tinkering with the squad.

What really worries me is that many Charlton supporters are not wired for success. They seem to enjoy being in a 'backs against the wall' situation and take a perverse satisfaction in failure. Yes, we have been through more difficult times, but a little bit of success on the pitch might not come amiss.

Of course, the real disaster was the Dowie era when all that money was squandered. But we need to move on and I had hoped that Alan Pardew would be able to do that for us.

Quite probably we will get four points out of the next two matches and fans will proclaim 'crisis over'. I don't think so. The one glimmer of hope on the horizon is that a takeover remains a possibility.

Monday 17 November 2008

Varney linked with Arsenal

No, not, Luke Varney, Peter Varney.

Although I did not always agree with him, Peter Varney was a person of real quality as Charlton chief executive and his departure was a real blow to the club which we have not fully recovered from.

According to Tribal Football:

'Charlton Athletic's former chief executive Peter Varney is being linked with Arsenal. "No comment," Varney told the Observer when asked if he would soon be working at the Emirates.

Pressed if there been an approach from Arsenal he said: 'I still have some commitments to Charlton which take me up to Christmas, so let's see what
happens in the new year.'

Pardew's secret weapon

It's the biggest thing to hit South-East London since the V-2, yes it's Super Alan Pardew's secret weapon, Martyn Waghorn:

Quite what going 'straight into the squad' means is an interesting question, possibly a bench warming role and then coming on in the 70th minute when we are 1-2 down.

The Wikipedia entry on him can be found here. He seems to have a record of debuts in matches which the team he is playing for lose 0-4 or 0-5:
Super Sub

Sunday 16 November 2008

Telling it like it is

The latest Four Four Two has a 'legends' feature on Malcolm Allison, now 81 years old and living in a nursing home in Manchester. Just to remind you, he was born in Dartford, educated at Bexleyheath Central School and his playing pedigree was Welling Civic; Danson Boys' Club, Erith and Belvedere, Charlton Rovers and then Charlton Athletic.

His career at The Valley was interrupted by national service and on his return training was taken by Jimmy Trotter who was later to succeed Jimmy Seed as manager. He recalled, 'I remember standing there one morning and thinking "this training is terrible". So I said to the trainer Jimmy Trotter "what we're doing is ****ing rubbish". The next day he sold me to West Ham.'

From what we know of those days, the training wasn't very good, even if Trotter wore a white coat to lend authority to his role as ringmaster in the running round the pitch and up and down the East Terrace exercises he favoured.

Saturday 15 November 2008

So what do you make of that?

The BBC tried to get me into their Mailbox studio in Birmingham this afternoon to record some segments for their news programmes, assuming that I would be at the clash at St.Andrew's. In fact I wasn't, given the personal safety problems one encounters at that ground. Having already got up at 6 a.m. to do a slot for Radio 5 after the 7 a.m. news, I felt I had done my bit for the Beeb for the day, although my press officer will not be a happy bunny when he finds out I turned it down.

So what does one make of the 3-2 defeat at St.Andrews? It's no disgrace against one of the top teams in the division. The match really turned on two mistakes by Nicky Weaver, the first of which which was pounced on by our old adversary Kevin Phillips to level the match at 2-2 on 50 minutes. Queudrue then grabbed the winner on 55 minutes.

In the first half James McFadden put the home side ahead, but then Bouazza equalised with a fantastic volley, presumably similar to the one he scored at The Valley. Andy Gray put Charlton back in front on 27 minutes. When I saw the half time lead, I thought 'we're not going to hang on to this.' It was particularly disappointing that we were not able to equalise in the last half hour of the game after Nigel Quashie was sent off for a second booking. McFadden and Ridgewell were also booked for the Blews, whilst we had no bookings.

Fortunately the teams around us aren't much better. Watford and Southampton both lost, the latter at home and Forest drew (Doncaster play later). So we remain in the 20th position we have made our own recently.

One positive sign was that Pardew seems to have got over his blind faith in Varney who only came on after 81 minutes to replace Youga. Shelvey got a look in at the end of the game.

The stats give a mixed picture. Birmingham were just ahead, 15 to 13, on goal attempts. More of theirs were on target, nine to five, but we hit the woodwork twice. However, we were ahead on corners, eight to four.

One thing that does give me some encouragement is that the failed takeover bid seems to have given us some profile and it may well be that another bid could come in over the next few months.

Hat trick for Bello

PC Mark Bellingham secured a hat trick as Leamington beat Barton Rovers 4-1 at the New Windmill Ground today in front of a crowd of 603. It was six weeks since the Brakes had played at home.

Brakes got into gear quickly and forced a series of corners. But they were unable to take their chances with Marcus Jackson hitting the post. At the other end, Nat Liburd got a chant of 'Johnny Wilkinson' as the defender put in a wild shot. Somewhat against the run of play, the visitors went ahead. A strong strike from Leeds University sports science graduate Alex O'Brien on 21 minutes left Mozza, wearing a striking all yellow kit, with no chance.

Barton looked up for it and Mozza had to make a great save to stop them going 0-2 ahead. But then Jai Stanley equalised on 37 minutes with a well drilled strike along the ground. A second Brakes goal was disallowed for offside, but not before veteran keeper Martyn Patching in the Barton goal had gone wild with anger at himself.

After the break, Bello burst past the advancing Patching on 50 minutes to lob the ball in the goal to make it 2-1. A defensive error on 56 minutes allowed Bello to round the keeper and make it 3-1. Meanwhile the scoreboard had gone beserk, showing Brakes 2-10 and then 3-10 behind.

Barton kept competing in a fast moving match and Brakes hit the post again before Bello put it beyond doubt on 81 minutes with his third goal to make it 4-1.

Friday 14 November 2008

Get in Charlton's faces says Blews boss

Birmingham City boss Alex McLeish has promised to get in Charlton's faces in tomorrow's fixture at St.Andrew's. No fool, McLeish has not made the mistake of saying will be an easy three points, but has declared his respect for Charlton:

We don't think it will be straightforward for Blews, despite clear-the-air talks in the dressing room, but we are predicting a 2-1 victory for Birmingham City. The Sub-Standard says: 'PARDEW'S BLUE PHASE'.

Thursday 13 November 2008

Blews to take it out on Addicks

Despite being second in the table, there is a mood of anger and frustration at the Millwall of the Midlands, but Blews have vowed to take it out on the Addicks. See Blews and also here Anger

Although I live about 30-40 mins. from the ground I won't be going, bearing my own safety in mind. There are possibilities in this match for the Addicks because I think the crowd may turn on the team if they do not take an early lead.

I don't really keep up with A list celebrities, let alone C list ones, but I learn that Marcus Bent has become engaged to the lady who persuaded him that the Second City was the place for him: Engagement

This provoked a rather cruel story in the Sunday Mercury on the theme of 'Can Marcus Bent Score on the Pitch?' Apparently, he missed a sitter against Forest. That doesn't mean he won't score against us.

Wednesday 12 November 2008

Bull Talk

It looks like Darren Randolph will be returning to The Valley soon unless another loan berth can be found for him:

Of course, we only have Hereford's side of the story. Alan Pardew has now made his own views known through the club's E mail bulletin:

'Alan Pardew has reacted angrily to a statement issued by Hereford United criticising Addicks goalkeeper Darren Randolph. Pardew said: "There are other factors here as well, and I am disappointed with Graham Turner's statement. We never instigated Darren's loan, and Hereford were beside themselves when it was agreed. What's even more disappointing is that we agreed to supplement Darren's wages."'

One wonders if there are other cases where we are supplementing the wages of players loaned out, although the experience is usually beneficial to the player and hopefully for the club.

Tuesday 11 November 2008

Ian Harte

He turned out for the reserves against Millwall this afternoon, apparently conceding a penalty. The Irish defender spent a long portion of his career at Leeds United and was released by Sunderland in the summer after one year at the Stadium of Light.

He has been sniffing around quite a few clubs since then, training at Leeds in the hope of finding a berth there, but also hanging out at Wolves and Sheffield United. He even went to Norway for a week earlier this month at a hope of getting taken on by a club called Varenga. On the any port in a storm principle, he has now turned up at The Valley.

In his day he could certainly turn it on: Harte

I think our squad is already more than big enough and we don't need any loan players or ageing talents. Just pick the core 16, get them used to playing together, and hope it works out.

Sunday 9 November 2008

Ambrose to go to Ipswich

Reports are suggesting that Darren Ambrose is to sign a loan deal with Ipswich tomorrow which may subsequently become permanent. The Tractors have also expressed an interest in ex-Charlton player Hermann Hreidarsson.

Ambrose's advocates would say that he has been all too rarely played in his best position, in the hole behind two strikers. However, I have seen too many half chances wasted and too many tackles conceded to think that his departure would be a major blow to Charlton.

There is no news of any movement in the other direction.

Curbs talks about Charlton

I have lifted the following from a post on the Glynne Jones list, but I thought that it merited a wider audience:

Curbs and Robert Lee were the guests on 'Goals on Sunday' on SS1 this am and there was a reasonable chunk of discussion on us and our current plight.

Apart from tongue in cheek stuff on why we haven't named a stand after Robert (Curbs also suggested Lee Bowyer!), Curbs clarified why he left us as he did (need for a rest, it was the time to go, "some people apparently thought finishing mid table in the Prem was boring" (who could he have been thinking of?) and Richard Murray wanted me to extend the contract for 3 years etc). His parting shot was that it was a mutual decision and that the club had the summer to find someone to take the club forward...

Of particular interest was Curbs view that going up to the Prem and then coming straight down is not a problem but going up and staying there for 3 or 4 years is, because you need to invest to stay there, fans want you to grow but you get left with players on big contracts, you have to sell and you have a large turnover of players.

Nothing on Pardew himself -in fact I don't think he was ever mentioned although there was extended highlights of the yesterday's games. Both Robert and Curbs wanted to see us 'higher up the league" and Curbs did not rule us returning to the Prem - "look at Hull" was pretty much his view.

Both were very relaxed and there were some good clips of Robert with us and some decent and generous reflection on time with the club for Curbs

Saturday 8 November 2008

Addicks go ahead, then concede

We would have taken a point before the game, but having gone 2-1 ahead, Plymouth equalised in the dying seconds of this game to make the final score 2-2.

Jose Semedo, a player favoured by many of the Addickted, was given a start in Alan Pardew's line up at Home Park this afternoon. In defence, Cranie was relegated to the bench and Primus and Hudson took the centre back roles. Moutaoukil retained the right back slot and Youga was given what may be a last chance as left back with Basey nowhere to be seen.

Holland, Bouazza and Bailey completed the midfield line up. The favoured pairing of Gray and Varney was up front. Sam was on the bench along with Todorov and Dickson and Elliott should Weaver get injured or sent off as he did here last year.

Plymouth started brightly and the Addicks were under threat when they broke down the right and put in a good cross. However, the header was cleared off the line. The Addicks got into the game more with two efforts by Holland, one long range and one a header that was saved by the Argyle keeper.

As the half hour mark was passed, the home crowd started to get restive as the expected early goal failed to arrive. However, their concerns were premature as Argyle won a corner on the right and went ahead on 39 minutes with a header by Doumbe. Meanwhile, Youga, who apparently was getting skinned by their right winger, had received a yellow card on 37 minutes for unsporting behaviour. Some of the Addickted were placing bets on whether Semedo or Youga would get sent off first. The closing minutes of the half saw bookings for Bailey for dissent and for Hudson.

From the Oval, it was Bedworth United 1, Brakes 1 at half time.

Half time: Pilgrims 1, Addicks 0

The pouring West Country rain dampened the spirits of the Addickted at the game after the break. Argyle had an early opportunity to put the game beyond reach but fortunately Fallon volleyed wide from Gallagher's cross.

On 56 minutes Varney was replaced by Sam. On 69 minutes Holland was replaced by Todorov and then on 74 minutes Semedo (reports say that he was stretchered off) was replaced by Dickson, Pardew clearly trying for the equaliser.

Charlton stepped up a gear with Sam causing havoc. An inswinging corner from Bailey enabled Youga to score for the Addicks on 86 minutes. Then on 90 minutes Charlton were awarded a controversial penalty and with the Plymouth players protesting, Gray scored from the spot.

Then in time added on a Plymouth substitute, Mpenza, made it 2-2 in line with the forecast we gave earlier in the week. Once again Charlton showed they could not hang on to a lead. Both Plymouth goals came from set pieces and our inability to defend from them is costing us dear.

Charlton had 12 goal attempts to 6 by Plymouth, but only five of them were on target while Plymouth managed four, suggesting somewhat desperate attempts to score. The Addicks led on corners by six to five. Plymouth do not seem to have been the cleanest of sides, committing 16 fouls compared with just six by Charlton.

The Addicks are temporarily 20th but will slip to 21st if Southampton get a point at home to Bristol City this evening. If rudderless Watford lose to Swansea tomorrow, as seems more than possible, Charlton will stay out of the relegation places. But we have to start winning matches rather than drawing them.

It looks as if Leamington have lost their 100 per cent league record after a 1-1 draw at Bedworth.

Friday 7 November 2008

Supremo calls for fans to get behind team

No, not Alan Pardew, Plymouth Argyle supremo Paul Sturrock. Apparently the fans at Home Park are not too happy with the team's performances this season and have been quite vocal about it:

You will see from the comments below the story by those with 'green blood' that the home fans are looking forward to three points tomorrow against a Charlton team lacking in confidence with a poor away record.

My view is that Argyle are not invincible, that we have some decent players if they could get their act together, and it's not impossible that we might get something out of the game.

Of course, we don't know what side will be put out. Steve from Croydon thinks that Pards uses the device that generates the Valley Gold numbers to choose the team. You can try this at home if you have a statistics textbook. Many of them have a random numbers table at the back. Just use the table to pick the team and see what you get.

The Sub-Standard says: 'ADDICK PILGRIMAGE IN VAIN.' We are going for a 2-2 draw.

Thursday 6 November 2008

Czech midfielder to have trial

Setanta reports: 'Charlton Athletic are set to take a closer look at Brno midfielder Ales Besta after inviting him to for a trial. Addicks boss Alan Pardew, under fire after a poor start to the Championship campaign, has been alerted to the availability of the 25-year-old. The former Czech Republic Under-21 international is believed to be heading to the English capital [sic] in a bid to win a contract at The Valley. After a fall-out with Brno, he is free to find a new club in January.

"England is now my main priority and a major challenge," he said. "I believe that I will succeed in the trials. I had other offers but I put them to one side."'

Plymouth Argyle

I have to confess that I have a bit of soft spot for the Pilgrims. I am of Cornish descent on my mother's side and, the rise of moneybags Truro City notwithstanding, Argyle are the team supported by most Cornish people who are not egg chasers. I remember coming back from an Easter break in Cornwall when I was a child and all the Argyle supporters getting on the train in East Cornwall.

Argyle is also the team supported by many people on the Isles of Scilly (see link to Radio Scilly) and I believe that some even manage to get off 'the Rock' occasionally to watch a game. That must be a journey and a half. With only two teams that have to play each other every week, football on the island is a bit of a struggle. The likes of David Beckham and Steven Gerrard have come to help: see here You Tube . More recently, most of the Argyle squad came over for a weekend when they didn't have a match which I am sure was appreciated.

I have only been to Home Park for a pre-season game and we got a friendly welcome from the locals. However, on Saturday what we have to try and do is to replicate last year's against-the-odds victory.

It has been suggested that if Charlton win the next three matches, Alan Pardew will go from zero to hero. I still want to see Charlton to win matches, unlike those who think that losing them would hasten Pardew's exit. But I am not enough of a goldfish to think that a few wins would mean that was problem sorted.

I have never met Alan Pardew whereas I met Alan Curbishley many times and had some quite long chats with him. Pardew does come across to me as a likeable person, but he is hired to get results. Recent pictures show him looking rather seedy and, understandably, under some strain.

If the board are determined to keep him, it might be a best if they issued a statement saying that this was their view, but that performance had to improve on the pitch and this had been discussed with the manager.

One of our problems is that we have far too large a squad which means that some players never get a look in. It also encourages the Tinkerman behaviour which is the worst aspect of Pardew's management.

Wednesday 5 November 2008

Through the turnstiles

Rick Everitt: will not be counting ticket stubs rather than 'enjoying the game'

I often wonder why football supporters are such anoraks about attendances. Indeed, I am a bit of a one myself: among my collection of football books I have one called Through the Turnstiles which devotes itself to the subject.

I recently took my oldest granddaughter to see the English National Ballet in Oxford (just as I used to take her mum to the ballet). Once we had got past a couple of very upper class ticket touts outside, we discovered there were lots of empty seats. But no one publishes attendance figures or says that the Royal Shakespeare Theatre is doing better that the New Theatre in Oxford.

In this context it is interesting to read the following statement in tonight's E mail bulletin from the club:

'Debate among supporters today prompted Charlton to reiterate the way in which the club calculates official attendances at The Valley. Gaps around the stadium have led to suggestions the announced figures overstate the crowd, but the club has pointed out that it has an obligation to report all tickets issued rather than just the number of fans who actually turn up.'

Head of club development Rick Everitt said: "The Football League requires each home club to produce a gate return that includes the number of season-ticket holders and figures for match ticket sales and complimentary issues to home and away fans.' [I also believe that the referee is allowed to bring a couple of his fans, usually his mum and/or partner]

The Rickster continued, 'Match sales form the basis of a three per cent levy collected by the League, as well as the income for VAT purposes, so we have to reflect the entire cash value. We can't leave off people who don't turn up, although we acknowledge that the word "attendance" is not helpful in this context.'

The last sentence is quite significant as it is evident that many of the Addickted, even those who hold season tickets, are voting with their feet and their numbers are likely to increase if performances on the pitch do not improve. To put it in commercial language, the brand is being damaged and once such damage occurs it takes a long time to recover.

However, I agree that it would not be a good use of time or money to count all the ticket stubs to get a figure which reflected those in the ground. It has been suggested that in the old days of The Valley some of the huge attendances under counted the numbers there as some youngsters managed to sneak in without payment. I was amused at a recent non-league match with Leamington to see four youngsters climbing over a wall.

Board back Pardew

The Charlton board are backing Alan Pardew by making money available for loan signings ahead of Saturday's match at Plymouth. Richard Murray has also said that a South African consortium is not interested in the club, but has confirmed that the board is looking for a buyer:

In my view over reliance on loan signings is one of our problems and we need to build around a core of Charlton players who can provide a base for the future. What has struck me at successive matches is how big our squad is compared with opponents who have turned us over.

Tuesday 4 November 2008

Why Zabeel dropped out

Interesting report from Reuters on why Zabeel pulled out of the Charlton deal:

I do quite a lot of work for Reuters and I am always impressed by the professionalism of their journalists so I would regard this report as at least representing an accurate representation of what Zabeel want to be known in public.

The club web site going down yesterday prompted speculation that some sort of dramatic announcement was imminent, but the only news appears to be that we have tried out an out of contract centre back from Southampton in the reserves. Any port in a storm.

However, some normally reliable sources have been quieter than usual. This is just speculation on my part, but Pards may have been given a final warning to sort it out over the next three matches. 'Sort it out Pardew!' never has the resonance of 'Sort it out Curbishley!'

Monday 3 November 2008

Boothroyd out at Watford

Gone by mutual consent. Some interesting wording from the club one place above us:

Springboks consider Charlton

A South African consortium has expressed some interest in buying Charlton, unconfirmed reports suggest. I believe that they may be the same consortium that took a look at Newcastle and decided that it didn't offer good value. More recently, they have held talks with cash strapped Portsmouth, but are believed to consider the £40m price tag and £50m of debts too much.

On the whole, they seem to prefer clubs near rivers or the sea and have also considered Fulham. However, they may take another look at Charlton as offering a good value package.

Considering the club's historic links with South Africa, it would be rather nice to have Springbok owners. But not only have the chickens not hatched, the eggs haven't been laid, so it is only a faint glimmer of hope.

The cost of saying goodbye

As manager Alan Pardew apparently spouts more of the same rallying cries on the official website, reasonably reliable sources suggest that it would cost £2.5m to get rid of him, plus another £2m to compensate Phil Parkinson and to bring in support staff for the new manager.

I am suspicious of the latter figure which wouldn't apply at all if we had an internal caretaker appointment which could be made permanent if it worked out. Nor would it apply if Chris Powell came in as manager with Keith Peacock as mentor and Kinsella staying in his current role.

My branch of the supporters' club has only had a 50 per cent renewal rate on subscriptions. Given that the sub doesn't cost that much, this is possibly one reflection of how dislluisoned and fed up the core support is.

A lot of money and effort has gone into building up the Rickshaw network. It's a sensible strategy given that many of the Addickted now live well away from South-East London. However, people are not going to travel long distances to see poor performances on the pitch. Hence, the whole Valley Express network could be undermined.

The following from the club's E mail bulletin: 'a half-season ticket is the perfect Christmas present for any Charlton fan.' Admittedly, it's the way I re-started my Addicktion seriously after buying tickets on a match-by-match basis. But even at a knockdown price, is it good value? There isn't even an offer of a free or discounted season ticket in League 1.

Saturday 1 November 2008

'We want Pardew out' - but he stays

'We want Pardew out' was the chant of the Covered End during today's abject 1-3 capitulation to Barnsley, but the manager has made it clear that he is staying. I was interested to see what he would draw from his book of excuses, thinking that Halloween or the weather might be likely candidates, but apparently it was all down to Linvoy Primus not being available. Pardew's solution to the crisis is to think of bringing in another loan player. Can we loan a manager?

Any remaining apologist for Pardew should listen to this short interview: Pardew First, he says that the team wasn't big enough and strong enough to cope with Barnsley. So why did he put out a team that had so many relatively inexperienced youngsters? Surely this was a case for the likes of Holland and Todorov?

Second, he says that he has tried changing it around and it hasn't worked and perhaps he should stay with his strongest team. Perhaps the penny has dropped at last, but one problem is I don't think he knows what his strongest team is.

Once again throughout the game his body language was negative and passive. As one of our commentators has suggested, perhaps he does accept that his fate is sealed.

One member of the Glynne Jones list has suggested four scenarios for the club and I have borrowed his schema because I think it sums up our dilemma quite nicely:
Scenario 1: We stick with Pardew and get relegated ... result (almost) no fans
Scenario 2: We stick with Pardew, fight relegation, and escape excitingly ... result more Pardew?
Scenario 3: We appoint someone new, fight relegation and go down ... result (almost) no more fans, but a clean start for the new incumbent, and some positivity from those fans left.
Scenario 4: We appoint someone new and they keep us up. Result, something positive to build on.

Charlton have now dropped into the relegation positions after Southampton's win at Preston but, despite protests outside the ground after the game, the board appear to be relaxed about the prospect of League 1 football. Or, if they are not, they are not doing anything about it (although a commentator has suggested that there may be a board meeting on Monday).

I don't feel inclined to do a detailed analysis of the game, but the row behind me had a point when they said that pro rata our performance was less good than when we were relegated from the Premiership. Essentially, the work of the last fifteen years is being put to waste.

We can't defend set pieces, as was shown by Barnsley's early goal. We can't keep possession, we hesitate in attack and we resort to hopeful long balls. The side is completely disorganised. Players like Bailey seem to have regressed in the last few games.

All credit to Barnsley, they knew we were there for the taking and they stuck to their game plan. 'It's just like watching Wednesday' was one of the chants from the Barnsley fans. I thought the referee, supposedly the best thing to come out of Preston, did them a few favours by taking a 'it's a man's game oop north' stance and not penalising some blatant fouls, one of which played a part in the third goal.

We started to play with a bit more determination and fluency in the second half, although the ball was still up in the air a lot. Eventually Hudson got us a consolation goal, but it was all too late and quite a few fans had left by then, not surprisingly. The Covered End applauded the Barnsley team as they left the pitch.

One wag asking if there were any positives from the game said that he was keeping the page blank. For me, the good news was that the Bloke Beside Me, Paul from Bexleyheath, has come home from hopsital in his fight against cancer.

Match analysis

The Silver Bone has been withheld. Match analysis emeritus Hooch the Pooch has stepped in as match analyst emeritus to rate the players as Ivy the Terrible is a young dog and could not comprehend what she saw. Weaver got a response to his applause to the crowd at the end and I don't blame him for what went wrong. It's very difficult to make saves when you have a forest of players in panic mode crowding the box in front of you and in any case he did make some saves. Cranie seemed to be out of position and out of sorts. Hudson did his best and scored a goal and was one of the best players out there. Basey was actually concussed in the first half and I wonder if this continued to affect him as this was a very poor performance - although I have always had reservations about him. But it was his free kick that set up the goal. Moutaoukil did make some good runs forward. Sometimes he positioned himself very well on the wing but no one seemed to notice him. Wright made some tolerably good contributions and got warm applause when he went off, but I still think he was out of his depth. Bailey made some terrible errors. Ambrose is a scapegoat player for a lot of fans. I don't think he's much good, but he's no worse than many of the others. But when he gets in front of goal he tends to blast over or otherwise make a hash of things. I almost forgot Sam who had an error prone first half. But again one wonders what goes on at Sparrows Lane because he seems to have gone backwards as a player. Someone asked earlier in the week why I don't rate Varney. Yes, he has commitment, but I also value skill. But he did have one good shot on goal in the second half and he did get booked, although rather harshly in my view. Gray was really out of it. Bouazza looked up for it but didn't make a difference. Dickson was a huge disappointment.

Hiss of the Match Juneau the Soccer Cat enlisted her sister Amber to hiss as well, while Cat (his real name, his owner being a minimalist), the Coventry City supporter from next door, came over to offer his commiserations (and eat some food). Alan Pardew becomes the only Charlton manager since this blog started to receive the Hiss of the Match twice. Mind you, it might also have been given to the police who held us up in the rain while they sent a mounted policewoman to investigate the 'shouting and singing' on the station.

Crowd rating How does one expect them to react to this dross week after week? They did get behind the team in the second half when it showed a spark of life.