Thursday 31 December 2009

That was the year that was

For most Addicks, this has been a very difficult year. It was not easy to accept relegation to the third tier, particularly when we had been in the Premiership so recently. However, most Addicks would have probably have accepted second place at the end of the calendar year at the beginning of the season.

In recent weeks, however, the natural nervousness and pessimism of the Addickted has come to the fore once again. In part this is because Norwich are being talked up by the media. The Addicks have had a run of three draws, although the 2-2 one against Swindon with nine men was a moral victory, while a 1-1 draw at Brentford on a very heavy pitch with many of our reserves in the team was acceptable. It was throwing away the lead against the Spanners that was a blow, exciting though the match was.

I have for a long time held the view that Phil Parkinson was a decent, competent manager who was doing his best in difficult circumstances. He would probably have become our manager when Curbs left if Colchester had let us talk to him and a Dowieless history might have been very different.

Many of the Addickted are coming round to Parkinson, although it is still rare to hear his name being chanted. I have even heard him referred to as the new Alan Curbishley, whatever that means, although that is going too far in the other direction.

The problem is that we have a thin squad which looks vulnerable when we have injuries (Youga, Richardson, Dailly) or suspensions (Burton). Some strengthening may be possible in the window, but not very much. The left-wing position has been a problem resolved by playing people who are not suited to it there. Holden apparently is not the answer, but I think Leon McKenzie could be.

The fact of the matter is that the club's financial position is perilous. If we don't go up, or attract a significant new investor, insolvency may stare us in the face. We are not running a Yeovil set up where continued membership in League 1 is the objective. Our stadium and other infrastructure attracts unavoidable running costs, e.g., for insurance, business rates etc. The situation was reflected in this year's Charlton accounts which were presented in a monochrome format rather than the glossy publications of earlier years.

Because of pressure of work I have not been able to carry out my own analysis of the accounts and I am grateful to the Swindon Addick for the following:
* As a stylised fact, our net assets (Valley, training ground) just about cover our liabilities
* We lost £8.6m last year, but that was on revenues of £23.6m which included the last parachute payment and higher television revenues in the Championship.
* Staff costs dropped by £8m, but even then salaries were twice as high as ticket revenues (further cutbacks since then, of course).
* We owe £32m to creditors.

The board have made mistakes, as they admit themselves, not least over appointments, especially those of Dowie and Pardew. My experience from when I was a line manager is that appointments are one of the most difficult things you do. I would divide those I was involved in into three categories:

1. People who interviewed well, but that was their finest moment and they never delivered on their supposed potential. [Quite a few players one could name like that].
2. People who did deliver but were also complete [deleteds] and disrupted team working. [A few candidates at Charlton]
3. People who did turn out to be very good and went and got themselves better jobs elsewhere. [Again a number of examples at Charlton].

I was watching an old newsreel of Neville Chamberlain as chancellor recently when he finally admitted that he could not keeping on reducing taxes as the country need to get some half decent armaments. He raised his eyes and gazed upwards (presumably to some divine source) and after a long dramatic pause and said 'But there you have it.'

We don't want to be where we are and it won't be easy to get out of our current situation. It depends on the board, Phil Parkinson and the players. But the spirit in the camp is as good as it has been for a long time. We have been in worse situations before and we have come through and gone on to better times. Come on you Reds!

Big year ahead for Rickster

With a general election to take place in 2010, it's a big year for club development officer Rick Everitt. He will be standing in the Labour interest in the Old Bexley and Sidcup seat at one time held by Gooner Ted Heath. (At least I think he will: I have just got a general election guide which has n/a against the name of the Labour candidate for the seat).

In the interests of fairness, the other candidates are:

Sainsbury, Nigel Norbert (Dave Cameron's Conservatives, Team of the Eighties)
Hurst, Nigella Selena (Orange Loving Liberal Democrat)
Toolman, Lionel Daniel (UKIP)

Wednesday 30 December 2009

Charlton bring in international goalkeeper

Charlton are bringing in the keeper for the Bermuda international side on a two week trial: Bermuda

He could potentially be there to back up to Rob Elliot if Darren Randolph goes elsewhere.

Suprisingly, no comment is yet available from our man on the beach [you mean on the spot - ed] the Chicago Addick living in Bermuda.

Meanwhile, a well-known Addickted American sports commentator has remarked, 'I wouldn't get too excited about a keeper from Quinnipiac, a middling university in central Connecticut that has attempted to make big strides in its athletic programs. I've seen Quinnipiac play, although not this season, and don't recall any standouts.'

Norwich game rearranged early doors

I was amused to see a senior policewoman with West Midlands Police announcing on the regional news last night that anyone causing trouble in Birmingham's 'entertainment' district over the new year would be arrested 'early doors'. Ronglish conquers all! You can take lessons in Ronglish here: Big Ron

Postponed games are often replayed a couple of months later, but the Walsall v. Norwich game has been re-scheduled for January 12th. Sources close to the league explained, 'The media narrative, and indeed that of the fans of champions designate Leeds, is that Norwich will occupy the other automatic promotion spot. Let's face it, that Delia has a touch of class even if she does like the occasional glass of sherry. We don't want unfashionable clubs like Charlton or Colchester in the automatic promotion spot. So Norwich need to get the points on the board.'

The spokesman said that awarding a 3-0 victory to Norwich had been considered, but fans were thought not to be ready for such an innovation yet.

If Norwich beat Walsall and we draw with them, that could be important at the end of the season.

Tuesday 29 December 2009

The true massives

Manchester City sometimes claim to be a massive club, but the real title belongs to Staines Town. Unfortunately, Mambo was not able to start his work experience there before he was called to Griffin Park to sit on the bench. But then at least he didn't have to meet any of the fans ...

Giant in the Saddle

This is not an advert for John Window's equine empire, but exciting news from Walsall:

'Walsall have signed defender Clayton McDonald on an 18-month deal following his release by Manchester City. The 21-year-old, six-foot seven son of former Walsall striker Rod [not Ronald] McDonald has spent three months on loan at the Banks's Stadium this season. The last of his loan deals from City expired earlier this month.

But McDonald's move has now been sanctioned in time for him to be considered for Saturday's League One home game against Charlton Athletic.'

Threatened snow has not arrived in the Midlands today (it is raining hard) so fears that Saturday's game might be frozen out as happened last Saturday with the visit of the Canaries have lessened.

Monday 28 December 2009

Bailey equalises from the spot

In a surprise move by Phil Parkinson, returning striker Chris Dickson starts this afternoon against Brentford up front with Akpo Sodje in a 4-4-2 formation. Wagstaff returns to the starting line up (on the left) at the expense of Shelvey, Racon is on the bench along with Mambo recalled from Staines Town.

Former Addick Charlie MacDonald is not starting for Brentford because he got the first red card of his career at Gillingham on Boxing Day.

At the moment we have no contact with match reporter Paul May. He is of stocky build, middle aged and of medium height and is wearing shades. We have now located Paul May but he has a bad headache and the report may not be of the usual quality.

Charlton had an early chance after 90 seconds when the Brentford keeper came rushing out, but Dickson tried to chip him and the ball went just over. The referee is the banker from Billericay, Andy d'Urso.

Bostock put in a dangerous delivery from a set piece, but Llera and then Basey managed to cope with it. Elliot made a poor clearance, but eventually Spring won a free kick on the edge of the area as the Addickted found their voice.

Sam put in a decent cross, but it was cleared by the Bees defence. The Brentford keeper (on loan from Derby) dealt well with a header from Sodje after a Charlton throw in.

Chris Dickson won a free kick for Charlton off the lino with d'Urso being unwilling to give anything other than a letter warning you to reduce your overdraft (as issued to the late Queen Mother). Llera's final touch put the ball over into the Ealing Road stand full of buzzing Bees.

Brentford advanced well, but the attempt from a tight angle was comfortably saved by Elliot. Wagstaff was taken out on the left and Foster was given a yellow card and a letter charging him £25 in additional fees. There was a scramble on the line and Llera nearly scored as it all kicked off in the stand as the boys in blue plunged in, Brentford having sold tickets to Charlton supporters (around 1,800 in a crowd of nearly 8,400) to make some extra money. It was a pretty minor rumble, involving perhaps a dozen people.

The lively Sam made a great effort from a central position, it deflected and the keeper had to dive to palm the ball away, it stopped on the heavy pitch and he was able to gather as the 20 minute mark was reached. Charlton threatened again through Wagstaff and Charlton won a corner after last ditch defending by the Bees, but Bailey's corner went out for a throw in. The Addicks kept up the pressure.

Spring dealt well with a rare Brentford attack. There was a little bit more aggro in the crowd. Omozusi floated one in, but the whistle went. Sodje and Dickson, not surprisingly, looked a little unfamiliar with each other.

Semedo put in a late tackle and he received a yellow card which was a bit worrying given that he is not playing in his usual position. Wagstaff was in a good position, but the ball bounced off a patch of sand for a Brentford throw in.

Brentford threatened and a decision was made against Semedo on the edge of the area. The Bees effort was poor, Bailey was able to clear and two Brentford players managed to obstruct each other. Semedo fell awkwardly and he needed some treatment, holding his head as he went off the pitch.

Sam went for an early cross rather than taking his time and the home defence were able to clear. Charlton won a corner after Dickson threatened. The ball was only partially cleared. With a Brentford player down, Charlton played to the whistle and Price had to make a good save off Sodje. After the corner Price had to save well as Llera threatened.

Brentford threatened again, but Basey got to his head to the ball to avert a dangerous situation. Spurs loan player Bostock tripped Spring and he received a yellow card and a leaflet about a personal pension.

Semedo dealt well with Ben Strevens. Bailey, who had been rather quiet in the game as a whole (lacking his usual partnership with Semedo), was not at his best, but Semedo restored control. Murphy shot on target and Elliot had to go down in the mud and dirty his striking kit. Ryan Dickson required treatment after he collided with Sodje and looked dazed when he went off. Three minutes were added on. Word came through that the game at the Bescot between Walsall and Norwich had been called off because of a frozen pitch.

Sam played a good ball forward, Dickson tried to chip the keeper and it went just past the post. He should have scored and Parky gave him a blast, having missed for the second time in the match.

Charlton started well, but Brentford came into the match more. The Addicks had the two best chances, but Dicko was not able to take them. The heavy pitch did not help predictable quality football.

Half time: Bees 0, Addicks 0

The half times showed Colchester leading Southampton 1-0 through poetry in motion from Wordsworth. Brentford brought on experienced danger man Cort (enjoying a short-term contract at Griffin Park) to replace the less experienced Murphy. Semedo dealt with an early effort by him.

Brentford won a corner through good work on the left. Bostock took it and, predictably, Cort scored from just a few yards out. Arguably, Semedo and Llera could have done better in defending from the corner. The home fans came to life.

Bailey had a go, but to no effect. Charlton won a corner after good work by the impressive Sam. Price punched out, Spring had plenty of time put ball the over. Wagstaff was taken off after a rather indifferent display and Shelvey was brought on to hopefully give an added threat.

Basey responded well after Bailey had given the ball away and Spring had slipped. Sodje was fouled by O'Connor and the Addicks won a free kick halfway inside the home half, but it did not lead to anything. There was a penalty shout after Sam went down following a shove from Ryan Dickson.

Price came flying out of his goal and brought down Dickson this time the penalty was given. The keeper received a yellow card, although there could have been a case for a red as he was the last man, but d'Urso gave him the benefit of the doubt and some advice on current account options. Bailey smashed the ball down the middle in front of the Addickted to make it 1-1 on 56 minutes to put him one goal short of double figures (although there are those who say that penalties don't count). My hangover seemed to clear.

Sam Wood was replaced by Myles Weston. He advanced down the left, but Elliot cleared. Bailey won a free kick off Bostock. Bailey's free kick was superb and Brentford did well to defend. Price had to respond quickly to deal with a ball from Shelvey.

Brentford took off the youngster Bostock and a more experienced player in the form of Saunders (at least with Dagenham) was brought on. Charlton won another corner in front of their fans. Price stayed on his line as danger man Llera came in at the back post, leading to another corner. This time the move broke down.

Weston won a corner for Brentford. He always did look a threat down the line, but nothing came of the corner. Charlton were caught offside. Charlton won another corner taken by Basey. The Bees tried to break, but Semedo dealt with the potential threat. A cross from the impressive Weston was deflected behind by Shelvey. Elliot completely missed it and Balkestein could have scored, but the keeper gathered at the second attempt.

It was end-to-end stuff in the battle between South and West London. Brentford won a free kick in a dangerous position after Saunders evaded Basey. Saunders managed to hit the crossbar with Elliot beaten and the Bees kept buzzing after a period when Charlton had been on the up.

McKenzie replaced Dickson who was congratulated by Parky as he came off. The referee blew up after Bailey went down to the annoyance of the home side. Word came through that Colchester were 2-0 ahead.

Bailey's tackle on Weston was judged to be fair. Brentford kept up pressure on the left, Saunders tried to feed Cort but he was not able to connect. Eventually Semedo cleared well for the Addicks.

The game entered the last five minutes of normal time. Saunders shot after the Bees advanced well, but put the ball wide. Both teams were involved, but it was getting a bit scrappy. The Bees buzzed down the left again, then a free kick was given against Spring.

Semedo won the ball back off Weston. Price engaged in a little bit of time wasting, four minutes of time were added on. Brentford won a throw in deep inside the Charlton half taken by Leeds target Ryan Dickson. Cort was beaten by Llera in the air. Bailey did well under pressure to preserve the point for Charlton. The Bees looked most likely to score, but Llera cleared away again. Charlton advanced, Sam tried to get in a cross, but Dickson dealt with it. Basey found McKenzie, his shot was deflected for a corner. Bailey's corner was cleared, Sam was brought down and the Addicks had a free kick. What a dramatic finish to the game. Bailey's effort was not one of his best.

One has to admit that a draw was a fair result in an exciting encounter, but it means that Charlton have drawn three games in a row, but in very different circumstances. Jack Frost stalled Norwich's momentum. What a hangover cure.

Wyn Grant adds: Colchester won 2-1 so they and Norwich are both three points behind Charlton with a game in hand - but those games have to be converted into points. A Busy Bee texted me: 'I think we shaded it, but had your players been on song you would have won quite easily.' Or if Burton had been available.

Leeds pull it off

Leeds were 2-1 down to bottom club Stockport at the Sandpit earlier today, but fought back to win 4-2 with a 87th minute goal from Bromby and the predictable 93rd minute goal from Beckford. Personally, I don't think we are going to catch Leeds: more to the point is whether we can hold off the challenge of Norwich.

I understand Paul May had a few sherbets last night but his arrival at Griffin Park is imminent. If you see a slightly dazed bloke wearing shades, give him a hand.

Midlife Olympics

The one sure name on the Charlton teamsheet is Rob Elliot (we hope), but in an emergency we could always call on Merryn Smith. Seen here at the Garrison Field in the World's Smallest Football League, the hapless Garrison Gunners don't seem to be troubling the Woolpack Wanderers keeper all that much.

On Christmas Eve, I watched Victoria Wood's Christmas programme. It was a bit of a curate's egg and one of the least successful skits was the 'Midlife Olympics' which were staged at Brentford's Griffin Park. Makes sense: it's just down the road from the BBC Television Centre and no doubt the Beehive comes cheap.

A good friend of mine is a lifelong Brentford supporter. By lifelong I mean lifelong: he has lived all his life in the same house in Acton. But now he has having a struggle to prevent his children becoming Gooners or even Super Hoops.

Brentford were at one time a more successful team than they are today. I have a DVD of the Arsenal Stadium Mystery: when asked to explain the murder, the manager says 'I didn't see it.' There are extensive excerpts from a game between Arsenal and Brentford: it all looks very kick-and-rush.

By 1936-7 Brentford were the 8th best supported Division 1 club. However, they got relegated from the top flight in the first post-war season, never to return. In West London, they have to compete with the Super Hoops of Queen's Park Rangers and Chelsea as well. There has been talk of moving to a new stadium in the direction of Heathrow, but it never seems to come to anything.

Some people dismissed our hard fought victory over them in front of the Sky TV cameras at The Valley as just another one over a lower table side, but many pundits were tipping them for at least a play off place at the start of the season. They are clearly a decent enough League 1 side.

Charlton have managed to create problems for themselves. Passion can be a double edged sword and Sam Sodje has been banned for four games as it was his second red of the season and his third straight red since joining the club. Some people have been suggesting that Mambo should be recalled from the Staines Massive, but Semedo will have to slot into the centre back role. With Dailly still ill, Llera will have to try and match his heroics in attack on Boxing Day by showing sufficient sharpness in defence.

Charlton Athletic Online has already made the point that a 4-5-1 formation is a likely reaction to the absence of Deon Burton. Burton will be missed because he is a very effective player, not just in terms of scoring goals. Whether he thought that punching the ball into the back of the net was some sort of Christmas comedy routine I don't know, but it was as unfunny as many of the Christmas offerings on television and one can hardly blame the referee for applying the laws of the game.

The bookies have now decided that Norwich are the hot favourites for automatic promotion along with Leeds and that seems to be the agenda of the Football League programme on television. However, as Alan Curbishley used to say, 'It's a long old season.' Norwich are away to Walsall which should be relatively straightforward for them if they are as brilliant as some people claim, but Colchester have a trickier match at home to Southampton.

Charlton are turning into draw specialists and I am forecasting a share of the points at Griffin Park at 1-1, but it could well be a defeat. I won't be going, partly because of the difficulty of parking and partly because, having taken a few days off, I need to catch up with work. Paul May will be there and will be providing his usual authoritative commentary.

Sunday 27 December 2009

Karren Brady

There's a big spread on her in the Sunday Times sports section this morning which likes look a PR puff. ('Wayne, what can we put in the sports pages over the break?'. 'Karren Brady's PR man sent us this exclusive interview'). Of course, I am sure that in reality Paul Kimmage [who he, ed?] worked very hard to get the story.

Brady could still have a role at Charlton, although I suspect that Gold and Sullivan will split the difference (£50m offered, £80m requested) with the Hampster's owners and secure control at the Boleyn Ground.

The story and the accompanying photo has the following themes:
* Sexy (see main photo and photo in football kit)
* Elegant (see photo at Derby with her mentor)
* Happily married family woman
* Can use four letter words to agents
* But goes to mass every week
* Has survived brain surgery which could have gone wrong or paralysed her

On the last point one has to admire her courage. She is a feisty lady and it's hard for a woman in football. I think that the positives about her outweigh the negatives.

She did spend four years on the Sunday Sport. I have never read this newspaper, but I understand its USP is not sport but pictures of young ladies who are scantily clad or indeed wearing no clothes at all, accompanied by stories of their sexual exploits.

No doubt this sort of thing upsets our local vicar who had a go at the Romans for their Saturnalia festival in his parish newsletter this Christmas. I don't want to get into a whole debate about this particular issue (pornography not Roman orgies), but as far as I know nothing that Gold or Sullivan has done in their publishing activities is illegal. It may not be in the best possible taste, but they are not appealing to readers of the Lady or Prospect.

Enjoy the pix (you have to buy the paper to get the football kit picture) and the interview here: Brady

BTW, it's a bit worrying that she lives in Warwickshire as she sounds like the sort of woman who would come round to my house and yell at me if she didn't like something I had written about her. However, I think she lives up Solihull way (where there are one or two Addicks).

Saturday 26 December 2009

Stat attack

Charlton had 49 per cent of the possession in today's match against Swindon despite playing with nine men for much of the match. Goal attempts were pretty even at 14 to 16, but more of Swindon's were on target (12 to 8). Swindon had only one more corner than Charlton and there was only one offside decision in the game (against Swindon late on).

The most striking stat is that the Robins had 13 fouls to five for the Addicks. The referee seemed very reluctant to clamp down on niggling fouls committed by the visitors. However, it is evident that the sending offs were justified.

I must admit that I was preparing a paragraph saying that our forecast of 2-1 to Swindon had been correct until I got the last set of notes.

Phil Parkinson said afterwards: 'I'm disappointed in both our players. Sodje's was a rash challenge and he's an experienced player. Deon was unlucky but if you run over to the referee in that manner you've got yourself in a position to get booked. For the second one, I thought the ref could have pulled him over and used his intelligence to manage the game.'

'We're really pleased we've got a point but the discipline has been good in the squad throughout the season and we've got to make sure we keep our cool. Let me, Tim Breacker and Mark Kinsella be the ones going mad on the touchline as the squad need to keep cool heads. That was the disappointing side of it and we have to nip that in the bud'. Wise words.

Last ditch equaliser by Llera keeps undefeated record for 9 man Charlton

As forecast by some bloggers, there is a start for Jonjo Shelvey against Swindon today. Wagstaff drops back to the bench and Spring comes in. Akpo Sodje starts wide right with Shelvey in the hole. Omozusi stays at right back. Dailly who is ill was replaced by Llera without his special headgear. Not our strongest side, but it was good to see Chris Solly on the bench.

An early free kick from 25 yards out deflected off a Swindon player for a corner reports Philippa Nicholson. Sam Sodje got his head to Basey's corner but it went just over. However, Charlton got a second corner, but this time Llera's effort was well off target. Worryingly, Sam Sodje had to have treatment on the pitch and was led to the dressing room with a head injury to receive further attention.

Llera headed the ball away as Swindon advanced and Charlton were awarded a free kick for a foul on Spring. After a good build up, Shelvey turned provider for Burton with a good ball, but the chance was lost when the striker headed over the bar. Sodje returned bandaged up.

Swindon attacked, but Bailey turned the ball out at the expense of a throw in. Bailey put in a good shot from distance but it went just over the bar and into the Jimmy Seed stand.

Llera headed the ball across his own penalty area. Eventually Omozusi was able to clear.

Sam Sodje was sent off on 19 minutes as McGovern went down after a unnecessary two footed challenge where there was no danger. Semedo dropped back into central defence leaving a three man midfield.

Elliot read a Swindon effort well and made a great save to turn the ball over with his fingertips. The corner was taken short which usually doesn't work and the ball was cleared.

Charlton won a corner. Llera failed to make contact. Bailey played the ball back in and following further play Omozusi fed Shelvey, leading to a second corner. Journeyman Matt Lucas in the Swindon goal collected.

Omozusi made a good run. Bailey had a go but it was never really on. Spring fed Basey well, but he lost possession. Omozusi continued to look lively. Akpo Sodje went down after a challenge by Haitian international Jean-Francois Lescenel. Sodje got back to his feet and Jean-Francois Lescenel got away with a quiet word.

The free kick did not how much power behind it and it was easily collected by Lucas, drawing on his early career experience in short-term loan deals. He has now found what may be a permanent home in Wiltshire.

There was a 50-50 between Akpo Sodje and Jean Francois which could have produced a penalty. The players thought that it was a penalty and Deon Burton got a yellow card for making his views known to the referee. Akpo Sodje looked very angry.

Shelvey put in a superb shot, picking his spot well, to put the ten men of Charlton ahead.

Charlton were down to nine men after Akpo Sodje had played the ball forward, Burton fouled Lucas and was shown his second yellow and sent off with five minutes of normal time left. I am having to tell Wyn to change the headlines every few minutes.

Swindon tried to attack, but Elliot collected at close range. Five minutes of time were added on. Elliot read a lofted ball well. Swindon kept up the pressure and they won a corner. It was taken short and it went out of play for a goal kick. Bailey took a free kick too quickly and an opportunity was wasted to keep possession.

Swindon were given a free kick in a very dangerous position after a foul by Bailey. It went over the wall and Elliot saved.

Millwall were losing 1-0 at Norwich.

Half time: Addicks 1, Robins 0

Swindon won an early corner. This time it was not taken short. The referee spoke to Douglas and Shelvey after they competed for the ball.

Semedo challenged well. Omozusi managed to avoid conceding a corner. Swindon kept up the pressure. Charlton turned defence into attack. Good work by Llera saw the ball safely shepherded out. Jean-Francois was taken off and Alan O'Brien came on for the visitors.

A strike from Douglas was deflected by Bailey for a corner. The short corner routine was used, an effort by Douglas was deflected for a second corner. Shelvey evaded two defenders and forced a save on the ground from Lucas.

Semedo managed to clear as danger threatened, but the ball came back in and Swindon got the equaliser from Austin on 56 minutes. It was a relatively soft goal which could have been prevented after some poor defending and Elliot perhaps could have done better. It was unfortunate that Charlton could not have held out longer.

Charlton won a corner, but Bailey's effort led to nothing. Swindon won a corner. Basey connected with Sodje, but he was unable to make good use of the ball. A free kick from Bailey led to a Charlton corner. Llera's header was cleared off the line by Douglas. The crowd of 17,977 were doing their best to get behind the Addicks.

Swindon won another corner. Elliot punched the ball away and Charlton got a free kick. Basey kicked the ball away after the referee failed to give a corner and he received a yellow card. Swindon brought on Celtic loan striker Ben Hutchinson to strengthen their attack.

Swindon threatened, but Charlton were able to block through Bailey. McKenzie came on to replace Akpo Sodje to provide fresh legs. Swindon put in a strike but Elliot saved well.

After Austin played the ball to the far post, Paynter put the ball in the net to make it 1-2. The Swindon fans sang 'Up the football league we go'. Bailey made an error, but Swindon were not able to take advantage as they shot on sight.

Austin came off and was replaced by a midfield player. Omozusi was withdrawn and Scott Wagstaff replaced him, giving Charlton more attacking options. Charlton's outfield was playing 3-4-1. Returning prodigal Chris Dickson replaced Jonjo Shelvey who had become quieter. The formation changed to 3-3-2.

Wagstaff put in a superb cross, but McKenzie was inches away and Swindon were able to clear. Charlton won a free kick after a clear foul on Wagstaff and then a challenge on McKenzie. Basey's ball was headed into the air and a free kick was given to Swindon.

Swindon received their first yellow card when Hutchinson was booked to ironic cheers from the Addickted. Four minutes of time were added on. Swindon just had to retain possession. Charlton won a free kick and Llera scored the equaliser. Often derided as a carthorse, he will be the hero of the hour. Parky went beserk celebrating.

Colchester beat Southend 2-1 at Roots Hall and Norwich defeated the Spanners 2-0 to close the gap to two points. Charton face a tricky match at Brentford on Monday without Burton and Sam Sodje.

One match started, one on, one off?

New team, new badge

The traditional Boxing Day game between over 35s and under 35s has kicked off at the Garrison Field on St.Mary's. Athletico Geriatico have been re-named Dribblers FC (my suggestion of Golden Oldies was not successful).

Keri on Radio Scilly has expressed the wish that no one will be hospitalised this year. This is not because it will all kick off, but because of older players knackering themselves. There will be rolling substitutions and you don't even have to bring your own boots.

There will be a noon pitch inspection at Harbury Lane to determine whether today's needle derby between Leamington and the egg chasers from Rugby Town can go ahead. We have just heard that there will be a second pitch inspection at 1.15 at the New Windmill Ground to see if the match can go ahead. It's looking 50-50. The problem is the Harbury Lane end goalmouth area which is still frozen. A salt solution is being poured on to the pitch. We heard at 1.15 that the game was off.

All seems set for today's key match, Charlton v. Swindon at The Valley.

You couldn't make it up

When I referred to Izale McLeod getting fitted up for a kilt, I thought I was making a joke. But nothing is as strange as decision-making in football:

'Csaba Lazslo is convinced that Izale McLeod is the perfect striker for Hearts - because he even has a Scottish name. SunSport revealed yesterday that the Jambos' bid to bring the striker on loan from Charlton had been hit by the big freeze. But Laszlo revealed the 25-year-old WILL report for training at Riccarton on Monday and will then talk terms over a temporary move. McLeod's career has stalled at The Valley and boss Phil Parkinson is willing to allow the player, with just three goals to his name this season, to leave.

But Laszlo is more interested in the fact that the ex-England Under-21 star scored 54 goals in 116 games for MK Dons, which earned him a £1.1million switch to theAddicks. Laszlo said: 'Izale has international experience and in 116 games he has scored 54 goals. I think this tells you everything - he is a goal-scorer [shome mishtake shurely - ed] and we have been lacking that. [And you still will be - ed].

'Plus, he has got a Scottish name! I must see him face to face and see his body language [tell him not to take his shirt off if he does score] and see what he wants. [Money for old rope?] All the small things decide these things.'

'But we know he can play football. [Yes, he can run and he can kick the ball]. I have seen a lot of DVDs of his games. But I would like to meet the player. I think this is important. If you want progress you must concentrate on the future and change the blood to bring competition to training. Everybody knows I'm very interested in this player, he'll be here next week [driven to Scotland by Charlton fans if needs be] and I hope we can have an agreement between the clubs to take him on loan.'

'I've seen him a few times but this is a chance to meet him in person and to get him training and test him. He has accepted this offer and I think this is important. If you can take someone on loan there is no financial risk, and at the end of the season if he is not good enough you can say "thank you very much". But the possibility is also there to offer him a new contract. [Please]. This is a player who cost £1.1m not long ago. [Indeed]. So it is better to sign him on loan!' [A modicum of sense at last].

Friday 25 December 2009

R U a Hornby?

This does not refer to whether you have an interest in model railways, but to the famous novel by Nick Hornby about an obsession with the Gooners, later made into a film. It is used as a term by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski in one of the best football books published this year, Why England Lose.

They set out to challenge the contention that you can change your job or even your partner, but not your football club. They argue that core fans who do not switch clubs, the Hornbys, do exist but 'the majority of people who go to English football matches go only once in a while, and are often quite fluid about who they choose to watch.' For the authors 'fandom is not a static condition, but a process.'

The available evidence shows that there is much more churn in football club support than most fans are prepared to acknowledge. Fans are joining and leaving all the time for a variety of reasons, e.g., a change of job or the arrival of a child. Some are attracted by success. The switch made by David Mellor from Fulham to Chelsea is more common than one might suppose.

My own father started off as a West Ham fan, which was logical enough given that he was born in North Woolwich and played for a non-league team on that side of the river. It was only when he moved to Eltham that he became an Addick, urged on by his cousin. After we moved to Essex, he started to follow Southend as it was an easy journey on the train and some of his mates from work went there.

His final club was Falmouth Town which was the last place we saw football together. Even there, his innate sense of fairness used to kick in. As Falmouth started to demolish Mousehole (eventually 10-1) in the Cornish Senior Cup he urged the opposition to do better.

My father was a reserved although very affable man who hoped that I would take his skill in football a stage further and play for Charlton. That was not to be: I was hopeless and eventually found that one thing I could do was long distance running so I chose orienteering as my sport. As my life took me away from my origins, football remained a shared interest and point of contact.

I think that my mother was actually the more committed fan. I subsequently met one of the hairdressers she used to work with at The Hollow on Plumstead Common as a young woman and apparently it was a nest of Addicktion with this other woman going regularly to matches with her family. My mother was convinced that Charlton were the victim of 'dirty' referees (she may have had a point) and roundly abused them.

A friend of mine supports Manchester United. She does live in Wilmslow, so the journey to Old Trafford is quite short (her contempt for City knows no bounds) and sometimes she is lucky enough to spot United players in Wilmslow and nearby Alderley Edge (sometimes I uncharitably suspect that she drives around looking for them).

She teases me about supporting Charlton. In her view, it is a down market club and my retro attachment to it involves the construction of a false identity. 'Wyn, you have never had a working class accent in her life.' She seems quite well informed about the club, as she had a number of mutual friends who support other clubs in fits of laughter with her description of a Rickshaw in reverse that took a group of Charlton supporters to visit Kent restaurants.

I have to admit that she is probably on to something. According to Kuper and Szymanski, the Hornbyesque fans supports the local team of his town of origin. 'This gives the Fan roots, a sense of belonging.'

Why does the stereotype persist that most fans are full on Hornbys? The book argues that they tend to dominate the national conversation about football and are also the most important part of the football economy as they spend the most money on tickets and merchandise.

For the Hornby, football 'is not just a hobby but an identity.' As a narrative 'it tells a story of roots, of belonging - a lifelong love of the club your father or grandfather supported before you - in a country that is unusually rootless. In transient Britain, the story of the rooted Fan is especially seductive.'

They argue that Britain was the first country to experience urbanisation and industrialisation and one of the first to become secularised. British people tend to move more than most other people in Europe. They are also quite likely to emigrate producing phenomena like the Chicago Addick living in Bermuda. For such people, distance makes the heart grow fonder. Will the New York Addick feel quite the same way now that he is living in beechy Bucks and can get out of Deutsche Bahn's efficient trains en route to the match?

Above all, 'Britons have suffered yet another uprooting: as well as leaving their place of birth, many of them have left their class of birth too.' A working class nation turned into a middle class one, largely as a result of the 1944 Education Act drafted by Rab Butler at Eltham Palace. Like many of my generation, I passed the 11-plus, went to an (academically outstanding) state grammar school and was the first person from my family to go to university.

Kuper and Szymanski argue that such people lost touch with their roots and started to suffer from 'authenticity deficits'. I think that my friend's argument (as befits someone who became a professor at a top university in her mid-thirties) is even more complex: the authenticity deficit is itself a construction of reality. In other words, I never was what I thought I was in the first place. Now that Rob Elliot has come out as believing in an interprevitist version of history, I suppose we have to take these arguments seriously.

Of course for some fans the identity has no local connections. I have a friend who is a lifelong Burnley fan: two of his sons support Everton and one supports Forest, places with which they have no connection. One of them even chose to go to university in Liverpool so that he could take out a season ticket.

My boss comes from Guernsey. I had always thought that there was a following for Southampton in the home of Le Tissier, but he went to university in Leeds so that he could follow his chosen team. In the modern electronic age, he is able to live much of the time in Malmo in Sweden.

There was a long period when I lost touch with Charlton. The move to Selhurst shook me. This was also the period when my children were getting to an age when they needed a free taxi service at weekends. So I popped down to Tachbrook Road to see the Brakes now and then and hear the Whitnash Enders chant for 'AP aggro'.

It was my Burnley friend that got me back to Charlton. He took me to watch Charlton v. Burnley in the FA Cup from the Jimmy Seed. 'We are Burnley, super Burnley from the north. Everyone hates us. We don't care', I dutifully chanted.

But my interest was re-awakened. As soon as the East Stand was opened, I started to go to matches and then got a season ticket more or less in the position where we used to stand on the terraces. It's been a switchback ride since then, but I don't regret it, although sometimes the Addickted exasperate me.

One of my children commented this week that as you get older, Christmas can become a maudlin festival. It certainly always makes me thinks of when I was a child and now I have four grandchildren (our big family party is on the 27th).

A lot of people now identify me with Charlton. I was on my way to Chile in July and changed planes in Madrid. When we got to Santiago a publisher said to me 'I saw a Charlton bag way ahead of me in Madrid and I knew it was you.' A few years ago I had to give a speech at the deputy ambassador's home in Washington DC and I made a little joke of the fact that his name was 'Charlton'. He responded, 'Our ambassador in Turkey had already warned me that you are a Charlton fan.' It is a bit of a minority taste in the wider world, although this year I have bumped into fans in Toronto and Sydney.

Maybe I am someone who seeks out safe ground and is not willing to experiment with new identities. But I am happy and proud to be an Addick.

Thursday 24 December 2009

Happy Christmas

This photograph of sunset at Hugh Town, St. Mary's is by courtesy of our friends at Radio Scilly, the 'state broadcaster of the Isles of Scilly'.

Happy Christmas from the whole team to all our readers: Wyn Grant; Paul May; Philippa Nicolson; Ivy the Terrible; and Juneau the Soccer Cat. Here's looking forward to automatic promotion in 2010.

Sunrise on Christmas Day on the Scillies from Keri's kitchen window, courtesy Radio Scilly. Keri is live on air from 9 to 12.

Let's go for an attacking formation

A couple of years ago I was travelling on a train from Bath towards London with some foreign colleagues who did not know Britain well. We came to Swindon and they asked what sort of town it was. I gave them the usual spiel about the Great Western Railway and the more diversified economy of today which includes Honda.

I refrained from saying that Swindon is one of those towns that one would avoid living in if one could, although housing is cheaper there than it is in some parts of the M4 corridor. I know at least one keen Addick who lives there.

I have had some mixed experiences with Swindon, which have the old Charlton nickname of the Robins. I used to quite enjoy the relatively short trip through the Cotswolds to the County Ground. One year, of course, we got soaked on the open terrace as we sang 'Singing in the Rain' and were acknowledged by that great player Johnnie Robinson. That event has been eclipsed by this year at Yeovil when those who went experienced 'one hell of a soaking'. It merits a commemorative T shirt.

During the season we won the Championship I sponsored the match ball for the match against Swindon who were bottom and, naturally, I invited the Swindon Addick I know. Dean Kiely let in a soft goal and we never scored, leading to a rare home defeat.

The current Swindon team is sponsored by 4-4-2 which leads to some interesting articles in what I think is a good magazine (I must, however, mention When Saturday Comes which recently gave me a Silver Award, although apparently it is just a virtual award). A recent feature was about loan players and I was astonished to learn they were being put up in a hotel in the Cotswolds where I have stayed - but not at my own expense as I doubt whether I could justify the cost. Swindon are not exactly a club flush with cash.

Swindon are on a good run. We lack the suspended Lloyd Sam, the victim of a ridiculous decision by a referee full of his own importance, although he would have got his fifth yellow sooner or later. Despite his inconsistent performances in any one game, he is one of our major attacking threats. Frazer Richardson is 50-50 which means he probably won't play given Monday's match with Brentford. Omozusi isn't as good, but he is better than a lot of people have claimed.

I would play Wagstaff on the right and, rather unconventionally, I would put McKenzie on the left with Luke Holden to replace him when he tired. Burton would be accompanied by Akpo Sodje up front. This would be a very attack oriented formation to take advantage of Swindon's leaky defence. Probably just as well that I don't pick the team.

I am going for a 2-1 win by Swindon. Feisty Philippa Nicholson will be covering the match while I expect to be the only Charlton blogger at Harbury Lane. Why is it that trains run in other countries in Europe on Boxing Day, but to a very limited extent in Britain?

No Christmas spirit at Harbury Lane

The emergency general meeting at Leamington has not cleared the air, not surprising given the amount of heat and vitriol generated and the row continues in the local press: Row

I supported the board in the vote, even though that meant voting against David Hucker whom I have known for some time. I do think, however, that the board did not handle the communications aspects of the sacking, particularly with fans, as well as they might have done, although no doubt they would claim that events did not turn out as planned, leading to the 'car park sacking' which was not the way they wanted to do things.

What is sad is that people like Adrian Barton, who have put a great deal into the club, no longer feel welcome at the New Windmill Ground. Things did happen which if it had been a business would have been dealt with through a disciplinary process, but those levers are not available in the same way in a voluntary organisation. What is evident to me (but perhaps not the board) is that the club has suffered some reputational damage. Hopefully, people will accept that a decision has now been taken and the public bickering will cease.

On to the football. The Rugby Town fixture on Boxing Day at Harbury Lane looks as if it may be on. Some years ago when Rugby had a 'firm' attached to them, a number of Leamington fans ended up in hospital. However, the intensity of the rivalry has died away and hopefully there will be a good game but no trouble.

My oldest granddaughter went to the egg chasing at Reading with a friend recently. I am not sure that I approve of this, although I think she was just curious. What appalled her was the complete absence of segregation and she did not understand how this could work. Certainly it is necessary in hockey when the rivalries can be quite intense (Blaze supporters had their coach tyres deflated on one trip).

Unfortunately, at this level of non-league there is no segregation. I do find it quite difficult sitting in the same stand with dimwits from Didcot or Truro, although in the community club spirit I don't respond to anything.

There is something a bit odd about some of the fans who go away in the non-league. I seem to recall reading in one of Addick Charlie Connelly's books (the one on London clubs?) about the two-man 'Wembley firm'. I have quite a few of his books and I must check out what he is doing these days (he was at university with one of my children).

Wednesday 23 December 2009

Not Emma, please

It's going to be difficult to get to The Valley on Saturday with no effective public transport. A service from Victoria may suit train buffs, but I would have to get there first. An early start and at least five hours of driving does not appeal, so I may be obliged to listen to Cafc Player.

What I hope is that Emma will not be the reporter (although she seems to turn up more at away matches). I have nothing against women covering sports events but she is simply not good enough.

She breaks one of the cardinal rules of radio: no dead air. Last week Radio Wales asked me at about 20 minutes notice to do an interview on Tiger Woods. I know virtually nothing about golf and very little about Tiger Woods (his Swedish wife seems rather fetching and it is curious but not that surprising that most of the women involved in the alleged bimbo eruption seem to be rather similar in appearance).

Although the studio is a minute from my office, I didn't have much time to do any prep. The first question came out of left field, so I started to talk about David Beckham (the link being sponsorship). Result: no dead air and the producer thanked me for 'carrying that for us'.

Radio Wales actually pay which Radio 5 (who sometimes get me out of bed at the crack of dawn) and Sky do not. There was one exception when I happened to be in Kew in the middle of the day on a weekday and Sky rang up and said could they send a car over from Isleworth as they were short for their live programming. So I went over and did some carrying (the Sky gallery is very professional). Thinking I had achieved my fifteen minutes of fame (thirty minutes in fact), I asked the producer afterwards who would be watching: 'we get quite an audience on oil rigs at this time of day.'

They paid me quite generously. More typical was when I was about to have Sunday lunch one day and they rang up to say 'It's a slow news day. We're sending you the Milton Keynes satellite truck. Get in front of the Shakespeare birthplace at Stratford and talk about Englishness.' It was a summer's day and Japanese tourists thought I was part of the package.

On another occasion I was heading for a game at Charlton and Sky sent a car to Marylebone so that I could do a slot at the Millbank studio. I am quite familiar with Millbank which has a fixed camera position with an audio link to the Isleworth gallery. As it so happened, an old friend who I hadn't seen for some time was doing the slot before me and I had a chat before I had to rush in. I had forgot to tell my wife about the camera position, so viewers must have been bemused to suddenly see a woman in a Charlton shirt walk behind me.

Back to Emma. She generally runs some way behind the action and speaks very slow-ly with long pauses in between. A typical report would be something like this: 'Dead air ... distant roar from the Addickted ... Emma: I think Charlton Athletic have scored ... The ball seems to be in the back of the net ... The players appear to be celebrating ... They are hugging a fellow player ... Is it Elliot? ... No, I think it's Semedo [Announcer in background: Goal scorer for Charlton Athletic in the 57th minute, Deon Burton].'

There is increasing hope that Leamington's needle derby match with Rugby Town on Boxing Day will be on. However, reports from the Isles of Scilly suggest that the Garrison Field is waterlogged and the traditional Boxing Day match may be off. (Stop press: I have just learnt from Radio Scilly that the Boxing Day match at the Garrison Field is definitely on, kick off 10.30 a.m.)

Wrong kind of snow

Izale McLeod has been prevented from training with Hearts this week because of the snow in London. Getting north of the border has not been easy. It is believed that the striker has already had a fitting for a kilt and sporran.

Early Christmas present for Jimmy Abdou

French charm merchant Jimmy Abdou has had the red card he received at The Valley on Saturday rescinded by the FA: Spanner

I don't think he should have been sent off in the first place. If anyone should have gone, it should have been the player who brought about the first penalty. But don't expect consistency or a sensible application of the rules from the type of referee we had on Saturday. Apparently, some of the cast off football refs and linos end up in ice hockey - or so it seems.

In a way it helps us, as he is now available when the Spanners disturb the calm of the cathedral city of Norwich on Boxing Day.

Incidentally, I think that those searching for a gloomy narrative have been talking up the Canaries too much. Here is a comment from a respected Charlton fan who lives in Norfolk and was obliged to go to Carrow Road on Saturday: 'I went to watch Narge on Saturday They weren't that great. Hoolahan a decent player and Holt's an awkward lump. They don't have that much other than high confidence and a large home following. Rumour has it that they are seriously compromised financially and my have to sell in the January window.'

Much may depend on whether Delia's cookery books have good Christmas sales. Perhaps she will have to downsize her house like Richard Murray has - which just shows his dedication to the cause. Would I do that to help the club?

Here is the story on Super Alan Pardew referred to in a comment: Man of the moment

Sunday 20 December 2009

Another 4-4 with a sting in the tail

For the second time in a weekend I witnessed a really exciting game that ended in a 4-4 draw. However, the first versus second contest between Coventry Blaze and Belfast Giants was resolved by a sudden death play off which ended in a winning Blaze goal, allowing them to remain at the top of the Elite Hockey League.

Blaze have been hit by an injury crisis, the latest blow being Swedish defenceman Matt Soderstron breaking his big toe in practice. On top of that the team doctor slipped on the ice and broke his arm when coming to the aid of a player while another player had to have his appendix out.

Things became so desperate last weekend that the office manager was told to collect some kit and hare down the motorway to Cardiff. It's a bit like every football fan's dream: bring your boots along to the match, although skates in this case of course.

Tonight he was kept off the ice until the second period when he came on, leading to complete pandemonium as he bumped into other players and generally created mayhem. It didn't help that as far as one could tell under his uniform, he seemed to be quite horizontally challenged and was not a very fast mover. Indeed, he complained in the programme that he had found the game at Cardiff very fast. He seemed to have been told to stand around in front of the Blaze goal and wave his stick around. He looked as if he would rather be back behind his computer and was taken off never to be seen again.

The antics of Irish charm merchant Sean McMorrow also ignited the crowd. Sent to the sin bin, he turned round and abused spectators, waving his hockey stick at them. When Blaze went 3-1 ahead in the first period, hapless net minder Stephen Murphy was serenaded with chants of 'dodgy keeper' and 'dodgy helmet'.

When Blaze went 4-3 down in the third, I thought it was all over but they fought back to force overtime. What a sporting weekend!

Shock result

Hugh Town, St.Mary's, Isles of Scilly: Most analysts were expecting the Woolpack Wanderers to get their seventh victory in a row at the Garrison Field this morning. Instead the Garrison Gunners turned the tables to get their first victory of the season, a 4-1 win.

Radio Scilly sports show host Merryn Smith reports: 'It was a much changed team, with four regulars away and Matt Thompson injured, plus me in goal which doesn't help' and a lot of hard work was required to keep the margin down to three goals.

Smith has been kept busy in his job as traffic officer at the St.Mary's airport where there has been a large volume of inward and outward mail, plus some islanders leaving for Christmas on the mainland and others coming back to their Five Islands homes for the festive season. Both helicopters and the fixed wing planes have been in demand.

That's entertainment

I didn't write anything yesterday evening because I wanted to collect my thoughts after one of the most incredible matches I have seen at The Valley. Of course, I have seen a 4-4 draw before: I remember us coming back from 2-4 down against Norwich to equalise in the dying minutes of the match. Yesterday it was Millwall who took advantage of five minutes of injury time to deny the Addicks three points.

I had expected that this derby would end in a draw: local derbies tend to. I had not anticipated, and I don't think anyone had, that Charlton would go 0-2 behind, recover to 2-2 through two penalties (when often we are denied any penalties); go ahead through a Nicky Bailey wonder strike; see the Spanners equalise again; go ahead again through an own goal, Morison's third of the match; and finally concede.

As a spectacle, it was edge of the seats stuff and it certainly had the nerves of the Addickted jangling. I think one has to give credit to Millwall for the way they set out their stall as Curbs use to say. It was clear that they had come to The Valley to win and although it was kick-and-rush football, it unsettled a fragile Charlton defence.

In the programme there was a report on the defeat by Chelsea in the FA Youth Cup and it was said that our Academy players 'lacked a bit of composure when we got on the ball.' Unfortunately that was true of our first team yesterday. Too often panic clearances from the defence went straight to a Millwall player or possession was lost in midfield. The team looked nervous to me and that is not surprising when it seemed to contain more relatively inexperienced youngsters than the visitors.

It could be argued that we should have done more against ten men, but in fact it is not that easy to play against ten fired up men as we have shown ourselves this season. The stats showed that we had only six goal attempts as against 13 by the Spanners. Four of ours were on target as against six for the opposition.

There is no doubt that this is two points lost and it is galling to lose them in a derby match. Quite frankly, I find the lower middle class angst of the Nigels and Nigellas more irritating than the raw emotion of Millwall whom I regard as a more authentic football club. But then perhaps that was because my wife's father was Palace.

Norwich won convincingly at home against a Huddersfield side that looked impressive when they came to The Valley. They have clearly been staying off the cooking sherry and look like the main challengers for the second automatic promotion place. However, I am more than happy with being four points clear in second place at this stage of the season.

We can also take some heart from an attendance of 19,105, although not all of them were in the ground as some were trapped by the snow in Kent villages. However, it is nearly 5,000 more than those who saw Darren Ambrose fail to score from a penalty at Sainsbury's.

Fan behaviour

I arrived at The Valley relatively early (around 2 p.m.) A group of Millwall fans was stretched across Floyd Road, largely blocking it, although they were coralled by the police and it was possible to walk along the pavement. Same old Millwall: always trying to intimidate.

I saw it going off a few times in the ground, but my attention was on the pitch. Some fans have expressed concerns about the stewarding. One commented, 'At the Jummy Seed end, the "Peter's Pies" [who they? ed] boarding was kicked to pieces by the Spanners and one board flew very close to a Steward and how did they respond? From where I was they simply escorted the offender back to his seat (not that any of them sat down at all). [I also saw this incident]. Surely a piece of obvious vandalism like that is worthy of an ejection. [An alternative view is that it happened accidentally when the Spanners were carried away by the excitement of scoring and that throwing them out could have caused even more trouble]. The East Stand was even more comical: there was a group of around 12 Spanners there and there were at point 20 stewards and 6 policemen surrounding them in a circle. They then moved them down to the bottom and then marched them up to the top where they seemed to be taken out.'

Another fan reported, 'It nearly got nasty in the west/North corner when a bloke jumped up when they scored their first goal, They were obviously Millwall supporters but they were not causing trouble. The problem was that the stewards took 15 minutes to turn up to chuck themout and because of that it could have got nasty. Some idiot Charlton supporters tried to attack them which was really brave considering two of them must have been in their 60's. Having said that they should not have been there.'

There was a certain irony in seeing a group of Millwall supporters on the balcony of the flats overlooking The Valley with a large St.George's Cross flag displayed declaring their loyalty to the Spanners.

The train back was full of Spanners, most of whom would probably have failed the breath test. However, we had no trouble from them. One expressed the view to me and my companions that we had been 'merde', but that was probably the view of some Charlton supporters as well. One young woman said that she had been in the Covered End for the whole match.

Let's not forget that this match was dedicated to fighting street violence and that the families of two young men who had been murdered, one a Millwall supporter and one a Charlton fan, bravely came on to the pitch before the match. It must have been difficult for them, but the applause from both sets of fans shows that they have real sympathy from the community. It was also good to see the players of both teams shaking hands after such a hard fought match and the two goalkeepers conferring.

The match

Millwall's first goal scored by Morison was gifted by a Charlton defensive error involving Wagstaffe. Their second resulted from the referee giving a corner that should have been a goal kick. With my sports journalist hat on, I can say that really was the case. However, we should have been sharper in the box to prevent Morison from scoring. On other occasions we gave the Spanners space in the danger zone, but fortunately they were not always able to take advantage.

Andy Frampton fouled David Mooney in the box. At first I thought we had been lucky, but someone who was in the Covered End assured me that it ws a penalty. Deon Burton, who even the most grudging Addicks must acknowledge has played his part this season, stepped up to score.

A professional foul led to a red card for Millwall charm merchant Nadjim Abdou who was reluctant to go and then trudged off at snail's pace, presumably to delay the penalty. After the referee had gone round all the players explaining what a penalty was and they musn't encroach, Burton was finally allowed to put the ball in the back of the net.

Half time: Addicks 2, Spanners 2

Some Addickted were speculating at half time that Parky might bring on Shelvey in place of Sam who was in danger of being sent off, but equally had the chance to be a match maker. I'm not sure that Shelvey would have coped well with such an occasion.

Nicky Bailey put in a superb volley from distance immediately after the break to make it 3-2. It's quite a while since I have seen him do that.

However, the visitors were not going to give up and Dave Martin brought the Spanners back on term from close range. This goal annoyed me as the whole move started with a free kick given against us when Semedo had won the ball entirely fairly.

Morison then obligingly put us ahead again by putting the ball into his own net. Quite how he did it I don't know as I thought the ball had been played out, but it went in off the post. It was certainly his best goal. Millwall had brought on masked man Tony Craig to strengthen a defence that seemed to be tiring - but then we were as well.

However, it was evident that Millwall were likely to equalise and they did this with a shot from Danny Schofield.

Match analysis

Ivy the Terrible has awarded a special Christmas Silver Bone with added tinsel to Deon Burton. Burton took his penalties calmly and confidently under considerable pressure, but also led the line well. It was quite a surprise when goalkeeper Rob Elliot came out in the programme as a social constructivist. It is something that could happen at Charlton, but not at Millwall. I think that his youth and inexperience is sometimes a problem but I wouldn't particularly blame him for the four goals conceded. Omozusi is no Richardson and it is pleasing to hear that our first choice right back may be available on Boxing Day. Nevertheless, I thought that he showed some nice touches. Christian Dailly is normally Mr Reliable, but he was certainly caught our for the decisive fourth goal. Sodje generally had a good game, although one is never certain where his headers in defence are going to go. I think that the real problem in defence was Grant Basey and his expression at the end of the game shows that he knew it. Two of Millwall's goals were scored from approach play down the right wing and he was certainly at fault in relation to the decisive fourth goal. One of the issues I have with Charlton fans is that they are excessively sentimental about Academy players. Basey is still developing, but whether he will be the finished product remains to be seen. The fulcrum of our team Semedo was run ragged by Millwall in this game which is perhaps why there were no chants reminding us that he comes from Portugal and hates Millwall.
Bailey was certainly up for it and his goal was superb. He also tried to do his best to shore up the defence. Sam was his usual self: occcasionally showing us why he may attract a bid from a higher level club in the transfer window, but also fading out of the game from time to time. I am afraid that this was an occasion when the relative inexperience of Wagstaffe was in evidence. He had his moments, but for most of the time he was out of it, even leaving aside the mistake that led to the opening goal. I thought that Mooney as the most advanced player could have made more of a couple of half chances to provide an assist early in the game, but no one can fault his commitment. The injury looked quite serious, even though he didn't need the stretcher and was able to limp off. I thought that the pace of McKenize gave the Spanners a few problems when he came on. Akpo Sodje tried to play his part but was unable to change the course of the match. Spring was brought on late on to try and use his experience to steady the ship, but it didn't work.

Hiss of the Match This has been awarded by Juneau the Soccer Cat to referee M Jones. Six yellow cards were issued in the match and it wasn't that dirty. In the first half he gave one to Sam and the Millwall player who had been marking him and they both laughed and commiserated with each other afterwards. When he gave a talking to a player or players, it went on for ever as he obviously liked the sound of his own voice. The epitome of fussiness, he was very concerned about the exact placing of the ball in the corner quadrant. Thank goodness there were relatively few corners.

Crowd rating The Covered End tried to match the Spanners in the Jimmy Seed, but it wasn't always easy. 7/10.

Saturday 19 December 2009

100 per cent record retained

Woolpack Wanderers have retained their 100 per cent record in the world's smallest football league after beating the hapless Garrison Gunners 6-2 on Sunday. Reporting on the match on the Radio Scilly sports show, Merryn Smith noted that, as is often the case, it was the Gunners who took the advantage of playing down hill in the first half to open the scoring.

On Boxing Day there will be a special match at the Garrison Field between Athletico Geratico (a search is on for a new name) and a youth team.

Yesterday was the last sports show before the festive season with my regular football report but Merryn is planning a special show over the break on the difference between a game and a sport.

The show hosted by his daughter, Katie Smith, on Mondays entitled 'I can't wait for the weekend' is customarily withdrawn from the schedule over the school holidays.

It is hoped to persuade the Plymouth mad announcer Steve Watt, one of the station's three paid staff, to allow a slot on Charlton in 2010.

Game off at Harbury Lane?

An early pitch inspection will determine whether today's Zamaretto Premiership fixture between Leamington and Merthyr Tydfil goes ahead. Earlier in the season, the Leamington team and fans had practically crossed the Welsh border when it was announced that the Merthyr pitch was waterlogged and the game was called off.

It had been hoped that the heat generated at Thursday's acrimonious shareholders' meeting would warm up the frozen pitch, but this does not appear to be the case.

Welcome back, Chris Dickson

The club's E mail bulletin reports: 'Charlton's striking ranks are set to swell after the weekend, with Chris Dickson's loan spell at Bristol Rovers coming to an end after the Pirates take on Tranmere Rovers on Saturday.

"He's scored four goals for Bristol and has done well there. We'll get to January and assess the situation," said Phil Parkinson.

"But from next week, he's back training with us and in contention for a place. Bristol haven't said they don't want to sign him, but my thoughts are that if they haven't opened discussions to keep him permanently, then they're happy for him to come back."'

In other words, the Gasheads do not think he is the secret weapon that some Charlton fans rate him as. Of course, they may argue that he has never been given a run in the team, but has his form ever justified that? In my view it's a big ask for someone from the third tier of the non-league (which I watch frequently) to adjust to League 1 football.

It looks as if we have three strikers who will rotate out on loan: Stuart Fleetwood (another non-league acquisition who has only appeared in a friendly), tartan hero Izale McLeod and Dickson.

Fortunately, it looks as if Mooney may stay on given the availability of players returning from injury at Reading. Akpo Sodje may be recalled as Wednesday attempt to get themselves out of the mire.

I haven't done a match preview for Millwall because this is so well done by Charlton Athletic Online and Iberian Valley among others. However, I am forecasting a 1-1 draw for today's Sarf London derby. Let's hope that the spirit shown by the two clubs in the approach to the match in emphasising their dedication to combat street violence is reflected in the behaviour of the fans.

Should we lose (I don't think we will), expect the moaners (who have been quiet recently) to come out of the woodwork to denounce Parkinson. I was talking to a friend who is a keen Huddersfield fan the other week. I was impressed by Bruddersfield when they came to The Valley, but he reckons the automatic promotion places have already been booked by Leeds and Charlton.

Gloomsters have been pointing to our poor record in the last ten matches of the season, but I think this was primarily a feature of the Curbishley era. Particularly when we were in the Premiership there was a tendency to take out foot off the pedal when the 40 points safety marked had been passed. Also, to be fair, the squad lacked real strength in depth and injuries and suspensions took their toll as the year wore on.

Enjoy the game!

Friday 18 December 2009

Supporters back Brakes board

Leamington supporters have backed the Brakes board by a majority of nearly 14,000 after an emergency meeting of shareholders to discuss the circumstances surrounding the sacking of popular manager Jason Cadden: Vote

The meeting was often acrimonious, but I felt that I obtained a better understanding than I had hitherto of why the board had arrived at a decision that they found difficult and to which they devoted considerable thought.

I voted to support the board and hopefully the club can now concentrate on development of the pitch and moving towards the objective stated by the Chairman last night of conference football.

McLeod may go north of the border

Izale McLeod may join Hearts on loan according to this report: Jambos

Five Hearts players were recently sent off at a match at Hamilton Accies, two of them in the tunnel after the match.

Heavy snow in South-East London prevented fans from gathering at The Valley to express their distress at the news.

Thursday 17 December 2009

No more swearing at the New Den?

The Millwall Football Club is engaged in an ambitious plan to end the use of profane language at the New Den: Cor blimey guv

Weather warning

The following severe weather warning has been issued by the Met Office: 'There is a high risk of severe weather affecting parts of east and southeastern England during Friday. Heavy snow showers will give accumulations of 5-10cm on low ground and 15-20cm over hills. Some drifting snow is likely in the strong north to northeasterly wind. This could cause disruption to travel networks. Outdoor events may also be affected by the snow.'

The covers have been out at The Valley, but we can't afford hot air machines any more. 5-10 cms is not too much, although the implication is more for Shooters Hill, perhaps leading to another closure of its famous station.

However, a match against Southend was postponed some years ago because of the condition of the approach roads to The Valley. Snowball fight with the Spanners anyone?

Wednesday 16 December 2009


As we look forward to Saturday's match against the Spanners (weather permitting), this is a good time to reflect on local rivalries. It's a long time since we've met Millwall on the pitch. Many fans have good memories of the victory in the snow at the New Den when the announcer stated that 'Shooters Hill Station' was now closed. I remember a 1-1 draw at home when a timid referee denied us a sure fire penalty.

For a long time Millwall has dropped below the radar, although those of us who travel to The Valley by train were always reminded of the brooding presence of the rust bucket next door to the generating station recycling rubbish into power. However, in recent years our attention has focused on the Nigels and Nigellas of Crystal Palace where there is a real sense of grievance, although they feel we should be grateful to them. Given recent events under the Orange One could almost feel sorry for them (well just a little bit) although at least Noades has confirmed that he will not return.

In the 1950s there were quite a few fans who alternated between The Den and The Valley each Saturday. Somewhat oddly, given that he would have regarded himself as Charlton, my uncle called his house in Belvedere The Den, but I do not think this had any connection with Bermondesey. An even larger group of supporters went to see the Gooners when they were at home, but our rivalry with the 'Woolwich Rejects' has never been that intense. Attempts to stoke up a rivalry with Gillingham over the 'Kent Derby' have a synthetic quality. I probably have a greater dislike for Queen's Park Rangers.

Hopefully we will have enough in our toolbox to defeat the Spanners on Saturday and there will not be too much trouble inside or outside the ground.

Sunday 13 December 2009

Can Wanderers keep 100 per cent record?

Today's match in the World's Smallest Football League kicking off at 10.30 a.m. at the Garrison Field stadium on St.Mary's in the Isles of Scilly will see whether Woolpack Wanderers can retain the 100 per cent record they have managed so far this season. Their margin of victory over the Garrison Gunners has deteriorated to 4-3 and 3-1 in the two last matches. Last Sunday's game was interrupted by a hailstorm.

Garrison Gunners have been having their problems and had to take four players on an emergency loan from their opponents for one match.

Merryn from Radio Scilly's sport show recently interviewed the referee who has to officiate each week. A former professional, he admitted that facing the some players in every match did have his challenges. He reckoned that the Garrison Field pitch, barring the odd rabbit hole, was of semi-professional standard. It has, of course, beeen graced by David Beckham and Steven Gerrard.

A full match report is provided each Friday on the Radio Scilly sports show between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Saturday 12 December 2009

Three points for Charlton after injury time scare

As expected, Semedo replaced Racon (supposedly the target of Premiership clubs) in midfield while Omozusi stands in for the injured Richardson, reports Paul May from Edgeley Park enjoying some winter sunshine. The number of bloggers that have forecast a 2-0 win or better for the Addicks makes me nervous.

Christian Dailly dealt with an early Hatters attack at the expense of a corner which was cleared to the halfway line. There was a quiet start to the match with neither side imposing themselves. Mooney had the first effort on target after eight minutes. The ball out from Williams was poor, but Mooney's effort was collected by the keeper.

Basey needed some attention after a collision. Burton tried to connect with a ball from Mooney and the Addicks won a corner. Basey's corner was headed in by Sam Sodje past the Welshman in goal at the Cheadle End.

Good work by Wagstaff won Charlton a corner. Bailey's corner was cleared while Mooney was seen holding his head. Wagstaff fed Sam and Stockport had to clear over the bar to give the Addicks another corner. Burton got some contact, but the Hatters were able to clear, Semedo dealing with the potential threat.

Sam turned provider for Semedo but Williams was able to save his header. Dailly had to deal with a ball from Griffin at the expense of a corner which went over the bar and out of play. Wagstaff fed Burton who was just outside the six yard box but his angled ball agonisingly went inches wide.

A Stockport ball came in, but Bignall was not able to make contact and Charlton put it out for a corner which produced nothing for the home side. A ball from Bailey found Mooney and Burton made contact but Williams was able to save. Mooney and Burton tried to combine, but the offside appeals of the defenders were successful.

Bailey was not well placed to control the ball and his effort went way over. Stockport tried to mount an attack, but Bailey blocked the ball. The Hatters won a corner off Omozusi, but they were unable to do anything with it.

Sodje headed over the bar for yet another Stockport corner, an effort by Baker was blocked only as far as Griffin and his volley hit the woodwork. It certainly enlivened the home fans for the first time in the match.

Three minutes were added on. A lofted ball forward split the Stockport defence, but Mooney's effort deflected off a home player. An effort by Basey went over. Mooney split the defence but Griffin turned the ball away for a corner as it headed towards the goal. The Hatters defended and cleared the ball off the line.

Half time: Hatters 0, Addicks 1

Stockport got a dubious free kick after Poole ran into Bailey, but Sodje cleared. Bailey had to clear at the expense of a corner in front of the home fans. Elliot punched the ball away. There were home appeals for a handball, but all they got was a corner which Elliot collected. Mooney had a chance to break, but waited for support.

The home fans were showing signs of frustration again. Basey challenged Poole who dived and the left back picked up an unjustified yellow card. Stockport maintained some pressure after the free kick, but the defence stood firm.

Dailly dealt with a potential threat. A long ball forward found Mooney in space, but a defender was able to turn the ball out for a Charlton corner in front of the Addickted at the Railway End. Bailey put in a grass cutter from 25 yards but it was wide.

Bignall and Poole were taken off on and Oli Johnson, who had been out injured, and Danny Pilkington came on for the home side. Burton was taken off and replaced by his former Sheffield Wednesday colleague Akpo Sodje.

Bailey went down after blocking a Stockport effort with his body. Charlton broke, it was a great move, Mooney squared the ball to Sam, his shot was saved, the rebound came to Wagstaff, but he shot over, missing a golden chance to score the second goal.

Basey defended well as Pilkington threatened to shoot. As Stockport attacked again, they won a corner. The low ball to the near post was cleared by Dailly. Semedo managed to get the ball round the referee and Wagstaff was able to make up for his earlier miss by scoring with a right footed shot with 15 minutes left.

Basey dealt well with a threat by Johnson who received a yellow card. While Raynes received treatment, Parky gave some instructions from his sand patch. There was quite a long delay.

Mooney won a free kick in a promising position. Bailey's curling effort came back to Semedo, Sam tried to shoot, but his effort was blocked. Dailly shepherded a ball out efficiently without conceding a corner as Thompson advanced.

The crowd was announced as 4,277 and they were thanked for their 'fantastic, loyal support'. Long suffering certainly.

Four minutes of time were added on. Johnson got round Sam Sodje, but Basey pulled him out to the right to stop him getting a shot in. A ball came in from the left, Elliot seemed to have collected it but bounced it off the woodwork and over the line to make it 1-2.

Charlton tried to make a substitution, replacing Sam by Spring, and tempers flared on the pitch, Bailey seemed to be involved, and a bout of handbags broke out. Spring ran across to try and get involved. The referee's assistants came on. The only resultant booking was a yellow card for Turnbull. [Wyn Grant adds: Word here is that Baker was sent off for clouting Bailey].

Elliot collected a free kick from Stockport with six extra minutes played. The whistle was blown and Charlton collected the three points.

Leeds were held to a draw at Brentford and Norwich drew 3-3 at Yeovil giving the Addicks a six point lead over them and Colchester.

Friday 11 December 2009

A playable pitch?

Much of the focus on Stockport County this week has been on the pitch - literally. Even the Egg Chasers have problems with the surface and it is being re-laid next week. Read more here: Park

However, it has does look as if the pitch will playable for tomorrow's fixture with the Addicks. Kelly Youga is still injured but Grant Basey has been doing a decent if not perfect job at left back. Frazer Richardson is also still out, but Omosuzi has been developing as he gets more match practice.

Izale McLeod is still sidelined and this is perhaps just as well as he is the most hated opposition player among the Stockport faithful. In the pre-season preview in 4-4-2 they commented, 'Cheated and dived his way to two goals against us last season and then celebrated in front of the County fans.'

'Bottom club Charlton' was a label I got fed up with last season and it is one that is now applying to County which is what their fans anticipated at the beginning of the season. They say that Owain Fon Williams is a 'superb keeper', but he has let in 36 goals, of which 20 have been at home. But perhaps it is the defence in front of him that is at fault.

Terrace favourtite is striker Oli Johnson, while Stockport's hope of scoring may come through 18-year old midfield dead ball specialist Greg Tansey. However, the real danger man seems to be striker Carl Baker who, if I have got this right, has scored 12 of County's 16 goals. [Shome mishtake shurely - ed.] He also likes to put the boot in, having committed 32 fouls, but rarely gets a yellow card.

Pride comes before a fall and it would be easy to look at the form of the two clubs and say that the points are already in the bag. Football is never like that, particularly if one gets complacent. However, I think that this will be a good day out for the small but dedicated band of Addicks in the north-west, not always a happy hunting ground for Charlton. The fading memory of Northwich will be wiped out with a 2-0 win for the Addicks.

Paul May is making the trek north and will be covering the match for you.

Wednesday 9 December 2009

Charlton still Plan B

David Gold and David Sullivan are reported to be making a bid for West Ham by the end of the week. Charlton would be Plan B if a price cannot be agreed for the Hampsters: Bid

This is a different line from that being peddled by Pravda which claims that Gold has given the Addicks a six week deadline over a takeover. Here is the story: Takeover

Charlton fans seem to be divided over the issue. It is probable that a Gold/Sullivan takeover would lead to a more hard nosed commercialism at The Valley, but maybe that is what the club needs. Our financial position remains perilous and even if we secure promotion, it will be difficult to fund the kind of squad needed to survive in the Championship.

Tuesday 8 December 2009

The big screen

The piece in Saturday's programme about the Big Screen shows just how parlous the club's financial situation still is, although it is understandable that resources should be concentrated on the pitch which is where it really matters. Incidentally, nothing that follows represents a criticism of the Bream Team and the excellent work done by them and their feesh (who I haven't seen recently so perhaps they are victims of financial cutbacks).

It appears that the big screen has been there for about ten years and is showing its age, as has been evident for some time. The cells in it are particularly vulnerable to cold weather and are expensive to replace. Hence the idea of closing down the bottom part of the screen and using spare cells from there as replacements. It also soumds a bit desperate, but needs must.

One wonders if a commercial sponsor could not be found for the big screen, but this is not easy in a recession. One could also ask fans to sponsor a cell, but probably the costs of organising such a scheme would be too great. Moreover, one consequence of the staff cutbacks at The Valley is that we don't have the staff to organise sponsorship any more.

Looking back on Saturday's match, the most exciting event was the arrival of David Gold in his Rolls which I witnessed, not realising who was inside. Could he be our saviour? A controversial figure but he and Karen Brady did a decent job at the Blews. They didn't exactly splash the cash, but that has never been the Charlton way.

Sunday 6 December 2009

Short benched Blaze tame Panthers

Coventry Blaze were short of two players for their table topping clash with the Nottingham Players at the Skydome tonight. One had had his appendix out. The other had an accident on the ice, the team doctor came on to help him, fell over and broke his arm.

Even so, Blaze won 6-4 after some nervous moments. Face off was delayed by 10 minutes to suit Sky, although as this was a recording it was not clear why. The National Anthem was sung by Coventry Cathedral choir.

Blaze started hesitantly, tending to yield a third of the ice and the visitors went ahead. Then a fight between 'Soupy' Campbell and Quebecker charm merchant Dominic D'Amour seemed to energise the home side. By the end of the first period they were 4-2 ahead. I cannot remember six goals being scored so quickly.

When Blaze went 5-2 ahead in the second period it looked like game over. But Panthers made a storming start to the third and clawed their way back to 5-4, aided by some penalties against Blaze players. Blaze net minder Hirsch made some great saves and eventually a Panther was sin binned, allowing Blaze to score the clincher and maintain their title challenge.

Saturday 5 December 2009

One is enough

Sometimes you have to grind out results and that's what Charlton did against Southend today, Deon Burton's strike being the difference between the two sides. It wasn't stylish and it wasn't impressive (the game not the strike), but we did just enough to secure the three points. If nothing else it showed that the argument that Semedo doesn't add anything doesn't hold water. This was not a good day for the midfield, especially Racon. Indeed, if it wasn't for the wild inaccuracy of Southend's shooting and a super save by Rob Elliot, it might have been a different story.

We have to avoid giving away unnecessary free kicks. Some of them were the result of diving skills learnt on Southend Pier, but some were our fault, Racon being particularly guilty.

We noted that Deptford Creek was at full tide. At the Rose of Denmark I met Steve from Beckenham who is a reader of this blog.

What stuck me when I arrived at the ground was how heavy the pitch looked. There was even a patch of mud in front of the East Stand. This may have had an impact on the game.

In early play we looked rather disjointed with the visitors better at keeping possession. Too much of the game was being played in our half. Mooney missed a good chance to score. The referee started the match by ignoring all fouls, then started blowing up for everything and began to dish out the yellow cards, Southend eventually ending up with three against our two. One of these cards was given to Malone apparently for taking a free kick too early which meant that he had a second chance to send the ball over.

This happened after we had gone ahead. Sam put in an excellent cross from the right and Burton arrived with a nice turn of pace to score.

If Southend were going to score it would have been from the many opportunities they had from set pieces, but their delivery was not of the best and we stayed solid. When I looked at the stats I was quite surprised to read that we had six shots on target to their three as I honestly can't remember them. Moreover, we had four corners to their three.

Sometimes we need to win ugly to pursue our promotion challenge. A successful side is one that takes the three points without playing very well. Unfortunately Norwich and Colchester (courtesy of Super Kevin Lisbie) both won, but we closed the gap on Leeds by two points.

Our old columnist Olafur Johansson sent a message from Grindavik to ask why the club from the north side of Preston is called Preston North End, but the south side club is called Southend. 'This is very puzzling for an Icelandic person.' Indeed.

Ivy the Terrible did not think there was an outstanding candidate for the Silver Bone but has given it to Rob Elliot for his clean sheet and one superb save with his feet. Sodje had an excellent game, I noticed only one error. As usual Dailly did his job very effectively and it is worrying that he is one yellow card off a suspension. It's unfortunate that Richardson had to be taken off at half time and I hope that the injury is not too serious. He did receive attention for a cut above the eye in the first half. Basey played his part, but he is not yet the finished article. He was worryingly outpaced by one of Southend's wingers down the length of the pitch at one point. Steve from Petts Wood is not impressed by Racon and I have to admit that this was a below par performance with the midfielder committing unnecessary fouls which eventually earned him a yellow card. Bailey was continually taunted by the Southend fans and Steve from Petts Wood thought that perhaps he was trying too hard to impress against his old team. Wagstaff started strongly, but may have tired himself, as he faded later in the game. Sam provided an excellent cross for the goal in the first half, but didn't seem to be that involved, but came into the game more in the second half when his mazy runs left the Shrimpers seemingly stuck in the mud. Mooney was disappointing compared with earlier performances and failed to take a chance to score early in the game. Burton was double marked for much of the game, but this didn't stop him contributing well with some nice flicks to his strike partner, as well as a well taken goal. After he scored he got salaams from the East Stand. Omosuzi came on for the second half and looked perfectly competent, moving forward well. He is likely to get a contract for the rest of the season. Akpo Sodje was greeted by the inevitable chant of 'We've got two Sodjes' but didn't impress as much as in earlier mactches. Spring came on for the last quarter of an hour to steady the ship which is something he is capable of.

Juneau the Soccer Cat has given the Hiss of the Match to the Southend supporters who were obsessed with Nicky Bailey. Accused of being 'one greedy bastard', Juneau does not think that he has a diet of Whiskas at The Valley.

The Specsavers Voucher goes to the East Stand lino who lost his flag.

Crowd rating The crowd of over 17,446 was very quiet at times in the first half, although Nicky Bailey got boisterous support. 6/10