Monday, February 28, 2005

McCafferty at Rushden for another month

Neil McCafferty is to stay on loan for another month at Rushden and Diamonds. He could play another five games for the Irthlingborough club where he has been attracting increasingly favourable comments from fans (although what one is to make of the comment on their message board that 'he is like a heterosexual Gary Mills' is another matter).

McCafferty, in his fifth season at Charlton, commented in a recent interview in the Rushden programme that 'Overall I think it is going well [at Charlton] and I really enjoy it there ... Alan Curbishley is always around for a chat if you ever need it and it is a really friendly club. That is one of the reasons I was so happy to come to Rushden on loan. I had heard very good things from other players about the facilities here and how well you are looked after ... I get on really well with the lads here.'

For some Charlton players, a loan period has been a prelude to an elevation to first team status (Fortune at Mansfield), for others it has led to a transfer to the loan club (Turner at Brentford).

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Score draw but no bore at Boro

Charlton led Middlesbrough twice at the Riverside with a 14th minute goal from captain Matt Holland and a 80th minute goal from Shaun Bartlett writes Blackfen Addick Paul May. However, despite a string of excellent saves from Deano in both halves, Charlton were unable to stop the home side equalising twice. The final score of 2-2 puts the Addicks level on points with Spurs but behind them in the table because of their poor goal difference.

Many of us were pleased to see Chris Perry back at the heart of the defence, hoping that his grit, determination and experience would benefit the Addicks. Charlton served early notice of their intentions when the Herminator got into the box after six minutes to take advantage of a Murphy free kick from the right, but unfortunately his free header went wide of the post. The Icelandic marauder looked like a real menace, however, as the Boro bench issued frantic instructions to mark him.

On 14 minutes El Karkouri put in one of his trademark long balls from inside the Charlton half. The ball was received by Bartlett who chested it under control and turned provider for Holland. The Charlton captain, who had been well up for it in pre-match interviews, put in a right footed shot. This deflected off Queudrue and past Carlo Nash who was deputising for the injured Schwarzer in the Boro goal. 1-0 to the Addicks.

With a minute Hasselbaink and Nemeth had combined for a one-two, but Deano delivered a superb reaction save, going down to smother the shot. Later the Slovakian international made use of a flick on from Nemeth, but his header went straight at Deano who had no problem in making the save.

Deano then had to make another save from Doriva as Charlton soaked up the pressure, before more danger arrived four minutes before the break in the form of Downing who had supposedly been on the injury list. Ineffective up to that point, Downing put in a pinpoint cross. Hasselbaink connected and headed towards goal, obliging Deano to back pedal and tip the ball over the bar.

Half time: Boro 0, Addicks 1

Boro intensified the pressure after the break but, although they were camped out in Charlton's half for much of the time, they could not get past Deano. Konchesky made a good interception of a volley from Doriva. An effort by Zenden from the edge of the area was tipped over by Deano. From the resultant corner, Boro claimed that they should have had a penalty off Luke Young's headed clearance.

A Hasselbaink free kick from 30 yards was not far off target, then he turned provider for Riggott. But the alert El Karkouri was on hand to make a vital interception and head the ball away for a corner. From the corner Riggott put in a powerful header, but Deano pushed the ball over the bar.

A free kick was nodded into the box by Queudrue and the Herminator's intervention could have led to an own goal if the alert Deano had not been on hand to palm the ball away. An attempt by Southgate led to yet another Boro corner. This gave Queudrue another header, but his effort was cleared off the line by Kishishev.

On 74 minutes Boro went ahead with a goal that was almost certainly offside. Southgate drew a good save from Deano but Riggott took advantage of the rebound to put the ball inside the post. Riggott was offside when Southgate had the initial shot.

It was the Herminator who created the opening for Charlton's second goal. He raced down the left wing and put a cross into the penalty area. It failed to connect with Jason Euell, who had come on as a substitute, but Bartlett was lurking behind him and used his right foot to smash the ball into the back of the net to restore Charlton's lead.

On 86 minutes Queudrue put a hopeful ball down field. Teenage substitute Graham was on hand to escape the offside trap and headed the ball over the stranded Deano for his first Premiership goal. Graham then had to receive attention after a kick in the mouth from Chris Perry and had to change his blooded shirt.

It was feared that the six minutes of time added on might have helped the home side, but it was Charlton who came nearest to scoring, a shot from Euell being fumbled by Nash.

The result was one we would have taken before the match but a disappointment after we had been ahead twice. Critics of the 4-5-1 formation might like to note that it does boost our chances of controlling the midfield and does enable us to absorb pressure.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Score draw at Boro?

The Pools Panel have forecast that Charlton's clash with Middlesbrough tomorrow will end in a score draw, perhaps not such a difficult forecast to make given that all but one of the matches between the two teams in the Premiership at The Riverside have ended in draws, although often a dreary 0-0.

Warwick University's Decision Technology Group, who forecast that Charlton were unlikely to win against Leicester, are more pessimistic giving a 62% chance of a home win as against 22% for a draw and 16% for an away win. The few hundred Charlton supporters making their way to the north-east would be over the moon if the Addicks came away with all three points.

Boro look likely to be without Stewart Downing (hamstring) and James Morrison (groin) after injuries during the Uefa cup win against Grazer AK. Mark Viduka and George Boateng will also not be available.

Kishishev may be back for the Addicks after he missed the FA Cup defeat because of a hamstring problem. His robust qualities in the defensive midfield position could be just what Charlton need. Jerome Thomas, whom Curbs is backing as a future England player, is like to replace Dennis Rommedahl who was unimpressive against the Foxes.

Blackfen Addick Paul May will be covering the game for this blog.

Who are you?

The last time Leamington lost in the Midland Combination Premiership was 3-2 to Coleshill Town in October and the Coleshill players gathered in the centre circle after the match and chanted 'who are you?'

Brakes fans were able to return the complement when they beat Coleshill 4-2 at Harbury Lane on Saturday. However, Brakes made a poor start to the match, Coleshill scoring from a free kick with a shot that went in off the post and then making it 0-2 after some poor defending by the home side.

However, Brakes were soon back on top with Paul Nicholls on top form. Three headed goals made it 3-2 by the break, Brakes fans chanting 'Shall we a song for you?' at the away support and 'You're just a small town in Rugby.'

After the break we joined the North Bank behind the goal of obese keeper Miles Millington-Day, taking part in the chants of 'Fatman'. To his credit, Millington-Day let in only one more goal, although Coleshill were done a few favours by the antics of teenage referee L Blackwood. A second half thrill for Brakes fans was the arrival of Dazza as a substitute for his 200th game for his club, leading to the inevitable chant of 'He's fat, he's round, he scores at every ground.'

The win takes Leamington's league goal total over the ton and with 86 points in the bag the objective of 100 by the end of the season looks achievable.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Club share price up by 60%

The price of Charlton shares has gone up by nearly 60 per cent since the beginning of the year, admittedly from a low base of 18.50p on 4 January to 29.50p on 25 February. But market analysts are bullish about the shares and the suggested resistance level of 29p seems to have been breached.

Like many fans I bought my shares as a form of donation to the club which also gave me a (small) stake in it. I wouldn't be interested in trading the shares and it is therefore perhaps significant that 28,646 have changed hands in the past week. Not a lot for a big company, of course, but quite significant in Charlton's case given that there have been other relatively large trades in the past few months.

This may not mean that anyone is stalking the club, simply that the club's prudent business strategy has been paying off. Plans have now been submitted for the expansion of the stadium and schemes like the Rickshaw service have attracted widespread attention. With so many football clubs badly run, it is worth recalling now and then what a good job has been done at Charlton.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Charlton squad could have no English players

Curbs has admitted that 'I could pick a Charlton squad with no English players if we carry on as we are. It could happen.' The Addicks manager told The Times that Charlton teams have always had a fair sprinkling of young English players, but he admitted that it is often easier and cheaper to buy ready-made players from abroad.

Curbs believes that within a few years there could be no English players left in the Premiership and the England team may be made up of reserve team players. 'For the national game this is the biggest problem we face.'

Curbs is willing to give Uefa's plans for a quota system for home-grown players his qualified support. 'The quota system may work but if English players aren't good enough, you don't want managers having to play token Englishmen', the Addicks supremo said. 'Then again, if you force clubs to play English players, one might click in and they may suddenly realise that have got a player on their hands.'

Jerome Thomas

Curbs commented, 'When Arséne Wenger let Jerome go, he said it was so he could become a footballer somewhere else. I would have taken Jerome whatever his nationality, so on that occasion Arsenal's policy worked to our advantage. The fans have got an affinity towards home-grown talent and they treat Jerome as if he is a home-grown player.'

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Neil McCafferty: hero of Irthlingborough

Purchasers of the programme for Tuesday night's clash between Rushden and Diamonds and Bury at Nene Park were informed that five of them would win a limited edition signed print of Charlton loan player Neil McCafferty. I wasn't one of the lucky winners, but I was able to read the accompanying profile of the midfielder who was the Addicks' reserve team captain.

McCafferty is currently commuting to Irthlingborough from his home on the outskirts of London. He revealed, 'One of my good friends at Charlton is Jon Fortune and we chill out a lot.'

The Derry born player made a solid contribution to the Team in White's 3-0 demolition of Bury. His passing was always neat and he positioned himself well, also advising other players on their positioning. He did miss one golden opportunity to score, putting the ball just past the post. His main problem that he was hustled off the ball too easily: he is of medium height and build (1.70 metres, 71kg).

Afterwards Neil joined us in the bar and signed the double page photo in the programme. He is very pleasant and we had a good chat about Charlton. His loan spell at Rushden ends with Saturday's home fixture against Mansfield, but could well be extended, helping him to build the experience he needs to achieve his goal of breaking into the Charlton first team.

Addicks on track for silverware

Charlton's chances of winning at least one trophy in the form of the Barclays Premier Reserve League South championship were enhanced by a hard fought 2-1 victory over Spurs at The Valley on a freezing Monday night. The Addicks were certainly up for it with a star studded squad including Perry, Euell, Jeffers and JJ.

We were sitting in front of the lounge and were able to see Curbs warmly greeting Spurs manager Martin Jol. Also there was former striker Carl Leaburn. A distraction throughout the game was the Crawley v. Morecambe match on Sky with Robbo displaying a new barnet and scoring a goal.

Charlton were saved by the post twice in the first half but JJ eventually nipped in to put them 1-0 ahead at the break, the striker having earlier put a shot just wide.
Spurs came out for the second half determined to get back in the game, but the Addicks held them off and mounted some good attacks of their own.

However, then the referee gave Spurs a 50-50 decision on a penalty and the ball was forcefully booted into the back of the net. All seemed lost, but the Addicks didn't give up and in the last minute of the game made it 2-1 from a corner to the chagrin of the many Spurs supporters in the crowd. By this time it was snowing hard and I'm not sure who scored, nor was any announcement made. (I have subsequently learnt that it was Alastair John).

I enjoy the intimate atmosphere of The Valley at reserves game, but I was particularly there to watch certain players. In goal Stephan Andersen gave an impressive performance, making a number of excellent saves. He commands his area well and is not slow to rebuke his defence when they let him down. Excellent long range throws to players are his trademark.

Francis Jeffers was less impressive, missing one golden pass from JJ which would have given a scoring opportunity. Although he looked less lacklustre than he often does, his passing and positioning was often lacking. I would question whether playing him in a 4-4-2 formation is really the ideal solution that many recommend.

The Silver Biscuit goes to Lloyd Sam who looked really impressive, showing pace, skill and commitment throughout. He must surely become a regular bench player soon.

The Hiss of the Match goes to fussy and self-important referee S Tomlinson whose career is fading to its end at reserve matches.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Disappointment but no surprise

Charlton's defeat 1-2 at home by Leicester City in the FA Cup was a disappointment, but to me it was no surprise. Indeed, I had chosen a 1-2 score in the jackpot in the pub beforehand. For Leicester this was their cup final, whereas Charlton's performance was lacklustre. Romantic dreams aside, Charlton were never going to win the Cup because sooner or later they would have come up against one of the top three clubs who are streets ahead of them. It would have been nice to go into the 6th round and make some money by losing away at United, but on the day Leicester were a better side. And although the media will portray it as a 'shock', one has to remember that the Foxes were in the Premiership until last season and still have a very impressive team list.

When the teams were announced, there two grounds for concern. First, there was no Kishishev who seemed to me to be just the sort of player required for what is likely to be a rough and tumble encounter. Second, we were playing 4-5-1 which has served us well but was possibly too defensive against a lower division team at home. It meant that we did not take the game sufficiently to Leicester in the opening half hour and allowed them to build their confidence. What we did not know was that canny manager Craig Levein had completely changed his formation and approach, thus undermining the value of the advance work done by Charlton.

The Foxes came out in a grey kit that looked like prison leisurewear which set the tone for the opening phase of the match when neither side was dominant in a somewhat dreary midfield battle. With twenty minutes of the match gone I had hardly anything to note except some good defensive work by Bartlett and Hreidarsson and an attempt by lively Paul Konchesky which did not go far wide. Charm merchant Mark de Vries received a yellow card for dissent.

Leicester showed that they could be dangerous when Maybury put a ball across the front of Deano's goal. Leicester pressure continued, but then on 32 minutes El Karkouri put in a long ball to Bryan Hughes, but Walker in the Leicester goal was able to tip the ball over. Charlton converted the first corner into a second, but then Matt Holland had to act promptly to halt a Leicester break.

On 38 minutes Gudjonsson sent a free kick deep into the Charlton area. His Icelandic counterpart Hreidarsson jumped and missed, allowing Dabizas room to put the ball into the corner of the net at the near post.

Charlton were stimulated into some livelier play by going behind. Paul Konchesky put in a cross from the left in time added on and Bartlett was able to convert it scoring a classic poacher's goal.

Half-time: Addicks 1, Foxes 1

The insipid Rommedahl was replaced immediately after the break by Jerome Thomas who soon started to deploy his skill. Deano was called on to make a good save. Bartlett put in a good ball to Bryan Hughes, but his effort went wide. The Herminator picked up a yellow card.

On 57 minutes Thomas put in a good ball. Hughes had the goal at his mercy, but pressurised by Dabizas, the golden opportunity to put Charlton ahead was squandered and his shot went wide.

Charlton had been on top for the opening phase of the second half, but Leicester were forcing their way back into the game. Fortune made a good clearance in front of goal for a Leicester throw in.

On 70 minutes Curbs tried to change things around by bringing on a second striker, but it was JJ rather than the fox in the box who was not on the bench. JJ quickly won Charlton a corner, but it was unproductive. Thomas got a yellow card.

Following a Leicester corner on 79 minutes Deano did well to kick an effort from Dabizas off the line. With the goal unguarded after de Vries had got round Deano, El Karkouri made a somewhat dramatic acrobatic clearance. Euell was brought in place of Hughes. Bartlett turned provider for El Karkouri who drew a save from Walker at the foot of the post.

I was already planning the 45 min. journey up the M69 to the Crisp Bowl when Deano had to tip a dangerous ball over the bar. From the corner, with Euell falling over, Dublin was able to head the ball in the back of the net to make it 1-2 and give the victory to the Foxes in the 90th minute.

It has to be said that Leicester deserved to win. Charlton have a very poor record in cups against lower division sides and that becomes a self perpetuating problem because it means that they can come to The Valley (or is it now The Villy as Dave Lockwood called it at half time?) without any fear.

Match analysis

It's the end of the season for FA Cup match analyst Monty Martin from Blewbury, Oxon, but the last act of the dejected spaniel was to award the Silver Bone to Paul Konchesky. Konch was fully committed throughout the match and showed real skill. Deano made a few saves, but wasn't tested that much. It was difficult to say whether he could have stopped the goals, although the second came after a good save by him. Hreidarsson was competent enough, but seemed to be playing more defensively than he often does and was partially to blame for the first Leicester goal. Young made some good forays forward and carried out his defensive duties well. For me Fortune was insufficiently consistent to give the confidence that is needed in his position. Most of the free kicks were taken by Murphy, so El Karkouri had few opportunities to excel, but he was generally solid and make one crucial stop. Hughes drew a save from Walker, but was not in evidence all that much. Rommedahl had a poor first half in which he almost looked lazy and was withdrawn at the break. Holland seemed to be less reliable than usual, being being put off too easily by the robust Leicester approach to the game. Murphy was fully committed and much involved but some of his passing disappointed, e.g., putting the ball about a yard short. Bartlett scored and played his part all over the pitch. Thomas showed real skill when he came on and lifted Charlton's game. JJ put himself about and created some opportunities for the Addicks. Euell had his usual walk on part.

Hiss of the Match This went to the moaning Charlton supporter who called in to 606 slagging off Curbs and was rightly cut off by the presenter who pointed out all Curbs had done for Charlton. If the moaners eventually get their way and Curbs leaves, it will be interesting to see how far Charlton falls.

Crowd rating I know that the performance on the pitch was generally poor and it's difficult when the away supporters go beserk when they win a throw in, but more does need to be done to lift the team. I am all for discernment in watching football and not mindlessly supporting one's team, but the Addickted often go too far in the other direction, particularly in the West where I was. The Covered End did their bit now and then, but not often enough. 3/10.

Addicks have less than 1 in 2 chance of win over Foxes

The Addicks have a less than a 1 in 2 chance of a win over the Foxes in today's FA Cup clash at The Valley, the first time the two sides have met in the FA Cup. Boffins at Warwick University's Institute of Applied Cognitive Science have put the chances of a Charlton win at 42%; a draw at 26%; and an away win at 32%.

Leicester are something of away draw specialists and their last three matches with Charlton have ended in score draws. A replay at the Crisp Bowl would, however, not necessarily end Charlton's cup homes. Today is Leicester's cup final and superiority would probably tell over 180 minutes or at least in the penalty shoot out.

It does, however, illustrate the dangers of relying on cups as a way of getting some silverware. They are a lottery and Charlton's best chance of getting into Europe is still probably a good end to the season in the league.

Elsewhere, John Robinson is joining Conference outfit Crawley Town. He would be supplying crosses to ex-Addick Charlie MacDonald, but he is understood to be injured.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Ten Years Ago: it all goes pear shaped

Charlton two matches in succession 1-0 around this time ten years ago. On 18th February they lost 1-0 to Boro at Ayresome Park, Fuchs having put the home side ahead in the 15th minute. I noted 'Apparently we missed some good goal scoring opportunities at Middlesbrough - comes of too great a reliance on Whyte.'

On 21st February I was serving as foreman of a jury at Warwick Crown Court, but our business was concluded in enough time for me to get to The Valley for that evening's fixture against Tranmere Rovers who were second in the table.

My notes recall, 'Nearly 12,000 at match, many arriving late. Part of Jimmy Seed Stand opened to Charlton supporters. Charlton played fluently, although perhaps too much of a tendency to feed balls to Whyte to score. There was very little sustained pressure from Tranmere, but then there was a flurry of activity towards the end of the match and they scored [off the underside of the bar]. This was against the run of play and a great disappointment.'

A report in The Guardian noted that Tranmere were 'out-fought and outplayed by Charlton for most of this match. [For Charlton] Robson's competitiveness and Whyte's determined running were the most prominent features.'

In the programme Richard Murray declared that David Whyte was not for sale. A full page spread showed 'Sweaty' Balmer shaving off a light beard. The accompanying text asked, 'Is central defensive stubble a problem? Then purchase a Charlton Athletic Wilkinson Sword protector from the club shop.'

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Who's going to sit with the neutrals at Fulham?

Fulham's website says 'Please note that the Putney End is a neutral area which is not exclusively designated for home or away fans. Purchasing a seat in this area means you could be seated next to a home, away or neutral supporter.'

Given that the Charlton allocation is 1800, it is no surprise that some of the Addickted are already buying seats in the neutral area.

But what is a 'neutral supporter'? Given that apparently some refs now have sites selling merchandise, it was rumoured that there was a group of people who went round the country following their favourite man in black. But such saddos are probably numbered in single figures.

I had thought that segregation was required in the Premiership. You don't have it in the lower reaches of the non-league, of course, which means you occasionally come up a small group of fanatics who constitute the 'away firm' for, say, Barnt Green Spartak. But at Fulham the home supporters in the neutral area are more likely to have dropped in after a spot of shopping at Harrods or Harvey Nick's.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Curbs on the demands of being a manager

Curbs writes about the pressures of being a Premiership manager in The Observer. The personal costs are evidently high. During the season he is working a 60-70 hour week usually leaves home at 7 a.m. on a Monday morning and doesn't see his family properly again until Thursday evening.

'It's hard to get quality time with my family ...I hear the words 'you weren't here' a lot ... I've missed my kids growing up.' However, 'Anynody in this job, or who wants to make a success of something, has the same problems ... Happily, though, while it's a very demanding situation, the rewards are far better than they were 10 or 15 years ago.'

How long Curbs can take the pressure is a question he thinks about. 'I've certainly thought about how long I can do this for ... I look at Sam Allardyce's comments that he'll retire at 55 and I think "it might be sooner"'

One interesting insight into Curbs' working methods is that he often crosses the Channel for a game at Lille or Lens on Tuesday night. 'I first saw Talal El Karkouri playing for PSG at Lille and Lens in various positions in defence and midfield. I like versatility. He was impressed that I had been to watch him.'

Curbs revealed that Bryan Hughes had been very disappointed to be left out at Newcastle and that Rommedahl was told he had to be defensive.

Read the full story at Curbs

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Kestrels put to flight

Leamington beat Bloxwich Town 4-0 in atrocious conditions (gale force winds and squally showers) at the New Windmill Ground in a match which tightens their grip on the Midland Combination Premiership title. Leamington are now 16 points ahead of Bloxwich, their main rivals for the title, having secured a total of 80 points. The Kestrels seemed to have brought all their girl friends to cheer on their side, but it was to no avail as they were 2-0 down at the break. Charm merchant Cameron Morgan was sent off after it all went off shortly after the resumption, reducing the visitors to ten men. Joshua Blake then put Brakes 3-0 ahead. It was four clean sheets in a row for keeper Richard Morris. A late apperance for Dazza gave the crowd the chance to break into a chant of 'He's fat, he's round, he scores at every ground, Darren Timms, Darren Timms!'

Herminator's true value

Most fans would agree that Herman Hreidarsson has been one of the shrewder recent buys by Curbs. Always fully committed, he forges forward in attack, as well as tracking back in defence.

But just how much is he worth to the club in terms of points each year? Warwick University's Decision Technology Group have developed a way to compare the number of points that a club might expect to gain or lose by purchasing or selling a player. The method involves looking at the actions (passing, dribbling, shooting and so on) of indvidual players and relating those to outcomes of games.

According to their calculations the Herminator adds 2.5 points a year to Charlton's tally. This ranks him third among Premiership left backs with Boro's Frank Queudrue in the lead followed by Heinze at United.

Ashley Cole only adds 1.9 points a year. If Cole leaves the Gooners, they can keep their hands off Hreidarrson.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Ten Years Ago: Bumper crowd see win

The biggest crowd since the return to The Valley (12,380) saw Charlton defeat Sunderland 1-0 on 11th February 1995. Mark Robson said on Club Call the following day that it was the best atmosphere at the ground since he had joined the club. A month without home football might have helped to boost the crowd, although there were some school children present on special promotions.

My notes state, 'First half rather rugged, great David Whyte goal in second. Stuart played very well, as did Whyte and Rufus. Salmon made some good saves. Robson was unimpressive.' Incidentally, I believe that Jamie Stuart fans may be able to see him in action for Grays Athletic at Welling tomorrow.

The programme revealed that goalkeeper Andy Petterson had asked to go on the transfer list because of a lack of first team opportunities. Rather more important was an interview with Richard Murray who had taken over the leadership role at the club after Roger Alwen had stepped down. Murray stated, 'The next two years are absolutely vital to the future of Charlton Athletic. We must ensure that we are in one of the top two divisions'.

It is doubtful if Charlton would be a Premiership club today if it had not been for Richard Murray's dedication and leadership.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

What are the reserves for?

Curbs is understandably miffed that Kevin Lisbie has been banned for three games after he retaliated against a bad foul in the reserves. Curbs points out that Charlton is one of the few clubs to field senior players in the reserves and to play at The Valley - although given the pitch has been looking a bit threadbare recently, it could do with a rest.

Of course, in recent seasons we have played at Welling United. I have actually seen a reserves game at the training ground. We have played at least one game at Dulwich Hamlet. And in the past we played at Erith and Belvedere's ground (now out of action). The first Charlton reserves game I saw was against Aldershot in the Football Combination Cup. Not sure why we went as we didn't usually, but I remember some Aldershot fans arriving late on the East Terrace and asking us the score.

What are the reserves for? They are a means of giving players on the fringe of the main squad a competitive game. They offer a testing ground for the fitness of players returning after a spell of injury. And, most important of all, they are a key stage in the development of our younger players for whom getting into the reserves is a significant sign that their progress is continuing.

The standard of play at reserves games is quite good. I would say that it is better than League Two, far less hoofing. But atmosphere is generally lacking because the crowds are so small. Some lower division teams manage without playing in a regular reserve league, largely as an economy measure, and get by on friendlies.

Probably the oddest world of all is that of the non-league reserves. I think it's the Suburban League that is entirely made of non-league reserve teams. I have a friend who manages a reserve team in the second division of the Kent League that is made up of all reserve sides except for one team (Danson Furness). They get an average attendance of seven, all relatives and friends of the players.

There has recently been a debate at the non-league club of which I am vice-president (Leamington) about whether to have a reserve team. They reckon they could get an attendance of 100 given an average home gate of 400 and 100-150 regulars at away games. On that basis Charlton would get about 6,500 at reserve games instead of 500 and 1,000 occasionally. But Leamington get an average of 75 at youth team games so I suppose the figure of 100 is not unrealistic. It would provide an outlet for youth team players, but the clinching argument against appears to be the question of who would run it.

For Charlton the reserves offer a chance of getting some silverware. Although the ladies team should do us proud there. Do they now rank above the reserves? They only rarely get to play at The Valley but have attracted bigger crowds than the reserves when they do.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

A Night on the Toon

I'm off now for a night on the toon, reports Blackfen Addick Paul May from St.James's Park where the Addicks held the Barcodes to a 1-1 draw. Earlier in the day a major police chase and search around Sparrows Lane and the training ground had sparked rumours that it was a missing person's search for Rommedahl, but he turned up in Newcastle to score the Addick's equaliser with a rocket of a shot. Hughes was not even on the bench after last week's unfortunate pass.

I won't be displaying my colours tonight because it is clear that the Toon Army were far from happy with this result. There was some booing at half time, many Barcodes left before the end of the match and those that were left made their feelings known at the end of the game.

The first shot on target was provided by Shearer after ten minutes but Deano had no difficulty in saving his header. On 14 minutes Deano spilled a long range shot from O'Brien on to the crossbar. Shearer turned provider as Dyer burst into the box, but his shot went over. Lee Bowyer put in an effort from 25 yards, but Deano had no problem in dealing with it. Titus Bramble provided the last Barcode threat of the half with a header just before half time. The Addicks had rarely threatened the Newcastle goal during the first half, but their defence (with Perry replacing Fortune) stood up well to the Magpies.

Half-time: Barcodes 0, Addicks 0

The Barcodes were clearly fired up for the second half and Ameobi had two efforts but one of them was well over. Then on 52 minutes Shearer took advantage of a long ball from Bramble. He headed the ball across front of goal and Dyer scored from twelve yards out, although Deano was not helped by the ball taking a deflection.

Pleased that the game was at last going according to the script, the Barcodes had hardly sat down when O'Brien gave the ball away to Rommedahl. The Dane dashed across the edge of the box before unleashing a forceful drive which beat Shay Given and went into the corner of the net off the post to make it 1-1.

Newcastle's heads dropped after the equaliser. Konchesky shot wide on 58 minutes. Twenty minutes from the end Robert and Kluivert (replacing Bowyer and Ameobi) were brought on to try and turn things around. Almost immediately Kluivert put a free kick on to Bramble's head at the far post, but his effort went straight at Deano.

Rommedahl then threatened again, chipping just beyond the far post and then bursting through before shooting wide. An effort that made use of a flick by Bartlett was saved by Given with his legs. Konchesky then put in an important block on a shot by Jenas and El Karkouri placed himself to ensure that Jenas could not score from the rebound. Holland and Young both had chances to secure all three points for the Addicks, but failed to make use of them.

Rommedahl was replaced by Lisbie on 84 minutes, while Euell made his usual cameo appearance in the dying minutes of the game.

It was an important point for Charlton and a good way to celebrate the 400th game in sole charge for Curbs. It was also the 100th Premiership appearance for Sean Bartlett.

Curbs on Big 3

No club outside the Big 3 is likely to win the Premiership in the next three years according to Curbs in the March issue of 4-4-2. 'Liverpool or Newcastle may have an outside chance of winning it in the near future but you couldn't see anyone else breaking into the top group. It's not healthy for the Premiership to be dominated by the big teams ... A team who finishes between 10th and 17th in the Premiership only wins about 10 games per season, so that means if you support one of those clubs only one weekend in four are you going to have a smile on your face and enjoy a decent Sunday morning. That's not much is it? Most teams are just surviving and realise they can't win the Premiership which really isn't healthy.'

Curbs agreed that as players were getting richer they were getting more difficult to manage. 'Even at Charlton I've noticed a tremendous change with the players - you just have to walk through the car park to see how rich they all are now. You just have to make sure that players keep their hunger despite their riches.'

On referees, Curbs said, 'I don't moan too much about referees. I realise that as a smaller club we are not always going to get the rub of the green against the bigger clubs. The noise of the stadiums at the big clubs does influence the decisions of referees ... If I'm disappointed with something I will send Keith Hackett a video.'

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Ten Years Ago: a first for Charlton since 1947 final

The Addicks were away to West Brom on 5 February and they won 1-0 thanks to a 58th minute goal by Gary Nelson. This was the first time Charlton had won a live televised cup match since the 1947 cup final.

My notes state, 'Salmon actually made a couple of saves. Still too much inaccurate passing, often through hitting the ball too hard. Too much use of the long ball. But an important and useful victory.'

Jamie Stuart was in the Addicks line up for the first time, but it was not to be a great future in front of him. Curbs recalled in the latest 4-4-2 that Stuart was caught having taken cocaine. 'We thought so much damage had been done to the club's name that we took a zero tolerance approach and sacked him.'

I was reporting for the club's web site at the time of the Stuart sacking and I remember interviewing Curbs on the pitch after a game that we lost at Reading. It was clear from the demeanour of the sombre supremo that he had taken the Stuart incident to heart. I was so annoyed that I drove off in haste and got caught by a speed camera.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Charlton outclassed

Charlton were simply outclassed in their disappointing 1-2 defeat at The Valley by Liverpool in front of the biggest home crowd for twenty-seven years. A Bryan Hughes error gave the visitors a goal, but Liverpool had a number of chances they missed, while others were denied by Deano. The Addicks in contrast rarely looked threatening in front of goal, despite a good goal by Bartlett from a corner by Murphy which put them 1-0 ahead in the first half. I was concerned that the demanding cup tie against Yeovil would take something out of them and this proved to be the case. Liverpool played well, reflecting the quality of many of their players, but this was a case of the glass being half empty rather than half full.

Liverpool threatened early in the game when Deano stopped a shot from Garcia, but Gerrard was able to take advantage of the rebound, his shot bouncing off the crossbar. Charlton seemed to be making more than a few mistakes and losing possession, but then Murphy won the Addicks a corner which he went to take. He was greeted with warm applause by the visiting fans which they may have regretted when he put in a perfect corner which was authoritatively converted by Bartlett to make it 1-0 on 20 minutes. The rare cry of 'There's only one Shaun Bartlett' was heard from the Covered End.

Hughes powered in, but his effort did not really test Dudek. Gerrard put in a shot which perhaps Deano did not have to save at the cost of a Liverpool corner which Konchesky was able to clear leading to a Charlton break. Liverpool put in one of a number of wide shots from distance, but then Deano had to make a good save from Morientes who had been set up by Gerrard. A Liverpool corner was played back cleverly into the danger zone, but the effort went just over the bar.

Murphy put in a well judged free kick which was converted by the Herminator and had to be pushed out of play by Dudek. On this occasion, however, Murphy's corner was not a good one. Bartlett put in a great pass to Thomas, but he was dispossessed as happened a number of times during the game. Nevertheless, Charlton had at least held their own in the first half.

Half time: Addicks 1, Liverpool 0

Liverpool came out fired up for the second half and Charlton were soon under the cosh. Deano came off his line to deny Baros and both players required treatment. Riise was looking threatening and he made good use of an excellent ball from Garcia to put in a drive which Deano had to tip over the crossbar. Liverpool's corner was eventually cleared after some action in the goalmouth.

Another Liverpool corner was eventually cleared and Thomas, who seemed a little out of his depth, was replaced on 59 minutes by Kishishev. A corner won by Riise was cleared by Fortune. Then Charlton found themselves in trouble. Hreidarsson managed to partially clear, but Hughes played the ball to Morientes who had no trouble in finding the top corner of the net to make it 1-1 on 61 mnutes.

Paul Konchesky powered in, but his effort was saved. Traore then had to challenge Murphy to deny him a chance of scoring. The Charlton corner was unproductive, a throw in leading to a limp ball by Kishishev. On 66 minutes Hughes was replaced by Euell. Luke Young was called on for an important clearance. A blatant foul on El Karkouri led to nothing more than a free kick from a smiling Mr Barry. This absence of action was followed by a cynical foul on Murphy.

Deano had to turn over a shot from distance at the expense of a corner. The Addicks then had a good build up, but it was wasted by Kishishev who put the ball wide with his left foot when perhaps he could have passed. Deano had to clear another shot.

On 77 minutes Matt Holland was withdrawn in favour of Jeffers. Within a minute, Morientes turned provider, Riise putting in a low drive to make it 1-2.

The Addicks tried to get back into the game, but it was often a case of hit and hope with the long ball. They also were caught by offside decisions and had a number of free kicks awarded against them. However, Liverpool were far from completely confident as was shown by the substitution of two players in the three minutes of time added on. Surely such substitutions should not be permitted except when a keeper is injured?

No one could argue with the comment by Benitez that in the second half Liverpool controlled the game. His remark that it was Liverpool's best away performance for forty years is perhaps a little more suprising. Most fans were optimistic before the game, so it was a particularly disappointing night.

Match analysis

It was back to the steady paws of senior match analyst Hooch the Pooch for this vital game, but he had some difficulty in selecting a winner of the Silver Bone in the absence of a really outstanding performance from any member of the squad. However, Paul Konchesky made a positive and reliable contribution throughout the match so the award went to him. Deano made some great stops without which Liverpool could have won by a bigger margin, but he also let two goals in. Fortune did have some good moments but one is still left with the feeling that he is not quite good enough against top class opposition. El Karkouri's free kicks failed to delight in the way that they often do. Hreidarsson had something of an off game with some curiously limp throw ins. Young was once again one of the better players on the park which is not something we would have been saying a year or two again, although his ball control did let him down once. Hughes looked dejected when he left the pitch as well he might, but he had one or two nice touches earlier in the game. Holland was also withdrawn early, an unusual step. His contribution is usually quiet but nevertheless important and efficient, but perhaps he was a little below his best. Thomas was also pulled off. He was hustled off the ball too easily and needs more strength to match his skill. Match analyst Monty Martin made some controversial criticisms of Thomas in the Yeovil report, but he may have had a point. Murphy was strong and determined throughout, but in line with some pre-match comments by Curbs perhaps almost tried too hard. He seemed to drift out of position in the second half. Bartlett was as tireless as ever, but he can't do everything and was often stranded up front with no support within twenty yards of him. Kishishev fluffed more than one chance when he came on. Euell contributed very little when he came on as a substitute.
Jeffers also made very little impact although perhaps he wasn't getting the kind of service he needs.

Hiss of the Match Juneau the Soccer Cat has given the award to the Bloke Behind Me. Having sat elsewhere for the cup games, I had forgotten what a pain he is. When the team are making mistakes you don't want him pointing out every one of them (and some that aren't mistakes) as well as shouting 'Sort it aht, Curbishley.'

Crowd rating: The Addickted were in good form and kept up a barrage of noise throughout the match. 8/10