Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Euell out, Smicer in?

Sunderland have confirmed that they are interested in acquiring Charlton midfielder/striker Jason Euell. The Jamaican international has looked out of sorts at The Valley for some time and was reportedly the subject of an approach from Crystal Palace in the winter transfer window.

Meanwhile, out of contract Vladimir Smicer has confirmed that Charlton are 'really interested' in him. The 32-year old Czech ace has said that foreign clubs have expressed interest, but his family wants to stay in England. The main rivals for his signature are Birmingham City.

Deano to go to Old Trafford?

Alex Ferguson may be about to make a surprise swoop for Addicks goalkeeper Dean Kiely. Following the departure of Roy Carroll and Ricardo, the Salford born keeper would be back up at the American owned club.

The Manchester Evening News reports, 'Despite playing for one of London's less fashionable clubs, Kiely has long been recognised as one of the best shot-stoppers and consistent goalkeepers in the top flight.' He would also appeal to Ferguson because of his lack of international commitments.

Curbs tried out Stephan Andersen in the matches against United and Chelsea and in the event of Deano's departure the No.1 shirt would then be his. Following the departure of Simon Royce to the Super Hoops, Curbs would then be in the market for a reserve keeper.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Premiership to clamp down on 4-5-1

The Premiership may clamp down on the spread of the 4-5-1 formation by giving teams that win away four points. Charlton would have got only an extra four points under such a system last season, while seven visitors would have got an extra point having taken advantage of defensive weaknesses at The Valley.

Several club chairmen and chief executives believe that the tendency for teams to opt for safety-first foorball, deploying only one forward in a cautious attempt to avoid defeat, was producing too much dull play, leaving fans frustrated.

The 4-5-1 formation has been one target of Valley moaners this season. But as one chairman told The Observer 'This trend towards 4-5-1 is understandable - the financial consequences of not surviving in the Premiership are serious - but it cannot be good for the Premier League in the long run.'

It is arguable that the Premiership is addressing the symptom rather than the cause, the underlying problem being the financial gap between the top clubs and the rest. It is this which produces an uncompetitive league. While attendances in the unpredictable Championship have gone up, Premiership attendances and average viewing figures have fallen.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Luke Young gets England cap

Luke Young came on as a a substitute in England's 2-1 victory over the United States at Soldiers Field in Chicago tonight. The Charlton right back came on sixteen minutes before the end of the game, replacing departing Palace player Andy Johnson. The Addicks' player of the year had relatively little time to make an impression, but will have been delighted to play for his country.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Luke Young called up for England

Charlton right back Luke Young has been called up for England's summer tour of the USA after Manchester United's Gary Neville withdrew because of a groin injury.

Young commented, 'I was definitely surprised. I've done a lot of interviews recently after winning the player of the year and a lot of people have mentioned the possibility of playing for England. It's always on your mind to play for your country but to be honest, at 25, I thought had missed the boat.'

Curbs said, 'I'm delighted for Luke, and it's a fantastic reward for his great season for the club ... from the club's point of view it's again proof that the England set-up keeps a close eye on what's happening at The Valley.'

When Young joined the club from Spurs, initially on a Nordic tour, he soon became a target for the perennial Charlton moaners, being given the sobriquet 'Luke Warm'. However, his Player of the Season Award recognised his commitment and skill and even the Bloke Behind Me has had words of praise for him.

Young seems to have matured as a person, particularly since the birth of his daughter. His acceptance of the Player of the Season award showed an admirable mixture of modesty and gratitude. As Curbs has said, being in the England squad will be a great experience for him personally. It will help him to develop even further as a player.

Taken to the cleaners by the Irons

A reliable correspondent writes, 'I'm not so sure that West Ham treated us as well as you think during the exile time at Upton Park. I recall hearing that they fiddled with the gate numbers and receipts and shortchanged Charlton throughout our stay there.'

Point taken. I suppose it was the fact that the return to The Valley was not that far off and that anywhere has to be better than *****hurst Park.

I hear that the Bank of Scotland has ended its relationship with Charlton. With less than a month's notice, the plug is being pulled on the money donation to the youth set up that used to come with usage of the card. People who have tried to ring the call centre to cancel the card have not found it easy to get through.

Some fans are cancelling their Valley Gold subscriptions because they are fed up with producing players for other clubs. The problem is that the gap between the reserves and the Premiership is a big one. Having watched Neil McCafferty play several games for Rushden this season, a good player in the reserves, it is evident how big the gap is. He is currently contemplating his future back home in Ireland. Some Rushden fans would like him back at Nene Park, but there are doubts that the now community owned club could afford him.

The one player we may regret letting go is Michael Turner. A friend who is a Brentford supporter has nothing but good to say about him and reckons he will move on to higher things.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Back where they belong

Anyone else noticed that this week's Greenwich Mercury accompanies the picture of Jon Fortune scoring the decisive goal against Palace by a caption declaring that as a result they were sent down to the Conference? I wish. Crystal Palace v. Gravesend and Northfleet sounds about right. They could even put a reserve team in the Suburban League.

The Chicago Addick has a hilarious line in his blog about Palace fans when he was growing up. He refers to characters who walked around Bromley wearing stripey shirts and thinking it made them look hard.

Interesting play off in the Championship. Probably many Charlton fans would like the Irons to win. It's a nice local derby which usually produces some exciting games. West Ham treated us far better than Palace during our exile. And the revealing antics of the well endowed West Ham lass have not done the Irons any harm.

But I have a soft spot for Preston, remembering great games against them in the 1950s, Tom Finney and all that. It would create a chance to visit the National Football Museum. Mind you, it would mean eight teams from the Premiership in the north-west where we often don't do so well on our travels. But as long as we are the only Premiership team south of the river, I don't care.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

We Sent Palace Down!

That was the truimphant chant of the Addickted after a 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace was enough to send the Croydon side back to a level where they belong. A win would have been more satisfying and would have put Charlton into the top half of the table, but at least defeat was avoided which, for a nail biting phase of the game, looked possible.

Charlton looked nervous in the early phase of the game, but a goal by the much criticised Bryan Hughes gave them a 1-0 margin at half time. Unfortunately, a defensive error let Palace back into the goal with a soft goal, followed by a penalty after Fortune after hand balled. However, he redeemed himself by scoring the equaliser.

Travelling down on the train from Charing Cross, the Nigels and Nigellas getting on at London Bridge looked pretty glum, perhaps anticipating that the day was not going to be theirs.

Fortune was called on for good defensive work early in the match. The on form Kishishev then put in an excellent long angled pass to Bartlett but the Springbok was unable to make anything of it. Hughes had a go. Palace won a free kick near the touchline after a challenge by El Karkouri. Konchesky was able to clear, but the ball was played backed in, leading to a Palace corner which was cleared.

Hughes managed to give the ball away. Palace put in an angled shot which went not far over the bar. Charlton were awarded a free kick after Bartlett was held. The Springbok had a half chance, but headed the ball well wide. Matt Holland was injured in a challenge, but the East Stand lino said that he was waiting for a new prescription for his glasses and meanwhile could not see what was happening a few yards in front of him. Peter Varney is right when he says that so-called assistant referees assist nothing.

JJ showed some energy and actually made a challenge. After the Addicks had wasted a free kick, El Karkouri conceded a corner which was taken short by Palace and cleared (do short corners work for anyone?) Palace were given a free kick straight in front of the D and Deano saved from the subsequent corner. Routledge then put in a stinging shot which would have gone in if it had not been for an excellent save by Deano. Deano caught the ball from the corner.

As the Bloke Behind Me screamed that Hughes was useless, would never do anything and should be taken off now, Kishishev played an excellent ball to the well positioned midfielder who showed no hesitation in putting the ball in the back of the net to make it 1-0.

Young won the Addicks a free kick and Murphy's effort was not far wide. Konchesky was cynically brought down and Soares received a yellow card for his trouble. A good Charlton attack ended with an offside decision. JJ put in an excellent cross, but bafflingly there was no one there to connect.

Luke Young put in some great work to control and retain the ball in front of the East Stand and many of the Addickted near him got up and bowed their appreciation. A good run by Konchesky gave Charlton a corner, but Kiraly caught the ball and Palace went on the break, leading to a corner for them. This produced a moment of danger, but the reliable Konchesky was able to clear.

With two minutes of time added on, Palace were awarded a free kick in a potentially dangerous position, but Deano made the save. The half ended with a Charlton corner.

Half time: Addicks 1, Glaziers 0

Konchesky received a yellow card for a tackle from behind. Palace won a free kick but Deano was able to make the save. Dowie pulled off Butterfield and brought on Dougie Freedman. This soon paid off when, following a defensive error by Fortune, the substitute advanced on goal and lobbed the ball over Deano to make it 1-1.

Palace were awarded a corner when it looked to me as if they were offside. El Karkouri was called on for good defensive work. Matt Holland was taken off and replaced by Jerome Thomas. Fortune hand balled in the area and Johnson stepped up for his 13th penalty goal of the season to make it 1-2. Johnson received a yellow card for giving it large to the Addickted.

Murphy was taken off for Lloyd Sam and subsequently Rommedahl replaced Bartlett. My notes for this stage of the game are not very detailed as the tension was getting to me. This was probably the worst period of time I have spent watching Charlton for a long time as the thought that Palace would be able to celebrate staying up at The Valley was too much to bear.

Palace then gave away an unnecessary free kick and Fortune was on hand to slot the ball in the back of the net to make it 2-2. Cue celebrations at The Hawthorns. Palace were far from finished and Deano had to make a great save with his hand on the line and then another save from a Palace free kick.

No board went up, nor was any announcement made of the time added on, apparently for security reasons. The minutes dragged by, but eventually referee Clatterburg blew up and Palace were down. They are the only team to be relegated four times from the Premiership. So much for them being a bigger team than Charlton.

In many ways it has been a disappointing season for Charlton. However, my prediction at the start of the season was 12th, so we have done one better. There will now need to be a clear out of players and investment in new ones. Danny Shittu from QPR has been mentioned and his return to strengthen our defence would certainly be welcome, although the Massives are also said to be interested.

The last Silver Bone of the season was awarded by match analyst Hooch the Pooch to the tireless Kishishev who showed as if he knew how much the match meant to the supporters. Deano made some excellent saves. Young displayed some of the skill that made him the supporters' choice for player of the season. El Karkouri made one or two errors which in one case contributed to Palace scoring. Fortune redeemed himself with his goal. Konchesky was one of the better Charlton players, making some powerful runs down the wing. Holland was error prone and eventually substituted. Murphy did well enough and his substitution was not welcomed by the Addickted. Hughes is much criticised and did give the ball away under pressure, but is not as bad as some people make out. JJ for once looked as if he was really up for it.
Bartlett played well after a period out through injury. Thomas livened up Charlton's play when he came on, showing determination and skill. Sam made his first team debut and displayed some nice touches. Rommedahl remains an enigma. He makes some great runs, but has little support when he does and is dispossessed of the ball too easily.

Hiss of the Match The standard of announcing has gone down since the enforced departure of Brian Cole but Steve Sutherland went for a synthetic call for greater enthusiasm which simply grated.

Crowd rating Although very tense themselves for understandable reasons, the Addickted were well up for it. 9/10

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Charlton win predicted

Warwick University's Decision Technology Group, who have proved remarkably accurate in predicting Charlton's performance (e.g., the Leicester cup defeat and the loss away to Norwich) are predicting a win against Crystal Palace tomorrow. Admittedly, they only give the Addicks a 53% chance of victory as against 24% for a draw and 23% for an away win.

It will be a massive game for the Addicketd with the chance of sending the Nigels back where they belong (although results elsewhere could do that, but it wouldn't give the same satisfaction). Ian Dowie has been claiming that Palace are a bigger club than Charlton. In fact, Dowie is bigger than the Croydon Casuals.

Palace's diving tactics which have given them more penalties than any other Premiership club could pay off for them again. The supreme irony would be if the Addicks got a penalty.

Curbs doesn't have many choices up front. Jeffers apparently has a microfracture of the folder, although fortunately it hasn't affected his drinking arm which may soon be deployed on Wigan Pier rather than in fashionable New Cross nightspots. Bartlett managed one half in the reserves on Thursday but looked off the pace and can hope for a bench spot at most. Therefore it looks likely that Lisbie will start up front. His critics points to his lack of goals, but at least he can worry the opposition as he showed at Chelsea. With the lacklustre JJ likely to feature, let's hope that Rommedahl can find some scoring form again.

Last night I went to Leamington's annual dinner. Also there was Deano's dad Larry and the two of them had donated a signed Charlton ball for the raffle. Whose ticket should come out of the raffle but Larry's?

It was good to hear after dinner speaker Martin Peters MBE. And to reflect on the season enjoyed by the Brakes:

P 42, W 35, D 4, L 3, F 132, A 40, Points 109, lead over Coventry Sphinx 19 points.

Unfortunately, the champions went down 3-2 to Marbella Reserves in Marbella last Saturday, dropping out of the early stages of the Inter Toto, but it was a credible performance against the reserve team of a Spanish top league side in very hot conditions.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Reserves outplayed

Charlton's reserve team was comprehensively outplayed at The Valley last night in the first national reserve play off final against Manchester United. Playing thier first game under American ownership, the northern reserve league champions defeated the Addicks 4-2. Although the scoreline was not as humiliating as that suffered by the first team at home, there was no denying the gap in quality. United were quicker to the ball, dispossessed Charlton all too easily, were more dangerous in attack and stronger in defence.

Charlton's cause was not helped by hapless fifth choice goalkeeper, Darren Randolph.
Given that Simon Royce was eligible for the game and sitting on the bench, one wonders how seriously the game was being taken and how much interest there was in pleasing the crowd of 7,102. The hospitality package wasn't very good value either.

Jerome Thomas was among the starting line up but his body langauge indicated that he would rather be somewhere else. Randolph did make a good save on the ground. Reserve captain Barry Fuller hacked down David Bellion and the United danger man had to be stretchered off, Fuller receiving a yellow card from referee Steve Bennett.

Charlton were vulnerable to attacks down the wings and Feesh, who looked as if he had put on some weight, was not much help, playing a ball to the feet of a United player and then having to rescue the Addicks from the danger he had created. Then a Bartlett error allowed United to launch an attack. American born Italian Under 19 international Guieseppe Rossi curved a sweeet ball just inside the post leaving Randolph with no chance.

Although Charlton won a number of corners, they were unable to take advantage of them. Jerome Thomas received a yellow card for a foul. He did, however, draw a save from Heaton in the United goal. Bartlett had a half chance and put it wide.

Half time: Addicks 0, Red Devils 1

Charlton could be relieved that they had kept the score down to 0-1 in the first half. Bartlett was taken off and replaced by Alastair John who soon showed his pace to advantage. However, United won a free kick on the edge of the box and Randolph was well beaten by the effort by Jones to make it 0-2.

Weaving his way among the United defence, Lloyd Sam was brought down in the box and Bennett pointed to the spot. Adam Gross stepped up but his effort was saved by Heaton. However, referee Bennett decided that it should be taken again and this time Sam made no mistake bringing Charlton back into the game at 1-2.

This respite did not last for long with Rossi making it 1-3 for the visitors. Gross received a yellow card for kicking the ball away over a disputed throw in. Randolph had to make a good save at the expense of a corner. The lacklustre Thomas was replaced by the pace of Myles Weston.

Randolph managed to save with his legs, but not well enough and Rossi was able to secure his hattrick and make it 1-4. He may come from New Jersey, but the cheers were coming from Tampa Bay. Two Charlton corners in succession created an opportunity to make it 2-4 for Walker. Sam was just wide with a late attempt.

The Silver Biscuit was awarded to Lloyd Sam who with his pace and trickery on the ball looked like the only player good enough to make it into the first team.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Last minute penalty denies Addicks a point

A last minute penalty for Chelsea denied Charlton a deserved point at the Bridge of Truimph today, writes Blackfen Addick Paul May. The Addicks had defended resolutely and had made some good attacking moves, but once again luck was not with them.

Your reporter

Kevin Lisbie was playing in front of the usual 4-5-1 while Andersen retained his place in goal. Early play was dominated by Chelsea who kept possession most of the time. After a ball from Cole was cut out by El Karkouri, Chelsea won a corner. The ball went right across the front of goal for a second corner after JJ got a touch. This time El Karkouri hooked the ball away. Charlton made a good counter attack involving Young, Murphy and ultimately Hughes who made a good run but perhaps overhit the ball. Nevertheless, he created a moment of danger from which Terry had to clear.

Cole put in a shot but Andersen was able to make a straightforward save. Charlton came forward with JJ, but his ball was easily intercepted by Carvahlo, giving Lisbie no chance. Lisbie was suffering from a lack of support from the midfield, providing a nice dummy but there was no one to run on to it. Charlton played a neat triangle in midfield, but they were still inside their own half. However, they kept possession and moved forward, winning a throw in, but then Kishishev gave the ball away. Chelsea were getting caught offside.

Joe Cole burst forward, but put his shot well wide, rather than passing to the unmarked Gudjohnsen. Young made a good tackle on Cole and won the throw in much to the Chelsea player's disgust. Kishishev made a terrible pass, giving the ball away, and Konchesky had to recover the situation.

Makelele's key role as the Chelsea anchor and playmaker was very evident. Chelsea played keep ball until Johnson had a go, but the ball was headed away. Gallas outplayed Young giving Lampard a good chance, but put his header over the bar as the halfway point in the first half was reached.

El Karkouri put in a long ball to Lisbie who got his head to it, but Johnson mopped up for the champions. Chelsea seemed to be relatively muted, but Charlton were keeping them in check and occasionally breaking forward. Young was stopped by a good tackle by Terry at the expense of a Charlton throw in.

Battling Kevin Lisbie won Charlton a free kick after Carvalho kicked him. The free kick was taken by El Karkouri, Lisbie headed it down, but Fortune fired the ball into the crowd as the half hour approached. Charlton went forward again, making use of Lisbie's pace, but Carvalho put in a tackle on the striker at the expense of a Charlton corner. Tiago headed clear.

Cole put in a shot from two or three yards outside the box and Andersen made a fine save with the ball then coming off the frame of the crossbar. JJ forced Terry to clear at the expense of a throw in by the corner flag. Charlton won another throw in. Hughes put in a shot that was way over the crossbar, Johnson having slipped on the heavily watered pitch.

Geremi, making only his fourth start of the season turned provider for Gudjohnsen but he wasn't able to control the ball properly and put his shot a couple of yards over.

On the 40 minute mark Charlton won a free kick on the halfway line. Fortune knocked it up towards Lisbie who found JJ. Carvalho had to concede the corner. Fortune's effort was just inches wide from Murphy's corner. Konchesky held off a Chelsea counter attack. Joe Cole was beaten in the air by El Karkouri. Kishishev made an attempt from distance when he saw Cudicini off his line, but his effort was well off target.

Lisbie turned provider for Murphy, but Chelsea broke and Andersen came out and did well to save. Fortune got a block in, but El Karkouri was injured (possibly by a collision with Fortune) in the excitement. El Karkouri had a bandage on his left hand. One minute of time was added on.

Half time: Chelsea 0, Charlton 0

Charlton won an early free kick taken by El Karkouri. Fortune was beaten in the air by Terry, leading to a Charlton throw. The Chelsea supporters, waiting for the celebration, started to get noisy again. Charlton seemed to have put Murphy on Makelele, as part of an effort to reduce Chelsea's possession.

Makelele released Gudjohnsen, but he was challenged well by El Karkouri. Lisbie turned provider for Hughes, but there was a good challenge on him. Young put a cross in, but Terry cleared. Kishishev challenged Makelele at the expense of a free kick. From the free kick, Terry headed the ball across the six yard area from the far post and it hit the post where it met the crossbar. There was nothing that Andersen could have done about it.

Chelsea put on some pressure, but Charlton played themselves out of trouble well. The ball went up to Lisbie but his control was poor. Andersen read a Chelsea cross well, coming out to collect the ball. Lisbie chased a loose ball well, but was unfortunate when the ball bounced off him from Johnson for a goal kick taken by Cudicini.

Joe Cole ran forward, but Gudjohnsen was caught offside. Tiago went down in the penalty area, but referee Riley was not impressed by his diving skills. Lisbie went down holding the back of his head after he was challenged for the ball. He had to go off for treatment. The Charlton players were looking more confident and positive about their ability to take the game to the champions.

El Karkouri cut out a ball from Geremi and then he was challenged by Fortune at the expense of a throw in. Lamphard burst in, but the ball was cleared by Young. The earlier blue sky was replaced by rain. Konchesky did very well to challenge a threatening Gudjohnesen whom Joe Cole was trying to release.

Lisbie and Holland burst forward. Lisbie released Holland. The captain shot and Cudicini had to make an excellent diving save to deny him at the expense of a corner. A less good substitute keeper would not have been able to make the save. This move ended in a free kick for Chelsea.

Forsell came on for Chelsea for his first appearance for three years as the halfway mark in the second half approached.

As Charlton combined well, Terry had to turn the ball out for a corner at the Shed End. Murphy's corner was over hit and went out of play for a goal kick, a wasted opportunity with a worried Chelsea bringing nine men back.

Fortune made a good intervention as Chelsea advanced. Cole fired wide and then, when the ball came off Murphy, into the crowd.

Charlton won a free kick which was struck well enough by Murphy but it was unproductive. Cudicini was pulled off, probably his last appearance at the Bridge, to be replaced by Lenny Pidgeley, the tall young keeper who was on loan at Watford. Could the Addicks put him under pressure?

A foul by Gallas led to a Charlton free kick which was taken very quickly. Terry put the ball behind for a Charlton corner. Fortune put in a header, Holland flicked it on, Hughes put in a volley and Pidgeley had to make a good save with his body.

Luke Young defended well at the expense of a corner. Charlton tried to break, but their counter was delayed. However, they kept going, but Lisbie was judged to have fouled Makelele. Forsell was caught offside. As the match drew to a close, it became very dark. Charlton were finishing strongly. Lisbie played a good ball to Kishishev, but he did not make use of it.

Lamphard was brought down by Fortune in time added on, but it looked as if it was outside the box. Charlton's protests were to no avail. Andersen made a great penalty save, but Makelele turned in the rebound with his studs to give him his first Chelsea goal in 95 appearances to set the seal on Chelsea's celebrations.

One of the pluses to come from the afternoon was the strong performance by Andersen who made two great saves and almost saved the penalty.

Chelsea preview

Like many Addicks I will not be going to Stamford Bridge today as I do not feel like paying a lot of money to see Chelsea parade their trophy having beaten Charlton. However, hope springs eternal and the indefatigable Paul May will there to be cover the match for this blog. I should try some of what he's having!

Friends of Curbs say that the manager thinks that the squad is too small. He thinks that its effective size in terms of Premiership quality players is only nineteen. Hence, injuries and suspensions soon hit hard. There has not been a settled team since the Fulham game and Paul Konchesky in particular has played in a number of positions.

It is also said that Curbs thinks that the timing of di Canio's departure just before the start of the season was unfortunate. The club was pursuing another player who might have replaced him, but the deal fell through.

Curbs is said to think that our two of our best performances this season were at home to Everton and away to Spurs.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Ten Years Ago: sunburnt end to the season

It was a blazing hot 7th May 1995 when Charlton went to play Reading at the old Elm Park ground and I got sunburnt. The match was shown live on television: somewhere I still have the video tape, but I haven't bothered to watch it again! Colin Cameron records that the Charlton side had an average age of 22 years, 5 months, 16 days and was the youngest side ever fielded by the club for a first team match.

My notes state, 'We started badly as usual and Reading scored an early goal. Leaburn later had one of his famous misses. Having Petterson in goal didn't help. As usual our player improved substantially in the second half and Chandler equalised. But the Reading crowd having been silenced, their team scored three minutes from the end. This caused a pitch invasion. At the end some of our supporters got on the pitch and the mounted police were brought in.'

As we left, one person was saying we needed a new manager to motivate the players. It was ever thus.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Eniola Aluko profile

The scorer of the excellent goal that won Charlton Ladies the FA Women's Cup Final is profiled in 'The Girl's A Bit Special' in the latest edition of Four Four Two. She has had to pull out of the England friendly against Norway because it clashes with one of her A level exams. The Nigerian politician's daughter (her father is a MP in Nigeria) plans to study law at university. She hopes to be a sports lawyer or a criminal prosecution lawyer.

She describes her main strength as her pace. 'I'm good at taking people on and my vision is quite good too ... I find good positions and my finishing is getting better.' She says that at Charlton she has improved technically, although psychologically her mum helps a lot. Asked to describe herself in five words she says that she is 'determined, self-motivated, lively and laid back.' Qualities that some members of the men's team would benefit from having.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Brakes beat Sky Blues - and head for Europe

A disappointing football weekend with defeats at Nene Park and The Valley came to a satisfactory conclusion on Bank Holiday Monday. Not only did Leamington trounce a Coventry City XI 4-1, we also learnt that the Midland Combination Premiership champions have their next fixture in Spain on Saturday. Charlton may not have made it to Europe, but the Brakes are taking on Marbella Reserves in some obscure early qualifying round for the Inter Toto Cup.

A crowd of 786 at Harbury Lane included many Sky Blues looking forward to a comfortable win for their team. However, they did not take into account error prone Coventry keeper Steve Ogrizovic, last seen coaching Coventry reserves against Charlton at Park View Road. The hapless keeper was eventually withdrawn, but not before he had conceded four goals, Dave Bennett getting a consolation for the visitors.

As Brakes look forward to Midland Alliance football and the FA Cup, the players wore their new all white away kit. Whether having 'The Brakes' stamped across your backside is a good idea is a matter of opinion.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Gap in quality shows

The gap in quality between the top three clubs in the Premiership and a mid-table club like Charlton showed in the 0-4 defeat of the Addicks by Manchester United at The Valley on May Day. Charlton played reasonably well for the first half hour or so, but crumpled after Scholes put the visitors ahead on 34 minutes after an error by novice keeper Stephan Andersen. By the end of the game United were playing demonstration football with their precision passing which left the huffing and puffing Addicks stranded. No amount of extra effort or commitment would have bridged the gap. It was simply one of quality.

Curbs decided to give Andersen his first start in goal, relegating Kiely to the benches. The experiment might have seemed to be a failure, but what it really showed is what we know already: the keeper is not at the heart of Charlton's tendency to leak goals, but the defence and midfield that plays in front of him. If Andersen was going to be given his chance, it might as well have been in a game we were likely to lose anyway.

To complete the afternoon of joy for the Addickted, Jeffers had to be taken off after what looked like a rather nasty injury while substitute Chris Perry received a red card.

The banner on top of the control room and the 'renew' t-shirts worn by staff in the shop suggested that season ticket renewals are below expectations, a fact confirmed by Peter Varney in his programme notes. Varney nevertheless managed to work in a reference to the Valley Express in his notes which is apparently now well known in the United Arab Emirates. If the club stopped congratulating itself about worthwhile but essentially marginal initiatives and concentrated on the concerns of the fans, they might do better in terms of season ticket renewals.

Joining the train at High Wycombe, we met a United 'supporter' who was going to his first Premiership match. I forecast a 0-2 win for United, but I was to be sadly disappointed by the scale of the defeat. The centenary presentations at the ground and the news that Andersen was going to be given a start did serve as a temporary morale boost.

Changing ends at the beginning of the match was not a good omen and within little more than a minute a nervous looking Andersen was in trouble. Coming out for the ball, he exposed his goal, but somehow the visitors failed to score. However, Charlton spirits were boosted a few minutes later when Kishishev put a good ball through to Jeffers who was one-on-one with Carroll. However, the keeper managed to make the save.

Within minutes it was panic stations again in the Charlton defence, but somehow the ball was cleared. Rommedahl combined well with Holland. But United signalled their intentions with a fierce shot from Rooney which would have beaten Andersen if it had not gone just wide. Jeffers exposed Charlton to danger by giving the ball away.

As the ten minute mark passed, Konchesky put in a good run but there was no one there to take advantage of it. Fortune conceded a corner, but Konchesky was able to clear. Charlton won a corner and put in a shot, but the ball was cleared and a rare error by Luke Young allowed United to make a break. Fortunately it ended in a Charlton throw in. Then a Matt Holland error exposed the Addicks to another attack.

United won a corner which was headed out but then played in again. Smith was on target at point blank range but Andersen made a great save by tipping the ball over the bar, winning a standing ovation from many of the Addickted.

The combative Kishishev went in well, leading Rooney to fall over dramatically. The match was halted so that he could receive treatment, even though he was perfectly capable of walking off and was soon back on again. Scholes burst through, but Andersen was able to make the save. Unfortunately, he was unable to repeat the feat when he spilled a ball from Rooney, allowing Scholes to sneak in and put the ball in the back of the net.

Scholes put in a nasty foul on Rommedahl and the referee was immediately surrounded by United players arguing. Nothing new there then. However, Dermot Gallagher, who had a good game, was unimpressed and produced the yellow card. Andersen had to save on the line after initially losing control of the ball.

Luke Young put in a terrible cross which somehow missed all four players in the box. Rommedahl gave the ball away, exposing the hapless defence. Scholes was able to slip the ball to Fletcher who put in a cracking shot that had Andersen well beaten making the score 0-2 on 44 minutes and putting the game effectively beyond Charlton's reach before the break. However, there was still time for Dennis Murphy to punt a hopeless ball up the pitch.

Half time: Addicks 0, United 2

Murphy was brought down immediately after the kick off, but by whom or how was not clear. Rooney put in a shot that came off the post. Charm merchant Keane fouled JJ and received a yellow card. JJ forged through, but the United defence reacted well and all the Addicks got was a throw in. Fortune put in some good defensive work in midfield to win the ball off United.

Murphy put in a potentially good ball to JJ, but he was unable to connect with it. Jeffers then went down by the hoardings at the Jimmy Seed end after taking part in an attack. It looked as if he might have hurt his shoulder, but in any event he had to be helped to the dressing room with Lisbie coming on in his place.

If the United fans had not spent so much time booing Ferdinand and urging him to signing a contract, they might have started a chant of 'We're going to score in a minute.' On 62 minutes an error by El Karkouri allowed Smith to bear down on Andersen and score his first goal since December, the charm merchant celebrating by taunting the crowd.

The two United players with yellow cards, Scholes and Keane, were pulled off to be replaced by Phil Neville and Kleberson. Charlton had a chance to get a consolation goal with a free kick just in front of the 'D', but Murphy sent his shot over the crossbar to shouts of 'you fat bastard' from the United supporters. Rooney was then sent clear by Keane to clip the ball over Andersen and make it 0-4 on 67 minutes.

Rommedahl was replaced by Euell and the tiring Kishishev was replaced by Perry. From then on, it was exhibition football by United. Rooney could be taken off and was replaced by Fortune on 69 minutes. JJ turned provider for Lisbie who found himself one-on-one with Carroll. However, instead of swerving to the right or left, Lisbie went on running straight at the keeper, allowing him to save.

Euell then played a totally hopeless ball showing why Charlton's most expensive purchase must be part of a summer clear out. Lisbie put a good ball across the front of United's goal, creating a half chance, but no one was able to take advantage of it.

United had a free kick in front of the 'D', but Andersen made a confident save. Lisbie won Charlton a free kick, but it was wasted. With five minutes left, Chris Perry, who clearly thought that he was egg chasing, hauled Brown down on the edge of the area and it is difficult to argue with the referee's decision to send him off. Further humiliation was spared by the United free kick coming off the Charlton wall. A final United corner produced good defensive work by Luke Young.

It was a dispiriting performance by Charlton and brought the moaners out on force on 606. Curbishley, it was said, had taken the club as far as he could and should go. Just how far do they think a club the size of Charlton can go? For the first time in my life, I found myself agreeing with Dennis Wise who said on Match of the Day that Curbs had done well to create a stable Premiership club.

Based on resources, Charlton should be a Championship club and we have been able to punch above our weight through good management (including the board as well as Curbs). We have been hit by the successive loss of players of the quality of Parker, Rufus, di Canio (who gave us real fighting spirit) and Jensen (who despite his unwillingness to tackle added a touch of creativity to our midfield that we now lack). Unfortunately, some of this season's signings have not worked and, professional that he is, I am sure that Curbs realises that.

I can understand why many fans are not going to renew their season tickets, but this will simply constrain the summer spending budget even more when what we need is a thorough clear out. If the club is going to make a real leap forward, it is going to need a major foreign investor to come in, but such a step would be resisted by many of those who complain about our current performance.

Curbs is always a good host, but I wonder if even he will be a bit subdued when I join his table at the sponsors' evening on Tuesday. Things have been objectively worst, but spirits were much higher when we were relegated.

Match analysis

It is always a difficult decision about who to award the Silver Bone to, if at all, after defeats like this. However, Luke Young was applauded by the Covered End as he left the field and once again he was one of the more reliable and effective players on the pitch. Andersen did not have the best of starts to his Premiership career, but although he was at fault for the first United goal, he also made one stunning save. El Karkouri was at fault for one of the United goals.
Fortune had one of his better games, putting in some effective contributions to the defence. Konchesky made some good runs forward, but there was no one there for him to connect with. Kishishev showed plenty of commitment and determination and managed to hustle more than one United star off the ball. Eventually he exhausted himself and had to be withdrawn. Holland looks too slow and uncertain much of the time. Murphy hardly distinguished himself. Rommedahl started quite well, but faded as the game went on and had to be substituted. JJ was a monument to well intentioned ineffectiveness. He simply lacks the quality required for the Premiership. Jeffers never looked really threatening, apart from one early chance. Lisbie did his best when he came on and tried to string some moves together, but his best isn't good enough, particularly when he comes to scoring. However, he is better than the hapless Euell who managed to detract from an already poor Charlton performance. Perry did very little until he got himself sent off.

Hiss of the Match This was given by Juneau the Soccer Cat to charm merchant Alan Smith who was always mouthing off at the East Stand lino over perfectly reasonable decisions.

Crowd rating Even before the first goal came the Addickted were subdued, except when the heroes of the past were presented before the game and at half time. But one of the problems is that Charlton has no personalities of similar stature to match them today. 3/10.

A pointless match?

The Fink Tank predictor provided by Warwick University's Decision Technology Group has had an excellent record recently of predicting Charlton's demise, including the defeat by Norwich, although perhaps one didn't need to be a cognitive scientist to do that. Their prognosis for today's match against Manchester United is unsurprisingly gloomy. With Charlton off form and United chasing the second Champions League place, they give a better than two thirds chance of an away win with a 19 per cent chance of a draw and a 13 per cent chance of a home win.

So is there any point in the Addickted turning up, particularly for those of us who have a long journey? We should remember that there are people who would like to be there who can't get in. During the week I was talking to a dad from Lee (a Coventry City supporter by origin) whose son has become Addickted, but they cannot get tickets for the game.

This underlines the need to expand the stadium. Some supporters think that we should spend money on the team rather than the stadium. But expanding the stadium would generate substantial additional revenue, even if it didn't sell out for every game. Remember that around 43 per cent of United's revenue comes from gate money. Also, it makes sense to borrow to construct a capital asset, but not to buy rapidly depreciating assets like players. Remember Leeds United?

Curbs: 'worst season ever'

It's not a happy Valley at the moment and Curbs told The Times, 'This has been the worst spell of my managerial career, even worse than when we were relegated.' Curbs admitted that he had employed sports psychologists to get to the root of the problem. 'We have looked at everything but the statistics do not lie and
it is the same statistics yet again. If I knew why it happened I would try and do something about it but this has left a bad taste in my mouth - staying up is not good enough any more.'

Curbs warned that he is planning to make wholesale changes to the squad before the start of next season. 'I have been looking at as many players as I can. We will be looking at every area to try and strengthen for next season.'

At the end of the day, however, money talks in football. Charlton has prospered by picking up players with scope for development at bargain prices. However, whether real top class quality is available that way is open to doubt.