Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Ten Years Ago: Charlton go fourth

This ten years ago feature comes a little early as I am off to Washington DC tomorrow until early next week. On Friday evening I have been invited to the deputy ambassador's residence for a reception - and his name is the appropriate Alan Charlton.

A 2-1 victory against Huddersfield on 2 September 1995 put the Addicks 4th in the Division 1 table. My notes recall, 'Charlton started in spirited fashion and nearly had an early goal, but Huddersfield were dangerous in the air. Shaun Newton scored his first goal, a great volley.'

'After half-time Huddersfield came back with renewed vigour and nearly scored. Jamie Stuart got his first goal, but Lee Bowyer missed a penalty. (My memory is that he won the penalty and then claimed it for himself, taking it too quickly). Huddersfield came back with a late goal.'

'Twenty questions' featured Keith Jones (pictured) who revealed that his least favourite ground was Wigan. He was last heard of as assistant manager at Tooting and Mitcham. There was also a special feature on John Robinson.

Things were also looking up for Curbs who was presented with a N registration 1.8GLX Ford Mondeo in Charlton red. Laidlaw also left another car for Les Reed, but the make was not specified, so perhaps he had to make do with a Fiesta.

Addicks interested in Icelandic striker

Olafur has something to get excited about!

The Herminator could soon have someone he can talk Icelandic to at Sparrows Lane, reports Iceland's No.1 Addick Olafur Johansson. The Addicks, described on an Icelandic site as a team in 'suburban London', are interested in 17-year old striker Rurik Gislason. He currently plays for Reykjavik side HK (Handknattleiksfélag Kópavogs) and was on trial at Sparrows Lane earlier in the summer.

We think Rurik is the one on the left. As Mexican TV recently said of the Herminator, 'El Grand Hombre'.

Some of the Addickted think, however, that where we most need cover is for England international Luke Young. Kishishev can play at right back, but it is not his best position and it would disrupt a midfield that has been working well together.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Danny's wife: my dog ate my whip

Danny Murphy's wife, actress Joanna Taylor, is fast becoming typecast as the intelligent footballer's wife and she has another full page article in The Times today.

Attractive though she is, Joanna is no dumb blonde and she comments, 'because I am a footballer's wife ... people assume I get my hair and nails done every week, and that I do not understand the offside rule. Please. I am interested in football.'

Life chez Murphy

'I have to be because Danny is so into it that he just comes alive when he talks about it. I was watching Match of the Day with him once with some of my family. There was a tackle. I made a comment and he turned to me, laughed and said, 'Shut up, you don't know what you're talking about.' Then Gary Lineker came on and repeated what I'd said word for word. "So I don't know what I am talking about?", I said.'

Sex in the garden

Joanna once did a photo shoot for Maxim. As a joke she bought a diamond encrusted whip, but then wouldn't use it. 'Then the bloke asked me if I'd ever had sex outside. I said I had, but it was only once in my enclosed garden, surrounded by locked gates and a big wall, with my future husband at midnight when I let the dogs out.' [Which gives the song 'who let the dogs out?' a new meaning. As someone who has an enclosed garden with high walls, I would advise caution, as it is surprising what you can hear from over the wall - only this bank holiday weekend in fact. But I expect Joanna lives in a lower density area].

'They made out I was the kinkiest person in the world. My grandma was up in arms and one of her friends said she wouldn't go to my wedding. To be honest I'm very straight-laced and my dog ate my whip.'

'When I started going out with Danny, I realised footballers have a sense of humour that is very different to most people. Some of the jokes were about money.'

A good part of last season was spent getting Danny Murphy back to fitness but now, released by Smertin, he is showing just what he can do. Many think that he merits consideration for the England squad. And his wife is certainly helping to raise his profile.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Two Addicks in England squad

Luke Young and Darren Bent have both been called up for England. With Glen Johnson out of the picture, the Charlton captain should at least have a chance of the right back position. Indeed, in my view, he should be selected: the line that he is good at going forward but not so good in defence is nonsense. Bent is joint top scorer in the Premiership and fully deserves his place. What a day it would be to see him come off the bench and score a winning goal for his country!

Easy, Easy

The Addicks have not won at Boro since 1954 but the strength of the current Charlton side was demonstrated by a convincing and well deserved 3-0 victory at The Riverside that propelled the club into 3rd place in the Premiership with a game in hand.

Boro fans have been complaining how dire their side was, but nothing should be taken away from Charlton. Indeed, Boro started quite brightly, writes Erith Addick Paul May and looked at least an approximation of the side that defeated Birmingham 3-0. Now it was their turn to suffer a similar loss at home.

Boro came their closest to scoring early on. Yakubu just failed to meet a cross from Parlour and then Stewart Downing, always a potential threat, put in a good bouncing cross but Yakubu headed over. Downing himself shot over after some good work from Reiziger.

However, Charlton always looked threatening on the break with Rommedahl causing serious problems for the home side. He was getting past Queudrue without too many problems on the right and Southgate had to clear a dangerous cross.

Bent, always looking for a goal scoring opportunity, tried to make something of a half chance. Then Bent fed Murphy, who was on sparkling form, and he put in an excellent through ball to Rommedahl. The Dane put in a left footed shot that went past Schwarzer and into the back of the net after 38 minutes to put the Addicks ahead.

Charlton often look at their shakiest when they have just scored and two minutes after their opener what was really a poor cross from Queudrue provoked a scramble in the goalmouth with the alert Luke Young having to clear off the line.

Yakubu then got hold of the ball inside the area and turned provider for Morrison who drew a fine diving save from Andersen who has only conceded one goal in his spell as Charlton custodian.

Half time: Boro 0, Addicks 1

After the break Boro pulled off Qeuedrue, who could not face up to any more of Rommedahl. Deciding that a player from one small European country might be countered by another, they brought on Austrian international Emanuel Pogatetz in his debut for the club. However, it did little to help Boro take control of the match with the Addicks still very much in the driving seat. They also brought on Mendieta who was only to last 14 minutes and was slow to take advantage of a dropping ball. Danny Murphy put a free kick just wide.

Viduka seized a chance forcing Andersen to save and Bent put an effort just wide. Pogatetz had an effort from a corner cleared off the line by Smertin. A shot from substitute Maccarone from the edge of the box gave Andersen some trouble and he initially parried the ball before getting hold of it at the second attempt. However, the home fans were get increasingly restive at the failure of the game to go according to the script and started to make their feelings known.

Thomas was replaced by Bartlett on 78 minutes. On 81 minutes Chris Perry showed the instincts of a striker when he side footed a low free kick from the right from Murphy to make it 0-2. Many of the home fans decided that they had better places to be. Hughes came on for Smertin on 83 with Spector left warming the bench.

Boro went in search of a consolation but in time added on they were caught on the break. Bent, who one might have thought had run himself into the ground, doing his bit in defence when needed, ran clear and smashed the ball home with his usual control to make it 0-3 to the Addicks.

Charlton can go into the two week break in confident mood. The wins against the promoted sides could be written off by the media, although the points still have to be won. This was a real test and the Addicks came through with flying colours.

Blues in for Jeffers?

Unconfirmed reports suggest that Birmingham have made a £1 million move (plus free local dialect lessons) for Francis Jeffers and have hopes of concluding the deal before the transfer window closes on Wednesday.

However, Chairman Steve Gold commented 'Steve has pretty much spent the money in the budget and there comes a time when you have to say "Okay, that's it". You can't just keep going out and buying another player after a bad result.' Blews may also feel in less need of fortifying their squad after their 3-2 victory against the Baggies yesterday in which returning striker Emil Heskey played a key role.

Jeffers still has his defenders at The Valley who would like to see him play in a 4-4-2 formation. However, an increasingly important consideration at the club is keeping the wage bill under control. It could now be one-and-a-half times over the recommended 50% of turnover.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Frustrating draw for Brakes

Leamington were held at Harbury Lane to a 0-0 draw with Sutton United in the Preliminary Round of the FA Cup which means that they will have to visit the Hosiery Mills Ground for a replay on Tuesday evening.

As Addicks we were hoping to see Paul Campbell, who spent five years in the Charlton Academy, appear for the Snipes, but he was not included in the squad. Half the Snipes squad appeared to be ex Mansfield Town players.

Brakes thought they had gone ahead after two minutes when the ball was headed into the back of the net, but the goal was disallowed for pushing. Snipes played a physical game, and Brakes fans received a blow at half time when they heard that captain Leon Morgan had been taken to hospital with a suspected fractured elbow.

Sutton piled on the pressure after the break, but Darran Tank was solid in defence and keeper Paul Shepherd, a signing from Rugby United making his first appearance from the home side, stood firm. Brakes had some chances, but their finisihing lacked its usual precision. The arrival of Ben Usher on the pitch was greeted with chants of 'Bruno'. Bringing on veteran coach and striker Paul Eden was something of a sign of desperation, but 'Sniffer' was unable to turn the game around despite some late corners.

The Snipes were rumoured to have a replica FA Cup in their dugout ready to parade if they won. They weren't able to do that, but they will be well satisfied with the draw which must leave them favourites in the replay.

Boro win forecast

Charlton have not won away against Boro since 1954 and the Decision Technology Group of Warwick University give them less than a one in four chance tomorrow. A 42% chance is given to a home win and 30% to a draw compared with 28% for an away win.

Five of the last six clashes at the Riverside have ended in a draw with Boro last winning in 1998/99. Predictably, the Sub-Standard selected the obvious result in its forecast. With Viduka on form, Charlton's defence will be tested.

The referee will be Mike Dean from the Wirral ('funny place, sticks out, up there' as prime minister Harold Macmillan once said). He will be remembered for sending off a poleaxed Steve Brown leading to the pitching being showered by club shop catalogues.

Erith Addick Paul May will be providing a report on tomorrow's match.

Ten Years Ago: a win over Watford

Charlton defeated Watford 2-1 in an evening game on Tuesday 29th August 1995. I had some work to do in London earlier in the day, but I had enough time left to travel all the way from central London to Charlton on the 53 bus to join the crowd of 8,448.

My notes recall 'Charlton played well, dominating a phsyical Watford side (five bookings) but went down 0-1 after a series of defensive errors. Lee Bowyer equalised after the interval and Carl Leaburn made it 2-1 through a lucky but deserved goal.' The win put Charlton 6th in the table which is where they finished the season.

The programme cover promised 'New director speaks' and it turned out to be new VIP director Craig Norris. Phil Chapple was the featured '20 Questions' player. Asked what he would do when he finished playing he said, 'Like to get into the media side of sport' which has not happened as far as I know.

The programme also offered 'A day in the life of club doctor John Fraser' who was also in practice in Farningham. Despite being £1.50, the programme was far thinner than today's offering and, after ten years, seems far less sophisticated.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Reserves player ratings

Our reserve matches correspondent Clive Richardson has provided the following ratings on players in last night's victory over Norwich:

Myrhe Not heard such a vocal keeper since ... no defence is going to sit deep with him hollering 'Get out' if a defender puts a foot in the area
Youga Promising, quick, gets forward, passes ball wall
Brandao More of same, comfortable on the ball, overlapped well to put in some good crosses
El K Commanding, good long-ball passing
Spector Quite a revelation - ball-playing centre back, comfortable in possession, good tackling, almost a midfield general
Ricketts Did well enough in midfield
Fuller Excellent game, good ball-winner, good distribution, rugged tackling
Lloyd Sam Good turns, good runs, couple of good shots. Has far more to offer than JJ, including a rasping shot, far better than JJ's vapid efforts last night
Bartlett Not much involved, won a couple of good headers including getting on the end of Sam's first cross to score first goal just on half-time, followed by a second in second half
JJ A striker? 3 or 4 chances, not on target, got injured in a challenge early on, went off holding side just before half-time. The flapping Finn will doubtless make a Lazarus like recovery for Sunday
Lisbie Too casual, off the pace, predatory instinct at its usual low ebb, showed little interest, lack of flair, but scored with a 6 yard header
Had 75% possession, good passing/running/control, little finishing power with this strike force.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

El K in reserve squad

Moroccan international Talal El Karkouri is included in a strong squad for tonight's reserve match against Norwich City at The Valley. This is good news, suggesting that the central defender is on his way back to fitness. The central defence had something of a makeshift air in the first two games, although it held firm with the Addicks conceding only one goal.

Boro's 3-0 defeat of the Blews last night may suggest that the Millwall of the Midlands finally have the skids under them rather than that Boro are rampant. But we need to be at our strongest for Sunday's fixture.

Visitors to The Valley tonight should have the chance to see a number of newcomers, including Myhre, Youga, Brandao and Spector. Lisbie, Bartlett and JJ should also feature.

If I lived nearer, I would certainly come. As it is, I have tickets to see Neil McCaffery in action for Rushden and Diamonds against Chaventry City in the Carling Cup.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Ooh, aah, Leamington Spa

Leamington maintained their 100% record at the top of the World Travel Midland Alliance with a fourth victory in a row, a 3-1 defeat of Stratford Town at Mason Road against what the programme claimed was 'arguably the best team the Midlands have seen.'

I associate Stratford upon Avon with getting my car serviced; going to the theatre; and doing live feeds for Sky News from in front of Shakespeare's birthplace, but not with football. Stratford's ground is tucked away down an industrial estate housing the precision light engineering factories for which the town is known, but even half an hour before the match the volume of the traffic was such that we had to park some distance away in a special car park. The good burghers of Stratford gawped from their windows at the sight of a football crowd making their way down their streets.

Brakes started emphatically with a fourth minute goal from former Crewe and Rushden and Diamonds player Jon Adams making use of a long throw from Tommo. Brakes dominated the first half, with the one serious attempt on goal from the Bardsmen being cleared off the line. Then, as the interval approached, Jon Adams struck to make it 2-0 to the visitors.

Stratford tried to get back into the game in the second half, but a great run was awarded when Richard Adams made it 3-0. The Bardsmen did get a consolation goal when after a thespian made a dramatic fall on the edge of the area, they awarded a free kick and Leamington failed to protect the far post.

However, by this time the Leamington faithful were celebrating, singing 'You're worse than the Racing' and 'Pride of Warwickshire'. The match ended with a chorus of 'Happy Birthday' for Brakes manager Cadzy, although in fact the immaculately turned out ex-hairdresser turned sports scientist does not have his birthday until the end of the month.

Bowyer deal back on?

The long saga of Lee Bowyer's return to The Valley may finally be resolved this week if Newcastle can tie up a deal for Deportivo La Coruna striker Albert Luque. Charlton's £2.5m offer remains on the table and Alan Curbishley commented, 'Sometimes it just needs one transfer and then others follow on like dominoes.'

The return of the prodigal son has divided Charlton supporters with his attempt to dismantle a McDonalds not conferring on him the hero status that José Bové has received in France. From a purely footballing point view, some of the Addickted (sorry, morons) feel that we now have enough punch in our midfield, while others argue that he would give Charlton an edge they have often lacked.

My view is that if Bowyer does sign he should be treated like any other player and judged by his conduct on and off the pitch after he joins us.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Charlton show real promise

The scoreline in Charlton's 1-0 victory over Wigan at The Valley on Saturday did not reflect the gap in quality between the two sides. Some of Charlton's ball control was superb and there was a willingness to chase the ball when possession was lost and to win it back, something we have not always seen in previous seasons. Although the formation was formally 4-5-1, it often looked more like a 4-3-3 with Murphy and Rommedahl frequently attacking the Wigan goal.

If it had not been for some profligate finishing, Charlton could have won by a bigger margin against the 1-0 defeat specialists. It could be argued that opening matches against the promoted teams are relatively easy, but the points still have to be won and a 100% record and second place after the first two games is not to be sniffed at.

One Wigan lass in the pub before the game had a shirt bearing the legend 'Premiership 05' which perhaps reveals the extent of their ambition, i.e., it will all be over by Christmas.

The game started rather tentatively and quietly. Jerome Thomas won the Addicks a free kick in a promising position, but referee Styles failed to move the wall back the required distance and Murphy shot over. Chris Powell showed his mettle with a good clearance.

Charlton were indulging in clinical and efficient build ups which were rather fruitless. Luke Young made a good run. Wigan won a corner, but it was dealt with efficiently. Jerome Thomas burst through. Rommedahl ran at goal and I thought he was going to score, but he shot wide.

Teale was something of a threat for the Lactics and Roberts set up Francis with a cross from the left, but he headed well wide. Referee Styles contrived not to see a Wigan handball on the edge of the area.

As the half hour approached, there was a crazy spell of action in front of the Wigan goal. Rommedahl drew Wigan's efficient keeper Pollitt out of his goal. Rommedahl's initial cross struck Bent but Young played it back into the box. A header from Powell crashed off the bar. Young was able to pick up the ball and feed Powell again, but this time his header went over.

Rommedahl won the Addicks a corner, but Murphy's kick was poor. Young fed Rommedahl who gave the ball to Murphy but his shot went high and wide. Thomas then drew a save from Pollitt with a low drive. Thomas turned provider for Powell who put in a shot.

Charlton's goal on 42 minutes was set up by Murphy whose skill and persistence allowed him to get the better of the harrying Baines. His excellent cross found Bent who headed home.

Pollitt was then put under pressure by Chris Powell but saved well from his long range drive. Bent was then released by a good ball from Perry and found himself one on one with the keeper but somehow managed to put his shot just wide.

Half time: Addicks 1, Lactics 0

Wigan withdrew Mahon and brought on McMillan immediately after the break. Smertin won Charlton a free kick in front of the D, but Murphy's effort went over and wide. Rommedahl won Charlton a corner but it was caught by the 6ft 4" keeper. There was a hand ball shout when Rommedahl's cross struck McMillan, but Styles pointed out the rules stated that Charlton were not allowed clear penalties, let alone marginal ones.

A shot by Murphy from distance whistled just past the post. Murphy managed to poleaxe the threatening Teale in the nicest possible way and he had to be replaced by Ryan Taylor. He subsequently got a yellow card for a foul on Thomas. When Wigan did chances from set of pieces, their lack of accuracy meant that they were little threat.

JJ replaced Rommedahl on 77 minutes and put in a good cross to Bent whose shot crashed off the post. Bartlett was brought on in place of Thomas and five minutes from the end of normal time Hughes replaced Murphy who had gone down twice during the course of the game, but will have over a week to recover.

Luke Young made a good tackle to deal with a Wigan attack. Charlton broke from a Wigan corner (how often does one see that) and a late corner for the Addicks was taken short.

Despite the scoreline, the scale of Charlton's achievement is shown by the fact that the Bloke Behind Me did not call for Curbishley's resignation once during the match. As we pulled on to the M25 from the M11, we passed and pulled in front of the Wigan team coach. A little further on we saw a Wigan fans' coach that had broken down, an unhappy end to their first away excursion in the Premiership.

Match analysis

Hooch the Pooch and Homer the Cherry Hound fall out over the offside rule

Our canine reporters have been in a special training camp in Leamington for the last two weeks, working on their knowledge of the offside rule through Mutual Improvement Classes and building their fitness through dog wrestling bouts. Nevertheless, senior match analyst Hooch the Pooch had some difficulty in deciding who should receive the coveted Silver Bone and had to call for a straw poll in the pub after the match. The verdict eventually went to Smertin for his superb play making in midfield. When presented with the Silver Bone, the Russian asked if it was some kind of icon. Well, a talisman, certainly. In strong competition for the award was Chris Powell who reads the game so well, forging forward to great effect and come close to scoring twice, but also defending with great authority. And it's marvellous to have his post match celebrations again.

Andersen was not called on too much, but what he had to do was done well. He is innovative in the way that he disposes of the ball, at one time making a superb long throw to Bent well into the Wigan half of the pitch. The only point to watch would be a tendency to kick dangerously low balls down the centre of the pitch when under pressure. Captain Luke Young had an exemplary game, playing his part in setting up attacks. The Herminator looked strong and authoritative as a central defender and Perry played his part well. Murphy had a good game, although I think that he is helped by playing alongside Smertin. It was sometimes difficult to work out what role Kishishev was playing in the game and how he was contributing to it. Thomas has some good ball skills, but he thinks he is better than he is and is far too inclined to showboat. Rommedahl was far more impressive than last season. Bent was tireless in his contribution, positioning himself well and making great run forwards. Some people have put money on him at long odds as top Premiership scorer, but he will have to take all his chances if he is going to achieve that accolade. The three substiutes - JJ, Bartlett and Hughes - were not on long enough to make much impression.

Juneau the Soccer Cat had no hesitation in awarding the Hiss of the Match to referee Rob Styles. As well as missing a handball, he showed a remarkable ability to get in the way of Charlton players. Indeed, Thomas had probably not been so effectively man marked all season.

Crowd rating Did their best to get going in a far from full stadium with chants directed at Millwall and Palace. Got a bit quiet at times when the match went flat. 7/10

Friday, August 19, 2005

New stands shock


Click above to see exclusive picture
Falling season ticket sales have led Charlton to drastically revise their plans to enlarge the stadium. 'We thought that a more rustic look, as well as saving money, would appeal to fans from rural Kent using the Valley Express service', a club spokesman said. 'As a revenue maximisation and cost minimisation strategy, it seemed to be a preferable approach to cutting prices for less popular games.'

Ten Years Ago: The Valley of Death

Charlton had already been in action on 12 August away at the Hawthorns against the Baggies, going down to defeat 1-0 in the first Charlton game in which Curbs was in sole charge. My notes recall of this hot August afternoon, 'A poor performance by Charlton in the first half, lacking pace and direction. They moved up a gear in the second half and had most of the possession, but West Brom scored. We still can't make anything of corners.' I noted the Addickted's 'mordant humour'.

Notes on individual players including the following:
Salmon Made an outstanding save, but contributed to the errors that led to the goal.
Leaburn Lumbering around the field and falling over at the first opportunity. 'Dig a hole and leave him there', shouted one of the Addickted.
Robinson Mr Sensation. Came on and missed a strong opportunity.

Blues Enter The Valley of Death

This was the headline in the Midlands Sunday Mercury after Birmingham City went down 3-1 at The Valley. The club web site report noted, 'The gathering gloom at The Valley was swept away in the space of just two second-half minutes, as the Addicks surged past Birmingham. A poor crowd, announced as 9,692, reflected both the disgruntled mood of the home fans and an away end that was only three quarters full due to Birmingham's outrageous £15 surcharge on ticket sales.'

My notes state, 'Charlton played well in the first twenty minutes, but missed some good chances - Whyte in particular, who seemed off form. They slackened off before half time and Birmingham brought on three substitutes, including the dangerous Ricky Otto. They then took charge and the inevitable goal followed [Bowen on 55 minutes].'
This was the first match in which the Addicks used three outfield substitutes (Grant, Walsh, Chapple) and the first in which three were used by the opposition.

'After a shaky period, Charlton recovered and Nelscn scored on 68 minutes followed by an important goal by Bowyer on 69. Grant (now playing for Fleet) made it 3-1 and it could easily have been four.' The official report said of Kim Grant's goal, 'Put through by Bowyer's visionary ball from deep inside his own half, Grant not only finished with aplomb from 10 yards, but also held off the physical challenge of Daish to do so.'

The programme included the first ever message from Curbs to fans as sole manager with a picture of him with his official red Ford Mondeo. He commented, 'I would liked to have been in some new blood over the summer. Unfortunately, and quite simply, there is no money available to do that.' A feature on 'A day in the life of Colin Powell, groundsman' showed him pictured with the sort of equipment available in the average back garden.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Wigan profile

At one time Wigan was best known for George Orwell's Road to Wigan Pier but now the town has a Premiership football club and the borough council thinks that it is 'on the verge of a new era.' How long it lasts remains to be seen, but manager Paul Jewell kept another unfashionable northern club, Bradford City, up in their first year in the Premiership.

It's quite something for a former non-league club in egg chasing country to get to the Premiership, although there is no doubt that the £300m fortune of chairman Dave Whelan and his JJB sportswear company have had something to do with it. When he took over as chairman in February 1995, only 1,452 turned out at the crumbling Springfield Park for a 2-0 win over Hartlepool. Last season the gate at the 25,000 capacity JJB stadium averaged 11,571.

At one time the town was represented in the Football League by Wigan Borough, but they had to resign from the competition in 1931. Wigan Athletic was formed in 1932 with the hope of an early return to the Football League. They made 34 unsuccessful applications to be admitted before achieving it in 1978 with 29 votes, leading to the expulsion of Southport. They got into Division 2 in 1997-8 and arrived in the then Division 1 in 2003-4. They had the best positive goal difference in the Championship last season, a mean defence conceding only 35 goals and being promoted as runners up to Sunderland.

From what I saw of them on television at the weekend, 6ft 4" keeper Michael Pollitt looked quite useful. He was signed in the summer from Rotherham for £200,000 and has a reputation as a shot stopper.

What is less clear is their ability to score goals in the Premiership. No Wigan player has ever scored more than three goals in a match and they had some wide and wasteful shots on Sunday. You don't get many chances to score in the Premiership and you have to use them. What no one can doubt is the spirit of their squad.

The usual cloud of pessimism has started to settle above the Addickted with phrases like 'banana skin' being used. However, Charlton players seem to be on form at the moment: note Rommedahl's score and assist for Denmark. If there is a doubt it is about the central defence, but the Herminator played well in this role against the Mackems and I question whether they will be much tested by the Lactics. I am confident of a win for the Addicks.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Return of the Rickshaw

In the lanes of Kent, young lads riding their bikes dismount to stand and stare. Outside rustic village pubs, old codgers pause from sipping their pints. Cricket matches on village greens are briefly halted so that the players can enjoy the unfolding vision. And from one and all, the cry goes up 'It's the Rickshaw!' as the Valley Express service is affectionately known.

Sharon Larkin from Donkey Street on Romney Marsh commented, 'We used to say that when you saw the first Saga coach, it was a sure sign of the arrival of spring. Now we say that seeing the Rickshaw in our lanes is a sign that summer is coming to an end. Not much happens on the marsh, so I like to see the fans in their gaily coloured uniforms. And it's a nice day out for the old folk.'

On a more serious note, the progenitor of the service has commented that the Valley Express offers a proven mechanism for increasing match day sales, needed even more with season ticket sales revealed to be down by 1,700 on this time last year. The club needs bums on seat, but to do that it needs to get its pricing right. The Wigan match will be a good test.

So on this beautiful summer's evening I am going to go out to the garden and open a Belgian Abbey beer to toast the Rickshaw. Good luck to the Rickshaw and all who ride it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Feesh no more

Charlton defender Mark Fish has retired from the professional game after a career that took him to the 1998 World Cup in France. The 31 year old South African has decided to bring his career to an end because of a persistent knee injury that has been bothering him for a few seasons.

'I can no longer play to the standards I have set myself and therefore I feel it is time to move on', Fish declared. He had been out on loan to Ipswich Town, but had to be substituted in the game against QPR.

A popular figure at Charlton, even though he had slowed down in the last year, Feesh is also known for his glamorous ex-model wife, his serious interest in red wine and the fact that he is a half decent poet. He has often speculated about entering politics in his native country from whom he won 62 international caps.

High powered Brakes go roaring on

Leamington followed their 3-2 away win over high flying Boldmere St. Michaels with a 3-0 demolition of Studley in their first Midland Alliance fixture at Harbury Lane on Tuesday night in front of a crowd of 540. (Now corrected to 640 - WG) The Bees were no match for the pace and fitness of the Brakes.

Former Inverness Caledonian Thistle ace and rumoured Brackley Town target, skipper Leon Morgan opened the account on 11 minutes. The phenomenon known as Josh Blake followed up with a sweetly struck free kick and a second to make it 3-0 by the break. (Well, I thought Josh Blake got the third, but it was Richard Adams so I'm a quid down as I sponsor each goal he scores). In the Brakes goal, Richard Morris made a superb save with the palm of his hand.

Our sponsored player, the aptly named Darran Tank disputed the positioning of a free kick with the aisinine lino, pointing out 'there's a big divot there.' 'He's a big divot', a wag in the crowd shouted in reference to the team's joint assistant manager.

The managerial pair in the Studley dugout were a joy to a behold, the main man looking like a PE teacher on a big night out, bellowing instructions that were totally ignored by the puffing lumpheads that constituted his side.

Studley did come back into the match in the second half, but were unable to score, while Brakes were denied by some good work by Studley keeper Craig Johnson. Unable to rouse the Sheepside to sing, the North Bank executed the whole Dambusters march with baas, followed by one of the most authentic imitations of a baa I have ever heard.

As the match slipped from their grasp, Studley manager Rowlands spoilt his lean, clean image by getting out his packet of fags. Increasingly frustrated, the Bees became increasingly dirty. Useless referee G Stretton had been relying on tongue lashings, but was forced to give a series of yellows and finally had to send a Studley player off.

Meanwhile, a delighted North Bank chanted 'Bring on the Racing', but they will have to wait until Boxing Day for the visit of the Jockeys. What a start to the season: Charlton and Leamington both top of their leagues.

Is the price right?

Charlton moaners have had a hard time this week in terms of their usual criticisms of selection, team tactics etc. So there has been a switch of focus to an alleged slump in season ticket sales as evidence of the ineptitude of the club's management. However, they have managed to spark off an interesting and lively discussion that has more relevance than the usual complaints about 'why does/does not Curbs start Fortune.'

In any one year, a number of season ticket holders will give up for reasons such as relocation, family or work commitments, health and age etc. There is some anecdotal evidence this year that a number of stalwarts have given up, e.g., from the West Sussex CASC newsletter. It seems that some people are still waiting to decide whether to renew with their decision being based on price and performance. And it looks like the club will face a real crunch next year when the five year season tickets run out.

The actual level of season ticket sales is commercially confidential, but it would seem that some of the higher figures that have been bandied around are exaggerated. It's an area prone to what is known as the 'individualistic fallacy', generalising from individual cases or anecdotal evidence.

One reason for not renewing seems to be that 'the magic has gone'. This is a bit odd when you think that this comment is often made by people who put up with a collection of journeymen struggling to survive in the then first division. But I guess what they really mean is that Charlton has plateaued, has got as far as a club of its size can given the current financial structure of the Premiership (which is a problem that does need to be addressed by the football authorities, but probably won't be).

What is an issue, given that we have N extra seats to sell at each game, is match pricing. Full page adverts in the Mercury for the Wigan game suggest that the price for that glamorous fixture has been set too high. Empty seats yield no revenue whereas discounted seats can bring in new fans and generate additional money through food, merchandise and programme sales.

All credit to the board then for lowering the price for Chelsea tickets compared to last season when we did not sell out for this attractive fixture.

Another bigger issue is the total cost of going to away games with declining attendance there attracting Peter Varney and the Premiership's attention last season.
On his internet radio programme, Brian Cole estimated that it cost him and his daughter £150 to go to Sunderland. Who will want to go to 'Boro on a Sunday when it is live on Sky?

Monday, August 15, 2005

Outbreak of gloom among the Addickted

The Charlton moaners were surprisingly quiet after the victory over Sunderland, no doubt finding it difficult to offer the team a few words of praise. But Charlton fans are notoriously pessimistic (or perhaps realistic) and it doesn't take much to sink them into a new mood of gloom. This time it's been Wigan's narrow defeat by a lacklustre Chelski side.

There are, of course, no easy matches in the Premiership as the Baggies reminded us this season. However, when I last checked the rules, you have to score goals to win a match. And what was evident is that Wigan's finishing is woefully wasteful. Effort and determination can only get you so far in the Premiership: you need skill as well, particularly when it comes to the few chances you get to score. (But I see from The Times this morning they are after Dean Ashton which would make them a more serious threat).

Their defence did look good, especially their keeper, so there is always a risk of a 0-0. However, given the spirit and skill we showed on Saturday, I think that we have every chance of taking three points. Of course, it has already been pointed out the last time we were top of the league at the beginning of the season we were relegated.

We'll take a closer look at Wigan later in the week.

BTW, can anyone explain this? The Non League Paper yesterday gave directions to Welling's ground, stating that you could get there by tube by using Gallions Reach tube station (3.9 miles). Have I missed something?

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Bent called up for England

Following his sparkling performance against Sunderland, Charlton striker Darren Bent has been called up for England to replace injured Glazier Andy Johnson. The Addickted are already rating Bent as the best Addicks striker since Sir Clive Mendonca (who would have watched yesterday's match).

Saturday, August 13, 2005

10 man Charlton take three points

Despite press reports that Curbs might experiment with a 4-4-2, he started with a cautious 4-5-1 formation against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, reports Erith Addick Paul May.

As expected, Andersen was in goal with Bent on his own up front despite reports of agrophobia. Rommedahl and Murphy were given a start in midfield, along with newcomers Smertin and Ambrose, the numbers being made up Bulgarian battler Kishishev.

The defence line had a somewhat makehshift air and was one of my main worries. Veteran Chris Powell was brought back in to the left back role, allowing Hreidarsson to shore up the central defence which was also made up of Chris Perry, perhaps a name we did not expect to feature much this year. Luke Young completed the line up on the right.

The match started in torrential rain as news seeped through that the Canaries had gone ahead against the Glaziers. Ambrose was booed by the Mackems every time he got the ball because of his barcode associations. Despite the weather, the start was very hectic. Rommedahl looked lively and then Smertin had a volley from 20 yards out after a good break down the left by Powell. It was off the outside of his boot and swung away from the target, but was well worth the effort.

Murphy found Rommedahl, leading to a Charlton throw in taken by skipper Luke Young. Charlton pressed forward again, continuing to look lively with Murphy the spare player in the hole in a key role. Then Bent advanced on goal one-on-one with the keeper, showed great composure on the finish and bent the ball into the back of the net on 11 minutes sending the thousand Addickted wild.

Sunderland won a corner, the first of the afternoon with a deflection off the Herminator. Andersen, big and strong, confidently claimed the ball, and threw the ball out to Bent, but Sunderland applied some pressure and Young had to shephered the ball out.

Murphy had a great chance with a good delivery from Rommedahl but his timing was wrong and put his header over the top of the bar, missing the chance to make it 2-0 after 15 minutes. Mervyn Day who had been busy on his mobile ordering his pizza put his head in his hands.

Andersen had to punch the ball clear to deal with a dangerous cross, dealing confidently with a dangerous situation and found Ambrose. Another chance ended with Smertin put the ball into the side netting. Mervyn had his head in his hands again.

Ambrose pushed forward, but was knocked off balance. The referee sensibly tried to play the advantage, but it didn't work, so he brought the ball back for a Charlton free kick 30 yards out. Murphy's effort was easily headed away. A back pass from Perry put Andersen in trouble with a long looping ball under the slippery conditions.

Rommedahl broke again on the right. Young got possession and an effort by Ambrose went off the bar and then for a corner kick. This was good, patient play by Charlton. The Herminator arrived at the far post, but his effort went wide and the refree awarded a free kick. Even with the lights on it was very dark with the rain pelting down.

Charlton were definitely on top, but needed to extend their lead, having failed to take advantage of some good chances. Breen put a header across the front of goal from a free kick, their best chance of the game, but Sunderland appeals for a corner were dismissed. Bent raced forward into the area, taking advantage of an excellent ball from Murphy, but he scuffed his shot.

The Herminator conceded a free kick about 30 yards out which he disputed with referee Webb. The shot was driven through the wall on the surface but straight into the arms of the alert Andersen.

Charlton won a corner through good work by Young. The corner was well taken, the plan worked, the keeper was beaten but Smertin's drive came off the crossbar with the half hour mark reached. Then as Sunderland forged forward down the left, Andersen made a brilliant save from Whitehead, but as he was on the ground he couldn't keep the follow up from Andy Gray out, evening the score at 1-1 and bringing the home crowd to life.

A good build up by Charlton led to an attacking run by Powell that came to nothing, Sunderland were able to counter attack and won a corner. Andersen had to palm the ball away and then Rommedahl was fouled giving the Addicks a free kick.

Charlton won a corner after a deflection off a ball from Murphy, but the ball was punched away. A counter attack led to a corner for the Mackems but the ball went out harmlessly for a goal kick.

Charlton had overhwhelmed the Mackems in the first twenty minutes or so, displaying some neat passing play. But they failed to take some excellent chances and the home side were able to get back into the game. Charlton looked a bit vulnerable at set pieces.

Half time: Mackems 1, Addicks 1

It was far from clear what was being referred to in the music that started the second half, 'The Hall of the Mountain King'. The rain had cleared away. Charlton stuck to their starting line up and indeeed there was no need to replace anyone.

Ambrose put in an early left footed shot which was always going wide, but a good way to start. Sunderland won a corner. Hreidarsson was able to head away, but the Mackems played the ball back in. Luke Young dealt with the situation well and Charlton got a goal kick.

Luke Young made a good strong run, but a goal kick was surprisingly awarded by the assistant referee, forcing the Charlton captain to remonstrate with him. Bartlett, Thomas and Hughes came out from the bench to warm up.

Chris Powell defended well and broke away down the left, but the Mackems regained the ball. A Charlton attack was spoilt by a poor cross from Rommedahl. Ambrose went in with the studs showing on Wright and the Charlton debutante was red carded on 54 minutes to the delight of the home crowd. Charlton switched to 4-4-1. Rommedahl was brought off and replaced by Thomas as the Addicks switched to a more defensive emphasis. Kishishev came out to the right hand side.

Welsh broke through on the left, beating Luke Young, but his cross deflected into the arms of Andersen with Herminator providing good covering defending. The Mackems replaced Robinson with Lawrence, a more attacking player.

Kishishev broke through with Smertin taking advantage and the Herminator put in a shot, but it was saved and Smertin on the ground was ruled offside. Bent went on a run but was pushed over by Whitehead some 25 yards out on 63 minutes. Sunderland had a massive wall, but Murphy put in a brilliant shot and bent it over the top of the wall with the keeper like a statue to make it 1-2.

Andersen had to poke the ball away, Thomas got the ball, but the Mackems won a throw in and applied more pressure. The Addickted sung a vigorous chorus of Valley Floyd Road.

The Mackem's Argentinian left back got a yellow card for a foul on Luke Young. Thomas was looking lively, but lacked support. The 34,000+ crowd was getting frustrated despite the sun being out. Wright cynically fouled Thomas after being shown up by the youngster and was given a deserved yellow card. Thomas stayed down for some time.

Wright had another go at Thomas but got away with with it, except for a free kick. Thomas won a corner for Charlton. Sunderland prepared to make a double substitution with Wright taken off with eleven minutes to go. Thomas put the ball over the top of the bar.

McCarthy was screaming from his technical area to his side to lift their game. Sunderland produced a moment of real danger, but Thomas reacted quickly and turned the ball out.

Sunderland started to apply some pressure, but Andersen, having created some danger by rolling the ball out to Murphy, gathered safely. Thomas and Bent tried to create something up front. Sunderland won a corner. Smertin, who had faded after a fantastic effort earlier in the game, was taken off and replaced by Hughes: perhaps Fortune would have been a better substitution. Gray put the ball from the corner over the top of the bar.

Bent won a corner for Charlton as the game went into four minutes of time added on. The corner was taken short, but the Mackems won a free kick. Young showed good energy with the ball. A tired looking Bent burst away to make it 3-1 to the Addicks. The Addickted burst into 'we are top of the league' as they enjoyed the raity of an away win at the start of the season.

New mindset at The Valley says Luke

Player of the Season and capped England player Luke Young says that there is now a new mindset at The Valley in an interview with The Times. 'We are looking to push on from just being content with Premiership football', the defender commented.

Discussing the late season slump problem, Luke explained, 'It has been a really big effort for us to get into the position and we didn't have the legs to finish it. At Charlton, you tend to win games in fifth gear. [Looks more like second or third to me - WG]. We never have a game where we cruise through. So it catches up. But once we lose two or three on the bounce, it's very difficult to dig yourself out.'

Luke said it had been easy to integrate the new players because of the spirit in the squad. 'Now we have a really strong squad, as good as we have since I have been here. There is no reason why we can't push on and get into the Uefa Cup.' However, he added, 'If you are realistic, and look how much the clubs above us spend on transfers and wages, then we do punch above our weight each year.'


Curbs has hinted that the team may revert to a 4-4-2 system rather than the 4-5-1 used last year to cope with defensive weaknesses. 'It can be frustratng playing up front on your own and Darren will look more dangerous if someone else is there to take the weight off him', observed the supremo. But who will that other person be?

Friday, August 12, 2005

The Season Ahead

Erith Addick Paul May sets out his views on the season to come

If you look at the views of the pundits, the consensus seems to be that it will be another mid-table performance by Charlton this season. This is often linked with the work 'mediocrity', although being mid-table in one of the best leagues in the world is hardly mediocre for a club the size of Charlton.

However, mid-table in the Premiership is no longer good enough for many of the Addickted. No doubt if that is where we end up, the knives will be out for Curbs with the familiar refrain 'taken the club as far as he can.' It may be that the club has reached a plateau of achievement, but as Maurice Chevalier replied when asked what he felt about old age replied, 'It's not as bad as the alternative.'

The New York Addick has an interesting report on his site about his visit to Watford when he noted that the plight of the former Premiership club was similar to many who fall back into the Championship. With insufficient resources to command good playesr, the team is made up of an ill assorted mix of ageing professionals at the end of their careers, young hopefuls and foreign imports no one has ever heard of. That's not somewhere we want to be.

For the New York Addick's report go to: New York Addick

I have never been so uncertain about what will happen in a season. On the plus side, there is usually not that big a gap in points betweeen 11/10th/9th and 8th/7th/6th and a possible European place. Equally, it would be easily to slip back to 13th/14th/15th, but I genuinely believe the squad is stronger than last year. I don't see a relegation struggle, anyway.

I do think that we look a lot stronger in midfield, with Smertin in particular likely to offer a lot. Of course, there are still question marks about whether Rommedahl can do something useful with the ball once he has got forward and whether Murphy can play to a consistently high standard for the whole game and not dangerously give the ball away through silly errors. Questions remain about whether Matt Holland's legs have given way, but Curbs is determined to hold on to him despite interest from Portsmouth among other clubs. But I reckon that Lloyd Sam will be the first youngster to break through into the first time for a long while which would be one in the eye for the moaners about the Academy.

Up front, Bent looks like a great acquistion. With 4-5-1, he will be up there on his own, but there has been much speculation about whether he could develop a partnership with Jeffers. What Bartlett's role will be remains an enigma. Will he be relegated to a super sub role? As long as JJ is limited to cameo appearances, I don't care. And I doubt whether Kevin Lisbie has much of a role to play, but I could be proved wrong.

Some people have raised questions about our defence, but, like most people, I rate Luke Young and still have faith in the Herminator. The central defence has always been the biggest concern, though, and we'll have to wait and see how things work out there.

One Irish site was saying that Deano's absence will trap Charlton in an early relegation struggle. Deano's experience is certainly invaluable, and Andersen's nerves can sometimes lead him to make errors, but I am pleased to see him given a chance to show what he can do over a sustained period. In Myrhe we have great back up.

So what will our final position be? There are so many uncertainties. But I don't think that we will be in the 9th - 11th range. I think that we will either click and get to 6th - 8th or slip back to 13th - 15th. Which outcome it will be depends (a) on injuries, (b) how well the new signings slot in and (c) whether we can avoid the end of season slump (which I am convinced won't happen this season).

Some of you have asked to be updated on my complicated personal life. As my long-term readers will recall, after my divorce, I was living in a basement flat in Westcombe Park. I then stayed on in Portugal as a barman on the Algarve after Euro 2004, returning to live with my parents in Blackfen. I'm now back in IT and put together enough money to pay the mortgage on a one bedroom flat in Erith. (PS, if there are any spare, fit, forty something Charlton supporting women out there who don't have an issue about horizontally and vertically challenged males, please get in touch).

Paul May will be providing an authoritative analysis of the Sunderland game tomorrow. There will be a small prize for the first person to spot him in the crowd, challenge him by saying 'You are Paul May' and correctly answering the question 'What is JJ's native tongue?

Now Palace lose their mascot

They're bottom of the Championship and now Crystal Palace have lost their mascot. Sponsors Churchill of nodding dog fame have lost the mascot which is valued at £5,000 (which means it's worth more than most of the Glaziers squad). According to a report in The Times 'the mascot dog costume is worn to entertain football fans on match days.' Well, they're simple people, the Nigels.

Churchill stated, 'The dog is about 7ft. tall with a 3ft. wide head, so it's not something that someone could have got away with easily.' Perhaps it was one of those awful Pikeys from Charlton? Losing your mascot is what happens when you start calling the Addickted 'morons'.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Danny's wife on her hopes for Europe

Joanna Taylor was born in South London. She starred in the tv soap Hollyoaks and was approached by Footballers' Wives to be in the first series. And, although she is surprised to find herself married to a footballer, she is Danny Murphy's wife.

In an interview with The Times she says, 'Leaving Liverpool last summer was such a shock to Danny that he started off not feeling comfortable and was not as fit as he should have been. That affected his form in the first half of the season. Then he settled down and started to play really well. I can see he's a lot fitter than he was last summer, so hopefully he'll help Charlton into Europe.'

'One of the best things about being married to Danny is the pride I feel when I'm watching and he has a really good game. He doesn't talk about it, but when he's had a bad game that bothers him. If the team lose and he's done everything he can, fine, but if he's had a bad game it hurts ... He tries hard for himself and the club and the criticism bounces off him, especially when it's from opposition fans.'

'What makes me laugh about Footballers' Wives is the way the wives have so much involvement in the football club. I have no say in anything. The partners in the players' lounge are more concerned with looking after their kids than plotting ridiculous schemes. The girlfriends all sit together and that's really nice because we all genuinely get on.'

Euell out for two to three months

Jason Euell is likely to be out of action for two to three months after a shoulder injury he suffered in a reserve game at Dover Athletic. After the Jamaican international went into a slide tackle to stop the ball going out of play, a player fell on top of him and dislocated his shoulder.

In days gone by, Derek Ufton playing on with a dislocated shoulder was a regular feature of Charlton games, but Euell sensibly withdrew from the friendly fixture. Following a scan, he had an operation last Saturday. Although he can get back to fitness work fairly soon, it will be two to three months before he is back in action.

Euell was hardly likely to be in the starting line up against Sunderland and although he has his devotees among the fans (aka The Bloke Beside Me) he lost much of his sparkle last season. What the injury does do is to bring to an end hopes of a transfer deal with Birmingham City being reported to be prepared to pay £1.5m (plus free lessons in the local dialect) which would mean a £3m loss on Charlton's costliest purchase. However, he may move on in the next transfer window.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Myhre in on one year deal

The Addicks are reported to have signed ex-Everton and Sunderland keeper Thomas Myhre on a one year deal. The Norwegian will provide short term back up for Andersen and will then serve as 3rd choice keeper when Deano recovers from his fractured finger.

Among current transfer rumours are that Robert Earnshaw will come in, possibly with Euell in part exchange. However, that does not seem a very likely deal when Jason is injuured. Other rumours surround Marcus Bent from Everton if they can sign the replacement they are after.