Tuesday, February 28, 2006

It's just like watching Brazil

This was the chant from the North Bank at a freezing cold Harbury Lane tonight as Leamington demolished Biddulph Victoria 5-0 in the Harvey World Travel Midlands Alliance. Brakes faced their first home game without 40-goal a year striker Richard Adams who had gone to Nationwide North Redditch United, but the Vics had lost their top striker Richard Pope to relegation threatened Championship side Crewe.

Leamington played a commanding passing game and with wing back David Care a major threat on the right he burst through on 17 minutes to score a beautiful goal. 'Who dares? Who dares? David Care, David Care' was the chant from the crowd. Southern League signing Jody McKay made it 2-0 five minutes later and 3-0 before the break. The talk at half time was of six, but it was some while before the fourth came. Meanwhile, Brakes started to rest some of their top players with club captain Tommo brought on and veteran Paul Eden used after a loan period at Whitnash Town. Jon Adams, Richard's brother, forged through with complete confidence to make it 5-0 just before the whistle, reminding us that we were glad he had not accepted an offer from Southern League outfit Rugby Town.

The win narrows the gap between Brakes and Racing Club Warwick to two points. The only disappointment was that removal man Josh Blake did not score on his 250th outing for the club.

Myhre's future career plans

Once upon a time footballers who didn't carry on in some capacity in the game became publicans or newsagents or betting shop managers after they left. These days greater wealth gives them a wider range of options.

Even so, Tommy Myhre's choice of future career is unusual. He would like to be an art dealer when he stops being a keeper. He admits, 'I used to paint, but I was useless.' However, he has accumulated a big collection of paintings over the last fifeen years, although there is no indication of his taste.

It must be something about keepers. Calamity James is a reasonably accomplished artist and quite a good art critic, having presented a television programme from the Lowrie in Manchester.

It's probably the most unusual interest for a Charlton player since Fish writing poetry.

Bent in for England, sort of

According to the BBC website, 'England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson expects Charlton striker Darren Bent to win his first cap in Wednesday's friendly against Uruguay at Anfield. Eriksson will decide his starting line-up after training on Tuesday, but revealed Bent would play some part.'

This is rather carefully worded. Presumably it means more than bench warming duties. But it could cover a 15 minute cameo at the end of the game which would not give him much chance to display his talents. [The latest news is more encouraging, apparently Dazza will start alongside Rooney].

But at least there will be another name to add to the international honours board at The Valley.

A message from our sponsors

The club's new phone system for ticket bookings is causing some controversy, both in terms of the number of adverts one has to listen to and the cost of the calls. One unfortunate was regaled yesterday with 45 mins. of a chorus from an old Elton John hit interspersed with ads, apparently at a cost of 10p a minute. This lengthy delay was apparently due to 'teething problems' with the new system, but, on the face of it, this new system does look like a bit of a rip off. It will be interesting to see how the club responds to the criticism received so far.

Against that background, I am reluctant to include a plug, but our third string canine match analyst, Monty Martin, has drawn attention to the line in world cup stickers available from Kingdom Signs where he has his day job:

World Cup

Can we sing a song for you?

This is a chant we often hear at The Valley, helped by the superior acoustics of the Jimmy Seed stand. Brentford supporters were singing '3-0 and you still don't sing', although as someone pointed out it's not a karaoke competition.

A reader of this blog has written in to say, 'I rarely agree with your 'system for crowd ratings' This season the home crowd/games have been really poor. I wish I knew the answer to galvanise the crowd (other than playing attractive footy winning 3/0 every game).' I think he has a fair point. Perhaps our canine reporters have been too generous not wishing to slag off the home crowd.

The Valley has been pretty quiet much of the time this year. Some would say a lack of passion on the pitch leads to a lack of passion in the crowd. The Chicago Addick makes a good point when he says that a lot of people at The Valley these days are football supporters rather than Charlton supporters.

I remember some years ago giving a talk at Westminster School and one of the teachers saying that her young son was insistent on going to a Premiership match so she had taken him to see Wimbledon because she thought it would be cheap and safe (but hardly salubrious, one might add). Going back on the train on Saturday, I overhead a conversation between an Addick living in the City of London (yes) and a bloke and his son of about ten years old. The latter explained that they had come to Charlton beause they could get a ticket to see a Premiership match not because they were fans.

Inspector Sands has been laying some of the blame at the door of the Rickshaw (and I think the club does underestimate how many people use, or would like to use, North Greenwich). However, what the Rickshaw does is to allow the Charlton disapora to get to The Valley conveniently. Some of them may be thermos and travel blanket types, but not all of them.

At the very least let's hope we can get some sort of atmosphere for the cup match against Boro.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Danny is not hen pecked

Danny Murphy is not hen pecked, Joanna Taylor assures us in her latest column in The Times. She would not try to influence him when it comes to a move as it would only cause resentment.

Joanna assures us of her chameleon like qualities. She says, 'I like football but I watch it from the outside and have no mad passion for a particular club. Obviously, now I follow Spurs and I have to mention that the fans have been particularly welcoming, but I find it easy to change when Danny does.'

That's useful then, because there may be more moves ahead and one day no doubt Joanna will be pledging her loyalty to Queen's Park Rangers. One can imagine it. 'The lounge for the players' wives at Loftus Road is on the small side, but it is very cosy and we all get on well together. The left back's wife is a hairdresser and has offered to do my hair.'

I suppose that the Spurs fans, who in my view have always been among the most fickle and with the worst judgement of any in the Premiership, regard Danny as their new ace. We shall see. I wouldn't starting getting out the old moulds for tat commemorating the double yet.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Marcus Bent latest target for critics

There has been a realisation among many supporters that the criticism of Radostin Kishishev went too far, particularly booing him before he went on the pitch. There is now a grudging acceptance among the usual suspects that Kishishev and Hughes are doing their best to the extent of their somewhat limited abilities. One day we may well see at The Valley a midfield player who, if not as good as Makelele, is nearer to him in quality.

So a new target for moaners is needed. Step forward, Mr Marcus Bent. He is said to be lazy, not a £2 million player, no wonder he has played at nine clubs etc. etc. This is in spite of the fact that he has already scored two goals, one against Chelsea. Never mind that he gave Darren Bent the assist yesterday that was closest to a Charlton goal. As the Sunday Times put it in its report, 'Charlton used both Bents, Darren and Marcus, shrewdly, with Darren as the attacking spearhead and Marcus given a floating role.' But if one thinks Marcus was a bit off the pace (possibly with a niggle from the start of the game), surely it's a bit too early to write him off?

One can accept that football is one of those aspects of life where professional expertise and experience count for little. 'It's all about opinions', we're told. So people who have never played football except at pub team level think they know better than staff who watch the team in training all week and have access to very sophisticated computerised analyses of each player's performance. But, of course, part of the fun is debating the performance of particular players and how the team might do better.

What is a little difficult to accept is the constant negativity. It has been argued in the press that this is because Curbs has created unsustainable expectations at what is still a medium-sized club at best. But it's not just a Charlton phenomenon, it's found all around football, even at the lower levels of the non-league where the manager is unpaid and the players are on £30 a week tops.

For many people, football is an escape from everyday routine, indeed to some extent that is why all of us go. For me, one of the attractions is that I don't have any responsibility for what happens on the pitch. I don't have to train or pick the team, I can just enjoy the contest on the pitch. Sometimes it's not that enjoyable. But I think that is structural. The Premiership encourages defensive football because for the majority of the clubs escaping relegation is the name of the game. And a rather dull game it can become.

That's why all fans should submit their views on the state of football to the high level European Union review in which Supporters Direct is taking a close interest. You have until 13 March to state your views. Visit the Review's website at Review .

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Bore draw at The Valley

I missed the home match against the Baggies, but Charlton seemed to stage a replica this afternoon at The Valley with a 0-0 draw against another Midlands side, Aston Villa. Neither side could really complain about the result and although each had their chances, no one came near scoring. Charlton can take some slight consolation from another clean sheet and four unbeaten matches in a row. But it was a lacklustre game and the approach of the Addicks was too often cautious and nervous. The midfield often seemed to disappear. One suspects that the Cup is now the main game in SE7.

Hreidarsson made a good early block to stop an early Villa attack. Luke Young somewhat worryingly gave the ball away. A Villa free kick went off the wall. The first moment of hope for the Addickted came on 14 minutes when a good Kishishev cross was headed down by Darren Bent and saved on the line by Sorensen in the Villa goal.

Villa won their first corner on 20 minutes. It was unproductive, but shortly afterwards there was danger in front of the Addicks goal. Chris Perry dealt well with renewed Villa attacks. Matt Holland put in a decent cross but there was no one there to connect. Darren Bent broke away on a run, but his effort was saved. Kishishev put in a shot. Gareth Barry was given a yellow card, the only one of the match, for a foul on Luke Young.

Marcus Bent turned provider for his namesake who won a Charlton corner, but the corner kick was poor. In an inspired move Marcus Bent tried to pick out Ambrose with a long diagonal ball across in the pitch and he was unlucky that the move did not come off. Kishishev found himself unmarked in front of goal and his rising effort was just over. Marcus Bent seemed to have won Charlton another corner, but it was denied by referee Foy. As the half came to a close, Myhre went for safety first and tipped a shot from distance round the post, even though it was probably going wide.

Half time: Addicks 0, Villa 0

Immediately after the break, O'Leary took off Aaron Hughes and brought on Luke Moore who turned out to be very troublesome with his pace on the right wing, easily evading Spector. A Villa corner, which shoyld have been a throw in, led to an effort that went over the bar. A Villa free kick led to a corner and Tommy had to make a good save on the line. Ambrose put in a sizzling shot that drew a good save from Sorensen.

Marcus Bent limped off and down the tunnel with a hamstring problem and Bothroyd came on in his place. The Addickted livened up when Euell came on in place of Hughes and Jase received some heartfelt personal chants of support from the Covered End. The away fans had been chanting for Kevin Phillips and they got their wish when the mercurial Juan Pablo Angel departed. However, apart from one shot which Myhre saved the ex Baldock Town ace was hardly a super sub.

Charlton nearly conceded an own goal through Kishishev, but fortunately the resultant Villa corner was kicked straight out of play. Holland was taken off for El Karkouri who almost immediately put in a good ball which flashed across the front of the Villa goal. Villa won another two corners.

As the game came to an end, the nervousness around The Valley was palpable, but Charlton managed to secure the point. As we said in our preview, it wasn't going to be easy and it wasn't.

Match analysis

There was no clear candidate, but Hooch the Pooch awarded the accolade to Chris Perry for his contribution to an effective defensive performance. Myhre did have not that much to do, but he was an effective guardian of his goal. Young was not so prominent as he has been in some recent games. Hreidarsson was generally effective. But he would be better at left back where Spector was often out paced and out played? Kishishev had a good bustling game that included an attempt on goal. Holland was competent and authoritative. Hughes had a composed game and it was far from clear that the standard of the midfield play improved after he went off. Ambrose looked threatening when he went on his runs, but he was unable to turn them into anything, perhaps for lack of support. Marcus Bent showed some real skill and it was a loss when he went off with a hamstring injury. Darren Bent looked threatening on occasions but was unable to convert, although he could have done with better service and support.
Bothroyd is not in the same class as Marcus Bent. He held the ball up quite well, but denied the opportunity of a free kick in front of goal, looked unlikely to do anything with it. The appearance of Euell relatively early on was interesting, but even the Bloke Beside Me who is a fan had to concede that he is not the player he was. Some nice flicks and control of the ball, but apart from when he first came on hardly a danger and not very effective at tackling. The appearance of El Karkouri was something of a mystery and he did not contribute very much apart from one cross/shot.

Hiss of the Match A rather unusual choice by Juneau the Soccer Cat who has chosen whom I believe to be the assistant manager of Villa, one Roy Aitken who was gesticulating angrily for some time at the West Stand crowd after Charlton had been fairly given a free kick.

Crowd rating RElatively subdued which got the Villa into the 'sell I sing a song for you' routine when they had exhausted their insults directed at the Blews. 6/10.

Will it be that easy?

Many of the Addickted already have today's game against Aston Villa chalked up as three points, but I am not sure it will be that easy. Charlton are unbeaten at home in their last six league and cup games, but Villa have been doing quite well on the road. This might imply a draw, but my forecasting record this season has been atrocious. The Guardiam erroneously described me as a 'professor of football economics' the other day, but I am no professor of political forecasting either.

If we turn to the Fink Tank in The Times they are giving us a 54% chance of a home win which I think is about right, with a roughly 25% chance of a draw or away win. Our home record against Villa in the Premiership has been mixed. Our two home wins were both by the convincing margin of 3-0, Jeffers playing a key role last year, but we have also lost three times, twice by the margin of 1-2 and once by 0-1. The other match was a 3-3 draw.

Curbs has been ringing the changes a little bit in recent matches. There were complaints about dropping Smertin against Newcastle, but he has been a bit off the pace recently. Euell has been brought on as a sub in the last two league matches. Might he actually start? Marcus Bent could forage on the right with Euell in the hole behind Darren Bent. Might be quite an exciting combination, but possibly too exciting to be used. I expect El Karkouri to be on the bench at least. Sorondo, who was meant to be one of our first choice centre backs, is fighting his way back to fitness and will doubtless feature soon. I still have reservations about Spector and Chris Powell could well make a start having been rested at St.James's Park.

Good to see Darren Bent called up for the England squad. Let's hope his role is not confined to learning correct deportment on the bench or a ten minute cameo.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Never on a Thursday?

I can't remember when the Addicks last played on a Thursday, but our home FA cup tie against Middlesbrough will be on Thursday March 23rd at 8.05 p.m. (Cllr. Rick Everitt has informed me that the last occasion was on general election day 1997 when we lost 1-0 away to Bradford). The match will be shown live on the BBC which may hit attendances given that work commitments affect attendance at evening fixtures. If it had been Tuesday or Wednesday that week I couldn't come, so is the club's ticket subs for semi-final tickets entirely fair? Mind you, we have to get there first and Boro may well play for a replay.

The story at: Cup

This will affect the home fixture against the Barcodes on the following Saturday and the Newcastle United official site is reporting that Charlton have asked for a switch to Sunday and I understand that this is happening.

Sweaty Balmer interviewed

Now assistant player-manager at Hamilton Academicals who are in the Scottish Cup quarter final tomorrow, former Charlton defender Sweaty Balmer is interiewed in The Times today. He was formerly at Clyde which I should have known as I 'follow' the Bully Wee in Scottish competitions given that they are the Cumbernauld team. His move north of the border makes sense given the impenetrability of his Glaswegian accent.

Sweaty talks about his time at The Valley:

Balmer’s own input at Clyde and Hamilton has owed much to the lessons he learnt from Alan Curbishley, his manager at Charlton. As a centre-back, Balmer was with the club when they returned to The Valley in the early 1990s, and a tinge of sentimentality enters Balmer’s conversation as he remembers those days.

“They were fantastic times,” he says. “I loved the game down there. It was just little short, sharp things with Curbs, such as instead of running 50 yards, how to run 10 yards and kill the space.

“It’s a lot more tactical down there; it’s about things like shape. We’re trying to introduce it here but it’s hard. You’re asking some players to do something that they can’t actually do, so the gaffer and I are trying to keep it simple in terms of passing and training routines.”

Full interview at: Sweaty

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Holding on to a club's best players

Every time Darren Bent scores a goal, I celebrate of course. We haven't really had a striker of his quality since Sir Clive Mendonca (Andy Hunt was never really tested at Premiership level before he fell ill). But then, I think, has that increased the chances of him going to a big club in the summer, especially if he is called up for England duty (as he should be as I think he is far better than man mountain Crouch who is likely to be preferred).

The New York Addick has posed the interesting question, would we let him go if the price was right so we could buy a number of other players? With reluctance, I think. And the price is never likely to be as high as fans think it should be. Equally one cannot stop a player developing his career.

The same dilemma has recently faced Step 5 non-league club Leamington. Richard Adams has been one of the club's top scorers. He has scored 58 goals in his two seasons with the club (I know because I pay £1 a goal) including a real stormer from distance against League 1 Colchester (admittedly the only goal in a 9-1 defeat).

Now Nationwide North team Redditch United have come in for him, allowing him to move from Step 5 to Step 2 of the non-league system. This is a big chance for him with a much bigger pay packet than the £30 a week he gets at Leamington. All that is needed at that level is seven days' notice and there is no transfer fee. So the Brakes have had to let him go with their blessing.

At least I have a framed and signed picture of him in action to keep as he forges his way up the non-league system. Potentially, he is probably as good as some players in League 2: indeed we have players who have played in League 2 or even in the Scottish Premiership. Other teams we play against in the Midland Alliance have ex-Premiership players (and the quality shows). Chance plays a big role in the fate of a player.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

To the Londoners 0-0

There were quite a few changes in the Charlton side reports No.1 Iceland Addick Olafur Johansson from St.James's Park. As expected, Marcus Bent joined his namesake up front, although he played wide on the right in an effective 4-5-1 formation, while Holland replaced Smertin who was rested. Thomas was injured and was replaced by Ambrose and Spector stood in for Powell. The reserve goalkeeper's place was taken by Mr D Randolph after Mr Andersen was injured in training.

The Newcastle side was led out by Mr Scottish Parker whom I last saw playing for Charlton but is now a local hero on the banks of the River Tyne. Bryan Hughes tried to latch on to a Barcodes clearance, but Darren Bent was ruled offside. The referee, Mr Rennie, had a long conversation with my Icelandic hero, Hermann Hreidarsson, and I do not think it was about the Blue Lagoon thermal baths near my home in Grindavik.

A Newcastle free kick was headed away by Perry. Charlton looked lively and positive. A well struck Bryan Hughes volley went fractionally wide. Ameobi broke for Newcastle's first sight on goal, but the shot was dealt with by Myhre. An effort by Bryan Hughes won Charlton's first corner, but it was headed away.

Bowyer won a corner for the Barcodes. The curling corner went on to the crossbar and out for a goal kick. Newcastle advanced again with Spector out manoeuvred but Chris Perry did well to deny the Barcodes an effective shot on goal. Ambrose went down from a Bowyer challenge and he was left holding his ankle. Mr Parker handled the ball and a free kick was awarded. The shot on target by Ambrose was saved by Mr Given.

Darren Ambrose advanced on goal and got past two defenders, but was crowded out by the third. Spector conceded a corner kick, but Bryan Hughes was able to clear. Ambrose put in a good cross. Bramble put in a long clearance which required effective action by Hreidarsson who headed it back to Perry. Newcastle got a free header but Myhre was well positioned.

Luke Young was given a yellow card for a retaliatory foul on Mr Parker after he had been denied a free kick for a foul by Parker. Ameobi put the ball in the net, but the flag had already been raised by the alert linesman. Chris Perry had to receive treatment.

Parker fouled Ambrose from behind and was shown a yellow card. Bryan Hughes picked up a knock. The Barcodes broke on the right, but Myhre gathered the ball. A Bryan Hughes drive was blocked by a Newcastle defender. A lively first half in which honours were even.

Half time: Barcodes 0, Addicks 0

Myhre did not like a back pass from Hreidarsson. Ameobi broke through and Myhre was left lying in a heap following a knee in the face after he made the block. He still did not look at his best a few minutes later. Solano put in a potentially dangerous ball but Luke Young headed it away.

Darren Bent won Charlton a corner after it looked as if Bramble had pulled a hamstring and had to be substituted. Ambrose's corner was not well taken and it went out for a goal kick. Parker won a corner kick under a challenge from Luke Young. Marcus Bent headed it away, but it was not cleared. The Addicks broke four on two and Bent was pushed over with a shoulder, but there was no penalty.

A free kick was awarded to the Barcodes in a dangerous position and Charlton had to resort to some pressured defending. Bent (D) broke into the penalty area, but the ball was nicked away from him. Newcastle broke forward but Hughes won the ball. Ambrose got a yellow card for a challenge.

Ameobi went down after a challenge from Perry in the box, making the most of it by writhing around. Bryan Hughes was brought off in favour of Euell. Holland drove in a shot from 25 yards and Given had to make a good save by diving to his right.

Hreidarsson conceded a corner and Ameobi headed over the angle of crossbar and post from a few yards out. Good work by Marcus Bent with a great run from deep led to a Charlton corner. Given was able to collect the Ambrose corner. Darren Bent was denied by Given. A Newcastle shot bounced off the top of the crossbar.

A cross came in but Darren Bent could not connect. A shot by Ambrose was deflected giving Charlton a corner with five minutes to go, but it ended in an offside decision. Newcastle broke, but Luke Young made a great tackle having run 60 yards.
Charlton won another corner, but Hreidarsson's header went over the bar. A Kishishev volley went well wide.

Three minutes of time were added on as the Barcode supporters headed for the exit. We would have taken a point before the start.

Two summer targets named

Charlton are being linked with Aston Villa's JLloyd Samuel and Reading's James Harper as summer transfer targets. It is being suggested that the Addicks would pay £2 million for the Villa defender. Samuel told the Sun, 'I was at Charlton as a kid. Rumours linking me with a move back are flattering.' It's not the first time such rumours have been heard. Samuel gets some low key booing when he returns to The Valley, but is not regarded as being in the same category as 'Judas' Defoe.

Harper is a highly rated midfielder at Reading and the 25-year old is out of contract in the summer when he would be available on a free. The Royals would like to retain him for what looks like their first Premiership season and may be able to make a sufficiently tempting contract offer.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

All set for our 1000th top level game

I must admit that I am no statto, although I admire what people like Colin Cameron do. I once covered a youth match at Rushden and Diamonds versus Charlton for the Mercury and Colin questioned me closely about whether the last goal had been scored or pushed in by the keeper. Now it appears that our match at St.James's Park tomorrow is our 1,000th in the top flight (either Division 1 or Premiership). I owe this information to an Addick in Spain who has started one of the latest Charlton related blogs. See Nelson .

Our record away against the Barcodes in the Premiership has not been that good. After drawing 0-0 in our first season in the Premiership despite Richard Rufus being sent off, an early goal by Graham Stuart gave us a 1-0 victory when we returned to the Premiership. But then we had a run of three defeats, only offset by last year's draw.

Curbs sees it as a chance to put our away form back on track and let's hope he's right. He hinted before the Brentford game that he would change things around a bit given that we had three matches in a week. Hopefully the double Bent formation will be back in operation up front (if we sign Dicker and win 3-0 in future we can anticipate as a headline 'Double Bent Dickie Scores').

Chris Powell could be dropped from the defence. Most imaginatively, HH could move to left back and either El Karkouri or Spector could come in as centre back, the latter being happier in that slot. I would be surprised if El K doesn't feature at least on the bench.

In midfield, one would like to see Ambrose given a start at his former club. I would actually put Smertin on the bench as I don't think the Russian has been as impressive recently. His runs from one side of the field to another keeping control of the ball look good but don't lead to anything and he certainly can't shoot. Kishishev and Hughes are likely to retain their places along with Thomas.

The Barcodes have had a bit of a recovery since the departure of Souness, so let's hope we can halt it in its tracks and come away with at least a point.

Olafur is back

Yes, it's your old pal Olafur ready to write the report of the Newcastle match at the invitation of Mr Wim Grant. I am still living in Grindavik and you may think that it is cold in the land of the Geordie with the north-east wind blowing at this time of year, but that is nothing compared to Grindavik. You may remember that my stay in England was brought to an end when I lost not just all my fish but the van they were in when I tried to do a deal with young entrepreneurs in Liverpool when I went to a match at Everton. But things are not so bad. My wife's cousin is still the president of our country and now his partner is a very stylish Israeli lady.

The team has changed quite a bit since I last saw them, but my hero Hermann Hreidarsson is still there. But it is confusing with two Mr Bents up front. Why not use the Icelandic way of naming the son after the first name of the father? So if Darren Bent had a son he would be called Darrensson and if Marcus Bent had a son he would be Marcusson. Problem solved! All we need to know now are the names of the fathers of the Bents.

Monday, February 20, 2006

100,000 visitors

This blog recently had its 100,000th visitor - from Shawford in Hampshire as far as I can work out. The original web page version of Addick's Diary was started in 1997 with a 1-3 home defeat by Stockport County. In those days we just did match reports, but these days our news items attract more attention than our match reports. As a Premiership team, there are more match reports available.

The Charlton blogosphere has expanded rapidly and the general quality is very high. I read most of them, but my personal favourites include the two US contributions, Chicago Addick and New York Addick perhaps because I have also worked in the US and followed Charlton from a distance. All Quiet in the East Stand offers the distinctive and penetrating insights of Inspector Sands while Cynic Athletic is setting a high standard. CAFCpicks is very fan friendly. This is not to criticise those I have not mentioned. And we all rely on Forever Charlton to access them easily - Dave Roberts deserves a resounding vote of thanks.

The blogs are often better than the lazy sports journalism we have in this country. It often seems that stock stories littered with clichés are filled with the names of the appropriate club or player. It is often local journalists who write the best reports.

As is well known to readers, this blog tends to defend Alan Curbishley and the current Charlton management which I think is of a much better quality than at many comparable clubs. I've been Alan Curbishley's kit sponsor for getting on for ten years now and have got to know him reasonably well and I think that his qualities are considerable. It will be a tough call to replace him when he eventually goes. For those who want the club to be taken to the next level, my fear is that the next level is the Championship.

The club does face some challenges, particularly with the five year season ticket scheme ending this year. The bigger the ground becomes, the less the incentive to have a season ticket. I think that an underlying problem is the structure of football. The financial penalties of relegation from the Premiership are so great that it encourages teams outside the top six to play relatively defensively and that does not often make for good entertainment. Having said that, there is nothing to compare with coming up against teams Liverpool and beating them or drawing away at Chelsea.

With good fortune, we may be around for another eight years. Come on you Reds!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Barmy Bardsmen Get Batman Manager

Those who dislike the cool style adopted by Curbs in the dugout, and think the game is about passion rather that technical proficiency, might want to take a leaf out of Midland Alliance outfit Stratford Town. The club seems to be taking its Thespian roots a bit too far, having hired a manager who wears a Batman outfit. Dennis Mulholland dresses up in the outfit and bursts into the changing room before kick off, according to the Non League Paper. His eleven year old son, however, seems somewhat reluctant to assume the role of Robin assigned to him.

The Barsdmen never seem to have recovered from being taunted with shouts of 'Two nil or not two nil?' when they were behind that margin at home to Leamington.

Although one can hardly see Curbs as a caped crusader, perhaps readers could suggest other barmy outfits that could be worn by the management team, including Mervyn Day. After all, the teams are announced as 'It's showtime at The Valley!' Perhaps advice could be taken from Elton John.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Addicks through to quarter finals

Charlton won through to the quarter finals of the FA Cup with a 3-1 win over Brentford at The Valley today. It was a clinical, efficient, risk free performance, boosted by a goal after 3 minutes from Darren Bent. When the Bees got their consolation goal after 83 minutes they looked dangerous for a while and hit the post. But in general, the difference in class told and Brentford actually looked less of a threat than Orient. What did Martin Allen mean when after the game he said that they had tried to frustrate Charlton by allowing them possession?

In some ways it was a case of Roland Rat being caught in his own trap. The man who brought Roland Rat to British television, Greg Dyke, is now non-executive chairman of Brentford and had been giving it large in the run up to the game. One almost felt that the Brentford fans and team had started to believe their own propaganda. Indeed, they were so worked up that it all went off after an argument between a Bee and a steward in the East Stand and several Brentford fans were carried struggling to the exit. (In all there were 21 ejections and two arrests for public order offences). However, the Bees can now focus on their hopes of promotion to the Championship, while Charlton have kept their season alive for a little longer.

Charlton needed to take command with an early goal. On three minutes Kishishev flicked a high ball with the back of his heel, the Brentford defence seemed to be motionless and Bent was able to evade the battling Sodje and the much vaunted Turner (a good League 1 or possibly lower Championship player in my view and not much more). Controlling the ball well, he put it decisively past former Hucknall Town ace Stuart Nelson. That for me exemplified the difference in class between League One and the Premiership. It killed any headlines about there being no difference despite the two league gap - if there was no difference everyone would be saving themselves some money and watching League One.

Of course, Brentford might pose a danger from set pieces and the Bees were awarded a dubious free kick by Old Mother Riley after a Charlton player went for the ball. Smertin had a good run through the heart of the Bees defence. Bothroyd picked up a yellow card for a foul. Owusu advanced on goal, but put his header well wide. Jerome Thomas got a yellow card for over vigorous tackling.

The Herminator missed a good chance and gave the ball away by taking a free kick too quickly. Then two minutes before half time Bees captain Ricky Newman blatantly fouled Bryan Hughes in the D. Kish did a little flick to his left, allowing Bothroyd to drill in his shot through the wall. In the time added on, the irrepressible Hughes won Charlton a corner which was tipped over by the keeper, but there was no time to take the second corner.

Half time: Addicks 2, Bees 0

Brentford took off Tillen and brought on Brooker after the break. A Charlton free kick by Thomas was intercepted by the alert Perry who found space to put in a testing header which the keeper initially spilled but then managed to hold.

Brentford had a break, but Myhre made the save without too many problems. Luke Young advanced on goal and put in a shot that was just over. He gets in good shooting positions quite often and perhaps should take extra shooting practice at Sparrows Lane. Brentford took off the hapless Newman and brought on Isaiah Rankin.

Bent won the Addicks a corner through Bent and after it was played back in danger man Pery just failed to connect. Bothroyd, always at the risk of a second booking, was taken off and replaced by Bartlett. Immediately he played a good ball through to Hughes who showed no hesitation in driving it through Nelson's legs.

After this Charlton did tend to coast a little, while Martin Allen continued to jump up and down and rant and rave, assisted by the fan who had won a day out in the dugout. I am always doubtful how much effect this sort of conduct has. Either the players don't notice at all or, if they do, it distracts them.

Luke Young put in another shot on goal. After Brentford made their last substitution, Ambrose was replaced by Kishishev. A free kick was awarded against Chris Powell and Myhre had to tip the effort from Tabb over the bar. Brentford continued to show a 'never say die' attitude and their reward came when Smertin failed to clear a long throw, former Gooner Rankin turned well and put in a low shot past Myhre. Brentford then managed to get a shot off the post from a corner, but the Addicks held on for a comfortable victory.

As one Charlton fan with a young family pointed out in a call to 606, it's a shame that the next round is going to be midweek.

Saturday saw the launch of a new fanzine Valley View. At the moment it's probably closer to Valley Floyd Road than Goodbye Horse or Voice of the Valley in terms of quality of content and presentation, but congratulations to the editor on starting a fanzine again - it's very hard work. It will be interesting to see how it develops.

Match analysis

This was a strong team performance and our third string match analyst Monty Martin was hard pressed to select the winner of the Silver Bone. He used the option to call a friend and top dog Hooch the Pooch thought three players were in it: Kish, Jerome Thomas and Bryan Hughes. For a disciplined and skilled performance throughout and a very well taken goal, Monty awarded the Silver Bone to Bryan Hughes. Myhre had little to do, but was not able to keep a clean sheet. Chris Powell showed once again that his ability to anticipate play more than compensates for any lack of pace. Luke Young had a good game that included two decent attempts on goal. Perry showed his professionalism again and was also hungry for a goal. Hreidarsson used his head effectively to clear any danger. Kishishev battled away and made only one major error. Smertin was a prime example of the difference in class between the two sides. Thomas was a dangerous lurking presence on the wing, forging forward well. Bothroyd did one of his trademark kicks along the ground to net the second goal. Bent took his goal well and managed to create space for himself to threaten Brentford. Bartlett gave an assist that led to the third goal the moment he came on, but was not much in evidence after that. Ambrose was a real threat when he came on and made some excellent surging runs forward. Holland had a cameo role.

Hiss of the Match This was given by Juneau the Soccer Cat to the Brentford fan who ran on the pitch before the game started, thus denying himself the chance of seeing the ball kicked.

Crowd rating: Much was made by the Brentford fans of the lack of sound from Charlton, but at least we do not (usually) sing 'the greatest team the world has ever seen.' I thought we were quite vocal. 7/10.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Tough and crucial match ahead

These Addicks from the Rose of Denmark will be wearing kit from Peru's Deportivo Wanka tomorrow (apparently a corruption of the name of the local district, thanks to Richard Pool of Lima for this information). Each to his own

Tomorrow's FA Cup tie against Brentford at The Valley is a tough and crucial fixture. Charlton's one remaining chance of making something of their season is the FA Cup, although it should be remembered that even if they beat Brentford they will undoubtedly come up against a Premiership side for the first time in the quarter finals.

The media scenario for a Brentford victory runs something like this:
1. Charlton are vulnerable to giant killing in the Cup. At home that actually amounts to Walsall and Leicester in recent years. Whereas Exeter, Rochdale, Yeovil and Leyton Orient were beaten.
2. Brentford are on a roll, having won all their last five games. Well, yes, but some of still think there is a difference between League 1 and the Premiership (leaving aside Sunderland at home) and the Bees may actually be over confident.
3. Michael Turner will be out to make a point. Maybe. He's a good League One player, but that doesn't mean he can win against a Premiership side.

Unfortunately Charlton will be without the cup tied Marcus Bent so the increasingly effective double Bent partnership will not be able to swing into action. I would still play 4-4-2 and bring in Bartlett, even if he is the only defensive forward in the Premiership. Bothroyd is a useful person to have on the subs' bench if things go wrong, but I don't think he can deliver over 90 minutes.

One of our problems this season has been shipping goals and one reason for that is the lack of a consistent back four. I would play HH at left back and Young on the right, of course. Centre backs are harder, but I would probably play Perry if available because I think his experience is useful and I would pair him with Spector who is better at centre back than on the left. El Karkouri is just too big a risk in a tie of this kind because he fouls too much and could get sent off.

I did read somewhere (New York Addick, I think) that Andersen is a better keeper than Myhre, but I would keep the Norwegian in goal.

Midfield is more of a problem, in part because Holland appears to still be injured and Rommedahl is not 100% fit. I would certainly include Thomas and also Kishishev whose battling qualities are needed. Ambrose should also be there. I'm not sure that this is Smertin's sort of game, but the alternatives are Hughes (who can at least finish against lower division sides) or Euell (who was apparently not that convincing as a sub against the Massives).

Greg Dyke, formerly head of the BBC but best known as the man who brought Roland Rat to breakfast television has been giving it large in his capacity as non-executive chairman of Brentford. He reckons that the Bees will draw at The Valley and then win at home. I think a draw is quite possible, but that we would win the replay.

Ten years ago: Addicks versus Blades

Charlton were at home to Sheffield United, placed third from bottom, on 17 February 1996. My notes recall, 'Charlton started very nervously and hesitantly and it was a relief to be 0-0 at half time. Newton seems to be well below par. Whyte made little impression - and it was pointless sending balls into the air to him.'

'After half time Sheffield United went ahead and with Nelson replacing Whyte and Humphrey replaced by Robson, Charlton stepped up a notch. Mortimer, who played well, scored and there were chances to make it 2-1. But more points lost at home.'

In a later interview on Club Call, Morts said he liked to give added value and keep the fans on the edges of their seats. He thought the crowd could have been more behind the team and were understandably nervous.

Somewhat bizzarely, Morts missed the next match through scarlet fever, a disease I associate with isolation hospitals and the early years of the 20th century.

The programme reported that in the colts white hope Kevin Lisbie had scored two goals in a 4-2 win over Chelsea. The only other player in the team who is, as far as I know, a league player today is Kevin Nicholls at Luton.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

When Addicks beat the Bees 6-3 in the Cup

March 3rd 1946 saw Charlton beat Brentford 6-3 in the first leg of the Sixth Round of the FA Cup in front of a crowd of 40,060. The Addicks went on to win the second leg 3-1 and got to the final where they were beaten by Derby. The programme included a plaintive plea for clothing coupons for the players' kit.

The report in the Sunday Pictorial the next day said 'Charlton won because Brentford's defence cracked ... Brentford deserve praise for their determination ... Quick off the mark, quick into tackles, and slick in their passing, Brentford seemed set to give a lesson on how to play football on a sticky ground.'

'They realised that to get anywhere they had to swing the ball about. Charlton tried taking it for a walk with the idea of popping into the "local" - meaning the goal.'

'It didn't work until, by force of circumstances - a layer of mud sticking like glue to the ball - it became almost impossible to kick the ball more than twenty yards.'

'Why, then, did Charlton get away with it? Because their wing halves [midfielders], Johnson in particular, always had an idea - a scheme - to start an attack, and because their defence was always tightly packed when needed.'

Let's hope our midfield and defence is like that on Saturday!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

How to sign up a player

There's been some interesting talk on the other blogs, started by the excellent New York Addick, on how good Charlton is at playing the transfer market. Judging by the techniques adopted by Brakes manager Cadzy, Curbs should get down to Bluewater and stroll around:

Harvey World Travel Midland Alliance club Leamington have been steadily increasing their ranks since Christmas and a chance meeting in the town centre brought in another impressive recruit.

Manager Jason Cadden has added striker Jody McKay from Southern League Premier Division side Banbury United and central defender Andy Crabtree from Division One West outfit Bedworth United, and he has now signed James Husband following a chance meeting in Leamington.

The Brakes' boss revealed: "I was in the town centre when James approached me and asked if he could come training.

"James is currently at Warwick University and previously played for Airbus UK in the Vauxhall Masterfit Retailers Welsh Premier [I bet that's a mouth full in Welsh] and Tooting & Mitcham United in the Ryman League. He has also represented England at Futsal.

"He'd recognised me from a picture in the local paper and it was a real stroke of luck because James has fitted in really well."

For all that, I fear that Brakes are in for a bad defeat away tonight to Nationwide North outfit Moor Green in the Birmingham Senior Cup, even with Husband back from international duty against Finland.

Monty looks forward to cup run

Many Charlton fans are hoping for a cup run to bring an exciting end to a season that looks like ending up in mid-table after early hopes of European qualification. They are joined in this hope by our third ranked canine match analyst, Monty Martin from Blewbury, Oxon. whose work is currently limited to cup games.

Monty's day job is as meeter 'n' greeter at our sponsor Kingdom Signs, but he has taken the week off to join senior analyst Hooch the Pooch for mutual improvement classes. Hooch is spending the week on holiday in Chilton, across the fields from Blewbury.

Hooch told us, 'Basically we are working on the offside rule. It's quite simple really. We look at videos of matches at The Valley and learn from the mistakes by the linos.'

Hooch revealed that the Association of Canine Match Analysts is working on a plan to use retired greyhounds as linos. 'They would be faster than the human equivalent, they would have a better understanding of the offside rule and they wouldn't suffer from premature hair loss.' Hooch has some hopes of the plan being successful: 'We are anticipating the backing of Sepp Blatter at Fifa as we hear that he is completely barking.'

In relation to Monty's hopes of promotion to some league games, Hooch said: 'Some people that spaniels are too excitable to be match analysts. Many journos are still opposed to us and we have to control barking, jumping up and licking in the press box. However, Monty is becoming more mature as he becomes older and he has great potential.'

Monty's favourite player is Dennis Rommedahl.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Joanna: Danny has to get up early

Joanna Taylor reveals in her column in The Times that Danny Murphy now has to get up earlier to go to training. (Presumably on the correct posture when sitting on the bench?) She writes, 'This is the calm after the storm. Danny’s move to Tottenham means that he has to get up earlier to go training because it is farther away, but it is a small price to pay. It is good to have a bit of peace. I now know what it is like to have your words taken out of context and twisted to fit any argument.'

Joanna is, however, nervous about her first trip to the big club at the Lane and confesses to her public that she hopes she will be able to get a drink or two unlike teetotal Liverpool. She writes, 'Meanwhile, I am eagerly awaiting my first trip to White Hart Lane. Danny is settling in well, but I am rather nervous about my first visit to the players’ lounge. It’s like the first day at school. I just hope they do a Charlton rather than a Liverpool and allow alcohol in there to calm my nerves.'

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Bent double not enough

Erith Addick Paul May reports from the Blue Camp

With Chris Perry hit by an illness and Jonathan Fortune still injured, Talal El Karkouri returned to the Charlton side facing the Massives at the City of Manchester Stadium. El Karkouri had to make an early clearance from defence. Sinclair put in a dangerous cross and the Addicks defence looked a little taken by surprise. The corner was unproductive for the home side. Neither side really sparkled in the opening phase on this miserable wet afternoon in Manchester.

The two Bents combined well, but the attack fizzled out. Charlton conceded another corner off Hreidarrson after Barton hit a ball over the top. However, his corner went out for a goal kick. Sinclair threatened danger down the right, evading Young, and the move ended with a corner off Kishishev, but this led to nothing.

Darren Bent got caught offside. Kishishev put in a decent cross, but it was cleared away. The Addicks started to put a couple of attacks together, but Kish put the ball well over the bar. Thomas got away from Sinclair well and launched an attack using triangular passes, but one went astray for a City throw in.

Spector dealt effectively with a City attack, but they got the ball again and the Addicks were under some pressure, leading to a corner conceded by Hughes. The ball came back in again, and with all the Charlton players back in the box, Dunn scored with a right footed volley that went through three Addicks to score his first goal of the season and make it 1-0 to City.

Thomas put in a shot but it was saved by James. Young put in a good tackle and Charlton broke away, but Kish's cross was intercepted. Myhre dealt effectively with a cross. Kish gave the ball away, but Myhre was able to recover the situation. Smertin fed Marcus Bent and with James caught out of position the shot went just wide.

A hand ball by Vassell was ignored and instead City got a free kick for a challenge by Thomas. In the subsequent play, Myhre had to dive to his right and concede a corner, even though the ball might have gone out for a goal kick. Darren Bent surged forward and was fouled, leading to a Charlton free kick. A shot by Marcus Bent was just wide of goal, but James was well placed anyway.

The Addicks won a free kick for a foul on Smertin, but Barton headed it away. Richards put in an effort that was well wide. The Massives had a free kick 25 yards from goal but Barton kicked it into Row Z. There was a minute of stoppage time, although there had been no stoppages, so I suppose every half has to be at least 46 minutes. No one could really complain about the score on the balance of play, although City were not that marvellous. The body language of the Charlton players was not inspiring as they walked off. But it's difficult to get back from being 1-0 down away in the Premiership.

Half time: Massives 1, Addicks 0

Trevor Sinclair was taken off, presumably because of an injury and Samaras came on to replace him. Hughes started a Charlton attack, but Richards got the ball off Darren Bent as he forged forward. Young and Smertin combined well and the Hughes and Marcus Bent. Smertin put in a shot which Dunn cleared away. Then El Karkouri put in a cross and Darren Bent scored his 16th goal of the season, a wonderful shot. Will he still be with us after this season?

The Charlton lead lasted only a few minutes. Barton put in a cross and Samaras made it 2-1 with a powerful header which bounced on the goal line on its way past Myhre. It was the first goal by the expensive signing for the Massives.

Referee Dean played advantage for a Hughes handball. A City attack was dealt with by the Herminator. A free kick from 25 yards had to be tipped over the bar by Myhre. The corner was headed away by Marcus Bent, but the ball was played back in.

Samaras went down theatrically from an El Karkouri challenge and won a free kick for City. An attempt by Vassell came off Luke Young. Charlton were having difficulty clearing their lines and Barton made it 3-1 with a shot from distance into the top corner, leaving Myhre with no chance.

Samaras made a late challenge on Spector, but no action was taken. A free kick by El Karkouri went well over the City crossbar. Luke Young found some space on the right, Kishishev put in a quality cross and Marcus Bent headed the ball into the net to make it 3-2.

Vassell was taken off and replaced by Sibierski. City won a free kick 25 yards out.
It came off the wall and Thomas broke forward, but should perhaps have tried a direct approach rather than going out to the wing. Samaras was in a good position but the Greek shot well wide.

Hughes made a dangerous pass back. Curbs went for a triple attacking substitution. Ambrose replaced Thomas, Bothroyd replaced Hughes and Smertin was replaced by Euell. Bothroyd went up front with Darren Bent and Marcus Bent went on the right. Hreidarsson put in an attempt which flashed past the post.

Myhre had to put a header over after a City free kick, giving City a corner which was poor but Euell's clearance went behind for a second. This was well defended, but City somehow managed to win a third through a deflection. Bothroyd was kept up field to provide an outlet, contrary to usual practice.

Cole signalled to the bench that he could not continue and as he hobbled off Ireland replaced him. Barton had an opportunity but failed to control the ball. A foul on Samaras led to a free kick for City 25 yards out, but the ball was cleared upfield.

City won a corner as the clock ticked away with five minutes of normal time left. Euell put an awkward ball forward which Dunn had to clear at the expense of a Charlton throw in.

City fans were anxious as Charlton increased the pressure. The Addicks won a corner.
James got a fist to the ball. Eventually there was an offside decision in favour of City.

James had to make a brilliant save to deny a superb goal bound shot from El Karkouri.
Three minutes of time were added on, but City won a corner, enabling them to employ delaying tactics. The Massives started to whistle frantically as Charlton won a throw in. City managed to hang on.

After a somewhat insipid first half, the Addicks played much better in the second. Curbs tried to go for the equaliser with his triple substitution, but it was not to be. No points, but no disgrace.

Fleet slam Addicks over Senior Cup

Gravesend and Northfleet have criticised Charlton's absence from the Kent Senior Cup.
Fleet secretary Roly Edwards has slammed the FA for letting big clubs who boycott the County Cup off the hook. In 1999 Leeds were fined £16,000 for withdrawing from the Yorkshire competition (which has never been played since).

Edwards told the Non-League Paper: 'The competition is crying out for a makeover. Why is it that Charlton, Millwall and Gillingham - all affiliated to the Kent Association - are not expected to take part? Why should the competition not be played in part as a pre-season tournament and why can't the final be at one of the major stadiums?'

Kent FA chief executive Keith Masters said, 'It would be great if some of the bigger clubs took part. Charlton used to - as did Gillingham a few years ago. It'll be discussed at our next committee meeting.'

In the West Midlands most of the league clubs take part in the Birmingham Senior Cup, usually fielding reserve sides.

Thomas Myhre interview

Today's Sunday Times has an interesting interview with Thomas Myhre in which he says that he would like to remain at The Valley for the rest of his career. Read it here:


Saturday, February 11, 2006

Massive game

It's a massive stadium for a massive club and a massive game for the Addicks tomorrow against a club just above them in the table. Our away record against them has been quite good apart from last year's 4-0 tonking and included a highly enjoyable 4-1 victory at Maine Road. This saw the humiliation of the so called great white hope of goalkeeping, Nicky Weaver, who had given it large to the Covered End in the home fixture.

The Times Fink Tank gives a 60% chance of a home win. City have won their last four games at home, but I think that the Addicks could well come away with at least a point.

The Massives are without former Charlton player Danny Mills who is injured and for the Addicks Matt Holland is unlikely to be fit. The team could therefore be very similar to the one that defeated Liverpool midweek.

Erith Addick Paul May will be covering the match for this blog and with both Hooch the Pooch and Homer the Cherry Hound on holiday there will be no canine reporter, Monty Martin being judged too excitable for such a massive stadium.

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Kish debate

It's one of the favourite talking points among the Addickted at the moment and, as far as I can see, the majority of the Addickted are well disposed towards 'Boris' as the Bloke Behind Me calls him. They are not saying he is a Makelele or a Gerrard, but they give him top marks for commitment and passion. That is, of course, not enough, but he does get blamed for everything that goes wrong by some people. The goal at Spurs that Chris Powell was unable to defend was started by a Kish error, but go one step further back and you see a poor ball out of defence by Hreidarsson.

American sports journalist Doug Chapman is well known to many of the Addickted and he has given me permission to quote his contribution to the debate:

A holding/defensive midfielder has to play the ball in closer quarters more often than any other player on the field. It is a special skill, and difficult to find players that can do it. Patrick Vieira, Roy Keane, Claude Makalele ... Scott P*rker.
Kish is not a natural in the position, but he has the will, if not always the skill. He came to Charlton as a right back/right midfielder and playing wide is certainly a different circumstance to playing in the center of the

Kish is decent, but not world class in the position. He is the best that we have at the moment. And the truth is that we really don't have anyone else to play there. Like nearly all players, he plays better when given more time on the ball. He doesn't get it in the middle, and even the best of players will give it up
more often than usual in that position. He is honest, industrious and our only option right now. That is down to Curbs, not Kish. The more support that he receives, the better he is likely to play with added confidence. Maybe some Charlton fans will never realize that.

OK, let's talk about Bryan Hughes?

Ten years ago: Hornets have no sting

Charlton went to Watford placed 2nd in the table, although the programme reminded us that they had been relegation favourites at the start of the season.

My notes recall, 'We started brightly, but Watford took their chance and went 1-0 ahead.' The Bloke Behind Me, who lives in the Luton area, was making a rare appearance at an away game and he could soon be heard shouting 'somebody help him', 'keep it on the ground' and 'play football Charlton' which at least reassured me that I hadn't turned up at an egg chasing ground by mistake.

Watford started brightly in the second half, but Johnnie Robinson soon got the equaliser, followed by Lee Bowyer in a goalmouth scramble. If it hadn't been for the Watford keeper (Miller) it could have been 3-1 or 4-1. The Addickted were in fine form, chanting 'The Reds are going up.'

For all the success, Jonathan Acworth had a letter in Voice of the Valley stating 'My message to Curbishley is sort your act out now.'

Thursday, February 09, 2006

European champions come to nought

Charlton beat Liverpool 2-0 at The Valley last night in a game which they generally commanded with Thomas Myhre only having to deal with one testing shot all night. As the Covered End sang towards the end of the match, 'You can stick your Danny Murphy up your ****.' Charlton went into the lead with the first Premiership penalty since 2003 won and scored by Darren Bent. Then captain Luke Young made it 2-0 with a superb strike just before half time. In the second half, both Bents hit the woodwork. As Steve from Sidcup said afterwards,'This is what being a Charlton fan is all about.' A despondent Scouser was heard to say at the station afterwards, 'I was so looking forward to tonight.' The 'Pool team and fans had looked at the table and thought it was going to be an easy three points, but it wasn't.

Charlton got caught offside a lot early in the match and this was one time when the lino got it right. At one point this led to an exchange of views between Marcus Bent and Kishishev, but at least it shows that they care.

Liverpool won a couple of corners and then got a free kick in a potentially dangerous position, but the ball went hopelessly wide. A second free kick in a similar position minutes later was equally unproductive. I was quite surprised how poor Liverpool's forward line was. Morientes was largely invisible. Crouch must be the biggest joke to be touted as a major striker at a top club for some years. Cisse looked the most impressive, but was closely attended to by Spector. Does the whole operation depend on the presence of Gerrard? Although we played well, Liverpool were nowhere as good as I expected.

Crouch took a dive in the area, but the referee waved play on. Then Bent went down under pressure from Dudek and the referee gave a penalty. It was a marginal decision, reflected by the fact that the keeper only got a yellow card, but I have seen us denied penalties for blatant handballs, so I am not complaining. Dudek started to do his Turkish dance, dancing up and down and waving his arms about, but his pirouette made no impression on the calm Bent who slotted the ball into the left hand corner of the goal.

Carragher did not like the referee's decision and was given a yellow card for dissent, but he went on shouting at the referee using unparliamentary language and I was surprised that Mr Mariner did not give him a second yellow.

Charlton kept up the pressure and a cross from Smertin gave Young a loose ball to make use of it. He put in angled drive along the ground, an excellent goal that put the Addicks 2-0 ahead just before the break.

Half time: Addicks 2, 'Pool 0

Charlton won an early free kick when Jerome Thomas was fouled, but Liverpool managed to break dangerously and Chris Perry had to act decisively to deny them an early goal, earning a yellow card for his efforts. Marcus Bent went down and required treatment. Charlton mounted an attack, but Smertin's effort was well wide. Liverpool were given a free kick for an alleged foul on Cisse, although I thought Charlton had played for the ball. In any event the 'Pool effort went soaring over the Covered End goal.

Spector was playing with a new confidence and authority and put in a good defensive header to Myhre. Liverpool won a free kick on the touchline, but once again their effort was way off target. Crouch was pulled off, the disappearance of the cheating man mountain drawing a chorus of boos from the Addickted. Fowler came on, sending the Scousers into delerium, but to me Fowler looked past his best and seemed to have put on a few pounds in weight.

Bent burst through with the 'Pool defence in hot pursuit and his effort came off the croosbar. Marcus Bent then put in an effort which went off the post and rebounded across the front of goal. Hypia, who has the turning circle of an oil tanker, went off and was replaced by Risse. Myhre was tested for the first time in the game when he made a good save off Morientes and had to concede a corner.

Liverpool used their last shot in their locker by pulling off Cisse and replacing him with new wonder man Jan Kromkamp. Jerome Thomas was replaced by Darren Ambrose. Although Myhre was tested by one shot from distance and Liverpool won a late corner in the three minutes added on, many of the Liverpool fans had already left to return to their homes throughout London.

If one had said a few weeks ago that Charlton would get a win, a draw and a defeat from the last three matches, I think that most people would have predicted a win against the Baggies and a draw at Spurs. I think that a win over Liverpool is more enjoyable than one over the Baggies and it certainly restored the faith of some supporters in the team. Now for the Massives!

Match analyst Hooch the Pooch awarded the Silver Bone to Luke Young for a superb goal and a generally excellent performance. You could see how much his goal meant to him. Myhre didn't have a lot to do, but what he did he did well. He shows confidence in commanding his area and communicates well with defenders and gets really excited when Charlton score. Hreidarsson had a first rate game. Perry replaced Fortune and displayed real professionalism and effectiveness. Spector had an excellent game, his best yet, and was awarded a special Silver Biscuit by Hooch as most improved player. Kishishev had a good game, making very few errors His critics should also note the passion and joy he showed when congratuating Luke Young and remember that this is a player who always give 100% even if he is no Makelele. His position is one in which a series of players have been criticised from Cyril Hammond through to Luke Young. He has been replaced as the favourite scapegoat by Hughes. He did make a number of errors in the first half, but played more effectively in the second. It was good to see Thomas back in the side and he showed real skill, getting resounding cheers when he was subbed. Smertin showed real skill in controlling the ball, but is unlikely to score. Marcus Bent shows the advantages of having a strong player up front to accompany his namesake. Darren Bent had another great game.Ambrose showed real strength and determination when he appeared to replace Thomas and kept 'Pool well in check. El Karkouri seemed a little confused about where he was and what he was doing. Finally, it was good to see Euell on the bench even if he didn't play.

Juneau the Soccer Cat gave the Hiss of the Match to the Bloke Behind Me who kept up a stream of invective about the ineptitide of the Charlton players and Curbishley in the first half, but was somewhat silenced in the second. It was not a good night for moaners who will have a hard time constructing an anti-Curbs narrative out of the match.

Crowd rating: In good voice and with an innovative chant, 8/10.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Lights out at Harbury Lane

Leamington's match against Cradley Rovers was abandoned in the 87th minute yesterday because of a floodlight failure, the lights having already gone out just after half time. Brakes were 2-1 up at the time, but were making heavy weather of beating Cradley who, unlike Chasetown last week, were not stuffed with ex Premiership and Football League players. And experience at level does make a difference to your standard of play.

Tonight we have a real Premiership match at The Valley. The fact that 'Pool are without their first choice goalkeeper is neither here nor there. Dudek is a good, if somewhat eccentric, goalkeeper and some rate Scott Carson even higher. Gerrard's absence is more of a bonus.

The Addicks look like being without Holland who has been solid in midfield in recent matches. Hopefully, this will create an opportunity to start Thomas. Chris Powell's pace caught him out at Spurs, but I wouldn't want to see Spector replace him (either as left back or as centre back with HH moving to the left back slot).

I'm very much opposed to reading results off the table. If one could do this, there would be a very broad dispersal of points around the median at the end of the season. However, it is difficult to see us getting anything out of this match. In a sense the fact that we are not expected to do anything might be an advantage, provided the crowd don't start getting on the team's back the first time they make an error. I'm going for 2-1 to 'Pool.

BTW, there will be a match report tomorrow, but there is inevitably some delay in doing these after evening games.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Hayes wins by eight votes

Ben Hayes is the new supporters' director at Charlton, having won by eight votes over Vince Nieswiecz. All four candidates polled well, with bottom candidate Brian Cole taking 17.5% of the vote compared with 21.9% for Hayes. Current incumbent Sue Townsend was placed third.

What was disappointing is that only 14% of season ticket holders bothered to vote, despite ample opportunities to do so, even though the figure was up on 2003. This suggests that many fans are sceptical about what the supporters' director can do, constrained as s/he necessarily is by the requirements of commercial confidentiality.

The number of spoilt votes was 423, up from 75 in 2003. Indeed, if S.Poilt-Paper had been a candidate, s/he would have come in third. This does not imply that some voters were deliberately spoiling their papers, but rather that they had difficulty with the verification system on the internet or perhaps voted twice in error because they were unsure whether their vote had been received.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Let's all laugh at Millwall

See the Spanners make complete fools of themselves:

Only at the New Den

Joanna hits back at Curbs

In an article in The Times Joanna Taylor hits back at Curbs for his recent criticism of her husband Danny Murphy. Joanna suggests that Curbs doesn't read her column which implies that she thinks that is a legitimate way of communicating with the manager. She reminds Charlton fans that Spurs are a bigger club.

Joanna confesses to her readership, 'I know this from experience after an incredibly stressful month in our house. Fortunately for Danny, that’s all over now and he’s really excited and positive about his future as a Tottenham Hotspur player.

She continues, 'I didn’t want to get drawn into a slanging match, but I felt I had to respond to some of the comments made by Alan Curbishley last week. Danny has got a lot of stick from some Charlton fans and from Curbishley for suggesting that Tottenham are a bigger club. A lot of things have been taken out of context and misquoted, but the fact is they do have a bigger ground and more fans than Charlton. But I would like to emphasise that Danny meant no disrespect to the Charlton fans by saying that and has always been very grateful for their support. He simply meant the expectancy level at Tottenham is higher and that is something he thrives off.'

'I hope that if Curbishley gets the England job, then he will not get as much stick as Danny has for trying to move on in his career. In fact, Danny even said in his press conference that it is a job Curbishley is very capable of doing. It’s funny that so few people have picked up on that.' [Is Murphy such a big figure in football that Curbs needs his endorsement]

'This is my opinion, not Danny’s. [All I can say is that it is an odd state of affairs when your wife publicises views which may not be your own]. He would not want to say anything after all the fuss. But the message that has been put out about Danny not being in the right frame of mind to play because of all the speculation regarding his future is just not right. I can tell you that the only thing unsettling Danny was the fact he was not even on the bench, let alone the team. [Is it possible he was not giving his all?] Some players might be happy with just sitting around and picking up their wages for doing nothing but Danny is not one of them.'

'In the past few weeks, when he has been left out, he has still been travelling with the team. He has been doing extra training with the fitness coach in order to remain fully fit for when the chance came. He hates not playing but it has not been his choice. The thing that really annoys me is the snide nature of some of the remarks that have been made. These included such things as Danny having a fuller social diary at White Hart Lane. [That hit home then]. Curbishley obviously does not read this column, otherwise he would know we do not go out much. To be honest, I’m hoping that Danny will be playing in Europe next season so our social life will be even quieter.' [Really? What about the advert that your agent puts out for opening supermarkets?]

'I know my husband pretty well and he gives his all when he plays. That has been the case at Crewe Alexandra, Liverpool and Charlton. He likes Charlton and has a lot of friends there, and he genuinely wishes they do well. He is also grateful that, in the end, they allowed him to leave.' [So are we]

'Another thing Danny did say was that he believes your England chances are enhanced by playing for a bigger club. I expect those who have followed Peter Crouch’s career might feel the same. Scott Parker probably did when he left The Valley. But it has been blown out of all proportion by certain people.'

'I am just glad it is all over because the last month has been a nightmare. Ultimately, I think some of the remarks from Charlton reflect that they are sorry to see him go. But it is time for everybody to move on. Danny has and is already feeling very settled.' Perhaps it is time for The Times to move on from purporting that this kiss 'n' tell journalism belongs in a sports section.


Sunday, February 05, 2006

A good game to miss

A family birthday celebration took us to the banks of the Thames today for a superb meal. That aside, I'm glad I didn't go to the Lane or even listened on the radio. What is clear from all the reports I have read is that Spurs were the better side on the day and this is particularly disappointing, given the Murphy episode and the fact that we have never lost to Spurs away in the Premiership before now. Thomas could have come on earlier, but one player is not going to turn a game around.

Driving up the M40, the obligatory complaining Charlton supporter came on to argue that Curbs had 'lost the plot' and had to go. Pressed for a replacement, he could only come up with a League 1 manager and that's a big divide to cross. The Chelsea fan who came on next was amazed at this sort of call and reminded listeners of what happened when Martin O'Neill went from Leicester.

Curbs is not going to go soon. The board won't sack him and he is unlikely to get the England job. Contrary to some newspaper reports, even the FA won't go for an 'Englishmen only' list if the best candidate is overseas. One day Curbs may resign, either because he has had enough, or because he gets an offer at a club that intrerests him. This won't be Toon. I reckon that Allerdyce will eventually go there.

Still we don't have much to look forward to for the rest of the reason. While I expect us to get past Brentford in the 5th round of the Cup, I anticipate that a Premiership side will knock us out in the 6th. There are, of course, individual games to play for and Liverpool's heads were down after their defeat at Chelsea. But no doubt they will have recovered by Wednesday and I fear they will take the points.

Still, it could be worse. It must be hard to be a Sunderland or a 'Boro fan right now. Or even a Norwich fan after their home defeat by Ipswich in which JJ scored, but then managed to assist a ball into his own net.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Ten Years Ago: the Bees in the Cup

Charlton faced Brentford in the 4th round of the Cup at The Valley on 7th February 1996 (the match had originally been scheduled for the Saturday), but before that they played Palace at home before the television cameras on Sunday 4th February. This game ended in a 0-0 draw.

My journey to the Palace game was disrupted by a shuttle service operating from Charing Cross to Cannon Street where there few trains, but eventually a football special was announced. My notes on the game recall, 'We started very raggedly and it was clear that Palace had come to stop us playing football and were succeeding. Kim Grant was having one of his off days. Palace hardly ever looked like scoring, but we couddn't break them down. Vicious tackles on Lee Bowyer were ignored by the referee until he gave three yellow cards late in the second half. And he denied us a deserved penalty.'

It all went off at the station afterwards after a group of shaven headed Glaziers attempted to force their way on to the train.

The Brentford game saw the unusual sight of ticket touts at The Valley. My notes recall, 'We started hesitantly, Jamie Stuart looking weak. Defensive errors gave Brentford a 0-1 lead, but we came back quickly with a Robinson goal and just before half time Bowyer made it 2-1. But after the break Brentford continued to look menacing and Salmon managed to step back and drop the ball in his own net. Kim Grant, who had looked weak all evening, was replaced by David Whyte. Four minutes before the end he scored a beautiful goal from a free kick.' David Whyte, Whyte, Whyte, where are you now?

Once again there was trouble at the station and I had to share a slow train from Euston with fans from the West Ham v. Grimsby gane, finally getting home at 2 a.m.

How to turn £30,000 into £2 million

Sounds like a spam come on doesn't it? But this is what Racing Club Warwick have done. The Midland Alliance club whose attendances often don't reach three figures (apart from the Derby against Leamington) have managed to get hold of £2 million of public and charitable money to improve their ground. Admittedly, it needs it. The pitch is awful and is used for grazing horses between games.

Racing Club put in £30,000 of their own money. They then got a pledge of £1.17m from the government's Future Builders group. I had never heard of this organisation, but I found it on the Treasury web site and it has had a lot of dosh to hand out to build up the 'voluntary and community sector'. Then add in £350,000 from Warwick District Council (about to put their council tax by nearly 5 per cent) and get the Football Foundation to provide the balance.

Hey presto! You have a new gym, a new playing surface, a new clubhouse and a double decker stand. The only thing that spoils it is that 'ambitious' manager Marcus Law is fed up with the lack of support for the Gee Gees and is making it known that he would like a move to Harbury Lane where Leamington can attract four figure crowds. Brakes boss Cadzy is under fire as Leamington have failed to win all their matches recently.

Friday, February 03, 2006

What a week it's been

This blog has had more hits than its had in its existence this week and the lists and the message boards have been swamped with traffic. The controversy has not died down, but this might be a time to stand back and reflect a little on what it all means in terms of football and the club.

We live in an era of player (and agent) power. Managers find themselves condemned because they have 'lost the dressing room'. Is it such a bad thing when a manager asserts his authority against a big ego?

Murphy's defenders would say that it shows that Curbs cannot handle big players. But should he handle them by giving them into their demands, by playing them when he thinks they are not giving their all? Or because their wife slags off the referee in The Times for sending her husband off when he has a petulant fit of temper? Can one imagine Sam Bartram or even Killer getting their wife to air their grievances in the press?

I know some people will not believe any stories about problems at the training ground without a sworn affidavit from the player concerned. But things are leaked on a no attribution basis. The club has ways of getting its side of events out when official channels cannot be used. And what is clear is that Danny Murphy was not the toast of the dressing room.

Another current complaint is that we are not playing attractive football. However, what is overlooked is the extent to which the structure of the Premiership encourages cautious, defensive football. The financial penalties of relegation are so great, and the imbalance of resources between clubs so grotesque, that most clubs play to avoid the drop.

Yet another grumble is that Charlton lacks ambition. But do we want vaulting ambition that overreaches itself? Or the prudent, steady expansion that Charlton has favoured? Look at Leicester, Ipswich, Derby or above all Leeds. Or look at Sunderland, mired in debt, and likely to finish with the lowest total of points in the history of the top division. It's all to easy for a club to fall below the Championship into League 1.

Fans are rightly proud of the club's community work. But the 'more than a football club' slogan does worry me sometimes. Does the club's dedication to a politics of engagement and social inclusion distract management attention from what is happening on the pitch?

I have provoked some people on the list by stating that football is a business. Of course, it's not a business like any other. Few clubs seek to make profits and when someone does try to make money out of the franchise, they often come a cropper as is happening with the Salford Red Sox. Fans have a loyalty to the club which they do not have to a supermarket (although research shows that there are more 'floating' fans than most people would allow). (Anyone who has a broader interest in these issues can read a paper I have written with some Charlton content at Football . You need to scroll down the page to the football link).

Nevertheless, clubs have to make commercial decisions and they can't inform fans of every twist and turn in their transfer strategy without undermining their position. And I think there were genuinely very late developments in the Murphy saga. Having said that, I do think that the public relations aspect has been handled poorly and this is something the club ought to consider.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

How to speak Spurphy

This appeared on the Charlton list but deserves a wider audience:

Murphism - When Tottenham came in this time I don't mind admitting I was
the first one to express to Charlton and the manager that I wanted to go.

English - This'll teach him to drop me.

Murphism - No disrespect to Charlton, but they are not Tottenham, in terms
of the squad they have got, the fan base and in terms of the potential

English - Yes I know I'll be sitting on the bench, but have you seen what
they're paying me and I don't have to do all this tackling b*ll*cks.

Murphism - Everything was right this time and it is an opportunity for me
which, if I had not taken it, I would have regretted for the rest of my career.

English - When I left Liverpool, Spurs were going nowhere, finished below
Charlton and so as far as my CV goes it would have looked much to shabby.

Murphism - Tottenham have great ambitions to win trophies and fight for the
Champions League spots. That is the level of football I want to play again.

English - Yeah OK, it ain't going to happen, but as they're fourth at the
moment It sounds good, so I'll just have stuck it out here for another 6
months, till I can join me mate Robbie.

Murphism - Charlton obviously let the move happen so you can read into it
what you want.

English - It would have cost them a million to keep me sulking in the reserves.

Murphism - If anything, they have given me the chance to better myself which
I suppose, in a way, is good of them, because they did not have to do that.

English - Yey for player power, poor saps!

Murphism - The majority of the time we got on fine, and it was only in recent
weeks that we didn?t communicate as well as maybe we should have.

English - I stopped talking to that jumped up southern tw@ after he had the
gall to drop me. Who does he think he is Bob Paisley?


Curbs to replace Souness?

The contract of Graham Souness at the Barcodes has been terminated with immediate effect after last night's 3-0 defeat by the Massives. Speculation is bound to start about Curbs as a target which will hearten the growing numbers of the Addickted who consider that he has 'lost the plot'. Expectations at St.James's Park are, however, even more out of kilter with reality than at The Valley and Curbs is not known to like northern climes.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Spurphy on Curbs and Curbs on Murphy

Danny Murphy has graciously stated that Curbs would be 'capable' of making the step up to coach England. Just like Spurphy can find his way to the Spudz's training ground. Mind you it seems that not every Spurs fan is overjoyed at their new acquisition. There has been no dancing in the streets of Haringey.

Murphy insisted he left The Valley on good terms, despite not playing over the past few weeks. 'I think it was just a case that due to the speculation [Curbs] felt that I maybe was not in the right mindset,' said the Scouser. 'There certainly were not any demands on my part that I was not available for selection or anything like that' said Mr Joanna Taylor who was seen leaving the dressing room looking morose some time before the match on Saturday.

'It is just a case of him thinking that he did not want to put me in the side because he did not think maybe I was 100% focused, which was not the case. But when the Tottenham thing came up, I do not mind admitting I was the first one to express to Charlton and the manager that I wanted to do it. Purely on a football level anyone can see it is a fantastic opportunity.'

No great loss - Curbs

Meanwhile Curbs believes the sale of Murphy will be no great loss to the club. He explained: 'He hadn't been playing and that had been nothing to do with the transfer speculation that had surrounded him. He hadn't been playing because the way we play I didn't think would suit him. In the first 10 or 12 games we played in a certain style fitting around him and certain other players.

'When we played with five midfield players everything was clicking and everyone was contributing by making goals and scoring goals. But when it started to go against us we had to change. When results went against us, having five midfielders left us with too much to do. We were too open and too lightweight.

'Danny wasn't the only one who got hurt but in recent weeks we have dug in and I felt the players who were playing deserved to be in the team. One or two of them had been waiting a long time to play and if Danny was unsettled or not in the right frame of mind he was no good to me.'

What is evident is that many Charlton fans feel upset about the way they were misled in the last few weeks. Although I assumed that I wasn't being told the truth all along, some obviously thought they were. It's not been a PR success for the club and it's something that the board might wish to bear in mind. Perhaps when they have finished counting the thousand of votes for our new supporters' director, s/he might have a word.

The morning after the night before

A huge number of messages on the Charlton list this morning. Apart from 'Curbs out' messages from the usual suspects, what does it all amount to?

We were awful last night

Paul May certainly seemed to very gloomy about the match. But when I read The Times report today they said that we were on top and were denied a late winner from Bothroyd by the linesman. Seems that the Baggies came for a draw and their man marking and use of the offside trap paid off. I would agree that we need more width, though.

Murphy was our most creative player

Quite a lot of people dissent from this view. At his best, he could be very good, but then we started to play to a Plan A which was soon sussed out by other teams: Kish provides the ball to Murphy, Murphy plays it along the ground to Bent. In some of his recent appearances, the sulky Scouser was not doing the business. Surely the manager is entitled to drop a player if he doesn't think he's giving his all or doesn't fit into the system? After all, a lot of people wanted us to try 4-4-2.

Curbs can't handle big players

What's he supposed to do with prima donnas? Let's say Murphy says at the training ground, 'This is how we did it at Liverpool' and 'We didn't do that at Liverpool.' Is Curbs supposed to say, 'Thanks Danny for putting me right'? And are the other players supposed to say, 'It's so great having an England nearly man to show us how its done'? What's more how many players have their wife acting as their representative on Earth in The Times?

'We were lied to'

It was obvious to me from Danny's demeanour last Saturday that he was on his way. But let's remember that the club is a business. Most businesses don't say who they are trying to hire or who might leave. Certainly in the academic transfer market we don't show our hand and don't tell people who we are talking to. I would have liked to get a bit more money from Murphy and there is something in the view that bigger clubs are carving us up.

'Little Charlton', club has no ambition

Of course this gets to the heart of it. Charlton are a medium-sized club. In terms of resources and attendances, they should really be a Championship club. So punching above their weight and staying in the Premiership is a struggle, sometimes leading to negative football that does not please the crowds. The board's strategy has been a long-term, step by step one of building up the club. The fans expect quicker results in terms of going to the next level and there is a real tension there which could turn into a vicious circle of declining attendances, less money to spend etc.

Who would be a manager?

As I couldn't get to The Valley, I went to see last night's clash between Leamington and Chasetown, the two Midland Alliance teams who made it to the 1st round of the FA Cup. Lots of Chasetown fans there largeing it in their Oldham tops. Chasetown deservedly won 3-1. Now a vocal group of fans want Cadzy sacked. And he doesn't get paid!