Sunday, December 31, 2006

Good riddance to 2006

For Charlton fans 2006 was not a good year. The last period of Alan Cutbishley's reign saw us slide down the table after a promising start. Then, having lost our first choice as manager, we hired Iain Dowie on the basis of a promising interview. As has since become apparent, he had some very odd ideas about what constituted a training regime. Combined with an injury crisis, tough opening fixtures and some of the donkeys signed in the summer, we then made an appalling start to our campaign.

The board decided that they had made a mistake with Dowie and got rid of him. Mesmerised by the need for stability, and the merits of a Charlton man who was a good coach, they promoted Les Reed to the level of his incompetence, and not as a caretaker. Fortunately, the board had the sense to realise that they risked destroying everything they had built and, even more fortunately, Alan Pardew was available. In him we have someone with a proven managerial record, a Charlton pedigree and a real passion to succeed. Third time right.

Now the transfer window is about to open. The club's decline started some time ago with the loss of Scott Parker. Danny Murphy and Alexi Smertin gave us a creative midfield, but they started to fade even before they left. And since then it is clear that our biggest problems have been in central midfield where honest endeavour is not enough at Premiership level. So our main transfer targets have to be there.

Of course, all the speculation about Darren Bent going has started up again, but I think we need to hang on to him and I think we will unless a top four club comes in with an offer that is impossible to refuse.

There is some speculation about Dennis Rommedahl returning to his native heath in the form of FC Copenhagen, just when he has started to show some fighting spirit. Again, I would like to hang on to him. But I would let Hreidarsson go out on loan and I would give Pouso and Sorondo free one way tickets to Montevideo, even if only to save their wages.

Can we stay up? I think at least we will make a fight of it now, but we have to improve our away form to stand a chance. I would put the odds at about 40:60 against us, but I do now believe that we would be seriously competitive in the Championship.

Finally, thanks to everyone who has told me they enjoy the blog (it's been nice to meet you one or two of you like the lady on the 161 bus yesterday). Constructive criticism is also welcome, although what one gets is comments of the 'boring' type. In which case there are now many other Charlton blogs to read, almost all of them of a very high standard and each offering something different. I like the perspective that distance brings to our American and Iberian blogs, but equally Inspector Sands shows that you can see the tip of the West Stand from your bathroom window and still have a very fresh perspective. (I don't whether he can actually, not having been in his drum, but you get the point).

Hooch the Pooch has invited us to his canalside home at Long Itchington to celebrate the New Year, along with our whole team of canine analysts and Homer the Cherry Hound who was invited to become senior analyst at Didcot Town who are now second in the British Gas South and West.

Happy New Year! Come on you reds!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

There's only one Richard Murray!

This was the chant of a small group of the Addickted who gathered in front of the West Stand, interspersed with chants of 'super Alan Pardew', after Charlton had beaten Aston Villa 2-1 at The Valley this afternoon. It was a game full of drama with a penalty, a sending off for Villa charm merchant Gareth Barry and a last minute winner scored by Bryan Hughes.

Villa had edged the first quarter of the game, but Charlton were getting back into things when the visitors were awarded a penalty allowing them to go in 1-0 up at half time. Darren Bent equalised when he took advantage of a long pinpoint pass from El Karkouri and the Addicks should have gone ahead when an effort by Hreidarsson crossed the line but was noticed by the officials. It was left to Bryan Hughes to send The Valley into ectascy in the 90th minute.

The opening phase of the game was uneventful with an unproductive Charlton corner. Then El Karkouri went down somewhat theatrically in the area while play was halted and referee Styles gave a yellow card both to him and his assailant Mellberg. Ambrose put in a great shot from distance that was heading for the top corner of the net, but somehow Palace reject Karaly managed to save it.

A Rommedahl run set up Ambrose, but a Villa defender kicked the ball out. A deflected attempt by Sankofa gave Charlton a corner, but although Hreidarsson did well to retain the ball, the move ended in a free kick for the visitors. Aston Villa won a corner after a mix up between Carson and El Karkouri.

Barry was brought down on the edge of the area, Styles waved for a penalty with relatively little protest from the Charlton players. Barry stepped up to take the kick and put a shot into the centre of the goal which Carson little chance. Villa were 1-0 ahead in the 40th minute. Sankofa was given a yellow card for a subsequent foul. A Charlton corner in time added on was cleared.

Half time: Addicks 0, Villa 1

Kishishev was pulled off for Hughes at the beginning of the half. Ambrose broke forward in what looked like a promising move, but he gave the ball away.

On 57 minutes El Karkouri provided an excellent lofted pass from defence which found the head of Darren Bent in front of the Villa goal and he put it in the back of the net to make it 1-1. Villa provided a period of frantic pressure, but El Karkouri was defiant in defence.

Rommedahl broke away and charged down the centre of the pitch. As he advanced on goal, Barry lunged at him and brought him down and referee Styles had no hesitation in showing a red card to one of Villa's key players. Rommedhal should do this more often, run at the opposition in the centre of the pitch.

Following a Charlton corner there was a mighty scramble in front of the Villa goal and footage played on the big screen at the end of the match showed that an effort from Hreidarsson had just crossed the line. Clearly alarmed, Villa brought off so-called striker Angell and replaced him by Bouma.

Marcus Bent won Charlton a corner, but it was caught by the fat Hungarian. Petrov came off, to be replaced by Isaih Osbourne. A Villa corner led to a header that was not far wide of Carson's post. A Villa free kick came off the Charlton wall, Charlton broke and won a throw in by the corner flag. Bryan Hughes put in a shot that was just over. Marcus Bent was replaced by Hasselbaink and shortly afterwards Rommedahl was replaced by Thomas.

Matt Holland put in a dipping shot from distance that was not far over. As Charlton applied pressure, Hughes was set up by Hreidarsson and had no hesitation in putting the ball in the back of the net. Some early leavers had already departed and hence missed the winning goal.

In the three minutes of time added on, Hasselbaink won a corner for Charlton. Three points were in the bag and it was a happy Valley.

Match analysis

With new match analyst Ivy undergoing further training with Hooch the Pooch at his Long Itchington home it fell to lucky spaniel Monty Martin from Blewbury, Oxon to act as match analyst and forward individual player scores to The Observer for tomorrow's edition. The Silver Bone was awarded to Talal El Karkouri, 8 for the superb pass which set up the equaliser and for some stalwart work in defence. Carson, 6 was competent, but not too troubled by Villa who tended to put in some wayward attempts on goal. Hreidarsson, 6 might feel aggrieved that he is not on the score sheet and certainly made his presence felt at set pieces. Traore, 6 avoided making major errors. Sankofa, 7 is improving as he gains more experience and confidence. Kishishev, 5 has plenty of advocates as he embodies a commitment which is often valued in the English game above skill, but apart from one excellent pass early on many of his passes were wayward and he was withdrawn at half time. Holland, 6 continues to show plenty of enthusiasm and is certainly reliable and competent, but his attempts on goal were disappointing. Quite a few Addicks had him as their man of the match, but I didn't really see that. Rommedahl, 7 had one of his best matches for some time, actually looking as if he cared. Ambrose, 6 had one excellent attempt on goal, but provided little else. Marcus Bent, 6 did his best to act as a target man. Darren Bent, 7 looks as if he is coming into form again. Hughes, 7 was attracting the usual criticism after he came on, but did contribute a vital goal. Hasselbaink, 5 attracted a shout of 'Jimmy Floyd Has Been' when he came on from somewhere behind me and he seems to look more horizontally challenged ever time he appears. Thomas, 6 had a cameo, but made a good run.

Hiss of the Match: Awarded by Juneau the Soccer Cat to charm merchant Gareth Barry.

Crowd rating: Did their best to spur the Addicks on in the second half. 7/10

Friday, December 29, 2006

Injury hit Villa head for The Valley

Aston Villa are facing an injury crisis and may be without as many as 10 first-team players for Saturday's match with Charlton. Martin O'Neill has been operating with a threadbare squad since he took over in August and his resources look like being stretched further after Olof Mellberg, Aaron Hughes, Stilian Petrov and Craig Gardner were injured during the Boxing Day defeat at Tottenham.

Mellberg and Hughes are being treated for knee injuries after colliding - Hughes left the field on a stretcher. O'Neill is 'hopeful' that both defenders will recover for the Charlton game, but Petrov's hamstring strain appears more serious. Gardner has a calf problem and although he got through against Spurs - a match Chris Sutton missed with an ongoing blurred vision problem - O'Neill said he should have been substituted. With Stuart Taylor, Thomas Sorensen, Mark Delaney, Martin Laursen and Luke Moore all long-term absentees the local Villa here in Warwickshire are viewing the visit to a resurgent Charlton with growing unease.

Villa also have had a goalkeeping crisis and had to bring in a fat Hungarian from Palace so desperate was their plight. However, the Addickted may be spared the humour of seeing him between the posts as he may be recalled to Sellout Park to deal with a keeper crisis there.

Villa are basically the same relatively mediocre team as last year, although Barry has been on form and local boy made good Agbonlahor was a handful when they beat us at Villa Park. However, Villa do not really have an effective striker, although that may be less of a problem for them given the quality of Charlton's midfield and the somewhat desperate character of its defence.

Our form at home against Villa has been mixed in the Premiership with two wins, three losses and two draws. The Villains are predicting a score draw which is no good for us so I will be optimistic and go for a 3-1 win, two from Darren and one from Marcus.

It has now been confirmed that Celtic have won the race to secure the services of Steve Pressley. Pressley's agent spoke well of Charlton and the 'nice people' there (sometimes I wish we were less nice) but said that the prospect of European football next season was the clincher.

There are rumours that Dennis Rommedahl may go out of loan for the rest of the season, although whether that is to a football club or Croydon Harriers is not clear.

Chinese cracker signs

Up for it

Zheng Zhi, the wild man of China, has signed for Charlton on loan with a view to a permanent move. Chinese footballer of the year in 2003, he was banned from the Asian Champions League for six months for spitting at a referee. Maxim magazine voted him the tenth dirtiest player in the world, so it looks like we have a Charlton legend in the making.

See him in leg breaking mode here: Wild man

Read an interview with him here: My Mission

Tiukeqi! Wo de zhungwén hen cha.

Can Charlton do it? Yes they can

An unusually favourable feature in The Times suggests that the media is taking Charlton more seriously now that Pards is in charge. They point out that Pompey only had one more point this time last year, but managed to survive. Read the story at: Survival

Mind you The Times does also devote a whole page to the participation of Simon Jordan in a new game show.

Les Reed interview

Les Reed has told his story to the Daily Mail. Once again he comes across as a decent man, although clearly he feels he was treated unfairly by some sections of the media. Surprisingly, the story is not linked either to a fall in S.E.London house prices or the Blair's holiday:

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Big losses as Addicks spend more on wages

Charlton recorded operating losses of £4.6m and an overall net loss of £8.9m in 2005-6 which were offset by a share issue to directors and the sale of players. After a conscious decision to invest in the playing squad, the club’s salaries and wages costs increased by 18 per cent to £30.5m, representing 72 per cent of turnover, up from 63 per cent the year before and well above the 50 per cent level recommended by accountants Deloitte.

Overall turnover was up from £40.7m to £41.9m with a particularly good performance in conference and banqueting revenues which increased by 43 per cent. However, sponsorship revenues were affected by the premature termination of the all:sports agreement with the loss of nearly all the year’s income. This had knock on effects elsewhere. Retail sales rely on a strong Christmas period and the inability to sell any goods branded with the all:sports logo during that period reduced sales, while further significant costs due to the write of all:sports retail stock, changes to the electronic advertising system and branding throughout the business.

The number of fans buying season tickets fell by almost 10 per cent. Charlton chairman Richard Murray commented, ‘The fall in season ticket holders to 18,700 is due to a number of factors, the more important we feel being the varied kick-off times spread across weekends during the season and the more negative approach taken to clubs because of the fear of relegation and its serious financial impact.’ Survey evidence which we have reproduced earlier on our sister blog at football economy does not suggest that kick off times are a decisive factor for most fans.

The commercial mortgages taken out to develop the north and west stands have been repaid by a new loan repayable over eight years which was also used to fund the year's capital programme of £623,000. It is not known what the annual repayments on the new loan are.

Referring to the forthcoming EU white paper on sport, Charlton chief executive Peter Varney states in the club’s programme: ‘As with the interference by the European Commission in the tendering process for the Premier League’s broadcasting rights, I am against European involvement in the way we run the professional game in this country.’ ‘Interference’ is an evaluative word and the European Commission used its competition policy powers in a way that was never subject to any legal challenge. By becoming more like a business, football can hardly complain if it is treated in a similar way to other businesses by the European authorities.

Pressley, Parkinson in

Former Hearts central defender Steven Pressley was at The Valley last night to see the shortcomings in Charlton's defence for himself. Charlton are expected to pip Celtic to the post his signature, offering a 18 month contract worth £14,000 a week. If he arrives, it could be the beginning of the end for Hreidarsson who is now past his best.

Phil Parkinson was also at The Valley last night and is reported to be about to sign as Alan Pardew's No.2. He was in the frame as a candidate for manager at Charlton in the summer, but eventually went to Hull. Sacked from there, he has turned down the vacant manager's post at Northampton in favour of the second slot at The Valley. Parkinson was in charge of Colchester for their 9-1 thrashing of Leamington last season.

What all this means for Mark Robson and Mark Kinsella is unclear, but surely there would be a role for them in youth development and community work?

Late equaliser stuns Addickted

I do not think that I have ever been as stunned by a goal as I was by Fulham's 94th minute equaliser at The Valley last night. It was created after the East Stand lino had waved for a free kick for a non-existent offence. I had been uneasy about the elderly, vertically challenged lino ever since I had watched him warming up. Graham Poll had by this time overdosed on methane and awarded the free kick, leading to a quick Fulham goal which admittedly could have been better defended. If we are two points short of safety at the end of the season, we can blame the Thing from Tring. Poll has since apologised for his decision, but that is scant consolation.

It had been a more spirited, determined performance by the Addicks under new manager Alan Pardew than we had seen for a long time. There were still deficiencies. Possession was still given away too cheaply and there were too many hopeful balls forward which were collected by Niemi in the Fulham goal. The more vigorous approach also led to more free kicks being conceded, one of which led to the first Fulham goal. But it offered a glimmer of hope for the future, even if that future lies in the Championship.

Before the start of the match, we heard that decent bloke Les Reed had sent us a good luck message for the game. Alan Pardew received a rapturous reception from the Addickted with chants of 'Alan Pardew's Red Army' from the Covered End. The teams changed ends which I always see as a bad omen.

An early Fulham corner was played back in and drew a save from Carson. A Fulham free kick in a dangerous position led to a Fulham corner. What I thought was a rather dubious free kick created an opportunity for McBride to put the Cottagers 1-0 ahead after 13 minutes.

A dangerous header left Carson furious with his defence. But then Charlton showed that they could fight back. Amid some confusion in the Fulham defence in a crowded penalty area, Ambrose drilled a shot along the ground to make it 1-1.

A Fulham corner was cleared and then Charlton won their first corner, but Ambrose took it poorly and it went into the side netting. Marcus Bent broke free and put a shot across the goal that was not that wide of the far post. A move started with an El Karkouri free kick created an opportunity for Thomas but he was just wide.

Darren Bent scored, but the flag was already up. Carson was called on to make a good save. Marcus Bent put in a fierce shot from distance which Niemi had to get down to to save. A defensive mix up by Fulham allowed Darren Bent to break free and slot the ball into the net past the stranded Niemi who uttered unfathomable curses in Finnish.

Jerome Thomas was clattered in time added on and had to be replaced by Rommedahl after the break.

Half time: Addicks 2, Cottagers 1

Half time saw the lucky winner of an apartment in Spain announced. The Llanera chairman had the good grace to admit that it wasn't actually built yet.

Rommedahl created an early opportunity for Ambrose, but he headed the ball just wide. The Addicks broke from a Fulham corner and created one of their own, but once again it was poorly taken. Another area where more work is needed. A Fulham free kick on the edge of the box came off the wall. Charm merchant Helguson, who might have been given a card if Poll had not declared a Christmas moratorium, was withdrawn and replaced by Collins John.

Carson had to make a great save from a fierce shot which he would have had little time to see. After yet another weak ball by Ambrose, he was replaced by Hughes. However, the corner which he took shortly afterwards was no better than those of Ambrose. Bullard was withdrawn in favour of Claus Jensen and then Marcus Bent was replaced by Hasselbaink.

There was no real pattern to the game in the closing phase, but the Charlton players looked increasingly nervous and as confidence ebbed away from them they were forced back more. Four minutes of time added on were found from somewhere. Fulham won a corner but their effort went over. But then we had the incident of the free kick allowing Queudrue to equalise.

After chants of 'You're going down with the Watford', it all kicked off at the station afterwards. I found myself on the train with a group of American supporters of the Addicks. At Waterloo East, the Fulham hordes got off chanting 'We are the famous Fulham FC'. I had to contemplate a long journey home reflecting on a victory that had been unjustly seized from our grasp.

Match analysis

Novice match analyst Ivy awarded the Silver Bone to Alan Pardew for inspiring the team to achieve a much better performance in a few days. Carson made one great reaction save and could not be blamed for the two goals. El Karkouri sent a number of his trademark long balls forward both from free kicks and open play and some of there at least created potentially threatening situations. Hreidarsson provided a series of emphatic headers in defence, although sometimes they went straight to a Fulham player. Sankofa is no Luke Young and sometimes his lack of experience shows. He needs to work on this throw ins. Traore is nowhere near as bad as some people like to claim and was generally competent enough, although sometimes his marking left something to be desired. Kishishev was as enthusiastic and energetic as ever, but sometimes made errors. Ambrose scored a goal, but in general played too many poor balls for my liking. Thomas was vigorous down the wing in the first half. Holland was a model of energetic competence. Marcus Bent is not a favourite with the Valley crowd, but I thought that he had one of his best games for some time. We actually saw him running with some determination. Darren Bent was looking more like his old self. Rommedahl was the inevitable disappointmnent when he came on, streaking down the wing, but then failing to deliver a decent final ball. Hughes was an improvement on Ambrose whom he replaced, but that's not saying much. Hasselbaink seemed as if he was posing for a living statue of a footballer when he came on.

Hiss of the Match A very loud hiss was directed by Juneau the Soccer Cat at Graham Poll and his hapless midget lino.

Crowd rating: Really got behind the team in the first half, faded a little early in the second, but came back again. 8/10.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Fulham preview

Ivy, named as tonight's match analyst

Tonight is a 'must win' game if the Addicks are to have any chance of Premiership survival. Although some poor signings were made in the summer, players have been performing below their own individual level and the team as a whole have failed to play well as a collective unit. Hopefully, Pards can restore some self belief and collective passion.

Having missed a few games, it's difficult to make recommendations on who should play. However, being a sceptic about youngsters, I would drop Sankofa and play Kish at right back.

To mark the new era at The Valley, Belgian Shepherd Ivy has been named as tonight's match analyst, the first girl dog reporter to fulfill the role. Hooch the Pooch commented, 'She is still very young and excitable and inclined to bark a lot, but she is showing great promise and passed the test on the offside rule with flying colours.' On Christmas Day she met match analyst Monty Martin whom she joined for a training walk and also now Didcot Town analyst Homer the Cherry Hound with whom she had a vigorous exchange of views.

While I would like to forecast a win for tonight.and I think that 2-1 is possible, I am going for a 1-1 draw. We mustn't expect miracles from Pards.

For an assessment by The Times go to: Times

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Pards interview

Alan Pardew says that it was an easy decision to come to Charlton, he has had a very positive reaction from the players, but he realises how tough a task he has ahead of him. Read the full interview at:

Festive cheer for Brakes

There was festive cheer for Brakes today as they beat local rivals Racing Club Warwick 3-0 showing that, contrary to the programme cover, Santa is not a Gee Gee. The winning margin came from a Dave Pearson hat trick, his last goal being drilled along the ground from distance. Brakes also hit the bar and had a goal disallowed for offside. Racing were not really in it, constantly losing possession and being out paced by Brakes who could probably have scored more but for occasional casualness. Racing's main tactic appeared to be persistent fouling which earned them three yellow cards. The officials had a good match.

The programme notes were clearly written by a humourist who suggested that the Brakes badge should be amended as one of the sails has fallen off the Chesterton windmill. But he graciously admitted that Brakes are too big for the Midland Alliance and probably for Step 4 of the Southern as well. And Warwick can celebrate the fact that they have won the Warwick Cinderella cup twice.

The Charlton revolving door

The Times has a feature article on this subject this morning, likening recent developments at the club to blowing the family savings in a weekend at Las Vegas because of a mid-life crisis:

The Fink Tank gives Charlton a 1 in 2 chance of a home win tomorrow and little more than a 1 in 4 chance of an away win for the Cottagers.

According to the Mirror Pards is on a 1 million bonus if he can save us from relegation and intends to make a £3m bid for Irons midfielder Hayden Mullins:

Racing to Get There

Racing Club Warwick offers the Warwickshire equivalent of the Rickshaw

It's probably a shorter journey today to get to Racing Club Warwick's ground than it is to Leamington's ground at Harbury Lane which is in rural Whitnash. For those who don't know Warwickshire, Leamington and Warwick form one urban area. Half a mile from my house I cross the River Avon and I am in Warwick. I drive past the street where Deano's parents live, round by Warwick Castle and head for the racecourse.

Racing Club are notorious for their poor pitch which is reputedly grazed by horses, but Leamington fans have been out with heavy rollers to make sure it is ready for today's derby.

Racing's Portuguese coach Jose Ascersao was pipped to the post for a job at Sporting Lisbon by Jose Mourinho but perhaps they made the right call as the Gee Gees are currently languishing near the bottom of the Polymac Services Midland Alliance. Hopefully, the lads did not eat too many mince pies yesterday and will have been fired up after it all went off in the tunnel following the Romulus match.

What annoys a lot of Brakes fans is the amount of money poured into Racing by the authorities at a time when there is a prolonged struggle to get planning permission to expand the New Windmill Ground. Government, local authorities and football trust bodies are clubbing together to build a double decker stand for the eighty or so regulars.

Racing have also got money out of the Countryside Agency to set up a 'Racing to Get There' service which ferries supporters to matches. Apparently they qualify for this money because they are addressing the needs of those who experience 'a degree of social exclusion by virtue of geographical remoteness'. In other words, if you live in Hampton Lucy and are crazy enough to support the Gee Gees you will get chauffeured to the match. Our plan is to use the vehicles to start a Warwickshire Rickshaw.

Remember we will be the only Charlton blog carrying a report on the match.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Alan Smith rumours

Rumours are circulating that Charlton are going to boost their strike force for the rest of the season by signing Alan Smith on loan. It also appears that the Chinese 'wild man' is definitely joining us and is a real 'in your face' player in the mode of Jorge Costa.

Alan Pardew will have a difficult job to keep Charlton up, but one can have confidence that under him if we were relegated we would be in with a shout of coming back up.

Goodness knows what the financial implications of all this are, we have to assume that the board are once again going to dig into their pockets. However, informed sources suggest that there was a 'break clause' in Reed's contract just as there was for Dowie. So although there will be a financial hit, it will not be disastrous.

It's not a pleasant thing to happen to Les Reed at Christmas, a decent man with a real feeling for the club and hopefully we one day we can welcome back and say thanks for trying. But sometimes in football one has to be ruthless.

There is some speculation that Keith Peacock may return to The Valley, even though Curbs now has both Merv and Keith working with him at the Irons. Some have also suggested that Mark Robson is partly culpable for our recent troubles and should be let go. As one of his kit sponsors, I feel that there is still a role for him in the club on the youth development side.

Enjoy the day and look forward to Wednesday when I shall be ending my absence from The Valley.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Comes Early: Pards Replaces Reed

Les Reed has left his position by 'mutual consent' (whether he is leaving the club is not clear) and has been replaced by Alan Pardew who will take charge at the Fulham game.

The board have finally seen that things had to be sorted out and given fans an early Christmas present. As Gerald Ford said when he replaced Richard Nixon as US president, 'The long nightmare is over.' Not that Pards is a Gerald Ford: he can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Happy Christmas to all our readers

This rather bleak picture of a somewhat post-modernist Christmas tree I took in Vilnius, Lithuania last week seems appropriate for Charlton fans at present

The best thing one can do is to follow the advice of Inspector Sands and forget the football for a day or two. At least we have something to look forward to in terms of the needle Boxing Day derby between Racing Club Warwick and Leamington where a four figure crowd can be expected and Warwickshire police will be able to try out their mobile CCTV. To see some people enjoying their football, watch this video:

Uncle Les is looking for good two home wins after Christmas. Let's hope he's right and that suddenly some pride and confidence returns to the side.

We could take a leaf out of Sheffield United's book and announce a list of players who are going to be cleared out. We won't get much money for them but at least we will save on the wages bill.

Given that our chances of evading relegation are small, what we do need in place is a strategy that will allow us first to survive in the Championship and then enable us to contend for a play off place.

Rick Everitt has commented that it is difficult for a club like Charlton to stay in the current Premiership for a ten year stretch. Even former first division clubs like Coventy (fortunately) and Southampton have found it difficult. I don't doubt he's right, but I'm still ambitious for the club and hopeful that one day we will be back playing at the highest level.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Brakes win thrilling battle of the brothers

In one of the most exciting matches I have seen at the New Windmill Ground, No.1 Polymac Services Midland Alliance side Leamington took on No.2 rivals Romulus in a match which pitched Leamington's Jon Adams against his brother and former Brakes player Richard. Brakes came out on top 4-3 putting them sixteen points clear at the top of the league. It was a tense match with Romulus danger man and charm merchant Tyrone Fagan being sent off towards the end.

Darius Vassell, Zat Knight, Simon Sturridge, Stuart Bowen (Baggies) and Luke Rogers (Shrewsbury) have all emerged from the Romulus youth production line and the north Birmingham side, who play at Sutton Coldfield Town, proved the strongest opponents seen at Harbury Lane this season.

We set out for the ground early, but although we arrived forty-five minutes before kick off, we had to queue for ten minutes to get in, although this was partly the result of a survey conducted by the local council worried about traffic congestion before and after games. Despite the countryside location, complaints about crowd noise at matches also remain a planning issue.

We positioned ourselves in the Sheepside Stand under Dolly the Sheep. The game soon developed into a pattern of fast, end to end play which was to characterise it throughout. On 17 minutes it looked as if Brakes had scored, but the ball hit the post, the crossbar and then bounced off a player's backside.

However, titter ye not, it was veteran Morton Titterton who put the home side 1-0 ahead after 25 minutes. Throughout the match Titteron showed some quality play in controlling the midfield.

Romulus were awarded a free kick and Brakes failed to put a defender on the far line, allowing Lei Brown to put the ball through the wall and in at the far post on 31 minutes. The five Romulus supporters who had positioned themselves at the top of the Burger Side stand went beserk.

Tom Wilmore got booked for Romulus and then Richard Adams made it 2-1 on 40 minutes, the Romulus players giving it large to the Sheepside who had been making their opinions known about the antics of Stanivias Duris (a name that sounds like a virus). Almost immediately Leamington replied on 42 minutes to make it 2-2 through Clunsie (Martin Thompson).

After the break Romulus went ahead, once again through a free kick with no one on the line. But Ben Mackey who had been brought on after 59 minutes to replace Josh Blake made it 3-3 on 74 minutes.

The winning goal for the Brakes was scored on 76 minutes by the other Adams brother, Jon. Even with the loss of Fagin for violent conduct, Romulus still showed an ability to play the ball down the slope, but Brakes were able to hold on and apply some pressure of their own to secure the three points.

The Romulus team looked really fed up and at least one of them was still mouthing off as they left the pitch. Brakes fans went home happy, looking forward to the Boxing Day clash against Racing Club Warwick.

A quick visit to the clubhouse confirmed that Charlton was adhering to its 'relegation with integrity' plan with a 2-0 defeat at Boro. According to Radio 5, Charlton had adopted negative tactics and their body language showed a lack of confidence, although apparently there were furious arguments between the players in the tunnel at half time.

Times gives good odds to Addicks

The Fink Tank in today's Times gives Boro a less than 1 in 2 chance of winning today with a 27% chance of a Charlton away win. So perhaps Our Les is going to cover himself in glory in front of what will probably be the smallest away crowd of the season.

A lot of Addicks are arguing quite reasonably that we should rally round Our Les. My doubts arise from the fact that every few weeks I am involved in interviewing people for leadership positions and not in my own field of expertise. Les simply wouldn't impress.

Now, of course, I haven't met him and I know that he has a range of technical skills that wouldn't be evident in a media or even a face-to-face interview. And Dowie talked the talk in the interview, but couldn't deliver on the pitch or within the much vaunted 'structure'.

Today Les faces a number of injury problems, including such key players as Luke Young, although he seems to have been below his best for a while. Battling Andy Reid is also not available, while the Herminator, whom I would make captain, is also doubtful along with another fighter, Kishishev.

Les has to build on a platform of truly dismal performances by Charlton this year. He is a great believer in Prozone, but the Opta statistics make gloomy reading: Opta That doesn't excuse the Sub Standard going to town and implying that we are the worst Premiership club ever. Barnsley and Sunderland come to mind and we are actually above Watford.

Sky Sports News said last night that Les had stated that he had the 'total confidence' of his chairman. Let's hope that Richard Murray is right and I am wrong. My fear is that even an experienced businessman with good judgement can sometimes make mistakes and then compound them by digging his heels in.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Tomorrow's matches previewed

If the fog lifts, the big match in the Polymac Services Midland Alliance tomorrow is No.1 versus No.2, Leamington against Romulus at the New Windmill Ground. What Romulus lack in numbers of fans, they make up for in ferocity. The drawing above is taken from the Windmill Wonderland fanzine who describes their No.1 and possibly only supporter as a 'bitter little dwarf' accompanied by Spit the Dog.

Possibly a hundred or more hard core Charlton supporters will make the long trek to Middlesbrough to see the Addicks possibly suffer another humiliation. There are now a number of injury woes to add to Les 'Prozone' Reed's troubles. Charlton have only lost one match away in the Premiership at Boro, having drawn all the rest, apart from last year when they won 3-0.

Boro are no great shakes at the moment and I think it is possible that the Addicks might get something out of the match so I am going for a 1-1 draw.

When I received a message from the club on my mobile, I thought it might be Les Reed announcing that he was reverting to a coaching role, but instead it was assistant chief executive Steve Sutherland thanking me for my 'fantastic' support which in fact hasn't much been in evidence. However, if I turn up at the Fulham game I might have a chance of winning an apartment in Spain where I could watch some decent football.

BTW, I note that the club have dropped me off their Christmas card list this year my support clearly hasn't been fantastic enough.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

It could be Les Reed's tartan army?

Would any player want to sign for Charlton when relegation stares them in the face? Well, Scottish players might given that only the 'Old Firm' give them a Premiership style challenge against which they can develop their skills. And the Hibs players that interested Charlton have not taken their club's refusal to deal lying down,

Hibernian stars Scott Brown and Kevin Thomson will demand talks with chairman Rod Petrie after he rejected a £3million offer from the Addicks. Brown, 21, and skipper Thomson, 22, are involved in a wage dispute with Hibs after so far failing to renegotiate the new contracts they signed in March. Brown - who had a transfer request rejected earlier this month - is furious Hibs have now denied them a dream move to the Premiership. He told the Daily Record: 'Charlton have come in with a great offer and he (Petrie) has knocked it back.`'I find that very hard to understand so it's time we put our cards on the table.

'It's difficult to understand why Hibs will not accept an offer of £1.5million for each of us. They are not willing to give us new deals and yet they are not willing to accept that kind of money for us. It doesn't make any sense. Of course Charlton interest me. Who wouldn't fancy playing in the Premiership and testing yourself against guys such as Thierry Henry?'

Brown is thought to be the hotter property of the two. He is seen as a rising talent in Scotland and has attracted interest from Rangers.

Another possibility would be a loan with Diara, 'the new Makelele', available from Chelsea. The Super Hoops were interested but he wanted to stay in the Premiership. Could be just what Charlton need.

Cory Gibbs

The news is not good about Gibbs who would be the first Ivy League graduate to play for Charlton if he appeared in a first team shirt. He injured his knee again, which he originally hurt in the last friendly played by the USA before the World Cup, in a reserve match and will be require additional surgery. He will be out for anywhere from three to fourteen months so we won't see him play this season.

Reed not good enough, admits Murray

Richard Murray admits that former Wealdstone manager Les Reed is not good enough, but is going to give more time. He also admits that the squad is not good enough and is particularly critical of Diawara. Relegation is a real possibility. But he rules out recruiting Alan Pardew:
See also Currant Bun version with unflattering picture of Reed: Our Les

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Where do we go from here?

After a day spent in York, I have had time to read the E mails on the Charlton lists and see something of the range of opinion held by Charlton fans on the crisis facing the club.

Some of them, with good reason, clearly blame the lack of spirit and determination shown by the players. This was reflected in the chants of 'You're not fit to wear the shirt' from three sides of The Valley last night. What I found particularly shocking were claims that Marcus Bent had tried to stop Matt Holland clapping the East Stand.

Peter Varney has offered an apology to Charlton fans and said that money will be made available to bring in new players in the transfer window. Certainly a clean out is needed. But who will want to come to Charlton and face the likely prospect of Championship football next season? Attempts to sign Scottish players have already received the brush off: Hibs

The point has been made that Les Reed is being a scapegoat for problems that are not of his making. The board arguably made a mistake in turning down the demands made by Billy Davies and then signing Dowie. They then got rid of Dowie, for reasons that cannot be fully explained, and hastily appointed Reed, but not on a caretaker basis. There does, however, seem to be a grey area about Reed's contract. It is as 'head coach', so does this mean that a 'manager' could be appointed above him?

Les Reed is a good coach and a decent person. Juneau the Soccer Cat has made the point that he is kind to cats and may well have a cat called Curbs. However, he has no managerial experience and has been promoted to the level of his incompetence. The best that can be said is that the situation this season is beyond redemption and we probably could not attract a good manager anyway, so we might as well stick with him until May.

The problem with that argument is that I do not believe that he is really up to the job. He is not a person who radiates a sense of authority, who could revitalise a demoralised side. But, according to Peter Varney, he will not be sacked (although he could step aside and revert to his coaching role).

The tragedy of this situation is that we have a board who have invested considerable sums of their own money in Charlton and followed a prudent and well thought out strategy of building up the club step by step. I think that one error was to place too much emphasis on a particular management structure, overlooking the fact that in football 'agency' in the form of a good manager is the key factor.

The one good thing about the Wycombe result is that it should serve as a wake up call. The board must realise that they risk destroying all that they have created and that fans will vote with their feet in droves. What I would like them to do is to at least explore if a manager could be found and ask Les Reed to revert to his former role.

A friend who works in education said that if Charlton was a school it would now be placed in special measures. That about sums it up.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Another Les Reed shambles

Charlton were outplayed by Wycombe in the Carling Cup tonight. Wycombe were given far too much space by the Charlton defence and the Addicks were unable to get a real shot on target.

Charlton looked positive in early exchanges reports Erith Addick Paul May. Chelsea loan player Grant was shown a yellow card for a bad challenge on Traore who required treatment. Diawara had to block an effort with his hand by Wycombe and required treatment. The Chairboys got a free kick on the edge of the box eighteen yards out. The piledriver went straight through the wall was parried away in an excellent save by Carson, Grant shot from distance and was parried again, then a shot went away along the goalline hit the post, but the flag was raised.

Faye put in an awful shot. Wycombe won the first corner of the game off Diawara. Scott Carson lost the ball, although he thought he was fouled, but a goal kick was awarded. Easter had a shot on goal from thirty yards out and Carson had to parry the ball for a Wycombe corner which was knocked away by Darren Bent. Hughes got a yellow card for a foul.

A cross by Easter was turned behind by Traore for another corner. Les Reed came down from the directors' box to the technical area. Wycombe had another chance, but Bloomfield was not able to take advantage with the goal at his mercy. An unmarked Mooney shot, but Carson saved. Wycombe went ahead with a strike from Easter with the Charlton defence stationary.

Charlton had a chance from a cross, but Faye's contact was poor with a scuffed shot.
The Addicks won a free kick through Thomas. The delivery by Hughes was palmed away by Young and Charlton won a corner. Darren Bent went down, Marcus Bent turned and slammed in a shot but it was inches wide. Loud boos rang round the ground as the half came to an end.

Half time: Addicks 0, Chairboys 1

The team came out clutching a sheet of Les Reed's famous coaching instructions, as sold throughout the USA, but it had little immediate effect. Wycombe took a corner conceded by Sankofa quickly followed by a second, but Fortune headed away for a throw in. Hughes tried a shot that Young saved comfortably. Darren Bent had a half chance with a pass from Hughes, but couldn't control it.

Marcus Bent made a good run, but Young kneed the ball away. The Addickted started to give derisory and ironic cheers. Darren Bent played Marcus Bent through and Martin had to make a good clearance. Charlton had their best chance as Darren Bent raced down the right, breaking the offside trap, but it fell to Faye rather than Marcus Bent who put it wide.

Grant came off and was replaced by Palmer. Charlton fans started to leave with little to warm them on a cold evening. Easter was booked. Faye was replaced by Holland while Sam replaced Thomas. As Hughes lost the ball badly, the boos rang out. Hasselbaink came on to replace Sankofa.

A shot by Marcus Bent was easily gathered by Young. As Les Reed picked the ball up, he was jeered by Charlton fans. Hasselbaink made a decent effort and Young had to palm it away at the second attempt. Boos rang out again as Les Reed touched the ball. A header by Darren Bent nearly fell into the path of his namesake, but Young was able to take care of it. Traore played an appalling ball from halfway which was greeted by derisive jeers.

Charlton won their second corner of the game, but Hasselbaink's header went wide with Carson forward. Boos rang round The Valley as the match came to an end. There were particularly loud boos for the useless Reed as he walked off.

Les Reed is doubtless a decent man and a good coach, but he has never managed a team before and on this showing he is not capable of managing one.

Chairboys hope to saw Charlton's legs off

A reported 4,500 Chairboys will be heading to SE7 from Beechy Bucks this evening hoping that League 2 Wycombe Wanderers can put one over a makeshift and demoralised Premiership side that will be missing Luke Young and Andy Reed. The Chairboys certainly have some previous as far as cups are concerned. In 2001 they beat then Premiership side Leicester City 2-1 in the quarter finals at Filbert Street with the help of Belfast-born Ghanaian Roy Essandoah who was recruited as the result of a plea posted on the club's website.

High Wycombe is where we often park up to catch the train en route to The Valley. A friend of mine who has lived in many different places in England said that it was the place he disliked most. Its most notable point is steep hills, one of them occupied by a dry ski slope, although the 18th century Hell Fire Club performed its antics nearby. High Wycombe was, of course, at one time a major centre of the furniture industry.

Adams Park is in a country valley at the end of an industrial estate. The last time I was there was when Charlton Ladies took the league cup off Arsenal. The biggest crowds go there for Wasps rugby matches, Curbs (but especially Mrs Curbs) being a fan of the egg chasers. However, the supporters of the former non-league side do not lack enthusiasm. I remember seeing them play at Rushden and Diamonds and being defeated with gobby manager Lawrie Sanchez being sent to the stands. However, as we walked up the hill to our car we could still hear the Wycombe fans relentlessly chanting 'Chairboys' in their stand.

No doubt they fancy their chances tonight. However, I think it will be the Valley of Death tonight for the Chairboys rather than the nice but hapless Les Reed whose faltering career as head coach will be given a temporary boost. I am going with the prediction made by 'Killer' and forecasting a 2-0 win for the Addicks to take them into the semi-finals.

Paradoxically Charlton could have a cup run as they face relegation. It's happened before, 'Boro being one example. We might as well have a consolation prize, for that's what it is.

I've no doubt that Richard Murray and the other board members are as frustrated as the fans by Charlton's current form, given that they are also genuine supporters. The difference is that they are in a position to do something about it.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Interesting article on Curbs

Tony Cascarino has been described as a 'big girl's blouse' which is itself one of the oddest phrases in the English language, but he has an interesting article on Curbs and Charlton in The Times today. It contained some observations which were new to me, e.g., that Curbs favoured basic wages and big win bonuses at Charlton. Read it at: Cascarino

All water under the bridge now, I know. Some of the list traffic today suggests that 'we should stand by our man' in the form of Les Reed as long as he is manager, pointing out that yet another upheaval would make the club look more foolish and damage morale.

All fair points, but there is a lot at stake. Big clubs like City, Forest, and now possibly Leeds, have dropped down to League 1. Next year sees a big boost in television revenues. If Charlton is an ambitious club, and sometimes there are doubts about the ambition of the fans, they need to stay in the Premiership. Sometimes that requires ruthlessness rather than niceness.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Curbs grinds out result

Former Charlton manager Alan Curbishley ground out a 1-0 victory against Manchester United at Upton Park while Charlton continued to slide into a sinkhole linked with old chalk workings at The Valley. Ignoring the old adage 'if you are in a hole stop digging' it appears that the three year contract signed by Les Reed was a deliberate signal by the Charlton board that they were not interested in recruiting Alan Pardew (not that all Charlton fans think he is the solution).

Simon Walton will certainly be recalled from Ipswich, which should offer a boost, whilst there are strengthening rumours that the wild man of China is going to be signed. However, it will need more than an ability to kick at opponents and spit at referees to solve Charlton's problems, the depth of which Les Reed (and by implication the board) seem unwilling to acknowledge.

Curbs gave an interesting interview in the Sunday Times today, although I think they have a nerve extrapolating from the fact that Curbs operated out of a Portakabin to a claim that he 'had constant "jam tomorrow" promises of a decent training ground.' One thing the board has done is to put considerable investment into Sparrows Lane which is a perfectly good training ground for a mid-table Premiership club (when we were one).

Curbs accepted in the interview that people had found him a '"cautious and unadventurous bread and butter manager." One of the reasons, he said, was the need to dampen excessive expectations at Charlton where they lacked the wherewithal to get where the fans wanted to go.' He continued, 'Eggert wants this club to push on, and he is prepared to back that in a way that Charlton couldn't. [Or wouldn't, given the sums made available to Dowie?]'

Curbs may not, however, find his Icelandic boss as easy to deal with as Richard Murray. 'At Charlton I had a cosy relationship with the chairman ... The one thing that I've found about Eggert is that he's very pushy and wants to do things very quickly. Perhaps I'll have to curb [sic] his enthusiasm a little bit.'

The article makes an insightful comment when it notes that 'Curbishley's glass, one senses, will always be half-empty rather than half-full.' Curbishley himself notes, 'At Charlton after a game I could go home and that was it. This job does not allow that. Our life is going to be different - but it could be excitingly different.'

The Curbs era is over. It is probably now too late to avoid relegation, but what we do need is a set up that will allow us a chance of getting back into the Premiership rather than falling through the floor to League 1, replicating Charlton's famous 1930s ascent in the other direction.

ls Blakey in charge?

The latest edition of 4-4-2 attempts to have some fun at the expense of Les Reed, suggesting that 'Blakey' is now in charge at Charlton, making sure that Luke Young doesn't have a quick fag while the bus is parked at Cemetery Gates. They may not be up to the pun on 'Reg' Varney's name as they also suggest he might be called Stan or Geoff. Still 'he does how to use Pro Zone, so good luck your Addicks.'

I know managing is more about walking the walk rather than talking the talk but Cadzy at Leamington can do a better job than our Les with his statements of self belief that do not inspire confidence. Les looks like someone who has just lost his job as manager of a minor branch of Boots that is being closed down.

Normally I would defend Charlton against statements by so-called pundits, but I think that Alan Hansen is one of the better ones on television and he really tore into Charlton, describing their performance against Liverpool as one of the most inept he had seen in the Premiership. It was evident that there were acres of space for 'Pool to score their two goals.

What one sees is a team that no longer has belief and confidence in itself. As Hansen pointed out, Luke Young is a good player, but he made a series of basic errors, one leading to the Liverpool penalty. The camera focused on his distressed face. Ambrose missing a chance is no great surprise, but Darren Bent's failure to take one speaks volumes.

The guy from Cardiff writing in 4-4-2 suggests that 'if the [Charlton] board got things so drastically wrong [the Dowie appointment] surely they are incapable of making such important decisions and should be replaced by are.' This is arrant nonsense. It was the current Charlton board with Alan Curbishley who rebuilt the club and got it into the Premiership. We don't need to make things even worse by changing the board as well.

Unfortunately this success did create a problem with fan expectations and complaints about 'mid-table mediocrity'. (I was amused to hear two Gooners complaining on the tube last night that Wenger was 'stale' and had 'taken the club as far as he could'). Charlton does have structural problems. In a 4-4-2 feature a Liverpool fan was asked whether success just came down to good management and he replied, 'No, it's a combination of factors including location, fan-base and marketing potential. Look at Charlton, they are a well-run club but they will never be up there.'

Nevertheless, that doesn't mean the club should be in a steeper nosedive than a crashing Doodlebug. The board seemed to be over attached to the merits of their new management 'structure' in making the decision about Dowie. Now, with Les Reed actually signing his new contract, their mood seems to one of obstinate intransigence in rejecting the Pards option. From relegation not be an option, it seems to be relegation with dignity under nice bloke Les Reed.

In the words of Bill Cotton, wakey wakey! We can do better than this and we don't have to put up with it.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Not too good on the excuses

It was no great surprise to learn from a text message when I got back to England today that Charlton had lost 0-3 at home to Liverpool, even if the margin required a penalty and two late goals. When he was at Villa, O'Leary was known for his thick book of excuses, but Les Reed doesn't even seem too strong in this department. All he could say on Sky was that Charlton had a ten minute spell in the second half when it looked as if they might do something.

Before I went away I noticed some comment that some supporters were being too defeatist. Well, one person's defeatism is another person's realism. The gap is opening up between Charlton and other clubs and it is increasingly difficult to see how it is going to be bridged.

Referring to Lithuania's relations with Belarus, Lithuanian prime minister Gediminas Kiriklas sent us a message not to re-invent the bicycle before he made his excuses and scooted off to Brussels. The problem at Charlton is that it increasingly does look us as if the club is bicycle powered, and it's a rather wobbly bicycle at that. Not that I particularly like people from Cardiff writing to 4-4-2 and saying that we should sack the board.

I know this is not a travel page, but a few remarks on Lithuania. A lot of superficial similarities to many other East European countries: considerable investment in restoring a beautiful town centre in Vilnius; people who have done well out of the transition and those (mostly the old) who have lost out; impossibly skinny women inappropriately dressed for the weather; excellent food at low prices. But it is also the most foreign country I have visited in the world apart from Japan and the remoter parts of China.

This was one of those occasions when it was all going off before you get there and it went off even more after my arrival. I don't pretend to understand all the undercurrents and tensions I encountered, although I was surprised by the mood of pessimism (which was at least fitting for a Charlton supporter). I was quite surprised to suddenly have an attack launched on David ('call me Dave') Cameron as the British Berlusconi.

Put on the spot at the end of my visit by a questioner, I did say that I thought Lithuania was more inward looking than the other Baltic state I have visited for any length of time, Estonia. But then I also recall that it also went off there, even after the UK had deployed assets. And to understand the Lithuanian situation, you have to remember that they were part of the Soviet Union until fifteen years ago; and that their partisan resistance suffered badly in the period up to 1955 when they were fighting the Soviets encouraged by false promises from the west; and that they have a border with Belarus and the Russian exclave of Kalingrad.

So a bit off topic, the only local football I had time for was to buy a few badges. As for Charlton, perhaps they should bring the Lithuanian Special Investigaton Service to run them. On second thoughts, perhaps not.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Curbs: send Bent across river

Alan Curbishley is expected to sign as West Ham manager today (confirmed as I sit here at Gatwick waiting for my delayed flight to Vilnius) and reports are suggesting that his first transfer target will be Darren Bent. There is no news about Marcus Bent or Bryan Hughes.

With a mooted fee of £10m, it would be difficult for the Charlton board to resist. He would fetch far less in a fire sale at the end of the season.

Bent's departure would leave the goal starved Addicks lightweight up front, especially if one of our heavyweights, JFH, departs for Watford as rumoured. The club has, however, been linked with Crewe forward Luke Varney who might welcome even half a season in the Premiership and could adapt to Championship football.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Curbs: I am up for Irons

Alan Curbishley has publicly stated that it would be a 'massive honour' to be manager of West Ham and he hopes to open talks soon. Curbs declared his hand in the Daily Excess which had to make space by dropping a story that Princess Diana's driver was poisoned by Russian agents in league with the Duke of Edinburgh.

Former Addick Rob Lee heaped praise on Curbs in a Radio 5 interview declaring him to be a 'brilliant' manager. He was able to get the best out of players, they liked him, and he was thorough and methodical.

No doubt this will make little impression on hardline critics of Curbs who will presumably expect West Ham to be relegated if he becomes their manager. Ironically, some of those who seem happy to settle for mid-table mediocrity in the Championship were critical of Curbs for delivering mid-table mediocrity in the Premiership.

But we have to move on. Rob Lee was critical of both the Charlton and West Ham chairmen for the sackings of their respective managers. The fans were not calling for them to go and the chairmen had, in his view, been affected by panic at the thought of losing Premiership revenues.

Charlton would say, of course, that Iain Dowie failed to fit in with the newly devised structure, but one wonders if that is a bit of management speak that has been turned into a shibboleth.

It's Wednesday so it must be Lithuania

Exhausted by the flight from the UK and a day's tough negotiations, I make a less than convincing job of explaining to a colleague from Brazil why the British have reneged on their commitments. Photo taken at Chile's Diplomatic Academy before a dinner hosted by the country's Acting Foreign Secretary

Last month it was Chile in the Latin American spring, tomorrow I put my UN hat on and head for a freezing cold Lithuania. In Chile it has all gone off since I left, in Lithuania it appears to be going off before I arrive. My understanding of relations between Poland, the Baltic States, Ukraine and most problematically Belarus is sketchy to say the least, but my arrival does not appear to be entirely welcome. I have been briefed to counter surly indifference with verve and enthusiasm which is a bit difficult for a Charlton supporter at the moment.

Unless I take a parachute and bail out over The Valley I am going to miss the match against Liverpool as I will be flying back from Vilnius. These have often been fun in the past and have involved goals from some unlikely players. Keith Jones scored the winner in our first Premiership season; 'super' Kevin Lisbie got a hat trick; and Luke Young scored last year in a 2-0 win that had London Scousers moaning at the station that their night out had been spoilt. So what about Kishishev to score on Saturday? I am going for a 1-1 draw which is not enough in our present plight.

Both the high moral ground and financial considerations suggest that Charlton should stick with Les Reed and not entice Pards to The Valley. Unfortunately, I think that Les Reed is going to take us down and won't get us up again, whereas Pards might not be able to avoid the former, but could achieve the latter. If Les Reed decided that he was happier in his former role, that might be the best outcome for all concerned. Otherwise it's the relegation hokey cokey.

Current workload has made it difficult for me to get to The Valley, not least because it's a five hour round trip. My absence has drawn some criticism from elements of the retired support who have the luxury of unlimited time. I do hope to get back sooner or later and the blog will resume when I get back from the Baltic States (or even continue while I am there if I can find an internet café). Meantime, in the words of Peter Varney, enjoy the game.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Curbs in after Pards out at Irons?

Alan Curbishley is hot favourite to be the new West Ham manager after Alan Pardew was sacked from the relegation threatened Irons today. The former Charlton manager has a long-standing relationship with the Upton Park club, based on his own East London origins and has been touted as a possible supremo there before. He would not even have to move from his Essex home.

In the past former Addick Pardew was seen as a possible replacement for Curbs at The Valley, indeed many thought he was the favourite at one time. Given that Les Reed is not finding the full management role easy, could Pards be brought in with Reed reverting to a coaching role?

Preparing for the Championship?

The Sunday Times commented yesterday, 'It is very hard to see what Charlton can do to save themselves.' The New York Addick, who runs one of the most hard headed Charlton blogs, has pointed out that if the Addicks are going to rely just on home form, they need to get 30 points from 11 matches to secure safety from relegation. That isn't going to happen. Hence, the New York Addick is arguing that we need to prepare for the Championship now and offload players like Darren Bent while we can still get a decent price for them. Read his analysis here: New York

What has surprised me is the number of Charlton fans who have argued that we would be better off in the Championship. Some of it, of course, may be whistling in the dark and if Charlton do get relegated, fans will have to make the best of it.

Leaving aside spurious reasons such as we would get to play Palace (because we have descended to their level) and the pubs and trains would be less crowded (because we would have fewer fans), the serious argument seems to run on the lines set out below.

The Championship is a highly competitive league and any team can beat any other. There are no matches where one has little realistic hope of winning or even getting a draw as in the Premiership. Charlton would start to win some matches. The atmosphere at The Valley would be better because the 'it's a cheap way to watch the Premiership/see my big team in London' crowd would have gone.

I think that some fans see us a kind of Burnley, not serious promotion candidates but not threatened with relegation either. I actually went to a game in Burnley (v. Hull) in October and I can tell you that the town is grim (as grim as I have seen outside the US), the game was poor and the wooden seats were hard. Even so, the bloke beside me fell asleep during the game. In truth there are very few teams like Burnley in the Championship. Sooner or later, most teams go up or down. It happened to Port Fail: I remember reading in their programme once when went there that 'it is our ambition to remain in Division 1 for years to come.'

What this argument about a competitive Championship overlooks is that given that the Championship has many good teams in it, Charlton could go on losing matches and end up in League 1. It happened to the Massives and Forest and we don't have their support base to sustain us. Much as it pains me to admit it, a good friend of mine has a point when she argues that Charlton has a somewhat down market image. The club could then be in real financial trouble.

Another argument is that fans in general are fed up with the Premiership, the players are overpaid, there are too many foreigners, and the football is not that exciting. Many Premiership players earn more in a week than I do in a year, but I don't begrudge them that. A bit of simple economics would show that when you have very limited supply and strong demand, odd things happen to price. It may be that some of the purchases made turn out to be over valued, but the same is true of, say, fine art.

As someone who is more interested in club than international football, I'm not that bothered about the foreign players. Their presence reflects a more global, cosmopolitan world and English football was too conservative for too long. One of the things I enjoy about the Premiership is actually seeing the supposedly top players and being able to make my own evaluation of them. In a way it's like going to Stratford and seeing years ago a much younger Judy Dench or Helen Mirren on stage.

We hear a lot of talk about how fans are fed up with the Premiership and its prices and are going to watch non-league football. I watch non-league football as well and I enjoy it, but it's a completely different type of experience. Premiership aggregate attendances are holding up as are viewing figures. Next year a lucrative new television contract kicks in and Charlton look like losing out.

Rick Everitt is not everyone's cup of tea, but he is Charlton through and through and has a good head on his shoulders. As he has recently commented, 'The problem isn't necessarily with playing a season or two in the Football League, it's the fact that you have to meet Premiership outgoings on Football League revenues, plus the parachute money. By and large players don't sign one year, or "except if we get relegated" contracts, so going down may mean you have to reduce the level of quality in your squad below what you need to come back. It may mean you have to reduce it so far you are at risk of dropping another level.'

So let's not pretend that relegation is anything but a major setback for the club. How we got into this position is a matter for debate but it is clear that the post-Curbishley transition has not been handled well. Nevertheless, if anyone can find a way out, it's the current board. And, as the New York Addick suggests, that may mean starting to plan for Championship football.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Varney: first Academy to go in two years

Clubs are starting to discuss closing their academies, according to Charlton chief executive Peter Varney in an interview in The Times. Charlton's Academy has not exactly produced a stream of talent in recent years, so could there have been discussions about its future?

Varney said that he expected the first Academy to close within the next two years. 'If you are investing a sum of money at one end and nothing is coming out the other, it is inevitable that someone will look at their academy and say. "Why bother?" There's such a global market for players now that it's easier for managers to go out and buy the finished article.'

The underlying problem, according to Varney, is a short-termism that has fuelled the importing of foreign players and impeded the progress of players from under-18 level to the first team. 'The demands of Premier League football are so intense that managers can live or die on a weekly basis.' [Iain Dowie would know about that] 'You can hear them saying it, "This is time for experience, not for kids." Kids need to be nurtured, kids need time, and managers can't give them that - the truth is slowly, slowly we are destroying the production line of talent. Ultimately there will not be a route for an Englishman to the top.'

According to Varney, Lee Bowyer and Scott Parker, who came up through Charlton, might never have made it through the youth system today. Both took time to bridge the gap between youth team and first team football and today they may never have been given the time to emerge.

Varney's comments will no doubt resonate with many Charlton fans and fans more generally. I am somewhat sceptical about whether football can generally stand aside from globalising forces, but that is another story and one I will be writing about soon at another Charlton blog.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Trams' tickets clipped by Brakes

I still have my 'Last Tram Week Ticket' from 1952, last week we were on the Sheffield trams, but this Saturday we had a view of the top of the Croydon trams from the stand in the Croydon Sports Arena. As Crystal Palace were beaten 3-1 one mile away at Sellout Park, Croydon (sponsored by Selhurst Timber and Builders Merchants) were knocked out of the FA Vase by Leamington with a late goal. Meanwhile, texts had brought us news of Charlton's 5-1 defeat at Spurs.

The Croydon programme noted that Leamington 'do have one big advantage over suburban clubs insofar as the locals have a feel for their locality and organisations in a way that many in this area do not.' The programme urged such supporters as there were 'Ding, ding ding ... Come on you Trams!'

Brakes had countless chances in the first half, but failed to find the back of the net. Trams stepped up a gear in the second half, helped by the homer antics of the Orpington referee backed up by linos from Woolwich and Bexleyheath. Trams were awarded a penalty, but Jason Piercey's Football League experience showed when he made the save.

As extra time loomed, Ben Mackey scored a super goal to give the game to the Brakes. The ref added about seven minutes on, but trams were unable to ding their bell. On the way back we got the news that FC United, the Vase favourites, had been knocked and we even got a mention on 606. Better than being at the Lane.

62% chance of Spurs win

Tuesday's last gasp winner against Blackburn triggered the biggest celebrations in SE7 since, well I was going to say VE day, but really since the play off victory against Sunderland (the return to the Premiership was dampened by a 0-3 home defeat by Ipswich).

But it's back to reality at White Hart Lane today and, despite Charlton's good recent record there, the Fink Tank run for The Times by Warwick University's Decision Technology Group is giving a 62% chance of a home win, a 15% chance of an away win and a 23% chance of a draw.

On the Iberian blog, cocky Spurs fans are forecasting a 3-0 victory as they head towards another historic double. This puzzled me, but then I remember that Les Reed is treating it as a home game. So the Charlton team will be sitting in the dressing room at The Valley thinking that the recent run of bad form has really hit attendances and the ref will have to award a 3-0 victory to Spurs.

I think a draw is possible, but I am plumping for another 2-1 away defeat as Charlton fail to deal with their problems playing away - which they will have to do if they are to escape relegation.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Trainee match analyst named for Trams clash


Trainee match analyst Ivy gets her first reporting assignment at tomorrow's FA Vase clash between Croydon and Leamington. Senior match analyst Hooch the Pooch said that the rescue dog was 'a quick learner. This is just the sort of match for a puppy to cut her teeth on, plus she can sort out any low lifes who wander over from Sellout Park.'

Senior match analyst Hooch the Pooch gives Ivy the good news on a training walk on the towpath of the Grand Union canal near his Long Itchington, Warwicks home

Ivy is having a sleep over at Hooch's canalside Long Itchington home so that she can receive final instruction on the offside rule. 'The cardinal rule', said Hooch, 'is that the human linos get it wrong at least fifty per cent of the time.'

Addicks in for Julian de Guzman?

Central midfield has been a weakness in the Charlton line up and the latest transfer rumour has the Addicks in for Julian de Guzman of Deportivo la Coruna. He is a Canadian international which should please the Hamilton, Ontario chapter of the international supporters' club who have constantly called for more Maple Leafs in the Charlton squad. However, he joined Coruna on a four year contract in 2005 so he wouldn't be on a Bosman. To pay his wages and the transfer fee, other players would have to be let go or loaned out. Names on a postcard to Les Reed.

Brakes head for South London in Trams clash

Leamington travel to South London tomorrow to play Croydon at their ground a mile from Sellout Park in the third round of the FA Vase. A fleet of coaches will be heading south from the New Windmill Ground with 300 Brakesmen and women expected to make the trip. Brakes are currently 10 points ahead at the top of the Polymac Services Midland Alliance, having accumulated 50 points so far this season when they have won sixteen and drawn two.

Brakes manager Jason Cadden has been preparing seriously for the tie which has £1,200 prize money at stake and could see Leamington in the last 32 of the Vase. He had Croydon watched at their last away game at Herne Bay when they won 2-1 to go fourth in the Kent League.

Trams sign former Manure striker

Brakes received a blow with the news that Trams supremo Dickson Gill has enticed yesterday a former Manchester United striker to play Kent League football. The Croydon chief has brought Marc Whiteman, 24, to the South Norwood club, having signed the former Lewes hit-man from Sussex County League side Ringmer.

Whiteman, a former trainee at Old Trafford, has also played for Bury, Weymouth and Lewes amongst others. Gill commented, 'He's a proven goalscorer. He scored thirty goals for Lewes in the year they got promotion from Ryman One - it's a big plus for us.'

Mr Gill revealed he will need to think long and hard before deciding whether his star signing will make his debut on Saturday. Playing mind games, he said, 'I'm not quite decided. I have to sleep on it. I have to decide whether to change the side or keep the side that's been doing well but I'm happy that I've added him to the squad.'

But Croydon will be without former Bromley full-back Kwabena Amaning for the FA Vase showdown as he is getting married. 'He's been doing very well, it's a big blow for us but that's one of those things in life, in football, it happens,' said Mr Gill, who has clearly been studying Big Ronish.

A friend who is a coach in the Kent League comments, 'Croydon are known as the Trams, as their stadium is overlooked by a stop on the Croydon supertram network. And it is a stadium, an athletics stadium. It is a vast, soul-less, character-free prairie that would sap the spirit of the most ardent fan. Don't go! If you do, take a telescope.

The clubhouse is so far from the changing rooms that we have never been in the clubhouse. Football? Not played them yet in the Kent League (we used to go there in the Suburban League with Tonbridge Reserves). Background is they were in the Ryman Premier until about three years ago, then took two successive relegations. Started this season looking to continue the run, but the chairman sacked the manager and took over the team himself since when they have done well, i.e he has put a lot of money into the team. Must be his own money, nobody ever watches them, para two refers.' Tomorrow, however, they are expected to have one of their biggest ever crowds.

Incidentally, there is an amusing debate going on on the Brakes web boards about whether or not CV31 (south of the river) or CV32 (north of the river) is the true Leamington, some CV31ers referring to CV32 as 'South Coventry'. In truth, it's a bit like North Oxford, apart from Cubbington and Lillington.

We will be providing a full report tomorrow and this may be the first time a dog reporter goes to a Brakes game given the importance of the match. Well, it will be good fun anyway.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Irrational exuberance

There seems to have been an outbreak of this (originally a term used by Federal Reserve boss Greenspan to refer to the US stock market) at Charlton following the victory over Blackburn. Admittedly the way in which the victory was won was particularly stunning and to win any victory is an advance on recent performances. Some people have claimed that Sheffield United were actually quite good, but we were so poor that we made them look good. If we had gone on playing like that, we would have been doomed. Football is a confidence game and the result will give a large morale boost to the players.

I wasn't at the match, but it is interesting that one lister who was commented that we still weren't playing mid-table football. From the comments of others, and the radio commentary, it would appear that the formation still had some problems. Nevertheless, optimists are now proclaiming four points from the next two matches.

It's true that we have quite a good record against Spurs away. Indeed Spurs supporters amuse me more than any others in the Premiership. If the Haringey club strings a few wins together, they are all over 606 proclaiming that this is the year they will be in the Champions League. Lose a few and they are all moaning that the traditions of one of the country's top five clubs [sic] that won the double have been violated.

We have also managed to beat Liverpool at home, not least last year when we spoilt what was supposed to be a good night out for London scousers. I also remember the 1-0 win when the goal was scored by Keith Jones.

Nevertheless, I would rank the most likely outcomes as:
1. Draw at Spurs, lose to Liverpool (1 point)
2. Draw both matches (2 points)
3. Lose at Spurs, beat Liverpool (3 points)

As it's Charlton, they will probably beat Spurs and lose to Liverpool at home!

In other words we are unlikely to get out of the relegation zone that soon. If we accept that Watford and the Blades are going to go down (and I still think the Blades are a poor side), who will be the third team? Not the Hampsters given all that Icelandic dosh. I think it is possible that the Massives, a team often proclaimed as too big to go down (as they descended to what is really the third division) could be for the drop.

Among all the euphoria there has been little comment at the attendance which was somewhat over 23,000, the smallest at The Valley this season. Remember that season ticket holders are automatically counted whether they are there or not (this is standard practice) so the true figure could have been as low as 21,000. Of course, Rovers brought few supporters for a midweek game in London.

Nevertheless, it should ring alarm bells. Some of the more experimental Valley Express services are on the fringe of viability as it is. Of course, the people who do marketing would say they have no influence on what happens on the pitch, all they can do is market the club as effectively as they can. And when one gets a result like last night, the chants of young supporters in Ransome Walk are a joy to hear, as one leading Valley figure commented.

Because Charlton does a lot of things well such as its community work there is a risk of self-satisfaction and complacency. It's also actually quite a difficult club in which to express any dissent, otherwise you risk getting jumped on by grumpy old men from beechy Bucks. But that's another story.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Kins is back

We are receiving reports, as yet unconfirmed, that Wembley final hero Mark Kinsella, most recently with Walsall, has been hired as development coach at Charlton. If this is correct, it is good news as he was an inspirational captain at The Valley and hopefully he can revitalise our Academy but also provide leadership in the club as a whole.

Perry to leave West Brom

Former Charlton defender Chris Perry is heading for the exit at the Baggies after a bust up with manager Tony Mowbray. Apparently, the row started when he was dropped in favour of a replacement player, also he had a suspension coming up. Peterborough are reportedly interested in him.

Perry was a popular figure at The Valley, even though there was some criticism of his lack of height? Do we want him back? Probably not. However, some consider that he would be good for short-term cover in case we have an injuries crisis in defence, particularly bearing in mind that Fortune often looks like a Championship player.

Last night's victory was clearly a big morale booster for those who were there. There has been some comment on the early leaver syndrome, always a mistake at Charlton as David Lodge commented in his novel about growing up in S.E.London. It's actually an international phenomenon. I saw a stream of early leavers at a thinly attended match in Chile last month. You even get it at Leamington, although that's understandable given that getting out of the car park into the racetrack that is Harbury Lane is difficult.

Charlton fans needed to beware of the goldfish syndrome. One swallow doesn't make a summer (ok, that's enough metaphors). But if Charlton get one point out of the next two matches, they will be doing well.

The match was a big boost for Lloyd Sam advocates. I remain somewhat sceptical because I have seen many players have a great first match (start) at The Valley and then fade - or even a great first season, e.g., JJ. But sooner or later I have no doubt that we will see a Sam goal for Charlton and if I am there I will join in the applause.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

El Karkouri scores last minute winner for Addicks

Fans had something to be pleased about at the start of the game against Blackburn at The Valley, reports Erith Addick Paul May. Lloyd Sam received his first Premiership start, replacing Rommedahl. Bryan Hughes and battling Radostin Kishishev were also brought in with Ambrose and Holland, both disappointing at Sheffield, withdrawn.

Carson dealt with a ball rather casually, but fortunately it fell to Luke Young rather than the predatory Pedersen. Sam was lively in the early play on this historic day with Charlton adopting a fluid formation. The Addicks were not clearing crosses into the box well to Carson's annoyance. Keen to make an impression, Sam conceded his second free kick.

Blackburn advanced well and Hreidarsson had to make an important block. The Valley went quiet with no clear pattern to the play as the quarter hour mark approached. Bent turned provider for Hughes but his effort was saved by Friedel in the Blackburn goal. Bent advanced and Friedel had to come to the edge of his area to clear. A header from Pedersen went just wide, although Carson had the near post covered.

After good possession play Kishishev put in a decent effort that curled just wide of Friedel's far post. Bent forged forward, but Friedel was able to deal with the ball.

Blackburn won the first corner of the game off Traore on 23 minutes but the ball from Pedersen went straight out of play. A snap shot from Hughes on the edge of the box was gathered on the ground by Friedel. There were justified shouts for a penalty as Sam was challenged in the area, but referee Chris Foy refused to give anything.

Traore had to be taken off and was replaced by Diawara. Diawara took over at centre half with Hreidarisson taking on the left back role. Darren Bent appeared to have taken a blow as he held his stomach. Lloyd Sam got into a promising position after Bent had fed the ball to him, but under pressure from Blackburn defenders he put it over on the half hour. Tbe offside flag went up rather late against Sam.

Pedersen made a meal of a challenge by Hughes and the midfielder was booked. Neill was booked by the referee to even things up. The game started to get more physical.
McCarthy had a free header but did not put the ball away after an initial save by Carson and in any case the linesman rightly judged him to be offside. As the match went into stoppage time, Charlton had a free kick in a promising position, but Reid's effort went all the way through to Friedel. Carson made a good stop as Blackburn threatened in the last minute of the half.

It was not an incident packed half, apart from the denied penalty, but Charlton had looked brighter and showed more fight than they did at Sheffield.

Half time: Addicks 0, Rovers 0

Friedel made a save from Hughes after good work involving Reid and Sam. McCarthy put a shot into the side netting. McCarthy threatened, but El Karkouri made a great challenge.

Charlton won their first corner of the game on 57 minutes, but it was taken short and wasted. Emerton went down with a hamstring injury and had to be taken off and was replaced by Peter.

Kishishev conceded a corner to Blackburn. It was taken short and Darren Bent fired it behind at the near post for a second corner. Faye cleared, but the ball came back in again, but eventually it was cleared.

Charlton won a corner through good play by Sam. Hreidarsson had a free header and should have scored but headed over from six yards out. Lloyd Sam was taken off on 70 minutes to a standing ovation and replaced by Marcus Bent.

Charlton won another corner, but it was headed away by Henchoz. Friedel made a good save with his feet from Darren Bent. Carson had to palm a ball away.

Charlton won another corner after a free kick for a foul by Savage on Reid. Hreidarsson's effort was blocked on the line. Luke Young made a good run down the right but was pulled back by Gray but no card was shown.

Andy Reid won Charlton's fifth corner of the game, but it was unproductive. Would it have been a good time to risk Rommedahl? However, it was Matt Holland who came on in place of Kishishev.

A poor back pass placed Friedel in danger, but he dealt with the situation well. Just two minutes were added on. Reid put in a decent cross and the Addickted thought there should have been a corner. Henchoz got a yellow card for blocking Marcus Bent. From the free kick El Karkouri scored to give Charlton the three points and took them off the bottom.

Iain Dowie interview

The link to Iain Dowie's interview with Sky Sports News in which he said that getting that a sack was a surprise is here:


The interview is dignified and all credit to Dowie for that. I was shocked when he went and wondered if he had a 'fair go'. But as fans we only see the tip of the iceberg. Indeed, one well-known Charlton figure has commented that having condemned the appointment of Dowie on the basis of one interview, Charlton fans are now praising him on the basis of one interview.

The fight back starts here?

Some Addicks think that Charlton's fight back could start at The Valley tonight against Blackburn. We have had plenty of false dawns and although Blackburn are only 14th in the table, they are no mean side. The worst case scenario would be for that former patron of New Cross night clubs, Franny Jeffers, to score against us.

Blackburn have played a crucial and not always welcome role in Charlton's history, most crucially on 28 April 1958 when Charlton needed one point to get back to the top flight in the last game of the season and the Lancashire side beat them 4-3 at The Valley, going up themselves. There were unsubstantiated rumours that there was something a little odd about that match.

Three games are not a fair basis to judge Reed and Robson, but I am concerned that he is not enough of a risk taker. 4-4-2 from the start at Sheffield could have done for United's injury weakend defence, not to mention their podgy keeper who reportedly lost an eyebrow in a fight with a mate over his wife.

Rommedahl did look insipid at Bramall Lane and, with the usual sentimental attachment to relative youth, some Addicks are calling for Lloyd Sam to start. All I can say is that when I have seen him I have not been that impressed. And if he is that good, why did he not set the world on fire when he was at Sheffield Wednesday?

Indeed, some people are going further, calling for the young Icelandic striker Gislasson to be introduced, although he is not actually on the squad list. There is a world of difference between turning in a decent performance at Stonebridge Road and thriving in the Premiership.

If Diawara is fit, it would be good to see him back in to shore up Charlton's desperate defence. But the real problem is in midfield and I really don't know what the answer is there. Some are calling for a start for Kishishev, but he didn't impress me that much at United when he came on as a substitute.

I had a BBC film crew in my office yesterday for an interview for a programme on Doug Ellis. One of them was a Blue and saw a photo of myself with Bryan Hughes and remarked that he was a good player but inconsistent.

So much depends on Andy Reid who has real fighting spirit reflected in the 'Reid Robbo' chant heard at Sheffield. At one point television commentators in Argentina called him El Gorbito ('little fatty'), but they then changed that to 'El Nuevo Rooney'.

I notice that some of the usual suspects are crawling out from under their stones and calling for Richard Murray to resign. He is the creator of the modern Charlton and he is still badly needed to steer the club out of its present problems. Whitehand in, Murray out? No thanks.

Don't let's kid ourselves that the club can attract a quality foreign investor. The support base is too small and even the Target 40,000 people are now admitting it's a case of shoring up attendances.

I won't be there tonight and I won't be watching Charlton again until after Christmas. It's time to take a break from all the misery they bring. In simple practical terms, my work load is increasing exponentially and I am not getting any younger. It's a five hour round trip to The Valley and a 1 a.m. return to Warwickshire for a mid-week match and I need to be in work at 8 a.m. I do enjoy the atmosphere of an evening game in winter at The Valley and I shall miss it tonight, but sometimes common sense has to prevail over sentiment.

I don't have a clear sense of a possible result tonight. The three most likely results to me are 1-0, 1-1 or 0-2. Anyway, gritty, gutsy and gobby Paul May will be there to report on the game for you.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Bent to be barcoded?

The Mail on Sunday found time to run a story on Darren Bent going to Newcastle. It's a wonder they didn't focus on 'House prices plummet in SE7 as New Labour Charlton face relegation'.

Apparently the relegation threatened big club have offered us Steve Carr and James Milner in part-exchange. Carr is no use to us and we do not want any more cast offs from Newcastle. James Milner is a good player, but worth no more than £3-4million.

If they changed the initial and said they wanted Bent (M), perhaps we could do a deal. If they want Darren Bent, they need to start by putting £10m on the table or a combination of cash and Milner.