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Sunday, April 29, 2007

You mean you don't like Manchester?

I have to go to Manchester for the day tomorrow which I do now and then. I know quite a few people who live there. They tell me the city these days has changed: good restaurants, plenty of cultural activities, Didsbury is like a London suburb.

And, of course, they're right. Is my dislike of Manchester simply a Londoner's distaste for provincial cities? But then I quite like Liverpool and Newcastle.

I suppose my attitude towards the city is to some extent influenced by its football teams. When there is a United home game, the M6 is full of people travelling up from London and the South-East. Some of them no doubt have Manchester origins, but not all of them.

But then is Manchester City a more authentic club? One of my Manchester friends who has little interest in football manages to spit out the words with a unique venom. Having said that, my doctor, who is a nice guy, is a City supporter.

I suppose my problem with City is that they are one of those clubs, like Spurs, whose fans think they are much bigger than they really are - which is why I call them the 'Massives'. The stadium is splendid, albeit provided on very favourable terms by Moonchester City Council, but it's in a run down area of East Manchester where parking is difficult.

Not that that looks like being an issue for us next year. Here is your first cut and paste web guide on finding next year's grounds. Clue on the club: I sat next to one of its directors at lunch once and he was a potato farmer:

Where?

Could Allardyce resignation affect Pards?

The surprise resignation of Sam Allardyce as Bolton manager could have knock on efforts for Charlton, some sources are claiming. Allardyce is being linked with a move to Manchester City. However that would probably depending on the takeover of the Massives by the consortium led by Ray Ranson succeeding. This is by no means certain given that there are American suitors who seem to be preferred by the club: Massives

Pardew could be a candidate to replace Allardyce at Bolton, although there has also been speculation about a summer move to St.James's Park. Should a move of this kind take place, and it is only speculation, it is thought that Phil Parkinson would take over at The Valley, at least on an interim basis.

When it's a slow news day



Black and white live television with heavy, relatively immobile cameras

When I was waiting for the hook up via satellite truck with Sky News on the West Ham story on Friday, I was reflecting how much television had changed since I first appeared back in the late 1950s at the age of twelve.

In most respects it has changed for the better. I remember one particularly poor ITV programme I appeared in called 'In Search of Adventure' which was supposed to be directed at a 'teenage' audience. If there was any adventure out there, we didn't find it. I don't know who was more embarrassed, the compere (a decent drummer) or me as we struggled to liven things up.

These days its often a slow news day when Sky comes on the line. If I'm in London, they might ask me to drop into Millback and fill in for some minutes. The last time I was there a few weeks ago the studio was so quiet that people were sitting around chatting about their holiday plans. Or at the weekend they might ask me to get down to Stratford on Avon with the satellite truck and do something on 'Englishness' in front of the Shakespeare birthplace.

Sometimes when Radio 5 have had a staffing crisis they have asked me on to cover the graveyard slot phone in. There you are with four callers on the monitor and you know that most of them have had a drink or have views out of left field or both. Most weeks I do some radio for someone, even if it's only Saga Radio.

I rarely get paid for any of this (although for some reason BBC Wales and Scotland do), although I have to log all my appearances and it is considered in my annual salary review. But the honest truth is that I am hooked on media work and I love being in the studio even if the audience is in the hundreds. So I will be missing the Spurs game, which is a mixed blessing, as I will be in Helsinki as a prelude to the main event. Yawn
Indeed, it's going to be a rush to get back to The Valley on Tuesday for the sponsors' evening.

Tonight ITV London and Anglia will be repeating a retrospective interview with me at 6 p.m. in the Fragment Films programme The Way We Were.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

I'm gutted

I'm gutted, writes Erith Addick Paul May after Charlton, reduced to nine men by the end of the match, went down 4-1 at Blackburn. I didn't expect it too be easy, but I didn't expect it to be this bad. The Addickted thousands did their best, but it looks like coaches for Scunthorpe next season.

It was 0-0 at half time after a half in which neither side created much. Charlton's best chance of the half came on ten minutes when Darren Ambrose managed the beat the offside trap and only a challenge from Samba denied Bent a shot. On 23 minutes Pedersen headed over the bar. Then Carson had to deal with an effort by Roberts from the edge of the area.

On 30 minutes Bent scored, but it was ruled offside and probably just was. Blackburn edged the half, but Charlton kept their heads. They put on some more pressure as the half came to an end, although this left them exposed at the bnack. Given that we tend to be goalless draw specialists, I wondered if that was going to be the outcome.

The Addicks started quite brightly after the break and Holland had a chance but managed to put the ball in the side netting.

Carson has been fantastic for us all season, but he made a fatal error in this game. Perhaps the tension got to him. He appeared to be dealing with a drive from Roberts after he had got past El Karkouri but somehow let it slip out of his hands and trickle over the line to put Blackburn 1-0 ahead on 60 minutes. It was a bit reminiscent of Deano against a bottom of the table Swindon.

Four minutes later Thatcher managed to get himself off, after showing his combative side by making a late tackle on Roberts that earned him his second yellow. On 67 minutes Zheng was brought on in place of Thomas in the hope that he could provide a Chinese cracker.

But then Warnock made a poor header back to Friedel. The ball hit his own crossbar, presenting Darren Bent with an easy equaliser from a header on 71 minutes.

The Herminator then managed to put Blackburn ahead through an interception with his knee of a cross from Pedersen on 77 minutes, Ambrose subsequently being taken off in favour of Rommedahl. Just three minutes later, poor defending by the Addicks allowed Roberts time to turn and shoot under Carson to make it 3-1.

This was a bitter blow for Charlton and it only took another three minutes for sub Derbyshire to find himself unattended by any defenders on the right (Bougherra having replaced Marcus Bent). He shot a fierce drive into the far corner.

Bent hit the bar, but another goal would not have compensated for earlier defensive lapses. The injured El Karkouri had to come off, leaving Charlton to struggle on with nine men.

With West Ham and Sheffield United both winning, Charlton fell to second from bottom. I know that we are only two points behind and that we could rally at home against Tottenham, but it looks like Burnley and Plymouth next season.

The Tevez affair

A lot of Addicks are understandably upset about the Tevez affair. West Ham were not just economical with the actualité in their dealings with the Premiership over the transfers. One of their officials was found to have lied to the Premiership chief executive.

It's interesting to see how this story developed on Friday. When Sky rang me to go on air over the phone at 1.50 p.m., the word was that Tevez could be permitted to play. By the time the satellite truck had turned up from Milton Keynes at 4 p.m., what I was hearing from the studio was that, because of the complications involved, Tevez was unlikely to be cleared to play against Wigan.

Hey presto, by the evening, Tevez is cleared to play. But it should be remembered that all this is consistent with the Premiership's stated wish to return to their good relationship with West Ham.

As the European Commission pointed out some time ago, the Premiership is a cartel. Under pressure from the UK Government, they failed to follow through on the logic of that position.

If you look at this from the point of view of the Premiership as a commercial operation, which it is, how is the London football market structured in terms of crowds but, above all, television appeal? Right at the top are Arsenal and Chelsea. Then (again alphabetically) come Spurs and West Ham. Way behind are Charlton and Fulham.

Paul Allen, a highly respected man in Seattle when I lived there, seems to be behind the Southampton bid on the grounds that is a 'family club'. Where are the bidders for Charlton? Not to be seen because it is not an attractive proposition in a crowded London football market.

These are issues to be thought about further if all does not go well today. Meantime, good luck to those who are travelling. Paul May will be reporting from Ewood Park later today.

Friday, April 27, 2007

West Ham escape with big fine

West Ham have been fined £5.5m after being found guilty over the transfers of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano. This is half of the parachute payment they will receive if relegated. But the Irons have avoided a points deduction which could have ended their hopes of staying in the Premeirship.

The club was found guilty of acting improperly and withholding vital documentation over the duo's ownership. Among the stated reasons for the decision not to deduct points was because of a guilty plea and the club is under new management and ownership.

I've just done a piece for Sky and listening to the feed beforehand the position re Tevez is complicated but it seems unlikely he will play tomorrow. For that to happen West Ham would have to buy him off the former owners or negotiate a formal loan deal with them.

It's grim oop north

The record of Charlton's appearances at Blackburn, supplied to the mailing list by Chalfont St.Peter Addick Dick Sheppard, makes grim reading writes Erith's Paul May. We have lost five in the Premiership, two by a margin of 4-1, and won only once. It's often said that the North-West doesn't suit us.

And, believe it or not, Blackburn fans are still holding on to hopes of qualifying for the Inter Toto Cup. How sad can you get?

The New York Addick has expressed his doubts about how much difference a large away crowd will make, arguing that it could rile Blackburn fans, tired out after a week down the pit. Of course, they may have spent a pleasant morning with their ferrets and in their pigeon lofts. But I see where he is coming from.

On the plus side, we did win a surprise FA Cup victory at Blackburn in our days of struggle with the winning goal scored by a now forgotten player. (I haven't forgotten, but an association with Palace caused problems for the Addickted).

But past form is really irrelevant. It's all about tomorrow. That's why we need the never say die spirit of Matt Holland. Whether Hasselbaink can ever do anything for us I doubt. Anyway, the thinking seems to be that we haven't got the players for 4-4-2 and are better at 4-5-1.

I'm feeling nervous and tense already. But I also have a confidence that, with our backs to the wall, the Charlton way is to make the great escape. See you tomorrow!

BTW, I bet Chalfont St Peter is posher than Erith. Isn't it in Surrey somewhere?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Pards the Pilot



He really does look a pilot that might fly you to the Canary Islands, doesn't he, asks Erith Addick Paul May. But I was glad I'm going on the coach when I heard that Pards was 'checking out' the planes at Gatwick. Indeed, when I heard it was Monarch Airlines, I was even more pleased.

West Ham's hearing on breaking the league rules has been adjourned until tomorrow. I bet they get off.

Some bloke E mailed Wyn Grant asking if I had always looked so ugly. Anyway, if you want to talk me to direct its Paul

Have a nice one.

We Won The Cup

Sixty years ago today Charlton won the FA Cup at Wembley. Unfortunately I didn't make the match as there were no facilities for prams at Wembley. I know my father was at the first ever Wembley final, but I can't remember him talking about the Charlton victory, although I know that he went to at least one semi-final. Let's hope that having a three month old baby didn't mean that he saw the defeat by Derby but not the win against Burnley.

There is some Pathé Gazette footage here:
Addicks

I'm a 22, what are you?

Wyn Grant has said that I should introduce myself to you, writes Erith Addick Paul May. Recently I typed in my postal code in Erith to the Up My Street site and the profile that came out as a Type 22 neighbourhood was remarkably accurate. However, now that my divorce is well behind me, I am trying to buy rather than rent my one bedroom flat. But there is a lot of buy to let renting in our modern development.

Here is the profile with my comments in square brackets:

Often, many of the people who live in this sort of postcode will be low income singles living in small rented flats. These are known as type 22 in the ACORN classification and 1.38% of the UK’s population live in this type.

Geographically neighbourhoods fitting this profile occur in various locations including Canterbury, seaside [well, we are riverside in Erith] towns such as Torquay and Blackpool, and Scottish towns such as Dundee, Galashiels, and Paisley. Here is an overview of the likely preferences and features of your neighbourhood:

Family income Low
Interest in current affairs Medium
Housing - with mortgage Low
Educated - to degree Medium
Couples with children Very low
Have satellite TV Low

These neighbourhoods are largely composed of single people, both young and old. [Or middle aged like me] Around 20% of the people in these areas are in their 20s, but 10% are over 75. Both are well above the national average. The dominant characteristic is the single person renting small flats. There may also be some communal establishments such as nursing homes.

Incomes are quite low. [Tell my boss] People have average educational qualifications. Their relatively routine jobs are in shops and offices [all this is true for me], and there is some unemployment. With the elderly contributing to higher than average numbers of people with long term illnesses, these areas are beginning to experience some need for social services. [Not so many older people in our square]

While the younger people aspire to gold cards, interactive TV and telephone banking, the reality is they have low limits on their credit cards, plan to pay off debts, and possibly need a loan. [My credit cards got maxed out, so now I only have a debit card] Their spending on food is low, and catalogue shopping helps them economise. Few people own a car, with those who do paying high insurance premiums. Most get about on foot, by bike, or public transport. [Like yours truly]

The pub is a relatively popular place for eating, either at lunch-time or in the evening. [Not just eating] Leisure interests tend to be football [Come on you Addicks] and betting on the horses. At home they might unwind by listening to music [I am really into 80s music] or reading a novel. [Yeah] There is a keen interest in self-improvement and education. [Particularly finding out more about football]

To check out your own neighbourhood, go here: Acorn

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Let the convoy roll!

Wyn Grant's diary seems to be getting busier than ever, so I will keeping you in touch with matters Addickted for the next week or so at least, writes Erith Addick Paul May.

You know, I'm getting excited already about the great convoy that is going up north from these parts (and many others) on Saturday. (I've just heard that there are now 5,649 going).

Normally I have a few drinks on a Friday night. But while I am not ready to take the pledge, as I hear that some of the lads at the Rose of Denmark have, I am not going to have my usual sherbets to start the weekend. I want a (reasonably) clear head to enjoy the experience.

Some people are going by plane and I understand these will operate on a 'first come, first served' basis. I understand that Rick Everitt and his team are having difficulty rounding up enough coaches. Let's hope we don't have any breakdowns! Have you seen those Rickshaws that are pulling tourists around central London? Perhaps we could borrow some of them and get the less successful members of the squad to pull Brian Cole up the motorway? Actually, he's looking a lot more svelte these days.

Seriously, though, Rick and his team are doing a great job and we ought to be very grateful to them. I hear that one geezer is even coming from Australia to the match, rating it as important as the play off final.

I remember winning what I think was still Division 1 up at Blackburn. Does anyone remember those guys who dressed up as the Blues Brothers and came in a stretch limo?

This is going to be a great Charlton day out, but above all it is going to be another great escape! Come on your rip roaring, goal scoring reds.

BTW, the geezer who called me the Charles Pooter of Erith, I know where you live! This is not the Diary of a Nobody. Being an Addick makes me a Somebody. OK?

Brakes at Bescot

Leamington will be playing in the final of the Polymac Services Midland Alliance League Cup at the Bescot Stadium, Walsall on May 3rd. Although they went down 3-2 to Atherstone Town in the second leg of the semi-final last night, thier 3-1 home win in the first leg carried them through on aggregate. It was apparently a hard fought match with Brakes being reduced to nine men, Clunesie and Avon being sent off.

Their opponents will be Tipton Town, a club well thought of by the Brakesmen and women. Last year's opponents in the final were the widely disliked Barwell who managed to beat Brakes on the night (and also suddenly find a lot of fans). This year the league and cup double is on for Cadzy so let's hope they can rise to the big occasion.

Monday, April 23, 2007

ZZ: I'm off if Addicks go down

Chinese international midfielder Zheng Zhi has unsurprisingly revealed he will not stay at The Valley if Charlton are relegated to the Championship. Player of the Month in March, the 26-year-old is currently on loan until July from Shandong Luneng and had previously expressed his desire to earn a permanent deal with the Addicks.

'If Charlton are relegated, I won't stay,' he told Goal China. Zheng dismissed claims that he is struggling to handle the pressure of a relegation battle in the Premiership after guiding Shandong to the Chinese Super League title last year.

'The pressure isn't so bad. As a player you're always under pressure,' he added. 'I had pressure in China, so this is nothing new. Though, obviously, things are more intense here in the Premiership."

Saturday, April 21, 2007

'You don't sound like a happy man'

These were the comments of The Observer sub after I filed my fan's report this evening. It's not over until it's over, but Charlton's failure to beat Sheffield United has severely diminished their chances of Premiership survival. They will have to play a lot better than they did today if they are going to take three points off Blackburn or Spurs.

One Charlton fan on 606 was blaming referee Wiley for the outcome. He made some questionable decisions and gave out a blizzard of yellow cards, more to Charlton than the Blades. But it's not the referee's fault if a team can't score goals or defend properly or has a midfield that goes awol.

Up until Talal El Karkouri scored an excellent, admittedly deflected, goal from distance, we had not been playing that well, albeit not helped by Sheffield's physical approach. Instead of defending resolutely, we then started to panic, and instead of slowing the game down, allowed it to be played at a frenetic pace until the Blades equalised.

After that we really lost our shape and never looked like scoring the second goal that we so badly needed. The substitutions detracted from rather than added to our play, although I can understand why Alan Pardew felt the need to make them.

Still as Steve from Sidcup said after the game, 'It will be an opportunuty to rebuild.'

Match report

Referee Wiley awarded an early yellow card for handball to Blades charm merchant Luton Shelton. He started as he intended to go on, having evidently decided that this was the way to run a key match.

Charlton started brightly with three corners in succession. The first was punched out by Blades keeper Kenny, but then Rommedahl put in a good cross from the second to create the third, but the succession of moves ended with a Zheng Zhi header that was way over.

The impressive Rommedahl put in an excellent cross, but with the goal at his mercy, Ambrose's header went wide. Zheng Zhi dispossessed the Blades impressibely in midfield. Rommedahl won a Charlton corner but Darren Bent was possibly distracted by a defender and his shot went just wide.

Thomas won Charlton a free kick in a promising position, but it led to nothing more than a Charlton corner. As we know, Charlton corners are usually unproductive. Song received a yellow card for a foul on charm merchant Gillespie.

United won a free kick not far from the 'D' for a foul on Gillspie, but it came off the wall. Carson made a save at the expense of a corner and their effort on goal went past the post.

Zheng Zhi was pushed over on the East Stand side not far from goal, but instead of awarding a free kick, referee Wiley indicated that he thought that he had dived. The linesman looked a bit guilty, but, as is usually the case, so-called assistant referees are reluctant to question the decisions of 'celebrity' referees.

With United applying some pressure, Thomas cleared the ball out of danger. With three minutes of time added on, Montgomery received a yellow card for a foul. Sometimes I wonder if we should adopt the rugby system of ten minutes in the sin bin.

Half time: Addicks 0, Blades 0

Charlton's play still seemed disjointed after play resumed, with the news that both Fulham and West Ham were ahead at half time. The game became increasingly scrappy and it seemed as if we might be heading for another goalless draw when Talal El Karkouri seized the opportunity on 59 minutes and put in a shot from distance. It was deflected into Kenny's net. The keeper, likened in the programme to a steward who had just taken his bib off, clearly has a short fuse and advanced up the pitch berating his defenders. It's a shame we couldn't put him under more pressure.

This was when I think Charlton lost the plot as Pards freely admitted in his post match interview on Match of the Day. Instead of calming the game down, they committed a series of fouls. Some Charlton fans have focussed on the yellow cards that resulted, but the real problem was the midfield seemed to disappear.

Zheng Zhi, Diawara and El Karkouri all received yellow cards, but it was Ambrose's failure to pass the Rommedahl that led the Blades to counter attack. With Thatcher out of position, Stead had the goal at his mercy and there was nothing that Carson could do to stop what was a quality strike.

The succession of substitutions served principally to disrupt our pattern of play. Diawara's disappearance in particular weakened our defence, but it may be that he was carrying an injury or taking a knock. Rommedahl did surge forward and win a corner but Zheng Zhi missed the target.

Hreidarsson managed to get in an unnecessary argument with Wiley, getting himself booked and wasting further time. The Addicks were unable to make any real use of the five minutes of time added on, althouh Kenny was finally booked for his time wasting, having been warned in the first half. The keeper advanced on Wiley and looked ready to throttle him, but a fellow Blade held him back.

As the final whistle blew, Warnock rushed over to shake Wiley warmly by the hand and later described him as 'an excellent referee', praise indeed from the Cornish smallholder. However, we shouldn't use Wiley's performance as an alibi. BC Addick Ken Jennings asked in an overnight message, is the team quite good enough?

Pards has got them to play better than the hapless Dowie, now weaving his magic at Coventry (not) or the even worse Les Reed. However, over the season, I think they have been not quite good enough to survive in the Premiership. One can argue about whose fault that is.

A miraculous escape may yet occur, but a failure to beat a team as poor as Sheffield United at home is not encouraging. This is a massive blow after everything that everyone in the club has worked for over the past ten years. Pundits are predicting that Watford will come straight back up, and I am sure we will be in the mix as well if we go down. But I hope we are not going to become a yo-yo team. The mid-table mediocrity we experienced up to last season doesn't seem as bad in retrospect, even if it involved a somewhat boring and cautious style of play.

Elsewhere, Leamington beat the Romans 1-0 at Rocester to take the Polymac Services Midland Alliance points record with 102 points. They go into Tuesday's league cup semi-final 2nd leg against the Adders with a 3-1 lead, so hopes are now focused on the final at the Bescot Stadium and a league and cup double.

Match analysis

With Ivy the Terrible forsaking her daily swim in the River Avon for further match reporter training at Hooch the Pooch's canalside home, Monty Martin was recruited from his Blewbury, Oxon home. The excitable spaniel is usually lucky for Charlton, which is why he is used sparingly, but not on this occasion. With no player really outstanding on the day, Monty decided to award the last Silver Bone of the season to The Addickted for staying with the club and team during a very difficult year. Despite what the Blades fan reporter says in The Observer today, they are real football supporters, otherwise they would be supporting a more fashionable London club. Being a Charlton supporter does involve developing endurance and a capacity to suffer. As I have to be in Helinski at the time of the Spurs game, Paul May will report whether there are 'trois points' or fewer at that match.

Scott Carson did not have that much to do, which says something about the quality of the opposition, but made one brilliant save. Diawara was generally sound and had to be effective when we were piling forward players in attack, but there were enough uncertainties about his performance for him to be withdrawn, something he did not seem too happy about. El Karkouri scored what could have been a vital goal and he was not to blame for the equaliser. The fault there was in part that of Thatcher and the Bloke Beside Me thought that he did not have a good game in general, although he did make some good interceptions. Luke Young was not quite up to his usual standard, seeming to lack confidence. In general Song had a poor game compared with his usaual standard.
Ambrose failed to take a chance to score and was responsible for the chain of events that led to the equaliser. He has been a disappointment. Thomas manages to look petulant and uninterested even when he scores, but today he did seem to be uninterested and had a poor game. I am not a great Rommedahl fan as my sport is football not sprinting, but I thought that he had an excellent first half and would have got the Silver Bone if he had been able to keep it up over the game as a whole. Zheng Zhi has created high expectations, but I did not think this was up to the standard of his best performances. If his half bicycle kick had gone in, would it have counted?There is only so much Darren Bent if he is left to wander on his own up front and is expected to be the grateful recipient of long balls hoofed up the centre of the pitch. Why can't we play to the strengths and play the ball on the ground up the wings? The Bloke Beside Me described Hasselbaink
as a 'lump'. In his day he was a player I admired and I think that he has tried to his best for Charlton, but his best is no longer good enough for the Premiership.
Bougherra has shed his Owl feathers, but still got roundly booed by the Blades. I thought that he was unimpressive. Hreidarsson never lacks commitment, but he looked less than fully match fit.

Juneau the Soccer Cat expresses thanks for the message of support she received during the week. Hailing from the state of Maine, she has an American father and is named after the capital of Alaska. She gave the Hiss of the Match to referee Alan Wiley. When the crowd started to chant 'You don't know what you're doing', the smug official simply smiled.

Crowd rating I thought that the crowd was rather edgy and often quiet. The clappers are great fun for kids, but don't do much for the atmosphere. The Abba tribute band were not right for the occasion. What was inspired was having Charlton hero 'Killer' Hales on the pitch to say a few words before the game.

Warnock mind games

Neil Warnock is claiming that Charlton have more to lose emotionally and financially of they are relegated as part of the mind games ahead of today's '£30m match':

Warnock

I think that Warnock is exaggerating the extent to which Charlton have been financially imprudent. Implicitly, he is also admitting that he is running a Championship side that have strayed into the Premiership. However, I know that the gobby Cornish smallholder has his admirers among Charlton fans.

The Fink Tank gives a 41 per cent chance of a home win, a 30 per cent of the draw which would not really suit either side and a 29 per cent chance of an away win. I am not denying the validity of those percentages, but I believe that we will win 2-1.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Peter Varney interviewed on Radio 5

Charlton chief executive Peter Varney was interviewed on Radio 5 this morning. One topic was the future of the Islington, formerly Woolwich, franchise that has been attracting American takeover interest. PV used this to raise the question of how money is distributed in the Premiership. He also noted that teams were now fielding weakened teams against big clubs. Sheffield United fielded a weakened team at Old Trafford to prepare for tomorrow's game.

The Addicks supremo was asked, 'Is it all down to this?' He responded, 'Not necessarily, but it's a massive game. We were a little bit unlucky at Everton. The winner could take all tomorrow. Three points would take us out of the relegation zone. '

PV was asked about the Blackburn operation which he described as a 'small town. We need to create almost a home atmosphere at an away ground.' Asking about relegation, he said, 'It would be a massive blow to go down. We've slowly rebuilt the club since we came back to The Valley. When you have been in the Premiership for a number of years the costs are at quite a high base and you have to deal with that with means quite a dramatic pruning exercise if you go down.'

It was put to PV that the easiest route to reduce costs was to cut the playing satff. He responded, 'You have to balance that against the fact that you have to try and return. You need to keep as much of the squad together for the first year, but you can't keep everybody.' [Darren Bent and Luke Young?]

There's not much I can say about tomorrow's games that hasn't already been said by, for example, the New York Addick or Inspector Sands. BTW, when I was at Baker Street tube yesterday a test of fire alarm systems was followed by an automated message summoning the good inspector to the control room.

Is our attack sharp enough, our midfield creative enough, our defensive resilient enough to blunt the Blades? The most confident answer can be given about Scotty Carson and the defence is looking strong these days. There are still worries about Talal El Karkouri who is easy to wind up and has poor distribution.

Up front, assuming Marcus Bent is injured (I think that he combines quite well with Little Bent), I would not start JFH, but keep him on the bench to be used if necessary. For once, Rommedahl's track athlete skills could help to unlock the opposition.

It's going to be a tense and nervous day for the Addickted, but we need to create the best possible atmosphere.

Thanks for all those who responded to yesterday's message, including those on the Brakes web boards. The consensus may be that I keep Leamington material on this page.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Future plans

We're just about to reach 250,000 hits (more page views, of course) and 1,000 posts so it's time to review the future of this blog. It's also important to do it now to emphasise that it is in no way connected to Charlton's fate (other than that relegation would mean a name change). I've already renewed my season ticket.

This blog started off nearly ten years ago as a web page offering a 'diary' account of Charlton's season. You can see the original here at Diary This evolved into more formal match reports which at one time were linked to the club's web page. Indeed, when Rick Everitt (then Sports Editor at the Mercury) took a winter holiday in Australia, I stood in for him and wrote the club page reports and took part in the post match press conference with Curbs. This was at a time when the club had far fewer professional staff today and the internet was still in an early stage of its development.

It's quite difficult to get constructive feedback on a blog. One line of criticism has been that this blog is boring, but the answer to that is pretty simple, don't read it. There are now far more blogs on Charlton than there used to be, so there is plenty of choice and most of them set a high standard. One option might therefore to follow the line that Inspector Sands unfortunately but understandably took with Casino Avenue and decide that this blog has reached its sell by date. However, it gets enough hits to make it worth carrying on.

One good friend of mine thinks that Charlton is a hopelessly down market club and that my interest in it is very retro. To the amusement of the fans of other clubs, she did have a rather funny spoof on a reverse Rickshaw taking coach load of Charlton fans to a naff Kent restaurant. Perhaps Charlton is social death, but as is often said, you can take the man out of Charlton, but not Charlton out of the man.

My main constraint is increasing lack of time due to a workload that seems to be on a steep upward curve. My attendance at away matches has fallen away simply because taking a day out on Saturday means working hard on Sunday to make up the ground. I recently worked that out that I had visited eleven countries in four continents for work in a twelve month period. Now I know that many people do a lot more travel. The Chicago Addick probably does more air miles within the US. Moreover, I am one of those people who can go to sleep when the plan taxis off and wake up over southern Brazil. And I sleep better in hotels than I do at home.

Nevertheless, even my energy was sapped by last week's encounter with the Chileans, not to mention acting as protocol officer to the country's ambassador to India which involved summoning the Mercedes and opening the door, then making polite conversation.

To get to the point. First, coverage of the Brakes is to be separated off into a new blog called Test Your Brakes. Charlton fans will then not have to read about what one suggested was a pasture for retired donkeys.

The football economy web page is a partnership between myself and Jez. I have never met Canaries fan Jez who lives in Spain. But this has worked very well.

On this page Erith Addick Paul May has played an increasing role, not least with his eloquent away reports which are better than anything I could write. From next season Paul will assume a greater role on the page. We are yet to work out the details, but Paul himself will be writing once the relegation battle is successfully resolved.

Thanks for your interest and support. Come on you Reds!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

So how did the Blades do?

What can we learn from last night's 2-0 defeat of Sheffield United by Manchester United, other than we would have liked a more decisive win to erode the Blades' goal difference?

I have to say that I did not watch the match, but followed it on Sky Sports News. Warwick District Council rules for conservation areas mean that we cannot have Sky unless we changed our telephone company and we happen to use BT for internet etc.

In the first half United were clearly up to their typical spoiling tactics of stopping other teams playing and winding up players, in particular Wayne Rooney, which isn't too difficult. The problem is that they will target Talal El Karkouri.

The Blades also did not put out a full strength side, how far particular players were 'injured' is not clear.

In the second half Warnock went ballistic after Blades were fortunately denied a penalty that Sky Sports News said was justified. However, how often do away sides get a penalty at Old Trafford?

There is nothing new about the 'homer' referee, particularly at a big club. I have copies of some of Jimmy Seed's notes on games and he was always complaining about 'homer' referees.

There is no doubt that it is going to be a tough game on Saturday. Sheffield United are a negative side whose style of play does not enhance the game. That is why it puzzles me when some Addicks big them up and present Warnock as an inspired genius of a manager.

It's not going to be easy, but we have to have belief and communicate that to the players with our enthusiasm and dedication to the cause.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Jersey and Coventry City

Now and then I get complaints about this page going off topic. This is, of course, the only Charlton blog that also covers Leamington, but that fact is well known.

The Chicago Addick includes stuff about American sports other than 'soccer' and also about places he has visited in the US and elsewhere. He writes well, I am interested in the US, and I enjoy these pieces. If you find something boring or irrelevant, the answer is simple: don't read it. But a blog is a personal enterprise and must to some extent reflect the person who writes it.

Today I got a call from BBC Television in the Channel Islands. The big sports story in St.Helier today is that the 'national' team has landed an annual sponsorship worth at least £100k a year. Nurturing football in an island away from the mainland is difficult, although the Isle of Man has run quite a successful pre-season tournament for lower level Football League teams.

When I got down to BBC Coventry and Warwickshire, I found the FA Cup on display. Soon a rather portly John Sillett arrived, joined by two players from the FA Cup winning team: Dave Bennett and Micky Gynn. Some rather elderly Coventry fans were hanging around in full kit. In the mayhem I got a microphone in my face, but fortunately I wasn't asked a question about Iain Dowie.

When we finally got the camera set up and a line to the Channel Islands, one question they put was quite difficult. Why should the Faroe Islands be in internatonal competitions and Jersey not? After all, the Faroes are nothing more than an autonomous region of the Kingdom of Denmark and elect two members to the Danish Parliament. Andorra, Liechtenstein and San Marino, the other leading minnows, are all UN members. Vatican City is not, although the current pope is said to be hatching plans for an Italian League team, perhaps to be called the VC Cardinals?

My answer was that, given the level of complaint about the existing minnows, Fifa was not likely to be admitting Jersey (let alone fierce rivals Guernsey) any time soon. But how the Faroes got admitted in 1988 to compete in 1992 is an interesting mystery. I am sure someone knows the answer.

We have published a story on this topic at our football economy page: Jersey (One Guernsey fan has written in to complain that the Jersey team is full of Scottish and Portuguese 'ringers')

Jordan backs down

According to the often authoritative South London Press, Palace boss Simon Jordan is dropping his legal action against Charlton but will see Iain Dowie in court in May:
Orange

Charlton could well have counter sued Palace for Dowie's incompetence under passing off legislation :-)

Dowie's court appearance could well interfere with Coventry's preparations for the big Mayoral Cup tie against Leamington.

There's only one Chris Dickson!

The former Dulwich Hamlet striker who swapped the pink for the red scored four goals in Charlton's 6-0 demolition of Portsmouth in the reserve game at The Valley last night. He can't play in the first team this year, but fans are already calling for his inclusion next season. There's a big gap between reserve and Premiership football, not least in the strength of defences, but Dickson clearly has something special.

Of course, Charlton has brought in players from non-league football before. Scott McGleish, having been signed from Edgware Town, had a number of cameo appearances at The Valley as a last minute sub and eventually found his level at Northampton and now at Wycombe.

This was also the destination of Paul Emblen whom we signed from Tonbridge Angels. He was loaned out to Brighton and then to Wycombe who eventually signed him for £60,000. He played for them from 1998-2002 when his career appears to have ended at the age of 26 (thanks to Rick Fisher for this information).

Dickson could well have been a Charlton academy player but failed to turn up for some reason at a trial when he was eleven years old. This just goes to show how much difference chance - and lucky breaks - can make in football. Leamington's Tom Bates has been on trial with Rochdale Reserves, but some people who have known him for a long time reckon his brother is the better player.

Leamington's Ben Mackey is a superb striker in the non-league and has an ability to turn on a ten pence piece (in the old days we would have said a sixpence). He made his début for Coventry City's first team at the age of sixteen.

Why the fall from grace? Someone said to me 'birds, burgers and beers'. The youngster is somewhat stocky, although he has been working hard this year to improve his personal fitness. More than likely he will be snapped up by another team higher up the pyramid with Nuneaton Borough being mentioned. Not everyone can have a Chris Dickson fairy tale. It will be interesting to see what he can do at a higher level.

Monday, April 16, 2007

False rumour

There is no basis in fact for rumours that Pards will be off in the summer regardless of whether Charlton stay up or not. Phil Parkinson's enhanced contract reflected the interest shown from Huddersfield and is not seen as an indication that he is line to become the next Charlton manager.

While at Colchester Parkinson master minded a 9-1 defeat of Leamington in the FA Cup.

Lita blasts off at El K

Reading charm merchant Leroy Lita is still upset about the three-match ban he picked up for head butting Addicks defender Talal El Karkouri. The Reading striker, dealt with as a result of video evidence by the FA after last week's goalless draw at The Valley, was still fuming as he sat out Saturday's win over Fulham. He angrily accused El Karkouri of cheating and insisted the FA had punished the wrong man. Lita said: 'My hair must have hurt him and I haven't even got any hair! I didn't touch him. He went down like an idiot and it was cheating. I would love to see the FA do something about diving cheats.'

Indeed.

Looking on the bright side of life

Looking at two Charlton lists I am on (and these are not a scientific sample, of course) there seems to be an outbreak of pessimism (some would say realism) among at least some of the Addickted.

The manner of our defeat at Everton was unfortunate, and may be in part due to Bougherra's lack of experience, but we were never going to turn them over. Reading are also Uefa cup contenders.

Sheffield United will be tough and will play a physical, defensive game. But, even given the weakness of our strike force beyond Darren Bent, that does not mean that they cannot be broken down.

We lost at Bramall Lane to the Blades because of defensive weaknesses. Super Alan Pardew was not then in charge. Supporters need to retain belief, if only to communicate confidence to the team.

My frame of mind is cheerful, despite still feeling exhausted by the negotiations with the Chileans. Things were made a bit better by the courteous, efficient and charming young Brazilian woman who acted as my de facto PA. I look forward to seeing her again next month in Montréal in less stressful circumstances. (I might add that she gave a fiery response to the German delegate who told her she looked good in the moonlight).

Having been told that I don't understand the politics of Chile, which I would not dispute, I felt in need of a bit of help. Could I involve a brilliant young friend of mine who has fluent Spanish, has lived in Chile and has written about the 'Southern Cone' of Latin America?

July in Chile is hardly an attractive prospect with Santiago (which is in a valley) under a thick blanket of noxious smog. What I hadn't thought about, but she did, was the possibility of skiing in the Andes.

The moral here is that there are ways out of even a seemingly bleak situation, and I don't think that Charlton's situation is that bleak. The real target may be Foolham rather than the Blades, but we need to beat United. Their manager is claiming that the media are bigging up West Ham and Charlton because they are London based.

I don't think that Sheffield United's style of play adds much to the quality of the Premiership. They are really a Championship side.

One of my worst experiences in the past week was being told by a Super Hoops fan 'see you next year'. Although they see themselves as rightfully a Premiership side (as about fifty clubs do), QPR in my mind are fixed in the old third division south. Their ground is like a series of upturned shoe boxes.

The Premiership is the place to be. And we need to fight to stay there with Super Alan Pardew.

A rather similar analysis in tone but with more information about the likely fate of relegation rivals is to be found here: Roehampton Addick

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Charlton hopes dashed by stoppage time goal

The Addickted were devastated by a last minute defeat at Everton which leaves the Addicks in the relegation places and Charlton under real pressure for next Saturday's home fixture against the Blades writes Erith Addick Paul May. This was a fixture we could probably not hope to win, but a draw would have given a boost to morale.

As the news came through that Wigan were 3-2 ahead against Spurs at the JJB, it was revealed that Pards had adopted for a 4-5-1 formation but with Zheng Zhi likely to help out Darren Bent. Obviously the manager had not been listening to some of the experts on the list who had been calling for all out attack. Bryan Hughes returned after a long absence while Amdy Faye was also playing with Matt Holland on the bench. Ben Thatcher came in for the injured Hermann Hreidarsson, many would argue that Thatcher's distribution is better. As the kick off approached, the news filtered through that Spurs had equalised again at the JJB.

The retro sound of Z-cars rang out, the Addicks came out in their red kit and we prepared for a minute's silence to honour Adam Smith, a 19-year old Everton fan killed in Iraq, a reminder that there are some things more important than football. The silence also remembered those killed at Hillsborough eighteen years ago.

The match opened with an offside decision against Darren Bent. Zheng Zhi did well driving forward, but the move ended in a goal kick. Bryan Hughes forged forward, but was caught by the offside flag. Johnson capitalised on a bad mistake by the gloved Diawara (Liverpool being just south of the North Pole), El Karkouri covered very well and all Charlton suffered was a corner to the disappointment of the Toffeemen.

Charlton won a corner taken by Ambrose, but it was headed out by Carsley and Everton counter attacked. Ben Thatcher made a great tackle on the edge of the penalty area on the former Palace player.

Faye won the ball well and allowed the Addicks to move forward, but Everton fought back. Carson gathered the ball well as Beattie lurked hopefully. The game quietened down in the warm sunshine as the quarter hour mark approached.

Everton had a chance, but it was deflected for a corner for the home side. Andy Johnson's header went wide, coming off a Charlton player. The second corner was played short, Hughes got the ball away at the expense of a third corner. Darren Bent had to clear into the Everton half.

Ben Thatcher tackled Carsley and a free kick was awarded to Everton level with the Addicks penalty area. Carsley's volley from 20 yards went just over the crossbar.
Johnson went forward on a run, but was cut out by Faye.

Charlton won their second corner of the game. Ambrose's corner was unproductive and ended with an Everton throw in the Charlton half, Bent's effort at a shot was well below his usual standard.

El Karkouri hoofed the ball forward for an Everton goal kick. Diawara had to concede a throw in under pressure. Osman whipped in a cross, Carson punched out and the ball went to the ever popular Phil Neville. Carson had a word with El Karkouri about clearing the ball.

Beattie put in a header which was straight at Carson. Ambrose was tackled by Stubbs. Hughes put in a cross that was grabbed by Howard in the Everton goal. Darren Bent was caught offside as the half hour mark approached. Bent was caught offside again with the striker suggesting that the lino must want a job on the railways.

Beattie put a cross over the bar after Everton had advanced down Charlton's right. The tussle between Beattie and Thatcher led to a free kick for the Addicks. Everton won a couple of free kicks. El Karkouri put in a tackle on Johnson, referee Halsey awarding a free kick in favour of the former Glazier in a dangerous position. Charlton lined up a five man wall. With Luke Young out of position, Osman put it in from six yards, but it went wide.

A shot from Osman was blocked by the busy El K. Bent got a touch after a good run, but Yobo put it behind for Charlton's third corner. Hughes tried to put the ball in but Howard was able to gather. El Karkouri hoofed a ball very high in the air which came back with a touch of the ice that was worrying Diawara.

Young went forward well, but Zheng Zhi gave the ball away. Diawara put in a vigorous tackle on Johnson as the game approached the last five minutes of the half.
Charlton combined well through Ambrose, Bent and Zheng Zhi but Everton just managed to clear. The game was now more open with a faster pace and Osman went for goal, but it was just wide.

Song was fouled by universal hero Phil Neville. Charlton applied some pressure, but Howard was able to get the ball without much difficulty. Young advanced down the right, but Howard was able to gather. Everton gave away possession, but Bent's shot off his left foot posed no threat to the Toffeemen.

Two minutes of time were added on. Zheng Zhi advanced down the right, but instead of passing to Ambrose or Bent, he advanced on goal and was closed down by the Everton defence. The home crowd seemed to be getting increasingly frustrated.

Half time: Toffeemen 0, Addicks 0

A shot by Arteta from 15 yards was blocked by Thatcher who positioned himself well.
Under pressure Stubbs had to head back accurately to Howard. A shot by Johnson was blocked and cleared by Diawara. Charlton were under some pressure. A Neville cross was blocked by Faye with only Bent up the pitch. Everton were given a free kick in a dangerous position because of a challenge by Zheng Zhi. Carson was eventually able to claim the ball.

Luke Young was able to clear after another Everton attack as the news came through that Chelsea had gone ahead through Lampard. Everton won their first corner of the half after eight minutes. The header by Stubbs, under pressure from Faye, went wide. Ambrose came forward, but gave the ball away to Lescott. Another failed Everton attack led to renewed groans and moans from the home fans. Amdy Faye was taken off in favour of Matt Holland. Faye had been playing quite well, so he must have taken a knock.

An effort by Darren Bent went just wide in Charlton's best chance of the game created by Ambrose and Zheng Zhi. It seemed as if Howard had got a touch on the ball, but referee Halsey declined to award a corner. Charlton kept possession, but Everton eventually cleared. Local favourite Beattie headed well over the crossbar.

James Beattie was taken off to the delight of the home fans with McFadden coming on to scattered jeers. A handball by Arteta was ignored by the officials who gave offside against Charlton. Bent advanced on the penalty area, but was forced wide with Howard spilling the ball but no one able to take advantage.

Stubbs was taken off and Naysmith was brought on to play at left back with Lescott moving into the centre to deal with the Charlton threat. A shot by Osman was blocked by Diawara's head. McFadden dived for a penalty but referee Halsey was not taken in as the Everton fans made the claim. Everton won a corner which led to a throw in which was taken quickly.

Darren Bent bore down on a goal, but Hibbert put in the tackle at the expense of an Addicks corner. Zheng Zhi had the chance to score from three yards from a good corner by Ambrose, but he failed to make proper contact with the ball and Howard gathered. An Osman cross was headed away by Luke Young. Ambrose forged forward, but the Everton defence coped. The Addicks were looking more of a threat with Ambrose and Song more involved.

Arteta's ball was put out for a throw by the corner flag by Diawara, but Charlton were eventually able to clear. A Johnson cross was dealt with by Thatcher. Then it was the turn of Charlton to attack with the halfway point passed. Would Pards bring on Hasselbaink?

The game slowed down again. Hasselbaink went for a run to loosen up his joints. After good work by Song, a left footed effort by Zheng Zhi went just over the crossbar. Bent shot from long range and it was just wide with Howard diving to make the save if needed.

Halsey booked Thatcher for a tackle on Arteta. The free kick had to be taken a second time and Johnson put the ball wide in what was probably Everton's best chance of the half. Diawara cleared after McFadden tried to advance. Charlton advanced through the middle but Hughes was unable to put in a shot.

Thatcher rather unnecessarily conceded a corner, Thatcher partially cleared, Johnson put it in, Charlton had their chances to clear, Carson put in a great save but Lescott was able to score from two yards to put Everton 1-0 ahead with ten minutes to go. The goal was against the run of play, but it was the worst time for Everton to score. The home crowd who had been liberally slagging off their team went wild. Charlton had had more chances in the second half, but had failed to take them.

Hasselbaink was readied to come on along with Magic Bougherra. Ben Thatcher came off along with Bryan Hughes. Charlton had a free kick. Howard punched it away, El Karkouri directed it straight towards the keeper.

Arteta was fouled and Magic was booked, although it could have been Song who committed the offence. Arteta had to be subsequently taken off.

In the last minute of the ninety, Darren Bent scored for Charlton to make it 1-1 from about twelve yards out, having made use of an assist from Matt Holland.

Four minutes of time added on were announced. In the second minute of time added on, McFadden volleyed past Carson who had no chance to make it 2-1. The performance by Charlton had been good but the result was a real blow to the survival hopes of the Addicks.

The nightmare scenario

The last day of the season. Charlton need to get at least a point at Anfield, but even if they win there, their survival depends on the outcome of the match between Sheffield United and Wigan. Charlton are relegated on goal difference.

The logical conclusion that some supporters draw is that today's game at Everton is 'must win' and that we should go for all out attack. But supposing we lose 4-0 when we could have gained a point with a more cautious approach?

It's a difficult decision for Pards. But the answer is any case constrained by the likely non-availability of Marcus Bent. The best solution is then probably 4-5-1 with Zheng Zhi playing immediately behind Darren Bent: perhaps better described as 4-4-1-1. Hasselbaink has been out injured and in any case has the turning circle and speed of an oil tanker. Super Kevin Lisbie has a great future in League 1 or 2.

What concerns me is that, leaving aside Scott Carson (surely to be voted player of the year?) and the defence as it is now set up (and even there we have some problems) is that the team as a whole isn't quite good enough for the Premiership or at least not consistently good enough. That has been true of the midfield all season, particularly once Andy Reid got crocked, but we have also lacked a reliable strike partner for Darren Bent who has often been left roaming alone in an opposition half otherwise bereft of Charlton players. Zheng Zhi has been an improvement there.

The Fink Tank gives a 62 per cent chance of a home win today and only a 14 per cent chance of an away win. Moyes is a good manager, Everton are chasing a Uefa Cup place and they have some good players. But they are not invincible.

In 2001 we made a weekend in Liverpool out of an away match at Goodison. The hotel had quite a few Toffeemen staying who were looking forward to an easy three points. We won 3-0 and we were chanting 'Easy' at the end of the match.

Referee Halsey will give us no favours, but given our recent defensive record, I think that a draw is possible, although there is always a risk that Johnson will score a winner for his new club. Charm merchant Cahill is out injured.

The ever reliable Paul May will be at Goodison to report on the match.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Brakes celebrate in style

Leamington celebrated the award of the Polymac Services Midland Alliance trophy with a 5-0 win over Loughborough Dynamo at the New Windmill Ground today. Four of the goals were scored by Josh Blake who scored the first ever goal at Harbury Lane in 2000 and has now scored 166 goals for the club. The win takes Leamington's points total to 99, well within reach of the record league total of 101.

Arriving at the ground we were greeted by two of Warwickshire's finest talking into their radios and declaring 'We're committed to Leamington Football Club.' At half time they were seen packing up, none of the crowd of 584 having caused any 'AP aggro' as they used to chant at the old Windmill Ground in Tachbrook Road.

The history of football in Loughborough has been a tortuous one, but an earlier team that played in the Football League had the distinction of giving the Woolwich rejects their biggest ever defeat, 8-0. Before the game, a group of Bedlington Terriers fans who had come in solidarity were greeted on the pitch. The 'Devon Brakes' banner was also in evidence.

Josh Blake signalled his intentions early in the game, but the ball went straight at Matthew Nurse, one of three Nurses played by the visitors. Then on 11 minutes Jamie Towers brilliantly weaved his way through the Dynamo defence and put in a strong cross to Josh Blake who made it 1-0 with a header.

Brakes kept up the pressure through a series of corners, one of which had to be kicked away from the goal line. However, with Leamington committed to attack, Dynamo showed themselves to be quick on the break and rattled the bar of Jason Pearcey's goal with one effort.

Brakes had a number of chances, Ben Mackey putting in a sweet pass to Josh, but the removal man failed to deliver on that occasion. It was Jamie Towers who gave Brakes a safer margin with the second goal for the home side on 40 minutes.

Just after the break, Josh Blake made it 3-0 with a header. It was this goal that gave Brakes the ton for the season. On 52 minutes the impressive Towers turned provider for Blake who made it 4-0. The old five has sometimes eluded Leamington, but it was Josh Blake who made it 5-0 on 70 minutes. Hopes of six were not fulfilled and Dynamo did have a chance to score a consolation but put it wide of Pearcey's post.

As the ref blew up the sounds of Zadok the Priest rang out around the New Windmill, followed by 'We Are the Champions.' The players received their medals and Josh received the ball for his hat trick, followed by the presentation of the trophy amid joyous scenes.

Four promotions in seven seasons, three of them as champions, is an enviable record even in the lower levels of non-league football. I was able to shake hands with Josh Blake and Morton Titterton for whom a distinguished career in non-league football is coming to an end.

Brakes president David Hucker reminded Maggie that she had written to him in 2000 asking when the first match was, having heard about a practice match against Central Ajax which Brakes lost 3-4.

Anyone think of making the trek to Market Drayton Town on Tuesday should note that after turning right at the Gingerbread public house, it is not 200 years to the next right turn. The programme is looking good and I understand there will be some new volunteers to help with the Southern League version next season.

Now we can look forward to the visit of Iain Dowie and Coventry City!

Lita ban helps relegation rivals

The three match ban imposed on Reading charm merchant Leroy Lita for violent conduct against Talal El Karkouri could actually harm us as the striker will miss the home match against struggling Fulham. It's a shame that controversial referee Graham Poll or one of the so-called 'assistants' didn't see the offence during the match. Perhaps Poll was too busy giving signals to Alan Pardew!

The England Under-21 international was accused of aiming a head-butt at El Karkouri during the goalless draw. The FA acted after viewing video evidence.

Reading manager Steve Coppell remains in denial. He is convinced the footage proved nothing and has defended his striker. He said: 'I have seen it 50 times and I can't see what happened. There was a confrontation but you can't see categorically what happened apart from an incredible reaction.'

'If Leroy was going to butt anyone they wouldn't fall sideways and they probably wouldn't get up. That is the wrong way of looking at it because I don't want to slur Leroy with being that type of person but realistically if he was wanting to cause damage I don't think he (El Karkouri) would have continued the game.'

Even I would have to admit that the Moroccan international does sometimes to have problems with the gravitational pull of the Earth whereas one would expect methane breathing referee Poll to be more affected.

Wills and Kate split



Charlton content here is the picture of Wills in a Charlton shirt. I must say I feel a bit sorry for a young couple who have to conduct their relationship in a goldfish bowl, but I suppose it goes with the territory.

Meanwhile, perhaps the New York Addick can tell us more about Marcus Bent's new squeeze?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Charlton in for 'Joxer'?

The Irish media are increasingly running stories that Charlton may be interested in recruiting Bohemians' striker John Paul Kelly. With Mark Kinsella now playing a role in the Charlton set up, links with Ireland could be revived.

The 19 year-old 'Joxer' has won Ireland caps at various under age levels and has captained his country at under-19 level. Originally with Lourdes Celtic, he joined Liverpool’s academy – headed up by former Irish international and Warwick University Economics and Politics graduate Steve Heighway – in 2003 where he was regarded as one of the most promising players. It is said that he makes up for any lack of physique with his busy football brain, an eye for goal and sheer skill (have we heard that before?). He made an immediate impression on his début for Bohs as a substitute v. Derry City in April 2005. Recognised at the FAI Awards in 2006 as Ireland’s under-19 international player of the year, 'Joxer' captained the Ireland under-21 side in all three of their games in the Madeira tournament in February/March 2007.

I'm back in circulation again, if exhausted, and will be writing Charlton stories. After the Chilean delegate with the bandaged hand delivered a humble apology, a fourteen page Memorandum of Agreement was signed this morning, although I thought the statement that the Chilean minister at the presidency we had dealt with in the past had 'disappeared' was very unfortunate. At least I know why Colombian crossover artist starts 'My Hips Don't Lie' with the injunction 'No fighting, no fighting.' I think that Shakira could induce me to learn Spanish, but it looks as if I am going to have to do that anyway.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

So, hello then, Les Reed

Having heard claims that the honour of the president of Chile had been insulted and listened to a row over breakfast over claims that an agreed text could not be translated into French because there is no acceptable translation of 'discontent', an alleged injury to a Chilean delegate requiring medical attention allowed me to escape for a while to the computer.

I was surprised to learn that Chris Coleman had been sacked at Fulham. I do think that he complains too much about officials, but for all that, he has done a good job for the small club in Putney and I hope he finds another berth. The second surprise was that Les Reed had been appointed as assistant and possible successor to Lawrie Sanchez - a very volatitle individual whom I saw sent to the stands at Nene Park when he was managing Wycombe, only to continue to explode. I advised him to sit down and shut up which did not go down well.

Les Reed recently published an apologia for what happened during his spell in charge at The Valley in 4-4-2. I think Les Reed is a technically talented individual who was not up to the job of manager, part of which these days is projecting an image in the media that did, admittedly, portray him either as an ineffectual boffin or as a Machiavellian schemer who had tried to undermine Iain Dowie, subsequently canonised at Coventry.

Les claims that his problem was that he was 'very low profile' and that he failed to provide the razzmatazz image that the Premiership craves. In response to the Les Who? problem any quote he gave was 'twisted to seem naive or humorous. What was unfair was the slant taken by some pundits that the club had the affront to appoint a manager nobody had heard of without their approval.'

So why did he take the job, given that the club was bottom of the table, had an injury crisis and key players on international duty? 'I'm a Charlton fan. This was also my chance to manage a club with which I'd developed a reputation and a strong relationship. Right club, right man, wrong timing.' So will Craven Cottage offer the right timing and role?

Les says that his biggest challenge at Charlton was to get players to sign in the transfer window. Why would any player want to come to Charlton given the volume and nature of the media criticism against a club that was perceived as going down and vulnerable? 'That was the single most important factor in my departure ... We parted very amicably. I even had some input into the choice of Alan Pardew as my successor.'

A decent man and a declared Addick, I wish Les well at his new posting by the River Thames.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Pards: Poll tipped me the wink

Controversy has been caused by Alan Pardew's statement that referee Graham Poll gave him a signal that Alexander Song might be in danger of being sent off in last night's match against Reading. Keith Hackett, the head of referees, has refused to comment until he has spoken to the Tring based referee. Song had been in a duel with Reading charm merchant Sidwell throughout the game.

Pardew had been to see the referee during the break to ask for a 'signal' should the young Cameroon player walk the tightrope again. Following some more questionable tackles after the restart, the Addicks supremo knew that time had come with just over 20 minutes left.

Pardew said: 'I went to see Graham Poll [at half-time] and I said to him "I need to have some signal if it is getting close", and he sent me that signal, so Alex had to come off. He gave me a look - which more or less said it all.'

'I said if he makes another challenge which you are unhappy about, I cannot do nothing if it is a silly one, I know that - but if he is making silly ones and the next one is going to be it, then please let me know. I think that is within the rules of the game.'

Pards added: 'It was full credit to the referee, because that is the sort of thing which you need, how the game will work better. No-one wants to see a team go down to 10 men. He did the right thing and if there was that communication and a better relationship between us and the referees, then we would have far less incidents on the pitch.'

Pards had a rebuke for the talented loan player: 'It was an indisciplined challenge from Alex which put himself under pressure in the first place. He was brilliant at times for us tonight, but he needs to learn from that.'

Monday, April 09, 2007

Clean sheet, no goals, one point

Alan Pardew made fewer changes than expected for the match against Reading, reports Erith Addick Paul May from The Valley. Darren Ambrose returned at the expense of Amdy Faye in midfield (Zheng Zhi moving into a more central role) with Ben Thatcher being confined to the bench. Some fans would like to have seen him back, but Alan Pardew decided to stick with the defence that has had a series of clean sheets. The home defeat of faltering Fulham gave some hope to the Addickted, whilst at least Wigan did not win at Villa. One worrying feature was the presence of the Thing from Tring, Graham Poll, as referee.

Lita tried to get in an early shot, making use of a ball from Harper on the wing, but Diawara defended well and won a free kick for the Addicks. El Karkouri put in a hard tackle on Hunt. Lita tried to put in a shot and it went high over Scott Carson's bar.

Charlton won a free kick down by the corner flag against Hunt, Poll over ruling his assistant who had gone for a throw in. The free header from El Karkouri from six yards hit the crossbar (he should have headed it down) and bounced on the line, Hanhemann in the Reading goal gathering. At the other end, the Royals won a corner.

Song did well to take the ball away from the Reading midfield. The Herminator put in a long throw, Bikey put his keeper under pressure and Hahnemann had to punch the ball out. Song won a free kick after dealing with the attentions of three Reading players.

Lita gave his opinions to Graham Poll, never a smart move, and was told to shut up and had a free kick awarded against him. Bent was pushed over in the centre circle and the Addicks got a free kick. El Karkouri's free kick found the Herminator's head, but there was no one there to take advantage of his downward header and Bikey was able to clear.

Song made a vigorous challenge on Sidwell and was shown the yellow card. Sidwell marched up to Song and almost grabbed him.

Charlton made a break with a good run forward by Ambrose, with Zheng Zhi also bursting forward, but Hahnemann was fortunate in being able to gather. A free kick by Shorey was awful and Carson was able to put the ball down field to launch a Charlton attack. This one failed, but Charlton tried again. Then it was Reading's turn to come forward in this end to end match between two sides that looked evenly managed.

Bikey shoved over Darren Bent at the expense of a Charlton free kick. Good movement from a throw in gave the ball to Luke Young in the penalty area, but it came off his left foot and Hahnemann in the Reading goal was able to take the ball.

Marcus Bent sent in a good cross but Bikey was able to head it away. Reading launched an attack, Ki-Hyeon put in a shot, but Carson parried the ball in a super save. Hreidarsson had to go off down the tunnel injured and Ben Thatcher came off the bench to replace him.

Reading threatened again, but the Charlton defence was eventually able to clear. Ambrose was caught in possession, but El Karkouri put in a great tackle on Lita at the expense of a Reading corner which was eventually cleared.

Marcus Bent had to come off with a recurrence of his hamstring trouble and Matt Holland came on in a second substitution for the Addicks with Zheng Zhi moving up to assist Darren Bent.

Thomas broke away effectively for the first time in the game and had a couple of chances but it didn't work out for him to his evident disappointment. Darren Bent put a good ball forward but both Matt Holland and Darren Ambrose managed to fall over.

Thomas broke away on the wing again, but then managed to lose his footing. Reading won their third corner of the game. Sidwell headed Hunt's corner towards goal and Carson tipped it over. The second corner ended in a Charlton free kick.

Darren Bent made a good lay off to Zheng Zhi, but the Chinese captain's finish was disappointing. Darren Ambrose forged forward, Ingimarsson defended, Thomas got the ball but Hahnemann was able to collect it. In time added on, Darren Bent raced forward, but Hahnemann made sure he got the ball. Diawara made a good tackle on Lita on the edge of the Charlton penalty area.

The half time score reflected the balance of the game and the relative lack of chances.

Half time: Addicks 0, Royals 0

Reading got a free kick about 25 yards out, Charlton lined up a five man wall, it was deflected over the crossbar for another Reading corner. A Hunt cross was grabbed by Carson. Charlton broke with a fantastic run by Zheng Zhi, Darren Bent sent the ball wide.

El Karkouri nearly got into danger, Charlton broke again, but Hahnemann was able to make the save as the crowd responded to the energy surging through Charlton. But then Reading advanced from inside Charlton's half and Shorey's effort was not too far wide.

Song tripped Sidwell again and Poll advised the loan player to calm down. Reading won yet another corner. Hunt advanced and went down under a fair tackle from Holland. Charlton surged down the other end, but it only resulted in a throw in near the corner flag.

Diawara was able to prevent Long having a shot. Charlton were having difficulty clearing their lines and Sidwell put in an effort that was just wide. A cross just missed Zheng Zhi and Charlton won a corner. It was punched away by the Royals keeper. Bent went down when he ran into Sidwell.

Song did well, but the flag went up against Bent. Luke Young made a great tackle and raced forward, but Long tracked back with him. Lita went down on the edge of the box and Poll awarded the free kick. Carson gathered well.

Ambrose put in a great ball with Bent through on goal but Hahnemann came off his line to put it into touch with the halfway point in the half reached. Super Kevin Lisbie was readied to come on for the Addicks in place of Song who was in real danger of being sent off.

Reading won a corner, Diawara clearing. Reading threatened again and El Karkouri had to head over the bar. Ambrose had to clear at the expense of a second corner but this time Carson got hold of the ball well.

Lisbie fed Thomas well on the left, but he couldn't find Bent whose positioning was not ideal. Reading advanced on the left, but Diawara cleared again. El Karkouri took a smack in the face from Lita and went down injured. Diawara tackled Hunt who went down. Sidwell put in an effort from 30 yards that was well wide. A Sidwell header was claimed by Carson who was under pressure from Lita.

The game entered the last ten minutes of normal time. Diawara made an unusually poor clearance to give Reading another corner. Lisbie caught Harper by surprise and won the ball.

De la Cruz turned provider for Hunt but his header went past Carson's left hand post.
The Valley had become subdued as the nerves of the Addickted showed. After an error by Holland, Reading came forward, to produce yet another corner for the Royals, although they seemed to be able to make little of them, although this one was followed by some frantic play. After a poor shot by Lita at Carson, Charlton went on the attack. But Reading got back quickly.

Ambrose put in a fierce shot, but it was straight at the keeper. Three minutes of time were added on. Charlton have a habit of leaving it late recently, but this was very late. The offside flag went up against Darren Bent who had been less than his best. From about seven yards out, Zheng Zhi had a chance from a good ball from Luke Young but his header was straight at the keeper.

One win, one defeat over Easter would have been better than two goalless draws. Charlton are not in the relegation places, but are still in great danger.

We Are The Champions



In front of Dolly the Sheep and the Sheepside Stand earlier in the season

Leamington are champions of the Polymac Services Midland Alliance and will be playing football at Step 4 of the non-league pyramid next season. They clinched the title 3-0 win over rivals Racing Club Warwick at the New Windmill Ground this afternoon.

When I arrived at the New Windmill Ground one hour and twenty minutes before kick off to make sure of a parking space (the chicken farm overspill is still closed because of bird 'flu fears), I was immediately alerted to the importance of the match by the presence of five of Warwickshire's finest (one was actually a community support officer). Their main task appeared to be to saunter round the ground sipping coffee to shouts of 'Drinking on duty?' and 'Show your authority.' However at the end of the game they managed to stand facing the crowd, a thin blue line determined to resist a pitch invasion that never happened.

Perhaps excited by the size of the 1,151 crowd the officials went in for an elaborate warm up before the game, soaking up the attention until an ironic cheer from the Sheepisde, accompanied by a shout of 'It's five minutes to kick off, ref' brought the performance to an end.

The Gee Gees defended in number for the first half hour and were only really troubled by a fierce shot from Jamie Towers which the keeper managed to save. Then on 29 minutes former Coventry City player Ben Mackey put in a fierce shot from distance which left the keeper with no chance.

On 35 minutes it was the turn of Jon Adams to shoot from distance with the ball going just inside the post and perhaps deflecting off it. On 41 minutes he made it 3-0 with a close range header.

Just as they had in the 3-0 win over Racing Club at Hampton Road on Boxing Day, Brakes then took their foot off the gas a little, although they forced corner after corner with some good saves being made by the Gee Gees keeper, although former Brake David Care was the most impressive player for the opposition.

The North Bank taunted the Gee Gees with a chant of 'What's it like to play on grass?', followed by 'We've got a labrador', although there was no sign of his effigy that I could see from the Sheepside.

The message 'Stewards, assume your posts' signalled that the end of the game was near, but the referee seemed determined to add on as much time as possible. But former Warwick University striker Ubong Umotong was unable to secure a consolation for the Gee Gees.



Jason Cadden

At the end of the game the team did a lap of honour and manager Cadzy, not without a few critics, was chaired from the pitch by two of the stewards. Morton Titterton, who is ending a long career at a number of non-league clubs with a championship medal at Leamington looked transformed with delight: his experience has been a great asset this season.

There is still some uncertainty about whether Brakes will go to the Midland Division of the Southern League (which I hope will be the case) or the newly formed Midland Division of the Unibond, which would be an odd competition for a mid-Warwickshire side to play in.

Paul May is already on his way from Erith to The Valley and will be reporting in full later. Meanwhile, I have had to put my UN hat on and a difficult phone call has informed me that a Latin American quarrel I am supposed to help resolve is 'a matter of honour'. This will keep me tied up for the rest of this week, but at some point I hope to make an announcement about the future of this blog.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

I know more about Reading than I want to



This atmospheric picture by Tom Morris shows the old Reading ground at Elm Park. It's reminiscent of Sam Bartram being stranded on the pitch in the fog, although the keeper is, I think, Andy Petterson

In his Ali G phase the comedian Sacha Baron Cohen once said about Wales, 'I don't know much about Wales, but I hear it's crap.' I know more than I want to about Reading and I know it's crap.

My first memories of Reading are as the first major train stop out of London on the way to holidays in Cornwall. It seemed a sleepy sort of place with a third division (south) football team. It was known for making agricultural machinery and biscuits and it had a university with a specialism in agriculture and food. It was a kind of gateway to the west country. Indeed, when one of our daughters went to live there (and manage the railway station) decades later, some of the older inhabitants still spoke with an accent that sounded vaguely west country.

More intellectual types associated it with Oscar Wilde and the Ballad of Reading Gaol and the prison is still there, a forbidding presence in the middle of town. Oh, and Marianne Faithful went to Holy Joe's, the Catholic girls school up by the University and then followed a career path not unknown to former convent school girls. The football team never did very much: Nick Hornby in Fever Pitch went there once from Maidenhead, but blandishments to support his local team counted for nothing against the attractions of Arsenal.

Well, today, the biscuit making has gone and Reading is a thrusting, dynamic etc. town in the M4/Thames Valley corridor. I was talking to someone brought up in the town last week and she reckoned the heart and soul had been ripped out of it and the Oracle Shopping Centre represented modern commercialism at its worst.

But there's some serious money in and around modern Reading. Kendrick is one of the best independent girls' schools in the country, always a sign that a town is doing well (although I understand that they always had a formidable hockey team, especially if you had to play against them in goal). Vodafone is just down the road in Newbury, not far from where my father's cousin Ted (who introduced him to Charlton) used to work in the paper mills which have long since gone.

Some of the money in Reading is very discreet, like the tycoon father of a friend of mine who lives in the town's environs. (In fact, in an odd sort of way it's all very discreet: it's the only town in England I know of outside London that has a permanent CIA station). At nearby Henley, the wealth is more visible, but still understated.

But one person who has been prepared to get his wad out in the name of football is Reading chairman John Majedski. Having made his pile with auto trader magazines, he spent sensibly to build up Reading as a club. He could see that the window of opportunity was there. The social geography of Reading was ripe for a top drawer football club. Robert Maxwell could dimly see the same thing with his half baked plan for a merger of Oxford and Reading playing at Didcot as Thames Valley Royals.

Majedski has enjoyed it, and why shouldn't he, but it hasn't been one big ego trip (he would sell if the price was right). He built them a super new stadium and he chose managers well, our own Alan Pardew being followed by economics graduate Steve Coppell who is an Englishman who could manage England.

On a slow news day before the start of the season, Sky Sports News asked me to do a feature on Reading and I had no hesitation in forecasting that they would stay up without difficulty. One of their strengths in comparison to us is their midfield with Steve Sidwell having been a target for some time.

So tomorrow the Premiership arrivistes play the South-East London team fighting to stay in the top flight. (Although according to the latest 4-4-2, 70 per cent of our supporters live in Kent, so perhaps we are more like Reading than we realise).

Of course, this isn't about social geography, it's about 95 minutes or so on a football pitch, one team still harbouring Uefa cup ambitions, one trying to survive. But Reading as a town makes me uneasy. And so does tomorrow's game.

Tactics against Reading

Interesting piece in the Sunday Telegraph which basically questions whether our defence are nimble enough mentally and physically to cope with Reading's habit of putting dangerous crosses into the box which they then convert with headers:
Reading

It now looks as if I may not make the match. It's a long story but basically it's a small earthquake (or a major falling out) in Chile that's the problem. As I shall be in Finland at the time of the Spurs match, I may only be able to see one more match at home this season, against the Blades.

It's one of the paradoxes of life that, having turned sixty, I have more work being given to me than any time in my career.

Paul May is on standby to cover the game, but it's a big disappointment for Ivy the Terrible. With Hooch on an Easter break, she was looking forward to her first stint as match analyst in a Premiership game.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

This afternoon's results

Bit of a roller coaster, listening in the garden. Sheffield United went behind, then equalised again, but finally Newcastle did the business which means that the Blades are now below us on goal difference and not just goals scored. Wigan lost 1-3 at home which has brought their goal difference closer to us. Villa managed to get all three points against an apparently lacklustre Blackburn, which probably takes Villa out of the mix, but gives us renewed hope for the away fixture at Ewood Park.

The suprise of the afternoon was West Ham handing Arsenal their first ever defeat at the Emirates. It means that the Irons are just two points behind us, which means we need to keep piling on the points to make sure we're not overtaken.

Leamington won 4-0 at Cradley and with Romulus going down to Quorn by a similar score, the Midland Alliance championship must be within Brakes' grasp, possibly against the Gees Gees on Monday. It's going to be tricky getting to that match and to The Valley.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Massive point takes Addicks out of bottom three



It was a Double Bent duo up front for the Addicks in a 4-4-2 formation with Dennis Rommedahl making way for Big Bent at the City of Manchester Stadium writes Erith Addick Paul May.

City won a corner within seconds of the kick off. It was headed away by Song, but played back in for a second City corner off Hreidarsson. Barton's effort was initially cleared by Thomas, but it was played back in, ending in a City throw in. Within two minutes City had won a third corner after Young stood up against Vassell. City kept up the pressure and Carson had to use all his skills as a keeper.
Another City effort was cleared by Faye to give City a fifth corner in three minutes.
City won another throw in. Carson gathered the ball and smashed the ball over the halfway line towards Marcus Bent. Charlton had weathered the initial storm.

Barton caught Thomas in the Achilles and Charlton won a free kick, but the offside flag was shown as the ball went into the net off El Karkouri. City won their sixth corner off Luke Young. It bounced off Marcus Bent's head and Ireland was unable to stop it going out of play for an Addicks throw in.

City threatened from a throw in just after the fifteen minute mark, but El Karkouri was alert to the danger from Mpenza and Carson made a super save. Ireland attempted a volley but the gloved Diawara intervened to block it (Diawara had been told that the North Pole was in the northern suburbs of Manchester).

A free kick was awarded against Marcus Bent as he attempted to reclaim the ball from Jihai. The free kick came off a Charlton head for the seventh City corner of the match. Thomas broke away in a 80 yard run, exploiting space on the left, but the cross to Darren Bent was intercepted. Johnson, who had earlier received the ball in his marriage prospects, put in a wild attempt from 35 yards.

Charlton won their first corner after Isaksson, making only his fifth appearance in the City goal (the illustrious Weaver was on the bench) had to intervene after Thomas had put in a good cross towards Marcus Bent.

Barton was fed by Mpenza but put his drive wide. Thomas put in a low cross to the near post but it was collected by Isaksson. A drive by Barton was well saved by Carson to his right. Under pressure from Marcus Bent, either Isaksson or Ball just touched the ball to give the Addicks a corner on 33 minutes to the annoyance of the Massives. The ball drifted out of play from the corner by Thomas.

City won another corner from a throw in. El Karkouri headed it away, Barton played it back in but Carson collected. Charlton launched a counter attack, but it eventually fizzled out. Johnson went down injured after he was caught by Song.
Barton put in a shot after the ball was cut back and Carson had to make a sprawling save at the expense of a corner. Faye should have got closer to Barton.

Vassell advanced, but the alert Diawara took the ball away from him. City won their ninth corner of the game with just a couple of minutes of normal time to go. Barton's effort was well over, giving Charlton a goal kick.

As normal time came to an end, Charlton won a corner, followed by a second. Song played it out to Thomas. City were awarded a free kick for a foul by Song.

The back four had stood up well to Massive pressure but, apart from the lively Thomas, the midfield had been pretty anonymous, creating very little for Darren Bent.

Half time: Massives 0, Addicks 0

Carson was put under pressure by Mpenza and he had to put it out of play for a City thrown in. City won a corner kick after not much more than a couple of minutes of play but it ended in a free kick for the Addicks.

Jihai conceded a corner kick. Distan kneed it away and City forged forward and won a throw in inside the Charlton half. Charlton applied some pressure as the game went from end to end. Zheng Zhi was looking more effective in a more central position with Marcus Bent out to the right.

City won a corner through Onuoha who then had a free header but managed to put it over the top of the bar. Barton burst forward but was cut out by El Karkouri at the expense of a corner. Charlton were able to clear. Marcus Bent tried to connect with a cross from Thomas.

Charlton conceded another corner which was taken quickly, but Carson was eventually able to gather the ball. The Massive support showed signs of frustration. Luke Young read a City attack well. Young put in a good cross and Charlton had a chance, but City counter attacked, with the ball cut out by El Karkouri. Both sides were looking for a goal.

Bent nicked the ball off Dunne and Jihai had to retrieve the situation by playing the ball off Bent for a goal kick. Wiley gave the free kick after Jihai failed to make contact with Marcus Bent in a rash challenge. El Karkouri's free kick was not good enough.

Charlton had a chance to score with the two Bents setting it up for Zheng Zhi, but Onuoha played the ball off him for a goal kick. Samaras and Trevor Sinclair came on for City, Ireland and Vassell being taken off.

Diawara got in a muddle, but Carson dealt with the situation. The tempo of the game was increasing. Charlton won a corner taken by Zheng Zhi. Faye was caught offside.
Some of the City supporters started to leave. Jihai pushed off Zheng Zhi and Charlton were given a free kick in a good position. Isaksson gathered the free kick from Thomas and City forged forward.

Charlton won another free kick with five minutes of normal time to go. Hreidarsson and Distin had a clash of heads, but the Icelandic international was soon on his feet while the Frenchman needed the smelling salts.

Three minutes of time were added on. Samaras put in a diving header that went just wide. Rommedahl replaced Thomas. City won a free kick, but it was headed away by Faye. The whistle was blown and the boos of the Massives rang round Eastlands.

It was the fifth game at home without scoring a goal for City and the fifth unbeaten match for Charlton. They stood up well in a tough game.

A massive game

Charlton face the Massives at the City of Manchester Stadium later this afternoon in another crucial game in their battle to escape relegation. At the moment I would take a draw, but this is a game in which we have to try and get all three points.

That doesn't mean throwing caution to the winds, but the problem with a 4-5-1 formation is that Darren Bent is often left isolated up front with no one to hold the ball up for him and errartic service from the midfield, although ZZ playing behind him offers more options.

We won our first two games against Manchester City in the Premiership, with the famous 4-1 humiliation of mouthy keeper Nicky Weaver being followed by a 1-0 win, a 1-1 draw in the next fixture and then two defeats of 4-0 and 3-2.

Manchester City midfielder Dietmar Hamann is doubtful (ankle) and Usmane Dabo could replace him. Defender and England fringe player Micah Richards also had an ankle problem. Do they train on the rubble strewn site next door that was designated for the Casino?

Former Massives player Ben Thatcher is likely to return for the Addicks which should strengthen our defence and offer better distribution. Hermann Hreidarsson may take the central role where he is more comfortable alongside the increasingly impressive Souleymane Diawara, with the mercurial Talal El Karkouri most likely to make way. One prediction we can make with confidence is that Bryan Hughes won't feature.

Erith Addick Paul May is already on his way north on one of the subsidised coaches and will be reporting from the game.