Monday, October 30, 2006

Dowie acknowledges a negative thought

In a sensationally frank press conference, Charlton boss Iain Dowie has admitted that he recently had a negative thought.

In a voice choking with emotion and brimming with self-hate, Dowie acknowledged that he had let his guard down, but was determined to prove it was an isolated incident.

"I was emptying the dishwasher, when suddenly a plate slipped from my hand and crashed to the floor," Dowie sighed, a tear rolling down his cheek, "...and I must confess, that my first thought was 'bollocks'"

However, with his trusted lieutenant Les Reed at his side, Dowie somehow found the strength to reveal how the positivity reasserted itself. "I swiftly realised that the wife and I had been meaning to replace our dinnerware," Dowie insisted, "..and that this was merely the positive catalyst we needed to pursue our crockery ambitions."

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Guile-less Draw

When Derek Hales declared on Friday that, "I can see a few goals going in on Saturday," those of us that have been following our legendary soothsayer with interest would have known that the game was unlikely to be a classic.

For the first twenty minutes or so we were so firmly camped in our own half that we probably just needed some Kendal Mint Cake and we could quite happily have put our tents up for the night.

Very slowly we came into the game at various points, but you sensed that the only way we would take anything from the game would be via a 0-0 draw, and luckily this was how it transpired. Fortunately for us, Damien Duff has a right foot modelled on the likes of Nigel Winterburn, otherwise they could have been out of sight by the hour mark.

In fairness, our defence was excellent but in front of them our usual dire lack of central midfield creativity cost us the chance to grab the game by the scruff of its neck, and so really test a Newcastle side lacking in both personnel and confidence. Scott Parker, won't you please forgive us and come home?

Here are my proprietary ratings for today's game:

Carson 7 - with all his money, you'd think he'd have got his teeth straightened
Young 7 - a true pro - when adverts for lodgers declare 'professional preferred', he can apply
Hreidarsson 7 - always plays better when he is closer to Iceland
Diawara 8 - looks the real deal, and a bit like Chris Whyte
El Karkouri 9 - was that El Karkouri or Beckenbauer?
Faye 4 - oh dear, I think he forgot who he was playing for
Holland 5 - did he used to be called Matt Netherlands?
Rommedahl - 6 - I bet he never forgets his Grandma's birthday
Reid 6 - if I knew I looked overweight, I wouldn't wear a t-shirt underneath
Bent M 5 - he does have nice eyes doesn't he?
Bent D 6 - is there a more frustrating job in England than being Charlton striker? (ice cream seller? - Ed.)

Kishishev 5 - he does look like a really nice bloke
Hughes 6 - Dowie was hoping he would change the game and he did; it got worse

Nonetheless, it hasn't been a bad week for us - no goals conceded and a place in the last 16 of the Carling Cup. Looking further back though, it is terrifying to think that we have only acquired five points from a year's worth of away fixtures. My Dad has accumulated more points than that on his driving licence during that period, and his driving style is more Jimmy Hill than Damon Hill. I meanwhile will be attending possibly my one and only live game next Saturday, and I have this feeling in my water that we will win comfortably (it might just be cystitis - Ed.).

Friday, October 27, 2006

Toon Crier

A quick look at the league table will remind you how important Saturday's game is for Charlton. Although we have a patchy record at St James' Park, a 2-0 win would see us leapfrog the Barcodes and more importantly probably see us move outside the bottom three. Such a result would also see the pressure on Glenn Roeder grow as Newcastle continue their ongoing march from farce to lampoonery, and then back again.

The atmosphere there can be intimidating at times but there is little to be intimidated by on the field, particularly with two of their best players crocked (Given and Owen). Indeed only Damien Duff and Scott Parker are players that might strike any sort of fear when the teamsheets are posted. Any injury to Steve Harper meanwhile would see 38-year old Pavel Srnicek between the sticks (yes, I also thought he'd retired).

Our surprise midweek victory would have been a welcome boost to confidence and with a nervy crowd on the home side's back and with a nearly fully fit squad finally to select from, it seems an ideal time to finally get our Premiership season up and running. Some of those that excelled on Wednesday night will be clamouring to stay there but it would be a surprise if Reid, Bent D, Faye and Diawara do not all return.

It will not just be the team that will be brimming with new-found confidence on Saturday, because Killer had a much-needed win on Wednesday too, bringing his gambling debts down to levels that no longer resemble the US current account deficit (KillerWatch©: -£242). Killer is poring over form guides no doubt quite literally as I write, but I will lean towards the type of surprise result that might just put him back in the black if he is inclined to follow me. NY Addick predicts: Newcastle 1 (Martins), Charlton 2 (Reid, Hasselbaink)

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Dowie Transformed

The worry lines have disappeared, the bags under the eyes are firmly in the past, and the shapeless mop of blonde hair is now shiny and replenished. In the high-pressure world of professional football, a desperately needed win for an underfire manager can have quite extraordinary effects.

And if Charlton manager Iain Dowie was clearly relieved after last night's impressive 1-0 win over high-flying Bolton, Mrs Dowie was said to be ecstatic. "Over the past few weeks, he's been coming home looking terrible," she admitted, "'s great to have the Iain I know and love back....he looks as good as he did on our wedding day."

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Bolt On

With the Addicks fighting for survival it is hard to get too excited about a Carling Cup game bolted on to the fixture list in between two vital relegation six pointers. This is particularly so given that the Trotters are the sort of team that exemplify exactly why Premiership crowds are on the slide, and I dare say tonight's attendance will on the low side too.

In previous seasons when our Premiership safety seemed relatively assured even in late-October, I was keen for us to take the competition as seriously as possible given that it provides entry to the UEFA Cup, but also because our record in it is so diabolical and pride is at stake.

Other clubs have implied that UEFA Cup qualification means little financially, and can even be a money-losing proposition. Indeed, after all of the initial excitement felt across the river, West Ham made a pig's ear (let alone a pig's head) of their brief European excursion to Mafia country, and the heavy defeat can't have helped their woeful Premiership form. However from my standpoint (until this season at least), if we were going to be so blasé about European football merely playing for Premiership survival year-after-year with no other potential upside, then this would eventually see our fans turning away (they are).

This season is different though because our Premiership status is at dire risk and the last thing we need is to lose key players to injury playing (and most probably losing) in tonight's fixture. Hence whilst the cover of tonight's programme should send a shiver down most of our spines ("Matt Holland: Back in the first team and determined to stay there"), this is one occasion when his presence (or that of Hughes, Bent M, plus a few youngsters) ought to be positively welcomed.

I can't seem to find Killer's prediction for tonight on the website (KillerWatch© -£275) but in light of our hopefully weakened team, I will predict another early exit from the competition. NY Addick predicts: Charlton 1 (Hasselbaink), Bolton 3 (Davies, Anelka, Speed)

Monday, October 23, 2006

TGI Friday's - the truth

It's time for the truth to come out regarding the recent Daily Mirror exclusive that skipper Luke Young had organised an outing at TGI Friday's, but only three other players turned up.

Drawing upon a combination of CCTV pictures, eyewitness accounts and unidentified sources, New York Addick is pleased to report upon the truth behind what has variously been termed 'Friday-gate'.


Sunday 31 Sep, 10.30am

Luke Young sends out a group text message to all squad members:

"TGIF - c u @8.30 - 2-4-1 all nite - large"

Sunday 31 Sep, 8.25pm

Young arrives five minutes early and waits for teammates to arrive. He finds a large quiet table, puts down his mobile phone, and orders a Budweiser.

Sunday 31 Sep, 8.37pm

Kevin Lisbie arrives next but doesn't spot Young at the corner table:

Young: "Oi, Super Kev.....over 'ere son.....Lizzo.....Lizzo.....The Kevster.....I'm over 'ere son....."
Lisbie: "Sorry skipper didn't see you there. Just had a call from Marcus B - he can't come unfortunately, he's washing his hair tonight."
Young: "He doesn't have any hair."
Lisbie: "That's what I thought."

Andy Reid arrives next, eating a burger.

Young: "Reidy.....Randy Andy....over 'ere son.....Oi, Sumo......The Reidster.....we're over 'ere you fat piece of lard."
Reid: "Blimey, I'm starving - show us the menu."
Waitress: "Hey guys, my name's BobbySue and I'm your server this evening."
Reid: "My name's Andy, and I'm your customer this evening."
Waitress: "You guys are funny, lads night out is it?"
Reid: "Team bonding actually, we're footballers."
Waitress: "You could have fooled me, I saw your game the other night."
Reid: "Cheeky cow. I'll have the 'overloaded potato skins' please."
Waitress: "They're actually merely 'loaded' sir."
Reid: "I'll say it again. I'll have the 'overloaded potato skins'"
Waitress: "I'll see what chef can do."

Jon Fortune walks in.

Young: "Oi, Johnny-boy.......the Fortune-teller.....we're over 'ere sunshine....."
Fortune: "Sorry I'm late lads, I've just been to an all-day dance party."
Young: "Fortune favours the rave."
Fortune: "You what?"
Young: "Have you seen our waitress Jon? As a defender, I bet you wouldn't mind getting nice and tight to her, eh? Eh? Eh? Know what I mean?"
Fortune: "Not really, no."

Young's mobile rings.....

Young: "JFH!.....the Floydster!.....He's no Hassle, He's Hasselbaink! are you son?"
(Hasselbaink replies)
Young: "Sorry, didn't mean to show you a lack of respect. No of course I haven't achieved a fraction of what you've achieved in the game, no......So I guess you're not coming then?"

Young's mobile rings....

Young: "TEK!.....Talal Meat!.....are you on your way son, or did your blow yourself up instead?"
(El Karkouri hangs up)
Young: "Sensitive."

The waitress returns....

Waitress: "You'll never believe it. One of our barmen is a Charlton fan and he wants to buy one of you a special drink."
Young: "Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo....I'm lovin' it"
Waitress: "For Kevin Lisbie, he's suggested a wee Macallan 10-year because you've been around for such a long time but we've still not seen the best of you."
Fortune: "Oi Kev, how come you're not playing for Gillingham yet?"
(players collapse laughing.....Lisbie falls off his chair and dislocates his shoulder.)

Young's mobile rings....

Young: "Dennis the Menace!'s the Rommster!.....get over here quick son, not that you know any other way" (cracks up laughing)
(Rommedahl replies)
Young: "Broken fingernail? Sounds nasty, no worries."

Iain Dowie walks in....

Young: "Hello Mr Dowie."
Dowie: "What the hell do you think you're doing? Have you seen the Premiership table? Get your arses back home before I stick the lot of you on the transfer list.
Fortune/Lisbie/Reid/Young: "Sorry, boss."
Dowie: "And what the f*ck have you done to Super Kev?"
Young: "He fell off his stool laughing boss."
Dowie: "That's all I f*cking need. Listen, it was a 'freak training accident', ok?"

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Wat More Can We Do?

Trying to avoid the result for four hours so I could watch it 'as live' was more problematic than I expected, and it played all sorts of havoc with my mind. Firstly, a Watford-supporting friend called me ten minutes after full-time (naturally I didn't answer it), and then a couple of hours later a Tottenham-supporting mate texted me, and he's not averse to a bit of schadenfreude at my expense.

So you can imagine my concern as the match transpired, with us playing some of the best passing football I've seen in a long while, that surely Watford would deliver a cruel late winner to leave us even more in the mire. Thus I may be one of the few Charlton fans realtively satisfied with the solitary point I predicted we would take from the game.

It's difficult to know what else Dowie could have done today. He had the guts to drop Hasselbaink and use a 4-5-1 formation that got the best out of Andy Reid. He also kept faith with Diawara despite his cramp at Fulham, and frankly he was absolutely immense - he reminded me a lot of Jorge Costa's best performances for us and not just because he also wore gloves.

And of course in my view some of the aforementioned flowing football deserved a goal and probably a win too. Most of the chances and half-chances we created were from a series of cohesive moves, with Reid invariably pulling the strings. If Jerome Thomas had taken his early chance, then I'm confident the nerves would have dissipated and we would have won comfortably. As it was, some of the tension from the stands must have reached the players as the game wore on, and in the end I was happy to ensure we took a point, not least when Darius Henderson somehow missed from six yards in the second period.

I suggested yesterday that a draw could, with hindsight, prove to be a more important result than we realised at the time and I stand by that prediction tonight. Our next six fixtures are very 'winnable' and include fixtures against Newcastle, Wigan, Man City and Sheffield United, all teams that currently make up the bottom eight, a group of strugglers that (Spurs aside) are likely to be our main relegation rivals in 2007.

I am hoping that some aspects of the performance, if not the result of course, will take some pressure off Dowie. It is worth remembering that the most serious candidates that the club considered (publicly at least) in the summer (Billy Davies, Peter Taylor and Phil Parkinson) are not exactly setting the world alight in the Championship, reminding us that it is rarely easy to just turn up at club and begin generating results, particularly as in Dowie's case, it was not exactly handed down to you in tip-top condition.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Hornet's Nest

The idea of 'must win' games is a little overdramatic although those Charlton fans making their way to The Valley on Saturday may argue otherwise. To suggest that a draw or defeat against Watford implies imminent relegation or the end of Iain Dowie's short reign is just plain silly.

We probably need to generate say nine wins and eight draws from our remaining thirty games to be safe, so that allows a cushion potentially of thirteen or so more losses. Obviously we are more likely to reach our safety objective if we take the opportunity to beat the weakest teams in the division, but we are bound to have a surprise win at some point, and we won't be describing that game ex ante as a 'must lose' fixture.

I'm being surprisingly sanguine about it because it will be a far tougher game than many of us perhaps expect. Moreover if it's a 'must win' game for us, what is it for them as they hunt for their first victory? And of course, we can't both prevail.

Strangely perhaps, we have had extremely similar fixtures this season, each already having played Arsenal, Man Utd, Villa, Fulham, Bolton and West Ham. And yes, you've guessed it, we also both accumulated a whopping three points from those six opponents. And although readers of this blog will know I loathe the idea of 'playing for a draw' given the additional two points available for a win compared to only one foregone, critics of my philosophy might argue that Charlton's seven defeats this season have led to a worrying lack of confidence which Watford's four defeats have not, despite only a solitary point separating the teams at the foot of the table.

After a promising first-half against Fulham, we faded and conceded two soft-ish goals. We know Watford will be physical so Dowie may continue to prefer Diawara's sizeable presence, but Saturday is not a day for any El Karkouri funny business so don't be surprised to see Fortune return in his stead. At left-back Hreidarsson offers little offensively, but again this type of game is hardly the ideal environment to give Ashton or Youga their debut (perhaps we are paying for Curbs' failure to give them a confidence-boosting start in meaningless end-of-season games in 05/06).

In midfield, the continued presence of Hughes lends itself to all sorts of conspiracy theories and if he is the closest thing we have to a creative central midfielder, then we might have to sacrifice creativity for steel and width. My preferred midfield therefore would be Thomas, Rommedahl, Faye and Kishishev. Andy Reid's build and engine is a little comical, but Dowie clearly rates him and until someone knocks him into shape, his best role will be in the hole behind Bent, with Hasselbaink relegated to the bench. Indeed, Ambrose would be well-suited for this role too. Returning to 4-5-1 need not be seen as defensive so long as it resembles the exciting 4-5-1 of early 05/06 not the depressing one that succeeded it.

The wonders of US television schedules will ensure I will see my ninth consecutive game in full, albeit delayed, and I await with baited breath Killer's prediction for the game (KillerWatch©: £-225). I suggest a draw is the likely outcome, a result which hindsight will show was more morale-boosting than felt at the time. NY Addick predicts: Charlton 1 (Bent D), Watford 1 (Young)

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

CA one© - The Stunning New Fragrance from CAFC

CA one© is the stunning new fragrance from CAFC. Genderless, ageless and raceless, CA one© urges you to take risks, open your eyes and dare to dream. It is also advertised by improbably attractive men and women whom you'd fancy even if they smelled of rubbish left out in the sun.

Combining the distinctive essences of lavender, lemon and juniper berry, and with just the faint whiff of Talal El Karkouri's jockstrap after a tough 90 minutes in August, no self-respecting Charlton fan should consider an alternative aroma.

CA one© - dare to dream

Touch of Claus

I'm still solidly behind Dowie although I'm worried sick about our prospects for this season. Tonight's defeat was definitely the most painful so far this season, because we could not really call upon the myriad of excuses (injuries, red cards, poor referees) that has tempted us that it was only bad luck not bad football that accounted for our position. It also ensured we will go at least 365 days without an away win, a terrible statistic that emphasises our woeful lack of confidence.

Dowie has one of those faces that tells the watching world exactly what he's thinking, and as a result I am certain he feels as bad as we do. Indeed looking at the attached photo, go on tell me you're not also offering to draw him into your bosom, cradle his weary head and reassure him that "there there Iain, it will all be ok in the end."

I think we will have to accept that tonight was just one of those nights. It certainly wasn't a classic and we didn't deserve to lose on the balance of play; by my reckoning Fulham scored from both their chances, but then again I suppose we only created half-chances (luckily we have a striker for whom that's enough). Typically the game was won by a touch of class from our former playmaker showing the type of breaks behind the defence that our own pedestrian midfield is unable to copy.

If one was going to criticise Dowie, you could argue he brought back Diawara prematurely, whilst Hasselbaink's place in the team is becoming increasingly questionable as Dowie is perhaps tempted to go 4-5-1 just to make us harder to beat. However pinning the blame on Hasselbaink would be premature given that we have now played 720 minutes of football this season without anyone other than him or Bent finding the net. The problems lie behind the front two, not within them in my view.

The midfield is going to have to begin contributing more goals and assists, but with the notable exception of Rommedahl during the first half tonight, their impact is minimal offensively. Faye has done enough this season to warrant a regular defensive midfield place but as we know Hughes isn't good enough, whilst Andy Reid is painfully slow despite some neat touches. As a result the balance felt all wrong tonight. Maybe the answer is to accept a lack of creativity in central midfield by pairing Faye with Kishishev, but allowing Thomas and Rommedahl to taunt full-backs with their pace and guile?

Either way, whichever formation or team selection Dowie opts for against Watford, anything other than a win is too horrible to contemplate.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Book Review: Valley of Dreams

Having finally got my hands on a copy of "Valley of Dreams", my seven-hour flight back to NY was the ideal environment for a cover-to-cover Curbs extravaganza.

As it transpired, I had about fifteen pages remaining as the plane crossed the start of the JFK runway lights, but out of nowhere the engines suddenly roared and we began climbing again. I'm not exagerrating when I tell you we were no more than fifty feet from the tarmac. Apparently it's called a 'go around' in the business and was caused by a plane that was too slow to leave the runway. Ordinarily I would have been a nervous wreck but instead it just seemed a final poetic tribute to Curbs himself, giving me the extra twenty minutes I needed to complete the book as we circled for a renewed approach.

In fairness to Curbs, the book was better than I expected. For any Charlton fan, it's an essential and cracking yarn which brought back great memories. His ghost writer Kevin Brennan is obviously experienced at maintaining the reader's attention although the book would be a long struggle for anyone not intimately involved with the club. It is one thing to read about Curbs' glowing tribute to Keith Jones if you have watched him play, but another if you have never heard of the bloke. Meanwhile, I could have done without his extensive use of the exclamation mark ("A quiet afternoon at the Valley!" "A step too far for Richard!") but I suppose you don't read football books for their grammatical value.

There were also one or two factual errors which a trainspotter like me was bound to pick up on. On page 119, he discusses the first-leg play-off match against Crystal Palace in 1996 and reminds us that "...we did score first just before the hour..." when infact Shaun Newton opened the scoring inside five minutes (I know because I missed the goal having been stuck in traffic).

The first few chapters cover Curbs' time as a player under Lennie Lawrence, and it struck me how the vital role that Lennie played during our time at Selhurst Park has in a way been underestimated in light of his successor's outstanding tenure. Had we not maintained our First Division status for four seasons, it is easy to imagine the club would have gone into freefall - instead, he bought those that cared enough (Alwen, Murray, Simons, the Valley Party etc..) the time to formulate a realistic plan to save the club.

The period between his joint appointment in 1991 and the second promotion in 2000 is well-covered and full of interesting anecdotes, not least the one about David Whyte missing the first day of preseason training, and Brendan O'Connell once giving the wayward striker a black eye at half-time. It is clear that he viewed certain players as vital, yet somewhat underappreciated during this rebuilding period (Steve Gatting, Garry Nelson, Colin Walsh, Carl Leaburn). Some of his signings were rightly highlighted as representing outstanding value (Mark Kinsella, John Robinson) but other more expensive underperformers were somewhat glossed over (Steve Jones, Bradley Allen, Gary Poole).

The period in the Premiership since 2000 was perhaps the least interesting part of the book, but not surprisingly so perhaps given that by this point we were, if we're honest, just a 'normal footbal club' again. I found it odd that Curbs found it necessary to 'put on record' (his words) thanks to Danny Murphy for his time at Charlton. This type of brown-nosing emphasises my concerns that football people will always close ranks around their own regardless of how immoral their actions may be in the eyes of Joe Public, not least us Charlton fans.

His relationship with Richard Murray was clearly outstanding throughout, and it emphasises what we always knew about the Charlton chief. In light of Dowie's transfer spending and the recent delays to the Valley expansion, it was interesting to note that the club always put aside 1/3 of any cash windfalls to stadium expansion and to a reserve buffer respectively, putting only 1/3 towards new players. It can only add to the anxiety that many around the club must be feeling about the current League position.

As I had discussed previously, I was hoping the book may throw some light upon what traits Curbs has which less successful managers lack but it was indeed found wanting. One could glean that good preparation, original training sessions, hard work and team bonding were key but these are all surely the factors that any manager would emphasise. What was interesting however was that he finally confirmed certain aspects of his management that the fans had always suspected were true. For example, he confirmed that he liked 'hungry and angry' players, as well as flexible ones, whilst being suspicious of signing foreign players without previous Premiership experience. Regardless of his biases however, it was touching to hear about how personally he took the importance of selling the club to prospective signings, not least when he took Super Clive on 'Alan Curbishley's Tour of London.'

However if there was one overwhelming conclusion that I was able to draw from the book, it was that the success Curbs had would simply not have been possible without the stability provided by the Board, and by the patience and loyalty shown by the fans. He may arguably have been our most successful ever manager, but as he himself clearly knew with regard to certain players, no-one is bigger than the club. He has moved on, we have moved on, and we owe it to Dowie to be patient enough to offer him the chance someday of writing his own lengthy memoirs, if of course he is up to the task.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Hughes: "Come and Get Me"

Charlton's all-action midfielder Bryan Hughes has issued a sensational 'come and get me' plea to under-fire England supremo Steve McLaren.

Although no-one is entirely sure if the classy playmaker is English or Welsh, television replays of the Croatia debacle appeared to show Terry Venables whisper "Hughsie" in McLaren's ear (I think it was 'useless' - Ed.)

Hughes: Available

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

London Calling

I'm back in the UK (or as it's known in New York 'the land that dentistry forgot') for a week but Sky's rescheduling of the Fulham game ensures it will be a Charlton-free visit for me sadly.

My frequent visits to London rarely induce a sense that an imminent return to live would be desirable. London's obvious charms and abundant civility are invariably outweighed for me by the nightmarish infrastructure and a sense that 'service' is something only seen here for two weeks during Wimbledon. You also get to play the amazing "disappearing £100 game" - take £100 out of the cashpoint and see how quickly it disappears (less than 24 hours in my case).

Moving from London to New York requires an obvious trade-off of living space for 24/7 convenience and it's one which for me was heavily weighted in favour of the latter at least whilst I'm still relatively young. Frustratingly despite Red Ken's honest intentions, some of the worst aspects of London's chronic transport system could surely be solved by some progressive thinking. For example, why shouldn't you be able to hail a registered minicab on the street outside of Central London? The real cabbies would be up in arms of course, but you never see them in the suburbs anyway. It's much easier to have a fun night out when you're not constantly worrying about how you'll get home.

As I'm back again in a few weeks coinciding with the Man City home game, I tried to buy tickets online for the first time but without much success. Apparently for 'security reasons', the club won't send the tickets to an address different from the one registered with the credit card used to pay for them. Hence, the club either has to pay the postage to send the tickets to New York (and I don't trust them not to balls it up) or I have to borrow someone's credit card. Whilst I'm sure the club's philosophy is meant to be honorable it does seem a little odd that you can happily purchase items on and send them wherever you choose, but not Charlton tickets? If the club does expand the Valley after all, I hope they will make it easier for people to hand over their dosh and fill the seats.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Chicago Addick in New York

It was always going to be an interesting encounter. We've been described in the local media variously as "The two giants of the American Charlton blogging scene" and "The very epitome of what it is a US-based Addick blogger should aspire to."

Would our respective giant egos clash like two meteors? Would my recent unprecedented two-figure advertising deal rankle with Chicago Addick and his less materialistic blue-collar sensibilities?

Just as I did for Frankie Valley, I chose the Pig & Whistle pub, a suitably relaxed Irish joint ideal for a chinwag about Charlton, but more importantly a place where I was unlikely to be recognised. The last thing I needed was Chicago Addick letting on to my New York 'connections' that my high-flying image was all a ruse when infact I was just a regular bloke who likes beer and footy.

I arrived first, found a suitable table and waited to see if I would be able to spot the man who described himself in our emails as 'a cross between Robert Redford and Neil Redfearn.' Right on time, he showed up and I recognised him instantly thanks to his unique Charlton-style outfit:
Chicago Addick

Unlike Frankie who showed up flanked by security guards, Chicago only drew looks because of the outfit not because of who he was. It was in keeping with the style of a man who admits his Mum is an avid reader of his blog, though it's not clear how she felt about the deep Midwestern drawl he has developed.

However, although their styles were polar opposites, Chicago must have regretted not having read Frankie's reflections on our meeting because if there is one thing guaranteed to have me boring my drinking companion into submission, it's a rare opportunity to 'talk Charlton' with someone.

And 'talk Charlton' I most certainly did pausing only to eat and to visit the restroom twice. Indeed I became concerned towards the end that Chicago was only ordering drinks in the hope of falling unconscious, in the style of those unfortunate passengers sat next to Ted Striker in 'Airplane': "Well I could probably go on for hours, but I'd probably bore you to death..."

And although we are based 719 miles apart, our views on the club were surprisingly similar as readers of both the blogs may have picked up. In short, whilst some elements of our discussion are a little fuzzy this morning, I think those views can broadly be summarised as follows:

- we need to be patient with Dowie (and even so, the Board won't sack him anyhow)
- the reign of Curbs had reached a natural and satisfactory end
- if we survive this season (even in 17th place) it should be seen as a successful season
- our fondest Charlton memories were largely from the 'old days'
- the 1998 Play-Off Final was the best day of our lives (regardless of what we may have told loved ones then or since)
- Bryan Hughes isn't very good (but he's probably a nice fella)
- we had hoped Curbs' book might elucidate more on what made him so successful (but expect to be disappointed)
- if we are still bottom in January, the club might have to consider selling Darren Bent (even though it would seal our fate)
- Americans have to have therapists because they don't form the same deep friendships as us Brits (ok, this is nothing to do with Charlton but we did stray off-topic at times)
- the calm hurricane season this year has been a surprise to us both

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Subway Series?

“The New York Yankees have the greatest fans in the world...I can’t imagine they will jump ship.”

The above quote was attributed to George Steinbrenner, owner of the New York Yankees, referring to the sudden recent increase in support for their crosstown rivals the New York Mets. As someone who would only switch allegiance from Charlton under clear and present threat of death, it's certainly a curious comment.

New York has gone baseball-mad because the regular 162-game season ended last weekend and both of their teams finished with an identical (and joint best) 97-65 win/loss record. Hence the mighty Yankees and usually hapless Mets enter the post-season play-offs as favourites and 2nd favourites respectively to lift the World Series title later this month.

The Yankees won the first in a best-of-5 series with the Detroit Tigers last night, the winners playing either the Oakland Athletics or Minnesota Twins for the right to represent the American League in the World Series. Meanwhile the Mets begin their own series against the LA Dodgers this evening, and if successful will face either the St Louis Cardinals or San Diego Padres for the right to represent the National League. If both New York teams triumph, it will represent the first so-called 'Subway Series' since 2000 when the Mets and Yankees competed for the World Series for the first and only time (the Mets were only formed in 1962).

Although a Subway Series would whip up a frenzy in this already crazy city, it would be the least desirable match-up for the TV companies such is the disdain felt for New York in much of the US. Indeed the 2000 series received what was at that time, the worst television ratings for a World Series, though last year's one-sided Chicago White Sox/Houston Astros series was even more of a turn-off. However, given that the last Subway Series occurred less than a year prior to 9/11, it is certainly possible that the country will rally around its biggest city as it continues its amazing recovery. Not surprisingly perhaps, the broadcasters would love a Yankees/LA Dodgers World Series drawing millions of fans from the two largest TV markets as well as providing the sort of 'angle' (East Coast vs West Coast) that also attracts the neutral.

Back in the 1930s and 1940s, the Yankees regularly competed with the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants in their own versions of the 'Subway Series' but the Dodgers decamped to LA whilst the Giants now find themselves up the coast in San Francisco. Indeed it is this very mobility of the so-called US sporting 'franchises' which probably helps to explain Steinbrenner's quote above. I can only hope he is referring to the many 'neutrals' in the city who are deciding who to back, but if not it backs up my view (which is not always well-received) that the devotion felt by a British football fan will never be matched here.

When I arrived in the city, there was no question about who I would support, namely the Mets. As a Charlton fan, and thus the perennial underdog, it would have felt very unusual to support the Yankees whose 26 World Series titles renders them very firmly as the 'Man Utd' or 'Liverpool' of Major League baseball. Moreover from my experience, the Yankees fans are a far more boisterous lot than their more thoughtful compatriots at Shea Stadium, perhaps a perfect parallel between Millwall and Charlton. Oh and finally, the Mets have an injury crisis right now.

Either way however, I've near bugger all chance of getting hold of a ticket so I'll be watching it unfold on TV. And if those legions of Charlton fans heading to Fulham on Monday week are moaning about the inconvenience of an 8pm Monday night kick-off, bear in mind that today's Mets game starts at 4pm in New York on a weekday purely to accommodate the demands of the TV companies.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Death Valley?

"The board was also made aware there are other possible stadium options which should be evaluated..."

The inclusion of the above quote from Peter Varney, hidden away inside the depths of the matchday programme, reminded me a little of the Jo Moore 'bad news' scandal in the aftermath of 9/11. "The team is crap, we've an injury crisis and it's Arsene Wenger's tenth anniversary as manager.....a good day to bury bad news?"

I'm being facetious of course and I suspect there is nothing sinister contained in the quote. Indeed he may merely be sending a gentle reminder to any obstructive members of Greenwich Council that they shouldn't take the club's generally beneficial presence in the Borough entirely for granted. More generally, the Board's open-mindedness on the issue and the various potential options available to it is sensible, but in turn does not suggest some shock news will be forthcoming.

With the freehold ownership issues from the 1980s now solved, there would appear to be only two reasons to even contemplate a departure from the Valley. Firstly if demand for seats materially exceeded supply (and new seats could not efficiently be added), or if the stadium became decrepit. Indeed, most of the recent new stadia built in the past decade or so can be explained by one of these two phenomena, neither of which applies currently to Charlton which tells me the entire issue is moot anyhow.

The only two clubs I can identify which have recently moved to new stadiums, but which don't fit either of the above criteria, would be Coventry and Man City. Although not exactly in fantastic shape, neither of their legacy stadiums were falling apart nor were they being filled to capacity on a very regular basis. However each was offered the opportunity to move in partnership with the local authorities, which was perhaps what Varney was (very) loosely alluding to with one eye on the 2012 Olympics

I have regularly argued on this blog that the Valley expansion plans are flawed, over-ambitious and potentially highly destructive for the long-term future of the club so I am pleased that they are on hold for the timebeing. That last point may seem counter-intuitive but with relegation now roughly a 35% probability (per Betfair), any financing should be focused upon the team not the stadium else we will risk watching Championship football alongside 15,000 or so others in a 30,000+ stadium. It would be nice to replace the ageing Jimmy Seed Stand sometime, but the justification currently would be purely aesthetic and we mainly only use it to house away fans anyhow. Until then we have a compact modern stadium which retains some character because it wasn't purpose-built, is capable of generating a good atmosphere, and which is large enough to satisfy curent demand.

I'm perhaps a little unusual in the sense that our 1985-1992 spell away from The Valley coincided almost exactly with my teenage years when my obsession with all things Charlton peaked. Hence I am one of those rare fans whose support actually increased after we left for Selhurst Park. Combine this with the fact that I've never lived anywhere near the area, and perhaps my emotional ties to the ground are looser than for other, particularly older fans. As a result I would not necessarily be against a move someday if financial and logistical needs demanded it. It's just that those needs are not likely to reveal themselves for the foreseeable future so we can all relax for now.

You Better, You Bet

No, it's not another chart displaying Charlton's slump in form, it's the recent share price of PartyGaming Plc (owner of PartyPoker) which saw its value slump by 57.9% yesterday to 45p. The trigger for the collapse was the surprise news that Congress had managed to pass a bill blocking the processing of payments to online gambling sites.

The gaming companies and the US authorities have been going head-to-head for a number of years now, so any investors who bought into the PartyGaming IPO at 116p per share on 27 June 2005 will be wishing they'd 'folded' when the price hit a peak of 176p on 28 July. Alternatively they should have heeded the advice of perhaps the greatest investor of them all, Warren Buffett: "If you've been in the game 30 minutes and don't know who the patsy is, you're the patsy."

On the same day that Senate majority leader Bill Frist confirmed that "Gambling is a serious addiction that undermines the family, dashes dreams and frays the fabric of society," giant casino operator Harrah's received a highly leveraged $15.1bn offer from two private equity firms. Really, you couldn't make it up.

I would be inclined to have more sympathy with Frist's sentiments if it wasn't for the fact that there are entire states like Nevada whose very solvency depends almost entirely on gambling. It seems like you can 'undermine your family' and 'dash your dreams' if you happen to be born in Vegas, but live in New York and fancy a flutter on Kevin Lisbie to score first goal, and you're now deemed a common criminal.

As they say around here, "go figure."

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Tevez in "Not as Good As We Thought" Shocker

In recent weeks, headlines such as "Argy-Bargy", "Carlos the Tackle" and "Best Ham United" may have given the impression that the signing of Carlos Tevez would transform the Hammers into Champions League contenders. It is now clear however that both Tevez and compatriot Javier Mascherano are in fact both useless, and we are pleased to issue a retraction.