Thursday, November 30, 2006

Starbucks: implications for Valley ticket pricing

This morning, I perhaps truly felt like I'd 'arrived' in New York City. I was queuing as usual at my local Starbucks when, just as it was my turn to order, the server simply said, "...that'll be $1.90 sir."

One of the 'baristas' had recognised me in the queue and had gone to the trouble of making my regular black coffee before I'd even ordered it. Unfortunately for her, after perhaps ten years of regular daily doses of black coffee, she had only gone and chosen the one and perhaps only morning when I had decided to opt for a cappuccino. No doubt the poor girl had to have $1.90 deducted from her minimum wage, but at least the anecdote got me thinking about Starbucks pricing policy and implications for Charlton.

In Tim Harford's book The Undercover Economist, he discusses the clever methods that the likes of Starbucks use to identify those customers that are price insensitive, and those that are not. All retailers (and sellers in general) have to make pricing decisions based upon the trade-off between price and volume. If they price items too low, they'll sell tons of goods but make no profits. If they price items too high, they'll be left with too much working capital tied up in unsold stock.

The 'holy grail' for sellers is to somehow differentiate between customers that are price sensitive, and those that are price insensitive. The High Street retailers for example tend to just wait a suitable amount of time before making down the unsold stock (thus bringing out the price sensitive buyers).

The online retailers can be a little more cunning however. was criticised recently when it emerged that it charged different prices for identical items based upon careful assessment of prior buying habits. This type of 'price discrimination' is usually legal and particularly widespread in the travel sector (though some would argue an airline seat bought a month in advance is a different product from one bought the same day, even if aboard the same aircraft). However, the canniest retailers such as Starbucks use far subtler tactics than even et al. Rather than charging different prices for identical products, they slightly alter the product multiple times and then charge a similarly wide range of prices.

Starbucks has high fixed costs (due to the exhorbitant rent charged on their premium sites) but very low variable costs (because the cost of a portion of coffee, milk and a paper cup is minimal). As a result of this cost structure, they could charge just a few pence per coffee and still be profitable per cup sold (but in the long-term, they would never generate enough revenue to meet those high fixed costs). However this concept is key because it explains how they are able to justify the enormous cost difference between the reasonably priced basic black coffee, and the outrageous $4+ Peppermint Mocha Frappuccino.

So if they are happy selling me a basic black coffee for $1.90 (because it's still profitable), why bother with so many sizes (tall, grande, venti) and all those fancy drinks and the complex price list? Are they really worth the trouble? After all even the priciest drinks just represent varying combinations of coffee, milk and if you're lucky a few chocolate sprinkles worth all of a couple of pence or so.

Whilst I'd love to believe that Starbucks is simply embracing the wonder of coffee and all its derivative drinks, in truth that overly complicated menu is simply their way of persuading you (the customer) to tell them how price sensitive you are, and thus how much (or little) they can get away with charging you (whilst not alienating me, the black coffee guzzler).

Bear in mind of course that the marginal cost to them of providing you with any of their drinks is virtually identical ie. almost nil. So why not just charge say $3 for all of the drinks? Because the black coffee drinkers like me would go elsewhere, and they would miss out on the chance to generate an extra dollar or more from the Frapuccinno drinkers. In short, they play games with your mind....."I'm greedy - I'll have a venti please..."; "...I'm flashy, give me the Double Chocolate Chip Frappuccino." And because they are different drinks (albeit with similar ingredients and marginal costs), no-one feels as if they're being ripped off.

What does any of this have to do with Charlton and ticket pricing at the Valley I hear you ask? Rather a lot actually. Like Starbucks, Charlton has enormous fixed costs (the stadium, players wages, etc..) but very low marginal costs (the marginal cost of hosting a game is limited to a few low-paid staff, police costs, electricity etc..).

Moreover, with the club having sensibly chosen to halt their Valley expansion for now, matchday seats have a degree of scarcity value, particularly for the biggest games. Think of the Valley therefore as a bit like Starbucks at 8.30am.....they can't pack any more customers in, so they'd better make sure they're encouraging all of them to part with as much money as possible.

The situation at the Valley is complicated slightly because the bulk of tickets are sold in advanced via season tickets, and far fewer are sold on matchday. However somewhat strangely perhaps, the club discounts its North Stand behind-goal season tickets to £300 (versus £500/£525 for the East/West stands), yet charges a flat rate anywhere in the stadium for single match tickets (eg. £20 for Blackburn, £35 for Liverpool etc..).

Either way, it's fair to say that our pricing structure is simple and transparent, and I suspect that the Board are rather proud of those very traits. However I am inclined to argue (in the context of my Starbucks example), that they are doing their revenues a potential disservice by operating this way. By not even charging different prices for premium halfway line season tickets compared to those nearer the goal, they are not allowing those that are price insensitive to signal this fact to them via their actions. Moreover this information would be helpful to them beyond simply match tickets, for example with regard to sponsorship opportunities etc..

This is not the same as suggesting that low-income fans should be priced out, far from it infact. Given that the club exceeds its marginal costs per seat at just a couple of quid, the extra revenues generated from identifying the price insensitive fans might allow the cost of the 'small black coffee' seats in the North Stand to be cut in price whilst leaving total revenue higher overall.

To the extent that I can ascertain, the next step up from the £525 West Stand season ticket price is the whopping £2,600 Observatory Suite season package, but why no options in between? I'll hold my hands up and admit I'm a total snob when it comes to things like this. I would baulk at £2,600, but I might be persuaded to part with a grand per season to have a nice padded halfway line seat, a drink at half-time and a free programme. I'm far more price sensitive in other areas of my life, but not with regard to Charlton and I suspect there are thousands more like me. However absent the club advertising "Season Tickets: £525 (unless you're willing to pay more, in which case they're £700)" then they are losing out on the opportunity to find out who we are.

The airlines haven't been slow in spotting this type of opportunity; Virgin Atlantic's Premium Economy class is exploiting this middle ground nicely for example. Throw in a slightly bigger seat, a dedicated check-in queue and a glass of cheap champagne and hey presto, they get away with charging sometimes 300% more than an equivalent economy fare. Next time you're at Heathrow Airport wondering why they're not doing more to speed up the economy check-in queue, remember they'd prefer it to be even longer (just in case those lucky souls in Premium Economy are tempted to trade down next time).

Now I'm not suggesting that Charlton follow the airlines and knowingly make the match-going experience less pleasant for those in the cheap seats. And I'm certainly not suggesting perhaps just a quick preseason memo to fans on the lines of, "....unanticipated problems with the West Stand roof will require us to install view-impairing pylons at each end.....however those fans sat in our new exclusive Clive Mendonca Club will be unaffected, as will those fans contemplating a move to our soon-to-be-completed Mark Kinsella Suite..."

Ok, I'm being facetious with that last example, but I do firmly believe the club could be a little more imaginative with its ticket pricing and seating options. Implying via the season ticket prices that a North Stand seat is only 60% as good as an East Stand seat, suggests that their flat pricing structure for match-by-match tickets is as much laziness and desperation as much as anything else. It's the equivalent of the example $3 flat price for all coffees above. And if we get relegated and the benefits of scarcity value disappear completely (and season ticket sales fall too) then an extra 5-10% of ticket revenues via some artful pricing strategies might be the difference between bouncing straight back or doing a Millwall.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Reed concedes title

Charlton head coach Les Reed has reluctantly conceded the Premiership title to Manchester United in light of their 1-1 draw at home to Chelsea.

Speaking to confused reporters, Reed confirmed that a 26-point gap after just 14 games left the Addicks with a mountain to climb. "I know the Charlton fans will be surprised, but I'm asking them to be realistic, " mused Reed. "I just felt that anything other than a Chelsea win this afternoon would effectively close the door on our title ambitions."

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Marcus Bent in 'chasing back' sensation

Those of us that questioned the players' desire this week received a welcome surprise in the 68th minute when Marcus Bent chased back to tackle Nuno Valente and the ball fell nicely for Andy Reid whose cool finish completely changed the game. It was a fine example of how a small increase in workload can lead to disproportionate results and it's exactly what we've been crying out for.

Unfortunately until Bent's intervention we had been dire and the far more promising final quarter should not disguise the problems that clearly remain. We looked shapeless, leaderless and devoid of any discernable tactics other than the desire to get Rommedahl involved as much as possible. Once we went a goal behind, I couldn't even see the tunnel let alone the light at the end of it.

Darren Bent was given pointless long balls to try to control since a flick-on would have been worthless without a strike partner. Meanwhile for reasons best known to Les Reed, our most creative player Andy Reid was employed what appeared to be a holding role infront of the back four; not surprisingly perhaps we improved markedly once this was changed.

Everton had been impressive for an hour or so, with Arteta dominating the midfield battle and McFadden showing neat touches up front as a surprise replacement for Andrew Johnson. However once Valente's hesitation had presented Charlton with an ill-deserved equaliser, we looked by far the most likely to find a winner evidenced by a frustrated Moyes replacing his two forwards with teenagers. As it was a point was perhaps a fair result in the end and a confidence-boosting one too.

Here are my proprietary ratings:

Carson 7 - solid, solid as a rock (that's what this love is)
Young 6 - the team needs leadership and I don't think our skipper provides it
Traore 6 - a quiet game but at least he allowed Hreidarsson to play in his best position
Hreidarsson 6 - can't really blame him for the goal and otherwise did little wrong
El Karkouri 7 - has been a revelation this season; what was Curbs thinking?
Faye 5 - a fine defensive header in the second half, just a shame it was in the Everton goalmouth
Holland 5 - any mother would be delighted if her daughter brought him home; Dad might not be so pleased especially if he's an Addicks fan
Rommedahl 7 - could be one of the best players in Europe if he put his mind to it, then again he wouldn't be playing for Charlton if he did
Reid 8 - once he stopped playing in defence he looked outstanding
Ambrose 5 - the bright beginning to his Charlton career seems to have fizzled out
Bent D 5 - an unusually quiet game but you can never fault his workrate
Bent M 7 - let's give him credit for chasing back and some other neat touches

It's difficult to discern any differences in the Reed approach after this game; after all the 4-4-1-1 formation was put in place by Dowie before him. His lack of voiciferous touchline prompting perhaps shouldn't be a surprise so let's hope that his coaching credentials earn him the respect that his reserved approach might not. The size of the challenge is enormous though - for us to reach 40 points by season-end we need to average 1.29 points per game which equates to 49 points over a full 38-game season, enough to ensure a solid midtable finish and we look anything but a solidly midtable side right now.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Everton Weeks

After one of the more traumatic weeks in Charlton's recent history, the team has an opportunity to snap us all out of our stupor with the type of fixture we really must begin winning to have any chance of staying up.

Everton are having another impressive season after the disappointment of their last campaign, but have picked up 14 of their 20 points at Goodison Park. In common with most teams outside the big four, you don't look at the teamsheet and fear the worst but this season at least, their sum is clearly bigger than their parts.

Having said that Andy Johnson and James Beattie are the type of 'little and large' pairing that defenders probably hate, and with Diawara probably injured, it's time for El Karkouri and especially Fortune to defend like lions again. The return of Faye in midfield is welcomed but hopefully Les Reed will have realised quickly that Andy Reid is not mobile enough to partner him, able to operate best either in the 'hole' or wide left. If he opts for the former, Marcus Bent will no doubt drop to the bench.

Derek 'killer' Hales (KillerWatch© -£182) has apparently got the bookies 'running for cover' (running to put down a deposit on a new house more like - Ed.) with a 1-0 prediction. As much as I'd love to share his optimism, I have this overarching fear that I'll be crying into my early morning Guinness after another unacceptable performance. NY Addick predicts: Charlton 0, Everton 1 (Arteta)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Nine Lives

A non-descript email received on Monday enquiring about pubs in New York where English football is shown, has since led me to an extraordinary and true story about two extra special cats living in the city, and one now sadly deceased.

The email was from an American couple living in New York who have acquired a love of the Addicks following a trip to London that saw them attend three Premiership games where the Valley experience stuck with them the most. As a result they have stayed loyal and hubby will even be at the Valley this Saturday for the Everton game.

However as a hardcore feline fanatic, I was particularly moved when I heard about their two cats Sam Bartram and Alan Curbishley, and the late Floyd Road Valley the Cat (for whom surely a belated minute's silence is in order on Saturday).

Their owner has refused to confirm whether Alan Curbishley the cat was a wonderfully loyal and true companion for 13 years but more recently has been rather boring, has run up enormous and unnecessary vet bills and has gone missing since May.

Sam Bartram meanwhile has agreed to fly back to the UK prior to matches to cross the path of the squad and rid them of their ill-fortune.

I was able to grab an exclusive interview with Sam and Alan, snippets of which are reproduced below:

"I hope we spay up this season because relegation and missing out on next year's Sky money would be cat-astrophic. However with the likes of Cat Holland, Purr-mann Hreidarsson and Ste-fur-n Andersen in the squad, we are still feline confident."

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Dowie Ate My Hamster

EXCLUSIVE: More details have emerged of the wild antics of former Charlton boss Iain Dowie.

Dowie was sacked last Monday after Charlton's directors received reports from players about his increasingly erratic behaviour.

Astonished players looked on in training as the crazed former Northern Ireland striker...

ENQUIRED whether the midfielders might consider scoring the odd goal
ASKED Andy Reid if he would consider eating less burgers
SUGGESTED to Dennis Rommedahl that he ought to take on the full-back occasionally
HINTED to Matt Holland that he could do more than just run around a lot
NUDGED Kevin Lisbie towards a loan spell at Colchester United
INSINUATED that Charlton's away form was a 'touch disappointing'
REMINDED Talal el Karkouri that the only free-kick he scored was 'a while ago now'

"He was out of control" one player told me, " was almost as if he wanted us to actually win some games when infact we just wanted to get back to the bookies."

Dowie has since been replaced by coaching supremo Les Reed whose more relaxed approach has been welcomed by the players, one of whom had a tasty double at Kempton Park yesterday at 23/1.

(any resemblance to the writing style employed by an actual tabloid newspaper is purely coincidental)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Horribly disfigured with pale skintones, bloodshot eyes and a facial expression that exudes raw primitive fear.....all of the classic signs of an attempted poisoning.

Just two weeks ago, former Charlton boss Iain Dowie agreed to pose for cameras in a hospital gown to draw media attention to a chronic funding shortage at Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Now anti-terrorism police are keen to know who wanted him silenced, but more importantly why?

Investigations are focusing on a mysterious character known only as 'PV' who was seen eating with Dowie at a local restaurant last Monday. A waitress who has asked to remain anonymous noticed that 'PV' spoke with a curiously strong South-East London accent. "It seemed strange, especially coming from someone dressed in a suit," she commented, "....the way he pronounced haricot vert still sends a shiver down my spine."

Monday, November 20, 2006

Learn to Speak Charltonish (Advanced)

Most readers should by now have mastered the basics of Charltonish, and will thus be ready to take their language studies onto an advanced level. As a reminder, 'Charltonish' is a linguistic phenomenon which took root initially in South-East London, but which is expected to be replace English as the UK's main language by 2016.

Provided you have mastered the basics (see above link), learning the following advanced words and phrases should enable you to consider yourself fluent:

Murray, verb (muhree); panic attack; eg. "My wife hates flying - whenever there's any sign of turbulence, she’s prone to have a murray."

Lesreed, verb (lezreed); to be promoted unexpectedly; eg. "I’ve only been working at the firm for three months – I didn’t expect to be lesreeded to Chief Executive.”

Darrenbent, adjective (daruhnbent); forced to sell in January; eg. "My grandma bought me an IPod for Christmas but I've already got one - I'm darrenbent to put it on Ebay next week."

Kiely, verb (kahylee): to slice violently; eg. "I kielied my tee shot out-of-bounds at the 8th hole and ended up with a triple-bogey."

Sorondo, adjective (surondo): missing; eg. "Kent Police are becoming increasingly concerned about the whereabouts of a 9-year old girl who has been sorondo for over 48 hours."

Andyreid, adjective (andeereed): not fit for the purpose intended; eg. "Have you got a different screwdriver? This one is andyreid."

Carson, noun (kahrsuhn): something good but probably temporary; eg. “I’m dating this absolute stunner – I’ll enjoy it whilst it lasts ‘cos she’s bound to be a carson.”

Curbishley, verb (kurbishlee):
to escape punishment for something partly your fault; eg. “My lawyer reckons that if I give evidence against my accomplices, I might curbishley.” (see also Curbishley, verb: to go on too long)

Perry, verb (peree): to regret getting rid (of someone); eg. “I bumped into my ex-girlfriend last night and she looked great; I think I perry her.”

Marcusbent, adjective (mahrkusbent): overpriced; eg. “I like shopping in French Connection but their clothes are so marcusbent.”

Valleygold, noun (valeegohld): bottomless pit (usually of money); eg. “Subsidies paid to French farmers have rapidly become a valleygold.”

Hughes, adjective (hyooz): inexplicable, unfathomable; eg. “It’s hughes what she sees in him; he’s such an asshole.”

Amdyfaye, adjective (amdeefahy): unable to score; eg. “He’s a good looking fella and funny too – it’s strange that he’s amdyfaye.”

Kinsella, adjective (kinseller): sorely missed; eg. “My grandfather passed away over twenty years ago but he’s still kinsella.”
(see also: parker, jensen)

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Steve Brown's tackle

Apologies to any female readers who clicked on the link in the hope of seeing a key part of Steve Brown's anatomy. I would understand the attraction though; an ex-girlfriend for example used to describe Brownie as a 'real man' (which implied in turn that somehow I wasn't).

There's a happy ending for her though. She snagged a 'real man' in the end (now happily married to a policeman) but unfortunately there's no happy ending for Charlton in sight because let's face it, there's no 'real men' left in the current side.

I bring up Steve Brown's tackle because I listened like many thousands of others no doubt to him summarising on BBC London and he was clearly as upset as we all are about the state of our so-called 'team'. I deliberately distinguish between 'club' and 'team' because the 'club' will always be bigger than the group of players that just happen to represent it.

Brownie was not an especially gifted footballer nor is he an especially eloquent summariser, but he brought something else with him to the pitch which he now brings to his radio microphone, namely he actually gives a toss. He obviously cared about winning football matches and he wanted us to know he cared. Which of us don't still smile at the thought of those death-defying diving headers or his goalkeeping heroics?

And I am sure that despite the fact he works at West Ham these days, he is genuinely upset about what he saw on the pitch at Reading yesterday and is determined that we should all know about that too. And now having seen the highlights, just watch Rommedahl's reaction during the build-up to the first goal, or the static defence pleading for a non-existent offside on the second goal instead of chasing back and making a challenge, and ask yourself if it's not actually blindingly obvious what's wrong with the team right now.

There have been thousands of tackles in Charlton's history (no pun intended) but as far as I'm concerned there is only one 'tackle' that counts. Indeed, as far as I'm concerned all true Charlton fans will be comfortable referring to it merely as 'the tackle', because it was not only the best I've seen, but because what occurred afterward changed the club's history forever.

In his book, Curbs describes it as follows:

"Steve Brown was another player who was Charlton through and through. He was an unsung hero who I knew I could play anywhere across the back and also in midfield......"

"When I put him on as substitute for Mark Bright six minutes before Sunderland got their fourth goal I was hoping he would stiffen things up and stop them scoring. That plan quickly fell apart but four minutes later Steve Brown made one of the most important tackles of Charlton life."

"After Brownie threw himself into a challenge in the middle of the park and won possession for us, the ball eventually find its way out to Steve Jones on the right......"

We all know what happened next. Jones crossed to Clive Mendonca who somehow controlled it, swivelled and fired home all in one motion and we were on our way to the Premiership. The reason I bring it up is not dewy-eyed nostalgia again for that day at Wembley, but because the tackle sums up everything that was right about Charlton then and is wrong about it now.

Back then and in truth for most of the 1990s and probably up until Scott Parker left, the core of the team was made up of players who would give everything for the club and understood what it meant to play for Charlton. I'm thinking of Brownie obviously, but also the likes of Robinson, Balmer, Kinsella, Rufus, Stuart, Nelson, and even Carl Leaburn. None of the aforementioned players were blessed with much natural talent, but what would you give to be able to transfer some of their heart to the far more gifted likes of Jerome Thomas or Dennis Rommedahl?

The core of the current team is made up of players who see us a clear 'step down' (Hasselbaink, Reid etc..) or foreigners who'd probably never heard of Charlton until they turned up to sign the papers (Diawara, El Karkouri, Rommedahl etc..) We used to be able to rely on the likes of Young and Hreidarsson to shake people up a bit, but I'm concerned even they have given up, seeing the writing on the wall.

During the upheaval last week, the Board let the players off far too lightly pinning the blame for our troubles on the 'structure' and by implication on Dowie. I'm not sure us bloggers will be as generous, and already Frankie Valley, Chicago Addick, and now me are questioning the commitment of the players themselves. During the gloom though, dust down the DVD of that play-off final, fast forward to the 103rd minute and feast your eyes on Steve Brown's tackle to remind yourself of the way it was and will hopefully one day be again.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Reed Between the Lines

<<<"At least I'm better dressed than Dowie."

The game isn't even over as I'm writing this but it sounds like a shambolic performance. Although I would have loved us to have won today obviously, at least this result ensures we won't have any idiots declaring Reed a genius and Dowie a buffoon.

Make no mistake, the Board have put their credibility on the line with their initial appointment of Dowie, his subsequent premature dismissal and the appointment of a rookie manager with all the badges but little of the fiery presence that we so desperately need, and Dowie was at least providing. They've asked us to trust them and that's the least they deserve, but as fans we're entitled to be asking questions.

The more I think about Varney sourcing opinions from throughout the club regarding the management structure and its efficacy, the stranger it becomes. These types of 360° degree reviews are commonplace at the large US investment banks for example, but I dare say they don't result in a senior director getting the boot because some junior analyst doesn't like his approach. And we have had heard little from the club about why they feel so strongly that this new structure is appropriate. Curbs wouldn't have put up with having Andrew Mills at the club for example, so why should Dowie have been forced to?

The club has been in decline for two years now but their decision has implied everything was rosy until Dowie came in when clearly this wasn't the case. He was asked to inherit a threadbare squad and was given just three months to make 9-10 signings that at least gave us half a chance of survival, and in fairness they comprise some of our better performers this season. Moreover there had been some tentative signs that he was improving the individual performances of some of the players he inherited, El Karkouri obviously and perhaps Holland and Rommedahl too.

We will obviously all be behind Les Reed who is clearly a decent man. However if we remain this bad entering the New Year then I fear the club will have little choice but to get a new manager, send Reed back to the training ground (where he probably belongs) and thus further damage our financial position. And don't dismiss the prospect of us selling Darren Bent in January either.
By using our League position after just twelve games to justify the need for a full review of the club's management structure and the personnel within, the Board have potentially fallen into the classic trap of judging the quality of a decision by its short-term results. It's the investment equivalent of sell-low, buy-high. More generally, and as someone fascinated by cognitive biases, I will allege that the club is guilty of some or all of the following:

Confirmation Bias - the tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions ("I'd a feeling he wasn't the right man for the job and the results prove it.")
Loss Aversion - the tendency for people to strongly prefer avoiding losses over acquiring gains ("We daren't risk taking a step back to take two leaps forward.")
Neglect of Probability - the tendency to completely disregard probability when making a decision under uncertainty ("How could Dowie say we'd been unlucky?")
Outcome Bias - the tendency to judge a decision by its eventual outcome instead of based on the quality of the decision at the time it was made. ("We thought he was the right man for the job - results prove he wasn't."
Status Quo Bias - the tendency for people to like things to stay relatively the same ("Reed and Robson are 'Charlton' through-and-through, not like that Dowie.")
Self-Serving Bias - the tendency to claim more responsibility for successes than failures ("The problem wasn't the structure we put in place.")

Charlton are now odds-against to stay up this season (5/4 on Betfair). To put that in perspective you can get the same odds on Chelsea not winning the Premiership this season, and that is not a bet I particularly fancy putting on. Looking on the bright side though, at least this week has seen us bloggers accumulate record numbers of hits - there were a record 1,000+ hits on Tuesday for me alone; meanwhile Chicago Addick soared through the 100,000 mark since inception. Maybe we should all get together, sell ourselves to Google and make plans for early retirement? The way this season is going, we might be advised to retire anyway for health reasons.

Saturday 3.19pm - Murray gives Reed time

Saturday, 3.19pm: With Charlton losing 1-0 at Reading after 19 minutes, Addicks chief Richard Murray has vowed to give new head coach Les Reed time to turn things around. "We will review his position at half-time," confirmed Murray, "...we won't be panicked into sacking Reed until then."

Friday, November 17, 2006

Reed-ing Preview

Velvet Underground

"Sunday Morning and I'm falling,
I've got a feeling I don't want to know."

Charlton begin a new era at the Madejski Stadium on Saturday with new manager Les 'Lou' Reed at the helm and a clear mandate to transform our fortunes. It's not clear to me whether Lou was a Charlton fan but he certainly understood as early as 1967 what it felt like to be an Addicks fan the morning after an away game.

It's not so much a case of "I'm Waiting for the Man" as "I'm Waiting for An Away Win" (that's enough Velvet Underground references until next week - Ed.) with 392 days now having passed since we could read about a Charlton victory on the road.

To put that in perspective, Tom Cruise had only been dating Katie Holmes for six months when we won at Fratton Park. And surely it can't any longer be put down to random factors, and it certainly can't be blamed (much) on Iain Dowie so the players should shoulder most of the accountability.

Despite most of us not seeing Dowie's departure coming out of leftfield, and despite the fact that the Board have glossed over the answers to some extremely relevant and important questions, our Premiership plight is too dire to waste much more time and energy worrying about what happened, but hopefully you will permit one last rant.

It would be easy (and incorrect) to conclude from a possible victory at Reading and/or any subsequent uptick in form that it's a case of 'Reed Good/Dowie Bad'. As has been written here and elsewhere at length, our form has been improving lately (albeit from a low base) but more relevantly our best performers in the main have been Dowie signings.

As a result, I don't expect any radical changes in team selection or tactics, at least not yet. Indeed, the most obvious change one might expect going forward would be a retreat from the more expansive style introduced by Dowie. Whilst a less rational unemotional fan than myself might presume that those cavalier tactics didn't work because they only yielded eight points, I'm firmly of the view that the fact that we avoided any real thrashings (Man Utd aside) and the fact that we clearly had our fair share of bad luck, point towards the possibility that a radical change in tactics/personnel are not required at all, and that the mere passage of time would have improved our prospects (when luck tends to even itself out).

It's just that the Board (and their precious players) wouldn't allow Dowie that time. The one question that remains therefore based upon their rather opaque thinking is 'what if'? What if we are still bottom going into next year with no visibility of improvement? Will they conduct another 360 degree review and send Reed on his way and promote Mark Robson to 'head coach'? It sounds ridiculous maybe but their actions and explanations suggest it's the logical step (unless of course the structure was the problem all along, not the personnel - my view only).

I'm also troubled by the other logical conclusion from the Board's actions which is that they would still have acted to sack Dowie if we had earned say 16 points instead of 8 so far, because the players would still have been reacting badly to his methods and he may still have been ignoring the structure the Board put in place . Not only do I not believe them, it puts an unwarranted overemphasis on player power and a structure which is both new and untested (and which by definition may not be the right one for the club).

Derek 'Killer' Hales (KillerWatch© -£132), whose own position as the club's official tipster must surely be in doubt in light of the Board's impatience with Dowie, has opted for a draw at 9/4. Whilst I admire his relative optimism, I was caught out myself being overly optimistic at Wigan so will follow my head instead of my heart and suggest that "All Tomorrow's Parties" will be held in Reading not Charlton. NY Addick predicts Reading 1 (Doyle), Charlton 0.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Name's Dowie, Iain Dowie

As if solely to emphasise my arrival into the very highest echelons of New York society, I am attending an exclusive charity premiere of Casino Royale this evening.

I can state categorically that it will be my favourite Bond film because I haven't seen any of the others, nor countless other flicks that I'm told are 'essential'. Unlike albums and books where I could put together a long list of truly inspiring experiences, films generally leave me stone cold.

More specifically though, I struggle to take James Bond seriously mainly because he shares a squad number with Marcus Bent. Frankly it's an insult to some of the finest No.7s to have worn a Charlton shirt (Colin Powell, Robert Lee etc..). And to think that during that silly season in the 1990s when Charlton decided to categorise their players alphabetically (eg. No.1, Stuart Balmer), then Bond would have been forced to be 002 for a couple of films which might not pleased the folks in continuity.

However with Iain Dowie now out of work, and Daniel Craig rumoured to be the ugliest James Bond so far (these things are all relative of course), then one wonders if any casting agents will be sniffing around our former 'head coach' to be the next to play Ian Fleming's secret agent?

Here are some new Bond films that Dowie could potentially star in:

Dr. No Away Wins
You Only Won Twice
Live and Let Faye
Eight Points is not Enough
(Rushden and) Diamonds are Forever

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

It's the Players Wot Done It

Like any self-respecting blogger, I have been busy leafing through my Rolodex and asking my inside sources what really went on at the Valley. Quick as a flash and almost simultaneously they both come back with the same message, "It's the players wot done it."

Assuming this is true (and trust me this is outstanding information) then it is consistent with what much of the press was reporting this morning, and inconsistent with the club's rather opaque statement and Varney's subsequent interview (thanks Cynic Athletic).

The Board have sought to pin the blame upon the structure that the very same Board put in place, and have dismissed the man who Richard Murray described not six months ago as, "...a very bright young coach with modern ideas and a real passion for the game." However they have retained the structure moving Reed and Robson up and implying an ongoing search to fill the reserve-team berth.

If the structure was the problem then change the structure (why was Dowie and now Reed 'head coach' and not 'team manager'?). If Dowie was the problem then say so and tell us why their initial impression was wrong; in my view, those hardy fans that travelled up to Wigan deserve as much. And if as I am alleging the players revolted against their manager, then who the hell do they think they are? This is the same bunch of mediocre players that have failed to register an away win since October 2005, and whose best performers this season have mainly been Dowie signings. If true it's player power gone mad.

I happen to like Dowie as you can probably tell. He is an intelligent man who is passionate about football and whose playing career maximised limited talents through hard work and focus. His managerial record has been unfairly denegrated in my view too. Based upon what I have seen, we have made slow but steady progress, but the style has been better and few of us had high expectations anyway in light of some of the garbage left at the end of last season.

Obviously I intend to give Reed my backing but let's not pretend that he's managerial material. Coaching and managing require different skillsets which is why he's spent his entire career focused on the former not the latter, and no doubt he's been happy staying in the background. The last place the players should be right now is the 'comfort zone' but this compromise is likely to ensure they remain there. If they didn't enjoy a b*llocking from Dowie and some hard work on the training ground then Dowie is well rid of them.

Dowie's Appointment - THE TRUTH

As part of its investigation into the unusual circumstances surrounding Iain Dowie's sudden dismissal, New York Addick has managed to secure the minutes of the team manager selection meeting attended by Board members. They are reproduced below, though snippets of conversation heard over tea and biscuits prior to the meeting led to an extraordinary decision.

(Board members have congregated in the Tom Hovi Suite for tea and biscuits prior to the meeting)

Martin Simons: I've a banging hangover this morning....bit of a late one in the pub last night. Put an extra sugar in my tea, love.
Richard Murray: Plus ça change.
Simons: Was a cracking night actually. My team (Andy Reid's Right Foot) won the Sunday night pub quiz on a tiebreak - had to answer four extra questions correctly.
Murray: Go on, ask me the questions....I'm sure a man of my considerable intellect won't struggle.
Simons: Alright then, here goes. 1. Which letter of the alphabet precedes the words 'mail', 'commerce' and 'coli'?; 2. What is the name of the Queen's only daughter?; 3. What 'D' is the nickname of the main US share index?; and 4. What letter would you have on the back of your car if you were Spanish and driving your car abroad?
Murray: I'll get back to you.

(Board members move to the formal meeting room)

Present: R.Murray, M. Simons, P.Varney, R.Whitehand
Apologies: B.Hughes (not on the committee, but just wanted to apologise)

Murray: I believe we have a quorum. Peter, would you be kind enough to take the minutes?
Varney: Yes sir.
Murray: No need to be so formal Peter, "Mr Murray" is fine.
Varney: Right you are Mr Murray.
Murray: Now gentlemen, as I think you are all aware we no longer have a team manager.
Simons: I wondered why I hadn't seen Curbs at the training ground.
Varney: That reminds me, the cleaner found a couple of his boxes; I must get them back to him. Nothing major, just a few old Who LPs and some training manuals with names like "The Flexible Footballer" and "Everyone Back - The Modern Way to Defend Corners."
Murray: I'm not sure I could handle much more of that.
Simons: Let's get on with it, I feel awful. Richie-boy, have you got those quiz answers yet?
Murray: Don't you worry Mart, I'll have them for you by the end of the meeting.
Varney: Now gentlemen, as you know we have received hundreds of applications for the manager's job and we have interviewed a number of outstanding candidates.
Whitehand: Are we not going to call that New York Addick fella over for a chat - I found his application rather intriguing?
Murray: Me too, but we can't afford his air fare - let's just focus on the ones we've met.
Simons: As far as I'm concerned we can narrow it down to three: Davies, Dowie, Taylor.
Whitehand: I'm almost falling off my chair with excitement. Peter, you'd better book some more Valley Express buses to fill the seats.

(much merriment requiring a five-minute break)

Varney: Now look gentlemen, let's try to focus on the matter at hand. We've all met the three candidates, I propose we go around the table on a one-man, one-vote basis.
Simons: Seems awfully democratic but I suppose it's the way the world's going these days. Got those answers yet Richard?
Murray: Patience, Martin.
Varney: As you two can't seem to have your minds elsewhere, I'll begin. I must admit to being very impressed with Dowie's positive thinking and intelligence, and I'm satisifed he will deal with the commuting satisfactorily so it's Dowie for me.
Whitehand: Thanks Peter but I see it differently. I know Peter Taylor had an awful time at Leicester but he's highly regarded and knows the young English players better than anyone and that will be a key source of new players so it's Taylor for me.
Simons: I know he's a bit vertically-challenged, but I do like a short one (particularly after a few pints) so I'm going to punt for wee Billy Davies.
Varney: It looks like Richard is going to have the casting vote as usual.
Murray: I'VE GOT IT!
Varney: Got what?
Varney: (puzzled) Well go on then, I think we all need a solution after 15 years of Curbs.
Murray: The answer is......E.....Anne.....Dow.....E.
Varney: Well there we have it.....Dowie it is then.
Murray: No those are the answers to Martin's pub quiz tie-breaker. I want to vote for Billy Davies.
Varney: It's too late, it's already in the minutes. Changing it back would be tantamount to fraud and that's just not how a club like Charlton operates.
Murray: Oh alright then, I'll blag the press conference.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Dowie Gone

And there I was thinking that I wouldn't have very much to write about this week. To say I'm shocked would be an understatement - it's most un-Charlton-like to lose a manager in these circumstances. We ought to await the full statement from the club but surely one of the following has occurred:

1. The Board sacked him for footballing reasons: this is possible, we have hardly set the world alight this season after all, but we are improving (slowly) and the Board clearly had enormous confidence in his initial appointment. Readers of this blog will know I've been behind him despite the results so far, and this would seem to be cutting off our nose to spite our face after allowing him to spend tons of transfer money. I'm simply not willing to accept (having seen virtually all of our games this season) that the 'writing is already on the wall' - indeed I think that most Charlton fans expected a transitional season at best following the steady deterioration under Curbs since Jan 2005.

2. He has resigned for personal reasons: a far more likely possibility in my view but one that would raise even more serious questions for the Board, especially if the commuting was an issue. I'm not sure the Board should have permitted him to take the job unless he was willing to move his family down South, so having done so, they have some serious explaining to do if it hasn't worked out.

3. The Board sacked him for non-footballing reasons: it's possible I guess that something has happened off the field that throws his judgment into question, but he seems far too professional and intelligent for that.

4. The Board has become aware of a the availability of a better candidate: again this would seem unlikely given there do not seem to be any obvious ones, unless something is happening at West Ham that puts Pardew's future there in doubt. And as far as Curbs coming back, this would be a nonsense in my view and unwelcome too, a bit like re-marrying your ex-wife.

In short, whilst we are all disappointed with the results this season it is hard to see how this can be beneficial given that we now have a team whose key players were largely signed by Dowie, and were getting used to playing in a style that he was shaping. As I have stated elsewhere, only Billy Davies, of the candidates that were seen as realistic alternatives have been successful so far at their new clubs. Indeed Taylor's diabolical beginning to his Palace managerial career suggests that Simon Jordan's criticism of Dowie 'only' reaching the play-offs were unfair to say the least.

Anyhow, the Dowie reign is over and any sense that Curbs' departure was a case of 'the King is dead, long live the King' have been dashed. I'm really not sure where we go from here - I guess we put Les Reed in temporary charge and look to appoint another manager who now has to inherit a squad that someone else hastily constructed. Unlike some others, I'm not averse to employing someone without Premiership experience - in my view, you are either a 'winner' or you are not and plenty of managers have made the move upwards a seamless one (Curbs, Jewell, Moyes, Alladyce etc.) or have been catapulted straight into it (Coleman, Hughes etc.)

The list of realistic candidates would probably include the following:

Steve Coppell: would be an outstanding choice, but why would he come?
Mike Newell: might be about to be sacked anyhow - no reason to think he's better than Dowie.

Alan Pardew: could be tempted by an easier life, but if he's not pushed, it'll cost us.
George Burley: stuttering start at Southampton - I think our Board rates him.
Billy Davies: we offered him the job last time around after all.
Dave Jones: doing an outstanding job at Cardiff.
Bryan Robson: please Lord, no.
Nigel Worthington: did a decent enough job at Norwich, but again no better than Dowie.
Ian Holloway: would be an entertaining road to relegation.
Paul Sturrock: unfairly treated at Sheff Wed and Southampton - surely we can do better.
Sven Goran Eriksson: may not be as crazy as it sounds - the FA can pay his initial wages.
Colin Calderwood: highly promising young manager but surely a leap too far?
Steve Cotterill: doing a fine job at Burnley, but has a mixed CV.
Mick McCarthy: impressing doubters at Wolves - would know his way to the training ground.

David O'Leary: probably got some unfair flack at Villa but wouldn't be a popular choice here.
Glenn Hoddle: has all the credentials except intelligence and humility.
David Platt: has never been very convincing though could work well under Les Reed?
George Graham: a short-term survival option; keep your eyes on the till though.

Lawrie Sanchez: a proud and intelligent man - Charlton surely a bigger pull than N Ireland?
Graeme Souness: one of those managers rarely out of work for long....but hopefully a bit longer.
Terry Venables: perhaps he misses club management? Perhaps not.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Ill Wind Blows No Good

Unfortunately this was the first game of the season that I wasn't able to see, but in the immediate afternath, you can't help feeling like we're back at square one. Just as we began to celebrate the return to defensive stability, we conceded another three (soft) goals. And all the while our long wait for a Premiership away win (22 Oct 2005) and our long wait for a goal from any player other than Bent D/Bent M/Hasselbaink (17 April 2006) both continue.

There isn't an awful lot more I can say - it almost feels worse because it sounded like we actually played quite well. There's always a team that goes down playing like that and we need to ensure it's not us.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Wigan Preview

I'm just about old enough to remember Wigan being a non-League club (and by definition Southport as a League club), but it has just dawned on me I didn't really have a clue where the town was. It's just kind of 'up North', and as with the likes of Blackburn or Bolton, just don't ask me for directions.

They clearly represent one of the success stories of the past decade or so, perhaps only rivalled by our own I guess, but the rugby-obsessed locals are decidedly unimpressed with only 16,235 showing up for what I now realise was a local derby with Man City. Indeed they failed even to sell out for the Man Utd game two weeks ago. Hence I fear (for them) that tomorrow's crowd could be just 13-14,000 or so.

Although they are many differences between the clubs, it ought to serve as a reminder to our own Board that the 'Premiership' is not the selling point it once was, and it's hard to 'create' fans out of thin air regardless of the opposition. Let's not build any more seats until we know if we can fill them (I think they've finally got the message anyhow).

Our performance there last season was so poor that it served as the catalyst for me to argue that Curbs ought to go, so surely anything that happens tomorrow should be an improvement. We arrive on the back of three Premiership clean sheets and a hard-fought morale-boosting Cup win, and really should have nothing to fear particularly playing in a half-full stadium. The Hasselbaink goals in midweek will present Dowie with a decision to make but I would hope he keeps the increasingly impressive Reid in the 'hole' and reverts back to 4-5-1.

Derek 'Killer' Hales (KillerWatch© -£82) is opting for a draw at 9/4 and I'm inclined to think he may well have found a 'spot of value' as he puts it, but I will demonstrate my increasingly bullish view on Dowie's approach by backing a win that sees us finally move off the bottom. NY Addick predicts: Wigan 1 (Camara), Charlton 2 (Bent D, Reid)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Bush's half-term report

The US electorate yesterday delivered its half-term report to the Republican administration and it wasn't a good one. Indeed Donald Rumsfeld has already taken full responsibility for getting a consonant wrong and invading Iraq instead of Iran.

The Republicans would surely have taken an absolute hammering (as opposed to a pasting) had the economy not still been in fairly good shape, the enormous twin deficits and falling housing market aside of course. As the Tories have always known in the UK (and Labour were forced to acknowledge), the incumbent will be well-supported provided that people remain fairly optimistic about employment and their finances.

It's a testament to Bush's ineptitude that he's been able to move in a near linear fashion from a 90%+ approval rating in the aftermath of 9/11, to one below 40% today. All this of course despite doing what he has always promised....keep Americans safe from terrorism (no attack since 9/11, at least not yet). Unfortunately for America the combination of a lame-duck President and a Democratic Congress is likely to ensure political inertia until 2008.

Although last night's results will give the Democrats a valuable boost of confidence, they will be well-aware that the Presidential race will be a tighter affair not least because they will likely be up against the more moderate John McCain who retains stronger appeal amongst independents. Although Hilary Clinton remains the most likely Democratic candidate, she is a divisive character with very liberal tendencies who does not hold universal appeal. Meanwhile, the possibility of the US electing a first black President has increased thanks to the rapidly growing groundswell of support for Barack Obama, the new political superstar of the left.

Although young (45) and a political 'lightweight' (particularly in the realm of foreign policy), he perhaps represents the man most likely to be able to reunite a very divided nation, and more importantly rebuild America's damaged image in the world. Ideally he would wait until 2012 or 2016; however in 2012, if there is not already a Democratic President, he would be facing an incumbent Republican whilst in 2016 he will be 55 years old and the buzz and ambition might have faded.

Punters on Betfair have taken notice - Obama is now 13/2 to be the Democratic candidate whilst the party candidate is 4/5 to win the election, implying odds of about 12/1 to be the next President. I sense that Americans are ready for a change, even one as radical as this, so this might be a bet that even Derek 'Killer' Hales might fancy.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Charlton cruise through

What is it about Charlton and the 7-6 scoreline? In 1957, Johnny Summers led a spirited comeback from 5-1 down against Huddersfield to win 7-6. Then on that famous day at Wembley in 1998 we won the penalty shootout 7-6. And now on a night of excitement and shocking defending, we finally overcame Chesterfield by a combined scoreline guessed it, 7-6.

It seems we can hold off four Premiership clubs for over six hours without conceding, but we couldn't hold off the Spireites for more than two minutes. The fact that we came back not once but twice, and then found the bottle to win on penalties after a last-minute Wayne Allison equaliser suggests that whilst our quality is still inconsistent, our fighting spirit is not. It's the least we would have expected from an Iain Dowie side, but it's welcome all the same after a terrible exit at the same stage last season.

We are on a nice little run now in both the Premiership and the Carling Cup, and with a strong Man Utd side dumped out at Roots Hall, we can at least begin to dream of a a first final since 1947 (I don't count the Full Members Cup not surprisingly). Some more luck in the draw would be welcomed of course in the meantime.

Although some of the doom and gloom after the Fulham game should now be partly lifted, the one 'striking' concern must surely be the fact that in fourteen competitive games this season, only three players have reached the scoresheet, all of them forwards of course (Bent D 8, Hasselbaink 3, Bent M 1) for the record. I sense it won't be long before Andy Reid gets off the mark amongst others, but this must surely be a priority for improvement. Why has it been so long since a Hreidarsson goal for example given he is our main target at set pieces? And the likes of Thomas and Rommedahl need to contribute more too, else the pressure on Darren Bent will be unmanageable.

Chesterfield Kings

The in-form Addicks head to Chesterfield having not conceded a goal for 383 minutes, and with surely their best ever chance to reach the last eight of the League Cup for the first time in their history.

Our record in this competition is of course ridiculous so we would be advised not to take anything for granted, but with the Spireites struggling in League One anything less than a victory for us would be tough to accept.

I've mixed feelings about this year's Carling Cup generally though - it would be just my luck that we reach the final of the competition three days before the wife is due to give birth. "Darling, my waters have broken, you'd better come home......what's all that cheering in the background?"

However with so many Premiership clubs already out, and with many of those that remain viewing the competition as a low priority, the 40/1 offered on Charlton lifting the Cup surely represent value especially given our draw.

I currently find myself atop Ken J's CAFC Picks season-long prediction competition with 7 correct results from 11, so it is with a great deal of confidence that I take my form into the Carling Cup, put my neck on the line, and predict a comfortable Addicks win. NY Addick predicts: Chesterfield 0, Charlton 2 (Bent M, Hasselbaink)

Lisbie moves on

After ten years at The Valley, Charlton striker Kevin Lisbie is finally moving on......and into the arms of pop star Madonna. "He was clearly unwanted and desperately in need," argued the disco diva, " could I just stand back and watch him suffer on the treatment table?" The bestselling artist is thought to have won a hard-fought battle with Angelina Jolie for the affections of the striker. "I know I've been accused of breaking the transfer window rules," she opined, "...but he would have gone for a free in January anyway."

Madonna collects Lisbie from
The Valley

Monday, November 06, 2006

What the Papers Say

Here's a brief summary of how the press viewed Charlton's vital win over Man City:

Daily Mail - "Bent lifts Charlton (and house prices)"
Daily Express - "Bent kills off City, but who killed off Diana?"
Independent - "Charlton rise from the dead; oceans rise 0.01 cm"
Guardian - "Charlton still stuck at foot; US still stuck in Iraq"
The Sun - "City over-run by Bent; UK over-run by immigrants"
The Mirror - "City lack firepower; OAPs can't pay power bills."

And from across the world....

Arabic Times - "Infidel Athletic 1, Infidel City 0"
El Pais - "Fray Bent-os"
L'Equipe - "Scott Voiture-fils sauve Charlton."

Virgin on the absurd

My brief trip back to Europe enabled me to experience each end of the air travel spectrum. I was afforded the rare treat of return travel from NY to London in Virgin Atlantic's 'Upper Class' but took the decidedly low-budget option of EasyJet to get to and from Paris.

Unlike BA for example, Virgin does not distinguish between business class and first class, but has designed their fully-flat 'Upper Class suites' with the cost-aware business traveller and new money urbanite in mind (I'm neither unfortunately but they still let me on).

I rather like the name 'Upper Class' which evokes halcyon days of aristocracy when 'serf' was somebody you ruled rather than something you did on the internet. Perhaps they could go a step further and refer to the Upper Class passengers as 'landed gentry' and those at the back of the plane as 'peasants' (which is no doubt how they do refer to them secretly back at HQ).

The NY-London route is fiercely competitive and it was noticeable that the flight was strangely quiet for a Sunday. Perhaps that explained why the cabin crew were extraordinarily accommodating led by the charming Imogen who insisted on referring to me as 'my lovely' which suggested she was either a keen fan of Peter Sarstedt's 1969 No.1 hit "Where Do You Go To?" or less likely she had a huge crush on me. The Virgin staff really did go the extra mile, and so did the Captain overshooting the runway and careering through a fence. (not really)

EasyJet was a different experience altogether of course. I must confess I have never quite understood the roaring success of EasyJet, Ryanair and their ilk particularly given my considerably more positive views on one of their US equivalent JetBlue. Whereas JetBlue has gone down the extraordinarily innovative route of caring for their customers with its leather seats, ample legroom and in-seat live TV, their European counterparts seem to be outbidding each other in their attempts to treat them like, well....erm, peasants. And they're not that cheap either unless you are the type of person that enjoys arriving at an airfield that even the locals have never heard of at 1am on a Tuesday (and were in a position to confirm your travel plans whilst Lennie Lawrence was still Charlton manager).

At Charles de Gaulle airport on Friday we were all stuck on the courtesy buses with the heaters set to 'Arctic conditions' for about 20 minutes with no infomation provided, before being allowed to board the plane. Apparently the ground staff had got themselves all in a muddle and had sent the passengers for Lisbon over to the the Luton plane! Oh how we laughed; I'm surprised we weren't charged a surcharge for the bus journey.

Apparently I don't get it though; I'm often told by people with names like Toby that "'s just soooo amazing, you can go to Barcelona for the weekend and still be back at your desk on Monday morning." And so Toby, would that be delightful Barcelona, famous for Las Ramblas, the Nou Camp and Montjuic, or would that actually be Girona so far north you're virtually in bleedin' France?

And so once you've spent hours getting to and from 'London' Stansted or Luton airport, queued forever at security because the bloke in front of you has forgotten you could only start blowing up planes with liquids again from today onwards, suddenly a day trip to Southend-on-Sea seems positively appealing. And based on the Toby argument we should all drive there in a Ford Ka because at the end of the day it's just about getting from A to B.

There, I got that off my chest.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Killer Victory

A massive win for Charlton and an even bigger win for Derek 'killer' Hales who correctly forecast a 1-0 win at 11/2 which leaves his gambling debts at just £32 for the season. What this proves of course is that injecting some accountability into the provision of a service produces dramatically improved results. It worked for the NHS, and it will work for Killer too. However rest assured I am far too modest to demand the charities open a "New York Addick Ward" at a local hospital when Killer pays them what is bound to be a whopping cheque at season-end.

As for the game itself, I thoroughly enjoyed it though was regretful that I was not wearing a heart-rate monitor during the final quarter because it would have made for an interesting post. We sat in the West Stand Upper for only the second time and it certainly improves the perspective offered down below, whilst the atmosphere sat close to the North Stand was noticeably better as were the views. We also sat in front of what appeared to be a stag party over from Denmark whose vocal support tailed off markedly when Rommedahl failed to appear for the second half.

Although reviewing the highlights on Match of the Day makes it hard to suggest we thoroughly deserved the three points, we were due some good luck and I continue to admire Dowie's attempts to play an attacking line-up and urge his troops to get the ball down and play. Whilst the results are not yet as good of course, the football we are playing is vastly superior to that produced by Curbishley's sides and we will surely improve from here too (we have to of course).

Here are my ratings for the game:

Carson 9 - three outstanding saves and excellent handling throughout
Young 7 - he's always a 7 isn't he? His average rating over his 145 appearances has been 6.993
Hreidarsson 6 - my wife thinks he's good looking otherwise it would have been a 5
Diawara 8 - could be the signing of the summer
El Karkouri 8 - one of Dowie's success stories - found time to showboat once on the left wing
Faye 7 - he just loves 'clearing up' - the tea ladies must love him at the training ground
Holland 7 - a better performance from the nicest man in football
Rommedahl 6 - would have come into his own in the second half when Bent lacked support
Thomas 6 - hard to criticise when your cross wins the game, but I will so there
Reid 8 - fitness coach John Harbin could earn his salary with Reidy alone; lovely feet though
Bent D 7 - classy header for the goal, missed a couple of chances but it's a lonely role at times
Hughes 4 - enough already
Hasselbaink 0 - would have been 10 had he scored late on

Unfortunately the win wasn't enough to take us off the bottom with fellow battlers Watford and Sheffield United registering wins, but the table is not as painful to look at and with Newcastle, 'Boro and increasingly Reading in some serious trouble, we are not without some company now.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Psycho Path

A very winnable home game against inconsistent Manchester City on Saturday can begin to put Iain Dowie's side back on the path to redemption. Having said that, last season's game was very winnable and we lost 5-2.

Their side is an odd mix of exciting youngsters (Richards, Samaras, Barton etc.), mediocre Premiership journeymen (Reyna, Weaver etc.) and tired old warhorses (Dickov, Sinclair etc.). Talking of horses, at least we won't have to contend with Beanie the Horse who has been banished in a style not dissimilar to Alan Curbishley's treatment of Jason Euell.

I will be attending in person and haven't yet lost the faith. Whilst Derek 'Killer' Hales is predicting a not improbable 1-o home win at 11/2 (KillerWatch© £-292), but I am going to put my very credibility on the line by predicting a result that I had visions about in a dream on Wednesday night. NY Addick predicts Charlton 4 (Bent D 2, Reid, Hasselbaink), Man City 0.

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Ok, it's not the springtime but I am in Paris and this still remains a popular optical illusion. Go on, what does it say.....are you sure?

I've never been able to make my mind up how much I like being in Paris but it's undeniably beautiful, even if it is full of French people (in common with many towns and cities in France). However one thing I can observe, particularly given I have spent so much time in London and New York, is that it lacks the energy and dynamism certainly of the latter and increasingly of the former.

"Pah" you might say, before giving a nonchalant Gallic shrug. However Paris and France in general will eventually have to give up either their extraordinarily generous welfare and employment benefits, or they will have to give up their admirable quality of life unless they want to become Europe's answer to Argentina (formerly known as the 7th richest country in the world).

Many French cities including Paris are unusual because the inner cities are where the rich and the intellectuals live, whilst the poor are banished to the suburbs; I suspect for example that there isn't a direct French translation of 'stockbroker belt.' However if the riots this time last year in the oft-forgotten suburbs of Paris taught the establishment here anything, it should have been the dangers of running an economy with 10% unemployment yet one where starting companies and creating jobs is as bureaucratically burdensome as virtually any other developed nation.

Still, I may as well enjoy it whilst it lasts. I'm off now to find a copy of Le Monde, a packet of Gauloises and a café where I can ask the locals whether Talal el Karkouri also suffered from the long ball that bounced just in front of him when he played for PSG.