Sunday, December 31, 2006

Arsenal preview

Happy New Year! 2007 promises to be an interesting year for Charlton, but it’s also an opportune time perhaps to remember that it’s only a game of football and there are more important things in life (like getting drunk tonight).

Our first game in 2007 will be against Arsenal, a regular opponent at this time of year, the memory of a 2001 victory at the Valley courtesy of a Dean Kiely penalty save from Nelson Vivas, a particularly vivid one. Their defeat at Sheffield United was painful enough, but now I fear the double-whammy of a stylish Gunners side with a point to prove on Tuesday.

The mini-revival under Alan Pardew has been timely, and hopefully silences the tiny minority of fans that felt things would improve if only Les Reed had more time and his own players. Whilst not seeking to get carried away, it has been achieved without our most creative player (Reid) whose swift return will be very welcome.

January meanwhile promises to be exciting for us in the transfer market, and it would be reassuring if the implied early-month action revealed itself with some quick new blood in the wake of Zheng Zhi (for whom a visit to the Emirates has surely come too soon). Pardew does not suffer fools gladly and it would not be a surprise to see Hasselbaink, Diawara and Pouso making a swift exit, though I might perhaps be alone in bemoaning a departure of the Senagalese defender who has shown enough to warrant more time in my view.

That victory for Sheffield United put our survival challenge back a couple of points, but I continue to believe our best hope remains a six club scramble for 17th place rather than hoping that just one other team joins the South-East trio of Charlton/West Ham/Watford in the mire. Hence in a slightly perverse way we should for now root for the Hammers and the Hornets when playing any of Man City/'Boro/Sheff Utd/Wigan. So long as Charlton rack up the required wins (which is a given if we are to maintain survival hopes), then this will be our best hope.

Few of the 2,900 Addicks at the Emirates will be expecting an Addicks victory, and if reports are to be believed, they shouldn’t be expecting a swift exit from the stadium either. It is undeniably impressive from the TV pictures but from a logistical perspective, building a new 60,000 stadium in the middle of densely-populated Islington makes as much sense now as it did at the planning stage.

However, Arsenal are weakened by injuries to key players and ten points already conceded at home suggests a degree of vulnerability. My main concern is that we approach the game in the right frame of mind, allow Arsenal to play their fancy football until the final third but then defend like lions and perhaps nick something on the break. Too many times over the past couple of years have we approached fixtures like this with a defeatist attitude.

Derek ‘Killer’ Hales has not yet delivered his first verdict of 2007 (KillerWatch© -£501) though it is apt surely that his cumulative losses of £501 coincide with the most important week of the darts calendar. Bryan Hughes’ late winner denied me a third correct score forecast in four Premiership matches, and whilst I am confident we will approach the game with the aforementioned right attitude, I cannot see us taking anything from the game. NY Addick predicts Arsenal 3 (Van Persie 2, Baptista), Charlton 0.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Justice Done at The Valley

I didn't see the game today. The Queen Mary British Pub here in Florida perhaps wisely concluded it wasn't worth their while opening at 7.30am for one person, and I couldn't face listening on the radio choosing to have a game of tennis instead. If finding out via mobile phone that Fulham had equalised on Wednesday was painful, then the same method of communication was nothing but joyful this morning.

We had to win today and as I write, the other results are not going too badly either. Our best hope might be for an almighty six or seven-way scramble for safety in which case perversely perhaps we should crave West Ham and Watford wins today (but a draw would be just fine too). At least the gap between us and safety is today just that ie. a gap, and not a chasm.

There were few surprises in Pardew's second team selection and it's clear he fancies Rommedahl even if most fans remain unconvinced. However he is one of the few players in our squad who can win matches for us (or get players sent off) and if Pards can somehow inspire him to fulfil his obvious potential then it might just be his finest achievement (after survival of course). Hreidarsson meanwhile was at fault for the penalty and surely his days as a first-team regular must be numbered, and if Pressley isn't the answer anymore then hopefully someone else will be. Credit ought to go to Bryan Hughes of course - he is hardly universally popular either but he is surprisingly good in the air and does have a knack for scoring goals, even if his all-round contribution is unsatisfactory.

I had a good feeling about today because a black cat quite literally ran across my path on Thursday. This win, combined with earlier news of my mother-in-law's food poisoning (as Basil Fawlty might say, "Nothing trivial I hope.") should ensure my holiday improves along with the weather here in Florida. Both the Arsenal and Forest games are on live here in the US and I look forward to monitoring our obvious progress again with my own eyes.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Prawn Balls

"A warm welcome to the Valley for this Premiership fixture against Aston Villa. If you have your match programme ready I'll run through the teams, beginning with our visitors:

No. 1 Prawn Crackers

No. 3 Vegetarian Spring Rolls

No. 6 Bang Bang Chicken

No. 9 Barbecue Spare Ribs

(that's enough Chinese take away references - Ed.)

It would be easy to lapse into lazy stereotypes upon hearing the news that China captain Zheng Zhi has signed for the Addicks on loan with a view to a permanent deal. It would be too obvious to ask whether several varieties of dog meat are now available at the Sparrows Lane training ground (the lads are fuming apparently but Reidy said he'll try anything once). It would be repugnant meanwhile to ask whether he owns a cat called Chairman Miaow, and so I won't.

But seriously it's an exciting signing for us and whilst a cynic might argue the club perhaps has one eye on selling more shirts in Shanghai (I don't think they've sold any yet - Ed.), that's sits ok with me. You don't become captain of the football team of a nation of 1.3 billion people unless you can play a bit. Then again, if Pards describes him as a 'one in a million' player then bear in mind it means there is another 1,300 just like him.

The final match of our annus horriblis brings to an end a sorry period for the club that saw four managers/head coaches, just eight Premiership wins and none of them away from home. With the appointment of Pards and the January window just days away, let's hope 2007 brings more cheer for the Addicks even if we have to drop a division to acquire it.

Our final opponents in 2006 began the season in style but some of the initial euphoria over the appointment of Martin O'Neill has been replaced by the realism that he can only do so much with a limited squad. Indeed one could argue that just 5 wins in 20 Premiership matches actually represents a poor return on the investment in O'Neill's reputation. Given the likely millions he will be offered in January, we are perhaps playing Villa again at the optimal time.

I struggled to find any mention on the club website of Killer's (KillerWatch© -£451) charity bet for the Fulham game, but against injury-hit Villa he is opting for a 1-0 Addicks victory, a little ambitious perhaps given our defensive frailties. Pards will have had a tough job raising the lads after the Fulham game, and until January arrives he continues to have to disguise mutton as lamb (with broccoli). As a result I will suggest only another point thus further stopping the rot, but ultimately not enough if we are serious about avoiding relegation. NY Addick predicts Charlton 1 (Bent D), Villa 1 (Petrov, if fit)

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Hope Kills

At the final whistle, a Leicester-supporting friend (who thus knows all about painful relegations) suggested that ultimately it's the (forlorn) hope that will kill us, not the results.

I had enjoyed the first 73 minutes sat in the delightful Queen Mary British Pub in Jupiter, Florida but then a domestic matter that required attending to forced me to make a premature exit. Finding out on my mobile that we'd failed to hold on was painful enough, and said domestic matter ensured the day did not get any better.

Although I haven't seen it the assistant referee is getting some stick. I could be pedantic and suggest that it led to a nondescript free-kick (which we fatally failed to clear), rather than say a penalty, but perhaps the real lesson is to remember not to celebrate last-minute winners too cockily (Blackburn?) because football will always return to bite you on the backside. That's why we love it though isn't it?

The team selection of Pards was reasonably ambitious and sent clear signals to a number of players, whilst giving as an early taste of what will surely be a straightforward 4-4-2 for the rest of the season. He also provided a clear and visible touchline presence that I certainly reacted positively to, and clearly so did the players.

Ambrose was given a surprise start and showed plenty of commitment (and finished smartly for the first goal). Kishishev was given a deserved start and demonstrated his usual energetic endeavour, alongside Holland who also impressed. And up front Marcus Bent put in a reasonable evening's work before being replaced late on. Even the oft-criticised Djimi Traore showed glimpses (I stress the word 'glimpses') of what persuaded Dowie to ask Andrew Mills to secure him for £2m (that's how it worked wasn't it?).

Post-match Pards was clearly angry but positive, emphasising the point gained and the commitment shown but the truth is that despite an obviously improved performance, we toiled away against a very average Fulham side and still couldn't come out victorious (if the assistant referee gifted Fulham a goal then their defence gifted us one too - 'tis the season after all). Despite the pain of tonight, we have to accept that a goal difference of -20 does not result from bad luck or refereeing decisions. Our defence was shaky again tonight (what on earth was Hreidarsson doing on the first goal?) though the potential January addition of Steven Pressley will be a boost in this department.

Tonight however, those ten wins under Pards are looking like a very tall prospect. Hope indeed.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Pardew: How the deal was struck


Bad day.

Will start with eight defenders against Fulham – might be enough to secure a 0-0.


Can we chat?


What did Prozone say about the two goals we did concede and the ones we didn’t score?


LOL :-)


Les, fancy a pre-Christmas tipple chez Murray?


You know when you said on Thursday, “We believe we've got the right team, we need to back them,” do you think anyone noticed?


You told me to say it.


Yeah but you sounded too convincing. Take a leaf out of Peter Kenyon’s book.


Come around at 9pm – I've a tasty couple of Argentinian reds to share!

Ps - if you spot a Mercedes in the drive with the numberplate 'LES 1', drive around the block a few times.


Monsieur Les est un imbecile – je ne parle pas l’anglais – qu’est-ce que c’est le Prozone?

Ps – Avez-vous seen my gloves?


Hamstring’s f*cked – is it ok if I tuck in on Xmas Day?


No training Xmas day. You deserve it. Enjoy the turkey with all the trimmings.

ps - we're treating Fulham like an away game - meet at the Happy Eater, 5pm sharp, club suits.


Get stuffed.


LOL :-)

West Ham fans to Curbs: "Thanks for the Memories"

The love affair is over. After fifteen tumultous but fabulous days, West Ham fans are asking the inevitable question, "Has Curbs taken us as far as he can?"

Fans leaving Upton Park after the Portsmouth defeat were generally in agreement...."...the football is defensive..." "...we never leave anyone up for corners..." "...substitutions are invariably made too late..."

[The rich irony of this post is acknowledged]

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Ten Under Pards

The eagerly-awaited press conference unveiling Alan Pardew was a bit of an anti-climax, failing to reveal much that was new or surprising. No doubt more information will leak out over the coming days, though Xmas print deadlines probably imply the Fulham programme will still contain some Les Reed Prozone-inspired nonsense.

As an occasionally humourous blogger (we'll be the judge of that - Ed.) the one problem I have with Pardew is he is difficult to parody unlike our previous two managers. It was easy to satirise Dowie's unfortunate looks and deadly earnestness, whilst Reed's schoolmasterly style and unpolished media image were obvious targets too. As for Pards, he has that air of confidence bordering ever so closely on arrogance which I am struggling to poke fun at, for now at least. In short he's just the type of manager we've been crying out for.

There was plenty to like in Pardew comments, not least an obvious dose of realism ("I think you have to accept that the odds are stacked against us") and a willingness to offer our underperforming squad a drink at the last-chance saloon ("'Can I save them?' I believe I can and I'll be doing everything in my power to do that.") We don't have the finances to construct an entirely new team in January so maximising what we have is key.

He acknowledged in stark terms the task that faces us. Although today's surprise home defeats for Sheff Utd and West Ham have probably reduced our 'safety target' by a point or two, Pardew is probably accurate when he says we need to win at least half of our remaining games ie. ten. Assuming we will not beat Man Utd, Arsenal, Chelsea or Liverpool, it's clearly an enormous task to win ten of the remaining fifteen fixtures (or some lesser combination involving a fair number of draws). Would it be much of a surprise therefore if the rumoured £1m bonus for Premiership survival was actually true?

The future of Robson, Kinsella et al remains unclear and rightly so, though one would have to sympathise with Kins if he is swiftly cast aside ("I am very focused, my philosophy is very complicated with what I do and I need people who are good enough to be able to go along with that.")

Many fans (me included) believed that our chance of securing Pardew's services had gone following three terrible defeats on the spin after his West Ham dismissal. It wasn't clear why an ambitious young manager would want to climb aboard a sinking ship, but he seemed to put those concerns to rest ("I didn't expect to be back in management so quickly, but Charlton is the perfect scenario for me and really it just snowballed quickly from the first discussions.")

Upon reflection however, Pardew has plenty in common with Curbs in terms of the realistic scope of his managerial ambitions. Although a few years younger and less experienced, Pardew is unlikely ever to be offered a truly 'top job' in England, so just like Curbs the option of taking on a lesser club but one that offers little personal upheaval is an attractive one. However based upon nothing other than intuition, I have a feeling that Pards won't see out his full three-and-a-half year contract at Charlton, let alone come near to matching Curbs' 15 years at the helm. But if he can pull off perhaps the survival task to beat all survival tasks, then will we really care?

I will spare you all a detailed preview of the Fulham game but the ten wins under Pards need to start soon and preferably here. Derek 'Killer' Hales (KillerWatch© -£451) had a rare but odds-on win against 'Boro and is yet to offer his insight against Fulham. I meanwhile will be going for a hat-trick of correct score Premiership forecasts and believe a Pardew-inspired Charlton will be too strong for weakened Fulham side. NY Addick predicts Charlton 2 (Bent D 2), Fulham 0

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Blessing

Just as I was relaxing on the golf course trying to take my mind off all matters Charlton, a Spurs-supporting 'buddy' confirmed via text message not one but two pieces of good news: Reed Out, Pardew In.

The 'Reed Out' aspect should have been irrelevant because it should never have been 'Reed In' on anything other than a caretaker basis. The damage done to our Premiership survival hopes and our Carling Cup campaign are sadly both severe and irreversible. The three-year contract he was awarded, and the Board's constant public support of a 'head coach' whose position became untenable after the Liverpool game if not before, remain mysteries that they should not be allowed to wriggle out of explaining to us.

The very poor results, the disspirited displays and the rapid deterioration in individual performances (Bent, Faye, El Karkouri etc..) were not down to Iain Dowie, regardless of how the Board sought to spin it and 99% of the fans knew it too. Perhaps sensing a potential riot at the Valley on Wednesday night, they finally saw sense.

I did not gain any pleasure out of constantly berating and belittling Les Reed during recent weeks but as a blogger who cares dearly about the club, I felt duty bound to press home the stupidity of his appointment. Indeed Reed is now left as a clear victim of the shambles that the club has become in the 43 days since Dowie left.

Reed did not create the club's 'structure', nor if Peter Varney is to be believed did he help to push Dowie aside, but for six weeks he became the club's figurehead and at least we need cringe no longer. He remains a 'nice bloke' and a Charlton fan, albeit one who not only should never have been appointed, but maybe should have turned down the offer. Had he done so, he may still have had a future at the club under Pardew, but alas I hope he finds a new role in football and I wish him well.

The future is now in Alan Pardew's hands just thirteen days after his dismissal as West Ham manager, and reassuringly a three-and-a-half year contract suggests this is more than a short-term last throw of the Premiership dice. When he was dismissed on Dec 11th, I was not alone in pleading with the club to at least explore the possibility of his appointment, suggesting not to do so would be an abdication of responsibility. Thankfully it seems Murray et al have less in common with Edward VIII than I had been fearing.

I am delighted that Pardew is onboard of course, though the speed of the announcement came as an enormous surprise. Indeed the announcement came so fast that conspiracy theorists might wonder whether the pro-Reed sentiments from the club this week were all a smokescreen, whilst they frantically negotiated behind the scenes. If so, their pronouncements would have been both unnecessary as well as unfair to Reed, which is why I infact suspect that another dire display at 'Boro was the final straw that forced the Board to move extra quickly to secure Pardew.

Pardew's reputation largely remained intact despite his West Ham dismissal and he would not have been short of other tempting offers had he waited. Hence it is likely he has been offered not only an enticing financial package by Charlton, but surely also various assurances over the January transfer kitty and the future of out-of-form Darren Bent. It will be interesting too to learn of the fates of Mark Robson, Mark Kinsella and Andrew Mills who one suspects might not be part of Pardew's plans for the club.

We should not expect miracles, and our January wheeling and dealing should still be undertaken with the expectation of Championship football next season. We could well need 30 points from the second half of the season, a tall order for any middling Premiership club let alone one that lacks confidence and an away win since Oct 2005. Any 'big name' signings should be free and on short-term contracts (Teddy Sheringham anyone?), whilst the focus should be on young British players upon whom a promotion campaign could be built. This may sound defeatist but how much worse can it realistically get?

After seven tumultuous months since Alan Curbishley left, it was inevitable perhaps that our longstanding former manager would retain a bit-part in the footballing soap opera that now sees his namesake Pardew at the Valley. The strange events at West Ham that began with the mysterious signings of the two Argentinians, and ended in Pardew's dismissal may ironically have handed Charlton an outstanding opportunity to properly begin the post-Curbs reconstruction, albeit from a weaker position than desirable thanks to the succession of Board-level mistakes.

Pardew's managerial record is short but very impressive, initially taking Reading to promotion from the old Division Two and straight to the play-offs the following season. He joined West Ham in Sep 2003 and although many will recall the perceived difficulties he initially had there, in reality he took them to the play-off final in both 2004 and 2005, and having won promotion, secured them 9th place last season and an FA Cup final berth. He was only an average player but he totted up 202 appearances for the Addicks, and ought to be raucously welcomed back as 'one of our own' on Wednesday night.

We are lucky to have Pardew and I suppose having spent the past six weeks berating the Board, we ought to congratulate them on securing him because let's face it, it probably wasn't an 'easy sell'. Although we'll probably still go down, right now it feels like the only way is up.

This made me sad

It was hard not to feel a tinge of sadness to learn that our former striker Steve Jones is flogging some CAFC memorabilia on EBay to raise much-needed funds.

Although Jones only made 28 full appearances for the Addicks, they happened to coincide with the famous 1997/98 season. Indeed his role in Charlton folklore was assured with the cross that led to Mendonca's hat-trick goal (pictured) at Wembley.

Despite spending some very limited time in the Premiership (he made 7 starts for Charlton in 98/99), he was a journeyman striker who arrived in the professional game late and would it seem have missed out on the type of riches now enjoyed by our current squad.

However unlike much of our current squad, Jones made up for his obvious lack of raw natural talent with 100% effort and heart, and will leave most fans with fond memories, a late winning goal in the pissing rain at Swindon a particularly vivid one.

It's indicative of our present predicament that the current defilers of our club crest take home tens of thousands of Premiership pounds per week, whilst the players whose genuine efforts got the club there in the first place are resigned to flogging precious memories on Ebay. Good luck Steve.

This made me laugh

Watford's theme for the club's Christmas party following their promotion to the Premiership this year was to go as something to do with the letter P. Defender Chris Powell won the top prize by turning up as England spinner Monty Panesar, while kit manager Bob Oteng went as Powell. (The People)

You have to love him don't you? I wonder how he'd have reacted in the dressing room to his teammates' passionless performances.

Although his best days were behind him even last season, releasing him in the summer and spending £2m on Djimi Traore was not one of Dowie's better decisions.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Having His Cake (and eating it)

(left) Despondent Charlton fans make an early exit from the Riverside.

Just about the only good thing about being a Charlton blogger these days is that you can begin writing your post long before the final whistle, and then quickly get on with the rest of your life.

I started my holidays in Florida last night and it's pissing down with rain. My mother-in-law is here and Charlton are diabolical. What have I done to deserve this? Without wishing to sound like Glenn Hoddle, what did I do so wrong in a former life?

I think I will again go for a long run to get this result out of my system; my Dad meanwhile has just informed me that he intends to have a large piece of cheesecake to take his mind off it. It's interesting how different Charlton fans have different ways of responding to defeats, and explains why my Dad weighs four stone more than me.

When I saw the team news before kick-off, my first thought was "..this is the most defensive line-up I've ever seen.." but perhaps it was understandable. No point learning to run until we can walk; let's grab an ugly 0-0, keep 'Boro in sight and look forward to a more expansive approach against Fulham.

Oops things haven't quite gone to plan.....we're 2-0 down after 52 minutes. I'm not listening to commentary because the link to BBC London isn't working (probably a blessing - Ed.) but Sky Sports are suggesting we haven't exactly been 'robbed.' [STOP PRESS: FT Result, 'Boro 2-0 Charlton and another correct score forecast for me, following the 3-0 Liverpool prediction.]

I've said as much this week as I want to say about Les Reed. Some people slated me for it, but how can he possibly be the answer in the Championship (where we are surely headed now), let alone the Premiership? Of the eleven players that began today, eight were at the club prior to Dowie, whilst one of the three that weren't is Scott Carson. Richard Murray and Peter Varney's comments this week are sounding even more hollow than perhaps they even did at the time.

The comments of Billy Davies in today's Mirror made interesting reading, confirming that he was uncomfortable with the new Continental-style structure at Charlton. So the Board publicly blames everyone from Dowie to Diawara, but the structure remains in place and the team collapses all around it. I don't get it, I just don't get it.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

'Boro Preview

Although it may not seem readily apparent, I would much prefer to be writing positive things about Charlton than negative. Unfortunately events on the pitch and the subsequent muddled responses off it, have made it difficult to be anything but negative right now.

Despite not having managerial experience, Les Reed will know that there is really only one way to silence the boo-boys and that's through performances and results. Nonetheless, I continue to believe that the quality of decisions can be judged at the time they are made, and that the decision to persevere with Reed is a poor one regardless of whether we somehow stay up.

The club's official argument that "it's not his squad" is flawed for so many reasons, not least the counter-argument, "which managers do inherit their own squad?" Good managers will make do and get the best out of what they have whilst over time shaping them in their own image. It's exactly what Curbs is having to do at West Ham and whilst they weren't his players, he certainly got them fired up on Sunday.

Someone commented on this blog that I am "either for us or against us, that's it," (implying I assume that I'm against Charlton somehow). If being 'for Charlton' implies turning a blind eye to possible mismanagement and a perceived lack of motivation then I guess no, I'm not 'for Charlton' or at least not 'that type of Charlton.' Moreover in the 345 posts I have made since 2004, you would struggle to find a single genuine (as opposed to satirical) criticism of Richard Murray and the phenomenal job he has done for Charlton. However the club is a public company and they are accountable to their various stakeholders for the decisions they make, and seeming to blame the club's current ills upon a former (and short-lived) employee is a little far-fetched.

Perhaps some of my barbed comments about Peter Varney were uncalled for with hindsight but he is a highly-paid executive at what is, let's face it, just a small-to-mid sized public company and as such is also accountable. I think a self-created problem that Charlton may have today is too many 'Charlton fans' in important posts who can always fall back on the "I'm a supporter so I'm hurting too" argument, which whilst true can also be a soft way out. Perhaps that sense of togetherness was absolutely essential to get us to be an established Premiership club (from basket-case), but there's also a role for outsiders who can remain emotionally detached when making tough decisions.

Another sport that I follow closely is tennis, and at the LTA the new (young) chief executive Roger Draper has required every member of staff to 're-apply' for their jobs. Most will be re-hired of course but occasionally when an entity has potentially lapsed into complacency, it takes a brash outsider to shake things up and refocus.

I've been getting a bit tired describing so many games as six-pointers and then watching (or listening) as the team for the most part fails to rise to the occasion. However as one of the worst weeks in the club's recent history comes to an end, there is yet another genuine six-pointer at 'Boro on Saturday.

Rumours abound that less than 100 Addicks fans have bought tickets, and I would urge them to contemplate a one-off stayaway protest. The cost of advanced ticket purchases is 'sunk' and our away form suggests their presence makes no difference anyway. Indeed a powerful and visible signal from even our most diehard fans that no more performances like Wycombe/Liverpool will be tolerated, could be far more beneficial to the team's near-term form, than a small amount of energetic vocal support at 'Boro. Footballers do have feelings you know; allegedly.

After their defeat at Fulham on Monday, 'Boro are clearly amongst the dwindling group of clubs that we can still realistically finish above this season. Whether or not Reed can motivate his squad remains to be seen, but to the extent that any of the players care, pinning the Premiership table to the dressing room wall might just do the trick. If we leave the Riverside Stadium as losers, then the 7-point gap between Charlton and safety will be approaching insurmountable. It's all very well saying 'a couple of wins' and we're back in it, but we've only won 10 of our last 47 Premiership matches so they're not exactly two a penny.

Last season we won 3-0 in the equivalent fixture and put on one of the best Charlton performances I'd seen. Back then we were almost unstoppable on the road, and yet here we are fully 425 days since our last win away from The Valley. It's frightening how quickly things have turned down for us, and interestingly fully six of the eleven that started that match might reasonably be expected to start on Saturday (Young, Hreidarsson, Thomas, Kishishev, Rommedahl, Bent) suggesting there is far more to our demise than a few poor signings.

At the time of writing, Killer (KillerWatch© -£482) had not yet recovered enough from his (and my) Wycombe prediction ("I can't see Wycombe troubling us") to give us his insight into the 'Boro game. Whilst 'Boro are also struggling, they do have a core group of local homegrown players that are giving their all for the club and infront of surely a thin Teeside crowd, I can't predict anything but another moral-sapping defeat. NY Addick predicts 'Boro 2 (Viduka 2), Charlton 0.

Email exchange


Can I speak yet? - Les


Just make something up – I think we’ve handled it okay up until now on our own.


Hi Les – how was training today? I caught the end of the set-pieces and we look in terrific shape (were we practising our defending or attacking by the way?)

Probably best to maintain silence for now. I remember the great cricket commentator Brian Johnston used to say, “If you can’t add anything to what the viewer can see then say nothing.”


I’ve just watched Prozone – we actually had 57% of possession in areas 1,4 and 9 (aka the ‘key areas’).


He needs Prozac not Prozone.


57% eh? Only looked like 52% max. Great stuff.

Best to keep quiet for now – silence is golden as someone once said.


I think it was Frankie Valli


Who, the CAFC blogger?


No the 60s singer. The blogger said something much nastier.


Lads, I think the first part of Operation Blame-It-All-On-Dowie has gone pretty well don’t you think?

A couple more soundbites from Varney on Sky Sports News, and three points at ‘Boro and we might just fend off the barbarians at the gate.


They’re not still there are they? I’m fed up with leaving via the disabled entrance.


No it’s a turn of phrase.

Millsy, who’s available in the January window?


Bit tricky to say – think my email is playing up to be honest.

I also sent an email to ‘Premiership – ALL’ informing them of the availability of some of our players and I’ve not had a single reply. You can usually rely on Shep at Newcastle for a witty reposte like, “Faye £2m? That’s a lot of money for our former cleaner.”


Dear Mr Murray

Further to our conversation, I just wanted to confirm I wouldn’t be willing to play for the club in the Championship.

Mr Mills, please keep me posted on potential interest from Chelsea or Barcelona.

Yours, Dennis.


Have you tested the waters for Benty?

Mum’s the word.


Arsenal have offered £500,000 up front with bonuses as follows:

£500,000 if Arsenal win the Champions League (three years running)
£250,000 if Bent wins 100 caps
£500,000 if Bent scores 35 goals in a season
£250,000 if Iran cease their uranium enrichment programme


Marcus or Darren?






Monsieur Muzza – je suis tres angry – je ne veux plus jouer pour Charlton – vous pouvez take votre club and le stick up votre backside.


Any idea what’s up with Diawara? He’s just slammed down a transfer request.


Did he actually ‘slam’ it?


Well suppose not, he kind of placed it on my desk. His writing wasn’t great because he still had his gloves on.


Don’t worry I’ll deal with it. You just worry about preparing for ‘Boro.

Ps – isn’t that Cory Gibbs ready yet?


Of course. As we both know it’s all about the 5 Ps: “Proper Prozone Preparation Prevents Piss-Poor Performances”

Ps - Gibbsy is out for another three months.


Not another Dowie crock!? :-)

Ps - I think there’s 6 Ps.


Hi Dave

Yes I know we took 60 coaches to ‘Boro last time but we’ll just need the one this time around. Or maybe just one of those minivans that you see at the airport?


Ps Valley Express looking a bit slow for the Fulham game. Will get back to you.


Les – in the event we lose at ‘Boro, how long are you planning to lock the lads in the dressing room? The coach driver’s asking, thanks.

[the above emails are a satirical potrayal and not based upon genuine emails received or sent]

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Hang the DJ

Thanks to David H for compiling the following YouTube montage
that just about sums up our season. It's a must for all fans of Charlton and/or The Smiths.

The timing of the music and Les Reed's face first appearing is music video production of the highest order.

Comical Les

[This wasn't my creation - if I've inadvertently stolen someone's idea, then thanks for it, and apologies but it deserves a wider audience!]

Silence is Deafening

Despite Frankie Valley's suggestion, it's not much fun for us International Addicks right now. With no-one to discuss Charlton's crisis with, I'm resigned to writing more emotion-laden prose from foreign climes (1°c and sunny) and hoping I'm not completely out-of-tune with those a bit closer to the action.

Last night I was so wound-up by our performance that I knew I wouldn't sleep if I didn't shake off some adrenaline. So despite having imbibed a bottle of white wine, I put on my running shoes and at some ungodly hour ran for four miles whilst the wife desperately leafed through the Yellow Pages under 'A' for 'Asylums'.

It didn't work especially well though and I barely slept, occasionally grabbing a few minutes of dream-charged sleep (usually involving Peter Varney for some godforsaken reason). At least I was kept company by the reams of comments hitting my Blackberry via my blog that reassured me that the way I was feeling about Charlton wasn't an over-reaction.

I'll reiterate that the problem with Charlton is that I have no choice but to continue supporting them. If my car packed up, I'd trade it in for a new one. If my job sucked, I'd apply for another one. And if my wife made me feel this angry and upset I'd kick her out the door quicker than you can say, "trailer park trash."

And yet still, here we are at 1.30pm UK time and the silence emanating from the club is deafening. Perhaps Les Reed still has the players locked in the dressing room whilst the likes of Jerome Thomas desperately text their mates asking if they'll still be at Sugar Reef when he finally gets out?

What is taking them so long? There shouldn't need to even be a Board-level discussion about what needs to be done. And as I said last night, if Reed himself had a modicum of dignity he would have resigned already, preferably in front of the media that he so shamefully evaded last night. I'm disturbed by the incredulous amount of self-belief that Reed has (based it seems solely upon technical know-how) whilst his unmotivated team defile the Charlton shirt. Didn't he hold a promising interactive discussion after the Spurs game? Look how far that took us.

If the Board avoid the obvious conclusion from recent events, solely because they don't want to face even more upheaval, then they will be failing in their role as the club's fiduciaries. Better to acknowledge the farcical decision to promote Reed now than allow him to waste more of the club's precious money in January in the faint hope that he can rebuild us with 'his team.'

As has been noted elsewhere, the players (one or two excepted) deserve nothing but repugnance for the crisis we now find ourselves in. However to somehow describe Les Reed as helpless in the face of such utter dispassion and apathy from his squad would be absurdly generous to an already well-paid man. Ask yourself, if the club had parachuted Neil Warnock or Adrian Boothroyd or Chris Coleman into the role in November, would they have got more out of the same group of players? Perhaps not in quality, but they wouldn't have dared return to the dressing room with one of those 'real managers' in charge after the lack of effort shown last night.

In the unlikely event that a club representative has the courtesy to address the media (and the fans) about last night's events, I hope they will demonstrate a rare act of good sense by confirming Reed is no longer 'head coach.'

An Open Letter to Peter Varney

Dear Mr Varney

Unfortunately I couldn't be at The Valley last night because I am based in the USA, but I am disturbed that the team has just blown its best ever chance to reach a Cup semi-final since 1947.

We all know that surprise results happen, that's part of the joy of football. But tonight's performance (described variously by those that saw it as 'disgraceful', 'shameful' and 'abysmal') followed several performances in recent weeks that had much in common. Indeed were it not for Talal El Karkouri's last-minute magic against Blackburn, we would be bottom of the Premiership arguably where we belong.

I'm keen as a supporter to understand why the virtues of hard work, passion and togetherness upon which the recent success of this club have been built seem to have disappeared. I'm also keen to better understand your own role in our demise as our titular 'Chief Executive.' As I understand it, you are not especially committed financially as it were, so your own incentives are not immediately apparent to me.

You were fortunate enough to join the club just as the hard work of the Board and especially Alan Curbishley was really coming to fruition. And with all due respect, and without having met you personally, you give the impression of being an administrator rather than a leader.

So when Alan Curbishley went his separate way, I am concerned that you saw an opportunity to stamp your authority on the club, perhaps to prove that Richard Murray was right that the club was about more than just Curbs. Maybe you came up with the new 'structure' that emphasised delineated responsibility? If so, I'd like to understand what caused you to propose a revolutionary new approach so different to the successful one which preceded it.

I am also keen to understand the role of Andrew Mills. This is, after all, a former agent to whom Charlton fans only had exposure during the cut-price sale of Paul Konchesky in 2005. We are assured that Mills only gauges availability and negotiates terms, but his anonymity concerns us, particularly in light of recent signings whose performances have perhaps only been superceded by their transfer fee in terms of shock value. How thick are the scouting files on Amdy Faye, Djimi Traore and Omar Pouso?

It is difficult for me to argue that Dowie's reign as manager was glorious, but several team performances particularly towards the end of his tenure, at least included some passion and desire. He even managed to take the club to its first ever League Cup quarter-final, although last night's performance stopped that particular train in its tracks.

Hence I am keen to understand exactly why he was sacked. On Football Focus you suggested that aspects of his dismissal have not yet been fully disclosed. But do the 14,000 or so Charlton fans that paid good money just before Christmas to watch tonight's shambles in frigid conditions not deserve a little more? Until I am told more, I am inclined to think you struggled to deal with Dowie's hunger, and that perhaps he threatened your own position, so maybe you acted to protect it?

Les Reed meanwhile wouldn't dare rattle the cage would he? He's far too mild-mannered for that, and anyhow he probably never thought he'd get a manager's job in the Premiership. He's not qualified but never mind, you thought you could just appease the fans by showing them he wrote "The FA Guide to Basic Team Coaching." Basic team coaching, that's hardly what millionaire footballers need is it?

And yet just days after the humiliating 5-1 defeat at Spurs, we are told triumphantly that Reed has signed a three-year contract. What exactly has he done to merit this? And the two team performances since suggest this was a contractual obligation the club arguably could have done without. Presuming it is not a fake, his Coach-Soccer website suggests he 'led Charlton into the Premiership'. This is strange because that is not how most Charlton fans remembered it.

And moreover, if he is such a leader I'm surprised he chose not to address the media after last night's so-called performance. After all Stuart Pearce had the guts to come out and suggest that his Man City team had been "very, very poor" on Sunday. Reed might find that the fans support him more when he tells the truth rather than claim that Prozone stats suggest we dominated the game against Spurs, as if it even mattered one iota. That's the difference you see between managers and coaches.

By the time I wake up tomorrow morning it is possible that Les Reed will have resigned as 'head coach.' It takes a man to attend uncomfortable press conferences, and it takes a man to accept one is ill-equipped to take on such a high-profile and lucrative job. However in many ways I feel sorry for him because he is clearly a 'good bloke' who has been parachuted into a role which he is not suited for but perhaps understandably found impossible to turn down. Les Reed will no doubt return to coaching, perhaps at Charlton, but the fans deserve explanations from you for the turn of events that led to his appointment.

I believe you are a Charlton supporter first and foremost, and hence I trust you are feeling as sick as me currently. I won't get into inane discussions about whether you also nearly froze to death when Kim Grant scored twice with an orange ball at the New Den in 1995, or whether you were a surprised young man at the Valley in 1985 when a mere leaflet informed us we were moving to Selhurst Park. However, I would ask you to cease with the soundbites and have the guts to tell us tell us what is going wrong, because frankly you're the only one that really knows.

Yours sincerely

New York Addick

People Called 'Les' I'd Rather Have As Manager (NEW: Les Battersby)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Enough is Enough

Speechless, just utterly speechless. I didn't even contemplate the possibility that we could lose tonight, and certainly not via another performance that sounds just as shameful as Saturday's. Just what the hell is going on at our club? It cannot continue.

If Les Reed has even a modicum of dignity he will thank Richard Murray for the faith he has shown but offer his resignation as 'head coach' with immediate effect. His position has become utterly untenable, and I am terrified about what he might say to the media shortly. It was never this bad under Dowie, not even close.

This isn't just bad luck. The heart has been slowly ripped out of our club and it begins with our Board sadly who seem quite literally to have lost the plot since Curbishley departed.

Why was Faye selected tonight if he is recovering from a virus? Why do they have such belief in this structure? Who the hell is Andrew Mills? Why was Dowie appointed with such confidence, and then sacked just as performances were improving? Why such an abject lack of talent coming through the youth team? Why has our transfer policy gone so awry? Why was Reed not initially appointed on a caretaker basis? Why is he permitted to talk such gibberish to the media and make us a laughing stock? Why do we read stories on the club website about the New Zealand Knights when our own club are in disarray? So many questions and I'm shaking with anger as I write them.

We are owed answers. Richard Murray rightly pointed out that the club was bigger than Alan Curbishley. Well it's also bigger than him too, and us fans have played our own vital role in the rebuilding of the club since the dark days of the mid-80s by virtue at a minimum of not losing the faith. Athough I cannot and will not question Murray's commitment nor good intentions, if Peter Varney is responsible for the creation and execution of this 'structure' then his position has become untenable too.

Charlton fans are not stupid; infact we have some of the most balanced and intelligent fans in the land. We know that the last six years have been heady times and like most good things, they would eventually come to an end. What we are all finding so completely disspiriting is the shambolic way it is coming apart from a position of reasonable strength, and the apparent lack of communication from the Board. There was never this amount of vitriol during the 98/99 relegation season because we had a team of battlers who were proud to wear the shirt, and a proper manager at the helm who got the best out of limited players.

I don't have many good solutions because the short but blighted Reed-era has taken us so many steps backwards, that a number of options that were available to us no longer exist. Why would any promising manager take us on? I can't imagine Pardew would even want the job now. And as for any decent Championship managers with promotion prospects, they'll rightly conclude they're better off where they are and I can't blame them. I continue to believe that the optimal course of action would be to accept our relegated fate, prepare now for Championship football, cash in on some assets, try to somehow get a decent young manager in place (Mike Newell?) and build a core of players again that actually want to play for Charlton Athletic.

I was looking forward to tonight's game because I thought we could score a few goals, restore some pride and take it on to the vital 'Boro game on Saturday. I can't imagine more than a hundred or so fans are intending to make the trip but in my view, the most powerful message we could send to our bunch of arrogant, overpaid, heartless players is for them to run out to an away end made up entirely of empty seats. Believe me, they're not worth it.

Plea to Players

Sick children across South-East London and Kent have pleaded for Charlton's underperforming players NOT to visit them in hospital this holiday season.

"Christmas is hard enough as it is," said one anxious parent, "...the last thing they need is Dennis Rommedahl dressed as Father Christmas."

Too Much to Bear

Charlton's poor form has claimed another victim. 'Kennedy' the bear (named after New York's airport rather than the former leader of the Liberal Democrats) arguably remembers the good times more than most. He was featured in the 'fans superstitions' section of the Boxing Day 2003 programme against Chelsea, the 4-2 win that lunchtime perhaps marking the very peak of the Curbishley years.

As a result, I'd always suspected Kennedy might be a glory hunter and now he's gone and proved it. In a fit of rage after Saturday's disgraceful performance, he tore off his very own Charlton kit and swore never to wear it again.

Rest assured I have responded in an appropriate fashion, and banished him to his room with a copy of 'The Rise and Rise of Charlton Athletic: From Portokabins to Porto Captains'. That's the problem with bears these days; they don't know they've come from (China probably - Ed.)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Wycombe preview

The most outstanding chance the club has had to reach our first major Cup semi-final since 1947, is generating a fully understandable sense of disinterest.

However in my view, the game takes on considerable significance for several reasons. Firstly and most obviously, defeat would be unthinkable and the implications unimaginable. Missing out on the chance to at least give Charlton's despondent fans a small pre-Xmas lift would likely lead to the type of vitriol which would convert our current sorry state into a full-blown crisis. A head ought to roll (Reed? Varney?) if only for symbolic value.

Second, the realistic possibility of giving the Second Division side a hammering would not do our fragile Premiership form any harm. Winning is a habit which we seem firmly to have kicked.

Third, it presents Reed with a chance to give some fringe first-teamers a chance to prove they are genuinely worthy of a place ahead of the current underperforming incumbents. Assuming for example that the likes of Marcus Bent are given a rare start, then if they do not grasp the mantle and deliver a genuinely lung-bursting performance then I really do despair for them, and fear for the future of our club.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, for goodness sake it represents a chance to win a competition and at the same time secure European football. Year after year of Premiership safety is well and good (albeit now in doubt), but surely we all dream of some glory and trophies at some point too?

The crowd at the Valley is likely to be sparse, and frankly who can blame those that are staying away? If the players selected have even a modicum of heart and spirit, they will surely crave the opportunity to shove some our words down our throats with a performance that displays both.

Arch tipster Derek 'Killer' Hales (KillerWatch© -£432) arguably has less credibility than Les Reed right now, and does himself little favours with comments like, "Of course betting us to win on the match odds market [4/11] is no value." Why Derek? If you think Charlton's true probability of winning is higher than 73.3% then it represents good value, and I happen to believe that is the case. NY Addick predicts: Charlton 4 (Bent M 2, Hughes 2), Wycombe 0.

ALTERNATIVE JOBS FOR LES REED (No.5): Munch's 'The Scream'

[The 'Alternative Jobs' feature is not intended to deny Les Reed's status as 'good coach' or 'good bloke', but merely suggests he is not management material.]

Better than the Gray Twilight

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat. " [Theodore Roosevelt]

I often wonder just why footballers should earn so much? More relevantly, why should Charlton players earn anything?

For me it just presents more evidence that the world has gone mad, following on from the shocking news that my mother-in-law is currently at Matt Lucas' gay wedding dressed as the Fairy Godmother (the Wicked Witch might have been more appropriate - Ed.) More worryingly the thought of my mother-in-law dressed as the Fairy Godmother gave me inspiration for a new post about Charlton.

Footballer incomes are something fans tend to take for granted, as they part with their hard-earned cash to watch perhaps the world's least competitive League. Earnings are understandably correlated to the value of TV rights, but that value increasingly just flows from the TV companies (mainly Sky) straight to the players, leaving the clubs as purveyors of the product, but retaining virtually none of the earnings.

If you want to get rich as a salaried employee (as opposed to an entrepreneur), it's vital to work in an industry that benefits from 'economies of scale'. Economies of scale refer to the reductions in average cost resulting from increased production.

Investment bankers have economies of scale (the amount of work required to complete a $10bn deal is not 10 times the work required to complete a $1bn deal). Likewise, footballers enjoy economies of scale because they do not need to exert any extra effort to have their skills beamed to 500 million homes as opposed to 50 million homes. Then again, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink doesn't have to exert any effort at all.

At the other end of the scale, the minimum wages earned from office cleaners to supermarket workers can directly be linked to their own lack of economies of scale (cleaning three offices takes exactly three times as much time as cleaning just one). So in that sense, footballers do clearly have an obvious bargaining position created by increased television coverage.

It has been fairly well-documented recently that workers at Goldman Sachs, will be enjoying a better Christmas than say savers with Farepak. However whilst Goldman employees enjoy their average pay of $622,000 each (arguably more than the average Premiership footballer), Goldman Sachs shareholders are unlikely to complain because the company's stock price was up 22.8% in 2005, 5.4% in 2004, 45.0% in 2003 and is up 56.5% year-to-date. This stock price appreciation is justified however by the increase in earnings-per-share from $1.29 in early-2003 to £6.59 today. Whilst we might baulk at their incomes, the Goldman workers have earned their windfall.

Conversely, although shareholders in most English football clubs have enjoyed stock price gains in recent years, most of this gain is being driven by speculation about foreign takeovers (see my recent Petrodollars post) rather than genuine earnings growth. Indeed, most clubs don't make any operating profit at all and therein lies the mystery, particularly when compared to the likes of Goldman Sachs.

Although Richard Murray and his fellow directors are currently receiving plenty of criticism from frustrated Charlton fans right now, one aspect of club stewardship which I will never pass judgment on is their willingness (or unwillingness) to invest their personal capital into the club. There is nothing more certain to make me chuckle with disbelief than a caller to BBC's 6-0-6 demanding that the Chairman of some godforsaken club 'explain where the money's gone.' This point of view usually implies that the Chairman should be putting his hand in his own pocket to provide more equity or debt to fund the club's ongoing cashflow shortfalls. In which other sectors are public companies expected to be run on this basis?

Their vitriol should really be saved for the salary packages that their beloved players have secured (because that's 'where the money's gone'), but more pertinently for the perverse system that allows those packages to persist. The key trait of that 'system' in my view is the peculiar fascination that the world's multi-millionaires and billionaires have with football, but more importantly the ripples that their presence causes. As someone entranced by the history of economics and markets, I have every confidence that this cycle will end as badly as every other cycle which, at the time, was described as a 'new paradigm.' However until then the pigs are at the Premiership trough.

Take Charlton for example. Despite our well-earned reputation as a friendly community club, we do not offer the quick-fix that the Randy Lerners or Eggert Magnussons demand because their millions cannot be levered against certain cashflows from ticket sales and merchandising (thanks to our smaller stadium and fanbase). However, we are required to compete with them on a level playing field, and it is perhaps in this very context that one can trace our own Board's recent panicky mistakes from the signings of misfits from Jeffers to Faye, and from Dowie's sacking to Reed's rushed appointment. We should perhaps see ourselves like the one-screen charismatic cinema trying to compete with the charmless multiplexes. It's a battle we'll never win fully, the real question is, do we really want to?

I admire the Board's attempts to move the club on from being 'plucky battlers' to genuine Premiership contenders, but it was maybe always a flawed ambition to begin with because, thanks to these moneymen, it was never likely to be a level playing field at all. We are required to pay the likes of Ambrose and Rommedahl their grotesque wages because, so the thinking goes, if we don't then someone else will. But whilst the likes of Villa and now West Ham can afford such expensive mistakes, we simply cannot, and sadly for us in the absence of our own fairy godmother they are now costing us dearly.

Perhaps today we are just victims of an accident of timing, and perhaps our prior six years of relative success (and current problems) should be understood in terms of having generated unrealistic expectations. Our promotion in May 2000 almost exactly coincided with the peak of the global technology-led technology boom, and which then preceded two years of sub-trend economic growth and fears of deflation. Equity markets bottomed in October 2002, and the explosion of liquidity-driven global growth (as explained in the aforementioned Petrodollars piece) has been breathtaking ever since.

In this context, the timing of Abramovich's purchase of Chelsea in July 2003 seems as explicable those that have followed, from Man United to Portsmouth. What were Charlton to do? Accept our fate, seek a newly-minted buyer of our own, or just acknowledge the unfairness of the competition, but try to compete anyway?

It hasn't worked and our current sorry position is the result of too many policy mistakes which cost us any chance we might have had. Perhaps we shouldn't blame the Board though, because despite the obviously comical element of recent decisions, we probably never stood much chance anyhow and they gave it their best shot.

And you know what, if I'm brutally honest, you just know where you can stick your Premiership Plus-showing, £40 ticket-asking, foreign mercenary-dominating, Fanzone-shouting, all-seating, David Dein-directing, so-called 'Greatest League in the World'.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

THINGS THAT MIGHT SAVE US (No.2 in an occasional series): SUING CURBS

Other than the same bags under the eyes (now left undisguised by contact lenses), Charlton fans were unable to recognise the man they previously knew simply as 'the Gaffer.' What was that we saw at the end? Was it emotion? And who was that at left-back keeping Ronaldo quiet? Was it Paul Konchesky (previously regarded as 'not good enough to play left-back')? And who was that impressive young player at right-back with the mop of blonde hair? Was it Jonathan Spector (previously known as 'worst full-back seen at Charlton until, well...erm, Djimi Traore')? And who were that team trudging off the field after their first defeat to a Curbishley-led side? Was it Manchester United, the biggest club in the world?

Do we have enough evidence to contemplate a Simon Jordan-esque legal action against Curbs for neglect of duty? And could the proceeds be reinvested in our squad in January in order to save us?


[The 'Alternative Jobs' feature is not intended to deny Les Reed's status as 'good coach' or 'good bloke', but merely suggests he is not management material.]



ALTERNATIVE JOBS FOR LES REED (No.1): Classical Conductor

Saturday, December 16, 2006

What's on my Ipod?

In times of distress, I tend to turn towards exercise, music, alcohol and humour. The alcohol can wait for now, but I've just come back from a long run around Central Park reservoir, where the views were simply magnificent (not least the pretty young thing running a few yards in front of me). On my way around, I listened to a special playlist which I trust you will find appropriate for the situation all Addick fans find themselves in:

God Only Knows (Beach Boys)
Nowhere Man (Beatles)
Loser (Beck)
This Is A Low (Blur)
Charmless Man (Blur)
Desolation Row (Bob Dylan)
An Honest Mistake (The Bravery)
Useless (Depeche Mode)
Waiting for a Superman (Flaming Lips)
He's Simple, He's Dumb, He's The Pilot (Grandaddy)
Just Who Is the Five O'Clock Hero (The Jam)
Cry, Cry, Cry (Johnny Cash)
Time For Heroes (The Libertines)
Let Down (Radiohead)
It's All Over Now (Rolling Stones)
Panic (The Smiths)
Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now (The Smiths)
Bigmouth Strikes Again (The Smiths)
Going Down (Stone Roses)
What Is He Thinking? (The Streets)
Is This It? (The Strokes)
I Can't Win (The Strokes)

Hope-Les, Clue-Les, Passion-Les

No, I sent you that letter
To ask you if the end was worth the means
Was there really no in between?
And I still don't feel better
I just wondered if it could be like before
And I think you just made me sure!
But then that's typically you
And I might have been a bit rude
But I wrote it in a bad mood
I'm not being funny with you
But it's hard to be engaging
When the things you love keep changing
Brassneck, Brassneck, I just decided I don't trust you anymore
I just decided I don't trust you anymore.

Saturday, 9.45am. Weekend ruined.

I hope Chicago Addick doesn't mind if I reveal the text message he sent to me just after Traore's attempted decapitation of Pennant. It was so eloquently apt, I might have to start callling him the 'Bard of Illinois'. "It's great isn't it? Got the worst f*cking hangover too and I'm surrounded by Yankee Scousers!" Woe betide a Charlton fan in America in 2006.

Don't let the two late goals fool you. This was as comprehensive a defeat as last week's, perhaps even more so. At half-time my old man suggested we were lucky not to be 4-0 down; I meanwhile had thought we were lucky not to be 5-0 down. Such is the emotional battle between the optimists and pessimists, that it's even dividing families now. However I can at least take comfort from having correctly predicted a full-time 3-0 reverse. Killer, eat your heart out.

If anyone can explain how we are better off now than we were under Iain Dowie, then the comments section below provides a forum. If the Board were so convinced of Les Reed's acumen then they could have offered him the job in the summer. Therefore given that by implication they weren't, why on earth did they post-Dowie not initially offer him the job in a caretaker's capacity thus leaving our options open? Now we are stuck with him not only now, but next season, and potentially and terrifyingly beyond. At one point during the second half, he appeared on TV to try to rally his players and it was a pitiful sight; he reminded me of my old geography teacher (and we used to throw pencils at him). The Board have asked us to trust them, and whilst I'm not quite yet ready to quote lyrics by The Wedding Present at them, they are testing us, that's for sure.

As for the players on the pitch, I've seen more bottle in a Muslim minibar; I won't even bother trying to write my player ratings because my thesaurus only offers nine alternatives for 'diabolical.' Virtually no-one came out of the game with any credit, but at least their performances beg some interesting questions like, "When Jimmy Floyd writes his inevitable post-retirement autobiography 'Hassel-Free', do you think his Charlton performances will warrant a paragraph or merely a footnote?"

As a waiter once said to George Best, "Where did it all go wrong?" However, as I suggested in my Preparing for the Worst post last week, there will be a time for quiet reflection by the Board on mistakes made, but now is the time to be worrying about the long-term stability of the club, not merely near-term Premiership survival. Some readers slated me for suggesting that our relegation odds (66%) ignored the fact that survival remained within our hands; well, it is still within our hands, but the probability of relegation is now 73%. Perhaps someone should tell the players.

STOP PRESS: some selected gems from Les Reed:
"There were some great performances from the lads."
"Bryan Hughes came on and did a very good job."
"We're off our target a little bit, not necessarily because of the result today, but because of two results in a row we didn't get."
"There are some away games which we need to try and win."


I'm laughing because I'm determined not to cry.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Pessimism Brings Hope

Like lambs to the slaughter, the small but hardy band of North America-based Addicks will set their alarms for an uncivilised hour, traipse to a suitably downtrodden ale house and watch their beloved team with much hope, tempered by experience.

There seems to be an ongoing, though generally friendly, battle between the 'optimists' and 'pessimists' right now on the various Charlton blogs and forums. These debates would probably imply that I currently fall into the latter camp.

However simply saying, "I think we will go down," or "I think we will stay up" does not make one a pessimist or optimist respectively. Instead both are (or should be) statements made by realistic fans who are simply extrapolating what they have seen factually so far in different ways; it explains why betting exchanges have been so popular. There's no right or wrong viewpoint at the time, nor does the eventual outcome justify or belittle it, so long as it was made rationally and without bias.

And anyhow, forget about fans for a moment, do we really want our players to be optimists? In my view, there's been too much optimism in the Charlton camp, not too little. Here is the difference between optimistic and pessimistic defending as exemplified by say Diawara on Saturday:

OPTIMISTIC: "I'll let Malbranque shoot without closing him down 'cos it'll probably go wide anyway."

PESSIMISTIC: "Damn, that header's falling to Malbranque in a dangerous position....I'd better throw my body in the way just in case."

So in short, I think the best thing newly contracted 'head coach' Les Reed can do is infuse the dressing room with plenty of pessimism, whilst reminding the players that they still have 21 games to repair the damage. Unfortunately I'm not sure Reed has the presence and charisma to infuse even pessimism into his players.

Speaking of that contract, I can't deny I was a little disappointed because it seemed to imply a move for Alan Pardew would not be forthcoming. Admittedly for all I know, we might have approached him and been turned down, but if not, I really believe that if we've failed to even consider discussing the possibility, then it represents an abdication of responsibility.

In simple terms, Pardew achieved more in a single Premiership season in both League (55 points) and FA Cup (runners-up), than Curbs managed in several, and with a squad that was hardly full of star names. By way of proof, the players with more than 30 League appearances in 05/06 were Benayoun, Etherington, Ferdinand, Gabbidon, Harewood, Konchesky, Mullins, and Reo-Coker. He is also a) unemployed, b) living nearby, c) an ex-Charlton player, and d) comfortable managing in the Championship should we end up there. Those are the facts, still, what do I know, I'm only a realist.

Friedrich Nietzsche once said, "Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torments of man." I don't know to what extent Derek 'Killer' Hales (KillerWatch© -£382) has studied the work of the German philosopher, but he obviously revels in torment because he has again opted for a draw despite Liverpool arriving at the Valley on the back of two 4-0 wins and five consecutive clean sheets. Despite a half-decent home record against the 'Pool, I will suggest a Charlton defeat (but hope that Liverpool arrive full of optimism). NY Addick predicts: Charlton 0, Liverpool 3 (Kuyt, Bellamy 2)

Thursday, December 14, 2006

THINGS THAT MIGHT SAVE US (No.1 in an occasional series): PETRODOLLARS


Let’s not beat about the proverbial President George W.....our beloved team is in serious trouble. However in light of the rumoured $450m bid for Liverpool FC by Dubai International Capital, it’s clear there might just be a way out for Charlton…..we need to start praying for higher oil prices.

Although the price of oil has fallen in price in recent weeks, one would have had to have been a bicycle-riding hermit not to have noticed it creeping up steadily over recent years. Unlike previous cycles however, the ‘pain’ which oil consumers should be bearing seems to be conspicuous by its absence……UK house prices are rising again, global equities are rocketing, and growth is strong.

In its starkest terms, this is how the maths works: Global oil production is approximately 80 million barrels per day. Crude oil currently sells for approximately $62 per barrel. Hence given that Russia and Saudi Arabia alone account for approximately 19 million barrels of production per day, then the $20 increase in the price per barrel since the start of 2005 alone roughly translates into a windfall wealth transfer from oil importers to the Russians and Saudis of $48,000billion ($48trillion).

The implications of this extraordinary transfer of wealth are complex. In very simple terms, the importing nations have chosen to keep their exchange rates artificially low for now (in order to encourage export-led growth and employment), and to do so have been forced to recycle their oil wealth back into foreign currency-denominated assets. This has also helped reduce the risk of so-called Dutch disease which occurs when the powerful effect of natural resource exports on a nation's exchange rate overpowers the rest of the export sector, and destroys the manufacturing base. Initially the recycling was undertaken via financial assets such as government bonds and hedge funds, but now the ‘petrodollar’ nations are diversifying into potentially safer Western ‘hard assets’ from football clubs to hotel chains, and from ports, to steel companies.

Surely I can’t have been alone in walking through Mayfair recently, admiring the wealth and thinking, something doesn't feel right? Is it a coincidence that Chelsea's current owner, Liverpool’s suitor and West Ham’s previous fancier are all oilmen? Even Icelanders benefit from higher oil prices (relatively at least) thanks to their abundance of (free) geothermal power. And the mysterious set of circumstances are not helped by the relatively anonymous, yet enormously powerful, state-run investment offices which hold such power over markets.

Back in the 1970s, the pain of OPEC-induced higher oil prices was clear. Inflation was rampant, rubbish was left uncollected, and the British worker was forced to work a 3-day week. Eventually the obviously negative impact of higher oil prices must outweigh the beneficial effects of all the above recycling, but for now we should stop bemoaning higher petrol prices because if nothing else it's making house prices go up.

Why have times changed? The impact of higher oil prices upon oil consumers/importers tends to manifest itself through higher prices of not merely oil, but also any goods for which oil is an input (the UK became a net oil importer again in August 2004). In this sense it tends to act like an additional and involuntary tax, and hence is undesirable particularly if it feeds through into general inflation (thus reducing the purchasing power of money).

However the 1970s and the current decade are vastly different. Back then, trade union power was omnipotent and any perceived increase in the overall cost of living (eg. via petrol prices) was rapidly translated into wage demands and soon inflation. If you were a unionised worker then you felt as if you had been recompensed (but you hadn’t been because the general inflation you helped to set in train affected you also). Likewise, the non-unionised workers, pensioners and frankly everybody else were particularly screwed, feeling the pain of the increased cost of living but without the bargaining power to do much about it. Whilst the 1970s are remembered fondly for the flared trousers and disco music, the economy had little to be nostalgic about because in short, its non-inflationary growth rate fell substantially thanks to oil.

The current decade is very different however. A disproportionate amount of the benefits of the post-2003 global economic boom have been distributed to capital (ie. profits) rather than labour. The FTSE has risen handsomely since 2003 whilst average incomes have barely grown at all. If you read the Daily Mail constantly bemoaning the fate of the British middle classes, then this theme might resonate especially strongly.

A substantial reason for this has been the incredible increase in the skilled and semi-skilled global labour supply, thanks to the exceptional growth rates currently being experienced in developing countries, particularly China. And of course coincidentally, China’s government is pursuing the exact same economic policies as the oil importing nations ie. keeping its exchange rate down via the recycling of foreign currency flows. This has resulted in its foreign currency reserves alone booming to $1trillion.

In short therefore, thanks to the coincidence of disinflation effects from China, and oil exporters' desire to recycle their windfall, the UK (and other Western oil-importing nations) have seemingly benefitted from higher oil prices, rather than suffered from them despite the obvious paradox.

Thus so long as this mutually beneficial set of circumstances prevails, then Charlton might just have a route to safety through an oil-driven takeover particularly if completed before January's transfer window. Whether or not we’d welcome it is another story, but desperate times call for desperate solutions.

Indeed January might just be our only likely takeover window, because this handy state of affairs might well be transitory. One of the unfortunate side-effects of the current ‘petrodollar’ recycling approach is that eventually their domestic economies might demand a little TLC. Keeping the exchange rate artificially low reduces the ability of locals to become the global consumers many of them wish to be.

Likewise, the dire state of the infrastructure in Russia and much of the Middle East might eventually become a better source of funds than the English Premiership. Indeed, the Saudi royal family might be particularly sensitive about the simmering tensions amongst the impoverished masses. It seems that the Dubai leaders at least have finally ‘got it’ judging from its incredible transformation during the past decade away from dependence on oil revenues.

Moreover ‘petrodollar recycling’ requires an enormous influx of ‘liquidity’ (ie. money) back into their domestic economies (because local currency has to be printed to re-purchase foreign currency). If not ‘sterilised’ and soaked up (via the simultaneous issuance of government bonds), this process leads inevitably to domestic inflation, asset bubbles and misallocation of resources (have you tried buying a property in Moscow recently?). These countries will also be aware of the risk of holding such a preponderance of reserves/assets in a single foreign currency (most obviously dollars, but also sterling/euro) that any attempt to diversify causes the very currency revaluation they would want to avoid.

Eventually the world will rebalance and the more enlightened oil importers will reduce their recycling, allow their exchange rate to rise, invest domestically, improve the relative position of their people, and leave everyone from English footballers to property owners in Aspen wondering what just happened.

So go on Mr Murray, give it a try. The international code for Russia is +7, and for Saudi Arabia it’s +966.



Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Curb Your Enthusiasm (for now)

We probably shouldn't be surprised, but it seems certain that Alan Curbishley will be named as West Ham's manager within hours. It'll be an unusual feeling for us Addicks watching him step out in a claret and blue tie; it'll be a bit like attending your ex-wife's second wedding (not that I'd know, not yet at least).

Elsewhere, our more recent ex-boss is interviewing for the Hull job (recently held by Phil Parkinson, an oft-mentioned candidate for us in the summer). And of course there is pretty strong support (particularly in this part of Manhattan) for Alan Pardew returning to the Valley as our fourth boss in seven months. It's like one great big managerial swingers party.

Ordinarily I'd be wishing Curbs all the very best; not only did he give us fifteen years of fine service, but he's joined West Ham, the local rival that's never really felt like one. However this season is different because West Ham are increasingly looking like a candidate for that select group of clubs that we might (just might) conceivably finish above. So it's a case of good luck Curbs, but I hope you lose every game this season I'm afraid.

In a way I feel a bit sorry for Curbs because he became a victim of his own success at Charlton. Until the last couple of seasons, we had progressed every year implying that the number of clubs which would have been a genuine 'step up' for him was reduced commensurately. And of course, as has become patently obvious, the select group of English mega-clubs would never even have contemplated him. So once it became clear to him (and Charlton's board) that the end of the road had been reached, it was either England or more of the same eg. West Ham.

Although he rightly built a reputation for managerial excellence, for six years (1991-1997) he was really just 'putting out fires' and trying to retain mere stability (which at the time represented success). This initial period permitted him to build out the club in his image (particularly when Steve Gritt left), and gave him time to fully learn his trade (so long as our second-tier status was maintained in the meantime).

Moving to West Ham whilst in 18th place, and with new owners fully aware that the very assumptions upon which they have bought the club will be irrelevant in the case of relegation, is a very different challenge and not one that he will have much time to assess. I'm sure in the long-term he will be a fine manager for them; unfortunately as John Maynard Keynes reminded us, by then we'll be dead.

Finally, let's spare a thought for poor Paul Konchesky who must be dreading Curbs' first teamsheet at the weekend. And if Curbs doesn't make an early phone call to Richard Murray to enquire about the availability of the likes of Hughes, Bent M, etc. (Note to Murray: they're available), then do we potentially have grounds to sue? Just a thought.