Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Bolton Part III

In light of last night's not entirely unexpected defeats for Wigan and West Ham, our game at Bolton tonight presents something of a 'free option' ie. any point(s) we acquire will be a bonus, but defeat will leave our relative position unchanged. Sheffield United's win was disappointing of course, but Fulham are rarely the sturdiest of visiting teams, and as Meat Loaf said, "2 out of 3 ain't bad."

However whilst Bolton have once again proved themselves to be one of the most organised and efficient teams outside of the 'big four', we have beaten them twice already this season, and on a muddy pitch in front of banks of empty seats, there is absolutely no reason why we can't make it '3 and 0' as they say in America.

However the team news does not bode well with Bent and Young still out, Bougherra already crocked, Reid doubtful, Zhi not ready and Lisbie fit. And with the transfer window closing within hours of the final whistle, conspiracy theorists will be ready to pounce upon any suspicious last minute 'injuries' and wonder if it won't be Jan 2006 all over again (when Murphy slipped out of the back door, and into footballing obscurity). And when you consider that as recently as May 2002 he was all set to take the field in the World Cup, and here he is football's 'forgotten man' really have to feel for the bloke don't you?

Another player who won't be figuring at Bolton is Simon Walton who has completed a loan signing to Cardiff. Although it's really a case of 'Walton for A Song', it is a little disappointing that even with a paucity of midfield talent at Pardew's disposal, he has concluded that the young Yorkshireman is not yet good enough, even as a squad player. Along with the foreign acquisitions of the likes of Kelly Youga (21), Rurik Gislason (18) and Jani Tanska (18), whilst the policy of uncovering hidden young talents is admirable, the first team remains virgin territory for them. When combined with the lack of homegrown talent too, it is little wonder the squad feels so stretched on nights like this.

Bolton have few outstanding individuals, but the sum is clearly far greater than the parts and a physical battle will no doubt ensure with Kevin 'what me ref?' Davies at the centre of it. They are also perhaps the first team in Premiership history to have two players called Abdoulaye, and for reasons that I can't quite put my finger upon, I've a feeling we will cause a surprise this evening. The game is being shown here in full albeit two hours delayed, and having seen a West Ham side desperately lacking in confidence lose tamely to Liverpool (the scoreline didn't reflect their superiority), I look forward to comparing our hopes to theirs.

Derek 'Killer' Hales (KillerWatch© -£701) is punting on the draw at 13/5, although I am going to go a step further and suggest a vital and undeniably huge away win. For the remainder of the season I will also be predicting the attendances to highlight the obvious and worrying decline outside of just a handful of clubs. NY Addick predicts: Bolton 1 (Anelka), Charlton 2 (Hughes, Bent M). Attendance: 18, 756

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Song to the Cynic

The loan signing of Arsenal's young Cameroon midfielder Alexandre Song was confirmed today, along with the astonishing news of an apparent £18million bid for Darren Bent from an increasingly frantic Alan Curbishley.

In common with most fans (including Arsenal ones) I don't know too much about Song, but based upon their demolition of Liverpool in the Carling Cup, at least we know he can pass and move which is frankly more than we can say for the rest of our midfield.

With regard to Bent, if the bid is for real then it presents an enormous dilemma for our Board in my view. It is all very well saying "..West Ham will stay up at our expense..." but that is missing a vital point in my view.....we are already in dire relegation trouble with Darren Bent (admittedly an injured one right now). I won't bore you with a soliloquy on 'expected value', but if you accept that with Bent we have perhaps a 25% chance of staying up, and without him we have perhaps a 10% chance then he's not worth anything close to £30million to us with a view to next season.

Whilst I accept that my post last week on transfer pricing only just stayed on the right side of complete gibberish, it did at least address the importance of understanding that a player's valuation is as much dictated by the needs (read: desperation) of the buying club, as it is by the perceived valuation of the selling club. This factor seems particularly relevant during this unusual January transfer window. Hence with West Ham's Icelandic owners increasingly panicky that they have underappreciated the depth of morale problems at Upton Park, this may be a valuation unique to this moment in time, which we have no chance of matching again. And if it takes a season or two of consolidation in the Championship to rebuild then so be it, because we run the severe risk of going there anyway, with that £18million bid just a faint memory.

We are also in danger of getting ahead of ourselves with regard to his ability. As we know he has a very good Premiership scoring record despite the inadequacies of some of the creative 'talents' around him, but he has no European experience and has an occasional habit of drifting in and out of matches. In my view, he is not as good as Scott Parker was when he left the club, and he thus remains the best player I've ever seen in a Charlton shirt. Now admittedly we have gone backwards since then, but that was as much to do with wasting some of the proceeds than Parker's departure.

Now I fully appreciate I'm probably in a minority of one in expressing this view, but if this bid is for real and largely represents cash up front then I feel we are being dangerously myopic in rejecting it. As Frankie Valley might say, I'm right aren't I?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Hammer Hermann Hreidarsson?

I really hope this rumour is pure conjecture and not for real, because otherwise I would seriously question the club's rationale. In short, both BBC Radio and Sky Sports are reporting that Charlton have turned down a £2.5m bid from West Ham for Hermann Hreidarsson.

I like Hreidarsson; I admire his complete commitment and his leadership qualities. However he has become worryingly error-prone, is losing his pace, will be 33-years old in July and despite being our main target at set-pieces, has not scored since the Everton home game in Dec 2004. In other words, even if the £2.5m allegedly offered was not all cash up front, this is an extraordinarily generous bid for an ageing and increasingly average player, and one we should thus accept unquestionably.

Moreover, coming in the same week as the Bougherra deal for the same price, it would seem to be fabulous business to replace Hreidarsson with a far younger propsect, and all for a zero cash outlay. Pards has already publicly emphasised how highly he rates the Icelander, but even so this has 'Jason Euell' (Palace once bid £2.5m you will recall) written all over it. Perhaps Eggert Magnusson just wants a few more natives around the place; if so, we should allow them to go and eat puffin together down the Barking Road.

If true, I would also seriously question Alan Curbishley's judgment. Interestingly the BBC Radio report from West Ham's FA Cup defeat suggested fans were asking "where's Alan Pardew?", and mediocre signings like Boa Morte, Davenport, Neill and Quashie are hardly endearing Curbs to the already doubting Hammers fans. His penchant meanwhile for 'flexible players' (the Herminator fits this bill nicely too) is also frankly becoming a bit long-in-the-tooth (I'm increasingly convinced he bid £2.3m for Marcus Bent because he can also play right-wing). Bent-aside, at least, all of this bodes very well for Charlton as we approach the final straight of this relegation battle.

Prison Crisis Deepens

The prison crisis currently enveloping the UK is threatening to cause heads to roll at HM Prisons Charlton when evidence emerged of the following:

BUNGLED: poor last minute defending on 27th December let Fulham out of jail.

MISHANDLED: two Uruguayans earning criminal wages have gone missing since September.

FLUNKED: young James Walker was released early despite strong evidence that he would go on to cause considerable damage to opposition defences (he has since been recaptured)

MISJUDGED: Kevin Lisbie has been imprisoned without parole for ten years despite the Probation Service concluding he "presented no danger whatsoever".

MUDDLED: violent offender transferred from HM Prisons Manchester City to high-security HM Prisons Charlton at a cost of £500,000 to the taxpayer.

Home Secretary Les Reed (don't you mean John Reid? - Ed.) is now under considerable tabloid pressure to resign in light of his department's failings.

***STOP PRESS***: evidence has emerged that an extremely dangerous midfielder of Chinese origin has also gone missing.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Madjid Bougherra

....Don't Blame It On The Sunshine, Don't Blame It On The Moonlight, Don't Blame It On The Good Times....Blame It On The Bougherra

So there we have it, a bespoke song for our new central defender when he slices one into his own net at Bolton. Despite no confirmation yet from the club, it seems that Monsieur Bougherra is convinced he's signed for us judging from his own website. That's good enough for me, because you can rest assured that if and when the club confirms it, their own official site will be down for 24 hours.

Despite barely having muttered a word since in anger, memories of my A-Level French course are just about vivid enough to offer a rough translation:

"It's official, Madjid Bougherra will wear the Charlton colours. He signed today for the London club for 4 1/2 years. The transfer fee is £2.5m."

"Charlton occupy 19th place in the English Premiership and are three points behind Wigan, the first team outside the relegation places."

"The 24-year old Algerian international will try to help Charlton (worst defence in the Premiership) to keep themselves in the Premiership."

"He is very excited about playing alongside Kevin Lisbie."

Ok I made the last bit up, but it seems finally on Jan 27th we have made another signing. On paper at least, it didn't exactly scream 'great value', but having watched the YouTube video above, it looks like we've signed Algeria's answer to Franz Beckenbauer. He's also the right age and is obviously comfortable playing in the Championship in the event that we return there. That in itself should be a pre-requisite for anyone else we sign in the coming four days.

Having not seen him play properly (videos of his best moments aside), it's hard to say very much more, though interestingly the BBC website suggests that his English wasn't great as recently as Jan 2006. Given that we know Souleymayne Diawara doesn't speak great English either (but also speaks French), hey presto we now have a central defensive partnership that understands each other (don't forget Talal El Karkouri too - Ed).

However I'm sure for £2.5million, the club could have afforded to recruit the best English teacher in the land for Diawara, and still have some spare change left over for a central midfielder (then again, the lad does look the business).

Cash Strapped

After watching Serena Williams destroy world no. 1 Maria Sharapova last night in one of the most one-sided Grand Slam finals ever, I couldn't fail to recall the wisdom of Pat Cash in the Sunday Times
a fortnight ago.

Whilst I accept that columnists like Cash are paid to be controversial, he's an Australian so I can't allow an opportunity like this go to waste, particularly in light of the non-stop laughs they've had at our expense since our cricket 'team' landed Down Under.

"WILLIAMS IS LOST CAUSE: For all her talk, Serena Williams will never return to the top again," the article barked in its headline, drawing in me given that despite her recent problems, she remains one of the purest and most powerful hitters of a tennis ball the game has ever seen.

"..when Serena Williams arrives in Australia on her first foreign playing trip in a year and announces that it is only a matter of time before she is again dominating the sport, it’s time to tell her to get real...", Cash assured us, sipping no doubt on a cool glass of Fosters, getting up only to turn over his Men At Work LP.

" make such a crass statement on her arrival in Australia was an insult to Amelie Mauresmo and Maria Sharapova, who have risen to the top of the game in her absence....", sentiments to which the young Russian would surely continue to take offence as she contemplates her 6-1 6-2 defeat.

"I still don’t expect too many upsets before the quarter-finals, but neither do I expect Serena Williams, currently the world’s 81st-ranked player, with eight Americans above her in the rankings, to be in the mix at the sharp end of the tournament," Cash concluded with the same aplomb with which he took Wimbledon to its hearts in 1987.

It got me wondering therefore, is Pat Cash really just the Sunday Times tennis columnist, or is he also Serena Williams' motivational coach?

Friday, January 26, 2007

Killer's World

With no Charlton match this weekend, we would ordinarily be forced to do without the speculative wisdom of Derek 'Killer' Hales (KillerWatch© -£701). However I have used this FA Cup-induced break to widen Killer's scope from matters solely of concern in South-East London to those of a more global nature.

I caught up with Killer to ask him for his current views on the key issues affecting the world today:


"That Ahmadinejad is in a terrific vein of form isn't he? He has realised that defence is the best form of attack, and like all successful teams, he's determined to have a really destructive weapon. The upcoming local derby with Israel has all the makings of a real ding-dong battle. Having reviewed the form, I think that a Shia/Sunni civil war which spills over into most of the Middle East, draws in the USA and leads ultimately to an all-out nuclear war that destroys the entire world, and every living thing on it could be a spot of value at 13/2."


"Is it just me, or is it getting warmer these days? It wasn't like this twenty-odd years ago - I remember playing at Maidstone in January 1979 and I was freezing my nuts off. Luckily I was given an early bath that day, though I seem to recall Mike 'Flash' Flanagan refused to share it with me. Anyhow, I saw this documentary that said if we don't start conserving energy the seas will rise and flood the whole of Southern England which I'd nibble at if there was any 12/1 available."


"That Kim Jong-Il has been in charge there for donkeys years; he's a bit like Dario Gradi. But you know these days there's so much managerial turnover, and as much as people knock what he's achieved there, the North Korean fans must appreciate the stability. Having said that I do find their away support a bit disappointing. Jong-Il has got them playing on the back foot a bit too much for me, and at some point he's going to have to come out fighting. There's not much value around, but I do fancy the 13/8 about 'more than 2.5' nuclear weapons dropped on Seoul. That's the closest thing I've seen to free money in geopolitics."

Pardew's Double Life Revealed

With Charlton fans desperate for confirmation that the club is even aware the January transfer window closes in five days time, it is with a degree of sadness that I reveal the truth behind the club's insouciance.....our manager is also the TV news journalist, Anderson Cooper.

Cooper is the extremely popular presenter of "Anderson Cooper 360" which airs during the primetime 10pm slot on CNN. His reporting during Hurricane Katrina was outstanding, and sealed his reputation as one of the best talents currently working on the notoriously inward-looking US networks. It probably won't come as a great surprise therefore that at the very time the levees were breaking in New Orleans, West Ham were capitulating tamely at home to Bolton Wanderers. Lack of leadership you see.

'New York' magazine put it eloquently as follows: "He was interviewing Mary Landrieu, the senator from Louisiana, who had a big, sweet, southern smile spread across her perfectly made-up face. In a nonanswer to one of Cooper’s questions, she thanked President Bush for his “strong statements of support and comfort.” Finally, Cooper boiled over. “I got to tell you,” he said, “there are a lot of people here who are very upset, and very angry, and very frustrated. And when they hear politicians . . . thanking one another, it just, you know, it kind of cuts them the wrong way right now. Because literally there was a body on the streets of this town yesterday being eaten by rats, because this woman had been laying in the street for 48 hours. And there’s not enough facilities to take her up. Do you get the anger that is out here?”

Unfortunately as much as I admire Cooper's earnestness, he must surely realise too that Charlton are up to their necks in a serious relegation battle. Given that Pardew and Cooper have never been seen together, then on behalf of all Charlton fans, I tonight lead the call to Pards that he cease his cheating double-life, and focus solely on saving our beloved club. At the end of the day, President Bush can save the victims of Katrina, but only Pards can save Charlton (can I take issue with the first part? - Ed).

Thursday, January 25, 2007

American Innovation

American innovation is admired all over the world, and this time they have really surpassed themselves.

News reached me today regarding Under-Ease anti-flatulence underpants. This essential item of clothing does not prevent flatulence, but permits the gas to be expelled through a small filter which counters the malodourous effects of the initial flatus.

Now I'm sure there are some perfectly understandable and serious medicinal uses for the pants, but they are potentially priceless in countless social situations too. Romantic first dates immediately sprang to mind obviously, as did business lunches and long plane journeys. The wife's Valentine's Day present is sorted out now too.

No more awkward trips to the toilet, or constant anxiety about possibly laughing and inadvertently relaxing a key abdominal muscle. Just sit back and relax, safe in the knowledge you are wearing protection.

First Microsoft, then Google, and now there anything to stop the amazing entrepreneurial dynamism of the US economy?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Transfer Pricing

The January transfer window has been pretty uninteresting so far, but I found it astonishing to learn that Martin O'Neill has bid nearly £10m for Watford's Ashley Young. This seems an inordinate amount of money even in this age of excess, and it got me thinking how does one actually value a footballer? Cue an opportunity for me to spout some near-indecipherable b*llocks.

Some Addicks fans learning of the bid for Young immediately concluded that Darren Bent must be worth at least £15-20m should we contemplate selling him this January. Based upon Villa's bid they are correct of course, but only if the bid for Young has any relevance for Bent's general valuation.

In light of the Djimi Traore saga, transfer valuations are a particularly topical and painful subject for Charlton fans, and I'm cynical about the techniques used by clubs to value players because they appear to confuse absolute and relative value. On what basis for example did they conclude that Traore and Amdy Faye were worth £2m, but that Andy Reid was worth £3m? Experience so far has suggested that the 50% premium paid for Reid was well-merited, but why weren't the respective fees £1m and £1.5m, or £4m and £6m?

The fee-setting process therefore (not unique to Charlton obviously) appears to be arbitrary rather than precise, and thus more prone to Traore-esque mistakes. I'm also troubled by the prevalence of round numbers in transfer fees; is it really just a pure coincidence that Traore and Faye were valued equally? Or are these amounts just plucked from the air? Or even more worryingly, are they anchored to the initial asking price of the selling club, with the buying club lacking a suitable absolute value estimate to compare to? However just because certain factors are difficult to calculate or unknowable, does not mean that some kind of framework for estimating them can't be constructed.

In simple terms, a buying club should in my view bid no more than the following (all amounts calculated in present terms):

Maximum Transfer Value = (Playing Value to Buying Club less Wages/Bonuses) + Resale Value

The difficulty lies in the fact that only the wages/bonuses in the above equation are relatively knowable at the time of the transaction. The 'playing value' depends upon the player's form and his estimated impact upon gate receipts, merchandising, prize money etc.. The 'resale value' depends upon his age, form, contractual situation, etc. and is thus also highly subjective.

The above equation also implies that if a player's estimated 'resale value' was equal to the current transfer fee (perhaps not unreasonable in the case of journeymen players in the middle of their careers), then the 'playing value' must equal the 'wages/bonuses.' In the case of Marcus Bent for example, it's not clear to me whether the mistake lay in believing he could be realistically re-sold for £2.3million, or that someone thought his no doubt enormous wages are somehow 'worth it'. Perhaps it lay in both.

From the selling club's standpoint, a transfer should be considered acceptable if the transfer fee offered is at least equal to the following (also expressed in present value terms):

Minimum Transfer Value = (Playing Value to Selling Club less Wages/Bonuses) + Replacement Cost

Assuming a player's agreement (not given in Young's case when he spoke with West Ham), then a transfer should occur so long as the amount bid by the buying club is greater than the transfer value assessed by the selling club. Moreover it suggests a player's transfer value (in a completed transaction, as opposed to tabloid rumour columns) largely depends upon which club is doing the bidding and their own expectations (for the player and the club in general), rather than being a fixed amount set by the selling club.

In light of the above, suggesting that Darren Bent is now worth £15-20m because Villa bid £9.65m for Ashley Young, is nonsense unless it's also Villa that are interested in Darren Bent! All that Villa's (and West Ham's) new owners have done is to send a signal to the entire footballing world that their expectations for the football club are so high, that the 'value to buying club' of any player they are bidding for is enhanced commensurately.

Hence if we are relegated, it would be irrational for Charlton's board to declare for example, "Bent is for sale, but for no less than £12 million", because only a handful of clubs could justify the outlay (this is not the same as afford it). For example, Fulham could probably just about afford him, but they couldn't justify it, because his impact on an otherwise average team would never be enough to pay for the outlay (particularly given the aforementioned uncertainty over his future resale value). This is a lesson that Leeds learned. But what if the clubs that might be able to justify it are simply not interested in Bent? Where would that potentially leave Charlton?

This January only West Ham and Aston Vila have splashed the cash thanks to their new owners. However this is not in my view because their new club is a plaything, but because they can currently justify the outlay based upon their ambitious plans for the club (and the player's role impact on that), or in West Ham's case, based upon pure desperation. It's interesting also that Chelsea's spending has stopped despite the fact that Abramovich can clearly afford it (once an astute businessman, always an astute businessman).

I found it interesting however that the players they have been able to attract are decidedly uninspiring (Neill, Davenport, BoaMorte) or simply unproven (Young). And in the case particularly of Davenport, if a buying club that can justify the outlay, matches the very loftiest valuation of the player (Spurs are not forced sellers) then he should be sold, period. But would Charlton do the same if say Manchester United bid £15m on Jan 31?

The popular answer amongst Charlton fans would I think be "no, our fate would be sealed". But if we all remove our rose-tinted spectacles and accept that our relegation probability is accurately reflected in the current odds (23%), then Bent's 'playing value' to Charlton (including the potential for TV riches next season) needs to be discounted accordingly, because those odds already assume he will play every game for us once fit.

Without Bent I would estimate our survival odds would be approximately 10%, so as much as we rate our best player, his financial impact (ie. playing value) is not as high as we might care to think (for 2007/8 at least, a reasonably proxy would thus be 13% [23% - 10%] multiplied by the difference between our income in the Premiership and our income in the Championship). Looked at another way, if we are relegated, his 'playing value' to us falls even further because he's worth a lot less to us in the Championship (and that's without mentioning the non-zero risk that his 'playing value' to us becomes negative because we have to sell him to avoid financial meltdown). Once again, touting values like '£15m' out of thin air are daft because the true valuation is a moving target.

Perhaps those that are staunchly against selling Bent would point to the 'replacement cost' aspect of the second equation. Whilst for example the 'replacement cost' of Djimi Traore was seemingly £500,000 (ie. Thatcher), Bent is less easily recreated. However I might argue that firstly, Bent only cost us £2.5m (implying another similarly-priced gem might be uncovered), or second, that maybe we should only seek to replace him to the extent that it returns us to the same point we were at the day we bought him (ie. before we really knew if he was Premiership quality). Although I'm not a lawyer, I believe this type of concept is used in tort.

I'll gladly admit that much of the above is intended to stir debate rather than be some kind of blueprint for transfer valuations. I've also been struggling for inspriration this week, thanks in no small part to our disappointing lack of transfer market activity (buying, not selling!). However, I do believe that the club's 'not for sale' stand on Darren Bent is by implication a bet that the handful of clubs that could justify paying top dollar for him, will also be interested in him in the summer. And with the 'big four' almost solely looking abroad, with West Ham at threat of relegation, let's just hope Villa don't prefer Defoe.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Something For The Weekend

It is not surprising that Sky Sports would use 'Grand Slam' hyperbole to describe this weekend's Premiership football; after all they've paid enough for the rights. Indeed, out here in the US it's 'Grand Slam' weekend in more ways than one, with the NFL title deciders later today set to confirm the Superbowl contenders. And if that wasn't enough sport for one weekend, we had Ricky Hatton's fight last night too.

The Liverpool vs Chelsea encounter was a bit of a damp squib, but the Arsenal v Man Utd game eventually lived up to expectations, even if it took Rooney's goal to really take off. The game was full of flair, skill and wonderful technique under pressure, and thus bore virtually no resemblence either to our game nor the dire Wigan v Everton game that I endured this morning at the pub.

If I thought it was lonely being a Charlton fan in New York, it's clearly nothing compared to what it is to be a Latic or a Toffee (assuming there even are any, especially the former). When I entered the pub at 8.30am, the two bargirls looked aghast as if I had just broken into their house, clearly convinced that they would be completing their morning stock count in peace. Imagine their surprise too when I demanded the 'check' long before the Arsenal game began; "Are you not staying for the main game, love?" they asked, "No, no interest whatsoever thanks," I replied to the same stunned looks that greeted my arrival (they weren't to know I was heading home to watch it).

Now whilst the 'big four' are amongst some of the finest purveyors of football in the world, the Premiership product elsewhere is firmly 'damaged goods' in my view, and the fans are recognising it too. Admittedly I've waxed lyrical about this topic before, but it's a theme I find myself unable to stray too far from. With the top four places pretty much sown up already thanks to Henry's late winner, and the bottom five increasingly adrift, there is a rump of eleven clubs in midtable with just the dubious 'goal' of UEFA Cup football and positional prize money to aim for.

Thus should we be surprised at the desperately poor crowds at a number of Premiership grounds this weekend (again)? 18,149 at Wigan (which included a solid turnout of Everton fans); 24,614 at improving 'Boro; 36,590 at Man City (in a stadium built for 31% more)? Meanwhile last weekend, high-flying overachieving Bolton could only attract 22,334 for a local derby with Man City. Fans of these clubs might be loyal but they ain't stupid, especially at £30+ a pop with interest rates going up.

Having said all that, I am actually rather enjoying this relegation battle. I don't recall the last time I watched a Premiership game not involving Charlton and actually caring who won, yet here I was at an ungodly hour cheering on Everton with unbridled passion. Hell, I even winced when I realised Andrew Johnson might be badly injured, but luckily his teammates pushed on for a victory which whilst hardly a 'Grand Slam' for Charlton, was perhaps a 'Triple Crown' of an Addicks win, and Sheff Utd/Wigan defeats.

I can't usually rustle up too much enthusiasm for boxing, but I decided to stay up to witness Hatton's Vegas debut. With a middle name like 'Hitman' it was perhaps inevitable that he'd end up being a boxer, but whilst the expert commentators on HBO confirmed it wasn't his 'finest performance' (I'm not sure I can tell the difference to be honest), he certainly charmed the viewers with his self-deprecating humour at the end.

My favourite moment of the fight actually occurred inbetween rounds, when the commentators suggested that viewers might require an interpreter for Hatton's corner as well as the one already recruited to explain what was being said in Juan Urango's. If the Mancunian dialect was a little too obscure for the locals, then there must have been plenty of confusion throughout Vegas last night because 7,000 apparently made the trip to see the local favourite. Just think about that.....7,000 genuine Mancunians altogether in one place....that's more than you get at Old Trafford.

Talking of sports I don't really understand, the NFL conference title deciders take place today with virtually all neutrals backing the New Orleans Saints to overcome the Chicago Bears, and claim an unlikely Superbowl berth after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Elsewhere, the Indianapolis Colts take on the New England Patriots, Superbowl champions in three of the past five seasons.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Faye Accompli

If we are going to pull off a remarkable escape from relegation, there will no doubt be a game that we look back upon and say, "That was the turning point." This could be that game.

Every single one of the players deserves immense credit for putting in a committed performance which was very much a case of 'back to basics'......constant harrying, sensible defending, and pacy counter-attacking.

Predictably Ben Thatcher received some vitriol, though in fairness it was somewhat restrained, and he put in a composed performance which shut up the Pompey fans well before the end. Indeed although I had suggested we might benefit from leaving him out of the team, infact the home fans were so intent on making his afternoon as miserable as possible, they conveniently forgot it was just another Premiership game, an attitude that ultimately filtered down to their players.

So our run of away games without a win is finally over, though now it becomes 484 days since a Premiership away win anywhere other than Fratton Park. It's certainly a happy hunting ground for the Addicks, although not an especially popular day trip for our fans judging from the limited number who made the relatively short journey. Having been sat on that self-same terrace when Charlton fans have populated the whole end, it was a little disappointing to see. Then again, having been sat on that self-same terrace, I can fully understand their reasoning; the Premiership can hardly claim to be the 'greatest League in the world' when fans are housed in such diabolical accommodation.

Sheffield United's defeat and Newcastle's fightback made today even more special; I might even consider making an early trip to the pub tomorrow to cheer on Everton at Wigan, whose two games in hand over us are rather winnable (they also visit Watford to replay the abandoned fixture). However mathematics aside, the most important thing today is that we have acquired some 'belief'.....belief that we can win away from the Valley; belief that we can soak up pressure for 80 minutes, then go on to steal all the points; and ultimately perhaps, belief that we can stay in the Premiership. If today's result has instilled that, then Pards for me has already fully justified his appointment.

Here are my proprietary ratings for those that started:

Carson 8 - had little to do in truth, but that late save was world-class and worth two points and an 8 rating
Sankofa 6 - I'm not convinced he's Premiership class (Micah Richards he ain't) but you can't fault his effort
Thatcher 8 - usually a 7, but in these circumstances demonstrated professional aloofness
El Karkouri 7 - played with his usual enthusiasm, a little too much at times evidenced by daft free-kicks conceded
Hreidarsson 7 - introduced his new long throw-in weapon at various points; when he keeps it simple at the back, he's a true asset not a liability
Faye 8 - solid throughout and played well within his limited ability; his goal was well-crafted, slightly fortunately executed but thoroughly deserved
Holland 8 - has deservedly impressed in recent weeks, and today was no exception
Hughes 7 - faded towards the end, but one of his best performances the club; unlucky with first-half chance
Rommedahl 6 - as usual he got in some great positions and then lost his composure
Thomas 6 - very clearly upped his normal work-rate and should be commended for that alone
Bent M 7 - worked tirelessly (for once), held the ball up when he could and brought others into the play

It's Bolton away next, who have an additional FA Cup game at Arsenal to contend with before we meet them. We've conceded eight goals during our last two visits there, however a midweek game infront of what is bound to be a sub-20,000 attendance might just create the type of tepid atmosphere we can exploit. It's all about belief, you see.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Pompey preview

Oh dear, here we go again. Another week has passed, the disappointment of Saturday's result has all but faded, and for the 24th time this season we convince ourselves that a turnaround is surely imminent.

Even by the standards of this season, it hasn't been a great week though, so perhaps any slightly irrational optimism will be tempered by realism. From the lack of new transfers, to Rommedahl's daft comments and most recently to news of Andy Reid's injury (thanks apparently to 'mismanagement', whatever that means), the lot of a Charlton fan is not a happy one. Thankfully they say the night is darkest just before the dawn.

Our Premiership away form is ridiculous, and those buoyant fans that left Fratton Park in October 2005 convinced that the Addicks were on the verge of moving on to the 'next level,' would not have imagined we would now be 456 days into the winless streak on the road. With Bolton, Man Utd and Chelsea up next, it is vital we pick up at least a point but with our current injuries one wonders if the best outcome will be a P-P draw thanks to the inclement weather.

The media's eyes will of course be on Ben Thatcher, who can expect the type of welcome Jade Goody will receive the next time she fancies a curry. Without wishing to sound cowardly, I think there is a good argument for leaving him out of the squad altogether, particularly with Hreidarsson as a straightforward replacement. I don't see how anything good can come out of his presence from our standpoint, and with the Pompey fans preparing to bay for his blood, news of his omission may well dampen the atmosphere to our obvious benefit.

Elsewhere, Pards has limited options but will surely want to add more steel to the central midfield area, perhaps via the inclusion of former Pompey old boy Faye to partner Matt Holland, leaving two of Ambrose, Rommedahl and Thomas to do their flattery deception on the flanks. Sankofa could well return at right-back, particularly if he takes my advice and drops Thatcher thus pushing El Karkouri back to the centre alongside Diawara.

Derek 'Killer' Hales (KillerWatch© -£651) is looking for more than 2.5 goals at 10/11, which in Killer-speak is usually cryptic code for a heavy Addicks defeat. From my standpoint, I'll be watching the game in full (but delayed) and anticipate an ugly game on a heavy pitch, the levelling effect of which might be enough to secure us a valuable point. NY Addick predicts Portsmouth 0, Charlton 0.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Growth Spur-t

When it comes to writing posts about Charlton, I'm increasingly finding myself disillusioned and uninspired, so I've taken the rare liberty of highlighting an interesting piece written about Tottenham Hotspur.

I don't care much for Spurs, but I am a big fan of Topspurs, the opinionated and extremely informed (but occasionally delusional) website run by Jim Duggan.

With only 23 games played, the top four places in the Premiership are already (and inevitably) taken up by Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal. As long ago (for this blog at least) as September 2005, I discussed whether football was in decline and the sentiments I put forward then are as applicable today. Given that Charlton were very near the top of table at that juncture, hopefully I can plead 'not guilty' to sour grapes when I again argue that if relegation ensues, we might reasonably miss the Premiership money, but as a 'true football fan' not the Premiership itself.

In this regard, it was interesting to read Jim Duggan's recent views along somewhat similar lines. It was especially interesting, because unlike Charlton, Spurs have a genuine medium-term prospect of infiltrating the seemingly impervious 'big four' yet whilst Duggan naturally craves success, he does not like the way it is being achieved.

Thus I was reassured that such an eloquent and popular opinion-leader even at one of the so-called 'bigger clubs' was thinking along the same lines as me. He also by implication criticises some of the type of ill-considered initiatives that Charlton also have explored (stadium expansion etc..), which appear to assume that supply will create its own demand, and the inevitable capital expenditure will be funded comfortably. Perhaps it is only Chelsea's current self-immolation which gives us all hope that our beautiful game is not being stolen from us for good.

With his permission, I have cut and pasted a very mildly edited version of his article below. Hopefully it will resonate with you as much as it did with me:


On Friday, new non exec director Keith Mills plugged Spurs in the Standard with the following comments:

"I hope to build the club both domestically and internationally. Spurs have big potential. Look, there are some 30,000 fans on the waiting list for season tickets. There are pockets of interest internationally but clearly we do have to have an international footprint and the big clubs all aspire to have a fan base outside the United Kingdom. Tottenham need, however, to improve the capacity of the stadium. To reach their aspirations they have to have something north of 50,000 seats. It is whether they stay where they are and develop - or find somewhere else and move. In the next five years Spurs will have to look at these stadium options.”

Marvellous stuff – so in the next five years Spurs will have to look at these stadium options. Blimey, why did no one think of that before? No Bosman signings in the boardroom, we’ve really got the top man.

All this old bollox about International footprints, for me, is really putting the cart before the horse. Spurs may go to China, USA and wherever but what will they be selling as their brand to people who lack imagination? A mid-table premiership finish year-after-year? Black and white images of Greaves, and a range of both carbonated and still mineral waters? Who is that going to impress these days when it’s Ronaldinho, Cannavaro and even Henry on the front of Nintendo?

The stadium is not the shoo-in which conventional wisdom assumes it will be. Stadiums cost money. Currently Spurs get 36,000 paying on average upwards of £40 per game when you add in all the exec boxes, other corporates and the rest of us mugs. Assuming Spurs' customers attend 19 league games and four cup games that brings in around £33m annually.

Assuming Spurs got a new stadium which costs around £350m and had 55,000 for the same amount of games paying an average additional tenner per game at £50 (out of your pocket for their privilege) – Spurs would bring in £63m – but then would be left to pay around £22m in interest repayments (at 6%) and some more in capital repayments and all of a sudden you are back to where you started. Sure they could take £20 out of your pocket each week and get a few more quid but they could just as well do that now and will do so and that sort of thing is gonna hurt.

And 30,000 on the season ticket waiting list. Really! And yet they are still advertising half season tickets. Hmmm, is that latent demand really there, year in year out? Do you think that the only way for Spurs to compete is to either build a new stadium or get some megabucks owner? Is that the only way? The Gooners managed pretty well with a good manager and proper off-the-field guidance for 10 years on 38k capacity, similar fanbase and a similar transfer budget to Spurs with Champions League each year and a few runner-up positions in the League. It sounds un-sexy and un-postmodern to suggest it, but hands-dirty hard work and knowing what’s what, rather than fancy ideas may be the way for Spurs.

Lots of teams have got new stadiums but are still going nowhere – Boro, Derby, Soton Sunderland, and Man City even got a free one. And then there is the other way – selling the club to what will probably be a rich nutter with a massive ego. Everyone will think Chelsea, but for all the lavish spending down the Bridge, the club is effectively the plaything of a rich man & similarly placed West Ham got Boa Morte for all Mr Fishfinger’s promises of the Champions League. Money will only buy you a certain sort of player when you are out of the CL – either a second rate one or a greedy one. Chelsea got lucky with Mourhinho, bought their way to the top and look like falling back down again without him (as we all know deep down Chelsea are nothing) with the supporters left disenfranchised and the paid for victories hollow. You could also ask a Hearts fan where it all leads.

So what’s the answer – I don’t know. On one hand you have an uncompetitive league which year in year out reinforces the power imbalances. The options appear to ask the fans to dip into their pockets more, get a new stadium and ask the fans to dip into their pockets some more, or get a rich megalomaniac in and still dip deeper into their pockets just to keep pace.

And then, is it all worth it? It’s a long time since I’ve written “we” and felt part of Spurs the club as opposed to Spurs the brand which is increasingly peddled and I can’t imagine that relationship getting any closer in the coming years as fans will have their dreams increasingly exploited. But then again, we’ve all got a choice, although it appears to be between being a victim and walking away.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Rommedahl: "Come and Get Me"

Danish winger Dennis Rommedahl last night sent out a sensational "Come and Get Me" plea to clubs across Europe.

Rommedahl's confirmation that, "I will be honest, I didn't come to England to play in the second division," has sent phones buzzing to an extent not seen outside of Celebrity Big Brother's anti-racism unit. Rommedahl, fresh from his appearance on Celebrity Come Dancing with Franny Jeffers (above), is said to be attracting particular interest from European giants including NEWI Cefn Druids and Sporting Bengal United.

The flying Dane who has scored an amazing ZERO goals in home matches for his adopted club Charlton Athletic since his £2million arrival in July 2004, was allegedly spotted exerting some rare effort during a recent home game versus Middlesbrough. Speaking anonymously and exclusively to New York Addick, a Charlton fan in the West Stand insisted he had seen a bead of sweat dripping down the winger's forehead. However subsequent TV evidence was inconclusive, suggesting the alleged bead was infact water left over from a late pre-match shower.

Meanwhile in other news, bemused Charlton fans were intrigued to learn that former boss Les Reed insisted the media was still to blame for his dismissal/resignation* (*delete as appropriate). Speaking to reporters and repeating the same nonsense he spouted a couple of weeks ago, Reed continued to imply it was the journalists and TV pundits that were to blame for the defeats versus Reading, Sheffield United, Spurs, Liverpool, Wycombe and Middlesbrough. "If the world's media had been banned as I requested from all the aforementioned matches," Reed might well have said, "...I'd still be in a job today."

***STOP PRESS: Charlton don't sign anyone.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Day the Dream Died?

When Charlton club historian Colin Cameron pens his memoirs of season 2006/07, he may well choose to point to today's utterly demoralising defeat as the day the survival dream probably died.

Late goals at Bramall Lane and Upton Park are a welcome boost, but according to Betfair our probability of staying up is barely 12% this evening. I watched Wigan's capitulation at Chelsea and it suggested they are in some serious trouble, but we need to find two teams to finish above not just one, and gifting 'Boro their first away win is a devastating step backwards. I don't believe in blind faith and I've no intention of finding religion at this stage in my life, so I'll just focus as usual on the raw probabilities and thus I feel very depressed right now. To put it in context, you've a better chance of picking up a coin now and flipping three consecutive heads.

I didn't see the game, but it sounds like defensive frailties have cost us again. 43 goals conceded in just 23 games (comfortably the most in the Premiership) have placed a near insurmountable burden on our attacking play. Sadly our wanton lack of goals from outside our three main strikers (just five in total) have not eased that burden, and thus our sorry Premiership position is well-deserved.

Every new game under Pards provides further clues to what we can get used to expecting from his team. His preference for 4-4-2 was evidenced again, whilst his continued use of Rommedahl and Ambrose (now alongside Reid) in midfield was cavalier, probably overly so, but with the paucity of central midfield options at his disposal, he took an understandable calculated risk that didn't pay off. With draws of virtually no use to us anymore, I'm in favour of throwing caution to the wind, but if an umpteenth combination of defenders can't shut out goals at the other end, it's frankly a moot debate.

Monday will mark the half-way point in the transfer window and we have little to show for it despite promises to the contrary. When Peter Varney stated on 21 December they were making sure, " happens as close to January 1st as possible..", whilst I admired his optimism, I suspect he underestimated how difficult it is to attract players to the club in its current state, or at least those that might improve us. Moreover it is likely that they are insisting upon a wage cut in the event of relegation, not exactly a great selling point to footballers with other options.

Ever since Danny Murphy left in January 2006, our central midfield has been woeful, lacking the balance between creativity and steel that defines all successful teams. The signings of Walton, Pouso, Faye, and Reid have all failed to solve the issue, and whilst the 'little Oirish fella' offers something productive of course, it's not as a central midfielder in a 4-4-2. By some kind of miracle Zheng Zhi may adapt to the Premiership very quickly, but even Pards has already hinted it's a big step up for him.

I haven't given up but thanks to our goal difference, we are effectively seven and nine points behind Wigan and Sheff Utd respectively. We are yet to play them both at home of course but whilst they've been battling since August, we've only just learned to do so and I fear it will be a case of too little, too late.

Friday, January 12, 2007

'Boro preview

If we are to stand virtually any chance of saving ourselves this season, then the home fixtures against 'Boro, Wigan, Sheff Utd and West Ham must surely deliver ten points or more. Hence a win tomorrow is vital, a draw would be disappointing and a defeat unthinkable since it would see another potential relegation contender disappear into the distance. Should those ten points be accumulated however, it would leave us with another 14 to find from the other 12 games to reach the fabled 40-point mark. Again a tall order, but on paper at least an achievable one.

During the four games we played against 'Boro last season, we edged it thanks to a Premiership double which most Charlton fans would probably have swapped for an FA Cup victory. In 05/06 generally however, 'Boro were disappointing and they have not improved much since following the surprisingly premature appointment of Gareth Southgate as manager. Indeed their dire away form (no wins this season) is almost challenging ours and West Ham's for consistent underachievement.

'Boro will be at close to full strength tomorrow probably implying a substitute's berth at best for former Addick, Jason Euell who should merit a warm ovation since hindsight has told us we have missed his goals, especially from midfield. Euell's teammates meanwhile comprise a typical midtable mix of the classy (Viduka, Yakubu, Woodgate), the experienced but mediocre (Arca, Boateng, Schwarzer) and the promising (Downing, Taylor, Cattermole, Morrison, Parnaby). As with most teams outside the big four, if we get stuck in and play some football then with a bit of luck we will win the game. Play like we did at Forest and we will get turned over, pure and simple.

Derek 'Killer' Hales (KillerWatch© -£601), for whom gambling wins are about as common as Charlton/'Boro away wins, is predicting fewer than 2.5 goals forgetting perhaps the goalfest produced when these teams last met. I am going to suggest that the hard work Pards has directed this week on the training ground, allied with the extra steel provided by Ben Thatcher's arrival will be enough to deliver the Addicks three points, and just edge out Killer (again). NY Addick predicts: Charlton 2 (Holland, Ambrose), 'Boro 1 (Yakubu)

Another Galaxy

A story about the world's most over-rated footballer choosing to sign up to Major League Soccer (MLS) side L.A. Galaxy would hardly be a story, if it wasn't for the extraordinary $250m he will be paid.

It shouldn't be too surprising that David Beckham came to this conclusion, even putting the money aside for a moment. Somehow, the thought of an average 329 days of sunshine, stunning multi-million properties set into the hills, and the cream of the world's celebrity parties probably made the move to L.A. a little more attractive than say a three-year deal at Middlesbrough or Blackburn. I'm not sure for example if there's an equivalent American phrase for "..a wet Tuesday night in Grimsby.." ("..a nippy Saturday afternoon in Kansas City?" - Ed.)

Back in September 2004 shortly after I began this blog, I suggested that Beckham wasn't actually especially good at football in the context of the hype. If you didn't agree with my sentiments back then, I am confident you would agree with them if I repeated them now, because a desperately poor World Cup proved surely that his impressive (but limited) talents never quite caught up with the self-promotion. The more I observe the managerial genius of Sir Alex Ferguson, the more it becomes apparent that he very accurately 'called the top' of Beckham-mania as a footballer at least. Similarly, as an England player, he made his debut in the immediate aftermath of our near-successful Euro 1996 campaign, and then went on to earn 94 caps during a period of immense promise and abject underachievement. Beckham is certainly a phenomenon, just not a footballing one per se.

However I find it hard to begrudge Beckham his fame and wealth because for the bulk of his career he has played as if he cared, and when interviewed, his painful diction suggests a surprising lack of hubris (his wife of course is another matter altogether). George Best famously said, "If I had been born ugly, you'd never have heard of Pele." However, whilst Best's good looks arguably contributed to his downfall, Beckham used his to boost his media image to such heady heights, that many occasional football watchers did genuinely believe he was indeed the 'greatest ever' when he was not even close (an opinion I look forward to sharing with any overly-excited Americans).

Unlike Best or Pele who also both tried to conquer America, Beckham's very style of play is perhaps not the type to have the purists queuing all night for tickets (unless a 50-yard pass turns you on). Those animated Asians meanwhile, to whom a determined Beckham-oriented merchandising push will have already begun, are probably more fickle than we perhaps give them credit for. Remember for example Japanese hearthrob Hidetoshi Nakata? He was last seen driving away from the Reebok Stadium a few months ago (and with no paparazzi in sight).

If I can obviously understand the rationale of Beckham's decision, even the most optimistic financial models will surely struggle to justify the outlay. Despite the fact that MLS attendances now average 15,000 or so, even with Beckham's enormous marketing presence, the sport lacks the history, geographical breadth and simple raw quality to even challenge baseball's pre-eminence as the main summer sport, let alone the ridiculous winter popularity of gridiron. I have only seen a single MLS game (scheduled immediately after England vs Columbia at Giants Stadium in 2005) and it made veteran ex-Bolton striker Youri Djorkaeff look like the aforementioned Pele, so dire was the standard of play.

Although the power of Sky to dictate English football is frustrating to anyone that treasures 3pm Saturday kick-offs, it is nothing compared to the power that the US TV networks hold over sport over here. The natural pauses (partly by design) during the big four American sports are ideal for a quick blast of commercials that justify the amounts paid for rights.

Aside from the fact that football lacks those natural pauses, surely the occasional fan to whom the MLS will now seek to appeal will know enough about the sport from regular English/Italian/Spanish coverage, to know that the product they are being sold here will be shoddy. Whatever your view on American sports, you can be fairly confident that in between the commercials, the quality of the play itself is about as high as it can possibly be (thanks of course to the money that attracts the world's best). Likewise, you could equally bemoan the media circus that follows Tiger Woods around the world, but when he stands over a golf ball, you know you are witnessing greatness. Conversely, signing just a single good (but deteriorating) player will hardly turn the MLS into La Liga.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

That's Traore

(with apologies to Dean Martin)

"When the ball hits the net, it’s Djimi’s fault you can bet
That’s Traore
When a red card is shown, and an opening win blown
That’s Traore
Two million was spent, the same as for Darren Bent
That’s Traore
When you’ve international caps, but you can’t overlap

That’s Traore!"

(repeat until hoarse, then go for a nice Italian meal)

It's painful to see a million quid written-off in the space of just five months, but then again I can't help thinking 'Arry has confused 'relative value' with 'absolute value.' Djimi Traore may appear to be a bargain relative to what Charlton paid for him, but we were done up like a kipper with some fans already asking, "Was he the worst player ever to play for Charlton?"

Obviously he wasn't the worst, not even close. But in the context of Charlton's Premiership status and the fee paid, he must surely represent one of the worst pieces of business the club has ever undertaken. As a fan, I expect full-backs to be able achieve three things: 1. keep the opposition winger in check, 2. provide cover when centre-backs are pulled out of position, and 3. provide overlapping support going forward. Djimi Traore achieved none of these things, and my none-too-fond memory of him will be of a gormless one-footed player with an uncanny ability to pass the ball long directly to the opposition.

At any other public company, if an investment was made and a 50% loss subsequently realised (equivalent to 5-10% of the entire company's market capitalisation) within months, then someone's head would roll. In the eyes of Richard Murray I would assume, someone's head has already rolled but I'm too cynical to believe we've been told the full story about Traore and some of our other diabolical summer signings. And all the while, the mysterious Andrew Mills continues on his merry way, his role as opaque as it has ever been despite the embarrassing catalogue of transfer market errors.

Traore has been swiftly replaced for £500,000 by Ben Thatcher, so looked at another way we've made a net outlay of £1.5m and ended up with only a 31-year-old with a controversial history. It still doesn't get any better. Anyhow, I'd rather have Thatcher than Traore any day and his disciplinary record doesn't concern me (so long as the 15-match ban suspended for two years never comes into fruition).

Of more concern is the fact that at 31, he's only made 272 career appearances suggesting a combination of injury proneness, patchy form and fall-outs with managers. Anyhow, I'm keen that all our transfer activity has one eye on likely Championship football next season and Thatcher fits the bill for that reason alone, and thus I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and anyhow, the reasonable fee reflects these concerns. Meanwhile, Portsmouth away next weekend could be tasty (though strangely I suspect Charlton didn't insist Traore couldn't play against us when negotiating the transfer).

Charlton Classified Ads

Authentic Charlton football shirt for sale – brand new - would suit person called Gibbs – contact Cory (Box 1568)

Football boot (right) for sale – hardly used – contact Andy R (Box 1833)

Left-back for sale – Champions League medal included – unwanted gift – contact Richard M (Box 1045)

Stunning two-bedroom apartment for sale – Blackheath/Greenwich borders – heath views – imminent move abroad forces sale – suit professional sharers – £495,000 - contact Omar or Gonzalo (Box 2108)

Manager’s jacket for sale – hardly used – ideal for person with initials I.D. – contact Richard M (Box 2177)

Big central defender available for swap or sale – gloves included – imminent bankruptcy forces deal – contact Pards (Box 3011)

Manager’s jacket for sale – hardly used – ideal for person with initials L.R. – contact Richard M (Box 2178)

Lovable pet for sale – loyal friend for over twelve years – well-trained but with several defects - owner can no longer justify keeping – answers to the name ‘Kevin’ – contact Pards (Box 1776)

Car park sign for sale – ‘Head Coach’ in red letters on white background – only six months old – contact Peter V (Box 4029)

Manager’s jacket for sale – considerable wear and tear – suit collector/renovator – ideal for person with initials A.C. – contact Richard M (Box 2176)

Numberplate for sale (GOAl) – current form no longer merits it – contact Jimmy Floyd (Box 1240)

Looking for companionship: M4W – young attractive straight black man, 22 – high-achiever – fed up with the losers I work with - contact Darren (Box 967)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007



If you answered 'yes' to the questions above, a career in professional football may be for you.

Charlton Athletic are arguably one of the leading football clubs in the London Borough of Greenwich. As part of their ongoing expansion, they are currently seeking outstanding individuals to fill the following positions:

  • Candidates must be willing to work weekends.
  • Must be comfortable working in teams (though the striker may be required to achieve goals alone).
  • Experience abroad an advantage, but not essential.
  • Candidates must be able to communicate effectively and fluently in English, French, Icelandic, Danish, Arabic, Dutch and Bulgarian.
  • Boots and personalised uniform provided.
  • Competitive salary plus win bonuses.
  • Full healthcare.


Charlton Athletic FC is an equal opportunities employer with a proven recent record of recruiting partially abled footballers from throughout Africa.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Anthony Stokes the Fire

Teenage scoring sensation Anthony Stokes rocked the football world yesterday when he opted to sign for pub side The Coach and Horses, Sunderland rather than Premiership side Charlton Athletic. The fee was undisclosed but is thought to comprise two barrels of Old Speckled Hen, 48 packets of pork scratchings and a dartboard.

Speaking exclusively to Sky Sports News, Stokes explained his decision, "Charlton are a smashing club and this was a difficult decision. Peter Varney was terrific and did everything he could to persuade me to join. He told me that the club was close to signing an exclusive marketing partnership with a second-division team in Burkina Faso, that they are the first club to have an amputee XI, that they are about to run Valley Express service from Calais, and how Charlton are at the very forefront of the ELTAF movement (Encouraging Lesbians to Attend Football)."

Stokes continued, "I told Varney I was here to further my career and improve as a player, but he kept reminding me the club runs after-school technology workshops should things not work out. It wasn't the message I wanted to hear. At the end of the day, it's a footballing decision and we parted on good terms assuring me that if my hearing goes, the Deaf XI need someone who knows where the back of the net is."

Jumping Jack Flash (It's a Gas)

Another non-story masquerading as news hit the wires across the world thanks to a mysterious odour that hovered over Manhattan today.

Unusual smells are no stranger to our apartment (especially as the wife 'enjoys' her third pregnancy trimester), but this particular odour passed me by entirely. In this era of 24-hour news channels, any triviality is reported eagerly as 'Breaking News' with some poor young hack sent to report enthusiastically on it.

Post 9-11 perhaps it's understandable that the city remains nervous about further attacks, and Manhattan's population density and unique image certainly continue to present an attractive target to those with evil in mind. However in light of the blackout of 2003, light-plane crash of 2006, and now gas leak of 2007, one wonders whether a real threat and evacuation order will be treated with typical New York disdain thanks in part to the dramatic reporting of these unfortunate, but unthreatening incidents.

It may be a natural phenomenon that will require our attention however. Many people are unaware for example that New York City is at risk from a devastating hurricane someday. Having seen the disaster 'preparedness' after Hurricane Katrina flooded New Orleans, I think I would be more inclined to kiss my arse goodbye than wait for the Federal Government to bail me out. Then again I can't help thinking President Bush might move a bit quicker if it was New York and not New Orleans under threat. Not sure why, just an inkling.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Forest Gumps

For those of you that read my half-time report, you will perhaps not be surprised to learn it didn't get any better. Arguably it got even worse. When the Forest fans sang, "You're so sh*t it's unbelievable," they were only half-correct of course because we can believe it alright. The look on Pardew's face suggested he had severely underestimated the dire state of the team he's inherited, and now I honestly question whether he might just walk away.

I would like the club to issue a statement on Monday morning confirming that the following players are available for transfer and will not wear a Charlton shirt again: Faye, Traore, Fortune, Rommedahl, Ambrose, Hasselbaink, M Bent. Better still, I'd like to see the Board have the bottle to seek to mutually cancel their contracts - they have virtually no transfer value anyway, and the £150,000 or so per week that their wages are draining from the club and the damage that their very presence is currently doing to our club is incalculable.

There was a darkly comical moment midway through the second half. After Talal el Karkouri had delivered his second foul throw of the game, and then delivered a (fair) throw straight out for a goal-kick, the camera panned to Pardew who was clearly telling him he was not to take another one. This is a Moroccan international and a highly-paid footballer whose ineptitude requires his manager to resort to the type of man-management usually reserved for Sunday morning pub games. I do hope they show the sequence on Match of the Day, I really do.

You can devour every single one of Les Reed's coaching manuals but if you don't have the heart for the battle, you will receive deserved comeuppance. I don't need to be UEFA-qualified to spot that Ambrose pulled out of a late header, or that Kish challenged for a 50/50 ball in the 81st minute like he was dipping his toe into the bath. I don't need to have attended the FA School of Excellence to know that for £2m I'd expect more than a succession of pointless long balls from Djimi Traore. I don't need to be a conditioning coach to know that Rommedahl is not giving 100% when he stands still after passing the ball instead of sprinting into a better position. In his cowardly mind he might believe he's giving 100% but it's the type of 100% that the likes of true winners like Roy Keane would spit in the face of (and literally I hope).

So it was the players after all. Apologies to Les Reed and all that, but anyhow he wasn't the answer for Charlton at any time, and certainly not at this time. Richard Murray would like us to believe that it is Dowie's fault for bringing some of these jokers into the football club; that however is a cop-out for me and anyhow, who appointed Dowie in the first place as the 'outstanding candidate' interviewed? Plenty of comments from Murray suggested he was uncomfortable with the amount of control (and the accolades) that Curbs received, and the 'new structure' imposed thereafter was evidence of a new desire to take the control back. He (and his lackey Varney) have to take some responsibility for this mess and I'd like to see them do so publicly.

Any company with a modicum of internal control would have checks and balances from the scouting network to the actual transfer negotiation, to ensure players only end up on the payroll if they are worthy of it. His argument also breaks down when you consider Cory Gibbs (remember him?) arrived at the club when we didn't even have a manager (or 'head coach').

Are we really meant to believe meanwhile that Dowie was flying Ryanair every other week whilst at Palace to check out Diawara at Sochaux? Or was his availability signalled via a fax to Andrew Mills and a DHL package full of video footage of him in action, to which Dowie simply said 'yay' or 'nay'? And anyhow, he is not the worst of the new signings; a quick review of the Newcastle message boards when we were looking at Amdy Faye would have told Murray we'd be sold a dud.

I was feeling more upbeat about Charlton thanks to Pardew's appointment and a couple of promising home performances. It's now pretty clear on today's evidence that the damage done by two to three seasons of mismanagement will not be undone in the space of two weeks. We have been promised that new blood will be arriving in early-January but personally I'm keener to see the door marked 'EXIT' left open as the aforementioned players collect their belongings.

NYA's First-Half Report: DISGRACEFUL

I don't usually write much at half-time but for the benefit of those in the UK and not actually at the game (and I pity those that are), I need to report upon surely the most disgraceful half of football I think I have ever seen Charlton take part in. I didn't see the Wycombe game but it cannot have been any worse than this.

We are a total and utter shambles and should be 4-0 down (Fortune's own goal should clearly have been given, and Perch missed when it was easier to score). Only Matt Holland could conceivably plead 'not guilty'. Unless the sure-to-be barbaric half-time 'team talk' from Pardew can lift us we will once again be the laughing stock on tonight's Match of the Day. The second goal truly needs to be seen to be believed, and Talal el Karkouri has just been called up for a foul throw for goodness sake.

The lack of pride shown genuinely has me close to tears, and fulminating upon what has happened to our club and to the very values which lifted us out of the same doldrums where we are surely now returning. Luckily on this occasion I only have fifteen minutes to find out if there's any chance of salvaging them.

Let It Snow

The temperature in New York today will be 70°. It's January.

New York is currently experiencing its longest period without snow since 1878. Today's balmy temperatures are in stark contrast to the storm of 12 Feb 2006 which dumped 27 inches of snow on Central Park in the space of a few hours.

The unusual weather is bound to have been a surprise to the hoards of pasty-faced Brits with bad teeth currently clogging the 'sidewalks' of Fifth Avenue, seeking post-Xmas bargains. However it is worth remembering that New York is on the same latitude as Madrid whilst London is level with Nova Scotia, Canada where winters are as harsh as a Mike Riley sending-off. The wild card is of course the Gulfstream that is increasingly threatened by the melting of the icecaps.

The more I think about global warming the more it frightens me. It's not so much the weather changes themselves but the sociological impact. As a perennial worrier that does not so much marvel at modernity as remind people we are always just 'four meals from anarchy' (go to your larder and count them) the global warming debate hardly feels me with much optimism. Indeed a trip to Florida with its SUV culture and clogged highways is enough to make one conclude it's already too late.

The West has already reached a standard of living that could tolerate a slowdown in economic growth in the name of saving the planet, but try telling that to the billions in Asia especially trying to play 'catch-up'. It's likely therefore that the 21st century will (continue to be) defined by US/China tensions from trade to the environment. Lord Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society described the present civilisation's chances of surviving the 21st century as 'no more than 50%.' I'm not sure that's a bet that even Derek 'Killer' Hales would find much value in.

Our generation is arguably benefiting from it though; I mean, who wakes up in New York in January and thinks "darn it, I'll be able to go running today in just a t-shirt.."? However at the same time I'll be sure to teach my children and grandchildren how to sail, and ensure they are experts in hand-to-hand combat.

Now to cheer me up, I'm going to sit down and watch Charlton play Cup football....oops.

Friday, January 05, 2007

A Bit Parky

Some more positive news emanated from the club this morning with the confirmation that Phil Parkinson will be assistant manager to Alan Pardew (funny how the old structure has disappeared without explanation isn't it?). Given that he was earmarked as a potential candidate for the main post just seven months ago, this has to be a promising hire despite his troubling time at Hull.

The quote from Pards implied it might just be a short-term measure but if we could keep these two young and hungry guys in charge in the event of relegation to the Championship, I would be very confident that we'd mount a strong promotion campaign.

Meanwhile, it's difficult to get too excited about the FA Cup these days, the big clubs have certainly seen to that one beginning with Manchester United's shameful withdrawal from the 2000 competition.

It's a shame really. I'm probably not alone in having the FA Cup central to many of my fondest footballing memories as a kid, particularly the great finals of 1979, 1981 and 1983. The excitement would begin with Bob Wilson aboard the team buses and finish with the lifting of the trophy at Wembley (Wembley? - Ed).

Can you imagine poor old Bob getting access to the team bus these days? "Rio, you must be excited about reaching the FA Cup Final." "Not really to be honest, the gaffer's only promised us a hundred grand if we win it."

And as if the competition hadn't already lost its lustre, our tame departure from the Carling Cup at the last-eight stage has left such a bad taste that I'm struggling to pick myself up and prepare for another sure-to-be-disappointing cup run. Although the Carling Cup is seen as the second-tier competition, from Charlton's perspective the prize is really the same ie. European qualification, and yet it's an easier trophy to lift. Ok, we'd have drawn Chelsea and probably gone out anyway but a two-legged tussle with the faltering Blues would have been a welcome distraction to the tiresome Premiership campaign if nothing else. Thanks again Les.

Anyhow drawing away to the two-time European champions Nottingham Forest is a reminder of how the mighty have fallen, and should serve as a useful reminder of the importance of maintaining stability if relegation insues for us. Although they will see Saturday as an opportunity to earn a Premiership scalp, they should not present a difficult obstacle for us. Moreover, despite their position towards the top of the First Division, the impressive City Ground does not have any of the claustrophobia of some other lower-league grounds.

Thanks to the FA, we are without both of our right-backs which is likely to see Kish play in defence. There's probably a case for resting Carson in goal but otherwise a relatively unchanged side is likely unless Pards takes the (understandable) viewpoint that a Cup exit would not be much to lose sleep over.

Derek 'Killer' Hales (KillerWatch© -£551) has predicted a 1-0 win at 13/2 (which the club helpfully point out is equivalent to six-and-a-half times your stake). I can understand his logic for once but I am willing to predict a more comfortable win for the Addicks. NY Addick predicts Nottingham Forest 1 (Holt), Charlton 3 (Bent M, Hasselbaink, Rommedahl)

Thursday, January 04, 2007


In light of the extraordinary news that the FA have not only rejected Charlton's appeal over Osei Sankofa's red card, but have extended the suspension to two games due to the 'frivolity' of the appeal, I was keen to understand the FA's appeals process in more detail.

I was able to secure the official records of the appeal process and it certainly backs up many of our worst fears:


F.A. Disciplinary Committee
Case No. 1546 - Osei Sankofa (Charlton Athletic)
4 January 2007, London

Committee Members in Attendance:

Air Chief Marshal Sir Percival Parmesan-Pisspot (Boys Scouts F.A.)
The Rt. Hon Lord Plonker of Biggington (Rutland F.A.)
Wing Commander Montgomery Lucozade-Smythe (Pro-Fur League)

Parmesan-Pisspot: Gentlemen, the very best of order please.

Plonker: It's not the darts Pisspot!

Lucozade-Smythe: Ghastly working-class pastime.

Parmesan-Pisspot: Yesterday we received an appeal from Premiership club Charlton Athletic regarding the red card awarded to one Osei Sankofa.

Lucozade-Smythe: Sounds like a disease.

Plonker: I think my wife Betty had it once; coughing up phlegm constantly she was....I thought for a while she'd begun speaking German.

Parmesan-Pisspot: Now I'd like to wrap this one up quickly if we could....we've the far more important matter of the 23-man brawl at the annual Army vs Navy match.

Lucozade-Smythe: 23-man brawl? Did one of them sneak an extra player onto the field?

Parmesan-Pisspot: That's what they were brawling about. Now listen, here are the facts: Charlton are a small club, Arsenal are a big club, David Dein is on the FA Council, and the aforementioned Sankofa is black.

Lucozade-Smythe: Barbarians.

Plonker: Was he brandishing a spear?

Parmesan-Pisspot: Perhaps that's why Riley sent him off! Those pesky Addicks are also claiming the Arsenal player Van Rental was offside.

Lucozade-Smythe: Run the offside rule past me again.

Parmesan-Pisspot: A player is offside if in the opinion of the referee he is nearer to his opponent and the second-last defender than the that's not right....if in the opinion of the referee, he is nearer to the ball than his opponent so long as he's not a defender.....oh fiddlesticks, I can never get it right.

Lucozade-Smythe: Look, let's not waste any more time on this.....Arsenal are salt-of-the-earth types....members of the top flight of English football since 1919....Charlton meanwhile are such indecorous whippersnappers.....and all that community-oriented nonsense just leaves me so cold....Kick Racism Out of Football? Kick 'Em Out of the Country more like.

Plonker: Frivolous. And give darkie an extra game's suspension to honour the disreputable 1833 Slavery Abolition Act.

Lucozade-Smythe: Trivial. Whimsical. Juvenile. Puerile.

Parmesan-Pisspot: Let's settle on 'frivolous'.

Plonker: It's a rather racy word isn't a cross between flirty and fruity (makes obscene gesture with his fist)

Lucozade-Smythe: Steady on Plonker, we don't want you having a cardiac. What would we tell Betty?

Plonker: Tell her what you like; she ran off with that abhorrent half-caste fellow from the golf club years ago.

Parmesan-Pisspot: Who, the greenkeeper?

Plonker: Not even.....he was the assistant greenkeeper.

Lucozade-Smythe: Certainly sank a long one with your missus didn't he Plonker?

(laughter all round - meeting closed)