Wednesday, February 28, 2007


As Charlton fans, we probably ought not to be surprised anymore that we are treated with contempt by the authorities, but how could we fail to be astonished that Robbie Keane's appeal against his red card, whilst not upheld, was not extended due to 'frivolity.'

The attached video shows the incident in question (it's about 30 seconds in). It looked like a blatant handball on the line and obvious penalty....end of story, surely? I don't know if Keane plays tennis, but if so he impersonated a delicious drop volley with his left hand (almost McEnroe-esque I might add).

Spurs appealed it (as is their right) but must have been concerned about the precdent set by the FA in the case of "Riley vs Sankofa". Alas it seems that the concept of stare decisis does not apply when the defendant is 'big club' Tottenham Hostpur, and all-round good bloke Robbie Keane.

Perhaps they were still feeling guilty about the Premier League's decision after 'Lasagne-gate' at the end of last season (even though it turned out to be gastric flu), and thought they deserved an even break. However the fact that Martin Jol didn't pick Danny Murphy amongst others that day (in favour of players who were sick) surely denied them any chance of a sympathetic hearing (that's probably why they didn't get one - Ed.)

I mean, who has ever heard of Osei Sankofa? You could just imagine the reaction of the FA Disciplinary Committee, after learning they would be called back from their New Year foxhunting trips to review Sankofa's case.

Frivolous is defined variously as, "...characterised by lack of seriousness...", "...self-indulgently carefree...", "...of little or no weight." Now I've never met Peter Varney, but his media persona suggests he is not especially prone to regular bouts of 'self-indulgent carefreeness.'

The case for the Sakofa appeal rested solely on the fairly obvious fact (to all except Riley and the FA) that Sankofa had not denied a goalscoring opportunity since Talal El Karkouri was clearly getting to the ball first regardless of Sankofa's foolish intervention.

And anyhow, our real bugbear was not so much the red card (Riley in fairness only had one look), but the accusation that the appeal was frivolous. Surely TV evidence proved it was anything but, yet even if they could (just) still rest upon a degree of uncertainty about whether Robin Van Persie would have got to the ball first, where was the frivolity?

I'm not sure we ever heard the full result of Charlton's High Court appeal. Indeed given that the damage is already done (ie. Sankofa was obliged to miss two games) then it's arguably a pointless exercise. But it does make you wonder why the most popular game in the world which generates billions of pounds in income is run, to paraphrase Will Carling, by a bunch of clueless and unaccountable old farts.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Dreaming of Survival

Have you ever dreamt that you are trying to run away from something, but the more effort you put in, the slower you travel? If so, then like me you'll understand how our survival push feels right now.

The exhilaration of Saturday's win swiftly became anti-climatic firstly when Nobby Solano missed from the penalty spot, and then when Ryan Taylor scored Wigan's winner. Increasingly it seems that despite Alan Pardew's sterling efforts, we couldn't really have picked a worse season in which to be targeting 17th place because even 40 points might not be enough at this rate.

We have a fairly straightforward run-in that doesn't include Chelsea, Man Utd or Arsenal, but then Wigan are in the exact same boat. However, Sheffield United have a tricky looking spell coming up with trips to Chelsea, Bolton and Man Utd during their next five fixtures, which might suggest they are the most likely team to catch. Meanwhile Manchester City are quietly dropping down the table, but with two games in hand I can't realistically see us drawing them in, and I have similar sentiments towards both Fulham and Villa.

Whilst it remains out of our hands, we can look at the next eight games and make a case (based upon Saturday's performance of course) that the 17 points that would take us to 40 points are potentially there for the taking. A win at Watford, four home wins and draws at Man City and Everton might just see us reach the magical mark with two games still to go. This aggressively optimistic scenario is tinged with regret of course, because of the succession of Board level and managerial post-Curbs mistakes that got us in the mess in the first place. However then again, West Ham's dire showing suggested we might have been in this state anyhow.

My new baby son perhaps brought us some good fortune on Saturday, and the wife and I have decided to pull our oar for the rest of the season by giving him the middle name 'Charlton'. At this tender age, they do little other than sleep, so let's just hope he's now dreaming of survival.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

A Great Day

Well it looks like the wife and I will be choosing between Jerome, Thomas and Darren as names for our little boy born earlier today. A day that had already gone fabulously well has continued in the same vein, and it's only midday local time. Maybe I should buy a lottery ticket later?

I won't write much because most Charlton fans would have seen the game live or on TV, but it really couldn't have gone much better for us. The gameplan that Pards set out was executed to perfection, and for the first half they simply couldn't live with our pace. Things went a bit flat in the second half and a better team might have made us nervy, but then again we managed to hit the woodwork twice.

Everybody played well but particularly Song in the midfield, Thomas and Ambrose on the flanks and all of the three strikers that played a role. On the odd occasions when Carson was called upon (and it was invariably from long range), he dealt with any threat in the efficient way to which we are accustomed.

We should enjoy this victory for a day or two, but Pards is too professional to allow it to go to our heads. The defeat for Sheffield United brings them just about within catching distance, but all eyes will be on Wigan tomorrow where a Newcastle win would really have us all believing.

As for Curbs and West Ham, they are in a sorry state. It was perhaps ironic that only Carlos Tevez showed any bottle for the fight, and whilst Curbs has not had long to mould the team into his image, he must take some responsibility for the signings of Davenport, Quashie et al, as well as their general lack of verve. I suspect this may have been his large game in charge though then again Magnusson may accept relegation as a given, and back Curbs to bring them straight back up.

New York Addick II

I knew for sometime that Feb 24th would be a day of tension and excitement. I knew for example that I would be sitting somewhere quiet in a state of considerable nervousness, trying to be supportive but realising that I was ultimately helpless.

Perhaps what I hadn't fully bargained upon was that the feelings described above would begin some nine hours earlier than envisaged, following the birth of my son this morning, six days ahead of schedule. Always eager to please, he popped out well in advance of kick-off allowing plenty of time for a quick family bonding session, before I raced home to grab a couple of hours sleep ahead of the big game.

The poor lad doesn't realise it yet, but even if it wasn't for the irrational fanaticism of his Dad, he is surely destined to be a Charlton fan. Conceived on the day that Iain Dowie was appointed as manager (and with hindsight, I almost lasted as long), and born on the morning of the club's biggest game for years, is it really any surprise that we are delaying naming him in case an unexpected hero emerges this afternoon? Knowing our luck though, it'll be Souleymayne Diawara.

By way of a footnote, when the wife was admitted they asked me if she had ever had any previous operations. "Only a minor foot op," I replied, "Do you know the date roughly?" she enquired, hoping I could just recall the year. "5th April 1999," I blurted, "Wow you have a great memory," she said in awe, blissfully unaware that instead of being at her bedside I was at Upton Park (ironically) watching Graham Stuart head a late winner. The wife never let me forget it.

Friday, February 23, 2007

West Ham Preview

It's being billed as our biggest game for years. It's certainly our biggest game since the FA Cup quarter-final last season, and admittedly it's hard to recall this type of anticipation leading up to a Premiership fixture since we returned in 2000. Then again, with six seasons of midtable mediocrity behind us, maybe that's not very surprising.

I'm concerned that we are getting ahead of ourselves here because a victory might secure us bragging rights, but we will still be 17 points away from probable survival. I'm not trying to belittle the occasion, but merely pointing out that our fate will be sealed over the next eleven games (each of which offers the same three points), and not just on Saturday. Indeed, if we win but then Wigan win on Sunday, then we will barely be any better off, and arguably we'll be worse off. For us to survive, we realistically have to assume that if we finish above Wigan, we'll also finish above West Ham regardless of tomorrow's result; March 31st is the bigger game.

By building the game up and thus causing a feverish atmosphere, we run the risk of playing into West Ham's hands because as I indicated on Sunday, the nerves should be all theirs (or more pertinently, their owners). If we play our football and calmly execute our game plan, I am confident we will get a result. However a crazy game full of bookings, tension and panic will not aid our cause. So to use the old cliché, let's just treat like any other game, eh?

I can't be bothered to write much more about Curbs; we've all said our thanks in the appropriate fashion, and we've both moved on. If West Ham's short-termism has permitted us to have the 'proper' manager we deserved then great, but what happens to Curbs and West Ham now is of no interest to me. This Pardew/Curbishley situation that is causing such interest in the media is a bit overplayed because a) Curbs did not leave us to go directly to West Ham, and b) Pardew did not leave West Ham to go directly to Charlton. It was merely a coincidence.

Darren Bent's return is very welcome and I would expect us to play 4-4-2, though it implies that (probably) Faye drops to the bench to allow Song to pair Holland in central midfield. West Ham have obvious weaknesses at full-back, and if Thomas/Ambrose/Rommedahl are in the mood then we can put them on the back foot from the get-go. At the back it seems that Bougherra is doubtful so Pards may revert to the lower-risk option of Hreidarsson and El Karkouri again. The probable appearance of Luke Young meanwhile would be another boost as Pardew's genuine 'first eleven' finally comes close to taking shape.

Derek 'Killer' Hales (KillerWatch© -£671) fancies either a 2-0 or 2-1 home win, and I'm inclined to agree with him, and I'll be watching live on TV in the US hoping for the best. NY Addick predicts Charlton 2 (Bent D, Bent M), West Ham 1 (Cole)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Barnwell's royal call

League Managers Association chief John Barnwell has urged Prince Harry to retract his statement describing himself to be 'over the moon' about his proposed deployment to Iraq.

Harry (right): Over the Moon

"The LMA would like to gently remind the Prince that 'over the moon' is a patented term to be used solely by football managers, and preferably those wearing sheepskin coats," insisted Barnwell, "...It is a wholly inappropriate and disproprotionate turn of phrase for someone who is merely representing his country, and about to be plunged into the midst of a bloody civil war."

"We would respectfully ask that the Prince refrain from repeating the phrase, unless he has just led a team to a vital win on a wet Tuesday night in Grimsby"


STOP PRESS: Prince Harry said to be 'sick as a parrot' upon hearing Barnwell's comments.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Omar Pouso: Exclusive Interview

Little is known about former Charlton star Omar Pouso, but I managed to secure a quick interview with him as he prepared to board his plane to Montevideo:

NYA: Omar, you have a message for the Charlton fans?

Pouso: Que?

NYA: Tienes un mensaje para los aficionados de Charlton?

Pouso: My English is fine mate, it's your pseudo-American twang I can't understand.

NYA: Awesome. Now Omar, you only left the club a few hours ago and yet already fans are calling you the greatest loan signing since Tom Hovi. What was the highlight of your time at Charlton?

Pouso: Probably that pass in the 44th minute....I feigned to play it four yards to Amdy Faye, but instead knocked it three yards to Darren Ambrose. The fans gave me a standing ovation.

NYA: I think they were getting up to have a half-time pee to be honest.

Pouso: Ah I see, they were 'taking the piss'. I like sarcastic English humour.

NYA: Quite. So what did you learn during your time at Charlton?

Pouso: Avoid the Sun-in-the-Sands roundabout in the mornings.

NYA: Anything else?

Pouso: And in the evenings too.

NYA: You must have been excited when you heard Charlton wanted to sign you. They must have been watching your progress for sometime?

Pouso: No I don't think so. I was on vacation in Punta del Este when a fax arrived at my hotel from a Mr Mills saying, "Great goal at Anfield....let's chat."

NYA: And so he called you?

Pouso: Yes, he was tellng me all about Charlton's midfield problem and how they finally thought they'd found the perfect player, and then he suddenly sprang it on me, "You're the guy we mean, are you up for it?" Unfortunately the phone line was bad and I thought he said, "Uruguay women are up for it."

NYA: You must have been furious.

Pouso: Absolutely, dissing my country's women like that. I've two sisters and a mum....we're very proud people you know. So I told him, "I want fifteen grand per week," else the local press will find out about it, and Charlton's marketing plans in South America will be ruined.

NYA: I guess he had no choice?

Pouso: Correct. And I said, "Oh, and don't expect me to play more than an hour either, and I want to be home by Easter."

NYA: Hence the 57th minute substitution and your sudden departure?

Pouso: That's correct.

NYA: And once you had left, it was inevitable Mills would follow?

Pouso: You got it. His position had become untenable.

NYA: It all makes sense now. Have a safe flight.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Dowie Sent To Coventry

Iain Dowie's break from football has lasted only 100 days following his installment as Coventry City manager this morning. The honesty and self-deprecating humour exhibited in his press conference, allied with some complimentary comments about Charlton, should remind us that whilst he has perhaps returned to his appropriate managerial 'level', he is a good man who deserves to be successful elsewhere.

It was curious to note the similarities between the comments of Paul Fletcher (Coventry managing director) and those of Richard Murray just nine months ago:

""Iain was incredibly impressive on the occasions we met and there is no doubt that he was by far the strongest candidate in all of the criteria we set." (Fletcher)

"We interviewed over 20 candidates and I can assure you Iain Dowie was the most impressive of those candidates." (Murray)

Perhaps if things don't work out for Dowie at the Ricoh Arena, he might want to consider penning a guide to job-hunters about successful interview techniques . In the meantime, with Coventry's central location within just a few miles of four different motorways (M1, M6, M45, M69) he will have no shortage of opportunities to give his players the 'hard shoulder' and send them on his alleged roadside training runs.

Now that Dowie has found gainful employment again, it is maybe an opportune time to revisit some of the ill-understood aspects of his appointment and dismissal. Admittedly at most clubs the relationship between Board and fans is managed at best in a spirit of obfuscation and disdain, but Charlton have been refreshingly progressive in this regard in recent times.

The welcome arrival of Alan Pardew distracted the irate fans, and in turn let our Board off the hook as the references to 'head coach' were subtly removed, signalling the end of the very structure that they had previously been at such pains to promote. It is worth recalling that the day after Dowie left the club, Peter Varney initially stressed the failure of Dowie to work within the above structure as a key factor in the Board's decision.

In truth, I'd imagine the Board simply wanted rid of Dowie asap having acknowledged their mistake in appointing him, but preferred to blame his refusal to work within the structure, rather than concede to the media (and some fans, including me) that they had acted with uncharacteristic haste in light of poor results. More recently however, Varney has gone on to imply that there were actually some hitherto undisclosed aspects of Dowie's tenure that obliged the Board to act (regardless of the workings of the structure or results), but that they cannot discuss them publicly.

Yet assuming that Coventry contacted Charlton for a detailed reference on Dowie (though nothing surprises me in football anymore), then whatever those pre-dismissal circumstances were, they were not shocking enough to prevent him finding a fast route back into management. And more intriguingly if the structure has since disappeared alongwith Dowie (and Reed), and if Pards is now clearly the 'manager', then where does the already murky role of Andrew Mills (General Manager - Football) now fit in?

With regard to some of these questions, and thanks to the passage of a suitable amount of time, I will knowingly paraphrase Private Eye and declare, "I think we should be told."

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Two Weeks Is A Long Time

If a week is a long time in politics, then two weeks is an eternity if you're a Charlton fan and the vital West Ham fixture is looming on the horizon. It's difficult to think about anything else right now, and an otherwise exceptional week of European football will be the mere hors d'oeuvre to Saturday's entrée.

As if Saturday's game didn't already have enough 'angles', the Egghead has decided that now would be an opportune moment to stick the boot into Alan Pardew. If he believes that Pardew was a 'cancer' in the dressing room (nice choice of words there) then it's becoming increasingly clear that Curbs is anything but chemotherapy. Indeed, other reports suggest that El Tel is already being lined up to perform an impossible (but lucrative) escape act.

I think it was the writer Alain de Botton that described satisfaction as being equal to 'achievement divided by expectation.' Viewed in this context, it should be abundantly clear that West Ham (and by implication Eggert Magnusson) have far more to lose on Saturday than we do.

As Charlton fans, we are all probably guilty recently of having ratcheted up our expectations to unrealistic levels, and thus lowering our scope to be satisfied. This has ensured that this season's poor form has caused vitrolic denunciation, instead of perhaps a more appropriate sense of acceptance that all good things must eventually come to an end. However from the standpoint of Magnusson's consortium, spending £85m on a struggling Premiership club (and tens of millions more in fees and wages for mediocre players), may ex post be viewed as rank and destructive folly.

Without wishing to suggest that Charlton's stakeholders have nothing to lose from relegation, I think we can approach Saturday's game in a far more relaxed frame of mind, and allow the enormous weight of expectation on Curbishley's shoulders to drag them down. It would be a huge (and wholly unfair) irony if his final game as West Ham manager took place at The Valley, but just as Charlton had to swiftly eat humble pie and dismiss Les Reed, so too might West Ham be forced to retract upon previous assurances to Curbs of patience in the face of adversity.

In truth however, a far more important fixture probably takes place three days earlier at Vicarage Road, where we find ourselves in the strange position of actively wanting to go bottom of the Premiership. If Wigan were to triumph instead, then an eight-point advantage (with superior goal difference) may well make the result of Saturday's encounter moot, except to the extent that it grants bragging rights to one side of the Thames.

Curbs deserves (and will doubtless get) a warm ovation from the home fans on Saturday, but in the event of a Charlton victory, there may well be the strange sight of both sets of fans singing, "There's only one Alan Pardew..." by the end. Whilst most Hammers fans accept that Pardew must take some of the blame for their predicament, most would prefer to focus upon the attitude of the players and the Tevez/Mascherano saga (which might yet lead to points deductions and the certainty of relegation).

Hence if Curbs underestimated the scale of the challenge he has taken on (he's admitted as much), some of his decisions, not least in the transfer market, smack of the same inflexibility and one-dimensional thinking which began to bore most Charlton fans long before his departure. The difference of course is that we were too respectful and grateful to express our displeasure; the West Ham fans will have no such qualms.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Rudy's In The Race

During Wednesday's 'Larry King Live' show on CNN, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani put paid to the speculation, and finally confirmed he would be running for President in 2008.

Giuliani is 63-years old, and thus currently the same age that George W Bush will be when his sorry Presidency ends. Hence despite being ten years younger than main Republican rival John McCain, he will know that it's probably a case of 'now or never' despite the obvious downside of inheriting the post-Bush poison chalice.

In many ways, he is facing the opposite problem to young Democrat superstar Barack Obama who lacks experience, yet knows he will never have a better chance to scoop the main prize. Moreover Obama will not fancy facing either a Republican incumbent in 2012 (and thus trying to 'do a 1992 Clinton'), or waiting until 2016 by which time the magic might have worn off.

Giuliani is obviously a popular figure in New York, most commonly associated with his 'zero tolerance' approach to crime-fighting in the 1990s, and with the calm leadership he showed in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. Like most high-profile politicians, his career has not been without controversy, emphasised most bizarrely perhaps in the fact that his first marriage was annulled in 1968 when it turned out his bride was in fact his second cousin. And I bet you thought that only happened in West Virginia?

However speaking as someone who generally abhors anyone claiming to represent the Republican Party, it is hard not to warm to Giuliani because he is so charismatic and human. He would be a brave selection by the party given both his New York background and relatively liberal (by Republican standards) views on issues as controversial here as abortion and gay marriage. But barring a military miracle in Iraq, the Republicans will approach the 2008 election firmly on the back foot, and perhaps a candidate like Giuliani can put enough distance between himself and his predecessor's failed policies (to appeal to independents), whilst not being so liberal that it repels the gun-toting religious 'good ole boys' that tend to vote red.

Aside from Giuliani and McCain, few 'serious' Republican candidates have shown their hand yet, except perhaps Mitt Romney, whose biggest PR problem (for reasons I've not fully understood) seems to be the fact that he's a Mormon. When I first read about his candidacy, I thought there was a misprint and that Romney was merely a 'Moron', causing me to muse, "...oh no, here we go again."

Not surprisingly, and much like Obama, plenty of others on the left are rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of a comfortable electoral win, and as well as hot favourite Hilary Clinton, John Kerry's 2004 sidekick John Edwards has officially declared his influential hand. Even Al Gore, fresh from the success of his environmental campaign film, is being encouraged to run despite the pain of his marginal 'defeat' in 2000, so for now in football terms the candidates are 'setting their stall out', not attacking with cavalier intent.

If I was a betting man, I'd fancy a Clinton vs Giuliani face-off, pitching the current New York state senator against the former New York City mayor, thus ensuring the country's biggest city is at the very heart of the election media coverage. Despite Clinton being near odds-on to win the whole election (let alone the Democrat candidacy), I would infact seriously fear for her chances against Giuliani, perhaps resulting in a soul-destroying defeat for the Democrats which might hasten the party's implosion in a fog of infighting and denial. By pitching a centrist Democrat against a centrist Republican, the party campaigners risk asking the electorate to vote on the basis of charisma not policies, and Giuliani in my view would win that battle hands-down.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Target 200,000

I am pleased to confirm that this blog's 100,000th hit was registered earlier today. The iconic vital hit was registered in Stockport, Greater Manchester of all places so whoever you are, thank you (though I'm concerned that you may not be supporting your local club).

I am not resting on my laurels however (as my former headmistress used to claim), and am thus pleased to announce the launch of Target 200,000.

The site registered its 50,000th hit on 11 August 2006 so I am currently racking them up at a rate of 269 per day; not bad though admittedly not Frankie Valley-esque (894 hits per day since April 2005). The site has so far generated gross total income of £18.24 pushing forward my target retirement date by at least thirty minutes or so.

Thanks for taking the time to read the blog; it's reassuring to know that my late night scotch-soaked ramblings are not the internet equivalent of 'talking to myself.' Thanks especially to anyone who has taken the time to comment (except 'Anonymous' who cared to compare me to an important part of the female anatomy). You all need to realise that the buzz of anticipation I get when I receive a comment, might only be compared to the same feeling I get when 'Accountancy' magazine lands on my doorstep.

It's also been fun to compare notes (and occasionally meet with) fellow Addick bloggers, and whilst each has its own unique style, we are all hopefully united by our occasionally irrational love of Charlton Athletic.

Regular readers will know I am not a rose-tinted optimist, and I fear that the next 50,000 hits will arrive with an enhanced sense of desperation and sadness. However whether we're Championship bound or not, I know I won't be able to shake the writing habit because although I'm supposedly a mature grown-up these days, in truth I'm still the same excitable child that led the team out versus Wrexham in 1978.

Viva Espana




We are going on a midseason training trip to Spain, a country just outside Portugal. The local language is Spanish, although the locals will understand English if you speak very loudly. Famous Spaniards include Don Quixote and Fray Bentos.


Hotel rooms will be allocated upon arrival. Any repeat of the unfortunate incident in 2005 when players refused to share with Danny Murphy will not be tolerated.

Hotel minibars have been emptied in advance of all alcohol, fried snacks and intimacy kits. Nuts are permitted at all times, though Toblerones are limited to one per player per day. The hotel porn channel has been deactivated, though players are advised that Mishal Husain, a newsreader on BBC World is really rather attractive.

Players will be permitted to leave the hotel premises provided they remain in pairs and adhere to a strict 11pm curfew. Dalliances with local women that might lead to allegations of rape, should in the first instance be reported to Peter Varney who will negotiate with local police.

Andy Reid is forbidden from visiting the poolside 'El Snack Bar' and his photo has been distributed to hotel staff.


For Darren Bent and Scott Carson only: You will be picked up by limo and whisked to your own private check-in desk at Terminal Four at Heathrow Airport. Chaperoned through security to avoid the queues, you will be invited to relax in the VIP lounge, perhaps taking the opportunity to enjoy a spa massage. When your flight is called, you will be invited to board first thus maximising the enjoyment of your first class fully-flat bed. A limo driver will meet you after your personally-assigned porter has located your luggage.

For the rest of the squad: Ryanair to Jerez, then three-hour coach transfers. Check-in 4.30am, Stansted. One bag only.


Although the emphasis is upon hard work, there will be opportunities for relaxation. First-team players under the age of 21 are permitted to join the hotel's 'Groovy Gang' where organised activities include go-karting and a roller disco.

Matt Holland has been handed responsibility for organising the traditional team quiz. Teams will be chosen at random, although every team will have at least one player who cannot speak English. Example questions from previous years include:

Which 'Blair' is the UK Prime Minister? Tony or Lionel?
If it's 10am in London, what time is it in Coventry?

On the second night there will be a group trip to the bullring. Players are reminded not to wear their red home shirt.


"We're going down." - estamos subiendo
"Central midfield is the big problem" - el centrocampo esta el gran problema
"I'm not a sailor, I'm the captain." - yo no soy marinero, soy capitan
"Sorry love, we're not Newcastle United." - lo siento amor, no estamos Newcastle United


water - el agua
beer - el agua
wine - el agua


Specific bespoke courses have been designed in addition to the group work to which everyone is required to attend:

Day 1 AM: "It's ok to shoot" (midfielders only)
Day 1 PM: "Crossing can lead to goals" (Rommedahl, Thomas and Ambrose only)

Day 2 AM: "Hoofing it into Row Z" (El Karkouri and Bougherra only)
Day 2 PM: "Dealing with Stress through Yoga" (Carson only)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Notes on a Scandal

As only an occasional film-goer, here's a message to all the producers out there: forget about stunning cinematography, moving screenplays and outstanding acting; no, if you want to persuade me to part with $11 for a cinema ticket and $5 for a bucket of popcorn, just drop in a random Charlton Athletic reference.

For those that haven't seen 'Notes On A Scandal', I won't be ruining this excellent film by mentioning that none other than Dame Judi Dench mentions that her father was a Charlton Athletic supporter, though it didn't seem to bring him much pleasure. She delivers the line impeccably, and it was well worth putting up with Cate Blanchett in various states of undress to witness on the big screen.

The film revolves around an inappropriate affair between art teacher Sheba Hart (Blanchett) and one of her 15-year old male pupils, and the attempts of bitter fellow teacher Barbara Covett (Dench) to use her knowledge of this affair to manipulate her. The affair itself was a little unbelievable, because speaking from experience, if my female schoolteachers found me devilishly attractive, they certainly kept it to themselves (though I wonder if, perhaps in the confines of the staff room, their true desires were disclosed).

On those rare occasions when Charlton do receive a mention in the media, it is invariably in the context of frustration and disappointment. In its most base form, this is represented by Jim Davidson's referral to his beloved club as 'Charlton Nil', whilst in 'Only Fools and Horses' we learnt that Rodney's middle name was Charlton, leading to the immortal line, "I didn't know your Mum was a fan of Charlton Heston?" Meanwhile, in the 1980s landlord Dirty Den walked into the Old Vic, perused the empty bar and mused, "It's like a Charlton home game in 'ere." We also received a movie mention in 'Buster' (and again it was in the context of a defeat).

About five years ago, I stopped saying, "Charlton....for my sins" when asked which club I supported. Perhaps it follows then that the real test of whether we are a 'big club' should not be measured in terms of trophies or shirt sales, but when we are no longer the first choice when writers and producers are looking for a club to produce a cheap laugh from.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Central Park

'Park' is one of the most popular Korean names, so if you are ever asked to relocate to Seoul and are keen to learn how green the city is, it's best not to ask, "Are there many parks in Seoul?", because the densely populated urban landscape may disappoint you in light of the affirmative response.

This particular Park (Ji-Sung Park to be precise) was central to the outcome of this game because having looked remarkably comfortable until then, Charlton only conceded thanks to a fortuitous deflected cross. Indeed until we began to tire late in the second half and conceded again, we were very much in the game and on another day might have secured a famous point.

It seems my 6-0 prediction was woefully disrespectful to this 'new' Charlton team, because that is certainly what they are, not least thanks to three debutants, at least two of which (Song and Zhi) were very impressive. In fairness though, my attendance prediction was only wrong by seven people. As mentioned here before, Pards has clearly instilled some belief where previously there was none, and whilst United are not the same team without Ronaldo, this was not the procession that was widely forecast. If Billy Joel was in a 'New York State of Mind', then it seems I made my prediction from here whilst still in a 'Les Reed' or 'Iain Dowie' 'State of Mind' (or Curbs? - Ed.)

As soon as Ambrose forced a fine save from an uncharacteristically strong header inside ten minutes, I dared to sense that we might give United a decent game. Admittedly Carson had already denied Park at full-stretch, but as the game wore on, whilst we did not match United's possession in either quantity or quality, we denied them space in key areas with Song particularly performing the holding role expertly. Indeed, the goal aside their only other real chance occurred thanks to the individual brilliance of Rooney who majestically controlled a long ball in such breathtaking fashion that it caused Thatcher and Diawara to collide, and it was only the slightly lazy finish which denied him one of the goals of the season.

The second half was little different, and the best chance of the half fell to Charlton on 76 minutes when a Rommedahl free-kick was flicked on by Bent only to arc tantalisingly just past the far post. Pardew's pained touchline reaction suggested he knew it was a game-turning moment, and five minutes later it proved so as Fletcher delivered the killer blow.

There were impressive performances all over the pitch from Charlton (relative admittedly to the low expectations that I had prior to kick-off), and credit ought also to go especially to Sankofa who put in his best performance for the club, Carson as usual, and also to Zhi who was introduced following Faye's injury, and showed enough neat touches and cute runs to suggest he will have more than a bit part in our relegation battle. Bougherra meanwhile is clearly a 'footballer' first and a 'defender' second, and occasionally a little less guile was required (not more), but he will have easier days than this one.

The scarcely believable result at Upton Park has ensured that we can claim a clear moral victory over Curbishley's men this evening (although it suggests Watford's obituary was written prematurely, reassuringly so perhaps with Wigan their next visitors). Sheffield United's win however over hapless Spurs makes it even clearer that it is now almost certainly 'three from four', so let's just hope Arsenal are in the mood tomorrow against Wigan to keep them in sight.

Saturday Feb 24th can scarcely come soon enough.

Friday, February 09, 2007

United preview

Whilst watching Man United destroy Spurs (5-1 victors over Charlton earlier this season incidentally), one word kept coming into my head to describe United, and that was balanced, (and then two words:'oh sh*t').

(above) Bryan Hughes looks on aghast as he realises
he's not very good.

Although the idea that Man United didn't spend much money in the summer is a bit wide of the mark (they spent more on Michael Carrick than we did in total), they clearly lagged Chelsea's wild spending yet have achieved the above balance, whilst poor Jose Mourinho wonders what to do with Michael Ballack. It explains why they're six points clear.

By balance I mean a classic 4-4-2 with genuine dangerous pacy wingers (Ronaldo, Giggs), a rock-solid core (Ferdinand, Vidic, Scholes, Carrick), excellent full-backs (Neville, Evra) and now thanks to Larsson's arrival, a genuine goalscorer to play alongside the mercurial Rooney. It really is a terrifying thought that we go there on Saturday with dire injury problems which are now compounded by Hreidarsson's problem. And with 33 goals scored and just 8 conceded in their 13 home games, if we can leave Old Trafford with our pride somewhat intact and hopefully with no further injuries, it will feel like a victory of sorts.

At least Hreidarsson's injury probably implies a debut for 'Magic' Bougherra whose cavalier approach to defending should make him a popular player for us, even if we occasionally have our hearts in our mouths. Pards has also understandably hinted that he might belt out 'A Song' (enough Song puns already - Ed.) which would seem sensible, preferably in place of the ineffectual Hughes. Hopefully he will stick with Rommedahl and Thomas whose pace represents perhaps our only realistic chance of creating something on the break.

Derek 'Killer' Hales (KillerWatch© -£621) in his usual cryptic fashion fancies 'more than 3.5 goals' which in Killer-speak means we are likely to get a right hammering. With goal difference important to us, but not so important to them, it's possible they will go easy on us after a couple of goals but I'll be watching on TV over here in a state of mind that might only be described as 'terrified'. NY Addick predicts Man Utd 6 (Rooney 2, Larsson 2, Ronaldo, Scholes), Charlton 0. Attendance: 75,876.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Just Not Cricket

In an incredible act of sporting co-operation, Lancashire County Cricket Club have agreed to loan their scoreboard to their Old Trafford neighbours Manchester United in time for the fixture versus Charlton Athletic.

"Most football scoreboards were not designed with the possibility of double-digit scores in mind," admitted L.C.C.C. captain Mark Chilton, "...though we haven't been asked to help since Crystal Palace headed to Anfield in September 1990. Luckily the extra functionality wasn't quite needed that time, but I can understand United's concerns."

United manager Sir Alex Ferguson denied that the decision smacked of arrogance, "Keeping fans informed is vital, particularly if they have a correct score forecast and are struggling to keep count eg. Ronaldo to score first, United to win 13-1."

Meanwhile Addicks supremo Alan Pardew (who ironically played in that aforementioned 9-0 drubbing) insists that news of the scoreboard change had done his teamtalk for him, "I've pinned the story on the training ground wall and the lads are really fired up," he confirmed, "...Hermann was fuming and said they were all determined to keep it down to nine or less to prove those arrogant b*stards wrong."

Latest score: Manchester United 578 all out (Ronaldo 187 n.o., Rooney 135); Charlton 76-8 (Ferdinand 5-27)

Seven Sent

Arguably the period between Curbs' last game and the appointment of Alan Pardew was a 'perfect storm' for Charlton-related bloggers. My slowdown in productivity since then reflects the fact that other than the underwhelming January transfer window, it's really now just a case of sitting, waiting and hoping.

Short of inspiration, and having been virtriolic in my criticism of Les Reed, this might thus be an appropriate juncture to compare fairly his brief record to Pardew's, because both have now overseen precisely seven Premiership games and one Cup game against lower League opposition.

In terms of points, Reed managed 4 from 7, whilst Pards managed 8 from 7, so some clear improvement there. Moreover, Pards has arguably had harder fixtures with 'big four' fixtures against Chelsea and Arsenal, compared to just Liverpool for Reed (though Pards had an extra home game). Reed did not have the benefit of a transfer window, but in fairness to Pardew only Ben Thatcher has so far had an introduction (and it required the sale of the hapless Traore to achieve), and Pards has had to deal with more injuries than his predecessor.

The two Cup defeats were both diabolical, and in the case of the Forest game at least, I could not believe what I was seeing. On that day I started to wonder if I was wrong about Reed after all, and that the late great Brian Clough would have struggled to motivate the defilers of the shirt that day. With Pards having chosen (or been required by the forces of realism) to maintain the bulk of that same squad despite the January window, we probably can't be completely certain that those types of performances are now history.

Other than the gradual improvement in results, I have been particularly impressed with Pardew's media presence. I don't know to what extent he's trained or whether he's a natural, but he exudes a sense of calm allied with conviction which clearly lifts the confidence of the fans, and one has to assume the players too. On Sky Sports News, Pardew was quoted as thanking Arsene Wenger for 'borrowing' him Alexandre Song, yet he said it with such confidence I almost missed the faux pas. Reed meanwhile was completely ill at ease in front of the cameras, and that uncertainty fed through to the fans (and indirectly to the players). Surely any fans that argued it was irrelevant so long as he got the message across on the training ground, got their answer with the subsequent performances (he didn't).

There haven't been any enormous surprises in terms of team selection, though for one if Rommedahl ultimately leaves in the summer, he can't any longer claim not to have been given a chance. I didn't expect to see Amdy Faye playing much of a role under Pards, yet he has seemingly been transformed into the type of midfielder that can ghost into the penalty box (ironically just like his manager did). He plays with wingers, regardless of whether he opts for 4-4-2 or 4-5-1 which suggests a fit Darren Bent might finally get some decent service on his return. Interestingly perhaps, it's not clear to me therefore how or where Andy Reid will eventually fit in to this system, yet it is hard to imagine doing without his creativity during the run-in. Fans meanwhile will begin to wonder whether Zheng Zhi is the 'next Omar Pouso' unless he can make a swift impression over the final twelve games.

Twelve games; it's come around worryingly quickly during this soap opera of a season. Pards reckons we need '38 or 39' points apparently, which if true will surely only see us home by the absolute skin of our teeth. Indeed I'd rather focus on 40+ points, particularly with our poor goal difference. Either way, it's an enormous challenge because even if we take 9 points from the Wigan/West Ham/Sheff Utd games, we might still require at least 9 more points from our final 9 games, no small task when you've averaged less than a point per game all season. And that of course ignores the very real possibility that we don't take anything like 9 from 9 in those three vital games! Remember I'm not a pessimist, just a realist.

I also couldn't help noticing that if you took the first 9 games that Curbs has overseen at West Ham, and added them to the final 29 games he oversaw at The Valley (thus making the equivalent of a full 38-game season), he has accumulated just 34 points, a relegation total if ever there was one. Hence if our fate is ultimately relegation, I do really hope that most fans refrain from concluding that " wouldn't have happened under Curbs..", because whilst some of the Board's decisions this season have exacerbated our fate, I don't believe that maintaining the status quo would have resulted in a much brighter outcome.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Superbowl XLI

There's only one 'superbowl' that means something to me, and that's the delightful porcelain piece purchased from our wedding registry. It's a really delightful and versatile bowl, ideal for salads. Trust me, it's super.

However, everyone else's 'Superbowl' takes place tonight in Miami when the Chicago Bears (last winners in 1986) take on the favoured Indianapolis Colts. To remind myself why I struggle to take American sport completely seriously, the Indianapolis Colts were the Baltimore Colts until 1984, playing their games 510 miles away in Maryland.

Nonetheless, I'm in a vocal minority because the rest of the country is gearing up to loosen their corporate stiffness, down several beers, scream "way to go" a lot, and just for one night at least, forget completely about how they're going to afford next year's health insurance. In fairness, we all need an excuse sometimes to let our hair down, get drunk and indulge in some energetic male bonding (and female if we're lucky). However in England, we call it 'Saturday night.'

Speaking of the English, the wife and I will be attending a Superbowl party, but there will not be a single American in attendance, albeit not by design as such (do you think it's because they read this blog? - Ed). Cue an abject lack of interest in the game long before the end of the first quarter, lots of shrugging at the infamous commercials ("..they're not as good as the ones at home are they?"..) and a sense of gratitude that at least for now, the FA Cup Final hasn't gone down this route.

Talking of American/English sporting comparisons, it was interesting to get confirmation that the New York Giants will play the Miami Dolphins at Wembley next season in a genuine regular season match-up. I'm not sure how the local Dolphins fans feel about it given they are losing a home game, but I must admit I think it's a marketing piece of genius from the NFL. Somehow sending over two teams for a friendly just wouldn't have had the same effect, and I'm sure it will be a sell-out. There have also been rumours of a similar Major League Baseball game, probably at The Oval, so watch this space.

As abhorrent as it might sound, I bet you there are several Premiership chairmen who would be tempted by replicating a proper League game in the US. It's probably not as far-fetched as it sounds in my view, particularly for the midsized clubs, because the television rights and ticket sales would potentially be very large for a one-off game (and far exceed normal matchday income). There was a time when the possibility of all-seater stadia, lunchtime TV kick-offs and all-foreign Premiership XIs would have been considered unthinkable, but yet us mugs the fans are still lapping it all up.

Tonight Peyton Manning (brother of the oft-criticised New York Giants quarterback Eli) is expected to lead the Colts to victory, although a forecast for rain showers in Miami might act as a leveller that gives the underdog Bears a fighting chance. NY Addick predicts: Colts 31, Bears 17.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

It Takes Two

Today was unlikely to be an especially productive one for Charlton, so I am not particularly despondent, but I had perhaps not anticipated how (relatively) medicore Chelsea would be and thus a small part of me feels the game was an opportunity lost.

Wigan's not unexpected home win over rapidly deteriorating Pompey was a disappointment, but likewise defeats for West Ham and Sheffield United against midtable opposition ensured that we did not lose too much ground today even if the Premiership table looks a little uglier for us. Wigan will have harder afternoons than today's, and we will have easier ones.

To use a golfing analogy, our season has become a matchplay tournament and is no longer a strokeplay one ie. it is the points we gain relative to the teams around us that matter, not so much the total points accumulated. Unfortunately to take the analogy a step further, we are currently the equivalent of about three holes down with nine to play, and hence we cannot really afford not to win the vital home games against the three teams directly above us. I believe that anything less than seven points would probably seal our fate, and moreover any defeats, particularly against Wigan or Sheffield United would leave us with an insurmountable mountain to climb.

Yesterday I suggested that Pards should revert back to 4-4-2, and not necessarily be blindly loyal to the eleven that picked up four points on the road. By the time he realised at half-time that I was probably correct, we were already one down to an avoidable goal. The strike was typical of Lampard who was afforded too much space firstly when Faye conceded possession, and then when Hreidarsson inexplicably chose to back off him instead of closing him down. However despite their superiority of first-half possession, they did little else to trouble us which in itself makes me wonder what might have been had we matched their formation from the start.

As soon as Hasselbaink replaced Rommedahl, we looked far more likely to retain the ball now that we had two outlets up front, and it was from some neat interplay that we created the outstanding chance for Faye. Although he forced a good save from Cech, in truth he should have scored and a simpler sidefooted finish would have ensured such an outcome. A second chance later in the game for the same player was less clear-cut, but again he showed all the conviction of a player with one lifetime Premiership goal to his name.

Admittedly Chelsea now looked more dangerous on the break as we pushed forward, and Carson produced a wonderful low save from Wright-Phillips, whilst Kalou shaved the post. Indeed Carson was excellent again throughout, and it's a shame that he will miss our final game at Liverpool because their fans deserve to see the rapturous send-off he will get from the visiting fans, regardless of whether we are already relegated. Let's hope he goes on to make a name for himself on a bigger stage than The Valley because he deserves to.

Having watched the Villa vs West Ham game, it is clear that they are in desperate trouble too and the body language of Curbs suggests he well knows it. What odds he spends 15 years at Charlton and less than 15 months at the Hammers? However we may run the risk of focusing too much on our East London neighbours, and despite the pressure cooker atmosphere that will no doubt exist on Feb 24, in truth the bigger games are the Wigan and Sheffield United ones.

Next stop: Old Trafford.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Chelsea Preview

Jose Mourinho brings his miserable bunch of overpaid, overhyped underperformers to The Valley tomorrow. For me, they sum up everything that is wrong with the Premiership, and perhaps I wouldn't mind so much if they were good to watch like Man Utd, Arsenal or Liverpool.

Whilst our Premiership survival will be dictated by fixtures other than this one, it is imperative that we do not go onto the field either here or at Old Trafford next weekend with one eye on the six-pointer with West Ham, because we can't discount the possiblity we'll be six points behind them by then. The Hammers themselves have proved that the big teams are beatable, and we should have that attitude too.

Interestingly Pards seems to concur, declaring that "We have worked hard on certain individuals to try to get them in the right frame of mind and convince them that our target is achievable - and that all the games are winnable, regardless of the opposition." Who is he referring to I wonder?

Pards is most likely to stick with the same starting eleven that took four points from two tough away games, though whether this loyalty is necessarily the optimal strategy is a debatable point. The 4-5-1 formation is ideal for awaydays, but his preference for 4-4-2 might be displayed tomorrow in my view, perhaps with Kevin Lisbie returning to provide a pacier foil for Marcus Bent than JFH. It would be harsh to consider dropping either El Karkouri or Hreidarsson after Wednesday's heroics, but Pards might be tempted (and be advised in my view) to shift El Karkouri to right-back and slot Bougherra (if fit) or Diawara into the centre.

The return of John Terry has received much fanfare, but they will be without the likes of A Cole, J Cole and Robben which is reassuring for those playing on the right side for Charlton. It is in the centre of midfield however where most games are won and lost, and it is here where the greatest cause for pessimism exists such is the depth of their options here.

Derek 'Killer' Hales (KillerWatch© -£571), fresh from a rare success on Wednesday, is again predicting a draw at the more generous odds of 10/3. Whilst I'm confident that we will approach the game in the right manner and not simply roll over as we did versus Liverpool, I cannot see us having the quality to hold out for 90 minutes for that precious point. NY Addick predicts: Charlton 0, Chelsea 2 (Lampard, Drogba); Attendance: 26,991

A Plea to the Premier League

This morning I awoke to the extraordinary news that West Ham and Portsmouth are facing investigation into the alleged use of ineligible players. Strangely perhaps, it is the actions of West Ham rather than Portsmouth which trouble me the most, and demand the most throrough of examinations.

There's a bit of 'previous' here too as you might recall, because West Ham were thrown out of the League Cup after the infamous 'Manny Omininyi' affair. To quote a baseball term, for me it should very much be a case of 'two strikes and you're out' (I think it's three - Ed.)

There are few things that threaten the very integrity of our beautiful game than the fielding of ineligible players. The fans can overlook hooliganism; we can disregard the occasional bung and we can certainly turn a blind eye to allegations of wife-beating, alcoholism, gambling addiction and roastings. However the use of ineligible players eats away like a cancer at the very heart of what sport should be.

To my knowledge, Charlton have never fielded an ineligible player. Incompetent, ineffectual and inept yes, but never ineligible. And you know what, Curbs knew it too which is perhaps why he left. There were strong rumours (subsequently denied) that towards the end of last season he knocked on Richard Murray's door and said, "Ronaldinho's in London shopping this weekend....any chance we could throw him in against 'Boro and call him 'Lloyd Sam'? After all no-one knows what Lloyd Sam looks like 'cos I've never played him."

Naturally whilst 'Minty' was tempted what with positional prize money at stake, he knew the fans would never stomach it. Anyhow I refuse to believe there's much in the rumour either given his reputation for purity; Curbs was after all famously quoted as saying, "I'd rather lose a match than leave someone up for corners."

I've had a bit of 'previous' myself when it comes to ineligble players and I've seen the damage it causes. When I was living in London, I ran a Sunday league team and the temptation to 'play a ringer' was never too far away. One Sunday morning for example, my patience was tested by my goalkeeper who rang me and informed me "I don't know where I am" in a hungover drawl. "Have you tried going outside to take a look?," I replied helpfully, resigning myself to taking the field with ten men.

So the next time we were short, I enlisted the help of my friend Stuart (6-foot, ginger, WASP) and asked him if he minded being Jon (5-foot 5, Jewish) for the duration of the game. When a dangerous cross was entering our penalty box, I had enough on my plate trying to avoid having to head it without worrying that I needed to remember to stop referring to 'Jon' as 'Stuart'. It was only when the third goal for which Jon/Stuart was directly at fault for bulged the net, that I began to realise factors other than confusion over his name might be at work.

So it is with a touch of nostalgia (which isn't what it used to be incidentally), and a heavy heart that today I appeal to the Premier League to do what is right, and preserve the very decency of the sport and West Ham's proud history. As Epictetus put it, "First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do."

So it is in the memory of the late great Bobby Moore, in the name of Geoff Pike, Pat Holland and George Parris, and in the name of all true and decent lovers of football, that New York Addick today demands an immediate ten-point deduction and the requirement that West Ham field only eligible players such as Jonathan Spector and Christian Dailly in all remaining games.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

In The Air Tonight

"I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh lord....Ive been waiting for this moment, all my life, oh lord....Can you feel it coming in the air tonight, oh lord, oh lord..."

I'm no particular fan of Phil Collins, but the lyrics of his drum-laden single from 1981 have mysteriously appeared in my head, and not just because Bolton's tactics ensured the ball spent most of the time "In the Air Tonight."

When I wrote a post entitled 'Manic Compression' on 1 Dec 2006, I was concerned that the compression of the Premiership table at that time would take the points required for safety towards an irretrievable level. However, I perhaps couldn't reasonably have envisaged that Wigan and West Ham would subsequently take just 4 and 6 points respectively from a possible 33. With Watford unable to put any sort of run together, an almighty three-way battle is emerging over 17th place, and with home games to come against both adversaries, make no mistake.....Charlton are currently best placed to win it! Being 'best placed' currently doesn't take into account West Ham's recent spending nor our forthcoming fixtures, but let's not dwell on such realism.

The Pardew era has so far brought eight points from six Premiership games. However far more importantly I have again witnessed with my own eyes that it has brought some guts and belief and the very 'never-say-die' attitude that was so tragically missing through that awful Nov/Dec period. And reassuringly (and not entirely coincidentally of course in West Ham's case), our mini-revival is occurring just as West Ham and Wigan appear hell-bent on self-destruction.

After six minutes this evening however, the tunnel was out-of-sight, let alone the light at the end of it. Bolton's goal will be a horror show when Pards reviews it on Thursday morning.....a combination of Sankofa, Hughes and Hreidarsson engaged in a chivalrous 'after you' sequence, allowing Pedersen more room than the Addicks fans received in the near-empty stand behind the goal.

Our equaliser was somewhat fortuitous of course, but it was strong evidence to back up a general view that I have with regard to free-kicks. In short, whilst the 'curler' into the top corner is aesthetically pleasing, the outcome is very much a binary's either an unlikely goal, or else a soft save or goal-kick results. Alternatively, when the ball is slammed low, hard and on-target (particularly on a wet pitch) then there is a greater propensity for 'good things to happen' either directly or via a fumble/parry/deflection* (*delete as appropriate). You won't see El Karkouri's goal in MOTD's 'Goal of the Month' competition, but you don't have to draw pretty pictures on the scoreboard.

The goal sucked the momentum out of Bolton, and for the remainder of the half whilst they undoubtedly dominated possession, they did not create a single meaningful chance (though young referee Lee Trobert might well have succumbed to at least one of two solid penalty shouts). The second half continued in a similar vein; Bolton were permitted plenty of possession but with the injured Anelka unable to provide any pace, Hreidarsson and El Karkouri defended the aerial bombardment heroically, and were rarely forced to face their own goal. Most importantly, the back four never fell into Bolton's trap and successfully held a relatively high line throughout.

Whilst the central defence deserves to take the plaudits, in front of them both Faye and Holland competed manfully, and allowed Bolton possession only where they couldn't hurt us. Indeed one brave challenge from Faye in the 67th minute was potentially worth a point alone. Ben Thatcher at left-back was again rock solid, although sadly I remain very unconvinced that Sankofa is Premiership quality. Several daft free-kicks were conceded, and whilst stopping an opposition attack in its tracks is often a recommended (albeit illegal) tactic, someone needed to remind him that set-pieces are Bolton's attacks.

Of those not mentioned, Carson's handling was impeccable, Hughes was quiet, Rommedahl was rarely involved, Thomas occasionally looked dangerous, and Bent had one of his better games. Credit ought to go too to Pardew for some sensible substitutions that ensured three pairs of fresh legs on the field at the end, without sacrificing either the formation or the gameplan.

Despite the Forest debacle, it is pretty clear that we are improving markedly under Pardew and I can honestly say that for the first time in a very long while, I am cautiously optimistic about our survival prospects. Our relegation odds have not changed despite this brave point because as the punters know only too well, it's Chelsea and Man Utd next from which even a single point gained would be an enormous boost.

Wigan meanwhile face Portsmouth (H), Arsenal (A) and Watford (A), and West Ham face Villa (A) and Reading (A). As a result, the Premiership table which tonight looks promising might have a very different look by the time Curbs returns to The Valley with his merry band of former Charlton players. But until then, let's just wallow in that sense that something really is "In The Air Tonight" (and that something is hope).