Saturday, September 29, 2007

Does Curbs manage the Mets?

Thanks to an end-of-season collapse which led me to wonder if Curbs might somehow be involved with the New York Mets, my adopted baseball team no longer has its destiny in its own hands as the regular season enters its final weekend.

On Sept 12th, the Mets led the National League Eastern Division by 7 games, with just 17 remaining. Despite the fact that their main rivals for the title (the Philadelphia Phillies) have won 12 of their 15 games since then, it implied the supposedly inform Mets only needed to find 6 wins (generally against poor opposition) in order to keep their noses in front.

In a fashion which Charlton fans would surely recognise, the Mets have managed just 4 wins over that period, and thus find themselves one game behind the Phillies with two games remaining. In short, they've bottled it.

A defeat today for the Mets combined with a win for the Phillies, would see the Mets eliminated, and any dreams that the city would have of another Yankees/Mets World Series would be dashed. With both New York teams building sparkling new stadiums in the car parks of their existing (and increasingly dilapidated) stadiums, it would have sent a message to the rest of baseball that the city intends to dominate the sport for years to come. Alas, in typical Mets fashion, these hopes appear to have been dashed.

The Yankees have clinched their place in the play-offs by virtue of being the best-placed second team from the three American League divisions (gaining the so-called 'wild card.'). This option is likely not available to the Mets in their National League because the San Diego Padres currently lie second in the Western Division with a superior record. Elsewhere, Boston Red Sox, Arizona Diamondbacks, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Anaheim Angels and everyone's second favourite team, the Chicago Cubs have made it to the post-season.

I suspect most neutrals would fancy a Boston Red Sox versus Chicago Cubs match-up, and thus putting the team who finally ended their 86-year jinx in 2004 against the one who have failed to win since 1908. Moreover, for those romantics amongst us, they play in the two most atmospheric and quaint stadiums in the country.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Coventry preview

The sight of Iain Dowie is enough to make Charlton fans (and ladies too I suspect) run a mile. Thus, shortly after kick-off time I will be doing exactly that, participating in the Continental Airlines Fifth Avenue Mile, which as the name suggests, involves belting it down the middle of Fifth Avenue. I originally set myself the rather ambitious goal of breaking six minutes, but I've just find out that Cory Gibbs is the pacemaker.

A disproportionate amount has been written about Iain Dowie's short reign as Charlton manager. I've tended to fall down on the more sympathetic side of the debate, arguing that the Board must take considerable blame not only for his appointment, but also for seemingly granting him free access to the club's chequebook. Were enough questions being asked about how well he knew the signings, and whether they represented value for money?

It would also have been a hellishly difficult task for any (realistic) new manager to follow in the footsteps of Curbs, especially as he himself had begun to undo much of his outstanding work during his final couple of seasons. It is worth recalling too that Curbs had several seasons to get things right and leave his indelible mark on the club (it is ironic that one of his first signings was Alan Pardew). Moreover, by virtue of the fact that he was basically not given any money, he implicitly couldn't really waste it. Cue the cutprice signings of the likes of John Robinson, Mark Robson and Phil Chapple, all solid pros that would play their part in our subsequent success. There were no Afican mercenaries because we couldn't afford the flight there.

How many Chairmen today would give a manager fully seven seasons to gain promotion, even in such trying circumstances? It was testament as much to the long-term outlook of Charlton's board, as it was to Curbs' abilities, that the club had such a vital Premiership decision to make in the summer of 2006. For this reason alone, we ought to forgive them their mistakes.

My most radical suggestion however is that we might well have stayed up had he been permitted to remain as manager for the whole season. It sounds crazy, but the turmoil caused by not only his sacking, but also the subsequently botched appointment of Les Reed, gave Pards a near-impossible job when he arrived. The fact that he nearly pulled off a relegation miracle with essentially the same squad, makes one wonder if Dowie might not have gone one better; they were his signings after all.

Nonetheless, the above speculation does not change the fact that it was the wrong appointment for Charlton, although it equally doesn't change the fact that Dowie has an excellent record as a manager in the Championship. Since taking over Coventry who were in a degree of disarray, he guided them to safety, and in 2007/8 has guided them to 8th place and a famous win at Old Trafford. His overall managerial record in the Championship reads as follows:

Coventry P20 W8 D5 L7 (Pts per game: 1.45)
Palace P68 W35 D15 L18 (Pts per game: 1.76)
TOTAL P88 W43 D20 L25 (Pts per game: 1.69)

An average points per game of 1.69 implies a total of 78 points during a 46-game season, enough to guarantee the play-offs, and challenge for automatic promotion. We can laugh at his signings for Charlton, or the unfortunate way that he looks, but we ought not to laugh at his record in the Championship.

With this in mind, the high-flying Addicks arrive with a very different mindset to the United-conquering Sky Blues that they will be facing. Football psychology works in strange ways, and there's every chance it will work in our favour. Coventry took 11,000 fans to Old Trafford, more than twice as many that saw our defeat at Luton in total. We can shrug it off as an unfortunate (but hardly devastating) defeat for our reserve team; Coventry may still have their heads in the clouds.

Coventry City are one of those medium-sized clubs that it is difficult to dislike, punching above their weight as they did for so long, yet surrounded by clubs with far stronger support bases. A Charlton for the Midlands if you will. The club probably never got the respect they deserved for their unbelievably long stint in the top flight (34 years, ending in 2001), and since relegation they have retained a degree of stability, without ever threatening a return to the Premiership (they have finished 11th, 20th, 12th, 19th, 8th and 17th respectively).

We will be making our first visit to the Ricoh Stadium, named after Bruce Ricoh, the former Millwall, Bolton and Arsenal manager, who strangely never had any particular link to Coventry. Unlike some other clubs like Leicester or Middlesbrough, whose stadiums had disintegrated into ramshackled dereliction, there never seemed too much wrong with Highfield Road. Given the banks of empty seats regularly seen at the Ricoh, there's perhaps a lesson therein for those that still wish to materially expand The Valley.

Pards will want to dwell on the positives that emerged from the sorry night at Kenilworth Road, namely the return of Yassin Moutouakil and Matt Holland after injury, and the French right-back especially will be pushing for a start tomorrow. However on the back of two home Championship wins last week, Pards might be advised to opt for the exact same eleven that triumphed over Leicester, and I expect he will.

NY Addick predicts: Coventry 1 (Adebola), Charlton 2 (Reid, Varney) Att: 19,210.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Luton preview

A win against Leicester which sounded comfortable rather than emphatic, is followed tomorrow night by a third consecutive Carling Cup tie against lower-league opposition.

As I did for the Colchester game, I watched the surprisingly high-quality video feed for 'Gillette Soccer Saturday' from Sky Sports, presented by the outrageously smooth Jeff Stelling, and his assorted band of recovering alcoholics. This is an interesting and new option for us neglected foreign Addicks.

I also learnt from a Burnley-supporting friend in NYC, that a subscription to one Championship team's audio commentary service permits you to tune in to any team's service. In other words, for about £35 for the season, we will be able to listen to commentary on Charlton's matches (albeit given by a cheerleader for the opposition). I have not tried it yet myself, so I reserve the right to be wrong, although my friend assured me he tuned in to some commentary from The Valley on Saturday to test it out. I believe this option would apply for all matches except the ones against Southampton.

Anyhow, back to matters on the pitch. It is easy to be apathetic about the Carling Cup, especially during its very early stages, but the draw has been kind to us, and with a last sixteen berth firmly within our grasp, we can have distant dreams of Wembley and the UEFA Cup (steady on - Ed.)

My Leicester-supporting friend accused me of hubris on Friday when I suggested that Charlton could field not just one, but two teams, each of which could win the Championship this season. That may not necessarily a) be true, or b) a blessing, since Pards must keep our large squad happy throughout this long season. However before accusing me of overdosing on St John's Wort, take a look at these two potential elevens that Pards could field, and notably neither includes Cory Gibbs, the joker in our pack:

1. Weaver, Mills, Thatcher, Bougherra, Fortune, Reid, Sinclair, Racon, Sam, Todorov, Varney.

2. Randolph, Moutouakil, Powell, McCarthy, Semedo, Ambrose, Holland, Zheng, Thomas, Iwelumo, McLeod.

Kenilworth Road is arguably the most unpleasant football ground in the country, a mismash of stands hemmed in by a railway line and gardens. There's also usually a good reason why a town is best known for its airport, offering as it does a quick and easy escape route. The last time I was there was 2 Jan 1995, arguably the coldest I have ever felt at a football match, warmed up only ever so slightly by a narrow 1-0 win we recorded there.

Following the reunions with Kevin Lisbie and Radostin Kishishev in the past week, we can now complete the 'holy trinity' of recent free transfers, thanks to facing up to Chris Perry, who was somewhat prematurely released at the end of 2005/2006. Despite the likelihood of Pards resting several key players, and despite Luton having some 'form' in this competition (they won it after all in the 1980s), I expect us to continue our strong vein of form.

NY Addick predicts: Luton 0, Charlton 1 (Todorov). Attn: 4,921.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Women's World Cup

Having criticised Charlton's (now reversed) decision to close their women's team, I this morning decided to put right my somewhat paradoxical parallel viewpoint, that I actually had no interest in watching women's football. What better way to start than a World Cup semi-final between my country of birth and my country of residence?

I watched the game with my American 7-month old son, which allowed us to indulge in some good old-fashioned banter (or 'trash talk' as they call it here). I told him his team 'sucked', he just 'sucked' (on his dummy).

When the USA scored their first goal, I feigned indifference and told him I didn't care much for soccer anyway (which confused him as his middle name is Charlton). Unfortunately all of this mickey-taking left him crying long before the final whistle, which proves what I always thought....Americans don't have a sense of humour.

In fairness, I was mildly surprised that the standard was higher than I'd imagined, at least until the USA's third goal which was a shambles. The patterns of play at least suggested the players knew where the ball should go, even if they weren't always able to make it go there. It's probably too much to expect the winger for example, to drop a shoulder and whip in a cross, but then again I watched Dennis Rommedahl for three years and he never managed it either.

Some of the players were surprisingly attractive too, which added to the spectacle. It reminded me of an ex-girlfriend who used to express a keen interest in joining me at Charlton matches, until it emerged she was only there to see Steve Brown. I recall 'rugged' was the word she used (he was often run 'ragged' too, but that's a different story).

Unfortunately some were less attractive, or to use a technical term, rather androgynous, occupying that grey twilight between man and woman. It got me thinking that they ought to have their own separate World Cup? Perhaps Rommedahl could play.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Leicester preview

Watford's win at Cardiff has robbed us of the possibility of moving top of the Championship this weekend, but nonetheless we have another excellent chance to consolidate our position as one of the early front runners.

Fresh from providing Nottingham Forest with a 'free goal' during Tuesday's replayed Carling Cup tie, Leicester arrive at The Valley with two former favourites in tow, Radostin Kishishev and Shaun Newton.

Now without wishing to be demeaning to Kish, he's been known to give away the odd 'free goal' himself from time to time, but he will deserve (and receive) a warm welcome back to the club which he left as one of its longest-serving players. It was a slight surprise that Pards let him go given that he ought to have had something to offer in the Championship, but then again he would have struggled to win a place ahead of the likes of Zheng, Semedo and Racon. He was never technically good enough to become a true 'hero', but he eventually won even the most ardent unbelievers in the end.

Newton meanwhile has seen his career stutter since leaving Charlton for Wolves, and it is hard to believe that the fresh-faced youngster who made his debut in 1993, is now 32-years old and fully in the twilight of his career. His drugs ban (which occurred whilst playing under Pards), had done him few favours, and it is fair to assume that his fondest career memories exist firmly at Charlton. To name just a couple, that goal against Ipswich in the play-off semi-final, and the reluctant way he cheekily converted a penalty in the ensuing final, warrant a similarly warm reception.

Leicester have started poorly, not helped by the somewhat inexplicable sacking of Martin Allen, apparently due to an unwillingness to sign Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink (what were you thinking Martin?). They now have Gary Megson in charge, a manager who has done the rounds, without fully convincing of his ability, except perhaps during his spell at WBA. If nothing else, they will be fired up to prove a point to their new gaffer.

We do not have a fantastic recent record against Leicester, especially away from home, although this particular fixture does tend to generate some memorable moments, for example Shaun Bartlett's stunning 'Goal of the Season' volley, or Steve Brown's ridiculous dismissal for handball whilst falling over. Unfortunately we also lost a vital FA Cup tie in 2004/5, having been gift-wrapped a route to the quarter-finals.

Those with longer memories will recall the game at Upton Park in 1991/92, when an unusually large crowd (boosted by several thousand Foxes), saw a David Whyte-inspired Charlton side play magnificently to win, and dent Leicester's automatic promotion hopes (they eventually lost in the play-off final).

Unlike most of the other teams we have faced so far this season, Leicester will arrive with plenty of recognisable players, even excluding those without a Charlton connection. The likes of Bruno N'Gotty, Stephen Clemence, Carl Cort, DJ Campbell, and Elvis Hammond will be familiar to many, although that's not to say Leicester will be any better for that.

Pards appeared satisfied with Tuesday's performance, and thus his main selection headache would seem to concern whether McLeod impressed enough, and Todorov is fit enough, to shift either Iwelumo or Varney from their starting berths. Unfortunately for the two protagonists, they are beginning to appear to offer the biggest threat when emerging from the bench, although I must confess to a soft spot for Toddy.

A fit Yassin Moutouakil would surely win back his place from Danny Mills, but there seems little upside to rushing him back with a capable replacement comfortable enough. At the back, it is hard to imagine that either Sodje, or McCarthy (against his former club) will threaten Tuesday's clean sheet partnership. In midfield proud new Dad, Darren Ambrose may start in place of Lloyd Sam, whilst do not be surprised if Jerome Thomas fails to make the 16 again.

When all is said and done, I would expect us to line up as follows: Weaver, Mills, Powell, Fortune, Bougherra, Zheng, Semedo, Reid, Ambrose, Iwelumo, Varney. Subs: Randolph, McCarthy, Todorov, McLeod, Racon.

NY Addick predicts: Charlton 2 (Varney, Reid), Leicester 0. Att: 22, 109.

Sperm Aside

News has reached me of a sperm shortage that has devastated childless couples across New York. Having been blessed with a child of my own just seven months ago, this saddens me greatly.

But the city is not short of any old sperm. Perhaps not entirely surprisingly, classic hunky New Yorkers with surnames like O'Malley or Lombardi, are less in demand (yet in abundant supply) compared with their Scandinavian brethren. I mean, who wouldn't want to breed a son with the fighting quality of Jonatan Johansson, or the raw courage of Claus Jensen?

Now, I can trace my roots to the Baltics which, in a time of crisis, is close enough, and I've got the blonde hair which occasionally has me mistaken for a Scandinavian (I think you'll find it's German - Ed.). What better way to give thanks to my adopted city, than to quite literally sow the seeds of a brand new life there?

Thus it will be with a sense, not so much of willing but duty, that I intend to present myself tomorrow morning at the clinic, carrying nothing more than a specimen bottle, a photo of the wife and a healthy imagination. And after I have undertaken my duty, I shall gaze up at the Manhattan skyline, and recall the poignant words of poet, Rupert Brooke:

"If I should die, think only this of me,
That there's some corner of a foreign field,
That is for ever England."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

No Way Jose

"Football fans across the country were in mourning tonight following confirmation that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho..."

No, no that's not right, we're not mourning at all because it's a rare victory for true football lovers. Not that I have anything particular against Mourinho, indeed unlike Wenger and Benitez for example, at least he has a personality, even if it had morphed from the ironic to the self-absorbed long before the end.

It's a moment to rejoice because of everything that Chelsea represent, and everything that tonight's announcement implies. Despite having taken Chelsea to 2nd and a semi-final in the Champions League, the much-loved Claudio Ranieri was cast aside to make way for the chosen one, a former Champions League winner who would surely take Chelsea not only to Premiership glory (as if Roman cared about that), but to European glory too. Abramovich was used to getting what he wanted; Mourinho was his executor, and he didn't expect to be disappointed.

As it transpired, Mourinho's final game in charge summed up the truth about Chelsea.....a medium-sized club pumped full of egos, shorn of fans and unable to cast aside the very best that Norway had to offer. (There were nearly as many at The Valley last night against the very best that Norwich had to offer.)

Chelsea were the first example of real foreign money being pumped into the game (and from one of Europe's richest men no less), but more worringly for genuine fans, the first concerted attempt to create a football 'brand', that unlike say Liverpool or Man Utd, was not rooted in a century of trophies and glory nights. Winning was the only goal, style was irrelevant.

As an away fan, when you walk into Anfield for example, the sense of tradition and passion is overwhelming. The fact that the stadium lies bang in the middle of one of the most deprived inner cities in the country merely adds to the aura of the place. Compare this to Stamford Bridge, as you stroll down the well-to-do Kings Road, past the half-empty hotel complex and into the characterless stadium that, at least when it hosted a dog track, had the semblance of some soul. Anfield brings memories of Hansen, Highway and Hunt; Stamford Bridge, Gordon Durie. Christ, even Kevin Lisbie scored a winner there.

There's nothing inherently wrong with this approach per se. After all, Charlton's 'brand' development has been a cornerstone of its own success, focusing on family values, affordable tickets and community spiritedness. But Chelsea appeared to decide that nastiness would be their cornerstone, from Peter Kenyon's unfathomably large ego to their flamboyant transfer policy that, as is now obvious, focused on the size of the fee, not the size of the heart.

Even Frank Lampard, apparently deep down a decent and philanthropic type, has been turned into an utterly charmless figure, booed even by fans of England. Now I can't even watch him celebrate a goal without wanting to wretch. That's what Chelsea have brought to English football.

For most of the 1980s and 1990s, Chelsea were a yo-yo club, their fans bowing to QPR in bragging rights, and playing their football in one of the most unpleasant and fearsome 'stadiums' in the land. As recently as the late 1980s, they played a midweek Division One fixture in front of less than 10,000 fans. Who could forget that vital 1-1 draw Charlton had against them in 1988 when Carl Leaburn went bonkers, and Paul Miller looped home an equaliser? I can't, I was sat in the Chelsea end (and a charming lot they were too).

They are not a big club, but by chance they happen to be situated amongst the most expensive real estate in the world. Cue a ticketing policy that was firmly focused upon attracting those that can pay, rather than those that cared. Last night's attendance was the inevitable result.

This is a pivotal moment for Chelsea. Abramovich has made it clear that he will not (and probably unbelievably cannot) continue to bankroll the club to the same degree. Whilst there are plenty of managers that would jump at the chance, why should they be any more successful than Mourinho, whose players patently adored him? Blackburn and Villa have already proved that you no longer have to go fear Chelsea, so Milan and Barcelona are unlikely to be quaking in their boots.

The newspapers in the coming days will no doubt be full of gossip about behind-the-scenes bust-ups and dressing room interference. It would be wildly optimistic to hope that Abramovich would walk away and leave the club destitute, but then again who could he sell it to who would take on the debt he is owed? Either way, let's just assume he's lost at least a sliver of hope that he can fulfil his footballing dreams in this fashion, and may one day spend his money elsewhere. In the meantime, let's revel in a rare moment of schadenfreude because tonight, football is the winner.

An Open Letter

An open letter to the Prime Minister:

Dear Prime Minister

In light of the government's bailout of the shareholders and depositors of Northern Rock, there is another unfortunate situation I wish to bring to your attention. It concerns another sector of the financial services industry (turf accountancy), a horse called Lucky Boy, and the 3.15 race at Haydock.

On 22nd August 2007, I entered the offices of a turf accountant on the Charing Cross Road. Upon entering the premises, I happened across a tramp who assured me that Lucky Boy at 6/4 was a safe investment. His exact words were, "....I'd put my mortgage on it. Spare some change for a cup of tea?" I did not enquire whether he was a client of Northern Rock.

Following his advice, I deposited a crisp £20 note into the hands of the teller, with the following clear instructions: "Lucky Boy in the 3.15 please, sweetheart. To win." At no point did the turf accountant imply that I may lose some or all of my deposit.

I returned shortly after 3.15 to collect my investment, and was informed that funds would not be forthcoming. The turf accountant advised me without emotion that, "...Lucky Boy didn't like the firm ground." In light of the wet summer we were having, I had presumed the going was "good to soft, soft in places", but the turf accountant negligently failed to offer this advice.

However I am now relieved that the government intends to recompense all those who take risks but lose money, and would thus be grateful if you would send a cheque for £20 at your convenience.

Please be assured of my continued support in the next general election.

Yours sincerely

New York Addick

ps - for your records, I also have a bet on Charlton to win the Championship at 9/1. This may require reimbursement in May 2008.

cc. Mr David Cameron
cc. Mr Mervyn King
cc. Mr William Hill

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Pens Mightier Than The Sword

As has been pointed out on other blogs, following Charlton from abroad is a throw back to the old days, when we would eagerly wait for the next day's newspaper, or sit up a tree with a shortwave radio trying to access the World Service.

Even Radio 5 was out of bounds thanks to the distribution of radio rights for the Champions League, and as I possess an IQ greater than 75, Talksport was out of the question.

Hence I was reduced to staring emotionless at the Sky Sports Score Centre, before alas on 85 minutes, I was given the only information I required: Reid, 85 (pen). Cue a shout of "get in" that was somewhat out of place in an office environment. As mindless as it seemed at times, it certainly beat the only realistic alternative: following the BBC text commentary, and learning that Danny Mills had taken a throw-in in the 14th minute.

It is exciting on the one hand, but it's also daft. Surely someone at the club can knock some heads together and give us some audio commentary? I mean we're not asking for much, just Steve Brown and that other fella.

Pards showed he would be no respecter of Premiership reputations, dropping the talents of Thomas and Ambrose, as well as McCarthy and the injured Todorov. The best news of the night occurred before kick-off however, when we learnt that Yassin Moutaouakil's absence was shorter than feared; few players have impressed me on their Charlton debuts as much as the young Frenchman.

Having seen the penalties on Sky Sports News, the first seemed clear-cut (but wholly unnecessary), whilst the second was questionable, but probably irrelevant to the final outcome, a fifth Charlton win in eight competitive fixtures. Andy Reid finished both with aplomb, suggesting he is relishing the confidence that comes with regular football, and an adoring crowd.

So despite the question marks over some performances (especially defensive ones), we nonetheless sit pretty in 3rd place, behind a boorish Watford side and a Bristol City team enjoying their temporary moment of glory. I was criticised for my optimistic views on our chances following the Sheffield Weds game, but we're the class act in this division, make no mistake (and now as narrow as 9/2 to win the title). As the old song you're gonna believe us, we're gonna win the League.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


(not Charlton related)

I began studying for an economics degree in October 1992. It was an unusually opportune time because just two weeks earlier, the pound had crashed out of the ERM despite the Chancellor's attempts to raise interest rates from 10% to 15% in the space of a day.

Not surprisingly the first essay we were set discussed the somewhat novel (to us at least) concept of 'credibility' as it pertained to central bank policy. For some reason, it has stuck in my mind long after I realised that most of what I learned at university was bunk, and not just because I tested the tutor's humour tolerance by describing the episode as Lamont-able (he laughed luckily, but then again he supported Ipswich).

It seems us credibility theorists have had to wait 15 years (to the day amazingly) to watch it being tested to the full again. Back in 1992, George Soros (who is wealthier than some central banks, and for good reason) knew full well that the government and the country would prefer to surrender to a collapsing pound (and inflation), rather than tolerate the severe recession and unemployment that 15% interest rates would have implied. He knew they were not credible, and he was right.

Incredibly (no pun intended), Gordon Brown has given the go ahead for the Bank of England to effectively underwrite the entire UK banking system. Let's say (as looks increasingly likely) one or both of Alliance & Leicester and Bradford & Bingley confirm they are facing similar problems financing operations from the wholesale markets. Is he going to allow those banks to fail, whilst continuing to uphold his support for Northern Rock? Are Northern Rock savers going to benefit from an odd version of 'first mover advantage'?

The answer is "of course not" to both questions. But what if other banks begin to fail also, then the government/Bank of England faces the problem that it might conceivably be unable to afford to bail them out, in the absence of crushing tax rises and a certain recession. If they lose their credibility at that point, they risk a full-scale run on the banks, not a contained one. Even to the extent they can afford it, the implication is that the hard-earned taxpayer's money will be spent buying a portfolio of buy-to-let mortgages. Alistair Darling as your landlord? Now there's a terrifying prospect.

Once again their credibility is being tested, and the smarter investors know it (witness the final-hour collapse in Alliance & Leicester's share price on Monday). This clearly threatens the supposed independence of the Bank of England (upon which so much of the UK's apparent economic success has been founded), and potentially the government itself, given that it is so patently a political decision. After all, weren't we told that Northern Rock was solvent just last Friday, implying the 'silver savers' queuing were panicking unnecessarily? It's been pointed out that some of them were old enough to remember the 1929 crash. So what's changed?

I'm writing this post before markets re-open in London on Tuesday, and by the time I wake markets may have re-found their poise, and the panic may be over for now. But if the truth be told, Northern Rock should have been allowed to fail and the potential ramifications of it not having done so (yet), are potentially far more grave. Savers need to learn a lesson here too: Don't lend money to a bank that issues 125% mortgages and expect it to be risk-free, and more importantly, don't put all your eggs in one basket. Be prepared for the 'Black Swan'.

I suppose on the one hand, it was inevitable that having done so much to emphasise the City's role in the UK economy to such a disproprotionate degree, that Gordon Brown would be so desperate to save what's left of his 'economic miracle.' More curiously, in the wake of the failed bombings, foot-and-mouth and now this, you have to wonder if Tony Blair knew something.

Then again, it's ironic that those that are critical of his actions today are those that work in the financial sector, well-aware of the enormous 'moral hazard' he is potentially generating. Meanwhile over here in the US, the former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan is conducting a book tour, merrily passing comment on the destructive result of the form of 'moral hazard' he himself generated after tech blew up in 2000. As they say in New York, he's got some chutzpah.

It's not the City's fault after all that thanks to the decimation of manufacturing, that in their wake, all we have left is expertise in pharmaceuticals, defence, and seemingly lots of companies selling ringtones. They half-created this mess, but can probably live with the bonus reductions and job losses that are coming. But in common with all of us, they probably could do without the UK risking becoming the next Argentina.

Norwich preview

It cracks me up every time that video, it really does. She's like a (very) poor man's Nigella Lawson. A tramp's probably.

It's hard to imagine Richard Murray embarrassing himself like that isn't it? (he did employ Les Reed - Ed.)

The next four days will be a key gauge to how successful our season is likely to be. Despite rarely firing on all cylinders (but showing plenty of potential), we find ourselves 5th in the table. If that in itself doesn't send a strong message that this division is garbage, then nothing will. (I have never bought that concept that it's a hard division to escape from. Why exactly?)

Norwich are one of those teams that I have tended to have a soft spot for, without any apparent reason. Must have something to do with those cute colours and the funny way the locals talk I guess. They even have a well-run and organised New York supporters club (NY Canaries), complete with a pub on the Upper West Side festooned in yellow and green.

Norwich have had a steady start to the season, but with Dion Dublin and Gary Doherty in defence (aren't they both centre-forwards?), surely we will have too much attacking flair for them.

Pards implied he wasn't entirely happy with the Colchester performance, so changes may be warranted, and will likely see starting debuts offered to either Sodje, Varney or both. Andy Reid meanwhile is bound to start, probably at the expense of the stuttering Jerome Thomas. We have a very good recent record against Norwich, and I see little reason why it should not continue.

NY Addick predicts: Charlton 3 (Todorov, Varney, Zheng), Norwich 1 (Huckerby). Attn: 21,482.


New York Addick is pleased to announce the launch of N.Y.A. Bank, coming soon to a High Street near you.

With deposits fully guaranteed by the Bank of England, there's just no limit to the daft things we can do. Just take a look at these exciting offerings:

Instant Savings Accounts (14.3% interest):
If you want your money back, our response will be instant...."b*gger off, we don't have any."

Insecure personal loans (free):
designed for the borrower currently lacking in self-confidence. Go on, spend spend deserve it!

100% 'Let-to-Buy' mortgages (2.3% interest-only):
find a property you can't really afford, and we'll 'let' you buy it. [NB: this low-rate special offer is not available in Wales]

Fed up with queuing in the rain to withdraw your life savings?

Every N.Y.A. branch will be have a monumental waiting room complete with tea/coffee, home-baked cookies, reading material, and seating for 200 people.

Just look at what customers are saying:

Mr G. Brown (Kircaldy):
"As a Scotsman, knowing my money is safe is very important to me. That's why I'll bail out N.Y.A." (surely 'bank with'? - Ed.)

Mr M.King (London):
"As an ageing banker, if I lose my job, I need to know my redundancy payout is in a safe place."

Mr A Curbishley (Essex):
"Flexibility is very important to me, and that's why I bank with N.Y.A."

N.Y.A. Bank: Putting the 'you' back into 'F*ck you'
since 2007


House prices up £782 per day.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Colchester Preview

Since Charlton last played a competitive game, there has seemingly been a media blackout on all things Addickted. It was bad enough when, even as a Premiership club, we would be given a cursory thirty seconds on Match of the Day or Football Focus.

Now it's as if we have simply ceased to exist inbetween matches, so fans increasingly turn to each other via the blogs and message boards, for mutual support and comfort. I caught up with Chicago Addick for example on Tuesday night for my own therapy, and other than his inexpicably long trip to the toilet just after the bill arrived, we enjoyed a few pints and a chat about Alan Dugdale.

As if playing Scunthorpe at home wasn't bad enough, a thousand hardy Charlton fans must travel to the delapidated Layer Road for a fixture against Colchester, a team for whom Mark Kinsella played some non-League football in the 90s, before Curbs plucked up the courage to gamble £150,000 on the Irishman. He would of course go on to become an outstandingly consistent and popular midfielder, instrumental in two promotion campaigns, and now back at The Valley.

Meanwhile, alongside Pardew in the cramped dugout will be Phil Parkinson who was likewise instrumental in Colchester's promotion to the Championship, but he left to join Hull, a decision he presumably regrets, but one which ultimately led him to The Valley, much to our net benefit.

On the pitch, Addick fans will need no introduction to the exciting young black striker alongside Teddy Sheringham. And won't you just know it, he'll go and score against it won't he? Luckily for Charlton, we have an ex-Colchester striker in our ranks so the famed 'score against former club' phenomenon should even itself out. There's also young Kemal Izzet in midfield, the brother of ex-Leicester star Muzzy, and a former Charlton youth team player.

With Luke Varney and Madjid Bougherra now fit, and Sam Sodje available after suspension, Pards is only now really missing Moutaouakil, Thatcher and Holland, with only the French youngster likely to be missed, even with Danny Mills' calm presence in his stead.

The successful 4-5-1 to 4-4-2 combination at Palace will presumably be used again, with Iwelumo asked to plough a one-man furrow, with Todorov and Varney ready to accompany him from the bench (McLeod will thus struggle to make the 16). It is doubtful whether Pards will hand Sodje his debut in a tricky game like this, and moreover McCarthy seems to have done enough to warrant his continued presence alongside Jon Fortune, even with Bougherra as another option.

An unchanged first eleven is thus likely, and I thus expect the following squad: Weaver, Mills, Powell, Fortune, McCarthy, Reid, Ambrose, Thomas, Semedo, Zheng, Iwelumo. Subs: Randolph, Sodje, Todorov, Varney, Racon.

NY Addick predicts: Colchester 1 (Lisbie), Charlton 2 (Iwelumo, Ambrose). Attn: 6,124.

Death on the Rock

(not Charlton related)

Northern Rock tonight confirmed it had been forced to ask the Bank of England to act as its 'lender of last resort'. As shirt sponsors of Newcastle United, it seems sad that the news comes just 24 hours after their striker was England's darling at Wembley. It is appropriate however that his surname is 'Owen'.

Just to reassure anyone who may have their life savings at Northern Rock, the Bank of England website confirms their role as 'lender of last resort' is "...expected to happen very rarely and would normally only be undertaken in the case of a genuine threat to the stability of the financial system to avoid a serious disturbance in the UK economy’" So that's ok then.

As someone who's been bearish on UK property for most of this century, I'm entitled to enjoy those (very) occasional days when some degree of vindication appears in sight. It takes rare guts after all to continue to think you're early rather than just wrong, whilst true to the spirit of John Maynard Keynes, always steadfastly checking that the facts haven't changed.

A friend of mine's wife has even banned him from discussing the market with me for fear, shock horror, that she will be forced to vacate her much-loved home for a (nicer) rented place (for less money). But then again, given that I also sense that next Monday will bring a housing stat probably shocking enough to knock Madeleine off the front page of the Daily Express (surely not - Ed.), so perhaps the ban will soon be lifted.

But before anyone quits reading this blog in disgust at my lack of sympathy for the overleveraged UK homeowner, it is worth repeating three points that will be familiar to anyone that has had the misfortune to go for more than two pints with me. Firstly, house price rises don't make a country richer (it just redistributes the wealth), and second they only benefit those planning either to quit the market at a profit, who then plan to rent, downsize or preferably leave the country altogether; I get the firm impression from reading comments in the UK media that the middle classes have finally cottoned onto this anomaly. Finally, any reasonable basket of global equities has vastly outperformed UK property in the past five years; any perceived difference is of course due to leverage (which can be a two-headed beast).

Without wishing to get too technical, I suspect a disturbing number of UK homeowners have become complacent about rising prices, and are thus insufficiently diversified if the tide does indeed turn this time. Many UK families essentially own a single asset, and are simultaneously long a call option on it (they participate on a leveraged basis in its upside), but are also short a put option on it (the lender can force them to make good on the full value of the loan against it). The renter has neither, but pays less for the right to live there (thus the net value of the two options must be equal to the difference in cost between renting and buying). Until now, the call option has been massively 'in-the-money' and the put option worthless; this may be about to change.

Rising real incomes (via productivity gains) drive increases in wealth; anything else is a chimera. The UK's housing stock is sheltering us just as well as it did five years ago; its 'value' hasn't increased any more than the incomes we have generated to rent it, only banks increased willingness to lend against it has increased (now clearly to be tested). And with rental yields well below the cost of finance (destroying the argument that " is money down the drain"), and the market environment increasingly uncertain, it will be interesting to see if the only marginal buyer left (the buy-to-let landlord), is willing (and more importantly able) to maintain his position. It is worth recalling that Northern Rock has provided fully a fifth of new UK mortgages in 2007, many of them buy-to-let.

As for the housing shortage argument, trotted out with such regularity as if it were not even challengeable, it cannot explain the gentle rise in rents over the same period (surely the supply/demand argument affects these too), or the discernible lack of homeless people clogging all of our towns and cities. Also it seems to be an argument used to explain away London and the South East's strong rises, yet other less palatable regions like Northern Ireland have risen even faster.

The housing shortage argument also struggles with the severe 1990s housing corrections suffered in Tokyo and Hong Kong, two places not exactly well known for their wide open spaces. (By the way, if you want to know what a true housing shortage looks like, check out Fort McMurray, the hub for the booming Canadian oil sands industry.)

After several years of being early (wrong - Ed.), it would be premature to call the top of the market on the back of one RICS survey, and the virtual insolvency of a high-profile lender. But it would be equally disingenuous to believe the UK economy is somehow immune from the global credit crunch which shows no sign of abating, and has popped similar bubbles in Ireland, Spain and of course, the US. And lest anyone had forgotten, the 'inflation problem' has not gone away, reducing the wriggle room of the Bank of England to cut rates to avert a potential recession.

It is tempting to blame the current turmoil on the US subprime mortgage market, but in truth the first evidence of the credit madness could just as easily have cropped up elsewhere. It's known in finance as cockroach theory; if you find one cockroach, you will be sure to find more. Subprime mortgages were the first cockroach.

The state of the financial markets today is an exact mirror image of that observed until just a few weeks ago. Until then, the banks were involved in a global struggle to lend at less exacting terms, desperate to maintain their position in the hierarchy, sure in the knowledge that a less risk-averse competitor would fill the breach. The fact that approx $300bn of 'leveraged loans' (used to fund leveraged buyouts) are in effect stuck on the balance sheets of major banks (with little if any pushback to the original buyer), is testimony to the degree of the madness. As today's renter may one day find out, those with dry powder (ie. cash) are seeing incredible opportunities to pick up distressed assets.

Now, with markets panicking about unknown exposures to 'toxic' assets, evidenced by extraordinary moves in short-term interest rates, the opportunity cost that keeps bankers awake at night is the one of doing business, as opposed to not doing business.

Northern Rock's risky business model (which did not emphasise a strong deposit base), rewarded its shareholders handsomely during 'normal periods', but now we are in the realm of the unknown. As my favourite author Nassim Taleb describes it in his book, "Black Swan", the frequency of unexpected events is almost always underestimated, yet humans are wired to find ways to convince themselves they were explainable with hindsight. If it wasn't for those pesky US subprime borrowers....If only the Bank of England hadn't raised rates....

As a result, the system is clogged up and the central banks are loathed to clear it out (even to the extent they are able to), for fear of creating a 'moral hazard', and thus an even bigger problem next time around. And thus in a sudden change of fortune for the poor neglected saver, it's a rare chance for him or her to have their day in the sun. 7.05% for cash in the bank? You'd be daft not to (so long as it's not Northern Rock).

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Apoplectic Bloggers Demand Action

Apoplectic bloggers were last night united behind a planned 7-day strike in protest at the paucity of Charlton-related subjects capable of being satirised.

The highly organised group are all believed to be members of the famously bolshy 'Comical Reviewers And Pundits' (C.R.A.P.). Direct action by C.R.A.P. during the summer was rumoured to have been behind the initial decision to retain Marcus Bent, which has since been reversed.

"They've effectively made us redundant," barked a furious agitator, "...blogs are quite literally dying, and the club doesn't seem to care."

"We could live with the decision to get rid of Bryan Hughes, Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink and Dennis Rommedahl," he continued, "...but Marcus Bent and Amdy Faye....IN THE SAME WEEK? It's the final straw for us."

The members of C.R.A.P. are thought to be furious that all of Alan Pardew's summer signings are actually quite good. "I mean, have you seen that Racon fella or that Moo-too-whats-his-face? They can pass, move, tackle.... We feel alienated and violated, and we're demanding change."

A Charlton spokesperson admitted they had hoped C.R.A.P. had disbanded, having been quiet since 2003/4 when the club finished 7th in the Premiership. "Frankly they're a pain in the backside, but that's modern football for you," he agreed, "...we gave them Dowie, Reed, embarrassing Cup defeats and relegation, but still they crave more."

In the meantime, C.R.A.P. General Secretary 'New York Addick' has been forced to lay off half of his creative department, blaming a shocking decline in productivity.

"They just can't deliver in this type of environment. I mean, do you honestly think I enjoy writing about subprime bleedin' mortgages?" he boomed. "Take that Svetoslav Todorov for example....try and write something comical about him. You can't you see......well, ok he does look a bit funny but you get my drift."

Another blogger put it more succinctly, "We just want our Charlton back."

BREAKING NEWS: Lisbie set for return to The Valley.

Saturday, September 01, 2007


In common with all other Charlton blogs, I may inadvertently have given the impression that Iain Dowie was a useless football manager, and totally unfit for the role.

Headlines such as "Dowie Industrial AVERAGE", "No ID-ea" and "B*gger Off Back To Palace" may have conveyed the impression that I regarded Dowie as a tactically inept, financially irresponsible and woefully uninspiring leader.

I now recognise that there was no truth whatsoever in any of the above allegations, and would like to make it clear that in light of Dowie's unalloyed triumph so far as Coventry manager, that I have no hestitation in fully retracting them.

It is clear that had the board not acted in such haste, Charlton would now be flying high in the Premiership, led by a dynamic man whose ideas, sense of purpose and tactical abilities shine out in dazzling contrast to his successor(s).

I thus offer an unreserved apology for any distress he may have been caused by my earlier reports.

Handy Tod

There's not much I can add about a game that I followed via text message, except to say it's a great away win regardless of the acquisition of local bragging rights, but let's not forget the exact same three points will be available at Layer Road in a fortnight.

I was firmly of the opinion that Todorov was instrumental in the second half comeback last weekend, and following a stunning midweek goal, he has popped again with a highly valuable contribution.

He would probably be found out these days in the Premiership, but he seems to have more time on the ball than most of his peers at this level, usually a sign of a good footballer. His style is not materially different from Andy Hunt's, and if Todorov can make the same contribution that Hunt did in 1999/2000, then Charlton have every chance of the same outcome.

Pardew began with 4-5-1, handing Ambrose more freedom just behind Iwelumo, a position he is likely to be more useful in than as one of a pair of central midfielders, a role in which he lacks the physical bite to be effective. It would be incongruous to say Pardew's plan worked since we scored (obviously) after Todorov's introduction, but Ambrose's versatility is likely to see the 4-5-1 used often away from home, especially with Varney unfit, McLeod yet to fully convince and Todorov perhaps most useful as a lively substitute option à la Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

The result puts us firmly in the top half of the table, and with only Bristol City and Coventry unbeaten, I continue to believe this division is there for the taking, especially now we know that the likes of Jerome Thomas did not leave in the transfer window. The bookies have already taken notice, and re-installed us as favourites.