Monday, December 31, 2007

Colchester preview

My wife is a teacher, and thus has a regular moan about low salaries and general underappreciation. However, don't feel too sorry for her because I suspect she'd struggle in the more cut-throat 'for profit' sector that most of us work in.

Here's how the negotiation for a New Year's Eve babysitter transpired:

Wife: "Could you possibly babysit on New Year's Eve?"
Babysitter: "Yes no problem - I've got no plans, and to be honest I could do with the money."
Wife: "We'll pay you double...."

I sometimes wonder if the same type of irrational negotiation used to go on at Charlton, whenever the subject of Kevin Lisbie's contract came up:

Curbs: "Kevin, you're often injured, you're always cr*p when you're not, and moreover you're costing us about ten grand a week."
Lisbie: "Can't argue with that boss, I could do with a new start."
Curbs: "Here, have another three years."

I'll leave it to you to decide whether Colchester's predicament and their recruitment of Lisbie are mere coincidences, but a shocking run of 1 win in 14 has seen them plummet to the foot of the table, a position one fears they will struggle to extricate themselves from. Then again, as one of the best and most consistently well-run small clubs, one would not bet against them bouncing straight back.

Naturally, Lisbie will go ahead and score against us (again), but this fixture and the forthcoming one with Blackpool at The Valley will go a long way to determining whether we are genuine automatic promotion contenders. The frustration during the past couple of weeks has been the way that Watford have capitulated so suddenly, yet it has been a resurgent Bristol City and Stoke that have taken advantage, rather than us.

Watford currently lie 2nd with a points total that implies 81 for the full season. In order to emphasise the mediocrity of the current Championship (and thus the potential therein for Charlton), 81 points would have secured automatic promotion in only 2 of the past 10 seasons (2002/3 and 2003/4). It certainly puts our 4th place in 1997/98 (despite accumulating 88 points) in its true and impressive perspective.

Someone on the message boards described Pardew's recent team selections as being 'stale', and it's hard to disagree with his sentiments, even within the context of several injuries and suspensions. After four games without a win, and little to indicate we deserved anymore than three draws, it is surely time to give the likes of Moutaouakil, Racon and Dickson a well-deserved chance. As Paddy McCarthy has seemingly proved in recent games, there's something to be said for including players with a point to prove.

It is certianly odd that we have one of our own players amongst the Championship's top scorers, yet few have ever seen him play (though check out the goal here after 1:20, for a hint of his potential). Dickson deserves the chance to prove to us whether he is the next Paul Williams rather than the next Paul Gorman, both snapped up from non-League with varying degrees of success. If we had greater depth amongst the forwards, the argument for his inclusion (even from the bench) would be a less telling one.

NY Addick predicts: Charlton 2 (Ambrose, Dickson), Colchester 1 (Lisbie). Att: 22, 989.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Leicester preview

Leicester probably serve as the best current example to Charlton of what might go wrong, if we fail to secure promotion whilst we receive parachute payments.

Since relegation in 2003/4, they have not come remotely close to building a promotion campaign, finishing 15th, 16th and 19th respectively. Unfortunately they had enough during this period to kick Charlton out of the FA Cup with a quarter-final berth beckoning.

Although Martin O'Neill was Leicester manager for a considerably shorter period than Curbs was our manager, he achieved substantially more with similar means. Their record thereafter has been a shambles of underperforming managers, near-bankruptcy, relegations and all despite the bonus of a new stadium. The lessons are clear.

However as Milan Mandaric perhaps correctly identified, there is a certain inherent stability offered by one-club cities, particularly one listed as the 10th largest in England by population (albeit one prone to egg-chasing temptations). This is not a luxury offered to any potential suitors by Charlton, despite our protestations that we're the 'biggest club south of the Thames'.

Their record this season almost exactly resembles ours in 2006/7......three managers before Xmas and a full-on relegation battle looming in the new year. However the compression of the Championship table distorts the truth somewhat, since a Foxes victory will see them move just ten points behind us, a similar gap that once existed between us and Watford.

Our record at Leicester is not a good one in recent years, and I certainly haven't witnessed a Charlton victory there despite numerous visits. I was there on the only other occasion when we met at the Walkers Stadium, drawing 1-1 thanks to a second-half Paolo di Canio penalty. Although on paper another draw tomorrow would be a decent result, it would imply just 3 points from the last 12 on offer, and our continued drift back into the chasing pack behind Watford/WBA.

Attempting to predict our starting eleven during these trying times is probably a worthless endeavour, so I will desist on this occasion. Suffice to say that I am probably not alone in wanting to see Chris Dickson offered a proper chance; forwards thrive on confidence, and he must have it in abundance.

Finally, I'd like to wish all Charlton fans (especially those that read this blog) a Happy, Healthy and Promotion-filled New Year.

NY Addick predicts Leicester 1 (N'Gotty), Charlton 2 (Varney, Zheng). Att: 23, 412.

ps - oh well, I can't resist......I think we'll line up as follows: Weaver, McCarthy, Bougherra, Fortune, Semedo, Holland, Zheng, Thomas, Sam, Varney, Iwelumo. Subs: Randolph, Sankofa, Racon, McLeod, Dickson.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Come on you Reds

Another Charlton match, another red card. If only the club's foreign-based supporters could receive their own Red Card with the same frequency as its players (I'm still waiting).

Interestingly, during the five games in which Charlton have seen red, we are undefeated, managing three victories (Hull, Southampton, Ipswich) and two draws (Hull, Norwich).

Those statistics are slightly distorted of course by Jonathan Fortune's full-time dismissal, and the fact that Lloyd Sam was accompanied down the tunnel by a Hull compatriot. However, the potential damage to our chances from poor discipline, is mainly being felt via the suspensions so far.

Only Jose Semedo's red card was received in the form of a 2nd yellow card. This is at once both especially worrying (since it suggests a systemic lack of discipline), and also especially damaging (since suspensions stretch automatically to three games).

Lloyd Sam's dismissal seemed rather questionable (albeit less than one might imagine given what we know about his stature and style). However, Jonathan Fortune and Danny Mills' dismissals appear to be unforgivable, whilst Pards has implied as much about Sam Sodje's, although I'm more inclined to be sympathetic about a red card adminstered on the ball, as opposed to off it.

It is probably a little simplistic to be reading too much into our recent wave of yellow and red cards. However, there is not a single first-teamer of note without at least a yellow card to his name (Grant Basey is the nearest thing). Even Chris Powell and Matt Holland, who ought to be more interested in collecting business cards than yellow cards, have managed to warrant one of the latter.

Other than the aforementioned 'dark satanic Mills', our team is not exactly overburdened with self-confessed hardmen (always the worst type), and therein lies the confusion. I had been reluctant to join in the generalised Danny Mills 'love-in' since his return to The Valley (much preferring the dynamism of Moutaouakil) and six yellows and one red card from such an experienced player partly back up my case. It's strange how he managed to keep his head when he had an England shirt on.

From a fan's perspective, receiving a card for dissent is exceptionally frustrating. However, as anyone who has watched football on TV will know, the players use of the F-word is at best liberal, so it is difficult sometimes to understand what constitutes 'crossing the line'. Apparently it is to suggest that a referee might be less than impartial, or to make an insult personal (rather than merely vocational).

Certainly when I ran a Sunday League team in the UK, I always particularly looked forward to the referee's reports for those players booked for dissent eg. "In the 23rd minute, the home team's No. 7 asked me, "Ref, are you both blind and stupid?" I informed him that I was neither, and issued him a yellow card."

The conclusion that I most fear, because it would surely signal the end of our promotion hopes, would be the insinuation that Pards has 'lost' the dressing room, since one can safely assume he does not encourage the type of behaviour that Charlton fans have witnessed in recent weeks.

There were rumours that he had lost the respect of the West Ham dressing room before he was forced out, though I see little evidence of the 'baby Bentley' culture amongst our current crop. I suspect that in truth, rather than losing the dressing room, Pards is merely losing his patience (along with the rest of us).

Jonathan Fortune will be available for selection at Leicester and can slot straight into Sodje's position, but the suspension of Jose Semedo (arguably an early contender for Player of the Year) is making me wonder whether an experiment with 3-5-2 or 3-2-3-2 might not make some sense at this point. Either of the following line-ups would appear to be maximising our limited resources, and each avoids the temptation to paper over our limited full-back options:

3-5-2: Weaver---McCarthy, Bougherra, Fortune---Sam, Holland, Zheng, Racon, Thomas---Varney, Iwelumo.

3-2-3-2: Weaver---McCarthy, Bougherra, Fortune---Holland, Racon---Sam, Zheng, Thomas---Varney, Iwelumo.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Norwich preview

A year ago today, I was sat in the exact same hotel in Florida to learn the promising news that Alan Pardew had taken over from the hapless Les Reed as Charlton first team manager.

Any assessment of his achievements since then need to be set in the context of what came immediately before, namely four diabolical defeats in the space of two weeks that threatened to be early evidence that fifteen years of progress might be unravelled in just one.

The fact that we have not unravelled, but have done enough to consolidate a position firmly in the top echelons of the Championship is proof of some achievement, given that few of us gave Pards much of a chance of saving us from a near-certain relegation. Although a six-game unbeaten spell (from West Ham to Reading ironically enough) gave us some faint hope, our final win of the season was at home to Wigan, as far back as March 31st.

Pardew's league record as Charlton manager reads as follows:

Prem P19 W5 D7 L7 Pts 22
CCC P23 W11 D5 L7 Pts 38
Total P42 W16 D12 L14 Pts 60

Pardew clearly gave us our pride back, and losing just 1 in 3 matches in total given the mess he inherited is proof therof. I have admired his general preference for passing football, as well as his willingness to make impulsive tactical substitutions. His media persona is also refreshingly forthright and honest (if occasionally a little slick), and in short, he gives the firm impression of being a firmly in control and in charge.

On the negative side, his purchases have been mixed so far, especially when he has splashed out meaningful cash (Bougherra, Varney, McLeod, McCarthy etc.), although some of his more opportunistic/speculative signings have generally been successful (Iwelumo, Mills, Weaver, Motaouakil, Semedo etc.). Meanwhile, we have merited some justified criticism at times this season for being a little naive or one-dimensional, most worryingly so when thoroughly outclassed by WBA.

A clear observation from this season however (as opposed to a criticism), is that we are wholly unpredictable, a veritable coupon-buster and thus a favourite of the bookies. Every time we have put together a series of results (good or bad) that tempt one to extrapolate, we promptly learn to expect the unexpected, which brings us onto Norwich on Boxing Day.

I've tended to view Glenn Roeder in unfavourable terms as a manager, though this is perhaps a function of the power of the media, painting the awkward likes of Roeder in less favourable terms than our own far more polished gaffer. Those Norwich fans who resented his appointment (and there were several) have been forced to eat their words, as Roeder has steered a seemingly doomed Canaries side to a far more respectable 18th position.

Despite their travails, Norwich have been the best-supported team in the Championship this season (Charlton are 4th incidentally), and at 93.5% their ground is almost full every week (The Valley is 82% full on average). They will presumably view an injury and suspension ravaged Charlton side as perfect Christmas fodder, and like Hull last weekend, there is a good degree of unfinished business from the reverse fixture.

Carrow Road is a ground where we have a decent recent record, my own personal favourite memory being a stunning late Mark Kinsella winner in the mid-1990s (with his left foot) that I can still visualise as if it were yesterday. More recently, Andy Hunt scored a midweek hat-trick to secure a stunning 4-0 victory during our Championship-winning season in 1999/2000.

Predicting how Charlton will line up is fraught with difficulty, not least given that we were led to believe Zheng, Iwelumo and Ambrose were all highly doubtful for the Hull game (yet all started). The 4-5-1 formation which has mainly been successful surely only makes sense if Iwelumo is the sole frontman, hence it seems likely that Luke Varney will join Izale McLeod in a quick but lightweight forward pairing.

If Lloyd Sam is fit, then surely he and Jerome Thomas will patrol the flanks (with Ambrose as substitute back-up), whilst Zheng and Holland will likely continue in midfield, unless Pards opts for Sankofa at right-back, and asks Semedo to fulfil the holding role. In defence, Paddy McCarthy will replace Sodje if he fails to make the trip, but despite considering that the former Leicester man has been given a raw deal so far, the back four looks decidedly shaky.

When all is said and done, I expect us to line up as follows: Weaver, Semedo, Powell, McCarthy, Bougherra, Thomas, Ambrose, Holland, Zheng, Varney, McLeod. Subs: Randolph, Sankofa, Sodje, Arter, Dickson.

NY Addick predicts: Norwich 2 (Huckerby, Dublin), Charlton 1 (McLeod). Att: 25, 972.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Hull preview

I'm writing this review from San Antonio in Texas, one of the few places on earth where Andy Reid might reasonably be described as svelte.

During dinner on the city's delightful River Walk on Tuesday night, the wife and I played a popular Texan game called 'spot the non-obese person'. We were literally midway through our main course, before one of us finally claimed victory (leading to a heated debate about whether a 4-year old should be disqualified or not).

Unfortunately for Reidy, he will have to spend the next few weeks presumably fighting his natural urges, whilst Charlton make do without their natural talisman. In a league not exactly overburdened with talent, someone like the 'little Oirish fella' can lift the quality above the merely mediocre, but his lack of mobility is a real limiting factor, and in a way Pards has been forced to work around it. Curbs had a similar problem with Claus Jensen and his particular lack of grit, and we may be pleasantly surprised at how we perform in his absence.

However, my positive spin on the Reid news will be tested to the limit given the mini-injury and suspension crisis we now face. Given the midfield injury problems especially, Pards will presumably be keen to play a 4-4-2 if possible, utilising McLeod alongside the fitter of Iwelumo and Varney. If neither of the doubtfuls pulls through, then McLeod will have to be asked to run his socks off on his own, with Thomas and much feared hardman Lloyd Sam perhaps providing slightly narrower (but equally pacy) support where possible. In the meantime, surely a recall for either or both of Chris Dickson and James Walker is an absolute must at this point?

Holland and Semedo will presumably start in between the two widemen, with Therry Racon or even Harry Arter providing a third central anchor in the event of a 4-5-1 being required. Again however, a recall for Dean Sinclair would seem reasonable (if he can't be thrown in for a game like this, what exactly was the point of his signing?).

In defence, Pards may be tempted to push Danny Mills to left-back and utilise Yassin Moutaouakil on the right, or perhaps even Paddy McCarthy, to add some defensive mettle that was clearly missing at WBA.

When all is said and done, I expect us to line up as follows: Weaver, Mills, Powell, Bougherra, Sodje, Thomas, Sam, Holland, Semedo, Iwelumo, McLeod. Subs: Randolph, McCarthy, Moutaouakil, Racon, Arter.

In short, it's an ideal time for Pards to prove his quality (not that I doubt it), whilst an ideal time too to be thankful for a kind festive fixture list that see us face five consecutive teams from the bottom half of the table. The first one contains Bryan Hughes and plenty of 'previous' from the reverse fixture, an ideal pre-Xmas winter warmer in front of what is bound to be a disappointing crowd.

NY Addick predicts: Charlton 2 (McLeod, Holland), Hull 1 (Folan). Att: 19, 290.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Get Shorty

The day started inauspiciously when we emerged from the tunnel wearing WBA's navy shorts. Given that our usual away shorts are also navy, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the kit manager simply forgot to bring them with.

I used to be a kit manager of sorts when I ran a Sunday league team, and "...taking the kit to matches" was always firmly at the top of my 'to do' list. Perhaps expectations are different at Championship level.

Unfortunately it wasn't only the kit manager who made some bad decisions today. Pards seemingly left behind his notes from the Ipswich game, preferring to start with Ambrose on the right and Reid back in the centre, despite an outstanding performance which even he admitted was 'sublime' at times.

I can only assume that Pards wanted to put Jerome Thomas head-to-head with WBA's inexperienced right-back, and was thus forced to utilise Andy Reid back inside. Whilst this was somewhat understandable (particularly in light of our first goal), it resulted in Ambrose returning to anonymity, whilst Reid laboured with little penetration in the centre; the net impact was thus negative. Some more enlightened fans are welcome to tell me what I'm missing here.

However, the game was probably not lost as a result of tactics, but if we are brutally honest, as a result of WBA's superior quality in every department. I had been led to believe they were a very good side, but they firmly looked Champions elect on today's performance, displaying impressive power and movement that eventually overwhelmed us. It is impossible to argue with the result; indeed we should have lost by more.

Pards has made comments recently regarding our lack of physical presence, which suggests he is aware of the problem, although he made them in the context of a comparison to Stoke City (who incidentally leapfrogged us today). The likes of Roman Bednar, Zoltan Gera and Chris Brunt are hardly brutes, but they had more than enough penetration to carve us open with worrying regularity.

Watching those two carbon copy headers by Gera left me feeling sad rather than angry; sad for Chris Powell, a fine servant for us and a true gent, but one whose value is surely now best extracted off the pitch by Charlton. He was half-asleep for the first, and could not even muster a jump for the second, and given that he rarely ventures forwards these days either, it is not unreasonable (in the politest possible terms of course) to question what the point is.

Elsewhere our football was sporadic at best and frustratingly so, because on the rare occasions when we got the ball down and played, we looked somewhat dangerous. Nonetheless, the balance between Holland and Zheng did not feel right, neither are ball-carriers who can relieve some of the pressure from the defence, despite plenty of energetic intent. Then again, with the versatile Semedo otherwise occupied, I suppose there was little alternative, except the rarely-used (but often trumpeted) Therry Racon?

Thanks to three more injuries picked up today, we are now down to the bare bones at precisely the time when a full squad might be required. One of the few positives today however, was the unexpected efficacy of the Varney/McLeod combination, which will presumably be used if Iwelumo fails to return on Saturday. With Iwelumo up front today, and with Reidy in the hole, we were hardly likely to frighten them with pace through the centre; not true once Big Chris went off.

It's been a strange season so far, the (welcome) lack of draws ensuring that one's mood blows either very hot or cold, with little inbetween. On the one hand, today has caused me to remove my slightly rose-tinted spectacles, but then as I witness Watford's sudden demise, I can't help thinking that automatic promotion is well within our reach, especially if Pards can find some bargains in the January sales. A left-back, centre-forward and perhaps centre-back, ought to be firmly on his shopping list.

Friday, December 14, 2007

WBA Preview

When you consider that a win for Charlton by two goals or more will put us top of the table for the first time, it puts in perspective some of the suprisingly negative sentiment that still exists amongst supporters.

It will undoubtedly be a key test against the free-scoring Baggies, and the possibility of being brought firmly back to earth is not negligible. However, it will also give those more bullish fans amongst us (me included) a chance to repeat a theme I expect to return to several more times this season.....we're firmly in the promotion hunt with considerable scope for improvement.

A couple of friends here in New York are Baggies fans so there should be some healthy rivalry at an ungodly pub hour tomorrow. I've always had time for the Baggies to be honest, not least thanks to the generous standing ovation they gave our all-conquering 1999/2000 side on the last game of the season (grateful no doubt for the tame way we rolled over to assure them relegation safety). It's a shame Dean Kiely won't be in goal for them, because there's a true Valley hero if ever I saw one (and poorly treated too I might add).

Less pleasant memories of The Hawthorns for me (the highest ground in the country incidentally) include the FA Cup defeat in 1990, a tie played in a virtual monsoon which neutralised any implied advantage we ought to have had given our old Division One status at the time.

Our last visit there in 2005/6 saw a 2-1 win thanks to a Danny Murphy double, continuing our fine start to the season. That 4-5-1 formation with Bent at the pinnacle, the pace of Thomas and Rommedahl on the flanks, Murphy and Smertin in front of Kish as the holding midfielder had given us optimism (soon dashed) that we might mount a real European challenge.

Unfortunately we faded badly and Curbs was soon gone, but fast forward two years and we have stumbled across another 4-5-1 formation which seems to serve us equally well; let's hope this story ends better.

Despite Pards implying that he might revert back to a 4-4-2 given Lloyd Sam's suspension and doubts over Jerome Thomas, it seems illogical not to start with Darren Ambrose in the hole which he climbed out of with such effect last weekend. In order to accommodate this, I believe he will begin with Luke Varney on the right, with the obvious ability to revert back to 4-4-2 if the game demands it.

Let's hope that Ambrose has finally found the position in which he can shine. Given his obvious natural talents, finishing ability and inventiveness, it has been frustrating to watch him rarely fulfil his potential for us. Either way, the idea that he is a useful wide midfielder for us, or even outright winger, probably ought to be put to bed for good.

In defence, I am looking forward to the return of Yassin Moutaouakil on the right, whilst Madjid Bougherra can slot right in alongside Sam Sodje in a pairing which should ensure plenty of entertainment, hopefully of the flamboyant kind rather than the comical. If Chris Powell is unfit, Jose Semedo seems an obvious choice for left-back, a position he looked perfectly comfortable in during the second half versus Sheffield Wednesday.

In the meantime, one has to wonder about the rationale of having our own Kelly Youga impressing Iron fans at Scunthorpe, whilst we suffer an ongoing left-back crisis. Admittedly he would be suspended tomorrow anyway, but as the Yanks like to say, 'go figure'.

I expect us to line up as follows: Weaver, Moutaouakil, Powell, Sodje, Bougherra, Reid, Zheng, Holland, Ambrose, Varney, Iwelumo. Subs: Randolph, McCarthy, Semedo, Thomas, McLeod.

NY Addick predicts: WBA 6 (Gera 2, Greening 2, Miller 2), Charlton 1 (Ambrose). Att: 21, 208.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Behind the scenes at The Valley

These are certainly interesting times for the Addicks; six wins in eight have given us a chance of gaining top spot by 3pm on Saturday. In order to get a better feel for the current morale within the club, I once again hacked into Charlton's email server. Here's a selection of what I found:

Subject: Cardiff

Great win last night.

Any chance we could win a home game? Those ‘half-price season tickets’ aren’t exactly flying off the shelves.

Subject: Re: Cardiff

Three points is three points. YOU tell the travelling Charlton fans that we’re inconsistent.

Subject: Re: Re: Cardiff
Yeah, I’ll be sure to tell Doris, Roger and our other 37 loyal fans.

Have you seen the state of them? Some of them haven’t even sat on chairs before.

Subject: Team selection

Just to reiterate gaffer….I’m fit, ready and VERY able.

Subject: FW: Team selection

Subject: Ipswich arrangements, Dec 8
We’re going to treat this one like an away game.

Meet up at 2pm Friday, Thurrock Services.


Subject: FW: Ipswich arrangements, Dec 8

Struggling to make it a large one on Friday. Might have to feign an injury.

To: 民,应具备
Subject: 政府的


是依法纳税吧?这道题我觉得是全选的,只几条对于一个国家的公民来说都是应该具备的。不用解释了吧,监督政府的行为我国政府是为人民服务的政 (Semedo)

当然要接受人民群众的监督4依法纳税作为一 (Holland) 国公民是有依法纳税的义务的,赋税是喂养政府的娘奶。

Subject: Preston vs Charlton
Dear Mr Varney

We are writing to complain about the behaviour of some of our supporters at Preston.

My husband Roger and I have been traveling to away games since 1949 (even though he has chronic arthritis).

Unfortunately some of our fellow so-called ‘supporters’ found it acceptable to stand up after Zheng Zhi scored our opening goal and for fully thirty seconds afterwards.

In the melee that ensued, Roger dropped his tartan blanket and a slice of my homemade fruitcake (which he loves).

Is it possible to find out who these hooligans were and have them banned?

Yours angrily

Doris Watson

Ps – could you arrange for a signed photograph of Matt Holland? He's my favourite player.

Re: Preston vs Charlton
Dear Mr Varney

On behalf of my police force, may I just congratulate your club on the wonderful way your supporters behaved at Deepdale on Nov 24th.

We are so used to the way visiting supporters abuse stewards and home supporters alike, that we had forgotten that some genuine and decent fans like yours still existed.

I would be grateful if you would pass on our thanks via your matchday programme, and we wish you well for the remainder of the season.

Yours sincerely

Chief Superintendent Jackson
Lancashire Constabulary

Subject: Fri Dec 7, 3pm
Sorry for the short notice, but I am going to have to cancel my hair appointment for this Friday.

Going forward, it may be best to change my fortnightly appointment to a Thursday.

Subject: Goal machine

Not sure if you’ve heard, but that’s ten goals for me at the Gills now.

How’s Izale McLeod settling in? Please reassure him that all strikers go through dry spells (except me it seems…..LOL!)

Subject: Global warming
As a caring community football club, it’s vital that we’re seen to do everything we can to reduce our carbon footprint.

I’m doing my bit…..from next Saturday all Valley Express buses will be fuelled by ethanol.

Have a think about what YOU could all do to reduce your impact on the environment.

Subject: FW: Global warming

What’s he on about?

Subject: Re: FW: Global warming

I guess we won't be signing Matt Carbon from MK Dons then!

That's a relief.

Subject: Ipswich tactics

As you are probably aware, I’m one of the best paid managers in the Championship (if not the best paid). Hence I bear a heavy responsibility for ensuring that our tactics are novel, effective and open to change.

Thus, in order to turn around our poor home form I am proposing a revolutionary new tactic which may initially be confusing, but which ultimately will deliver results:


Subject: FW: Ipswich tactics

Genius. We’re lucky to have him.

Subject: Re: FW:Ipswich tactics

A true visionary.

We were rather hoping we'd get that sort of thing from Dowie.

From: loans@alliance&
Re: Mortgage application

Dear Luke

Your application for a mortgage is REJECTED.

As you know, credit standards are being tightened. It was felt that your future employment at current income levels could not be guaranteed.

Yours sincerely

Loans Department

Subject: Sorry


I just wanted to say sorry for what I said to you yesterday at the clinic.

It’s been a frustrating time for us both and if the truth be told, I think we’ve probably been seeing a bit too much of each other for our own good. A ‘cooling off’ period might make some sense.


Ps – I honestly don’t think all Americans are stupid. Look at Gore Vidal for example.

Subject: FW: Ipswich tactics

I’m worried about all the responsibility to be honest; at least on the wing I can hide a bit more.

You know what the Charlton fans are like….if I haven’t scored within the first five minutes, they’ll be booing me!

Subject: Re: FW: Ipswich tactics

Darling, you know you’re good enough to perform at this level (though to be fair, I said that about the Premiership too).

Just have some confidence and remember what Mr Souness told you at Newcastle, “..if you knuckle down, you could be as good as Hugo Viana.”

Subject: Xmas Party
Although none of you are in my current or future first team plans, I just want to let you know that you’re all very welcome to attend the 2007 Xmas Party (featuring Chris Powell as Santa Claus!).

Details to follow.

Subject: FW: Xmas Party
Chris Powell as Santa Claus. There’s an effin’ surprise.

The only thing he’ll be giving away this Xmas is goals.

Ps – hope you clear your name by the way, mate. A word of advice from Benty: just collect signing-on fees instead….they’re like legalised bungs! I’ve had ten already and I’m only 29!

Subject: January transfer window
Hi guys – further to our discussion on Monday, are you any closer to finalising the budget for the January transfer window?

A commanding centre-half is at the very top of my shopping list.

Subject: FW: January transfer window

Do you want to break it to him or shall I?

Our balance sheet resembles the black hole of Calcutta.

ps - what's wrong with Paddy McCarthy? It was his flipping idea.

Subject: Trial?

The Archbishop has been giving me rave reviews of your performances. We could do with someone someone who’s comfortable with crosses (geddit?).

Fancy a trial? After all we gave Andy Hunt another go.

From: 民,应具备
Subject: Re: 政府的

市政府办公室关于建立南通市创建平安医院工 (Racon)

作领导小组的 政府工作报告

Subject: FW: Goal machine

Make that 11 goals….LOL!

Sent from my Blackberry wireless handheld.

Subject: Re: Re: FW: Ipswich tactics
What do you think about that eh? (I nearly missed the header to be honest)

Better go now, Pards is about to give his half-time teamtalk.

Love you.

Ps – Reidy looks gutted!

Sent from my Blackberry wireless handheld.

Re: emails

Can you check the server? I’m not sure I’m receiving all my emails.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Ipswich preview

Saturday's tussle with our feeder club is our most important game of the season so far.

It is important because of our relative closeness in the Championship table, but also a (small) degree of local rivalry, as well as the importance that we begin to build on our fabulous away form by winning some games at home.

Wednesday was the 15th anniversary of our return to The Valley. It was a useful reminder of how far we have come, and arguably the fabulous play-off win over Ipswich in May 1998 was a real sign that we were building something meaningful again.

Few of us sat in the West Stand that night will forget it either given the 'al fresco' nature of the roofless structure. Danny Mills meanwhile will be assured a warm welcome by the travelling fans thanks to his Norwich roots and sending-off in that fiery first leg.

It wasn't the first time we had beaten Ipswich in a vital play-off of course; we had to beat them over two legs in 1987 in order to set up the famous three-way battle with Leeds. We had been coasting at Selhurst Park thanks to a 2-0 lead (both on the day and on aggregate), but a Steve McCall goal towards the end led to one of the most nervy finales I can ever recall as a Charlton fan. Who knows what the future would have brought for Charlton if they'd nicked a late away-goals win?

For some of the above reasons, as well as our recent tendency to rummage through their squad like a crazed shopper in the Boxing Day sales, there's a reasonable case for building the type of rivalry which somehow feels false to me when targeted towards Palace or Millwall.

It was inevitable that their completely lopsided form this season would begin to hurt them, and so it has proved, slipping to 9th place as their failure to win an away game finally catches up with them. Our own poor home form is frustrating, but 6 wins from 10 away games tells us there is little fundamentally wrong with Charlton right now, at least nothing that a dose of extra work on the training ground can't sort out.

After a comfortable win on Tuesday, it would be tempting to keep an unchanged side but it is not yet clear that the 4-5-1 formation suits us at home. Alternatively, as I argued on Tuesday night, it's possible that former Tractor Boy Darren Ambrose may be the joker in our pack, perhaps starting as the left-sided midfielder in an unchanged 4-5-1 but maintaining the flexibility to move upfront to make up a 4-4-2 (with Reidy moved outside).

Having consistently predicted home wins for Charlton this season (and without much success), I will be forecasting a comfortable Ipswich win, with the hope that my soothsaying remains blighted.

NY Addick predicts Charlton 1 (Ambrose), Ipswich 6 (Lee 3, Walters 3). Attn: 23, 281.

Parker: Back from the Dead

Midfielder Scott Parker miraculously resurfaced for West Ham United last Saturday, after being missing for nearly four years. He claims to have no memory of what happened to him.

Former 'future England captain' Parker had not been seen since January 2004 after leaving Charlton Athletic and heading in the general direction of West London.

"It's a miracle", mused Hammers boss Alan Curbishley, "...he seemed to have the world at his feet, but then he simply disappeared out of my life."

However a Metropolitan Police spokesman confirmed they are keen to question Parker over irregularities in his story. "There appears to have been money involved", he said.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Glass Half Full

"Is the glass half full or half empty? It depends on whether you're pouring or drinking." (Bill Cosby)

Purely by coincidence my meeting schedule here in San Francisco had a gap between 12pm and 2pm, and so I was able to tune into commentary from Ninian Park.

The compliance department at BBC London forgot to press the red button marked 'pesky foreigners', so I was able to listen to commentary which was moderately biased in our favour, rather than to some Welshman extolling the virtues of Charlotte Church and Katherine Jenkins (of which there are several incidentally).

Our form in recent weeks almost defies rational explanation. Back in the 1990s when Sheffield United would embark on miraculous recoveries in the second half of the season, I recall Dave Bassett would host the players Xmas party in mid-August. In a similar comical vein, Charlton should prepare for home games in the same way they do for away games. Perhaps they could consider chartering a plane from London City Airport to circle around for an hour, before landing back in the same place.

I recall wondering whether Charlton's glass was half-full or half-empty several times last season as our form ebbed and flowed. We knew where we stood under Curbs. The tactics, substitutions, transfers and frankly even the results became so predictable, that despite his consistency, many of us had become bored stiff by the end. Now with the third post-Curbs manager in place just 18 months later, few of us know quite what to expect. Even the club website (at the time of writing) is showing tonight's win as a defeat!

Let's look at our last ten games for example:

- 4 consecutive away wins (half full)

- 4 consecutive away clean sheets (half full)

- 4 home defeats in 5 (half empty)

- 15 points from 21 (half full)

- 5 defeats in 10 (half empty)

Not exactly easy to assess are we? However I fall down very much on the 'half-full' side, as I consistently have throughout this season. The reason is quite simple.....we are lying third in the table yet still have plenty of room for improvement. And with the January transfer window approaching, improve we surely will.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Cardiff preview

The vagaries of the fixture list ensure that we will take on Cardiff for the second time in a month, whilst we are yet to play either of our most feared promotion rivals, West Brom or Watford.

Others have tried to pinpoint what went wrong against Sheff Utd and Burnley, and from my perspective there's little I can meaningfully add, except to acknowledge that other results presented a great opportunity to have been top of the Championship right now. Defeats always hurt but it's worth remembering that 4 wins and 5 defeats, is still better than 9 draws, even though the latter would probably 'feel' less painful.

Pards has generally avoided much generalised criticism and rightly so, but now is a good time for him to really prove his worth. His focus right now should probably fall under three headings:

1. Sloppy goals
2. The Andy Reid conundrum
3. Iwelumo and who?

Having thought we had stumbled across a fabulous central defensive partnership, we concede six goals at home (albeit including two penalties for which they are blameless). Some general trends are worrying and all suggest a lack of concentration rather than technical deficiencies. Firstly, at home when we concede first, we tend to do so early on (eg. Plymouth, Burnley, Sheff Weds). Second, we've often conceded twice in quick succession (eg. Sheff Weds, Burnley, Colchester). Third, we've often condeded key goals shortly after scoring (eg. Barnsley, Hull, Scunthorpe).

Andy Reid is a vital player for us obviously, but we risk becoming overly reliant upon him, perhaps running the risk of playing 4-5-1 purely to get the best out of him. Unfortunately his lack of mobility makes it problematic to play him centrally in a 4-4-2, whilst out wide the game can pass him by. Given his additional commitments for Ireland, perhaps it's time for Pards to prove no-one is guaranteed a starting berth by resting him at Ninian Park?

Despite a scoring record that I find perfectly acceptable, Chris Iwelumo attracts his fair share of criticism on the message boards. Unfortunately when we lost Todorov to a season-long injury, we probably deprived the big frontman of his ideal partner, best exemplified when we took Sheffield Wednesday apart in the second half in August.

The pacy but raw alternatives (Varney and McLeod) have certainly not yet convinced, and raise possible question marks over Pardew's transfer market judgment given the amounts spent (although frankly, it's too soon to tell). With only the free-scoring but loaned out Chris Dickson or James Walker as possible 'traditional' alternatives, perhaps we may finally find that Darren Ambrose's best position is actually upfront (where I believe he began his career). I think management gurus call it, 'thinking outside of the box' (in this case, the penalty box).

Thus, whilst I expect anything but, I would like to see Pards start on Tuesday night with the following line-up: Weaver, Moutaouakil, Powell, Sodje, Fortune, Sam, Semedo, Zheng, Thomas, Iwelumo, Ambrose. Subs: Randolph, Bougherra, Holland, Reid, Varney.

NY Addick predicts Cardiff 1 (Hasselbaink), Charlton 2 (Ambrose 2). Att: 14, 201.

San Francisco

My first trip to San Francisco for over two years afforded me the opportunity to sample Richard Branson's new Virgin America airline, which began operations this summer.

Flying domestically within the US is generally a horrendous experience, with patience tested to the limit by security queues, ageing planes, the 'hub and spoke' route network and volatile weather.

It wasn't a surprise therefore that an opportunist like Branson would find a way to give the legacy airlines something to think about, even if the regulators did their level best to stop him. Thus following in the footsteps of the highly successful Jet Blue, Virgin America has begun operations on four of the most competitive routes from JFK to the West Coast.

Their planes are all brand new Airbus 320s, and decked out in the sort of neon lighting and leather seating usually reserved for the types of nightclubs you can't get into. The entertainment system was fab too.

Unfortunately for me, the flight itself lasted almost seven hours due to the prevailing winds (London can often be reached from JFK in six), and the aforementioned winds led to the types of bumps that made me seriously wonder if this would be another Virgin that wouldn't go the whole way.

Anyhow, we made it in the end and as always it was worth it, because San Francisco is without doubt my other favourite US city (and increasingly the only other one I'd contemplate living in). It is absurdly beautiful, and no matter how many times I have been here, it still takes my breath away.

When I speak to people who live here and inform them they're the luckiest people in the world (second perhaps only to residents of Sydney), they tell me two things grind them down. Firstly, the weather never changes (in short, it's always 60 degrees and slightly chilly). Second, there is a disproportionately large, visible and occasionally aggressive homeless population, drawn one imagines to the liberal (and presumably generous) people that live and work there.

Interestingly no-one mentions the 'big one', the great earthquake that is surely due one day. To be honest, I'd also take the risk.

On Wednesday I'll drive to San Jose, a far less interesting place (albeit somewhat larger than San Francisco). Naturally I won't take any directions with me, offering me the opportunity to wind down my window and sing to a local, "Do you know the way to San Jose?"