Friday, February 29, 2008

Sheff Utd preview

I'm not one to berate those Charlton fans, who sensibly conclude they've got better things to do than follow their team away from home.

However, a rumoured New York snow storm notwithstanding, I'll be landing at Heathrow first thing on Saturday morning, and hiring a car, before picking up a Blade (that's a Sheff Utd fan to the uninformed, not a knife) and driving the 180 miles or so to Bramall Lane. So in short, if I'm planning to be there, what's your excuse?

My fun-filled week in London is offering three consecutive Charlton matches, a half-marathon in Berkhamsted, and an Editors concert on Wednesday night. It's an obvious observation I know, but presumably an Editors concert is really short, containing only the best bits from all their songs?

I ask simply because of a pattern I've noticed emerging, beginning firstly when I lost my glasses moshing at a Blur concert, and then when I arrived late for a Delays concert, after train problems en route. So it's no surprise therefore, that I'm unlikely to be tempted by any reunion tour planned by the fabulously named Johnny Vomit & The Dry Heaves.

The big Charlton news this week concerned the arrival of Chelsea starlet Scott Sinclair, by my calculation the fifth talented wideman in the squad, each of whom can put up a reasonable claim for a starting berth. Given that we patently lack a creative central midfielder, perhaps Pards is planning a revolutionary 4-5-1 formation, but with no-one in the middle. I believe this is known as the 'donut' in coaching circles.

But seriously, it seems a wise acquisition, and if Cook and Sinclair start as expected tomorrow, it may well signal the effective end of the Charlton careers of Ambrose and Thomas, at least in any significant sense. I'm not sure either will be particularly missed; Lloyd Sam meanwhile deserves time.

I enjoyed a drink in New York on Wednesday night with a fellow CAFC fan, who's incidentally also planning to be in Sheffield. He felt the absence of Bougherra in recent matches had been key, and moreover he had formed an impressive partnership with Paddy McCarthy, that has clearly not been replicated alongside Jonathan Fortune. It's curious to note that Bougherra and McCarthy was the original partnership on the opening day, the Irishman seemingly paying a heavy and early price for mistakes made at Stoke just a week later. Now we seem to have come full circle.

Unfortunately not only is he absent again tomorrow, but we have one of the more dangerous front lines to contend with in James Beattie and Billy Sharp, even if the latter is yet to open his Championship account. Opinion meanwhile is divided upon the wisdom of Pards' very open criticism of Greg Halford (and to a lesser extent Grant Basey) following the Blackpool debacle, but one would imagine the former's height will be beneficial if nothing else. Nonetheless, the emperor (in this case Pards) may well be accused of having no clothes if he does not start with both Moutaouakil and Youga.

Sheffield United have paid a heavy price for first ditching Neil Warnock, and then appointing Bryan Robson, but despite having little to play for in the League, the hapless Kevin Blackwell will be keen to secure a full-time role at a club that's not on the brink of bankruptcy. Our fixtures against them last season very much defined our season; a heartless away defeat, followed by an ability to close out three points at home. The pattern threatens to define this season too following our heavy defeat to the Blades at The Valley, and there's no better time to stop the trend than the present.

I'm very much looking forward to seeing perhaps 4 or 5 Charlton players in the flesh for the first time (Gray, Youga, Halford, Cook, Sinclair etc..), and I expect us to line up as follows: Weaver, Halford, Youga, Sodje, McCarthy, Zheng, Holland, Cook, Sinclair, Gray, Varney. Subs: Elliott, Fortune, Semedo, Ambrose, Iwelumo.

NY Addick predicts: Sheffield United 2 (Beattie 2), Charlton 1 (Gray). Att: 23, 292.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

25 years ago today

Before us Addicks fans wallow in too much self-pity, it is worth remembering what happened to Charlton exactly 25 years ago today.

On 26 Feb 1983, Charlton went to struggling Burnley and lost 7-1, finishing the game with nine men after both Derek Hales and Mark Aizlewood saw red.

Amazingly, with just 13 minutes to go, the score was just 2-1, but there was still plenty of time left for both Billy Hamilton and Steve Taylor to register hat-tricks.

To put the scoreline in perspective, Burnley ended up being relegated that season, whilst Charlton finished in a dismal 17th place, saving themselves from a possible relegation with a 4-1 final day home win over Bolton.

There were goals galore that season, with an incredible 149 goals being scored in total during Charlton's 42 games, at a ridiculous rate of 3.55 per game. To put this in perspective, this season Addicks fans have been treated to just 2.65 goals per game.

Some other notable scorelines that season included:

Wolves 5, Charlton 0
Charlton 1, Rotherham 5
Sheff Wed 5, Charlton 4
Charlton 5, Chelsea 2
QPR 5, Charlton 1
Newcastle 4, Charlton 2
Charlton 3, Wolves 3

Monday, February 25, 2008

Black Pool

I've never cared much for the seaside, and Saturday's result merely emphasises why. Ironically it was the first time we have scored three goals on the road since Middlesbrough on 28 Aug 2005, demolishing the Teesiders that day 3-0.

A year ago today my son was born, and just a few hours later, we demolished West Ham 4-0. He had to learn what it was like to be a true Charlton supporter some day, so why not during the weekend of his first birthday? Welcome to the real world, son.

As painful as it was listening to the commentary yesterday, there was also something reassuringly warm and nostalgic about such a rare scoreline, bringing back memories of the following encounters from the last 30 years:

26 AUG 00: Arsenal 5, Charlton 3
19 OCT 85: Brighton 3, Charlton 5
2 MAR 85: Charlton 5, Barnsley 3
3 MAR 79: Newcastle 5, Charlton 3

After the aforementioned performance at the Riverside Stadium, I wrote the following:

"It is hard to recall seeing us dismantle a quality side away from home in such style."

We had just begun 2005/2006 with three successive wins, and the optimism of Charlton fans was extremely high, yet just nine months later, Alan Curbishley would be on his way out, having led us to a disappointing 13th place despite such an outstanding start.

if our optimism that day was ultimately misplaced, might it be reasonable to conclude that the overwhelming sense of pessimism after Saturday's result is too?

Alan Pardew is certainly coming in for some genuine and widespread criticism, for perhaps the first time since he took over in late-2006. Most fans were patient because they recognised the mess he inherited, and moreover we hinted we might pull off an amazing escape from relegation, even if in truth we fell a long way short.

After ten games of this campaign meanwhile, we had accumulated a highly respectable 19 points, and I joined a thousand or so other Addicks for a trip to Molineux on 20 Oct, in which our starting eleven contained fully eight Pardew signings. It seemed that he had been able to create a team in his own image, and the results were coming through as well as we had hoped.

Unfortunately as it transpired, our performance that afternoon was dire, and I wrote the following day that:

"It was such a flat performance, and I can only trust that we've been considerably better than that during the 7-game unbeaten run that I've missed. If not, then my insistence that we are the Championship winners elect are horribly wide of the mark."

Sadly I really was horribly wide of the mark, and just 33 points from 24 games since that afternoon are proof enough, because that's lower mid-table form, not promotion form.

I like Alan Pardew. He has a managerial record at his previous clubs which stands up to considerable scrutiny, and he has the requisite combination of intelligence and aloofness which tends to mark out the best managers. There's probably a little more style than substance at times, but then if he had all the required credentials, he'd hardly be plying his trade at Charlton.

His League record as Addicks manager reads as follows:


CHAMPIONSHIP P34 W14 D10 L10 Pts 52

TOTAL P53 W19 D17 L17 Pts 74

Unless you believed in a Premiership miracle, or unless you (like me initially) underestimated the challenge of a post-relegation Championship campaign, then I would argue his record is perfectly acceptable, albeit not outstandingly impressive.

Although an imperfect comparison in so many ways, Alan Curbishley's overall win record as Addicks boss was 38.1%, compared to Pardew's so far of 35.9% (or 41.2% in the Championship alone). For reference, after 53 games as sole Addicks boss from 1995/96 (when in fairness, a degree of stability had been established), Curbishley's record was as follows:

CHAMPIONSHIP P53 W19 D21 L13 Pts 78

A fairer head-to-head comparison would compare his first 34 games as sole manager only:

CHAMPIONSHIP P34 W14 D13 L7 Pts 55

Few Charlton fans were clamouring for Curbishley's head at this point despite just a three-point improvement (quite the opposite in fact), so it must all be about expectations, and perhaps false ones at that.

I wrote at considerable length about the lunacy of Sam Allardyce's sacking, and watching Newcastle United's antics ever since has been comical, both on and off the pitch. In short, I find the regularity with which clubs change managers to be absurd, illogical and wholly self-defeating.

A disproportionate emphasis on short-term results, in which randomness plays such a key factor, in most cases will hold a club back, rather than propel it forward. Listening to the Scouse morons who rang 6-0-6 after Liverpool's defeat to Barnsley, I was desperate to ask them how they would have felt about Rafa Benitez had Brian Howard skied his last-minute shot into the Kop?

Presumably they would have viewed him considerably more positively, suggesting that the Spaniard's continued employment should depend upon the degree to which a journeyman midfielder has focused on his shooting practice. Insane.

Whether or not Pardew is the best man to be Charlton manager is moot, if only because it's entirely subjective, and has a supply dimension as much as a demand one. I would hand Pardew his P45 myself if David Moyes or Arsene Wenger fancied a challenge in SE7, but until then, he is the best we've got.

Charlton's board (who have rarely let us down) need only satisfy themselves that viewed in the context of some reasonable targets, and limited by a hefty dose of realism, that Pardew is meeting expectations as a highly-paid football manager. Long-term on-pitch results will be the ultimate arbiter, but equally important short-term factors include team morale, training methodology, transfer policy, and the state of youth development. I see no reason at all to panic about the current state of our club, and Pardew's role within it.

The expectations of Charlton fans were clearly too high this season, mine included. However, dashed as those dreams of automatic promotion may be right now, we perhaps have to stop and wonder exactly what it is we are wishing for.

Surely promotion to the Premiership should not be the goal per se, but a mere stepping stone towards the Premiership stability that we crave, and at one point not so long ago we thought we perhaps had. There's little point in going up if we've little hope of staying there; arguably it'd be more damaging.

The Premiership is a very different place today compared to 1999/2000 when we last won promotion; the following season Charlton finished 9th and fellow promoted side Ipswich finished 5th. Today the three promoted sides from 2006/07 occupy 15th, 17th and 20th respectively, and Derby in particular have become an embarrassment to the world's supposed greatest league.

If we're going to win promotion, let's make sure we have some reasonable hope of staying there. Perhaps Pardew's masterplan is to build a team that might be good enough to win promotion, not just this season, but next season, and so on and so forth.

For the most part, he was not tempted to pick up faded Premiership stars in the transfer windows, but has sought to blend exciting young talent (Moutaouakil, Varney, Bougherra, Semedo etc..) with some experienced Championship performers (McCarthy, Gray, Iwelumo etc..). So far they haven't blended as well as we hoped, but it's hardly been a disaster (we're 6th after all). Next season, they might.

Some fans have suggested he might be using Charlton as a springboard, but personally I'd be rather disappointed if this wasn't the case. We should only expect the same loyalty from managers as the typical Chairman offers to them.

Moreover, a quick scan of the Premiership clubs suggests that none are likely to be forthcoming with an offer any time soon, so to the extent that he had held any such thoughts, he'd be advised to focus squarely on the job in hand.

Thus if in due course a better offer does come along, it'll be because of an impressive turnaround performed at The Valley, in which case I suspect most would grudgingly wish him well. In the meantime, we ought to wish him well whilst he's our manager too.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Some nostalgia from 1982

If you're from the same Charlton-supporting generation as me (born: 1973), you can't fail to enjoy every second of this video that I stumbled across.

The game was hardly a classic, but the mistake for the Watford goal is 'vintage Les Berry'.

How ironic too that the '18-year old John Barnes' who missed this encounter, would ultimately end up playing for the Addicks 17 years later, having picked up 79 caps in the intervening period. Great stuff.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Blackpool preview

The beauty of the Championship is that with nearly three-quarters of the season complete, every single team still has something to play for.

Norwich City are objectively the closest to seeing their motivations fade (9 points from play-offs; 10 points from relegation), but Blackpool are not far behind (12 points from play-offs; 7 points from relegation). This type of situation is a double-edge sword of course; the teams we play remain 'up for it', but the same applies to those playing against our immediate promotion rivals.

Our thumping 4-1 win over Blackpool at The Valley led to a renewed wave of optimism amongst Addicks fans, because Pards had seemingly stumbled upon an exciting new look line-up, and one that has remained very stable. Indeed a midfield of Sam, Ambrose, Holland and Zheng has been a fixture in every game since, whilst the likes especially of McCarthy, Moutaouakil and Youga (plus now Gray and Halford), have become increasingly influential.

Therefore one's relative optimism or pessimism is likely to be dictated by whether they viewed the new-style side as something of a 'fresh start' or not, with what came before able to be partly erased from the slate. Just 1 defeat in 7 League games since that Blackpool win would be cause for considerable optimism, yet push the analysis just slightly further back and you realise we've won just 3 of our last 12, and have not had an away win since Cardiff on 4th Dec. It really has been an odd season.

In a post earlier this week, I suggested that we perhaps needed to drop some of our footballing beliefs, especially for matches precisely such as this forthcoming one. Moreover I think I have identified a very simple way to do so, requiring just one change to the line-up. By shifting Zheng to either the left or right side of midfield, and pushing Jose Semedo back into the holding role alongside Holland, then in an instant you have hardened up the centre of the park, at the expense of one of our rather flaky wide midfielders.

Pards would then have the choice of one of Ambrose, Sam, Thomas or Cook to provide some flair and service to the front men. Alternatively one could play Andy Gray as a sole striker, push Luke Varney to an attacking right midfield slot, and again push Semedo back into the fold. Either way, 4 points from our last 6 away games is proof enough that we are currently an easy touch on the road, and that type of form needs to be addressed quickly if our play-off battle is not to die a slow painful death.

Tomorrow however, Pards has an additional selection headache given Youga's suspension, with Grant Basey set to start, and rightly so give he did little wrong on his fleeting appearances last year. Likewise Sam Sodje is pushing for a starting berth again, and ought to be preferred to Jonathan Fortune, not least given his ability at set-pieces, often a deciding factor on days like this.

Thus I would urge Pards to line up as follows: Weaver, Halford, Basey, McCarthy, Sodje, Zheng, Cook, Holland, Semedo, Varney, Gray. Subs: Elliott, Fortune, Ambrose, Thomas, Iwelumo.

NY Addick predicts: Blackpool 1 (Burgess), Charlton 2 (Varney, Cook). Att: 8, 901.

ps - did you know Charlton have scored fully 14 of their 46 League goals in the five minutes at the end of each half? Meanwhile, we have not scored any goals between the 46th and 50th minutes, and just 7 in total between the 46th and 70th minutes? It does beg the question, what does Pards say to them at half-time (or give to them)?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Pardew's Rough Guide

"May I politely request that a few people pencil in a weekend in Blackpool. I find it's always nice on the brink of spring, with a pleasant coastal breeze and plenty of entertainment on offer...." (Alan Pardew, 20 Feb 2008)

The gaffer's heartfelt appeal to the Charlton masses, poetically combined a hitherto unknown gift for meteorology, with the honest thoughts of a man who clearly loves to travel. It certainly conjured up different memories to my own of Blackpool, a town of flea-ridden B&Bs, fast food emporiums and seemingly inhabited by the people that time forgot.

However, given that Pards is sure to be a very busy man as the season draws to a close, I've compiled below a handy guide (written in his own inimitable style) to our remaining away fixtures, ideal to cut and paste straight into the matchday programme or onto the official website:

SHEFFIELD UNITED: "I bet you didn't know that Sheffield is built on seven hills, just like Rome? But give me a weekend in Sheffield over Rome any day. I mean, have you seen the Coliseum? It isn't even finished yet (and I bet you thought the new Wembley took a long time). Most importantly, there's no Italians there....well there was that Paolo di Canio, but he didn't last long."

BURNLEY: "The racist capital of Britain perhaps? And to think they say the town has nothing going for it. It's seen better days for sure, but last time I checked it definitely had a Wetherspoons, so it's certainly not lacking for culture. Get up there early, savour a pre-match pint of real ale and enjoy a bracing walk to the famous old stadium. Just be sure to mind the chavs hanging around outside Poundstretcher."

IPSWICH: "A short hop up the A12 and you're in Ipswich, the beating agricultural heart of South Suffolk. Felixstowe may have its thriving port, but does it have a soul? Addicks fans must be made of stone if they choose not to arrive just as the gates open, take their seats in the Cobbold Stand, and see if they can't still sense the continued presence of all those greats that have graced the Portman Road turf. The names just roll off the tongue don't they?.....Beattie, Muhren, Butcher, Brazil and Bent. I'm referring to Darren of course; Marcus was a pile of shit as usual."

PLYMOUTH: "I'm not gay, but I do have plenty of gay friends. And if there's one thing that unites them both, it's a shared love of a man in naval uniform. It's a look that screams honour, pride and patriotism. And believe me, there's no shortage of smartly turned-out sailors in this often overlooked Devon city. So what are you waiting for? Get your tickets for the away end, and you might just get your end away. If you're not that way inclined, don't let that stop you; it's only two hours from London by car."

QPR: "Some say the stadium is in White City, others say Shepherds Bush. Frankly I couldn't care less if it was in George W. Bush, just get your arse over there and let's turn it red and white. Unfortunately you can't see one of the goals from some of the away seats, but don't worry I've told the lads not to score in that one, especially Izale McLeod. Oh, and on your way back to the station do Pards a favour; pop your head in to BBC Television Centre, and tell them my invitation to appear on Strictly Come Dancing has been lost in the post (again)."

BARNSLEY: "Georgi Hristov famously said that all the local women were dogs; I wouldn't mind, but he's Macedonian, and they've not exactly dominated Miss World since winning independence have they? So if pulling is an important part of your away day trip, simply ignore Georgi's ignorant comments, and get up there and fill your boots (just make sure she's been spayed first). It's our final away trip too, so put on your fancy dress and let's have a right old knees-up, and see if we can't push on for 9th place."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Let's Get Physical

(WARNING: This post contains several rhetorical questions.)

After 33 games, Stoke and Watford occupy the two automatic promotion places. Oh yes, the beautiful game indeed.

If there's one thing I've learnt about the Championship, it's that you can't take your eye off of the table for a second. If you do, you suddenly have a 'how the hell did that happen?' moment, of which I've had several already. Indeed, I had one as recently as Saturday morning.

Watching a repeat of Sky Sports News, I was surprised to learn that Stoke were now top of the table, and at that very moment I also realised that this season's Championship really was at once both the most frustrating and fascinating division I can recall Charlton being involved in.

So how did the brutes of Stoke and Watford do it? As a Charlton fan, it is especially infuriating because they have failed to impress against us at least (taking only as many points as we've taken from them). All of which got me thinking, that if it was reasonable to describe the four teams currently occupying the play-off places (WBA, Bristol City, Charlton, Ipswich) as 'footballing sides', then did beauty really fall prey to the beast?

The quartet of play-off contenders have played the leaders twelve times so far this season, and their results are amazingly symmetrical:

P12 W4 D4 L4 F15 A15 Pts 16

So in short, Stoke and Watford have not climbed to the Championship summit through their domination of their immediate contenders, but instead (by definition) through their disproportinately strong results against teams outside the top six. Not coincidentally of course, much of our own frustration as Charlton fans has come from matches against these very sides, particularly those right at the foot of the table.

This begs the question, do Messrs Pulis and Boothroyd ask their teams to play in this way because it happens to play to the strengths of the squad they inherited, or was it a calculated (yet so far perfectly rational) methodology steeped in the knowledge that points are a commodity, regardless of who they're picked up from?

I suspect the answer is a combination thereof, but whilst we can bemoan the 'death of football' if the current leaders ultimately win promotion, might we not also accuse Messrs Pardew, Mowbray, Johnson and Magilton of just a little naivety?

I should put my cards on the table at this point, and declare a certain weakness for the long-ball game, so long as it's executed as ruthlessly as say Arsenal's passing game. It's purest adherent was surely John Beck and his Cambridge United side, whose approach to the game was reduced to a simple, yet perfectly logical tenet.....almost all goals are scored when the ball is in the opposition penalty area.

Beck didn't just tell his players to lump it, he commanded them to, urging them to put the ball tellingly into the opposition's penalty area, whether from open play, throw in, or dead ball situation. The grass on the wings was kept longer meanwhile so that the ball would hold up, and thus opposition full-backs would be more likely to concede throw-ins in dangerous positions. The club are currently in the Blue Square Premier, but under Beck they flirted with the Premiership.

Neither Stoke or Watford are executing the long ball game remotely as successfully; their points tally of 'just' 59 points from 33 games tells you as much. Their opponents have taken 29 and 32 points from each respectively. So wasn't there perhaps a happy Championship medium which, so far at least, the likes of Charlton could have reached, but failed to? Or if not, why have we consistently been unable to convert our passing football into points?

I have been consistently bullish about our chances this season, although 3 wins in 12 is severely testing my hypothesis. Much of my optimism rested upon the perceived superior flair that the likes of Ambrose, Thomas, Sam and Reid would impart upon the division. In each case, I was disappointed.

Meanwhile our joint top scorer, and arguably most consistent performer, has been Zheng Zhi, a real tough competitor if ever there was one. Likewise Paddy McCarthy is cut from similar cloth, and has tightened up a defence that has now conceded just 9 in its last 10 games.

So whilst I've no wish to completely mimic Stoke or Watford (and frankly we lack the personnel to do so consistently anyhow), did we with hindsight begin this Championship campaign a little naively, thinking we could out-football the competition, when a little brute force was more called for, at least in certain matches? After all, throw in the 6 points from 9 that we've taken from our fellow play-off contenders, and it's even more apparent where we've gone wrong.

Given that Pards has a great record in this division (albeit one ironically which suggests he can reach the play-offs, but no more), might I dare to offer my first hint of discontent at his seemingly pure but inflexible approach, at least from this side of the Atlantic? If we were sitting in first or second place right now, I suspect most of us would not be complaining about the occasional ugly three points.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Frankie Valley is on loan to New York Addick.

Stoke and Watford eh? The cream is rising to the top, just like it always does. And in this case its clotted. Thick, heavy and lumpy...

With one exception. Tommy Smith. A pearl among swine. He really gave Youga the run-around yesterday, and is perhaps one of only two or three players I've seen in Tier Two this season who could hold their own in the Prem.

Turning point in yesterdays game? Immediately before the re-start, while we we were haphazardly straggling back on to to the pitch in twos and threes following our tea and biscuits with Pards, the Horns were out in the centre of the pitch in a huddle, eleven players plus manager, getting themselves all fired up for forty-five minutes of physical attrition. It was quite obvious that the kitchen sink was about to come flying through the air in our direction....

And the name of that kitchen sink was Danny Shittu. Serves us right I suppose, for goading him after his own goal in the first half. What goes around comes around, as they say.

Were we ready for that second-half onslaught? Were we really up for it? Er, no. I'm not sure our heroes were in the right frame of mind for those first ten minutes after the break. And once we'd lost it, we couldn't find it again. A bit lucky to be two-nought up at half-time, and very lucky to hold out for a point in the end.

Any good things from yesterday? Halford, McCarthy (again), Holland (again), Varney. And Cook looked quite lively too.

Any bad things from yesterday? Weaver, Youga, Sam.

One dire thing from yesterday? Fortune.

And one really embarrassingly shambolic thing from yesterday? Jerome Thomas. Comes on as a sub, and immediately gets sent back to the bench to remove his coloured under-shorts. STOOPID EEJIT. In any other walk of life this moron would have been sacked months ago. But this is professional football, so we carry on paying him thousands of pounds every week for doing bugger all. AARGH! Twenty minutes of watching Jerome Thomas, and I find myself in need of another session with Doctor Kish...

Friday, February 15, 2008

Watford preview

The next port of call during this rollercoaster season is the reverse fixture with leaders Watford, just four weeks after drawing 1-1 at Vicarage Road.

With our next two home games coming against the teams currently occupying the automatic promotion spots (the second of which I'll be attending), our hopes of avoiding the tension of the play-offs could soon be dashed and, if we're honest, deservedly so too.

We simply haven't achieved the level of consistency required to mount a genuine automatic promotion campaign. A failure to put together back-to-back wins since early-December yet more evidence thereof, as is the fact that we are on course for just 73 points, a total achieved last season by Stoke (who finished 8th).

Despite various injury problems during the season, I consider our squad to be the strongest in the division, so it's all rather disappointing. Then again of course, our recent home form has been a much welcome bright spot implying we might just pull it off after all, but I keep having this recurring dream that we'll be at Wembley on May 24.

Tuesday's point at Sheffield Wednesday was welcome on the balance of play, but again does not suggest we are a team with the confidence and nous to deliver the 2+ points per game required from here on. Some have suggested the presence of a newly-fit Andy Reid could have broken the deadlock, and the statistics do offer some support for this view.

Reid featured in all 22 of our opening fixtures (starting 21, and appearing as a half-time substitute at Colchester). Our record in those 22 fixtures, compared to the most recent 10 that he missed were as follows:

WITH REID: P22 W11 D4 L7 F32 A24 Pts 37 (Average: 1.68)
WITHOUT REID: P10 W3 D5 L2 F12 A10 Pts 14 (Average: 1.40)

More wins and more defeats on average, suggesting as many of us thought that carrying such a talented but immobile player was essentially a trade-off. Interestingly those three wins without Reid (Blackpool, Stoke, Palace) might easily be described (based upon what I've read and heard) as our three best performances of the season, suggesting that when the current line-up clicks without him, then it really clicks. It's now up to Pards to produce more performances like that trio, and less of the Scunthorpe or Sheffield Wednesday ilk. If he does that, few of us will miss Andy Reid.

There was certainly nothing in Watford's performance against us last month to suggest we have much to fear, although Pards may be tempted to return Chris Iwelumo to the line-up as he did against Stoke, if only to counteract their physical presence. This would be a backward step in my view (not least given Luke Varney's performance versus Palace), and hand an immediate psychological boost to the Hornets. Moreover, our goal against Stoke came after the big man had been substituted.

Ambrose meanwhile is rumoured to be struggling, and frankly his place must have been under threat anyhow from either Jerome Thomas or Lee Cook. Playing the Fulham man might be seen as the higher-risk option, but in return he might just freshen things up for us and lift the (near capacity) crowd. More interestingly perhaps, Pards might want to consider playing the right-footed Thomas in place of the inconsistent Lloyd Sam.

Meanwhile in defence, a clean sheet at Hillsborough would appear offer few reasons to rush back Bougherra or Sodje (if fit), to play alongside Paddy McCarthy who seems to be making a late late push to win Player of the Year.

Thus I expect us to line up as follows: Weaver, Halford, Youga, McCarthy, Fortune, Cook, Holland, Zheng, Thomas, Varney, Gray. Subs: Elliot, Sodje, Semedo, Iwelumo, Sam.

NY Addick predicts: Charlton 2 (Varney, Zheng), Watford 0. Att: 26, 289.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Premier League World

"As abhorrent as it might sound, I bet you there are several Premiership chairmen who would be tempted by replicating a proper League game in the US. It's probably not as far-fetched as it sounds in my view, particularly for the midsized clubs, because the television rights and ticket sales would potentially be very large for a one-off game (and far exceed normal matchday income). There was a time when the possibility of all-seater stadia, lunchtime TV kick-offs and all-foreign Premiership XIs would have been considered unthinkable, but yet us mugs the fans are still lapping it all up." (New York Addick, 4 Feb 2007)

Tomorrow's news today; that's what you get with New York Addick. Thus I wasn't the least bit surprised when the Premier League announced intentions to play a 39th fixture abroad.

The near-universally negative reaction to the proposal was inevitable. However reading and listening to some of the views of fans and pundits, one might have imagined that the clubs had until now been run as some sort of not-for-profit foundation, and this was a sudden and utterly unprecdented departure from their norms.

When I discussed in Feb 2007 the likelihood that the Premier League would seek to go down the overseas route, it was partly in the context of the successful (and to be repeated) experiment that saw the NFL play a competitive game at Wembley.

Despite the appalling weather on that October night, the game was presumably enjoyed by most that attended (they got to see the subsequent Superbowl champions after all), and moreover it is fair to assume many were regular attendees at English 'soccer' games too. I suspect they did not spare many thoughts for the Miami Dolphins fans who lost a home game, so why their great surprise at the Premier League's move now?

Certainly American sport panders to corporate interests to an extraordinary degree. Having never attended an NFL game in the flesh myself, I asked a fan what the players are actually doing during the interminable TV breaks, and he replied, "...oh, they just kind of stand around."

Yet whilst it is easy to laugh at their excessive commercialism and hype, the differences between American sports and Premier League football are really not as wide as some of us romantics might wish to imagine. Virtually all English football clubs are, and always have been, privately-owned and ostensibly 'for profit', even if their accounts usually suggested otherwise.

Local tennis clubs, primary schools and amateur football teams are at the heart of their communities, but not professional football clubs. How could one witness the antics of their players and conclude anything but?

Surely playing a single competitive fixture abroad meanwhile is preferable to those meaningless pre-season long-distance trips that most clubs (Charlton included) have embarked upon, for seemingly no long-term commercial reward, yet which run the real prospect of severely buggering up one's preparation for the season. Others meanwhile have jokingly suggested that no-one will show up overseas to watch Wigan vs Reading, but think about it.....they don't show up in Wigan either. Indeed, I suspect the Latics would like to play all of their fixtures overseas; at least the weather would be better.

All that has changed since the 1990s is that clubs have found a way to actually make a profit, thanks to the emergence of multi-channel TV amongst which entrepreneurs (ie. Murdoch) have sought to build an entire business model around the game.

I have regularly debated on here whether football owners pursuit of profits is ultimately flawed, so I won't dwell upon that aspect here, except to stress again that football clubs have two traits which are not common to other non-sporting commercial entities.

Firstly they need to a degree to have strong competition from fellow clubs in order to keep the product exciting; no-one is interested in Chelsea vs Chelsea Reserves. And second, genuine talent is in very short supply, bidding up their price and leading to an endless cycle of wage inflation. Neither offers a great foundation for abnormal profits, and the spectre of a Leeds-esque relegation hangs over all of them. The second trait meanwhile is common in banking for example, but each entity is genuinely trying to wipe out its competitors (when they're not managing to destroy themselves from within).

Hence, once a route to profit appeared to have emerged, and thanks to certain unique characteristics of English football (history, local rivalries, short travel distances, frantic action, etc..), the Premier League swiftly emerged as the 'competition of choice', for overseas followers of football, and the TV companies that serve them. And thus, given that all but the most ardent socialist would surely agree that free trade is beneficial, capital flowed into the game from every corner of the globe, from Russia to Thailand.

Although I have a strongly-held view that all of this will ultimately end badly for the clubs and their new owners, the positive aspects of these developments have surely outweighed the negative. The Premier League is now a showcase for the world's finest footballing talents, and played largely in stadiums that are safe, modern and utterly unrecognisable from the miserable terraces of the 1980s. Certainly it is arguable whether it is truly a 'competition' any longer, but still it is difficult to form much of an argument that it hasn't been enormously successful as a 'project', at least compared to what came before it.

But if I was to play devil's advocate for a second, did it not occur to the loyal fans of the Premier League clubs that their owners (and their television paymasters), might not want something more in return than the same tired old domestic season? Something perhaps which might shock them to their core so deeply, that they might just ask themselves for once why they continue to view their club as something they are truly 'part of', rather than merely customers of?

So there you have it; I blame the fans. Not the fans of the 'big Four' because they have been rewarded for their loyalty. No, I blame those functional morons who sell out St James' Park or White Hart Lane week-in, week-out banging their naked chests and chanting 'loyal supporters', whilst their spivvy directors make a mental note to (continue to) take them for granted.

Listening to 6-0-6 on Saturday, a supporter of Manchester United moaned that he would have to get a visa, and apply for a passport if his team were drawn to play in Moscow for example. Since when was attending football matches such an obligation? Matchday revenues for the clubs may have fallen as a percentage of total revenues over recent years thanks to TV money, but they still greatly matter given clubs' wafer thin profit margins, and particularly now if, as I suggest, club directors have begun to take them for granted, preferring to focus instead on the foreign supporter.

Hence if 'disgusted from Didcot' wants to show his true angst at the way his beloved United have treated him, he should simply cease to attend, cease to buy a £3 matchday programme full of adverts, and cease to pay £40 for a piece of nylon tat masquerading as a replica shirt, but costing just 50p to make. But of course he won't, because that wouldn't be loyal would it? Yet look where his loyalty has taken him.

Certainly the writing of this blog proves that for me at least, Charlton will remain in my blood, regardless of where they play (The Valley, Selhurst, Upton Park...) but I've long ceased to feel that I somehow owe the club anything; I've given them enough of my money already. I think it's something you grow out of; in the wise words of my Mum, "...the players don't know you're there."

Luckily as a Charlton fan, we can have few complaints about how we are treated by our current Board. Matchday prices are relatively low, we have a fans director, and you sense his colleagues genuinely make decisions with us in mind, not least because they are fans too. However, for all of us there should be a 'tipping point', whether in terms of cost or other factors, which drive us to consider alternative leisure activities. After all, the cost of a season ticket is not materially less than the cost of a year's membership to golf club, and at least there the pain is self-inflicted.

But given that there is a decent chance Charlton might be involved in the infamous '39th fixture', surely I'm not the only one who thinks it'd be fun to see us play a competitive fixture abroad? Wouldn't it be amazing to watch Zheng Zhi lead Charlton out in a packed stadium in Shanghai, with 80,000 fans chanting his name?

Some will rightly say that many fans would not be able to afford the trip, or may not be so inclined, but those fans are not actually losing anything as such (the Premier League are not proposing that clubs lose a home fixture). Moreover, and without wishing to sound utterly heartless, welcome to the real world; I'd like to eat in Gordon Ramsay's every night, but I can't afford to (plus he keeps moving his best restaurants abroad too).

Also more seriously, I would imagine few Charlton fans have experienced walking into a New York pub for example, and seen Americans who wouldn't even know where to find Charlton (or England I fear) on a map, yet have decided to adopt us as 'their club'. Is it really such an unimaginable leap to go from bussing fans in from Hastings, to flying the team overseas once in a while? Charlton fans more than most should know we can't turn back the clock.

If you are the type of person that would shout 'armchair supporter' (or in their case, 'barstool') then I suspect you will already have stopped reading. But believe me, it leaves a good warm feeling, and it reminds me how far we've come as a club, our recent success coinciding with the Premier League 'bubble'.

And whilst Curbs, Murray et al kept us in the Premier League, it was the television money that laid the financial foundations to build The Valley that we can all be so proud of, and which generated fans like those above.

Progress for its own sake is not universally a good thing, but this 39th game is hardly a revolution, and it's absolutely not a precursor for revolving fixtures around the globe as some fear. Plenty of changes have occurred in football which were opposed initially, yet are now generally accepted as welcome changes (play-offs, single FA Cup replays, Champions League, the back-pass rule etc..).

Let's embrace change instead of fearing it, as Barack Obama might say (even though he's a West Ham fan). Indeed, if you want to witness the rapid (and in my view welcome) progress of change, please note that back in Nov 2006, I told readers that 13/2 on Obama being Democratic candidate was a steal (he's now odds on).

Sheff Weds preview

The euphoric feelings that emerged from Friday's vital win over Palace were short-lived, because just a few hours later I was pacing a hospital waiting area whilst my 11-month old son was treated for what thankfully turned out to just be a rather acute case of croup.

Whilst the episode certainly returned some much needed perspective to my life at least, hopefully Pards will have been able to swiftly generate the same sentiments amongst his squad because Tuesday's game is no less vital.

The other results on Saturday did not particularly go our way, but the mere fact that Watford have returned to the summit despite winning just 3 of their last 9, surely proves the title really is there for the taking.

I attended the reverse fixture with Wednesday back in August, and our second-half performance was enough for me to suggest we could win the Championship by ten points, if only we maintained such form.

On that occasion, the crocked Svetoslav Todorov was at the epicentre of much that was good about our attacking play, and it has perhaps taken until now for Pards to find a suitable replacement in Andy Gray, a fellow hold-up merchant who can bring others into the game. Indeed Pards himself has implied as much, and the team has a really nice balance about it now, reflected in three consecutive home wins.

The Owls have had an indifferent season, woefully inconsistent and the most regularly beaten team in the division (17 out of 30). Only their lack of draws (just 4 out of 30) has ensured they are not holding up the division, but instead lie in 22nd. Their 8 defeats at home meanwhile is also an unbreached and unwelcome record, and one we must look to add to on Tuesday.

The mere mention of Hillsborough inevitably conjours up tragic images of the events of 1989, but it is genuinely one of the most striking grounds in the country, and one of the few large ones left that retains some old-style charm. I was there during our last Premiership visit in 1998, and any performance similar to that one would ensure another Scunthorpe-esque defeat, because we were truly awful. Thankfully those fans that attended our FA Cup tie there in 2006 will have fonder memories.

However, given that the stadium holds nearly 40,000, but will likely be barely half-full tomorrow night, the lack of atmosphere ought to play into our hands given that we have generally struggled this season playing in tight-knit smaller stadiums (Colchester, Scunthorpe, Luton).

There would appear to be little reason to change Friday's winning line-up, with eyewitness reports suggesting that only Darren Ambrose and Lloyd Sam had delivered anything less than first-class performances. Meanwhile, let's hope Luke Varney can build upon the confidence engendered by his timely brace on Friday; his attitude is exemplary, and to be fair his scoring record is reasonable given the stop-start nature of his season.

NY Addick predicts: Sheff Weds 0, Charlton 1 (Gray). Att: 20, 791.

Saturday, February 09, 2008


Frankie Valley is on loan to New York Addick.


Its just gone ten, and I'm sitting on a train full of nigels all singing their heads off, presumably delighted at having got away with only a two-nought tonking despite being completely out-classed:. They're happy, we're happy - everybody's happy. Isn't football just great?.

Team of the Eighties - that's what some comedian once dubbed them. Well tonight Palace fielded a strike force of Scowcroft Morrison Freedman and Kuqi, who all look like they probably had their best years back in the eighties. What happened to all them much-vaunted Palace kids that Warnock has been talking up eh? Presumably not quite as good as he thought they were. Looks like another false dawn in Croydon to me. Team of the Eighties - phnar phnar.

Nice easy ride for our defence then, against an assortment of rotund crumblies . In fact the only cause for concern was that we might pick up some nasty injuries after the first goal went in and a few of the Palace Fatties completely lost it. Mercifuily it looks like no serious damage has been done. After the Colchester and Scunthorpe debacles it was good to see us finally stand up to one of the poorer sides in Tier Two and get a result. We didn't get out-muscled, we didn't get dragged down to their level, we kept our heads, we played our football and we did the business. Brilliant.

Who gets the plaudits? Well I'm going to doff my cap to those twelve brave souls in the Jimmy Seed Stand who stuck it out to the bitter end, long after their 2,000-odd compatriots had legged it back to Croydon. It takes a certain stoicism to do that. Or maybe they thought their heroes could salvage something in those final ten minutes? In which case, substitute 'stoicism' with 'dumb-arsed stupidity'.

And tonight's top plonker? Its gotta be that shrinking violet Mister Simon Jordan. Very disappointed that he didn't give us a wave or anything. Its over six months now since he last took us to court - he must be losing his touch. And whatever happened to his burgeoning TV career, as a B-list celebrity charmless bastard entrepreneur? Simes my friend - you've been far too quiet for far too long.. The truth is, all us Addicks we're missing you something awful....

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Palace preview

Sunday was the Superbowl, Tuesday was Super Tuesday, and on Monday I went to the supermarket. What a super few days it's been.

It was super too to hear on Sunday night from new signing Frankie Valley, who is clearly undergoing some considerable existential introspection. When I first contacted him about a loan move, he was swayed by the fact that New York is one of the few places on earth where those in some form of therapy are in the majority.

Let's hope Dr Kishishev can get him Frankie back on his feet, and remember this is the only place where you will read his uniquely refreshing perspective on Friday's game.

The build-up to Friday night's game has been hyped to say the least, and a near-capacity crowd will be present for a game that will go some way to defining the outcome of both clubs' seasons. However, I would stress that it will only go some way because we run the risk with 16 games left of allowing local rivalry to overstate the true importance of the game.

Despite all the platitudes, come 10pm on Friday we will either have 47, 48 or 50 points. There's really nothing more to it, but 45 points will still remain up for grabs in the season's remaining fixtures. Messrs Murray and Jordan can enjoy a amicable post-match drink (surely some mistake - Ed.), and we can all go on our merry way.

It's not that three points won't be greatly welcomed, or that a win over one of our obvious promotion rivals won't be doubly beneficial, but merely that I think a frenzied Cup-esque atmosphere will play more into Palace's hands than ours. With Neil Warnock as manager (Anag: Colin Wanker), they will not lack in the nastiness stakes if the game demands it. After all, let's not forget he oversaw the Sheffield United team which finished an abandoned league game versus WBA with just six players.

As was proven against Stoke last week, brain will overcome brawn if a calm attitude prevails (one wonders how different the outcome of that match might have been if Danny Mills had played for example). We know full well that Charlton are very far indeed from the finished article, but come early-May we just need to be better positioned than 22 or 23 others, nothing more and nothing less. The exact same three points we blew at Scunthorpe (amid considerably less fanfare) are available tomorrow night.

Greg Halford appears to have made a solid first reserve appearance, and was removed after an hour perhaps with a first-team debut in mind; Monsieur Moutaouakil's indiscretion on Saturday was certainly ill-timed. Meanwhile whilst Chris Iwelumo's presence against Stoke was partly to neutralise their size advantage, Palace offer less of a purely physical threat, and Varney or perhaps McLeod's pace would be welcomed alongside Andy Gray.

Jerome Thomas meanwhile remains a Charlton player, and must be pressuring the ever-frustrating Ambrose who has never remotely convinced as a wide player. Indeed, I would be keen to see us play two genuine wingers in Thomas and Sam, especially if Pards opts to rest the much-travelled Zheng, beefing up the midfield instead with Jose Semedo.

When all is said and done, I expect us to line up as follows: Weaver, Halford, Youga, Bougherra, McCarthy, Holland, Semedo, Sam, Thomas, Gray, Varney. Subs: Randolph, Fortune, Ambrose, Zheng, McLeod.

NY Addick predicts: Charlton 2 (Gray, Holland), Palace 1 (Morrison). Att: 26, 109.

Monday, February 04, 2008



Dear Diary,

Whew! What a week I’ve had. All highs and lows, it’s been. First there was the high high high of Stoke, and then the low low low of Scunthorpe. What is it about our heroes eh? It seems that we can do the business against the better teams alright, but when it comes to the rubbish….. we go to pieces. Makes you think - if we ever get relegated to League One (hmph!), we are TOAST. We’ll be playing against rubbish sides every week, so we’ll get beat every week. What a gruesome prospect that would be.

However, here’s a crumb of comfort. Should we ever get back into the Premier League - you never know, it could happen - we’ll be just fine because we’ll be playing against the crème de la crème, week in week out. Yes, we’ll be playing against teams like Derby. And Reading. And Sunderland. And Fulham. And Wigan. Readers, what a juicy prospect that is eh?

Speaking of Wigan – did you see that spectacular miss from Marcus Bent against the Hamsters? Hi – chuffin - larious! Now that the transfer window is closed, and we’ve got no chance of ever getting rid of the lazy git, normal service can be resumed. We can say what we really think. There is no longer any point in trying to talk up his net worth. FACT - he’s worthless. And useless. As the placards up at Old Trafford said – THANKS CURBS….

Off the field, I’ve been busy tying up a short-term deal with New York Addick for a little bit of tax-free moonlighting freelance inter-continental blogging whilst I get myself together again. Rest assured, I’m not going to over-do it – no way. For a start, I’ve got my psychiatrist out here keeping an eye on me. He’s Bulgarian, and slightly unorthodox. In fact he’s nutty as a fruity cake.

It was Doctor Kishishev’s suggestion that we come out here in the first place. He felt that I need to get away from it all, to have some quality time, just him and me. So we paddled out here in Doctor Kish’s dinghy, and let me tell you – this fella is an animal. He did all the paddling, while I just sat there playing with my gooseberry gizmo. And it only took him four days, from Woolwich to Noo Yoik. Remind me Westie – how long did it take you eh? Twenty-odd days, was it? For pity’s sakes man, WHAT KEPT YOU???

Doctor Kish has had me on a this gruelling course of treatment, which he tells me he has often used on himself with some success. The basic tenet is this: emotional stability through physical well-being. Saturday afternoon he took me down the park, and got me to run around in ever-decreasing circles like a blue-arsed fly.

Every now and then he threw me a football and asked me to whack it as hard as I can, anywhere I like. Doesn’t matter where it goes – just close your eyes and give it some welly! And boy oh boy, did that feel good. We did this for ninety-minutes, and by the time we finished I was completely knackered. As a matter of fact I went bow-legged under the strain, and they still haven’t straightened out fully. Not only that – we’ve lost a dozen or so footballs somewhere.

But Doctor Kish seems to be pleased with my progress, and thats all that matters. Doctor Kish and I are out here in Noo Yoik till Tuesday – then we paddle back for the Palace game on Friday. It all sounds a bit tight to me but Doctor Kish says not to worry, we should be back in plenty of time. Apparently we’ll be going with the tide on the way back.

If anybody else out there feels they could do with a bit of psychiatric assistance after the Scunthorpe debacle, I can thoroughly recommend Doctor Kish to you. OK, he’s bonkers and not completely house-trained, but he’s very keen and very, very cheap. I like that.


LEGAL DISCLAIMER: Frankie Valley is currently on loan to New York Addick, and the words above are entirely his. While New York Addick has made every attempt to ensure that the information contained above has been obtained from reliable sources, he is not responsible for any errors of omissions, or from the results obtained from the use of such information. In no event will New York Addick, its related partnerships or corporations, or the partners, agents or employees thereof be liable to you or anyone else for any decision made, or action taken in reliance on the information on this site.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Scunthorpe preview

Contrary to some of the doom and gloom expressed in certain quarters, I think it's been a good week for Charlton. A vital win against Stoke was followed by some canny work in the transfer market that has left us stronger both tactically and financially.

The quality of decisions should be judged at the time they are made, not with the benefit of hindsight. However, I sense that this is another transfer of a popular player whose rationale will become even more apparent in the fullness of time, much as Mark Kinsella's did.

I believe some of the sadness expressed at Andy Reid's departure is being distorted by the fact that he's generally viewed as a 'good bloke', just like Kinsella was, but unlike for example Danny Murphy or Scott Parker who the fans never quite warmed to in the same way.

However, we should not let this blind us from the fact that our financial realities have changed, and (up to) £4million is a very fair price for a player with such obvious deficiencies, despite his many talents. Based on what I have seen in both the Premiership and Championship, he was a luxury player in the Claus Jensen or Paolo di Canio mould, but less effective than both.

The last-minute loans of Greg Halford and Lee Cook are sensible acquisitions with virtually zero risk to Charlton. I must confess I've a weakness for players with genuine long-throws (I don't think we've had one in recent memory), and whilst Halford has had a troubled couple of years, Phil Parkinson presumably feels he knows him well enough to realise his potential.

Lee Cook meanwhile was one of the Championship's most exciting prospects, and if he is match fit, he will surely become so again. More importantly he can add the pace which Reidy so patently lacked. Given that Fulham and Sunderland might well be playing in a division lower than Charlton next season, it gives us a chance to take a good look with a possible view to a permanent deal.

I suspect neither will be involved at Scunthorpe, in a game which may anyhow fall victim to the weather. After a promising start at The Valley (a game that I attended), the Iron's season has gone horribly awry, winning just 1 of their last 18 Championship games. With no goals scored either since New Year's Day, anything other than an Addicks victory would be a clear disappointment.

Meanwhile, we have won just 2 of our last 8 Championship games, yet somehow appear to be in the strongest relative position that we have held for some considerable time. Blackheath Addick has undertaken a detailed analysis of historic points totals required for promotion, and suggests 85 points might be required for promotion.

However given that both Bristol City and WBA are currently en route for just 81 points (1.75pts per game), I suspect 85 would not only win promotion, but the title also. If so, that requires us to manage 2.23pts per game ourselves between now and then, a lofty target but not an insurmountable one by any means now.

The mini-spell we put together from Aug 25 (Sheff Weds, home) to Oct 6 (Barnsley, home) saw us accumulate 18 points from just 8 games, exceeding the standard for what is now required, so it can certainly be done.

From what I've read, the Stoke performance was impressive and it is likely that Pards will only be tempted to add Varney's pace alongside Gray's hold-up play, leaving Iwelumo on the bench if required. Thus I expect us to line up as follows: Weaver, Moutaouakil, Youga, McCarthy, Bougherra, Zheng, Holland, Ambrose, Sam, Varney, Gray. Subs: Randolph, Fortune, Semedo, Iwelumo, McLeod.

NY Addick predicts: Scunthorpe 0, Charlton 2 (Varney, Ambrose). Att: 7,109.