Thursday, July 24, 2008

Pardew no longer in hiding

The grey hair is instantly recognisable, but the glasses are an amateurish disguise.

The bloodshot eyes meanwhile tell a predictable story of pointless overseas scouting trips, rejected bids and unrequited late-night phone calls to agents.

When Charlton boss Alan Pardew was instructed by the club's Board to sign a creative central midfielder, his initial reaction was euphoric.

But when he was informed his transfer budget was just £500,000, the size of his monumental task was hammered home. Just eight weeks later, the physical impact is unmistakeable, yet no less shocking.

When underlings Parkinson and Kinsella were entrusted with first-team affairs at Dover Athletic, fans again expressed concerns for Pardew's wellbeing.

Suffice to say that few recognised the bearded figure sat pensively in the Main Stand, with one intrigued fan even whispering, "Isn't that Derek Hales?".

With less than three weeks to go until opening day, the painful reality of Championship football has never been brought home more clearly.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Email Server - Summer Update

With news emanating from The Valley having slowed to a trickle, I decided once again to hack into the club’s email server to gauge what was really going on in SE7.

Email traffic is typically much lower during the summer months, so I had to dig particularly deep to build an accurate picture:

Subject: Re: New contract


I would be delighted to accept your new 1-year contract offer of a 67% salary cut with no bonuses. I'm genuinely touched by your kindness, thank you.

Have a terrific summer!


Subject: Time to Leave

Dear President Mugabe

As one of England's most exciting young football managers, it's been hard to sit back and just watch the tragedy unfold in your country.

Whilst I was at West Ham, I also reached a point where I had to be honest and say to myself, "...enough now, it's time to move on."

My career is flourishing again thankfully, but the lesson could not be clearer.

Sincerely, Alan Pardew

ps - I read somewhere that it costs 3 billion Zimbabwe dollars just to buy a pint of milk. That's should try bidding for a decent central midfielder. LOL!

Subject: Thanks

Hi Boss

I just wanted to say thanks very much for a great season. I'm truly honoured to have finished up as Wigan's top scorer, and I owe you so much for the trust you placed in my abilities.

I'm guessing there's now just some annoying administrative paperwork to complete, but in the meantime I'm in great shape and itching to join you all at pre-season training.

All the very best


Subject: Re: Re: Palace bid

Whatever, Paddy. Listen, other than being our most outstanding defender since Xmas, and the only player in the entire squad with any leadership qualities, I'm not exactly sure what you're getting at.

Anyhow, you're too similar to Mark Hudson.

ps - Stop moaning, at least you won't have to move hotel.

Subject: Next Season

Hi Dazza

Jessica and I just got back from a mother/baby class. It's so funny, Jessica is just like her can tell she can do so much more, but she's just too lazy to show it!

Anyhow, I bumped into that nice Mrs Faye at the class, and she mentioned that Charlton are trying to get rid of all the lads they signed in the Premiership. Is this true? I'm not sure I can face moving again.

Love you, R.

Subject: Re: Thanks

Benty, give me a quick bell on my mobile fella...07838 382844
Sent by my Blackberry Wireless Handheld

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Transfer negotiation

Honestly Stu, I do understand your concerns, but let me put it this way.....Toddy and Izzy are always crocked, Varney's a winger, Big Chris is useless, Dicko is going back out on loan, Andy is homesick, and I haven't got a clue where Benty is.

I don't think a lack of first-team football should be your primary concern.


Subject: Respect


I don't mean to sound like a Headmaster, but I'd be very grateful if you addressed me either as 'Mr Waggott', or occasionally 'Steve'. I take great offence at being referred to as 'Waggo', 'The Wagster', or 'David Brent'.

Peter 'Reg' Varney may have been more relaxed, but I'm afraid my approach is more traditional than his.


ps - still no takers for the hospital visit tomorrow afternoon?

Subject: Straight replacement

Hey Fergie - wassssssssup?

In case yo is checkin for a straight replacement like for dat Ronaldo ding, I fink I could be your geezer, innit?

We is both comfortable like on eitha wing, and we can both score a goal. I knows he got like 42 last season, and I ain't got none (which is well sick), but who's countin'?

Get in touch wiv my agent if you is interested. I ain't checkin' for more than £65,000 per week cos I know moolah is well important to you Jocks, innit? Any less than dat and you is well dissin' me.


Subject: Re: Still no interest?

Listen Amdy I promise you, the IT guys have checked the phones, the email and the fax machine. They're all working fine.

You're costing us £25,000 per week, yet Pards can't risk playing you in case you get injured.

Do you perhaps have any experience in catering or retail?


Subject: Re: Next season

Keep your mouth shut love, I don't think they've noticed.

Sent from my Blackberry Wireless Handheld

Subject: Welcome to CAFC!

As the club's new Chief Executive, may I be the first to welcome you to Charlton Athletic Football Club.

Attached is your 'New Signing Information Pack,' which contains a ton of vital information on local bars, nightclubs, solicitors, luxury car dealerships etc..

All the very best to you,


ps - are you free this afternoon for a hospital visit? No big deal....just chat to the terminally ill kids, hand out some toys, maybe sing a few songs etc..

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Central Midfield problems

THERRY RACON! Genius! You're wasted as an assistant, I tell you.

ps - do you honestly think the fans will fall for it?

Subject: Re: Iran vs Charlton

Dear His Excellency President Ahmadinejad

We are delighted to accept your kind offer of a preseason friendly against your esteemed Iranian national team.

To avoid confusion, may I kindly point out however that Charlton are known as 'the Addicks', rather than 'the Infidels'?

Kind regards

Steve Waggott

ps - forgive me if part of your email was lost in translation...."Ayatollah substitutes can we utilise?" Please explain, thanks.

Subject: Re: Wolves approach

Chris, I understand why you're upset, but I feel obliged to take issue with your pithy comment about 'a lack of loyalty'. Paddy was actually signed seventeen days later than you, so if anyone should feel aggrieved, then it's him.

ps - They want to discuss terms later today if possible. If I were you, I'd opt for that new M6 Toll Road.....totally cuts out all the nonsense around Spaghetti Junction. You can take the money out of petty cash.

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Iran vs Charlton

Ayatollah How Many!!!! :-)

"How many substitutes?" I love it!

(Pards would prefer up to eleven if possible)

Subject: Re: Re: Guess what?

Yeah right, and if it's 'out of his hands' then how come those useless muppets Ambrose and Thomas are still there?

The only time I saw a cross last season was when I attended church.

Subject: FW: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Central Midfield problems

Je suis very sorry Monsieur Pardéw, but qu'est que c'est 'creative midfield lynchpin'?

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Iranian missile testing


I agree it's unlikely Israel would try to draw CAFC into the conflict directly, but I think it's vital we're seen to take a moral stand here. I'm therefore instructing you to call the game off.


Subject: Bent's finally gone

He's driving up the M4 quite literally as we speak.

Can't believe Cardiff fell for those videos! Brilliant idea to superimpose his head on Darren Bent's body.

Subject: Re: Re: Cancellation

Mr President

I understand your anger, but unfortunately I'm not really in a position to debate whether Iran's defence is indeed strong enough to "repel all foreign invaders", as you put it.

I would merely add however that Charlton felt the exact same way last season until Yassin Moutaouakil got injured.

Kind regards

Steve Waggott

Subject: Re: Re: Cardiff transfer

Don't be angry babe, it's nothing like Wigan, I promise you. They've even got a Tiger Tiger.

ps - Charlotte Church and that rugby fella live nearby.....they're always in the tabloids.

Subject: Benty

Gaffer, I think I've just spotted Benty at Watford Gap services.

Bit of a strange route to take to Cardiff isn't it?
Sent by my Blackberry Wireless Handheld


Dear Mr Varney

After months of due diligence, AEG Worldwide bids £45million to buy Charlton Athletic, with an intention to invest further unlimited sums until the Champions League is secured.

Yours sincerely, Philip Anschutz

Subject: Re: FW: Benty



Thank you for your email. I resigned from my role on 30 June, and not a moment too soon.

If you are a....

Player: "No, you can't have any more money!"

Disgruntled Supporter: "Go and support Chelsea then."

Agent: "No, we are not interested in any promising Nigerian youngsters."

Valley Express customer: "I'm delighted to hear you're enjoying the service."

Potential Investor: "Go away, the club's not for sale."

If you are none of the above, please contact

Regards, Peter.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Chris Iwelu-go

If you'd asked most Charlton fans which two players would be first to be sold this summer for a fee, I suspect few would have guessed Paddy McCarthy and now Chris Iwelumo.

I've never fully understood the concept of an 'undisclosed fee', as is the case here. Call me cynical, but I've always assumed it means one of the two clubs involved is a little 'embarrassed' about the size of the fee (large or small). If I'm correct, then on this occasion I'm confident it needn't be Charlton given he cost us nothing just a year ago.

Iwelumo represents no great loss given his obvious limitations, thusthe transaction is easy to rationalise from Charlton's perspective, especially given the glut of strikers at the club, and the return to fitness of Todorov. As has been well-documented, he did however participate in every Championship game last season, though this should not necessarily be seen as a compliment.

During the first-half of the season, his three late winning goals versus Sheffield Wednesday, Southampton and Bristol City earned six valuable points, without which we might have finished the season looking nervously over our shoulders.

Then again in the interests of balance, he only scored one goal (at Bramall Lane) between Xmas and the season's end, so was at least partly responsible for that concurrent sharp reversal in the team's form.

One wonders how much it was his own rapid deterioration in form that swayed the club to accept an offer, rather than Pardew's claim that he wanted to "..go in a different direction this year.." (ie. not straight up in the air presumably). Although target men can be excused their lack of goals if their build-up play makes up for it, Andy Gray offers considerably more potentially in both regards.

There was a tendency for the full-backs (especially Greg Halford) to look upfield, see the not insignificant sight of Iwelumo, and aim a long hopeful ball in his general direction. Hardly entirely his fault of course, but guilty perhaps by association. Nonetheless, 'Big Chris' was a true 100% player and departs with the good wishes of all true Charlton fans.

The transfer saga of a far less popular player meanwhile continues apace. The BBC Sport website reported tonight that Marcus Bent had, in a manner befitting of such a honourable gentleman, failed to turn up at Cardiff to discuss personal terms after the clubs had agreed a fee (no doubt to be undisclosed). Instead, Bent has seemingly concluded the nightclubbing scope in Birmingham is superior (potentially incorrectly in my view , but anyhow).

If the rumours about his reported £25,000 per week wages at Charlton are true (which they may not be), on a contract that still has a year left to run, then both of these potential deals seem a little odd.

Unless Bent is taking a long-term view of the prospects for the final acts of his declining 'career', then it would appear he is either taking a savage wage cut (in return presumably for security beyond one year), or else the potential acquirers are matching his wages (in which case they are clearly crazy).

The conspiracy theorist would suggest that perhaps Charlton have entered into some sort of wage-sharing agreement for the first year, but of course I wouldn't dare allege this.

Everything about his signing from Everton in January 2006, has been a disaster. Lest we let Curbs off the hook, it was his last cash signing for the club, a final homage to the cult of 'flexibility' (apparently he could also play on the wing).

As a result, we saw fit to pay £2.5million for a player who had only cost the Toffees £450,000 seven goals earlier. For those without a calculator at hand, we implicitly valued those goals at £300,000 each. One can only assume they were good ones.

After a headed goal on his debut at Stamford Bridge (what 'gem' had Curbs uncovered we wondered?), he scored three weeks later in the defeat at Man City, scored a consolation cracker at Wigan in Dowie's final game, before opening our season's scoring in 2007/08. And erm...that's it. Those goals he scored for Everton are starting to look like decent value.

You could usually rely on Curbs' signings to be 'good eggs', if not always great players, but he missed a trick with Marcus. Maybe it should have been those eight previous clubs that rang alarm bells, whilst one can probably assume his nocturnal exploits didn't begin when he first met Jerome Thomas.

Putting wages aside, the fact that few Charlton fans could still not have made much of a case for retaining him in the Championship, says it all really. The assorted wannabe WAGS and slappers of Birmingham are more than welcome to him in my view.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Second Best

I'm pleased to reveal that the wife is 12 weeks pregnant again. All being well, she'll be due on Saturday Jan 17th, the same date Charlton face Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.

Our son Toby Charlton was born on a Saturday, and less than nine hours later we demolished West Ham 4-0 at The Valley. Thus when we were told the wife's new due date, I couldn't help thinking it boded well for what could be a vital three points just after the busy Xmas period. If she is a few days early however, it could coincide with an FA Cup Third Round replay.

Disappointingly, Toby hasn't shown much interest in playing football, though to be fair to him, he's not even walking yet. As a result, whilst I'm refusing to panic, I'd say my long-term plan to turn him into a Charlton player is at least two or three months behind schedule at this point. After all, there are only so many goalkeeping drills you can do sitting down, before he starts to get bored and frustrated.

Fatherhood has been great so far, and it's hard to remember life before it. My drinking has suffered for sure, and I now consider 11pm to be a late night, but I can honestly say it hasn't been as difficult as I envisaged (yet). You certainly learn plenty about life, some of which you'd quite happily not to have known about (like the fact that newborns often do green poos).

Notwithstanding those first couple of months (which frankly remain a complete blur), at every stage thereafter I've thought, "..I wish he could remain this age forever" yet just a few weeks later, I'm thinking the exact same thing again which is great. I guess this continues until they reach 13 years old, when they refuse to be seen with you in public.

One thing I definitely wasn't aware of, and which can only be described as an incontrovertible 'good', is the degree to which a man walking alone with his baby attracts such fabulous female attention.

It makes me wonder whether my single friends are not potentially missing out on a brilliant solution to their solitude. As a direct result, therefore I've begun to prepare a business plan for my new dating site solely for single straight men......Rent-A-Baby.Com

Unlike most dating sites that match couples via usually awkward blind dates, on Rent-A-Baby.Com, single men would simply walk the streets astride a buggy, and await the inevitable attention that will follow from women wowed by their combination of sensitivity and virility. After all, there's nothing quite like the presence of a baby that screams to a woman, "...relax, I'm not a psycho."

Whenever I'm walking with my son, and an attractive woman stops and says, " cute", I have two well-rehearsed lines that I am particularly fond of:

Line 1: "Thanks...he takes after his Mum" - knowingly flirtatious, yet self-effacing at the same time. A beautiful combination that invariably elicits a cheeky smile to lighten one's day.

Line 2: "Thanks........oh sorry, were you referring to the baby?" - requiring slightly more self-confidence than Line 1 admittedly, but it usually elicits a laugh even in New York, especially when delivered in an English accent.

Yet now imagine if the man to whom the line was delivered, is infact single and available. Suddenly the ice has been broken by his potential target (surely the hardest part of stranger seduction thus solved), and now in a completely natural setting, a conversation can flow.

If they subscribe to the 'Premier' service on the site, my expert counsellors would probably advise the young beau to reel them in as follows, "..oh, it's actually my friend's baby.....I'd love to have kids someday, but I haven't met the right person." Hey presto, if they haven't secured a date within a few minutes, then frankly they deserve to stay single.

Some of the details are yet to be worked out admittedly. Most of my friends with young children for example, have been reluctant to let them be pushed around for an hour by a complete stranger, but my guys are working on a solution as we speak (it will probably involve some form of GPS technology).

Anyone interested in being an early investor in Rent-A-Baby.Com can email me via the link on the right.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Wimbledon Uncommon

Earlier this week, I gladly noted that men's tennis had not become the preserve solely of the enormous servers. Whilst my prediction that Murray would beat Nadal was (very) wide of the mark, at least it helped to ensure we were treated to perhaps the greatest tennis match of all time.

With regard briefly to Murray, clearly I was lulled into assigning him false expectations on the back of that similarly classic 4th Round victory over Richard Gasquet. Unfortunately as talented as Murray undoubtedly is, on today's evidence it is like comparing Matt Holland to Cesc Fabregas. Unlike our own Captain Cleanshorts however, the Scot still has plenty of scope for improvement though.

Yesterday's epic battle was the longest final in the tournament's history. However that does not tell half the story (after all Ivanisevic/Rafter in 2001 was also settled 9-7 in the fifth set). The difference between that particular (Monday) encounter, and today's is simply in the sheer quality of the tennis throughout. I'm aware that tennis is not everyone's cup of tea, but if the sport piques your interest even moderately, then today's battle took it onto a new strata.

One had to admire the near-complete lack of 'cheap points', and the amazing fitness levels that were thus required to fight it out at such intensity, and for so long. Unlike footballers, golfers or athletes for example, tennis players don't know how long their competition will last when they step onto the court. As a result (and as Murray for example has been forced to find out), they require enormous reserves of stamina, as well as all the other attributes that make up top players (speed, power, touch etc..). During those final games yesterday, there was no evidence that they were tiring whatsoever.

Everything about it was magnificent; I even loved the symmetry of the scoreboard as the match entered the fifth set (it would have been harsh on Nadal to lose having only surrendered sets to tie-breaks). At one stage deep into the fifth set, the statistic-loving US coverage confirmed that the players had even won exactly the same number of points.

John McEnroe was quick to declare the match as the greatest he has ever seen. Given that he played in surely the previous 'greatest ever' (in 1980 vs. Borg), it was an enormous compliment. One obvious difference from 1980 (the obvious technological advances aside), was that yesterday's encounter did not contain the same 'fire and ice' contrast that the McEnroe vs Borg classics did.

Federer's game is classically stylish, whilst Nadal uses uncommon amounts of topspin and offers less variety, but both ultimately are fairly similar baseliners, but notably also two genuine gentlemen to boot. McEnroe and Borg were entirely different in both style and personality.

As a result, those that savoured their classic finals (in both 1980 and 1981) could easily be fiercely partisan, depending on whether you saw yourself as calm and collected (Borg), or fiery and emotional (McEnroe). Admittedly had I known then that Borg was a Charlton fan, it would have been a very easy decision, although I was only six at the time and somehow McEnroe was more appealing.

Personally I liked today's pair of protagonists equally, implying that cliches aside, tennis could truly be the 'winner', although perhaps the atmosphere lacked ever so slightly assuming the crowd felt the same.

The Wimbledon courts are noticeably slower today than previously, and as a result the Federer/Nadal encounter was largely played from the baseline. One could question whether Federer came into the net often enough given that Nadal's topspin loops so high over the net (far easier to volley than allow to bounce, particularly so given the worn court and wind), but that observation notwithstanding, the quality of their baseline hitting was phenomenal.

That 4th set tie-break alone will rank up their with Borg/McEnroe's 18-16 equivalent from 1980, and will no doubt be replayed as often. The backhand pass from Federer to save the second match point under immense physical pressure (let alone mental) was unbelievable. Perhaps the inevitable rain delays took the edge off it for some, but when the DVD is rushed together this week, you'll hardly notice the seams.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Ba Da Bing

(not Charlton related)

Uh oh. Bradford & Bingley were on the brink of collapse last night. It turns out the rhetorical question I asked about the UK's buy-to-let cheerleader back in September wasn't so rhetorical after all. Make no mistake, this is another government-engineered bailout by another name. We'd better hope it sticks.

The UK economy is an utter mess. The relentless tide of bad news from banking to retail to housebuilders, is vindicating my long-held view that ten years of a supposed Labour-led economic miracle was nothing more than a sham.

The near-term will be extremely painful unfortunately for those with unserviceable debts, but the post-bubble shake-out is a required step if the UK is to have any hope of remaining a relatively rich nation long-term in the face of extraordinary developing country growth. The rapid and equally painful rise in food and oil prices meanwhile is not an unlucky coincidence, but an inevitable and related consequence of the same 'unstable equilbrium' that existed before.

In short, global interest rates were kept improperly low because those developing nations from whom the likes of the UK and US were buying deficit-inducing goods and commodities, were happy to continue to generate their own growth from external rather than internal domestic growth. Their exchange rates were artificially held down, and the required recycling back of our foreign currency was manna from heaven for Wall Street and the City of London.

However thanks to this apparently virtuous cycle, the developing nations (notably China, India, Brazil etc..) began to grow their own economies at far higher rates than previously thought achievable, driving up their own demand for the exact same supply-constrained commodities that we were so happy to become indebted to consume in the first place. Throw a few political mistakes (eg. biofuels) and geopolitical fears (eg. Israel/Iran) into the mix, and hey presto, you get $145 crude oil and a global inflation problem, concurrent with an enormous debt deleveraging.

'Build it and they shall come' could easily have been the slogan of the West's highly-paid financial geniuses, as they provided their eager yield-hungry customers with a tide of absurd credit-oriented products that sported ever dodgier collateral (subprime mortgages, LBO loans etc..), and even more ridiculous names (CDOs, SIVs etc..). Those that weren't geniuses after all (eg. UBS, Citigroup) ended up stuck with their own self-made mess on their own balance sheets when the music suddenly stopped.

And then one day (around about 26 Feb 2007 incidentally), the world began to realise, beginning with those backed by US subprime mortgages, that the products were utter garbage. All of the bank failures, recapitalisations, forced mergers, and write-downs that together comprise the so-called 'Credit Crunch', can be seen as an inevitable chain of events in light of the above. It may be termed the 'Great Unwind'.

And thus every day, it becomes increasingly apparent that the so-called 'NICE' decade in the UK ('non-inflationary, constantly expansionary') was infact a fraud, with growth mistaken for leverage, and permanence mistaken for merely fleeting.

Where, when all is said and done, are the great new British companies and innovators which were supposed to have driven this economic miracle? When all the French and American investment bankers have returned home, and their City employers have completed their downsizing, what will we have to show for it? If it's any consolation, the same question will be asked even more desperately in Spain and Ireland, economic basket cases if ever I saw one.

Unfortunately for some, but fortunately for most, an economy built essentially upon selling overpriced homes to one another is unlikely to feature very highly in this new world. From a personal perspective, at least I can now safely attend dinner parties and declare "as it happens I rent", without wondering whether "as it happens I'm a racist" might not have generated less social opprobrium.

The media is as ever obsessed with house prices (as I am incidentally, ableit from an opposing viewpoint). Interestingly, when house prices fall, it brings 'gloom' yet when oil prices fall, it brings 'relief'.....go figure as they say over here. Yet as Warren Buffett is fond of explaining with regard to his love of hamburgers, "...if you plan to eat hamburgers throughout your life, and you are not a cattle producer, should you wish for higher or lower prices for beef?"

Likewise, if you want to 'buy more house' throughout your life (as all but the soon-to-retire surely do), but you aren't an estate agent or housebuilder, why exactly are falling house prices such a doom-laden prospect? Nothing to do with the completely inappropriate levels of debt attached to them requiring ever rising prices in order to service, dare I suggest? Sounds an awful lot like the subprime problem to me, not that the UK has one of course.

Back in 2005 on a different blog, I posted what I saw as the seven great myths about the UK property market. Each has finally begun to unravel pleasingly, providing intellectual vindication if not yet financial:

1. House Prices Always Rise - thanks to the honesty of the vested interests like Nationwide, Halifax and RICS, I think we can safely knock that one (back) on the head;

2. Renting is Dead Money - probably my second favourite myth after no. 7 below. Rental yields are barely 5%; short-term fixed mortgage rates are 6-7%, not to mention maintenance, insurance, stamp duty, etc.. You don't suppose Myth No.2 might rely upon Myth No.1 do you? If so, you're starting to get my drift.

3. House Prices Can't Fall - The Bank of England Won't Allow It: they can't stop it, let alone allow it. And anyhow, Mervyn King is too busy writing explanations to the Chancellor about 3%+ inflation, who in turn is too busy worrying about the loan he's made to Northern Rock (as large as the UK's annual budget for defence incidentally).

4. House Prices Won't Fall in Nominal Terms: see Myth No.1. Thanks to low inflation (compared to history at least), nominal prices will have to fall further than before to return to their pre-1995 trend line (about 50% to be precise). The early 1990s bust occurred in an environment of far higher nominal inflation, and prices only fell about 16% in nominal terms (not that anyone remembers those years fondly).

5. Affordability is the Key Determinant of Value: maybe my third favourite myth after 2. and 7.. This beauty postulated that you could take out a whopping great mortgage, so long as you could afford the monthly payment. This was akin to me stating that I could afford a private jet so long as Boeing would allow me to spread my payments out over 100 years (strangely this flawed logic never fooled otherwise sane homebuyers when buying cars for example). With the refinancing window all but closed, and 2-year fixed 'teaser' rates rapidly moving onto standard variable rates, it seems the total amount borrowed did matter after all. Alas, this was another one that relied upon Myth No.1 to create a quick equity buffer, and thus be satisfied (I'm seeing a trend here - Ed.).

6. House Prices Won't Fall in the Absence of an Increase in Interest Rates: base rates were 5.75% in mid-2007 and now they're 5%, yet prices are still tumbling. Unfortunately banks and other participants in the wholesale markets don't seem particularly interested in what the Bank of England thinks, sending the rate that they lend to each other (LIBOR) rocketing. When lenders believed in Myth No.5, then Myth No.6 broadly held too. Now that they don't, they're simply not willing to lend at any rate because they know the game is up. Thus the Bank of England is irrelevant at this point.

7. Prices Will Be Held Up by Demand/Supply Factors: my all-time favourite, the great British housing shortage which miraculously has only become apparent since 1995. Ah yes, who could ignore the heartbreaking sight of all those millions of middle-class families forced to live in tented cities across the nation? And who could ignore the inexorable rise in housing demand relative to supply which miraculously did not lead to an increase in rents? There was never a shortage of housing, just a shortage of housing for sale (at a price that someone with their full faculties would want to pay for). Now according to Rightmove last week, there are 15 properties for sale per buyer; the demand/supply imbalance thus solved it seems thankfully, all in the context of most of the UK's housebuilding industry having downed tools. Incredible.

Oh well, look on the bright side....Happy Independence Day.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Murray: An Apology

In common with the entire British print and broadcasting media, this blog may inadvertently have given the impression that Andy Murray was moving inexorably towards the Wimbledon Men's Singles title.

Headlines such as 'Andy-Monium', 'Flying Scotsman' and 'Murray in a Hurry' may have unintentionally drawn attention away from his inability to rally from the baseline, reach the net, or win more than one point per game on his opponent's serve.

We are pleased to retract the original article, and confirm Murray can instead safely join the proud ranks of gallant British losers.

We apologise for any confusion this may have caused.

Murray Hill

(not Charlton related)

After Tim Henman's retirement from Wimbledon in 2007, the key debate within tennis circles centered upon the appropriate renaming of 'Henman Hill' in honour of our next big hope, Andy Murray. For reasons unknown, the public and their media opted for 'Murray Mount', which sounds more like a sexual position that young Andy might enjoy post-victory, rather than an embankment.

New Yorkers would have been more than happy to temporarily offer them the far classier 'Murray Hill', which broadly defines the area in Manhattan encompassed by 29th Street, 42nd Street, Fifth Avenue and Second Avenue. It's an increasingly popular neighbourhood, convenient for Midtown, and comprising several new apartment towers, whilst also including the iconic Empire State Building on its Western fringes.

Despite his admirable Centre Court heroics on Monday, the British public remain decidedly unsure about the moody Scotsman. It's a great shame because, unlike Henman before him (who was a great overachiever, contrary to popular belief), Murray has a real chance to win Grand Slams including Wimbledon, and it could genuinely happen as soon as this Sunday.

Ever the contrarian, I can't help but like Andy Murray; any true tennis fan would because he plays the game with such style and flair. Of course he's dour (he's Scottish after all, just like our PM), but he's only 21-years old, fabulously talented and could be dominant in a major global sport for several years.

Annoyingly, unlike Henman before him, I can't claim to have beaten Murray at tennis, but then again given that he would only have been 3-years old when I stopped playing seriously, I'm reasonably confident that I would have done.

We should be embracing him, yet it seems it's not the British way to embrace those blessed with the type of single-mindedness required to genuinely succeed. The attitude towards Lewis Hamilton for example seems similarly indifferent, as it was towards Nick Faldo, Lennox Lewis, Linford Christie etc.. Not surprisingly each excelled in individual sports where the feckless are soon found out, hence the highly-driven attitude. If you've ever heard Tiger Woods interviewed you'd conclude that greatness and charisma are uncomfortable bedfellows (not that I'm comparing Murray to the unparalleled Woods of course).

For a period in the 1990s, there was much fear that the big servers would ruin the game, perhaps requiring draconian measures such as a move to just a single service delivery. However the graceful but varied games of Federer, Nadal, and very obviously now Murray and Gasquet, have put those fears to rest for now.

Talking of Murray and Gasquet, my favourite match of the tournament so far has not been that twilight classic, but rather the bespectacled and wonderfully named Janko Tipsarevic's victory over Andy Roddick. Without his enormous 140mph+ serve, the likeable American would probably not even be in the world's top 50 such is the mediocrity of the rest of his game, yet he has a US Open title to his name, and a couple of runners-up medals from Wimbledon.

Thus watching the mercurial Serb take him apart with some glorious touch and brilliant shotmaking variety, was a true tennis lover's joy to behold. You know he probably doesn't have the power to win the seven consecutive matches required to win Grand Slams, but he swiftly became my favourite player that no-one else has heard of. Like Tipsarevic, you can guarantee that the other players loathe facing Murray because they never quite know what to expect.

The men's draw is interesting because the winner of Murray/Nadal would be very hot favourites to make a smooth transition straight to the final, given that neither Arnaud Clement nor Rainer Schuttler (both in their 30s) were expected to get very far at all.

Nadal however must be a nightmare to play against for a different reason, namely the ludicrous topspin he generates particularly on his forehand. Whilst he has added an efficient sliced backhand, he generally lacks Murray's guile, and if the Scot can get fired up earlier than the end of the third set this time, he has a superb chance of progressing in my view (at least a better than 7/2 chance anyhow).

Roger Federer meanwhile must negotiate big-serving Mario Ancic (the last player to beat him at Wimbledon), and then the similarly powerful but volatile, Feliciano Lopez or Marat Safin. The 4/6 odds on Federer overcoming the final three obstacles in his path are decidedly unexciting, although he has cruised through to the last eight without dropping a set.

I couldn't give too hoots about women's tennis (where's the variety?) and in common with anyone with Centre Court tickets for Saturday, I'm dreading the monotony of another all-Williams final. However it's hard as a Charlton fan to resist the charms of a player called Zheng, so I'm gunning for her and indeed she may well have the intensity to unnerve both sisters on her way to an extraordinary wild-card title.

Fresh from selecting 3 of the 4 Euro 2008 semi finalists, NY Addick confidently predicts:

Men's Singles: Federer (Winner), Murray (Runner-Up)
Women's Singles: Zheng (Winner), V Williams (Runner-Up)