Monday, December 28, 2009

Bees Nest

Charlton may have extended their unbeaten run to nine games, but this completed a disappointing holiday period for the Addicks.

With Leeds virtually out of sight, and both Norwich and Colchester just three points behind with a game in hand, it is increasingly clear that a point a game against a trio of average sides is not going to cut it unfortunately.

Phil Parkinson is right to laud our spirit (although surely this should be a given), but to ensure promotion we need intensity with quality, and there was precious little on show today.

Given my penchant for unabashed snobbery, I witnessed today's clash from the director's box courtesy of the home side's largest individual shareholder and present bankroller.

Squeezed into cramped but warm surroundings between the M4 motorway and the river, and currently majority owned by a supporters' trust, it is difficult not to feel a certain empathy with Brentford.

Meat pies were offered in the boardroom at half-time, and the almost entirely male occupants of the director's box were forced to share just a single toilet (not all at the same time I should add).

It may lack glamour, but just like Charlton (and unlike many Premiership clubs these days) this is a 'real' football club at the heart of its community.

However I could have done without seeing the smirking Deon Burton and Sam Sodje dressed in what might best be described as 'streetwear'. Certainly no official club tie in sight, as they made their way to the naughty step.

Not only did their misdemeanors deny us a likely three points on Saturday, one sensed that Burton's guile may have offered us the edge in a tight game today too.

Parkinson opted to return to a classic 4-4-2 by recalling Scott Wagstaff and former Brentford loanee Lloyd Sam, and dropping Jonjo Shelvey back to the bench.

Chris Dickson made his first Charlton start of the season on the ground where he scored twice during the first-half for Bristol Rovers back in September. He should have repeated the feat this afternoon, but his garish football boots clearly weren't his shooting ones.

The first half was a poor one, with chances few and far between aside from the above pair for Dickson. In the opening minutes he was quickest to react to a Sodje flick but couldn't keep his shot down.

And then in stoppage time he was sent clear despite looking suspiciously offside, so perhaps justice was done when his lob spun wide with Brentford keeper Lewis Price stranded.

With Leeds having already won, and with Norwich's game at Walsall postponed, there seemed little to be gained by Parkinson setting up the second half for a point, yet within minutes of the restart the outcome threatened to be even worse.

A mishit shot by Marcus Bean seemed to catch the Charlton defence wrong-footed, and gangly veteran substitute Carl Cort reacted fastest to fire past a helpless Rob Elliot.

Finally this lackadaisical London derby was alive, and Parkinson reacted swiftly by replacing the ineffectual Wagstaff with Shelvey.

It paid dividends within four minutes, when Charlton's busy skipper Nicky Bailey sent Dickson clear and the pacy forward had the presence of mind to knock it past Price, and await the inevitable illegal challenge.

Bailey stepped up to hammer home the penalty, the first goal Brentford had conceded in nearly six hours of League One football.

With more than a half-hour to play one sensed that the visitors might push on to claim a vital victory, but they rarely showed the requisite quality to do so and as above, therein lay the biggest disappointment of the afternoon for me.

This was best exemplified for me by an injury-time free-kick awarded barely 25 yards out.

At that stage of proceedings surely the priority was not necessarily to score directly, but to test the keeper with a fizzing low shot; indeed Parkinson's audible shout of,"Follow it in," suggested he agreed.

Instead Bailey smashed it several feet over, and to think they say footballers aren't intelligent.

The referee blew up moments later, and I made a hasty exit back to my car only to find out I'd been blocked Steve Waggott.

Here are my match ratings:

Elliot 6 - no chance for the goal or the fizzing free-kick that rattled the bar, but kicking was iffy just as it was versus Swindon
Omozusi 7 - gradually evolving into a solid reliable defender; just needs to add some forward thrust
Basey 5 - if Fabio Capello is looking for a full-back to lump a series of long balls up to Peter Crouch, this may be his man; sadly Crouch doesn't play for Charlton
Semedo 7 - a muscular presence; rarely troubled and acts like a leader
Llera 6 - formed a solid partnership with Semedo
Bailey 7 - ensured Brentford couldn't obtain a midfield foothold
Spring 5 - offered occasional glimpses of ability, but a sticky pitch wasn't the stage for his passing game
Wagstaff 3 - largely anonymous and starved of service; once again we are unbalanced by a right-footed left midfielder
Sam 5 - more involved than Wagstaff but couldn't carve out an opening
Dickson 6 - a lively performance but out-and-out strikers need to take their chances
Sodje 4 - snuffed out by Brentford's tight defence
Shelvey 5 - once again appeared to drift out of the game too easily
McKenzie 7 - left-footer offered a different threat; perhaps the long-term answer out wide?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Angel Delight

"Nine men, we only had nine men," I joyously sang to my new Swindon-made Honda Civic on the way home.

"Six gears, I've only got six gears," was her witty reposte, as I crunched my way through each of them.

Three acts of gross stupidity had threatened to derail Charlton's promotion push at a most inopportune stage of the season, but Miguel Angel Llera's brilliant equaliser reduced the damage done.

Nonetheless despite the understandable ecstasy at the final whistle, and the deserved ovation for the heroics of the nine men, this was a disappointing day for the Addicks given the way other results went.

The bookies now make Norwich odds-on to win promotion, whilst Charlton are odds-against.

The league table suggests they've got it wrong, but there is now considerable momentum behind the Canaries, whilst the Addicks face considerable injury and suspension headaches.

Phil Parkinson sacrificed width and omitted the season's surprise package Scott Wagstaff. He opted instead for a 4-3-1-2 formation with Jonjo Shelvey in the hole, and Matt Spring, Nicky Bailey and Jose Semedo forming a central midfield three.

However within minutes Sam Sodje's head injury forced Semedo into central defence, and surely only concussion could serve as a valid excuse for the Nigerian's ridiculous tackle shortly after his bandaged return.

Diving in to a tackle two-footed is such an inherently unnatural act (try it at home), that it must by definition constitute a mental aberration.

To lose one's faculties on the edge of the opponent's penalty box (and with no recognised central defender on the bench) makes it doubly unforgiveable, and he deserves whatever the club's disciplinary code throws his way.

It was the third straight red card of his short Charlton career, an unpleasant statistic.

Nonetheless Charlton regrouped into a 4-4-1 formation with brother Apko forced out wide, and Nicky Bailey returning to a familiar left-sided position.

Indeed it was from the flank that ten-man Charlton took a surprise but not undeserved lead.

Sodje found space on the right, and threaded a neat ball to Burton on the edge of the penalty box with his back to goal.

Whether he sought to merely control the ball or infact had the intelligent vision to pick out Shelvey is unclear, but importantly the midfielder was facing the goal and had the technique to curl a delightfully controlled finish.

The difficult circumstances of this game seemed to galvanise the teenager, whose natural style often appears more casual than energised.

Overall I continue to be frustrated by Shelvey because based on this goal and his subsequent all-round performance, he has the ability to be the best player in this division.

However it was exasperation rather than frustration which best described the feelings of most Charlton fans, when Burton stupidly saw red after two unnecessary quickfire yellow cards.

Presumably angered by a series of niggly Swindon fouls which the referee did not consider worth of a yellow card, Burton earned one himself instead for arguing a little too vociferously.

The red card arrived after a deliberate handball, whilst competing for a bouncing ball in the area with Swindon keeper, David Lucas.

Perhaps the referee could have recognised the handball was so blatant it could hardly constitute a genuine attempt to con, but why rely on the good faith of a referee with a new whistle and set of cards for Xmas?

Even with the two-man disadvantage, I still sensed Charlton could hold on. After all with Charlton leaving a single striker upfront (marked by two defenders), it implied '8 versus 8' when Swindon were attacking.

Indeed Swindon never threatened to carve us open on a regular basis, and their two goals were easily avoidable.

Although Llera was the hero in the end he was a lumbering presence for both Swindon goals, neither shielding the ball nor making a tackle when two dangerous balls were played into the feet of Charlie Austin.

The first lead directly to a goal for the striker, the second indirectly via the finish of Billy Paynter.

Inbetween the goals, Charlton had come close to taking a surprise 2-1 lead, set-piece headers from Sodje and Llera denied by keeper and goalline clearances respectively.

However once Swindon seemed to break Charlton hearts, many home fans headed for the exits. However those that stayed were given hope when Parkinson's late attacking substitutions threatened to pay dividends.

Swindon should have been looking to break at this juncture of the game to put it beyond doubt, but neutrals would have been hard-pressed to spot which team had nine men.

All three substitutes combined well to force a half-chance for Leon McKenzie, but with the seconds ticking away a hopeful long ball from Spring was controlled in a Bergkamp-esque fashion by Llera, and the Spaniard delivered a calm high-footed finish.

Here are my match ratings:

Elliot 7 - a smart first-half save, and safe handling throughout
Omozusi 7 - offers little going forward, but threw his heart into defensive matters
Basey 7 - stupid yellow card, but made a number of timely interventions
Sodje S 0 - idiot
Semedo 8 - we take for granted the effortless way he slotted into defence; likely to start there at Brentford
Llera 6 - stunning goal; defensively capable aerially but his high centre of gravity leaves him vulnerable on the floor
Bailey 8 - launched into tackles with the control that Sodje patently lacked; a true captain's performance
Spring 7 - maintains possession better than Racon; rarely played a misplaced pass
Shelvey 8 - brilliant calm finish; recognised the gravity of the situation and finally lifted his game
Burton 3 - nice touch for the first goal, but a horrid headed miss followed by a mindless red card
Sodje A 7 - performed a thankless task after Burton's red card with admirable resolve; unlucky to be withdrawn
McKenzie 5 - struggled to get involved; not a target man it seems
Wagstaff 7 - looked lively; his pace and attacking intent have been a revelation this season
Dickson 6 - some nice touches and an eager attitude

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

10 Memorable Draws of the Decade

Having spent nearly six years living in America, I’ve perhaps been brainwashed into thinking that the entire concept of a draw is abhorrent.

Indeed, given that most teams that drew every game would be relegated, I’ve always tended to be repelled by managers that proclaim that they ,”…came for a point.”

However during the decade, Charlton have been involved in several memorable draws that would have left no spectator unsatisfied. Here in detail are my top ten (in order):

1. 9 Dec 2000 – Charlton 3, Man Utd 3

United arrived at The Valley on the back of eight consecutive Premiership wins, and with a star-studded line up full of confidence, few gave the Addicks much hope of denying them a ninth one.

Shaun Bartlett made his first start for the Addicks after being utilised during the previous weekend’s defeat at Anfield, and the South African headed an unlikely 10th minute opener, burying a Graham Stuart cross past Raimond van der Gouw.

However the current Sports Personality of the Year Ryan Giggs, was rampant and influential in United’s quickfire response, taking the Champions into a surely unassailable 3-1 lead midway through the second half.

His classy finish in the 42nd minute, was followed a minute later by an audacious 50-yard lob which bounced off Dean Kiely’s crossbar straight into the grateful path of Ole Solskjaer.

Giggs then set up Roy Keane for United’s third midway through the second half, a cue for Alex Ferguson to remove both the Irishman and David Beckham, presumably considering the game won. Remarkably he was mistaken.

Bartlett took advantage of slack marking to head home Radostin Kishishev’s 79th minute cross to give Charlton hope.

Then with just five minutes left, substitute John Robinson collected the ball from an uncleared corner, and delivered a cute shot from an unlikely angle past van der Gouw.

His equaliser was the catalyst for the type of wild celebration that fully explained just why the passionate Welshman was loved so much.

Brilliant stuff, and it can be enjoyed again here.

2. 19 Nov 2001 – Charlton 4, West Ham 4

This pulsating televised local derby was the type of match that seemingly only the English Premiership can produce.

The lead changed hands three times, and if ever a draw could be termed the ‘fair result’, then surely this was it.

By the half-hour mark it was already 2-2, with former Charlton striker Paul Kitson and Jason Euell both netting braces.

Shortly after half-time, Jonatan Johansson gave Charlton back the lead from Scott Parker’s pass, but it was Kitson again who scored his third of the night to restore parity.

However when 19-year old Jermaine Defoe silenced the boo-boys with a well-taken 84th minute volley, it seemed that the Addicks would emerge as losers from the game that didn’t deserve to have one.

But with referee Alan Wiley counting down the injury time minutes, Johansson delivered one of his trademark overhead kicks to provide the perfect finale to an extraordinary game.

3. 15 May 2005 – Charlton 2, Crystal Palace 2

I was a little reluctant to include this one given that it was a meaningless fixture for Charlton, but it gave far too much pleasure to so many to exclude it (not least to those in West Bromwich).

A win for Iain Dowie’s side would have ensured Premiership survival, but it seemed an unlikely outcome for nearly an hour until Dougie Freedman equalised Bryan Hughes’ first-half opener.

But when Andy Johnson scored his 21st Premiership goal of the season from the spot, the scenes of joy in the Jimmy Seed stand were offset by those of desolation at The Hawthorns, where the Baggies required all three of their relegation rivals to slip up.

Then with just eight minutes left, Jonathan Fortune headed home from a Jerome Thomas corner, to ignite scenes of jubilation which were the very epitome of schadenfreude.

The Addicks held on for their point, whilst WBA secured the win they needed over Portsmouth to become the first Premiership team to be bottom at Xmas to survive.

Interestingly despite finishing a creditable 11th in the table, Alan Curbishley complained in his post-match comments that he had been the subject of considerable criticism from Addicks fans.

In just a year’s time Dowie would be sat in his vacated manager’s chair and the rest as they say, is history.

4. 23 Sep 2003 – Charlton 4, Luton 4 (8-7 on pens), League Cup 2nd Rnd

Despite Charlton’s dire League Cup history, an impressive crowd of over 10,000 arrived at The Valley for this 2nd Round encounter. Few could have expected the extraordinary game that followed.

Curbishley fielded a full-strength side that included the likes of Young, Powell, Parker, Jensen and Di Canio, but it was only the Italian’s 90th minute intervention that ensured the Addicks even made it to extra-time.

The Hatters had stormed into a 2-0 lead with two first-half goals inside two minutes, but Scott Parker and Kevin Lisbie replied either side of half-time to bring the home side level.

However when the up-and-coming Gary McSheffrey fired home a stunning 25-yarder on 76 minutes, it seemed the Second Division side (which included current Addick, Matt Spring) would not be denied.

However Paolo Di Canio’s late intervention after good work from young substitute Jamal Campbell-Ryce brought thirty extra minutes, though one wonders how many disgruntled Addicks fans were already on their way home.

Claus Jensen put Charlton 4-3 up during the opening extra period, but Chris Coyne scored the game’s third equaliser with ten minutes left to ensure penalties.

After an extraordinary 15 successful penalties, it was eventually Coyne who was denied by Dean Kiely to send the Addicks into a Third Round tie at Everton.

5. 7 Nov 2006 – Chesterfield 3, Charlton 3 (3-4 on pens), League Cup 4th Rnd

Having overcome fellow Premiership side Bolton in the 3rd Round, this comfortable-looking tie offered the Addicks an outstanding chance to reach the last eight of the League Cup for the very first time.

Iain Dowie recognised the importance of the tie, selecting a strong side for the trip to Derbyshire, cognizant perhaps that both Manchester City and West Ham had already fallen victim to their evening’s opponents.

However his side were forced to come from behind twice during normal time, goals from striking stars Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Darren Bent, replying to the Spireite’s goals at the beginning of each half.

When Hasselbaink scored his second in the third minute of extra time, it seemed as though the Addicks had earned a hard-fought win but veteran striker Wayne Allison scored the sixth goal of the night with seconds left to bring on spot-kicks.

Hasselbaink missed his effort to give the underdogs an early advantage, but two saves from Scott Carson gave Hermann Hreidardsson the chance to secure a 4-3 penalties win, and the Iceman obliged.

Dowie was gone by the time the 5th Round came along, Les Reed’s charges duly buggering up the golden chance handed to them to reach a first major semi-final for 50 years.

6. 17 Apr 2001 – Charlton 3, Aston Villa 3

A last-gasp equaliser from Lee Hendrie denied the ten-man Addicks a battling Easter win, after Richard Rufus was sent off for an innocuous-looking 36th minute foul.

Despite the setback, Charlton built on the early lead handed them by George Boateng’s own goal, doubling it via a soft Claus Jensen penalty on the stroke of half-time, referee Graham Poll perhaps doing some ‘evening up after delivering his harsh red card.

However goals from substitutes David Ginola and Darius Vassell put the visitors into the ascendancy, before future Villa midfielder Mark Kinsella scored a well-deserved 89th minute third for Charlton.

However Hendrie’s well-taken last-minute goal broke Charlton hearts, and ensured that home fans would not forget Poll’s earlier intervention. He required a steward’s escort to leave the pitch.

7. 19 Dec 2009 – Charlton 4, Millwall 4

When a team suffers two penalties, a red card and an own goal, it’s hard to ultimately deny them the point that their battling display deserved, even if it’s Millwall.

I chose to give this one a miss, deciding that if I wanted to learn more about Neanderthal man, I’d opt to spend an afternoon at the Natural History Museum instead. Given the way the game transpired, I don’t regret my decision.

Nicky Bailey’s stunning goal was the highlight, but unlike the 4-4 draw with West Ham for example, I suspect this particular eight-goal clash won’t be termed a ‘classic’ with the fullness of time.

Nonetheless given its status as a local derby, and the freshness of its memory, it would have been incongruous not to include it in this top ten.

8 May 2004 – Leeds 3, Charlton 3

If ever there was an occasion where a fan wasn’t willing his or her team to complete a stunning fightback, then this was probably it.

Two late goals in three minutes by Jason Euell condemned Leeds to relegation, forcing the travelling Addicks fans to face the ire of their famously boisterous Yorkshire compatriots.

Ironically perhaps just five years later they would be battling for promotion together in League One.

Kilgallon, Pennant and cult hero Smith had given Leeds a 3-1 lead with just 21 minutes left, after Matt Holland’s earlier opener for the visitors.

However cash-strapped Leeds were now largely shorn of their highly-paid stars, and relegation had been on the cards for some time. Nonetheless as we would do the following season too (see above), we condemned a club to relegation.

9. 6 Jan 2001 – Charlton 1, Dagenham & Redbridge 1 (FA Cup 3rd Rnd)

It remains a source of considerable mystery why arch tactician Alan Curbishley would seemingly be found out so consistently in these types of fixtures.

If it wasn’t for John Salako’s 86th minute equaliser, Charlton’s defeat at Northwich Victoria in this season’s FA Cup would not have represented our first exit at the hands of non-League opposition.

Remarkably Charlton had just beaten Arsenal on New Year’s Day, and triumphed two days earlier 4-1 at Manchester City. Conference side Dagenham & Redbridge should have been cannon fodder.

Instead the Essex side comprehensively outplayed the Addicks with a display of impressive verve and intensity, and I recall feeling slightly saddened when we equalised. Even a fan as impassioned as me can recognise a gross injustice when I see one.

Texas-born striker Junior McDougald almost claimed back page Sunday glory for himself with a first-half header, but Salako’s deflected strike earned the Premiership side a replay which they just about scraped through.

The Valley standing ovation for the Daggers was fully deserved.

10. 24 Apr 2000 – Blackburn 1, Charlton 1

With seven games to go in this procession of a season, Charlton needed just 13 points to reach a century of points.

However in true Charlton fashion under Curbs, rather than romp to the Division One title they rather limped over the line, eventually securing it with this scrappy draw at Ewood Park.

Although neither was ever seriously in doubt, the Addicks only secured both the title and automatic promotion respectively by two and four points.

Matty Svensson’s first half goal was cancelled out by Lee Carsley’s penalties, but Charlton held on to secure their first League title since the Division 3 South in 1929.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Worst 10 Defeats of the Decade

Despite the difficulties experienced since relegation from the Premiership, on balance this decade was a successful one for Charlton Athletic.

However, the team experienced the bitter taste of defeat on 156 occasions in League play alone, whilst by definition we exited the Cups each season (often in embarrassing circumstances).

Hence compiling a list of the worst ten defeats of the decade was not easy. Rather than just list the heaviest defeats out of context, I have focused on those where the post-match pain and anger felt the strongest.

1. 19 Dec 2006 – Charlton 0, Wycombe 1 (League Cup 6th Rnd)

The club was in the midst of a painful transition following 15 years of near linear success under Alan Curbishley, but if there was one thing Curbs never delivered it was a modicum of Cup success.

So when home wins over Carlisle and Bolton, were followed by a penalties win at Chesterfield, we began to dream of Wembley not least when the club was handed a gift in the shape of a home tie against League Two opposition. A semi-final spot surely awaited.

In the days leading up to the tie, Charlton had been humiliated by both Spurs and Liverpool, and the tenure of Les Reed was under severe threat. Nonetheless a perfectly timed opportunity to put things right presented itself that chilly December night.

An impressive crowd of over 18,000 instead saw Reed select a strong Charlton side that included the likes of Scott Carson, Dennis Rommedahl and Darren Bent

The Addicks were rocked on 25 minutes when £3.7m defender Souleymayne Diawara was beaten for pace by Jermaine Easter, who unleashed a powerful shot past Carson.

Whether hamstrung by fear, ineptitude or some combination of both, the Premiership retreated into their shells and rarely threatened to avert a humiliating shock.

Reed refused to face the media after the game, or more likely was advised not to by a Board ruing his bizarre appointment as permanent manager. He was gone within a week.

2. 7 Feb 2001 – Charlton 2, Tottenham 4 (FA Cup 4th Rnd)

Fixtures against Spurs were always eagerly awaited given I was brought up firmly in their catchment area, had several close friends who followed them, and at the time was living no more than four miles from White Hart Lane.

Charlton had already won the equivalent Premiership fixture 1-0 the previous September, whilst just three days earlier we had secured a point in a goalless draw in the away meeting.

With George Graham under severe pressure, and given the high priority Spurs always give the Cup competitions, this tie presented an ideal chance for me to secure some local bragging rights. Moreover, a straightforward looking home tie with Stockport awaited in the 5th Round.

The unlikely figure of Chris Powell got the evening off to a flying start with just 11 minutes played, stealing in to head home after a defensive mix-up.

Then shortly after half-time, Swedish striker Mathias Svensson swept home a second goal, ensuring the Jimmy Seed stand was filled with chants of ”Graham out.”

I was on cloud nine, and there appeared to be no way back for Spurs. But then the game completely turned on a random piece of bad luck, galvanising visiting players and fans alike. Within five minutes, the score would be 2-3.

The lumbering Irish striker Gary Doherty saw his shot-cum-cross deflected past Sasa Ilic by the unfortunate Richard Rufus, and suddenly the visitors had hope.

Four minutes later Ilic failed to deal with a Darren Anderton free-kick, and almost immediately from the restart Norwegian winger Oyvind Leonhardsen found space to fire home a third.

For perhaps the first time at a football match, I felt so physically sick that I was convinced I might retch.

The turnaround had occurred so abruptly, and the psychology had altered to such a degree, that you knew there was no way back for Charlton despite 27 minutes still remaining.

When Sergei Rebrov scored the fourth with a few minutes left, it merely compounded my abject misery. I doubt I have ever felt so bad leaving a stadium.

3. 26 Dec 2000 – West Ham 5, Charlton 0

Boxing Day fixtures always seem to throw up unusual results, whether due to the unusually early lunchtime kick-offs or too much Xmas spirit.

Harry Redknapp’s side had achieved three consecutive top ten finishes, and for this local derby contained the impressive likes of Carrick, Lampard, Di Canio and Kanoute.

However by the season’s end, the Hammers had stumbled to a 15th position whilst the Addicks were 9th, with ten more points. Hence the events of this festive fixture were even more surprising given the benefit of hindsight.

Wearing unfamiliar white shirts and red shorts, the Addicks were a shambles virtually from kick-off to final whistle, not least in defence where the mercurial Di Canio must have thought next Christmas had come very early.

The Italian’s cheeky 13th minute back heeled flick set the ball rolling via a Richard Rufus deflection, then five minutes later Kanoute pounced on a Mark Kinsella error to make it two.

On the stroke of half-time, Graham Stuart failed to clear a corner which eventually led to a third from Lampard.

After the break, the Hammers relaxed and added two more through a spectacular Trevor Sinclair drive, and Kanoute’s second.

It was a shameful performance which actually obliged Stuart (notably) to hold his hands up to the travelling Addicks, and mouth an apology.

After the game, Curbs said, ”I wish we hadn’t turned up.” Most Charlton fans present felt the same way.

4. 22 Nov 2008 – Charlton 2, Sheffield United 5

Alan Pardew’s spell as Charlton manager got the ending it deserved, after a home performance and result that left his position untenable. He was gone before the day was even out.

The Addicks had failed to win since 4th October, and the previous home game had seen a mediocre but organised Barnsley side take a 3-0 half-time lead.

Fans scented blood, and they weren’t left wanting even before kick-off when Pardew began a must-win home game with just a single striker (Andy Gray).

When Linvoy Primus cancelled out James Beattie’s early opener, the momentum should have been with Charlton but confidence was low and they couldn’t get any traction.

Instead four goals in 26 minutes either side of half-time saw the Blades move into a 5-1 lead, and the club’s HR department was filling out a P45 before referee Steve Tanner had even blown up for the end of the game.

After the game Pardew stated, ”My ego isn’t that big but I still believe in what I can do.” Charlton fans would beg to disagree.

5. 2 Oct 2004 – Arsenal 4, Charlton 0

Losing 4-0 to one of the so-called ‘big four’ is no disgrace, but I do not recall another Premiership match where we were so comprehensively outclassed.

Given we had just finished 7th in the Premiership, it emphasised just how large the gap remained although in fairness their hosts were peerless at that time, unbeaten in Premiership play for 17 months.

The game is best remembered for Thierry Henry’s audacious back-heeled goal just after half-time which ended the game as a contest, but the overall quality of Arsenal’s play bamboozled all afternoon.

Ironically the Addicks had contained the Gunners fairly well for over a half-hour until Freddie Ljungberg’s opener, but as is often the case once an opening goal is scored, the visitors are forced forward and new gaps emerge.

Wearing all yellow in this type of situation might signal cowardice, but a fully-armed militia may have struggled to contain Arsenal in this form.

When Henry and Jose Antonio Reyes doubled the scoreline inside a second-half minute, it threatened to become embarrassing given how rarely Charlton had possession, but they escaped with just a 4-0 scoreline.

As Curbs rightly put it after the game, ”We know it could have been even worse.”

6. 5 Apr 2003 – Charlton 1, Leeds 6

This was the weekend of my sister’s wedding, and to this day I’m not entirely sure who my Dad was shedding tears for when he walked her down the aisle.

The momentum of Charlton’s season was reversing fast, after a five-match winning run beginning in late-January that had seen fans expectantly dusting down their Rough Guide to Europe books.

Leeds (led by caretaker boss Peter Reid) were fighting for their Premiership lives, and without a win in 2003. This was despite showcasing a team on this spring afternoon that contained the likes of Robinson, Mills, Radebe, Kewell, Smith and Viduka.

But if there is one thing that a struggling team desperate for points wants, then surely it’s to face Charlton Athletic in the Premiership during the month of April. Our late-season collapses were stuff of legend.

Leeds were 5-1 up before the hour mark, half the goals in the game so far scored from the penalty spot (one by Charlton’s Jason Euell).

Things were so bad that Curbs was forced to resort to damage limitation, putting on a third central defender (Tahar El Khalej) to bolster the shellshocked pair of Richard Rufus and Mark Fish.

Kewell scored the sixth on 76 minutes, and Viduka hit the bar as he sought his fourth and his team’s seventh goal on a crazy afternoon.

”Are you watching Venables?” sang the visiting fans in a dig at their recently departed boss, but their joy was shortlived…..they were relegated the following season.

7. 26 Jan 2002 – Charlton 1, Walsall 2 (FA Cup 4th Rnd)

Perhaps the most frustrating thing about Charlton’s poor Cup form during the decade, has been the fact that we could certainly not blame it upon the luck of the draw.

With seemingly unerring regularity, we would be drawn at home against lowly opposition yet often contrive to either lose, or just about escape with pride intact (think Dagenham & Redbridge the previous season).

Walsall had won promotion to the second-tier, but should have presented mere cannon fodder to a side comfortably sat in the Premiership midtable.

Colin Lee had been appointed as the visiting side’s manager just two days earlier, and with expectations low for this fixture, he could afford to tell his players to relax and enjoy their football.

And within just five minutes they could relax even more, because Portuguese playmaker Jorge Leitao had put them ahead with a delightful opener.

In a highly conservative act of tactical tinkering, Curbs switched from his original 4-5-1 to match Walsall’s 4-4-2, handing the underdogs a signal that we were even more fearful than might be expected with 85 minutes still on the clock.

Walsall retained control of the game against their nervy hosts, and deserved to double their lead in the 59th minute when Leitao beat the offside trap to slide the ball past Dean Kiely.

Curbs reacted with a double substitution, finally throwing caution to the wind with the ‘little and large’ pair of Mathias Svensson and Kevin Lisbie.

Within minutes Charlton had wrested back control, earning a (missed) penalty before Graham Stuart made amends with a goal from open play.

However with over 20 minutes left to find an equaliser, keeper Jimmy Walker was not beaten again and the Saddlers had secured the shock of the round.

8. 11 Mar 2000 – Charlton 0, Swindon 1

A rampant Charlton side were seemingly a cut above the rest of Division One, having put together a 12-match winning run which had begun way back on Boxing Day with a 2-1 win over Crystal Palace. The all-time record was only two wins away.

Indeed the inevitable phrase ‘unlucky thirteen’ was barely uttered as a packed Valley crowd made their way to their seats, such was their understandable confidence.

Swindon meanwhile were bottom of the table, a position they would finish the season in registering just eight wins. Unfortunately one of them included this most unlikely of victories.

When a rare Dean Kiely mistake gifted Swindon’s Steve Cowe a 5th minute lead, there was surely sufficient time for a buoyant Addicks side containing the attacking likes of Hunt, Svensson, Newton, Robinson, and Stuart.

But for some reason, it simply didn’t happen and the home side delivered an uncharacteristically flat performance that reminded us that it is football’s inherent unpredictability that holds so much appeal to purists.

9. 9 Dec 2006 – Tottenham 5, Charlton 1

Until this debacle our record at White Hart Lane had been outstanding, registering three wins and two draws during the previous six matches earlier in the decade.

And with a Les Reed-led Charlton side smarting from a late winner at home to Blackburn four days earlier, there was a degree of optimism that the good run could continue.

However in reality the fixture would herald one of the worst ten day periods in the history of the club, culminating in the defeat at Wycombe above. The 3-0 home defeat to Liverpool sandwiched in between was also a close contender for inclusion on this top ten list.

Charlton started reasonably well, but once Dimitar Berbatov opened the scoring on 31 minutes, heads dropped and the floodgates opened.

The Bulgarian would score Tottenham’s final goal just 35 minutes later, Charlton’s only reply being a Michael Dawson own goal just before half-time.

With the scoreline reading 5-1, Reed finally gave Darren Bent some forward line company by bringing on Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink but the game was already up for Charlton.

”We know exactly where we have to go from here,” said Reed after the game. For his Addicks side it was the Championship, and for him it was the job centre and based on this performance, rightly so.

10. 23 Feb 2008 – Blackpool 5, Charlton 3

The scoreline from a gusty day on the Lancashire coastline suggests a ding-dong battle that the Tangerines narrowly edged, but it was much worse in truth.

It was a vital game too, with Alan Pardew’s men desperately seeking to keep their promotion hopes alive. Indeed following recent vital home wins over Crystal Palace and Stoke, there was some hope that all was not yet lost.

However the Addicks were blown away in a devastating ten minute spell midway through the second half, in which they committed defensive hara-kiri.

Having fallen 2-0 behind inside 26 minutes, the Addicks actually battled back in impressive style with two quickfire Darren Ambrose strikes.

But instead of pushing on and maintaining the momentum after half-time, defensive lapses allowed Gary Taylor-Fletcher (twice) and on-loan veteran Paul Dickov to make the score 5-2, and put the Addicks out of sight.

Pardew however was determined not to single out any individuals for blame. ”No disrespect to Grant Basey,” he emphasised, ”…but we really missed Kelly Youga.”

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Best 10 Wins of the Decade

This decade has been a rollercoaster ride, with the club experiencing a promotion, two relegations and both its highest and lowest League finishes since the late-1950s.

However before we wallow in self-pity, to lift our spirits here is a definitive personal list of the ten most memorable wins of the decade (in order):

1. 4 Nov 2001 – Arsenal 2, Charlton 4

There was little to suggest that the black kit-clad Charlton side that arrived for this Sunday fixture had what it took to spring a derby surprise.

They had won only one of their previous nine Premiership matches, and ominously they fell behind in the 7th minute to a Thierry Henry opener.

Steve Brown headed Charlton level against the run of play, before error-prone Richard Wright bizarrely punched into his own net to give Charlton a surprise half-time lead.

However with most Addicks fans preparing for a post-interval onslaught, a most extraordinary four-minute spell instead sent them into dreamland.

Anyone seeking to compile a Charlton ‘goals of the decade’ list would surely have Claus Jensen’s lob very near the top, whilst Jason Euell’s calm finish for the fourth goal was memorable for the sheer delirium it caused amongst the fans camped behind that goal.

Thierry Henry’s penalty on the hour was ultimately merely a consolation, and Charlton held on for a famous win.

Cynics may point to Arsenal’s missed chances (they had 27 goal attempts!) but how many matches have caused so much excitement, that they generated their own full-length DVD in the Charlton club shop?

2. 26 Dec 2003 – Charlton 4, Chelsea 2

Highlights of this game were recently shown on the Fox Soccer Channel in the US, the viewing of which offered both fond nostalgia as well as deflating disappointment at how far we have since fallen.

This memorable Boxing Day lunchtime fixture very clearly marked for me the clear decade peak in Charlton’s fortunes.

Although we would go on to finish 7th in the Premiership, the dynamic midfield performance of Scott Parker ensured he would wear Chelsea blue within weeks, and the heart of the team was ripped out from which it never fully recovered.

Hermann Hreidarsson put Charlton ahead within a minute, whilst Matt Holland’s brilliantly timed header was the perfect response to John Terry’s equaliser.

Jonatan Johansson put Charlton further ahead from close range, before Jason Euell (just as he did at Arsenal) put the Addicks into an unfamiliar 4-1 lead against a supposed ‘big four’ club.

Charlton were in the midst of a seven-game unbeaten Premiership run, and two days later they would win at Spurs to complete a fabulous London derby double.

As late as mid-January, the Addicks were in the top four and dared to dream of Champions League football., but just 4 wins in their final 16 Premiership matches ensured that remarkably a 7th place finish felt like a disappointment.

3. 24 Feb 2007 – Charlton 4, West Ham 0

My day had already started well with the early hours birth of my first child, and it was to continue to get better.

The game was a preview—writer’s dream, with Curbs returning to The Valley and an increasingly confident Addicks side given hope by Alan Pardew’s leadershihp, just weeks after leaving Upton Park.

It was the archetypal ‘relegation six pointer’ too, and the Hammers were blown away by a devastating 17-minute spell which saw the home side race into a 3-0 lead through a combination of rank defending, and cool finishing from Darren Ambrose, Jerome Thomas and Darren Bent.

Despite a more passionate second-half performance from the visitors, they could not gain a foothold and Thomas put the icing on the cake with a late fourth.

Charlton leapfrogged their opponents with the win, but only one team would survive, the Carlos Tevez-inspired Hammers winning 7 of their final 10 matches to complete a remarkable escape.

4. 28 Sep 2003 – Charlton 3, Liverpool 2

Just like the wins over Arsenal and Chelsea above, this famous win over Liverpool was completed infront of a live television audience, lending more evidence to a sceptical public that we were potentially more than mere Premiership also-rans.

Much maligned striker Kevin Lisbie had signalled his intent with a late substitute goal a week earlier at Aston Villa, and a midweek League Cup goal against Luton.

However it’s fair to say no-one expected to see him leave the Valley pitch clutching the matchball, following an outstanding all-round performance of pace and trickery.

Vladimir Spicer had given Liverpool a 15th minute lead, but Lisbie replied with two quickfire goals from close range. Michael Owen equalised with an early second-half penalty, but the Addicks striker had saved the best for last.

With 82 minutes on the clock, he surged forward from inside his own half and with the Liverpool defence backing off, he delivered an uncharacteristically cool sidefooted finish past a stranded Jerzy Dudek, to prompt scenes of unbridled joy not least upon the babyface of the striker himself.

I turned to my Dad at full-time and said, “This could turn his career around.” It didn’t.

5. 29 Jan 2000 – Coventry 2, Charlton 3 (FA Cup 5th Round)

The absence of Manchester United from this season’s FA Cup had tainted the competition somewhat, but nonetheless straightforward home wins over Swindon and QPR took the Addicks into the last sixteen.

An away draw at Premiership side Coventry City delivered neither glamour nor seemingly much chance of victory, especially after Belgian striker Cedric Roussel had blasted the Sky Blues into a 2-0 lead.

However the Addicks were in the midst of a 12-game winning run in Division One, and confidence was high. They dusted themselves down and began a remarkable fightback before half-time.

In the 41st minute, an acrobatic overhead cross from the impressive Shaun Newton was nodded home by fellow winger John Robinson, and in first-half injury time Newton himself was on hand to finish after Marcus Hedman could only parry an Andy Hunt effort.

Charlton continued the momentum in the second half and were comfortably the better side, but with the clock ticking away they could at least comfort themselves with the thought of the extra cash from a replay, if they couldn’t produce the winner.

However with just two minutes of normal time left, Hunt completed the turnaround when his shot squeezed past Hedman to send the large travelling contingent of Addicks fans into ecstasy.

The Cup dream ended in disappointing fashion at Bolton, but the first season of the decade was nonetheless an outstanding one culminating in the lifting of the Division One title.

6. 23 Aug 2003 – Wolves 0, Charlton 4

The season had started with a whimper after a opening day thumping by Manchester City, whilst Dave Jones-led Wolves were eagerly looking forward to their opening Premiership home game following promotion.

Jason Euell took advantage of slack defending to give the Addicks a 5th minute lead, before a stunning Claus Jensen free-kick doubled the lead with just a quarter-hour gone.

Most Addicks fans reasonably expected their side to consolidate their unexpected lead and take their foot off the attacking gas, but the message clearly did not get through to Scott Parker and Shaun Bartlett who combined effortlessly twice to make the score 4-0 with just 33 minutes on the clock.

Charlton fans sang, “What the hell is going on?” (or a ruder derivative thereof), but rather than push on to register a record score, the game petered out as a contest although not enough to prevent Parker being shown red by the fussy Phil Dowd.

7. 19 Aug 2000 – Charlton 4, Manchester City 0

Charlton’s first season in the Premiership had begun promisingly (two goalless draws and a 5-0 win over Southampton), yet ultimately ended in relegation. Alas, Addicks fans were understandably cautious to read too much into this memorable opening day win the second time around.

However they were wrong to be cautious because their side would go on to finish in a highly creditable 9th position, and it was confident performances like this one that explained how.

New signings Claus Jensen and Radostin Kishishev made their debuts for an already injury-hit Charlton, against a City side that included Liberian legend George Weah and future Addicks keeper, Nicky Weaver.

A neat finish from Andy Hunt and a deflected John Robinson goal gave Charlton a comfortable half-time lead, which they built upon in style during a rampaging second half performance.

Mark Kinsella hammered home after a flowing move through a dismembered City defence, before Graham Stuart completed the rout from the spot after Kinsella was brought down in the box.

Charlton were soon brought down to earth with a bang however, conceding eight goals in three days at Everton and Arsenal.

Unlike in 1998/99 however, they did not disintegrate instead building the medium-term Premiership foundation for some of the even more memorable wins outlined above.

8. 6 Nov 2004 – Tottenham 2, Charlton 3

This game was especially memorable for me given the unusual way I received news of the win.

Just before kick-off, I boarded a flight from New York to Atlanta, so asked my Dad to send me match news by text which I would receive upon landing. Once the wheels hit the tarmac in Georgia, I eagerly turned on my phone to receive six text messages that I proceeded to open in the order received.

GOAL (Bartlett 17)
GOAL (Bartlett 39)
GOAL (Thomas 50)

This was just too good to be true, but it threatened to get even better (or potentially calamitously worse) depending upon what was contained inside the remaining three texts. Surely we weren’t leading Spurs 6-0 away?

RED CARD (Bartlett 68)
GOAL (Keane 69)
GOAL (Defoe 79)

Now my heart was racing too fast….we were down to ten men, Spurs had got two goals back and for all I knew there may be a 7th text message just waiting in the ether awaiting delivery.

There was, but thankfully it contained the news I was waiting for…..FULL TIME, Charlton won 3-2.

Spurs may have been in turmoil following Jacques Santini’s shock resignation just a day before kick-off, but new caretaker boss Martin Jol would ultimately go on to lead them to consecutive 5th place finishes beginning the following season.

But drawing attention to problems behind the scenes at White Hart Lane would detract from a brilliant away win, epitomised by Charlton’s second goal.

A superb one-touch move saw former Spurs man Luke Young released down the right flank from where he would deliver a pinpoint cross that Shaun Bartlett met with a bullet diving header.

9. 23 Aug 2008 – Charlton 4, Reading 2

Anyone who wanted evidence that too much can be read into a single good (or bad) performance, should watch the re-run of this televised Championship fixture.

The win gave Alan Pardew’s side six points from its opening three games, and there was nothing to suggest the calamity that season 2008/9 would become.

Charlton began with plenty of attacking verve in a refreshingly open game, and took a deserved 26th minute lead when Matt Holland bundled home after a Luke Varney shot was parried.

Andy Gray doubled the lead from the spot just before the interval (Reading having missed their own penalty), but Charlton’s defence was caught napping in first-half injury time as Ibrahima Sonko headed Reading back into the game.

The third penalty of the game saw the Royals draw level shortly after half-time, but the cavalier approach of the home side would earn a rich reward with two fine goals.

Lloyd Sam crossed for Varney to head home with rarely seen confidence, before on-loan Hameur Bouazza delivered a stunning volleyed fourth that would be an early contender for goal of the season.

With the pace and guile of the likes of Sam, Bouazza, Varney and Yassin Moutaouakil complimenting the experience of Mark Hudson, Nicky Bailey, Jonathan Fortune and Holland, there were optimistic post-match hopes that the lessons of the second half of 2007/8 had swiftly been learned.

Instead the same mistakes would be repeated in devastating fashion as the season disintegrated in a whirlwind of tactical confusion, a crisis of confidence and an obsession with temporary loans.

10. 22 Jan 2003 – Charlton 4, West Ham 2

West Ham may have been bottom, and they may have been led by the awkward figure of Glenn Roeder, but this was the type of confident performance and victory that we began to take for granted under Alan Curbishley.

The scoreline may have been even more impressive if it wasn’t for the two goals Charlton gifted their visitors, via wicked deflections off Richard Rufus and Mark Fish.

Claus Jensen had equalised the first of them with a great free-kick, before a quickfire Scott Parker brace early in the second half seemed to have killed off the Hammers.

Fish’s inadvertent intervention gave them some hope, but Radostin Kishishev popped up to score a late goal, his first for the club to secure a deserved 4-2 derby win.

The memory might have been fonder without the knowledge that West Ham’s comedy defence that day included......Christian Dailly.

Next: The Worst 10 Defeats of the Decade

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Shrimp Baiting

With some of South East London's finest having assured me of my Vauxhall Corsa's street cred, I proudly brought it to The Valley instead of taking the train.

I'm not sure that the kidz in da 'hood are driving the 5-door version, but at least I now understand why their cars make so much damned noise. Unless the rev counter is above 5,000 rpm, the bloody thing doesn't move.

With the spasms slowly wearing off from excessive gear changes, I took my seat in the West Stand. Fraser Richardson was a surprise inclusion (although he only lasted a half), whilst I had correctly guessed that Therry Racon would replace Jose Semedo in midfield.

If the sign of a good side is winning without playing well, then we must be dead certs for promotion on this performance. It was uninspiring stuff, and I'd be lying if I said I'd enjoyed it.

Strangely perhaps, we could have been backed before the game to win League One at longer odds than those available pre-season, despite averaging more than two points per game.

The reason is obviously the form of Leeds, although their lunchtime draw at home will have provided a useful prematch boost for the Addicks.

The strike pairing of Deon Burton and David Mooney (in place since the MK Dons fixture) has produced 13 points from a possible 15, and has certainly turned around our fortunes.

However based on this performance at least, it has turned us into a rather unattractive proposition, at least compared to some of the passing football apparent during the opening six games.

I suspect that Phil Parkinson hasn't instructed the team to play more long balls, but at this level the players lack the technical ability not to resort to them. This is especially the case when they know the front two are capable in the air.

The first half was scrappy, but compared to the dire second half performance we were like the Brazil team from 1970.

Lloyd Sam had produced an excellent save, before Lee Barnard was foiled superbly by Rob Elliot's left leg when a goal seemed a certainty. The chance had been created after Grant Basey's lack of pace had been exploited in frankly humiliating fashion.

Sam was instrumental in the goal too. An Addicks free-kick had only been half-cleared and ended up at the winger's feet on the right flank.

He shaped to move to his favoured right foot, but confused two defenders by working the ball to his weaker left, delivering a pinpoint cross which Burton headed home through the keeper's legs.

Southend presented a clear and present threat mainly from left-footed set-piece delivery from full-back, Scott Malone. The rest of their approach play was as patchy as ours however, and rarely did they work the ball into feet in dangerous positions.

Elliot Omozusi replaced Richardson at half-time, but that change alone could not explain the total lack of invention and drive during the entire second period.

If Southend had lifted their game just a notch or two, then a draw or more was there for the taking. Instead willed on by 1,500 or so fans who spent the entire afternoon baiting Nicky Bailey, the Shrimpers continued to offer little in the final third.

With the clock ticking towards the 90th minute, I wasn't sure whether I'd die first of cold or boredom but either way I wanted to get the hell out of there. It was a good decision; the score remained 1-0 and I made it home by 6pm.

Here are my match ratings:

Elliot 6: a brilliant first-half save, but dodgy handling on more than one occasion;
Richardson 5: largely anonymous and rarely forged forward; possibly not fully fit;
Basey 6: a terrfic attitude but ultimately a limited player;
Dailly 7: marshalled his defence towards another clean sheet;
Sodje S. 6: he seems to transition from athletic defender to headless chicken with alarming regularity; luckily no harm done today;
Bailey 6: always eagerly involved but in a deeper role than normal;
Racon 5: seems to have taken several steps backward after a sparkling start to the season;
Sam 8: too good for League One in my view, and the transfer rumours are no surprise;
Wagstaff 6: began the game well but faded badly; like so many others who've fulfilled that role, he is not a natural left-footer;
Burton 7: enjoying the twilight of his career up against defenders who can't deal with his clever movement and touches;
Mooney 6: a little unlucky to be withdrawn; not entirely clear what he adds, especially alongside Burton (but results suggest plenty);
Omozusi 5: did little of note in a shocking second half;
Spring 6: must have felt hard done by not to start, especially given Racon's uninspiring display - a more natural holding midfielder;
Sodje A 4: I don't recall him touching the ball, but given he was on the field for thirty minutes I presume he must have done.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Southend preview

After a manic week of moving and organising following my return to the UK, I'm looking forward to my third Valley fixture of the season at home to Southend.

The missing preview of the Brighton game was not a reflection (yet) of my intention to give up blogging, but the rare fact that I'd completely forgotten we were playing until nine minutes before kick-off.

Despite the horrific weather, I'm generally pleased to be home although so far it's been the small things that I've enjoyed.

The ability to use dry humour with people you hardly know, and not to be met with a blank stare has been refreshing.

Our supermarkets are terrific too compared to the cramped surroundings of Manhattan, where you are required to perform a three point turn with your trolley before you're permitted to shop.

Disappointingly I've discovered that Marlon King is one of my new neighbours, or at least will be once he's released from prison. If he fancies completing his sentence with some community service, we've plenty of shelves that need putting up.

I've also been poring over car magazines given our need for at least one, if not two sets of wheels. For nearly six years in New York, I didn't need to know my torque from my brake horsepower.

Frustratingly, having finally reached the age where I can afford to both drive and insure a Volkswagen Golf GTi, the wife has informed me we need to be practical implying a car with a large boot.

As good-looking as many are these days, this could well mean an estate car, the internationally-recognised symbol for having completely given up.

Anyhow, for the timebeing I'm renting a 1.2 litre Vauxhall Corsa which has all of the street cred of a knitted jumper. Hence I'll probably take the train to The Valley incase I'm spotted driving (slowly) past anyone I know.

Speaking of acceleration, the Addicks appear to have powered themselves out of a mini spell of poor form, accumulating 10 points from 12, and scoring 13 goals in the process.

Loan signings have served their purpose this time, providing cover for injuries rather than representing a full scale rejection of the existing squad as in the prior two seasons.

Phil Parkinson does not appear to pander to any individual member of the squad which is encouraging, being willing for example to drop the likes of Jonjo Shelvey and Therry Racon. Competition for places is healthy, and Scott Wagstaff for example appears to have grabbed his chance.

Tomorrow's opponents Southend are firmly in midtable, not troubling the play-offs nor troubled by the relegation battle.

As a club this is likely to be the most realistic medium-term scenario for them, limited by their tired stadium and competition for support with West Ham, many of whose supporters have decamped up the A13 to the Essex coast.

The club's heyday was undoubtedly the 1990s, when they spent several seasons in the League's second tier albeit without ever threatening a play-off place.

There then followed a sharp reality check from 1996-1998, the team finishing bottom in two consecutive seasons with just 19 wins from 92 matches.

However the appointment of locally-born Steve Tilson in 2003 saw their fortunes improve, securing two promotions under his tutelage, albeit only lasting a single 2006/7 season back in the Championship.

They finished 6th in League One the following season, losing to eventual play-off winners Doncaster over two legs. Last season they managed a creditable 8th position, again emphasising the stability that Steve Tilson has brought.

It is good to see a club's Board recognise the reality of their situation, and reward their able honest manager. Only Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, David Moyes and John Coleman (Accrington) can claim greater longevity at one club.

Some of Charlton's most popular recent players have also spent time at Roots Hall, most notably captain Nicky Bailey, but also the likes of Chris Powell.

The Shrimpers' squad meanwhile includes the likes of James Walker and Osei Sankofa, the latter who experienced Premiership football at Charlton. League One was always his most likely long-term level.

The two clubs were regular opponents in the early-to-mid 1990s, the Addicks memorably winning 4-3 in April 1994, on the day the East Stand was officially opened. Alan Pardew scored the final two Charlton goals.

Fans will have less fond memories of a miserable midweek reverse two seasons later, when the promotion-chasing Addicks were turned over 3-0, the aforementioned Tilson popping up with a goal.

By way of a good omen for a Charlton side already full of confidence, they performed the double the last time the teams met in 1996/97, winning 2-0 on both occasions.

Despite their midtable position, Southend boast 12-goal striker Lee Barnard, whose tally is bettered only by Southampton's Rickie Lambert.

However despite his heroics, his side have triumphed only twice on the road this season, at Stockport and Brighton. Their last three away games have ended in defeat.

Parkinson will be forced into at least one change, with Matt Spring the most obvious replacement for Jose Semedo as the holding midfielder.

A more adventurous line up would see either Shelvey or Racon partner Bailey in midfield, with the former Southend player-of-the-year asked to be the more defensively-minded of the pair. Wagstaff will presumably keep his place on the left in a 4-4-2.

I expect we will be lined up as follows: Elliot, Omozusi, Basey, Dailly, Sodje S., Bailey, Racon, Wagstaff, Sam, Burton, Mooney. Subs: Randolph, Llera, Spring, Shelvey, Sodje A., McLeod, Tuna.

NY Addick predicts: Charlton 3 (Burton, Bailey, Sodje A.), Southend 1 (Barnard). Att: 17,019.