Thursday 28 February 2008

Weekend Championship Preview

Alan Pardew has managed to bring in another new player, loanee Scott Sinclair from Chelsea. This one is another winger who is 18 and has already had run outs at Plymouth and QPR. Forgive me, but I won't be getting too excited until he shows us something. We appear to have an abundance of similar quality players in most positions and I'm not sure I can see what he is going to offer above what we've got already. He can play on either wing (can't they all?) but is left-sided - move over Sulky Thomas and Darren Ambrose.

The PR machine says he goes straight into the side for the game at Bramall Lane on Saturday. I will assume that means he'll warm the bench until it's time to withdraw Darren Ambrose. Irrespective, I am doubtful about our ability to get anything off Sheffield United. Sure, they should be tired and, hopefully, demoralised after last nights efforts at Boro, but they strolled it at the Valley earlier in the season and Kevin Blackwell awaits his first win as Manager. If United score first I can see our heads dropping and we could take another pasting.

Any old road-up - here's how I see the weekend panning out.....

Barnsley v Sheffield Wednesday

Boisterous derby for the Peoples Republic of South Yorkshire. Barnsley-folk are reet proud people and they usually do well in these games. Add to that the fact they have a better side than their neighbours for once and it's got home win written all over it.

Prediction; 2-0

Bristol City v Hull City

Ironically, Bristol City can do us a favour here by beating Hull who are only two points behind us. Hull had a superb 2-1 win at West Brom last week and will give this a good go but Bristol City know that they only need to keepwinning at home and nicking draws away for another five or six weeks and they will be within touching distance of a near-miracle. I still don't see them being promoted but they should beat Hull.

Prediction; 2-1

Burnley v Watford

Like Hull, Burnley too are only a couple of points behind us and a Watford win is probably what we need. Watford will be under real pressure not to let the gap to Bristol City increase beyond a point but they might have to settle for a draw here.

Prediction; 1-1

Cardiff City v Leicester City

The Bluebirds look a safe mid-table bet now. Leicester are all over the place but their home form will probably save them from the embarrassment of a relegation that Milan Mandaric would richly deserve.

Prediction; 1-0

Colchester United v Wolverhampton Wanderers

Colchester look doomed and Wolves know that any more slip-ups and they will again resign themselves to another failed play-off bid.

Prediction; 1-2

Norwich City v Blackpool

Mid-table kick around in prospect here. Blackpool will still be smiling at last weeks performance and Norwich will be expecting a routine home win. Delia has a new cook-book out and the City board have announced plans to splash the cash in support of Glenn Roeder during the close season. City to show us how it's done.

Prediction; 2-0

Preston North End v Crystal Palace

It never rains but it pours. Poor Neil must be wondering what he's done wrong (moving to Selhurst Park Neil). After 15 league games unbeaten, they have now managed six without a win. Saturday will be seven and any their play-off hopes will fade further. Good.

Prediction; 2-1

Scunthorpe United v Coventry City

Big match for both clubs. Coventry know a win will ease the pressure considerably and push Scunthorpe a step nearer where they belong. Michael Mifsud to do the business.

Prediction; 1-3

Sheffield United v Charlton Athletic

Oh dear. If United score first I can see our heads going down. I don't believe our side has learnt any lessons from the defeats we have suffered. I also can't help thinking we have an arrogant streak because of our ability to out-play most other sides when we get it right and this is hurting us.

Prediction; 2-0

Southampton v Ipswich Town

Hull and Burnley might not overtake us this weekend but I fear Ipswich will. They have finally overcome their awayday hoodoo and will be looking to exploit Southampton's current vulnerability.

Prediction; 0-1

West Bromwich Albion v Plymouth Argyle

Ooh er. I suppose we want a draw here. Plymouth are really going well and I think they will nab a play-off place. West Brom are a better side though and I can't see them losing again at home.

Prediction; 2-0

QPR v Stoke City

I haven't been able to take the prospect of Stoke winning automatic promotion seriously until very recently. Their defeat at Preston on Tuesday wasn't a real surprise, even if they played well enough to have won. QPR are in mid-table safety and the question mark here is, will they be up for this? I suspect they might and they could give Stoke the second black eye of the week. this is the Sunday game, so Stoke will at least get another days recovery.

Prediction; 2-1

Roll on Tuesday night when we get an opportunity to re-build confidence on home soil and do the double over Bristol City.

Wednesday 27 February 2008

Charlton U18's 1 v Sunderland U18's 2

Cup fever got me down to the Valley this evening for a non-first team fixture for the first time in a number of seasons (since the last "youth" team cup run). Sorry to report that we were beaten by a Sunderland side that just about deserved the win.

The first half was pretty nondescript and not what we had been lead to expect from reports of the last couple of rounds. Sunderland were restricted to a Martyn Waghorn shot which hit the post and Charlton nearly opened the scoring in the added minute of time when Scott Wagstaff finished a fine piece of inter-passing with Danny Uchechi and Rashid Yussuff but he couldn't get enough pace or angle on his shot to beat the keeper.

Things livened up in the second half after Martyn Waghorn volleyed home after a good Sunderland move. Scott Wagstaff hit the upright after bursting clear in the box minutes later before he managed to work some space on the edge of the box to set-up Rashid Yussuff to slam home inside the right hand post from fully 20 yards for the equaliser. Charlton then had a spell in which they might have taken the lead but the closest they came was a Godfrey shot which came back off the post from a tight angle. Sunderland remained a threat up front with Waghorn (has made his Premier league debut) but it was a clever lob from Jordan Henderson that won the game late on with extra time looming.

It was refreshing to watch players from both sides eager to get on with the game. Players bounced up from hard tackles and there was none of the nonsense we get from the big-time Charlie's. It was also really good to see a player clapping his team-mates and urging them on as he was substituted - well done Ben Godfrey. Chris Solly had a good game at right-back - he's strong in the tackle and gets forward.

The lower tier of the west Stand was pretty full, save the first section and it looked a good 3,000 to me. I appreciate it's hard to tell when you can't see the whole stand but it certainly looked bigger than the official 1800.....

Oh yes, and I shouldn't forget the hundred or so Sunderland fans who had made the effort. Especially the dozen or so loud 50-year's who, embarrassingly, managed to sing for most of the second half. I'll be kind and assume they were proud fathers who had been drinking rather than die-hard, hot-bed, "Sunnerlan" fans who seemd to think this game was of major consequence. I had to smile at "Andy Reid, he's on the wing, he loves McDonalds and Burger King, he loves a pint and he loves a pie, he makes us laugh and he makes us cry." They've obviously sussed him out quickly, although stripes don't do anyone any favours!

Tuesday 26 February 2008

Where's the new Season Ticket offer?

Probably not a subject high on the priority list of Addicks fans at the moment, but Mr Varney must be wrestling with the dilemma of what to do about season ticket renewals.

First of all, he might have to wait as late as 24th or 26th May to know whether or not we have regained our Premier League status, thereby triggering the free season ticket deal for the 17,000 who renewed on time to qualify (at a cost of c £6m). I can't see our Board waiting this long before looking for a commitment from fans to next season. If they do leave it that late and we fail, then we are likely to see a significant drop in renewals unless there is another, equally attractive offer, but that's still too late!

But what do they do? It's a hard sell to convince supporters to part with cash up front when there's a prospect of a free season ticket anyway but that's the sort of commitment they need. This is a tough one but I can see them offering season tickets next year for the Championship at the current/similar prices if you renew early (end April) with the free Premier League season ticket offer rolling over in the event that we get up next year. If we get through the play-offs in May, the season tickets bought before end of April could be held over for the 09-10 season, effectively at the current prices which are 06-07 rates. Just a thought....

Meanwhile, Stoke look beaten at Preston this evening but the bad news is that Burnley are 1-0 up at home to Coventry and could move to within two points of us. Saturday could see us drop out of the top six which would really crank the pressure up for the visit of Bristol City.

Monday 25 February 2008

Weekend Championship Review

It still hurts this morning. What is really noticeable is the venom contained in the reports from those Bloggers who were there in person; it was actually much worse than it sounded. Pards has at least been quick to say it "wasn't good enough" and has blamed the back four, but he has stopped short of further direct criticism. No doubt he's smarting and expecting a response from his players. Again, like Chicago Addick, I am reminded of his promotion season with West Ham via the play-offs. Inconsistency was the name of their season and the Upton Park faithful were in revolt over Pardew's management for it. They could barely bring themesleves to sing his name when they squeaked through the play-offs back to the big time.

Our problem is that we are not playing like play-off candidates at the moment. Three wins in 15 matches is relegation form and the much-talked about winning run just doesn't look like coming. We go to Bramall lane next to play a steadying Sheffield United who are due their first win under new manager Kevin Blackwell. After that we will need another good home performance if we are to quell high-flying Bristol City. I don't want to sound like Private Fraser but it isn't looking good.

Elsewhere the results didn't go well for us. Remarkable to see Watford and West Brom also struggling and now cast firmly as play-off contenders themselves. Stoke and Bristol City can't keep their runs going for too much longer but we can't catch them. The real scrap is going to come from below us where Plymouth, Hull and Ipswich are all squaring up.

Only four correct results (two correct scores and two more within a goal of correct scores) this week - it continues to be a tight division with only 30 points separating top and bottom. There will be more twists and turns in the remaining games but we desperately need back-to-back wins to steady the ship.

Saturday 23 February 2008

Blackpool 5 v Charlton Athletic 3

The lights well and truly went out at Blackpool this afternoon. Any lingering Charlton hopes of automatic promotion were shredded in a five goal battering that saw hundreds of travelling Addicks pour out after the fifth goal with fully 20 minutes remaining.

This made depressing listening and I am really glad I stayed at home. I have turned the scratchy BBC Kent commentary off in solidarity with those that have walked out. I see that Jonathan Fortune has pulled a third back but it's far too little.

Hard to know where this went wrong because we looked to be playing well enough up front. Andy Gray was put through on goal for the first chance of the game but his shot cannonned off the legs of ex-Addick, Paul Rabchubka. Blackpool were seeing plenty of the ball and it was no surprise when they opened the scoring minutes later when McPhee rifled home after Weaver had parried a shot across goal. Blackpool were buzzing and the second followed in similar circumstances minutes later when another Weaver save was volleyed back into the net.

Charlton still had some fight at this stage and Darren Ambrose slid in at the far post to convert Grant Basey's cross after fine work from Halford and Zheng Zhi. Before we could get our breath back, Ambrose had lashed home a cracking second from nowhere and Charlton were back in the game. We went in 2-2 at half time and you thought we might be first to score in the second half and maybe hang on for a memorable victory.

No such chance. Blackpool had seen the opportunities available in the Charlton defence if Weaver was put under pressure and that was the tactic they deployed so effectively in the second half as they killed the game. Blackpool's third came just before the hour and it was another parried shot from Weaver which fell for Taylor-Fletcher to score. Memories of a 5 goal drubbing in the 70's when Bob Hatton was the tormentor-in-chief came flooding back, just in time for Dickov to embarrass Greg Halford to score the fourth. The fifth was the kind of goal you only score when you are four-up. A mishit cross from Talyor -Fletcher flew over Nicky Weaver and nestled in the top corner.

Alan Pardew will, no doubt, have some harsh words to say because there simply aren't sufficient positives to concentrate on when you have shipped five goals at Blackpool. Like the rest of us he will be mystified why we have been outplayed by a team we ran rings around in January. This performance really hurts but worse could yet follow because we will be struggling for the play-offs before the end of the month at this rate.

Just off to watch Scotland slump in Dublin to round off another disappointing sporting Saturday.

Friday 22 February 2008

Paul Gascoigne - Different League

Terribly sad, but unsurprising news that Paul Gascoigne has been sectioned in order to ensure he recieves mental health treatment. Everyone is having their say but it's good old Gary Mabbutt who has driven to the heart of the issue with his plea for the "football family" to help Gascoigne.

When Gascoigne was finally forced to give up the game, it was like watching the Titanic slide silently passed in the bitter cold of the night. Personally, I have been amazed that this hasn't happened before now. It's all so predictable and you really have to hope that he gets the help he needs to get some genuine insight to how he should now look to lead his life and that the football family really can do something to help. He needs a proper role where he can be involved without feeling patronised or pitied. Maybe Kevin Keegan is best placed to help at Newcastle.

In the meantime, let's remember just how good he was. On his day he was completely unplayable; one particular game at Selhurst Park springs immediately to mind as well as at Wembley when he broke my heart after making Colin Hendry look a prize chump before smashing a the winner in the Euro 96 Championships.

I will never forget his appearance at the Den in an England B game. I had gone down hoping to see Paul Williams play and instead witnessed a Gascoigne classic. He was being given non-stop abuse from the Millwall locals who were out in force. A Mars bar was thrown at him from the Half-Way Line and we watched the midfeild dynamo swoop down to pick it up whilst in possession of the ball. He promptly unwrapped it and as he burst through the defensive back-lin, he took a bite and swaggered on. In ten seconds flat he had turned the situation and was given an enormous round of applause.

I really hope he manages to do something extraordinary at this point in his life, because he looks like following Frank Bruno down a dark and unhappy path if he can't.

Thursday 21 February 2008

Weekend Championship Preview

A full Championship programme this weekend, amd all to be played on Saturday for a change. Our fixture at Blackpool looks decidedly tricky as we have been struggling to impose ourselves in recent weeks away from home and Blackpool have only been beaten at home three times all season. On form you would have to plump for a home win but my money will be on the away if we can score first. Our team is good enough on their day and I am banking on memories of the 3-1 romp at the Valley still being fresh in the minds of both sides.

Irrespective, I will be going to watch the Resrves and the Youths next week as Championship and Cup winning opportunities don't come along very frequently in SE7 (ok, we have a decent reserve pedigree in recent years). Maybe the first team should be forced down to watch both - the winning habit might rub off.

Blackpool v Charlton Athletic

The heart will rule the head here and I am going for a Charlton away win as explained above. Andy Gray is overdue a goal and the crossing of Lee Cook might give him his chance. I can also see Luke Varney notching again.

Prediction; 0-2

Colchester City v Bristol City

It's beginning to look like it might be three from four at the bottom, especially if Coventry and Southampton can apply the brakes. The bottom four are separated by a meagre point so they will all still be fighting and could yet do some damage to the promotion contenders (be warned). Bristol City are due a fall and they might just trip up at Layer Road.

Prediction; 2-1

Coventry City v Leicester City

Coventry will need to get back the horse again after their cup humiliation at home to West Brom. Leicester tails will be up after their impressive 4-0 thumping of resurgent Norwich City. Looks like a draw to me.

Prediction; 1-1

Crystal Palace v Wolverhampton Wanderers

Five games without a win for Palace and this won't be straightforward either, although I expect they will sneak it.

Prediction; 2-1

Norwich City v Barnsley

Both of these sides threw maasive surprises last weekend for different reasons but Saturday might be a case of back to normality for both. I can't see Barnsley committing daylight robbery two weeks running and Norwich will surely put up the fight they didn't show at the Walker Stadium.

Prediction; 2-0

Plymouth Argyle v Burnley

Plymouth are steaming towards the play-offs revitalised by Paul Sturrock and I can see them securing a berth. A victory over Burnley, who are a place behind them, would be another good result and could move them into the top six.

Prediction; 2-0

QPR v Sheffield United

Kevin Blackwell's first league game in charge and he probably wouldn't have chosen an away match at improving QPR. Both teams will have given up any honest thoughts of the play-offs but Rangers will be pleased they have escaped the trap-door places and United will want a few results yet in order not to have to think about the dreaded "R" word.

Prediction; 1-1

Scunthorpe United v Southampton

Nigel Pearson has his work cut out at Southampton. He needs a win from somewhere to halt the slide. It's now 6 defeats in 7 and Scunthorpe are one of the bottom four fighting tooth and nail. The Southampton squad should not be in this predicament, so can take nothing for granted. I think Pearson will halt the slide but maybe not just yet.

Prediction; 1-0

Sheffield Wednesday v Cardiff City

Cardiff's play-off charge has fallen backwards just like Palace's and they were dumped out of the Cup last week as well. They've not been good enough this season to win a play-off place and Wednesday should have enough here.

Prediction; 1-0

Stoke City v Ipswich Town

Having waited six months for an away win, Ipswich have had two in succession and will go to Stoke full of confidence. Stoke, however, have slid into top spot whilst no-one was looking and are in the unusual position of having to play like table-toppers. This might just favour Town and I can see them getting a point which might be ideal for Addicks fans.

Prediction; 1-1

Watford v Preston North End

The cup has been good to Preston this year because their run has coincided with some improved league performances. Vicarage Road might be a step too far, especially on the back of the last minute home defeat by Portsmouth.

Prediction; 2-0

West Bromwich Albion v Hull City

West Brom's league form may be suffering a tad as they roll towards an F A Cup semi-final appearance but they should have more than enough gas in the tank to trample over Hull City.

Prediction; 3-0

Tuesday 19 February 2008

Charlton cast their net (again)

Interesting news in the last few days that we have announced overseas "tie-ups" in China and the Ivory Coast. In deals with local sides Shandong Luneng and Asec Mimosas, Charlton will look to benefit from working closely with these clubs to share ideas and players.

The link with Shandong Luneng is obviously an extension of the communication that lead to us loaning and signing Zheng Zhi. Too much is made of the potential fan base in China for those of us outside the Premier League, and probably outside the Big Four, but I guess you have to start somewhere.

Like most of the other African countries, Ivory Coast has produced it's own seam of top flight footballers in recent years and we are obviously mining for one of these rather than any commercial benefit from the local fan base. Peter Varney has made the point that African players are hungrier for the success of top flight football than British boys.

I can't get too excited about these announcements as we have a long recent history of striking these deals that have delivered very little if anything at all. Other clubs just sign Spanish strikers - we seem to develop links with particular clubs and set-up coaching schools and are still waiting for someone to come through. The PR is obviously good for us here and out there but the proof of the pudding is in the eating and you wouldn't want to be living off it!

Sunday 17 February 2008

Charlton Athletic 2 v Watford 2

The proverbial game of two halves yesterday. In the first 45 minutes Charlton picked up pretty much where we left off against Palace. Solid at the back, busy in midfield and looking dangerous up front. In the second half we were caught cold by two goals in a minute and were unable to fight-back. Paul Taylor, the referree, was dire and favoured Watford in many of his decisions. Call me petty, but coming from Hertfordshire hardly inspires a view of neutrality.

Anyway, to the game. I was disappointed to see us set-up with the same eleven that scraped a draw in Sheffield on Tuesday. I am assuming Bougherra is still injured as I believe he deserves a place ahead of Jon Fortune if fit. Fortune had a reasonable game yesterday but is playing at his peak and Bougherra will develop into a more consistent performer. I thought Ambrose and/or Sam deserved to be dropped following a number of games where they have not done enough, especially in the second half. With Cook and Thomas as the options, I would had Ambrose on the bench.

Nonetheless we set about the task with some determination and the opening goal was a well-worked gem. Halford played up to Gray who knocked on for Varney to collect in space before pulling the ball back through the turning Watford defence for Darren Ambrose to ram home from 8 yards. It all looked so easy and we continued to make the running before going two-up after 36 minutes. This time Halford burst down the right and fired in a low and hard cross which was curling back towards the on-rushing Varney and Gray. A desperate lunge from Danny Shittu was all it needed to divert the ball passed Lee and it looked all over. Charlton strolled off in the winter sunshine at the break and everyone in red looked happy.

Watford obviously took a rollocking at half time because they were out and ready to kick off fully five minutes before Pardew's men ambled back. The Watford tempo had quickened and they were visibly concentrating better than in the first period. After ten minutes they got the bit of good fortune they needed. The accomplished Tommy Smith picked up a Charlton clearance and turned back against the tide of on-rushing players. He cleverly played the ball through a gap behind the Charlton defence and O-Toole was clear to beat Weaver unopposed. From my vantage point in the East Stand I couldn't be sure, but O'Toole and another yellow shirted player looked offside. It was pointless looking to the referree as he hadn't seen anything all game. He missed a blatant corner in the first half when Lee palmed an effort wide and was reluctant to penalise several tackles which had merited bookings. As Charlton re-started I commented to a mate that we had to keep possession for three minutes to settle the game and get going again. Watford went straight downfield and won a corner. The ball in was met by Danny Shittu head and shoulders above the nearest challenge and he atoned for his earlier own goal. No further chorus of "there's only one Danny Shittu" from the North Stand.

The game was still there to be won. Level-pegging having scored twice with home advantage and fully half-an-hour to play. What was disappointing was we failed to fightback. We battled well enough but when we needed an inspirational run from someone, there was no-one to do it. I can't help thinking Andy Reid might have made a diference in the second half. Holland and Zheng Zhi were too busy scampering around the midfield to breakout. Lloyd Sam had enjoyed a decent first half but was again mis-firing and Darren Ambrose had dropped out altogether. Varney and Gray were still fighting up front but were short of support. It was time for a substitution but we waited another 13 minutes before Lee Cook eventually came on for Ambrose.

Cook got a noisy reception - from the Watford fans who clearly haven't forgotten his acrimonious transfer when he left them to join his beloved QPR in 2004. He was given the privilege of two men marking him for the rest of the game but still managed an impressive showing. He was fouled reepeatedly but delivered half-a-dozen decent crosses which were all well- defended.

Thomas came on for Sam and Iwelumo for Gray but we still couldn't find the urgency we needed and we actually spent the last ten minutes playing in our own half. If anything, Watford might have snatched the winner and it look a great last-ditch block from Jon Fortune to earn the point.
Paddy McCarthy was excellent today and good enough in his position to be able to pay attention to supporting Jon Fortune and Greg Halford. Apart from Cook's lively home debut there wasn't a great deal from the rest to comment on.

For me, it's time to stop dreaming about automatic promotion and concentrate on getting the points we need to finish with a play-off place. Looking at the table this morning, there is a far bigger risk of losing our play-off place than winning automatic promotion. A finish outside the top six will be unacceptable with the squad we have and the opportunities we have already missed.

Bah humbug!

Friday 15 February 2008

Steve McLaren's Catch-22

On the day that Bryan Robson is relieved of the pressure of managing Sheffield United, Steve McLaren has announced to the world that he's ready to get back into management, and, wait for it, possibly in the Football League. Big Steve is prepared to work outside the top flight. Just imagine...

There's is one caveat, however, that might just put a spanner in the works for Stevie. He has declared that his new employer will need "to have vision and ambition!"

I think his best bet will be a job overseas for a minor nation with delusions of grandeur where his managerial short-comings are less well known. A country with tax advantages might also be top of his list.

Thursday 14 February 2008

Weekend Championship Preview

This weekend's Championship fixtures are spread out over four days to accommodate the F A Cup, if that makes sense...

Saturday, 16 February

Charlton Athletic v Watford

Watford have moved impressively back to the top of the table in the last week and have opened up a 7 point gap over us. Having edged the game at Vicarage Road last month I felt we would turn them over at the Valley on Saturday. However, I think they will have new found confidence and sufficient desire to hold us for another draw as they know that will maintain their significant advantage over us.

Prediction; 1-1

Hull City v Colchester United

Both of these sides look like fighting until the end of the season. Hull have probably surpised themselves to still be in with a play-off shout at this stage and should be too good at home for Colchester. United did pick up three valuable points at home to Preston on Tuesday but might have to rely on home form to get them out of the drop zone.

Prediction; 2-0

Ipswich Town v Blackpool

Ipswich bounced back from home defeat by the Hornets to win at Palace on Tuesday. No mistake this time at Portman Road. I expect Blackpool to run them all the way though.

Prediction; 2-1

Leicester City v Norwich City

The honeymoon for Ian Holloway is over and he now has to battle his way to the end of the season. Norwich have propsered under Glen Roeder and are up to the dizzy heights of 13th. They slipped up at home in midweek conceding a late equaliser to Hull, so will be out to atone at the Walker stadium. Nerves to get the better (worse?) of Leicester.

Prediction; 1-2

Monday, 18 February

Bristol City v Crystal Palace

One of those awkward ones this where you wouldn't mind a Palace victory. City have the bit between their teeth though and home advantage. Palace slump to continue.

Prediction; 2-0

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Sheffield Wednesday v Coventry City

Coventry will have to ride out the storm with a new manager. Wednesday to go one better than against the Addicks and win this, thereby moving within a point of Coventry.

Prediction; 1-0

Southampton v Plymouth Argyle

Southampton's Stern John scored twice at Wolves in midweek but they still lost. Rudderless since Burley left for the Scotland job, the compensation they received might not look good value for money if they end up in Division 3 next season - Saints are only two wins above the drop zone. Argyle had a good 3-0 win over Barnsley on Tuesday and will enjoy this South Coast game against "big" Southampton.

Prediction; 1-2

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Scunthorpe United

Wolves won impressively at Scunthorpe last month and will see this a game they can win quickly. Scunny are rock bottom and can look forward to playing Leeds next year.

Prediction; 3-0

Come on Charlton, prove me wrong.

Silence over takeover talk ends

The long silence surrounding the proposed takeover of the club by a mysterious "Middle Eastern consortium" has been broken with an annoucemnet this morning to the Stock Exchange.

"The board have concluded that the best interests of the club are served under the current ownership. As a result all talks regarding possible offers for the company have now been discontinued. The board of Charlton is committed to the long-term success and future of the company, including the provision of appropriate funding, so to ensure that the club is well placed to challenge for Premier League status."

The interest shown in buying Charlton during the Summer was, I guess, understandable bearing in mind our fall from the Premiership and the fact that we would have looked like good value for a side with potential of quickly regaining our top flight status. You have to wonder as to the intentions of this consortium bearing in mind they have failed to move quickly or decisively enough to take control. Perhaps it was pure opportunism looking for a quick return and the current Board have driven too hard a bargain or not been convinced that the intentions of their would be suitors were in the best interests of the club. Either way, the timing of this announcement is interesting as we are on the cusp in terms of a possible return and now might be a gamblers play in terms of the point at which to take a risk on best price versus quickest gain - a play-off place looks a good bet and we probably have a better chance with the squad we have than anyone around us.

Sometimes better the devil you know...

Tuesday 12 February 2008

Sheffield Wednesday 0 v Charlton Athletic 0

Normal service has been resumed after the heroics of Friday night. Charlton drew a blank here but can have few complaints.

The only Charlton change was Jon Fortune back in for the unfortunate Madjid Bougherra who sustained a foot injury in the Palace game. We started threfore with Weaver, Youga, Fortune, McCarthy, Halford, Ambrose, Holland, Zheng Zhi, Sam, Gray and Varney.

Wednesday started quickly and saw a lot of the ball in the opening five minutes managing their first corner and a header at Weaver from Showumni. Luke Varney got Charlton's first chance after 12 minutes having been played in by Lloyd Sam but the ball was on his weaker left foot and he fired wide. The match was scrappy and the referree was stopping it too frequently for niggly fouls. Things livened up after 25 minutes when Youga and Johnson clashed on the left and squared up to each other. Johnson threw a right arm which hit Youga but in the ensuing melee and clamour from the crowd, referree Keith Stroud took the soft option by booking both players. Weaver then saved from a Tudgay header that Richard Wood touched on and Charlton followed this with their best opportunity of the half when Zheng Zhi found Varney who ran on and pulled the ball back to Matty Holland but his shot clipped the upright.

Jermaine Johnson had been switched to the right side so that Wade Small could continue the harrassment of Kelly Youga and it paid dividends when Youga was given a final warning following a 50-50 tackle. Alan Pardew had seen enough and Youga was reluctantly substituted for Jose Semedo before the break.

The second half wasn't much better than the first. Charlton were unable to raise the tempo and conceded a succession of corners and free-kicks which Ronnie Wallwork largely wasted. Weaver saved smartly from Lee Bullen on the hour and Paddy Mccarthy stopped everything else that Wednesday could muster. Iwelumo came on for Gray on 63 minutes and Lee Cook made his debut for quiet Lloyd Sam minutes later.

Charlton had their best chance to win the match after 71 minutes when Greg Halford found Iwelumo and his flick was picked up by Zheng Zhi on the edge of the box. Zheng found Varney and he found the net but the linesman was flagging with Varney looking level to the BBC London commetary team. Zheng Zhi ballooned another opportunity from an Iwelumo knock down before the end but a winner might have been unfair on Wednesday who made a game of it.

For me this was another game in which our two wide men didn't do nearly enough. Ambrose and Sam are simply not pulling their weight and it's time we tried something else, especially away from home. Having said that, I don't think Lee Cook did anything of note in the 25 minutes he was on the field but the bloke's not played any football for ten months....

Alan Pardew will probably see this as a point won but we've lost ground at the top. Watford, Bristol City and Stoke all won tonight and move above West Brom who could only draw at home to Sheffield United. Bristol City's 1-0 victory at Scunthorpe probably hurts the most. Palace lost again and have slumped to 9th but that's a small consolation. We've now brought some pressure to bear on ourselves for the Watford game but maybe that will help. We will need another performance like Friday nights to reduce their 7 point advantage.

Monday 11 February 2008

Dowie's Hat-Trick

Iain Dowie's sacking today looks like a case of deja-vu. There were several fans in succession on Sky this evening saying he hadn't been given a chance and that their were still vital signs as their F A Cup is still alive etc. However, their dipping league form was obviously too much for the new Ray Ransome backers and he's been paid off again.

Presumably Dowie could do with the cash as I believe Simon Jordan is still waiting for some compensation (revenge) from the Judge after getting the verdict in their last court appearance. It looked to me like the £1m fee that Jordan waived to let him travel 12 miles north to the Valley might be sum at stake (ouch) if Dowie loses his current appeal.

Dowie's CV is beginning to look rather messy. If Coventry were to go down it would be three of his clubs in successive seasons. Whilst he can argue limited funds at Coventry, the Orange one wasn't quite so mean and he well and truly blew the kitty at the Valley.

Meanwhile, all is not well at fellow under-achievers Sheffield United. There has been growing resentment over United's poor performances in a season they can arguably have expected to occupy a top three spot for most of the year. Bryan Robson is again feeling the heat and a demonstration outside the stadium after the game has prompted a meeting with his Chairman on Wednesday. It doesn't look promising for Robson and if he survives this battle he looks like losing the war.

The prospects for Dowie and Robson don't look great. After early career promise, both have poor track records during the last five seasons and they might have a long wait for similar positions. Dowie could go down the leagues but I'm not sure Robson would be able to face it.

Sometimes you have to be grateful for what you've got.

Monday's view of Tuesday's game against Wednesday

It'll be a long night for the Addick faithful who make the trip to Hillsborough tomorrow. The drive home will mean it will be the early hours of Wednesday before they get to their beds. I'll be beside my radio but with you in spirit.

What can we expect? Remember that exasperating game at the Valley earlier in the season? We started the game in zombie mode and found ourselves two down after 15 minutes. The second was characteristic of the soft goals we were conceding regulalry from set pieces as opponents were allowed free headers. Reidy single-handedly pulled our socks up and Big Chris scored a second-half double to snatch the points.

Wednesday have been erratic all season although they have settled down a bit of late in terms of being more predictable, which largely accounts for their slump back into a bottom three position. In all fairness they look like one of the weakest sides in the division. They don't have a lot up front and Brian Laws has been struggling to bring better players to the club.

At home they have won six and lost eight with no draws; more home defeats than anyone else. However, the warning signs are there - they go for it at home and so you need to match them from the off. Once again, I think the first goal could dictate the outcome. They will be anticipating a tough match from a top side and if we can get the opener it could prove demoralising as well as enabling us to play with a little more confidence and adventure which might lead to a second that would kill the game.

Madjid Bougherra will be going back home and we need a strong performance from him. NcCarthy too will need to be alert and both will need to perform far better than they did in the earlier game against Wednesday. We should be unchanged, so I'm going for Luke Varney to net again and Gray to get his first goal. Two-nil to the Addicks!

Sunday 10 February 2008

Weekend Championship Review

Too early on Sunday morning to be up but try telling that to a three year old. So, I have 15 minutes to reflect whilst she's watching Fifi and the Flowertots...

Apart from West Brom slipping up at Oakwell yesterday, the results at the top didn't run for us with Watford, Bristol City and Stoke all winning. Watford became the first visiting side to win at Ipswich all season and Stoke also won well at Wolves. Bristol City were also more comfortable winners over Sheffield Wednesday than the 2-1 scoreline suggests.

So, pretty much as you were at the top. Watford now lead the table again, five points ahead of us. West Brom and Bristol City come next, four points in front and Stoke are fourth with a three point advantage. Elsewhere, I managed a meagre four correct results, three correct scores and two more within a goal of correct scores. With two more matches to be played in the coming week, there's every chance of further changes.

There's a full programme on Tuesday. Watford, West Brom and Stoke all have winnable looking home games, against Leicester, Sheffield United and Southampton with the likelihood that two, if not all three of them will pick up maximum points. That puts pressure on Charlton and Bristol City who face awkward aways at Sheffield Wednesday and Scunthorpe. Below us, Palace face Ipswich and Hull go to fast improving Norwich City, so I can see them losing ground if we get something at Wednesday.

Next weekend sees a fragemented fixture list due to the F A Cup. Stoke play Scunthorpe at the Britannia Stadium on Friday night. There are only four games on Saturday, Charlton v Watford being the pick and Palace are at Bristol City on Monday evening. There are a further three fixtures schedued for next Tuesday but none of the top sides are involved.

We mustn't get carried away on the back of the Palace result and should look on this week as an opportunity to strengthen our play-off credentials. Four or six points would probably increase our lead over 7th place to 9 points although we would also narrow the gap on Watford if not the others.

Keep the faith!

Saturday 9 February 2008

Charlton Athletic 2 v Crystal Palace 0

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!" It doesn't get much better than last night. A fault-free performance of commitment and determination. We bettered them from the off and should have won the game before half-time. As it was, we had to wait for 60 minutes before the deadlock was broken by Luke Varney had there were only three minutes of normal time left when he struck again to send Palace scuttling back to where they come from.

Pardew, the "Palace fan" as the visitors were keen to tell us, started with Weaver in goal, Youga, Bougherra, McCarthy and Halford across the defence. Holland and Zheng Zhi were in the middle with Ambrose and Sam on the flanks. Varney and Gray lead the line.

Charlton controlled the first half and should have taken the lead. Gray turned on a sixpence in the box to get one-on-one with Speroni but his shot was blocked. Zheng Zhi had the chance of the half ending a flowing four man move by volleying goalward but Speroni made the save of the game with a one-handed stop. Luke Varney then worked his way in behind the Palace defence and a fierce shot cannoned off a post. All Palace could muster in reply was a corner.

Palace improved in the second half and managed several corners but failed to create a single effort of note. Zheng Zhi was sparkling in the midfield. Matt Holland was busy and Sam and Ambrose played their parts, although both could have made more telling contributions if I am being critical. Gray played some clever football and Varney was full of running. The crucial first goal came from a Gray-Varney combination, with Gray flicking a ball on for Varney to race onto. He cut inside the floundering full-back and cracked a shot past the helpless Speroni. The reaction in the stadium was amazing and Varney was mobbed by delirious colleagues.

Palace couldn't raise their game and it was Charlton who continued to dictate play. The second was a near copy of the first and it killed Palace off. The timing was also excellent as they disappeared like the plug had been pulled out.

Greg Halford - isn't he big - made an encouraging debut. Varney played his socks off but my man of the match, again, was Kelly Youga. He dominated his quarter of the pitch and played with a swagger that comes from knowing your opponents can't beat you.

The atmosphere was superb with both sets of fans in good voice but Palace were drowned out whenever the whole ground got going. Palace were given an intimidating welcome in the streets around the Valley before and after the game and the police were busy keeping rival supporters apart. You can't help feeling that this was a much more important showing than the three points which were secured. Palace were well and truly second best on all fronts and even the most partisan Eagle would have to acknowledge that. If we meet them in the play-offs this performance could have an added bearing.

Meanwhile, we can kick back and look for some decent results elsewhere today. I'm going to enjoy the rugby, even if Scotland take the beating I fear they will in Cardiff.

Up the Addicks!

Friday 8 February 2008

Sunshine on Charlton

All is quiet in SE7. Mother Nature has chosen to bathe the Valley in a gentle warming sunshine today in preparation for the heat and light of this evening's battle. If we can play at a high tempo and keep our heads we should be alright. We certainly have the quality in our side and if we match that with heart, like we did in the game at Selhurst, then I think we will win. A early goal might enable us to relax a little and enjoy more of it.

I am going for Todorov's replacement, Andy Gray, to open his account and for Luke Varney to weigh in with a classy finish of his own. The ticket office was down to it's last 800 tickets this morning, so the gate should be 26,000 or thereabouts, easily our best of the season. Let's make sure they know they are at the Valley.

Come on you Reds!

Wednesday 6 February 2008

Weekend Championship Preview

With a full midweek fixture list looming, this weekends' Championship results could be pivotal as I think we will see some determination over the next 11-12 days towards the end of season outcome.

Charlton Athletic v Crystal Palace

I suppose Palace should feel confident of their prospects here based on current form, but I was convinced after beating them at their place in September that we would do the same at the Valley and I still believe that. The Scunthorpe defeat will rankle and I am sure the Palace players will still be feeling a sense of over-achievement in recent weeks. I only hope that Dougie Freedman is kept out of their squad as he will, no doubt, manage to score again if he gets on.

Prediction; 2-0

Barnsley v West Bromwich Albion

Another tricky away game for WBA. They look comfortable on top whilst no-one else has any real consistency and can almost afford to slip-up again.

Prediction; 1-0

Bristol City v Sheffield Wednesday

Having continued their predictable unpredictability on Saturday by handing Ipswich their first away win of the season, I wouldn't be at all surpised if Wednesday got a result at Bristol City. I can't see City maintaining their automatic push until the end of the season and an unexpected home defeat is probably due.

Prediction; 1-2

Burnley v Colchester United

Colchester are rock bottom and headed back to where they belong. Should be a romp for the Clarets.

Prediction; 3-0

Cardiff City v Norwich City

Both of these sides are on the up. Norwich might be less determined come Saturday and that would be enough for Cardiff to secure another 3 points and continue an unlikely quest for a play-off place.

Prediction; 2-1

Hull City v Blackpool

Not a game for the purest here. Hull are rallying again and threatening a play-off finish. That should be enough as Blackpool will be banking on home form to see them survive this year.

Prediction; 1-0

Ipswich Town v Watford

Assuming we beat Palace, Ipswich can do us a favour here by beating Watford. Their unbeaten home record won't last through to the end of the season but I can't see Watford ending it.

Prediction; 2-0

Leicester City v Plymouth Argyle

Plymouth won't need any motivation here. Getting one over Ian Holloway will be upper most in their minds and I am sure Paul Sturrock would be equally satisfied. The Foxes have home advantage though, so I'll go for the draw.

Prediction; 0-0

Preston North End v Coventry City

A real relegation dogfight this one. Current form favours Preston and a win would see flashing red lights at Coventry.Iain Dowie could be in the shit.

Prediction; 1-0

Sheffield Utd v Scunthorpe United

The season looks over for the Blades and Bryan Robson must be networking for his next job. Scunthorpe couldn't believe their luck last weekend to be playing Santa's Eleven. All-in-all, I suspect the Blades will probably sneak this.

Prediction; 1-0

Southampton v QPR

Alarm bells at St Mary's. QPR are playing without the fear of managerless Southampton and that could be enough.

Prediction; 0-1

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Stoke City

Another potential bonus game for us, although I think Stoke could be good for a late equaliser at Molineux - it's practically a derby after-all.

Prediction; 1-1

If I am right here this could be a stellar weekend for the Addicks although we will probably blow it by losing at Hillsborough on Tuesday. Still, I will sleep easy and be smiling all weekend if we can put Palace in their place once again.

Charlton Forever!

Palace - another 12 reasons

Only another 60 hours or so and we get the chance of another special double over Palace. Worth considering another dozen reasons why we detest them so much...

1) They manage to snub us by pretending there is no rivalry. Instead they prefer to see Brighton as their arch rivals and will consider Millwall as reluctant seconds! The Brighton rivalry appears to be based on the fact that their respective nicknames sound similar and I suspect the Millwall thing is probably an attempt to antagonise us further.

2) They have the smug and annoying "Glad all Over" as an anthem.

3) They have managed to have two players capped for England whilst playing in the Third Division. That would never happen to us - look at Sam Bartram.

4) They took advantage of us at a crisis time in our financial history by signing Addick legend Mike Flanagan for £650,000.

5) Their shabby ground was once used to stage early F A Cup finals. What was wrong with the Valley?

6) It was at a home game in September 1985 against Crystal Palace that Charlton fans were informed of the move from the Valley to Selhurst Park.

7) Their stronghold is the "city" of Croydon.

8) Along with several hundred other Charlton fans, I had to watch a 1974 match in my socks having had our boots removed by Police and Stewards! Some people went home wearing different boots from the ones they left home in as they were all piled thoughfully together in a pyramid.

9)They have to take some responsibility for the Iain Dowie fiasco.

10) The Orange One has a face you want to smack. The sneer of a Tory Boy with the died blond "playboy" flop of hair - he couldn't be more annoying if was the Chairman of Crystal Palace.

11) Our Manager is a "Palace Legend."

12) Neil Warnock is defying logic by making something of a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

Bring it on!

Tuesday 5 February 2008

Why the away fans won't be going anywhere soon

Interesting comment from Alan Pardew in this weeks News Shopper (that bastion of mediocre journalism with a rich history of ignoring Charlton Athletic), that he'll be speaking with Peter Varney about having the visiting supporters moved.

Alan, save your breath. The visiting supporters won't be going anywhere anytime soon. They currently occupy the smallest stand in the most awkward part of the ground to get to with the poorest facilities. Charlton fans will only buy seats there when there are none left anywhere else in the ground - not a problem so far this season. The Police simply wouldn't agree to a move on grounds of safe entry/exit or in terms of segregation. I am sure the Board will be sympathetic but it's only a problem that can be addressed when and if the south stand is ever rebuilt. That would be the time to allocate them a lower tier with poorer acoustics than they currently enjoy. We could then put Charlton fans above them and help address Alan's concerns which I think most of us would acknowledge.

Interesting too to hear Pardew congratulating Warnock on the job he's done so far and also Warnock enthusing about the "great atmosphere" at the Valley and about how he's looking forward to sharing a drink with Alan after the game. He's obviously not dependent upon Simon Orange for a lift home.

Monday 4 February 2008

Countdown to Palace

This week will fly by and then we get another crack at the club we love to hate. I believe we can rub their noses in it again by completing another double over them.

I am pleased that the game is on a Friday evening. There will be a great atmposphere under the floodlights and we can set ourselves up for the weekend. Beating them will also put five points between us although it won't atone for the disappointment of Scunthorpe.

It's hard to pinpoint why Palace have taken over from Millwall during the last 30 years as our most detested rivals but I'll have a go anyway...

1) They've always had ideas above their station (Millwall fans know the limitations of their club).

2) They had a Cup run in the 70's that was all about a flash git with a fur coat and a cigar.

3) They've always been able to pull a big crowd for a special occasion (over 50,000 for Burnley promotion) but their regular support has never matched ours.

4) I was attacked with other boys as a 14 year old at a bus stop after a night-game down there in the 70's. We gave as good as we got and the cowards fled (nothing new there then).

5) They've always liked to throw stones and bottles at us whenever they got the chance before sprinting to safety.

6) The years we ground-shared were the most forgettable of my life, despite our promotion back to the top flight.

7) Palace were the "Team of the 80's - remember!

8) Norwood Junction and Thornton Heath are souless places with a pigsty of the football ground in between.

9) Until recently we have struggled to beat them irrespective of our league placings or how well we've actually played in any of the games.

10) Simon Jordan

11) They somehow manage to travel to and from the Valley in a TARDIS and always have plenty to say when they are safely ensconced in the Jimmy Seed.

12) The Sydenham Cowards - an ugly incident that will have a happy ending.

There, something for everyone.

Sunday 3 February 2008

Scunthorpe - moment of truth

Yesterdays defeat at Scunthorpe cannot be ignored. All of our rivals would have got something there, especially against 10 men for 20 minutes. We have to face facts and these are that we are competing for the play-offs. Beating Palace on Friday will ease the pain and it might not be the last time we play them this season. To make matters worse, I have just seen an inept Scotland performance at Murrayfield which promises another wooden spoon.

Friday 1 February 2008

Weekend Championship preview

I'm off to Edinburgh at the weekend for the important 6 Nations opener for Scotland against France. Hopefully the wretched conditions will persist through until Sunday afternoon and I can see Scotland off to a winning start. My heart will be with the boys at Glanville Park where I am sure we can get the result we need to give us momentum for the Friday derby. Here's how I see the rest of the matches in our division....

Blackpool v Leicester City

These sides are level pegging hovering above the drop zone. Blackpool will have home advantage but Leicester are a form side. I'm going for a stalemate here.

Prediction; 1-1

Colchester City v Sheffield United

Can't see past a draw here either. Sheffield United should have the firepower to win this but Colchester will scrap tooth and nail.

Prediction; 1-1

Coventry City v Barnsley

City need a win to give themselves some breathing space at the bottom and Barnsley are just the side to help out; away from home they are only better than Ipswich. I fancy the mosquito to score again as a reminder to the Premiership about what might have been.

Prediction; 2-1

Crystal Palace v Southampton

Southampton are rudderless at the moment and the Board haven't helped matters by letting Rasiak and Skacel leave in the transfer window. They are on the ropes at the moment and I can see Palace punishing them. I hope Chairman Lee Hoos knows what he's doing because they are only 7 points above the drop zone and there's a lot of football yet to be played.

Norwich City v Preston North End

Preston are on something of a roll at the moment. They are through to the 5th round and have just beaten the table toppers at Deepdale. Norwich will see this a big step towards safety if they can take three points and I think they should just about have enough.

Prediction; 1-0

Plymouth Argyle v Hull City

Plymouth have not fared well in the transfer window as they have seen three players leave. Their fans might have a bit more sympathy for Ian Holloway in the circumstances. Paul Sturrock might have a job lifting spirits for the visit of a Hull side who are having a go away from home. I think they might be good enough here for a point.

Prediction; 1-1

QPR v Bristol City

City signed Dele Adebola from Coventry as the window closed and will be confident about getting a result at Loftus Road. Rangers, however, have also strengthened their side and performances are on the up. I think they can pull off a big win tomorrow and move clear of the relegation zone.

Prediction; 2-0

Scunthorpe United v Charlton Athletic

Got to fancy Charlton to take the points here. They finished against Stoke in bouyant mood and should play with confidence from the off tomorrow. We should have 1000+ fans there to cheer us on and we couldn't be playing Scunny at a better time; they haven't won in 11 home games and their recent form is taking them down. If we can score early we can wrap this up and maybe increase our goal difference ahead of the Palace showdown. We have a great result record when I am in Scotland!

Prediction; 0-2

Sheffield Wednesday v Ipswich Town

Looks like a home win although Wednesday can be erratic - they have won 6, drawn 0 and lost 7 at home. I'm going for Ipswich to break their duck away from home.

Prediction; 1-2

Stoke City v Cardiff City

Cardiff are in good form and could do us a huge favour here although that would put them within a point of us if we lost at Scunthorpe. Stoke looked solid on Wednesday and will be fired-up to get over their defeat at the Valley and continue their recent progress. A draw would be no bad thing but I think Ricardo Fuller might be the difference.

Prediction; 2-1

Watford v Wolverhampton Wanderers

We thought we had problems at home! Wolves wopped Watford at Vicarage Road in the Cup and will be up for it tomorrow. Watford desperately need something and I can see a draw which would again favour us addicks.

Prediction; 2-2

West Bromwich Albion v Burnley

Hopefully Burnley will have a go here, but you've got to put your money on West Brom. Burnley are hanging about the play-off fringes like a bad smell, and I will be pleased to see them out of the picture come the end of the season.

Prediction; 2-0

Come on you REDS!!!!