Thursday 31 July 2008

Spot who's missing

Tomorrow's open training session at the Valley promises to provide a real insight into the camaraderie within the squad and the relationship the players have with Pards. Sure, there will be a little bit for the cameras but it will still be fascinating and I will await reports with eager anticipation.

With Madjid Bougherra on his way to West Brom for what looks like £2.3m (acceptable in the current market I guess), the game to play tomorrow will be "who's missing?" With the departure of Bouggie, the club have raked in £4m and are a million short of the £5m they had targetted although I suspect this was a net figure of expenditure, so we can expect someone else to be leaving and will probably need another couple of million if Pards is to get anything to spend. It's also looking like the parachute payment this year has already been taken as part of the £15m the Board "found" towards the £20m budget gap to get us on an even keel. On the basis that we don't have too many obvious £1+m saleable players left, it doesn't look like Pards is going to be doing any serious shopping. So, team spirit and togetherness will be more important than ever this year, which is why tomorrow is intriguing.

Zheng Zhi looks to be everyone's favourite to be next, although we would all cheer to see Faye on his bike. Assuming we get Cranie or someone similar on loan to cover for Bougherra, I can't see Jon Fortune going or we will simply compound our central defensive headache. I don't see any of the rest of the defence offering enough to anyone else to warrant the fee we would need. In midfield, Jerome Thomas is the obvious candidate but it looks like everyone else knows what we have known for a long time, that he's a sulky flash-in-the-pan. Holland's too old to attract a fee and the rest (ZZ apart) are too young.

Up front, we could probably get £250,000 for Dickson or £750,000 for Gray. Varney is probably the jewel in the crown but I hope the club wouldn't be foolish enough to let him go for the sort of fee we are likely to get for him at the moment. Todorov is the only other one I can see attracting a fee but, again, I can't see it being significant bearing in mind his time out and risk of another, possibly career-ending repeat of the injury in the short-term. So, keep your eyes peeled tomorrow for the missing player or the one or two who aren't actively taking part!

Wednesday 30 July 2008

Forres Mechanics 1 v Dundee United XI 4

Competitive game this for a testimonial - helped by the fact that none of the Dundee side are yet shaving. It really was a men against boys game in which the boys did most of the pressing and in which youth smiled cruelly at age. With several hundred present and £8 to get, I hope Highland League veteran, Neil Whyte, can pay off his car loan. Great to be reminded what it's really all about. If I could find Bluetooth on this laptop I would share a couple of photos with you but that will teach me for skimping with Dell.

A quick centre-forward with the excellent name of David Goodwillie took the headlines with a hat-trick but my eye caught Peter Beardsley look-a-like Allan Scott and Gordon Strachan impersonater Kenny Smith - hope I got those the names right - the programme didn't make it clear.

Meanwhile, it looks like we are engineering a swop out of Madjid Bougherra for Martin Cranie, or a couple of million for a season loan if you want to see it from the Board's perspective. West Brom now look favourites for Bougherra although, maybe predictably, Sunderland and Boro are being mentioned as other interested parties. I only hope this means we will get the £2.5m back that we paid for him.

Tuesday 29 July 2008

Keano, Johnson, Mifsud...

Spurs have recouped £20m with the sale of Robbie Keane to Liverpool in a deal which I see as hugely significant in terms of the Big Four and the ability of anyone to break-in. For me, Liverpool have been fourth from Arsenal for a number of years now and only their amazing European success has kept them there. Spurs have been the side hot on their heels but have been unable to overtake them despite spending £50m+. Robbie Keane has been the consistent performer for Spurs and his sale to Liverpool is a double whammy, even if they have got good money for him.

Having already sold Jermaine Defoe and having failed to get the best from Darren Bent, Ramos is taking a big gamble with his changes in the Spurs' attack and surely they must now be planning to hang on to long-term want-away Dimitar Berbatov. Expect to see Spurs fail to deliver again this season. Robbie Keane meanwhile, will look like a kid alone in a sweetshop at Anfield - if he stays fit he'll score more than 20 goals this year - a dream move. The patience of the notoriously fickle Spurs fans is about to be tested once again.

Elsewhere, Fulham look like they might be about to spend £13m on Andy Johnson. Blimey! Just goes to show what being in the Premier League is really all about and the chasm that exists beneath it. I thought Al-Fayed was tired of football and committed to cutting his cloth? I guess he might just be spending his annual Sky money but £13m for a club the size of Fulham? Ambition indeed on the back of the £6m they paid for Zamora and Pantsill.

Back in the Championship, the Mosquito has gone from Coventry to Bristol City. Hardly the big move long predicted for Michael Mifsud and I can't find a fee mentioned anywhere. "Undisclosed" is becoming the norm now, particularly in the Championship and we will likely have to wait until annual Report & Accounts are released to see who's actually paid what for whom. Coventry have already paid £1.2m for Freddie Eastwood, so I would guess they are looking to cover that.

Off this evening to see Forres Mechanics play a Dundee United XI in a testimonial for Neil Whyte and have decided to travel home on Friday night so I will be back in SE7 to see the Bilbao friendly - can't wait!

Monday 28 July 2008

Bougherra next

It's looking like the long expected loss of Madjid Bougherra to Real Betis is close and Alan Pardew is acknowledging that he might not be the last outgoing player. He is also, for the first time, questioning if he will be able to get replacements of matching quality which is a worrying sign.

What will be key for me is the price that Bougherra goes for. We paid £2.5m 18 months ago and there is no reason why we should be selling him for under that unless we are truly desperate. Real Betis are driving a hard bargain because the negotiation has obviously been going on for most of the Summer. On the basis that we will need a replacement who will necessitate a fee (or big wages), it's hard to understand what we will gain from selling him, particularly if the fee is much south of £2.5m. How this gets reported will also be telling. An undisclosed fee will mean we have sold him cheap as will anything short of £2.5m that is dependent upon appearances and sell-ons etc.

For my money the Board are sailing close to the wind here. We need some decent incomings to stem the flow and bring some balance to the Summer's dealings. I read Pardew's comments as very deliberate knowing the reaction they were likely to bring. I really hope things are not worse than alluded to by Richard Murray in the Summer when he bared his soul to the Bloggers.

The long awaiting Midfield General is beginning to look like it might have been sacrificed to balance the books and will present an Achilles Heel if that proves to be the case.

Sunday 27 July 2008

Toshack - Swansea to struggle

Former Swans manager, John Toshack believes Swansea will find life in the Championship a real battle. Following a 4-0 thumping at Espanyol, Toshack has made his comments on Roberto Martinez's squad which includes six Spaniards, two Dutch, two Trinidad & Tobagans as well as an Argentine.

Toshack might be trying to manage the expectations of Swans fans who will arrive at the Valley on 9th August full of confidence that their promotion winning side can start by getting a result against a club they will view as one of the promotion favourites. Indeed, Four-four-two magazine has predicted a third-place finish for the Addicks but I would temper that with their view that Crystal Palace will finish above us. I will reserve judgement until closer to the kick-off but as things stand I can't see either Palace or Charlton finishing in the top 6.

Interesting to hear Iain Dowie espousing the sentiments of the QPR board by talking about evolution and not revolution in terms of squad structure and club progress. He is "looking for one or two more" but claims to be largely happy with what he's got. That would suit me because I don't believe the current Rangers squad is particularly better than average in this division. Like Alan Pardew this year, it looks like Iain Dowie will be judged on his ability to motivate his side and get the best from what he's got.

Meanwhile, I see Palace have finally secured Jose Fonte on a permanent basis and have also dipped their toe in the non-league pool by signing Simon Thomas from Boreham Wood. All-in-all there hasn't been a lot of money spent in the Championship during the close season, and it's a similar position outside the big money deals for the big four in the Premier League. Richard Murray's comments about the state of football finances is proving uncannily accurate.

So with two weeks left to go, the big question for Addicks remains, who will we be bringing in? We clearly need that midfield cog and if we've funds for another, I would guess Pards' priority would be defensive cover in the shape of a big strong player with a bit of pace (mine would be a second midfielder unless we are planning on selling Fortune or Bougherra).

It's looking like a season loan deal for these positions might be the best we can do. We can probably fund better quality players this way. I am sure Pards wants experience as well as proven ability in these positions and it would look like we would need to target fringe Premier League players who might be passed their best but with something left to prove or who might be ready to drop down a division to continue to get first team football. West Ham, Fulham or Spurs might be the sort of clubs with large enough squads who would be keen to cut costs and get players playing. They are also close enough for a loan move not to inconvenience their stars too much.

Hadyn Mullins and Matthew Etherington at West Ham spring to mind. We've already been linked with Fulham's Hameur Bouazza and I don't believe that one's dead yet, but Simon Davies would be a real steal if we could land him, although we might need to adapt his natural attacking instincts. Steed Malbranque could find himself down the pecking order at White Hart Lane and would be another who could do a job in the Championship although he might also be more attacking than we need. Defensively, a loan of Leroy Primus or even Herman Hreidarsson would probably be as good as we could expect, although I would more than happy to see Sam Sodje back at the Valley - he still looks out-of-favour at Reading.

Saturday 26 July 2008

Elgin City 0 v Cowdenbeath 2

Whilst the Addicks were cantering to a 1-0 win on the South Coast in the Summer heat, I got back from the Dufftown Highland Games to take in the Elgin City v Cowdenbeath Challange Cup game at Borough Briggs on an equally warm Highland day. I could have happily stayed at the Dufftown games and watched the ongoing sporting contests but the women with me had, as anticipated, had enough and I was free to meet Elgin Addick Davie and take the game in.

The ground looked in good pre-season nick and the notorious Borough Briggs pitch was near perfect. Cowdenbeath started very strongly and it was no surprise when they took a first half lead. They looked a yard sharper across the pitch and had far more conviction until they got their lead. Elgin settled into the game after that but were always playng catch-up. They didn't look like breaching a strong Cowdenbeath back line and it wasn't until Darren Shallicker was introduced in the second half that Elgin looked like they possessed goal-scoring capability. The Blue Brazil, as Cowdenbeath are known, continued to match Elgin until they scored a late second which ended the contest. Fourteen days and counting.....

Highland life

After a fine week of sunshine and beaches, I am taking the family out for the day to the Dufftown Highland Games. Nestled in the foothills of the Cairngorms and heavily sponsored by the whisky industry, this promises to be a great family day out.

I am encouraging the women (two big, two small) to ensure we can leave by 10.30 so can be there for 11.30-ish. The "gathering" goes on until after 6pm when pipe bands conclude the event. There is method in my madness. I have been to these events before and what usually happens is that you rush around the various side-shows and stalls, exhausting all the marketing freebies in the process and then the family (women) become quickly tired of watching hammer throwing, highland dancing and caber tossing. At this point they usually mention the "home" word. I have been disappointed in the past to have left early but will swallow it today.

If my planning is right, that will mean we will be passing through Elgin shortly after 2pm where I can handover driving responsibilities and get myself in to see City play Cowdenbeath in the Challenge Cup. OK, so it's not the Withdean but it would be my first competitive match of the season and it's not a friendly.

Friday 25 July 2008

15,000 Season Ticket Holders

So, we look to be at the 15,000 season-ticket mark on the basis that the club have said we are 2,500 short of last year's August total. With a final week to go before the free season ticket offer deadline closes (1st August), we should reduce that gap to 2,000. That's pretty good going and probably better than most people's guess at the end of the season.

The club is also telling us that 700 of those are new season ticket holders. It would be good to know whether these are from people and addresses never previously registerred or simply people who didn't have tickets last year. I suspect it's the latter but it would be interesting to know as a measure of how we might be able to increase our appeal to new fans. The ongoing development of the south-east is often quoted as offering as significant potential new support and if this is an indicator, then that would respresent real optimism for the Target 40,000 initiative which has, understandably, taken a buffetting in recent seasons.

What's more, the value of 15,000 committed payments is probably as good if not better than the club forecast and can only be good news at the bank and with sponsors. I think it demonstrates too that our hardcore fan base is actually stronger than many of us thought. Premier League football undoubtedly attracts Glory Boys as well as those who would only watch top flight football, but as we approach our second season in the Championship, I think the indications are that they haven't actually been there in any great numbers. All of this in the current economic climate as well, which speaks volumes of the club's pricing policy.

So, some positive news in the increasingly choppy waters of supportive opinion as speculation continues around outgoing rather than incoming transfers. I am as frustrated as anyone about this but believe we will get our business done, even if late in the day. What will be key this season is how the attitude of the remaining squad has changed and whether or not there is sufficient confidence and self-belief that they can get promoted. The large number of outgoings could be viewed as rats leaving the sinking ship or an opportunity for a smaller squad to get more appearances, develop better teamwork and show their quality. As I have said before, a fast start is imperative if we are to foster the latter, which is why I am disappointed we haven't strengthened the midfield sooner.

In terms of the pre-season, I don't think we have been tested yet. None of the opposition has yet been anywhere near capable of matching us and, whilst Brighton will be a step up, it will hardly be a test. Atletico Bilbao will be the real deal assuming they approach the game seriously but I would have preferred one or two stronger games before we kick-off.

Thursday 24 July 2008


We truly are in the close season now. Found this on the web though.

You'll need to cut and paste it into your browser as the link function doesn't want to know....

Monday 21 July 2008

Fortune to Preston? Who's next?

John Fortune is being linked with a move to Preston. Whilst I can't see this appealing to him - he didn't see a move to Stoke as progression - it's worrying that we could lose another central defender when we are already arguably one short and Madjid Bougherra is still being linked with a possible money move away. Richard Murray told the Bloggers that the plan was two pros in each position (plus youngters) and yet we are already one down. We are being linked with Portsmouth's Martin Cranie on a season's loan and that looks the sort of deal that would work for cash-strapped Charlton, particularly if he was drafted in to replace Fortune or Bougherra. Central defence is rapidly becoming as big a potential problem area as central midfield.

If you see Weaver as a potentially weak-link (like I do), then we are essentially missing the strong spine that good sides need. I live in hope that we will pull a couple of rabbits out the hat but it is not looking promising. The transfer window doesn't shut until the end of August, so maybe we're going to wait and see. Like we did that in January after releasing Andy Reid.....

Sunday 20 July 2008

Less than 3 weeks to go...

Brighton, Bilbao and then Swansea. Alan Pardew will be pleased with the pre-season games so far, if not with the lack of incoming talent. The 5-0 win at Gibralter will set the side up for a bigger test at Brighton on Saturday and then what should be a very hard game at home to Atletico Bilbao.

We are, at last, being linked with a possible midfield signing, the Brazilian Rinaldi. Sounds more glamourous than it is. He couldn't make the Watford side all last year and his first name is Douglas. Frankly, well short of my expectations, so I hope nothing comes of it. However, we are running out of time and need at least one proven quality ball-winning midfielder (and probably two) or else we will regret it well before the January window opens. We have some decent youth players emerging but it's too much to expect them to lead a promotion-chasing midfield and Matty Holland isn't up to it.

Pards has mentioned a defender and we have been trialling a Bath striker. All-in-all, hardly inspiring and I am convinced late signings are a big mistake as we have found out in previous seasons. Richard Murray was honest enough to say outgoings would outweigh incomings but an effective swop in central defence and an unproven non-league striker are very disappointing. If the Directors have found £15m and we another £5m (£3m having flogged Bent and Iwelumo) to find you have to wonder if that's where the paraschute money is going this year. Maybe all will become clear in the next few weeks but it is looking very much like we are going to make do this year.

I am in Scotland for a couple of weeks, so will miss the Brighton game, although Bilbao is a possibility depending on when I decide to head home. Failing that, I will definately be there along with 3000 Swansea Jacks to see the first game of the season which I think could set the tone for our first ten games. Swansea will be up for it, just as Scunthorpe were last year, but we need to attack them and really go all out for that vital home win to kick-start the season.

Thursday 17 July 2008

Jordan - methinks he doth protest too much

Fresh on the back of his outburst following the Football Tribunal decision that Spurs should pay him a meagre £700,000 for 16-year old talent John Bostock, Simon Jordan has said that he will quit the club this year having found a responsible replacement.

At face value, this could be bad news for Crystal Palace FC. If he is serious, then the season ahead could be very difficult with a Chairman who is looking to get out and all the uncertainty that would go with it. Presumably he would be looking to get something in return for his stake and would be unlikely to be pumping any more money into the club than is absolutely necessary in the meantime. Responsible investors don't grow on trees and the current economic climate and outlook don't look particularly favourable for taking over a football club.

Two of Palace's more senior pros, and certainly their better players, striker Clinton Morrison and midfielder Ben Watson, want away and, coming on the back of the Mark Hudson saga, you have to wonder if all is well in Mr Warnock's camp. An exiting Chairman would not help matters and our Neil might find his wings clipped in terms of any transfer budget.

However, I suspect this talk of quitting is hyperbole and that privately he has no intentions of moving on. His behaviour between now and the end of the season will give a strong indicator of how serious his intentions are, but I can forsee the story in the New Year of how he'll be soldiering on as there has been no serious interest or any "responsible" buyers. Yes, there really is no-one else who cares more about Crystal Palace or who can support the club as well as he already does. Let's face it, he's no longer on Dragons Den and without the media oxygen from his football club all he is left with is legal action to keep his face in the papers. What he really needs is to find a celebrity wife so he could become part of a celebrity couple. Then he could flog Palace and move on to better things without the risk of losing so much of his celebrity status.

Wednesday 16 July 2008

Hurrah! We're shot of Bent

Rejoice! Great news! Marcus Bent has finally got the big-time transfer his talents deserved and Birmingham City have snapped him up in a deal that the club website says "could be worth in excess of £1m." If we now turn our collective thinking and willpower towards Amdy Faye, maybe we can make him disappear too.

Gossip reaches me that there may be a far more basic reason behind the cancellation of the rumoured match with Rochdale in Marbella yesterday. The Dale website relayed the story that our players had arrived too late on Tuesday to make the game. This was a surprise as our own website had reported that the players flew out on Monday. An enlightened soul tells me that our boys did indeed fly out with Ryannair on Monday but there was a row with the airline over the cost of taking all of the kit and it was decided that it would be driven out rather than pay the exhorbitant prices being demanded by the low fares, high extras airline. Presumably our boys didn't have any kit for the match! Not great planning if true.

Tuesday 15 July 2008

Rochdale test cancelled

The Rochdale AFC website is reporting that we have pulled out of the promised showdown in Spain (thanks Chicago Addick). They cite our late arrival and unwillingness to travel the long distance between the partying squads. Apparently we offered to honour it if they took the 3 hour drive from Marbella to Cadiz. I hope this is untrue and more reflective of the fact that our own website has yet to make any comment on who we might be playing whilst out there. Give Rochdale their due, however, you get to know exactly what their boys are up to in a fair amount of detail.

Disappointing as I head for bed that Marcus Bent is still officially a Charlton player. I do not like the McLeish comment that his transfer to Brum "is not done yet." Relatively strong words for a man who apparently hijacked a done deal to Cardiff. It feels as if we should have a legitimate cause for complaint if nothing comes from the Birmingham interference, now that Cardiff have rightly pulled out. It will be good to understand exactly what permission we gave to whom. On the basis that we agreed a fee and greedy-bollocks agreed terms, why would we give him permission to approach a third party if we were unlikely to gain anything?

Heidar Helguson? Surely not?

The Daily Mirror and other sources are reporting Addick interest in Bolton striker Heidar Helguson. A former target whilst at Watford, surely their can be no truth in this rumour? Having ditched Big Chris yesterday as part of the plans to slim down our striking options, signing someone like Helguson would make no sense at all, especially as would offer us nothing more than we already have upfront.

If the media are going to speculate about us, please can they do it about tough-tackling, ball-winning midfield maestro's.

Monday 14 July 2008

Rochdale next up

Having played Bromley and Welling so far, the mighty Addicks step up the quality of opposition tomorrow night when we take on League Two side Rochdale in Spain. Dale have already been beaten 3-1 by Peterborough, so I will assume an easy win and that the confidence building will continue apace before we finally meet Atheltic Bilbao on 2nd August. The Rochdale website is also reporting that we are due to play Gibralter later this week.

It would appear that Marcus Bent has shown remarkable honesty today in showing Cardiff exactly what sort of character they were potentially buying for £1m by instead heading for Birmingham in search of a better offer; this after Charlton and Cardiff agreed a fee and he agreed personal terms with the Bluebirds. Cardiff fans, you might be feeling angry right now but let me assure you that you have had a close escape and will have the last laugh. Frankly, Bent and Birmingham deserve each other, although I thought Alex McLeish was a better judge of a player and personality than this. I only hope the Birmingham deal gets done because Cardiff have rightly withdrawn their offer and we need to get rid of this unprofessional liability.

Meanwhile, Ben Thatcher is getting a trial with Ipswich Town. I wish him all the best but if we couldn't afford his wage demands, I can't see Ipswich having the funds. Perhaps Thatcher will be willing to settle for the £250,000 a year we offered him at Ipswich?

Farewell Chris Iwelumo

As anticipated, Chris Iwleumo has been sold to Wolves for an undisclosed sum but thought to be in the region of £500,000-750,000.

He joined Charlton a year ago on a free transfer from Colchester United where he had his best goal-scoring spell to date, albeit in League One. Iwelumo was 28 when he joined us and will be 30 on 1st August. Wolves will be his tenth club (incuding loans) and he is very much a journeyman professional.

Good in the air, he probably didn't get the best chance at the Valley in a season where we were short on quality wide men and consequently quality crosses. Nonetheless, he did bag ten goals early on in the season and showed us he wasn't just a one trick pony; his brace with his feet against Sheffield Wednesday springs to mind. Chris is an honest player and gives everything he has for the full 90+ minutes and scored several late winners to prove this point.

The only negative for me was inability to avoid looking like he was fouling defenders when challenging for the ball. Whether played up to him on the floor or the air, it was infuriating to see how often a foul was awarding against him, particularly when he he wasn't intentionally fouling. It was something I hoped we might be able to coach him to improve on but it didn't get any better during the season. He suffered as a result of the money purchase of Andy Gray. Although a similar sort of player, Gray tended to get the nod once he arrived and Chris found himself reduced to cameo roles as the season ended. So no big surprise that he's been moved on. At least he moves to an equally big club and unusally for him, there appears to be a fee involved. Something he can tell the grand-children, that and how he scored on his return to the Valley.

Player exodus to reach ten

The ninth and tenth players to leave SE7 in the close season should be confirmed this week. The protracted "Bent to Cardiff" transfer should conclude today for £1m and I suspect Iwelumo will be next, probably for around £750,000 to Wolves. Frankly, these look like market rates and the loss of two forwards from seven similar quality first team choices is no great loss, especially if it frees up funds for strengthening elsewhere.

Surprising to hear Pards this weekend talking about the need to strengthen the defence. Maybe he acknowledges the central midfield priority and is commenting on the need for central defence and right-back cover as the next obvious gap. As I have said before, this may well beg the "why?" question in terms of releasing McCarthy and Halford. They have set the benchmark in terms of the quality of replacement required and with very little money available it will be difficult. Maybe the idea is to go for a Herman look-a-like who could cover both roles?

Pards also confirmed the rumoured approach for Hameur Bouazza but it looks like Roy Hodgson wants to give him another look and the speculation may have interested other clubs as well.

Thierry Racon had a good half at Ebbsfleet in central midfield, scoring one and teeing up Andy Gray for another. His contribution was acknowledged by Pards and he thinks we could see more of him if he focuses on his game. This is good news but shouldn't detract us from making what should be our most influential signing(s) of the season. I state the plural because one central midfield signing is a risk if he gets injured - look at the Andy Reid experience.

With the team off to Spain, it looks unlikely we will land anyone for another week or two so should resign ourselves to another late introduction and a slow start as Pards finds the best combination in the middle and new boy(s) settles in.

Sunday 13 July 2008

Goals galore for Charlton X1's

The two Charlton sides put out against Ebbsfleet and Braintree (two clubs not one) both won impressively yesterday. The stronger side won 6-0 at Ebbsfleet whilst the second string put 9 (nine) past Braintree. You shouldn't read too much into freindlies but winning with high scoring margins against other professionals can't be a bad sign.

The team at Ebbsfleett featured Elliot, Racon, Wagstaff, Shelvey, Basey, Sinclair and Jensen at some point or another; all youth/fringe players last season, many look certain to get their big chance this year to cement their futures. Apart from Elliot's clean sheet, Wagstaff, Racon and Shelvey all scored fine goals. Andy Gray notched from a great Racon pass and got a touch to another which won'[t do his confidence any harm at all. Jerome Thomas and Kelly Youga paired particularly well on the left and Moutaouakil made his first appearance of the season from the bench. The only negative appears to be another dismal performance from Dean Sinclair.

I haven't seen the side put out at Briantree yet, but I am guessing Svetislav Todorov didn't play there either, so has been kept back from the three non-league friendlies so far. Chris Iwelumo was also an absentee again yesterday and looks destined to be moving on shortly. Let's hope we can get close the £1m we look like accepting for Marcus Bent after our poker face in turning Cardiff's initial offer down hasn't worked with no other offers being made.

The squad get another holiday in Spain this week, when no doubt there will be as much promotional work as football before they return to take on Brighton & Hove Albion on 26th July.

Saturday 12 July 2008

Spare a thought for Hatters

In the midst of our current turmoil, as we adjust to life as a second tier club, it's worth a moments reflection on the 30 point deduction handed down to Luton Town by the Football League yesterday. Unless reduced on appeal, which looks extremely unlikely based on previous form, this points penalty looks certain to see Luton drop out of the football league in 2009.

The penalty is actually two separate deductions of 10 and 20 points, both for misdemeanours last season under the previous, failing management regime. Luton had already been given a 10 point deduction which lead to their second successive relegation, so this latest punishment is surely the heaviest price any club has yet had to pay.

Luton may be an unattractive, poorly planned an inhospitable town that sits off the M1 just north of London, but it's football club has known much better times and for long spells has had a justifiable reputation for attractive attacking football. They have a history as a second division club and their exit from the league will be unlike nearly all of the other sides who have dropped out over the last 20 years, most of whom, have dallied with the fourth division for too long.

Never the best supported club, financial mismanagement has been Luton's big problem and the latest points penalty is for more of the same. Maybe the League have just had enough of them and are sending a warning to the rest of us that going into Administration and fiddling transfer deals will not be tolerated. However you look at it, 30 points is harsh because it doesn't really give you any chance of avoiding relegation. In order to do it, they would need to go on a virtual 20 match unbeaten run from the start of the season and that's hardly likely bearing the state of their finances.

So, whilst us Addicks take some unpleasant medicine, we should think to the future and swallow hard, in the hope that it does the trick and we can again thrive in this in this division rather than attempt the same feat in League One. Much will depend on the signing of the central midfielder(s) and just how much confidence Pardew is able to give the side before the 9th August. I've said it before but we need a fast start to set us up and give us the confidence to bounce back from the first set-back. A poor start without a strengthened engine room could make it a long season.

In the meantime, I'll be hoping the Hatters get the start they need to give them at least a chance of survival.

Thursday 10 July 2008

Three things to smile about

Isn't it strange the way good (and sometime bad) things have a habit of coming in threes? First off this morning, I got the thumbs up on a piece of work I have been battling with for several months. Mid-morning I heard that Joey Barton's parole bid has been rejected and he will have another month of porridge and nervous showers. I just knew there would be something else to cheer me today and it has duly arrived...

Yes, Simon Jordan is very unhappy and threatening to quit the game! Those "halfwits" at the Football League Tribunal have decided Spurs must pay Simes £700,000 for wonderkid, John Bostock, a 16 year old Palace have nutured. Jordan is spewing and claims he considered £4.5m a reasonable fee (sounds very reasonable to me Simon). The last time the Tribunal had to take a decision over a matter like this was none other than Judas Defoe and we know how unfair that was and how time has proven the Charlton case. So empathy with Simes? Nah! I make the panel right, he's only a kid and it all could all go pear-shaped - he'll probably never play first-team football (not at Spurs anyway). Don't worry Simon, you won't be giving up football any time soon, your ego wouldn't allow it.

Charlton Athletic 1 v Welling United 0

It's not good form to humiliate the neighbours. Just as well then, as a strongish Charlton side won 1-0 at Welling last night. No doubt the soggy pitch and lashing rain didn't help the quality of the game, although it didn't deter 2000 hardy souls from turning out to see it.

Good to see a clean sheet. This is just as important in these games as the goals. According to the website, Mark Hudson gave a leadership performance at the back and took the armband from Matt Holland when he went off in the second half. If I'm reading the line-up correctly, Sam Long played at right-back and Semedo paired at centre-half with Hudson. Youga got the left berth.

Midfield saw Sinclair with Holland supported by Lloyd Sam right and Rashid Yussef left. Varney partnered Fleetwood and it was Rashid-Fleetwood-Varney combo that got the only goal after 25 minutes.

In the spirit of these games, we used six substitutes with Racon, Fortune, Wagstaff, Shelvey, Thomas and Dickson all getting run-outs.

This result should keep the natives quiet, if not happy, and we have up-and-coming Ebbsfleet United on Saturday in a game that should see a stronger line-up and one gradually closer to what SAP intends putting out against Swansea on 9th August.

Wednesday 9 July 2008

Cardiff in for Bent

As they prepare to offload a touchy, expensive, has-been in JFH, Cardiff City are reportedly putting the finishing touches to a £2m bid for the touchy, expensive, has-been that is Marcus Bent. I credited Dave Jones with better judgement than this and am wondering whether Marcus could hit 15 goals in the Championship this season, albeit at the expense of teamwork and morale etc?

The Reserves went down 1-0 to Bromley last night. Nothing to write home about by the sounds of it bar a decent 20 minute sub appearance from Stuart Fleetwood. More will be expected this evening from the Firsts in the rain at Welling. No, I'm not going.

Monday 7 July 2008

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

Neil Warnock is being linked with our very own Chris Iwelumo and, wait for it, our former Super Kevin Lisbie. Strange these rumours, as they don't seem short up front with Morrison and Scowcroft, although a Lisbie and Iwelumo combo would give them a second little n large pairing and they have decent support from midfield in Kuqi, Moses, Scannell and Sinclair (if he's re-signed).

Kevin Lisbie just wasn't good enough for us all those years we had him and you have to be content with that we let him go for the right reasons. The fact that he's done well this season in a poor Colchester side is the way it goes and, I for one, wouldn't want to see him back, so I have to smile if Palace waste any money on him. Big Chris looked like a journeyman when he arrived and that's pretty much what he's turned out to be. No shame in that and , for me, he's done enough to earn his corn. I can't see him spear-heading any goalscoring charts, and whilst you get a lot more game from him, I could tolerate him moving on if we get a reasonable fee (close to what we paid at least). It might also alleviate the striking selection headache for Pards, although we might lack height or limit our ability to chnage the game plan.

On a more positive note, we are being linked with a loan move for Hameur Bouazza, the former Watford flash-in-the-pan. I would be more than pleased to see him have a go at the Valley, especially if we could recoup millions by finally allowing Jermaine Thomas to take his rightful place amongst the world's footballing elite (or flog him for whatever we can get - maybe Neil warnock would take him off our hands?).

Sunday 6 July 2008

Transfer news

Transfer activity is hotting up as the pre-season friendlies begin and with only five weeks left to the big kick-off.

Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink is starting his, now annual, pre-season contract negotiations. This time, however, it's not for a naive new club, but with his existing Cardiff City. Poor Jim has a clause in his contract triggering a second season dependent upon the number of games played. Cardiff are claiming it was waived verbally. The PFA are involved and there is only one likely outcome. Expect to see Cardiff having to fork out to unload the large one. Should give him time to sell himself to the next unsuspecting Desperadoes.

Watford look to have a fight on their hands to hold on to ex-Charlton youth, Danny Shittu. Big Dan is attracting admiring glances from the bottom half of the Premier League as well as the Glasgow Churches. The Watford bluster looks like part of a negotiation to me and surely Shittu, now 27, deserves his shot at the big time?

Ben Thatcher is now out-of-contract and, having rejected a lessened deal of £250,000 a year, looks likely to be the 9th player to depart SE7. Still no takers for Bent and Faye; Hull are splashing the cash, having signed Geovanni and are showing an interest in Olofinjana. High time they showed some real ambition and laid out the £3m needed to secure their Premier League future....

Welling United on Wednesday evening in the opening game. I intend to pop along but there are several dependencies, including baby management. The Wings will be disappointed that the match is a night game as it will affect the attendance, in a match which traditionally provides them with their biggest takings of the season.

I am off to spend a couple of weeks in the Highlands towards the end of the month, so will likely see more of Inverness Cally, Elgin and Aberdeen than the mighty Addicks. I will see how things go (weather dependent) , but will consider cutting my holiday a few days short to be back for the open training session on 1st August. That promises to tell us probably as much as we'll learn from the friendlies.

Friday 4 July 2008

Cost-cutting continues

Following the release of Dorian Smith (never made the first team) and our loss of interest in Greg Halford, news yesterday that Paulo Monteiro will also be moving on. He, too, has never made the first team and actually only managed a handful of Reserve games.

In totality then, the squad has now been trimmed by 8 (Powell, Gibbs, Walker, Sankofa, McCarthy, Smith, Halford and Monteiro,) with only Hudson and Fleetwood joining. If we can move Bent and Faye out that should prepare the way for two more incomers (midfielders I would hope, or a midfielder and central defender/right-back) and would probably get us close to readiness for the new campaign.

Less can be more in certain circumstances and I think we need to show faith in the Board and Management's decision here. I'm sure Alan Pardew would have preferred more money to spend but he was confident we had the personnel to do the job last year and he acknowledged that our inflated squad probably didn't help us last season, especially the introduction of four loan players in January - all of whom expected to play and only served to upset the apple-cart.

Wednesday 2 July 2008

Halford goes to Sheffield United

Greg Halford has signed a season long loan with promotion rivals Sheffield United. Given the imperative to trim the squad, this comes as no real surprise but I am disappointed by it. Greg Halford looked like a classy right-back who had something extra going forward. He is big, strong, reasonably quick and reads the game well. Sure, he had a couple of stinkers when he resorted to hoof-it-forward, but in his defence, the whole side was struggling in those particular games and no-one was looking for the ball when it was played out to him from goal.

Yassin Moutaouakil is probably the better prospect of the two and will now be first choice. The question is, who is second choice right-back? Richard Murray said the plan was to go with two pros for every position, so the failure to re-sign Halford leaves us short and vulnerable in the event that Yassin gets injured, as he did early last season. I think we need another natural right-back as cover and that's going to cost us something close to Greg Halford's wages, so you have to wonder at the logic?

Just as my desperation grows to see the quality of the promised central midfield signing(s), I am getting nervous that no-one's going to bite at Bent or Faye. After all the hype about a £3m tag for Bent and interest from Hull and Stoke, things have gone quiet. At least there is fresh speculation that Mark Hughes might be again looking at Amdy Faye, this time for Man City. If Hughes follows through on this I would dearly love to know what Amdy Faye knows about Sparky that the rest of the world doesn't! It might take movement of those two before the Board fells comfortable to release funds to add to the squad.

Tuesday 1 July 2008

This Charmless Nerd

Joey Barton was released from jail today for his latest court appearance, this time on the assault charges relating to the attack on former team-mate Ousmane Dabo. I have been looking forward to this in the expectation that his current jail term would be increased sufficiently.

Don't ask me how, but he has somehow managed to get a suspended four month sentence in return for changing his plea to guilty. Sure, this saves a lot of wasted time and effort but the bloke has already worked his way up to prison, so the threat of prison looks extremely lenient.

Still, better news is that Newcastle, his current benefactors, are re-thinking the wisdom of employing this anti-social liability. Ousmane Dabo too, now has a real propsect of bringing a private prosecution for loss of earnings and that might hurt the Scally Barton more than spending his time with like-minded "charmless nerds."

On the transfer front, still nothing to report for the Addicks. We've released a winger I profess to never have having heard about. Certainly if I did, his impression at the club has been non-existent, so no loss in my book. More depressingly, Crystal Palace have today signed Nick Carle, a left-sided midfielder who I would have been very pleased to see join us. He did a consistently good job for Bristol City last year and has gone cheaply in my book at c £500,000.