Sunday 31 August 2008

Championship Round-Up

We knew the fixture list had not been kind to us in terms of our start to the season and that's reflected by the fact that the four sides we have played currently occupy 2nd, 6th, 7th and 8th. Our second successive away defeat yesterday leaves us in 11th spot in the table and probably not far from where we can probably expect to finish this season, but we shouldn't be beating ourselves up just yet.

Free-scoring Wolves now head the table after putting five past Forest, four of them before the interval. They will fill the Jimmy Seed stand in a fortnight and will be looking to repeat the win that they got last season. Sylvain Ebanks-Blake and Chris Iwelumo will need to be carefully marked by Hudson and Fortune or Linvoy Primus (if he's signed by then).

Preston are level on 10 points with Wolves and Birmingham who were held to a 1-1 draw at Carrow Road. Birmingham scored against the run of play in the first half but one time Charlton target Darryl Russell equalised in the second half. Birmingham ended the game strongly and Kevin Phillips missed a chance to maintain his goal-a-game start.

Bristol City are up to fourth on 8 points after a draw with QPR. They came back from a Dexter Blackstock goal but couldn't beat 10-man Rangers who had new cult-hero Emmanuel Ledesma sent off.

Burnley and Plymouth played out a goaless draw at Turf Moor which does neither side any favours as both occupy bottom-four places.

Doncaster Rovers consilodated their bright start to the season with their first win at home over Coventry City. The victory lifts them a point clear of the Addicks in tenth.

Reading were involved in another 4-2 ding-dong match in a week but this time emerged winners as they finally polished off a fragile Palace defence which was particularly vulnerable from set-pieces. Paddy McCarthy might feel relieved that he was subbed at half-time as couldn't be blamed for the three second have goals they conceded. Two weeks ago Neil Warnock was spouting off about how hard his team were going to be to beat this season. Maybe it was wishful thinking on his part as they languish second from bottom on two points.

Cardiff City got a creditable draw at Sheffield United to maintain their unbeaten start to the season. The Championship's biggest crowd of the day, 29,226, were there to see it. Sheffield rivals, Wednesday, got a an equally creditable draw at Swansea where they came back from a Ferrie Bodde goal (another Charlton-linked player) to equalise after 70 minutes.

Watford managed to squeak another home win in the late game by scoring two minutes from time to beat an unfortunate Ipswich by two goals to one.

In the only other game yesterday, poor old Derby County made it 36 games without a league win by going down 2-0 at Oakwell despite looking the better side. They are anchored to the bottom of the table and Paul Jewell looks like he could be the Championships' first managerial casualty. He already has some explaining to do to the Derby Board after he confirmed yesterday that he had picked his Captain for the game by pulling his name from a hat. Derby probably can't afford to sack Paul Jewell but they can't afford to get relegated either.

Elsewhere, Hull City's Premier League bubble was well and truly burst with a 5-0 hammering at home by unfashionable Wigan. Wigan at home is one of the games promoted clubs have to win if they hope to survive and the manner of their defeat is significant. Stoke City were also undone at Middlesborough where Amdy Faye's first half dismissal for a two-footed lunge changed the balance of the game in Boro's favour. Tottenham's point at Stamford Bridge from Darren bent's equaliser leaves the other promoted side, West Brom, bottom of the table. I think it might only be a matter of time before they are joined by Hull and Stoke.

Alan Curbishley will have enjoyed his red wine last night smug in the knowledge that West Ham's 4-1 win over Blackburn Rovers moves them up to 4th and respresents their best start for 9 years. The fact that Curbs has only ever managed Charlton Athletic is really not a good enough excuse for wanting him sacked and some of West Ham's less thoughful supporters, as well as the media, should take note.

Saturday 30 August 2008

Preston NE 2 V Charlton Athletic 1

An ultimately disappointing result having taken a first half lead from a Gray penalty after a trip on Varney a la the Reading match. I couldn't find any commentary of the game so had to contend with updates from Radio 5 as I spent a dripping couple of hours on my exercise bike. When you get the "Preston have equalised" update with fully 20-odd minutes left, you know, as a Charlton fan, pretty much what to expect and that is precisely what we got - nothing.

The brief summary sounded like Preston got the win their play deserved although it was decsribed as a "good game." Barry Nicholson's winner beat "a hesitant Nicky Weaver, " so I will be interested to hear more if we get any reports in tomorrow's papers. Pards has been quoted as saying we "deserved to lose," and I take that to mean he thinks we should have done better.

The win moves Preston into second place on level points with Wolves so the result might not look so bad in the weeks to come although I can't see Preston maintaining this form for any length of time. Six points from twelve is not a bad start and many Addicks would have settled for this before the season kicked off. We might have picked up another point at Watford, so all-in-all we need to keep things in perspective. Our next home again against top-of-table Wolves promises to be a belter and a third successive Valley league win might herald a long-awaited change of prolonged home form which would go a long way this season to making Charlton more watchable again.

McShane lost to Hull?

Early news that Pards target Paul McShane may have signed yesterday for Hull City. Shame if confirmed, as McShane sounds like an ideal Charlton signing. A former Manchester United youth player with Championship and Premiership experience he's still only 21 and could be expected to improve further. More importantly he can play centre-half and right back so would have proved a very useful addition, particularly if the Primus loan doesn't materialise, but we need additional defensive support in any event.

With just this weekend left, we are in real danger of failing to get the basic cover required. The Club will argue we needed to bring funds in before we could realistically enter the transfer market but loan deals do not have significant up-front costs and if we fail here there will be little excuse that can be offered. In spite of the obvious financial pressures, I think we have had adequate time to have sorted this out. If Primus doesn't join (even for four months) there should be a Stewards Enquiry and we should act to ensure this protracted mess doesn't happen again.

Whilst I appreciate you can probably get better late deals, I'd argue that it's a false economy as you don't get the value of the players from the beginning of the season and they take additional games to settle. If we have to play through until January with only two (or three) centre-backs at the club we are asking for trouble. It would be a tragedy if our season was ruined by a shortage of key defensive cover and the 15,000 season ticket holders would have been sold short. Let us hope.....

Friday 29 August 2008

Primus debacle continues...

Yesterday he was "definitely" coming but the paperwork had "yet to be completed." Bearing in mind the uncertainty so far, this looks no more certain than Wednesday's "off" rumours. Reading between the lines, it looks like we might be trying to save face here and accept a shorter loan period than we want.

Primus would undoubtedly strengthen our current team and he would be a good signing in terms of his quality and his ability to settle quickly into the familiar surroundings of the Valley. However, he has been injured for 18 months and is 35 years old. He might offer us a little more consistency than Jonathon Fortune but Jon would probably not take too kindly to being demoted again, especially on the back of two attempts to sell him on in the last two years. If Primus comes, it should be for at least a season. That way we get the possibility of a settled defence for the year and an option to change it again in the close season if necessary. Coming in for a few months will be of limited value and he would need to be used as a second, rather than first choice on that basis. Imagine if he settles in quickly, forges the understanding with Hudson we need and then gets pulled back to bolster Pompey's Reserves in December?

The transfer window shuts on Monday, so it looks like we will lose any game of brinkmanship with Harry Daley. I wouldn't be surprised if Plan B is already underway to secure another low-cost centre-half before Monday.

Wednesday 27 August 2008

Waggott Oops!

It looks like the vaunted Linvoy Primus deal was not signed and sealed when announced at the weekend. Portsmouth have refused to allow Primus to come to the Valley for longer than January and Charlton clearly want (and need) better value than getting him fit and playing again so he can saunter back into Harry's squad.

This is a real disappointment bearing in mind all the shilly-shallying with Portsmouth so far in terms of their other squad centre-halves. It's equally galling when they clearly got what they wanted quickly enough in signing Jerome Thomas. That was our best chance to leverage a loan player and it looks like we blew it. I can't remember this ever happening under Sir Peter Varney. Mr Waggott's programme notes against Wolves will make interesting reading assuming he doesn't break his MO so far in terms of using any other channel of communications. It is interesting to note that the Club website has consciously upped it's level of output during the Summer yet manages to remain silent on anything it can't blow it's trumpet about. We need a bit of balance - perhaps the Chairman is preparing another missive?

Weekend 4 Championship Preview

The last match before the first international break. Everyone will have played two at home and two away, so we should get the first decent view of the early table. It normally takes about ten games for the table to take on any real end-of-season shape, although it looks to me like it's already settling itself largely along expected lines.

Barnsley v Derby County

Both of these sides will be very disappointed with their starts. Neither have won yet and both had expectations of top 6 placings not relegation scrambles. I believe both will recover but higher finishes for either will look unlikely if they aren't clear of the bottom by game 10. Derby's new side are still finding their feet but confidence will be thin and they face the prospect of a 36th league game without a win. Ouch!
Prediction; 1-0

Bristol City v Queens Park Rangers

A draw would be the right result for Addicks here but I suspect Bristol City will cement their start and could hand Iain Dowie a second heavy defeat on the road.
Prediction; 3-1

Burnley v Plymouth Argyle

The Clarets got a 3-0 morale-boosting League cup win over Oldham last night and will be keen to follow-up with their first league success at Turf Moor on Saturday. Plymouth are looking like early season strugglers and might find this tough going.
Prediction; 2-0

Doncaster Rovers v Coventry City

Who'd have envisaged this fixture a few seasons ago? Cookie Coleman's Sky Blues might be expecting to turn-up and win whilst ex-Fulham clubmate Sean O'Driscoll's side will be itching to record their first home win of the season.
Prediction; 1-1

Norwich City v Birmingham City
After a battling draw at Cardiff last week, Glenn Roeder will be firing his canaries up for their first home win to get their season properly underway. Brum however, is not the game you need at this point, particularly after three straight wins and three Kevin Phillips goals. I don't believe Birmingham are as good as they think they are but they have the squad to do it this year. Their real test will be how they respond to defeat when it comes - they might have to wait a few weeks yet.
Prediction; 1-1

Preston NE v Charlton Athletic
Addicks fans will be tempted to assume another sparkling performance and another three points. Ordinarily I would have stuck my neck out here for the win but Preston look like they have something else about them this year and are unbeaten. Barry Nicholson aside, they have largely stuck with what they had so hats off to Alan Irvine. I think this will be a close game and could turn on one incident. Let's hope we avoid a sending off, penalty, own-goal etc. If we can do that, a point should be realistic and maybe more if we get the rub of the green we didn't at Watford.
Prediction; 0-0

Reading v Crystal Palace
Oh dear! Reading scored five at home last night and Palace conceded four at Leeds. Neil Warnock didn't sound unduly upset at slipping out of the League Cup but will be demanding more resolve at Reading. Reading will be out to re-confirm their promotion credentials and should have enough to seal Palace's goaless start to the season.
Prediction; 2-0

Sheffield United v Cardiff City
I can't see beyond a convincing home win here. Cardiff have collected five points from some favourable fixtures but reality should bite on Saturday as Sheffield United confirm their promotion aspirations.
Prediction; 2-0

Southampton v Blackpool
A great opportunity for Southampton to get their first home win. Blackpool have started slowly but bought well during the pre-season and this game might come at the right time for them to spring a surprise.
Prediction; 1-2

Swansea City v Sheffield Wednesday
The Swans will be buzzing after dumping Hull City out of the League Cup last night. Wednesday's only away trip ended in a four goal defeat at Burnley and they will find the Liberty Stadium just as difficult. Swansea to slide into an early-season play-off place which will make our opening day win look all the more impressive.
Prediction; 2-0

Watford v Ipswich Town
Both of these sides won 2-1 at home last night and will have further, probably unwanted, cup matches to contend with. Watford were undone by an impressive Forest last week but Tommy Smith kept them in the game until late on. A draw might just be beyond Town as it was for us.
Prediction; 1-0

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Nottingham Forest
Mick McCarthy will impress upon his team the fact that they lie second behind Birmingham but have only played one at home. This is their chance to go top if not to establish a lead in the top two places. Forest were beaten 3-1 on their only away game so far at Swansea and could struggle here.
Prediction; 3-1

If things go as I see them, we will need a win at Preston to climb above them and to maintain a play-off placing. A win is also the result we need if we are to have a chance of leap-frogging Wolves when we next run out at the Valley. Hopefully there will be some radio coverage although it looks like there is a commercial wrangle still going on, so who knows...

Tuesday 26 August 2008

Wouldn't it be nice if....

One of the longest transfers in Charlton history looks about to be concluded as Zheng Zhi heads off to the glamorous pastures of West Bromwich where he will again have the dual challenge of coming terms with another new language whilst fighting another relegation battle.

If the rumours are right, we should recoup about £2.5m, due in part to Zheng's marketability in Asia. It should also mean that we are close by my reckoning to having pulled in £7m during the Summer with less than £1m spent and possibly closer to £0.5m actually committed (add-ons in the Bailey deal might be worth £0.3m?). That being the case, Pards might find himself with a bit of spare cash if Richard Murray was to be taken at his word on his "£5m net sellers" comments in July. Of course, the financial situation may have worsened although it's hard to see how. There's nothing that would appear to have happened to worsen our position since July; season ticket sales must have met or exceeded forecast and we have actually gone considerably further in cost-cutting than even Richard Murray alluded to.

So, let's imagine Pards has a £1m to spend. Who should we go for? One, or two? Several more non-league lucky dips? Perhaps we should hang on until the January sales? For me, I would be tempted to go for another centre-half or defensive midfielder as cover because we could look exposed very quickly as things stand. Better to get the benefit of a stronger squad for the next 5 months than wait until January. Also, our chances of strengthening for a promotion push are not great, so better to buy for security now.

Sunday 24 August 2008

Championship Round-Up

I've been up since 6.15am with my 3 year old. No problem on a morning like this one. Not even the damp and grey sky can affect my positive mental well-being. Whilst my girl has been enagaged with Charlie and Lola, I have had plenty of time to wallow in the Blogger reviews and gorge myself on unusually generous Sunday papers. It makes you realise just how starved we have been of good football and matching results in the last year.

First off, the table shows that we are sitting sixth on 6 points with Sheffield United, Swansea, Coventry and QPR. Preston, Bristol City, Wolves and Birmingham sit above us but only Brum have more than a point advantage on us as they sit with 9 points from three games.

Kevin Phillips made it three from three yesterday at St Andrews as Birmingham romped to a predictable 2-0 win over Barnsley (I predicted it anyway!). Conversely, Barnsley lead at the bottom of the table having lost all three of their games so far. "Big club" Birmingham really showed their mettle yesterday, pulling in 17,413 supporters for their second successive home win, as their fickle Premier League following deserts them. The resolve of those that were there have yet to be tested.

Sheffield United recorded their second win of the season with a 3-1 win at Blackpool who have only a point to show from three games. Greg Halford notched the third and the Blades will be confident of consolidating their early season start next week when they take on Cardiff at Bramall Lane.

Cardiff themselves drew at home with Norwich City who could afford to miss a second penalty of the season. Arturo Lupoli, the unlikley loan signing from Fiorentina came off the bench to score twice in four second-half minutes to bring Norwich back into the game. Norwich will have another testing game at home to Birmingham next week.

Coventry's hundred per cent start to the season finished at the Ricoh as Bristol City romped to a 3-0 win to maintain their unbeaten start and take third spot in the table. Gary Johnson's side have the advantage of a second home game to come next week and will be up for the visit of QPR.

Whilst 20,020 fans were revelling in it at the Valley, 14,071 rocked up at Selhurst Park for what the Sunday Times described as "feeble entertainment." Palace failed to score for the third time this season and their failure to adequately replace Clinton Morrison may cost Simon Jordan heavily this week if he is forced to address it. If he doesn't, it might cost Palace dearly in the coming months. To make matters worse (better?), Palace had Scowcroft and Derry dismissed, so will face an even harder task at Reading next week.

Derby County have really hit rock bottom. Yesterday they lost 1-0 at home to Southampton to make it a record 35 league games without a win. Thirty-five league matches without a win? Just think about that for a few moments. To their credit, there were still 27,000 there to witness it, the biggest Championship crowd of the day. Paul Jewell is a good manager and a proud man. This will really be hurting him and next week he has to avoid defeat at bottom-of-the-table Barnsley or he could face a vote of confidence.

Wolves consolidated their unbeaten start with an impressive 2-0 win at Ipswich. Town were reduced to ten-men and Jim Magilton described their performance as "embarrasing." Mick McCarthy won't be complaining as he looks forward to a second home match next week against Forest which should see Wolves established as early contenders this year.

Forest themselves won their first game in the Championship with an encouraging 3-2 win over Watford in front of 20,005 fans. Tommy Smith scored both for the Hornets in between each of Forest's three goals, in what sounded like a game that might have come close in entertainment value to that at the Valley.

Plymouth slipped to a 1-0 home defeat in Swansea in the 5.20 game and find themsleves in the relegation places on one point having played two at home. Next week they face the haul to Burnley for an early season six-pointer.

The Super Hoops beat Doncaster Rovers 2-0 at Loftus Road to ease the pressure on Iain Dowie. There were 15,536 there to see it and some of them will go to Ashton Gate next week as QPR try and establish some momentum.

In the division's only other game yesterday, Sheffield Wednesday took a first half lead over Preston North End but couldn't get the second and succombed to a 77th minute equaliser which might support Preston's claim as the early-season surprise package. We shall find out for ourselves next week.

It has been confirmed that Linvoy Primus has been signed on a year-long loan at the Valley and will join us later this week. He is carrying a knock and is unlikely to feature at Deepdale, but you have to expect that he will force Fortune into the reserves when fit. This is not a complete surprise following the unusual two-page feature on the Portsmouth player in Saturday's programme.

Irrespective of next week's result at Preston, the Valley faithful will return in three weeks time (international weekend on 6th September) expectant of a repeat performance in a match against Wolves which promises at this stage to be another entertaining affair. It would be very nice to go into the break having avoided a second defeat of the season.

Saturday 23 August 2008

Charlton Athletic 4 v Reading 2

A second successive home win has sent us joint top albeit only for a few hours. The match was shown live and was a great advert for the game and for Charlton Athletic. Alan Pardew's bare-bones team played with grit, determination and no shortage of flair from the off to record a deserved win against promotion favourites Reading. The referree awarded three soft penalties and harshly decided to let Reading re-take one which briefly gave them undeserved parity and threatened to ruin the match. However, these Addicks weren't to be denied and battled on to get the win.

Nicky Bailey was outstanding in the centre of the park and together with Matt Holland they won the midfield battle within the first 15 minutes so that Bailey could control the game and dictate the pace of much of the play. They were supported very well today by Lloyd Sam and Hameur Bouazza who provided the much needed ammunition from the flanks. Sam needs to be more aware of who's around him as he gets run off the ball too often but I can forgive him this week as his cross for the third was superb and he created a number of other good chances. Bouazza was unlucky in the first half with a shot on the run having skipped past two defenders as he cut into the box. He did rather better in the second half as he ran on to a deep Moutaouakil cross to volley home at the back post and secure the three points.

The back four were worked hard by a tall Reading side. Jonathan Fortune had a particularly busy match but he kept Leroy Lita quiet and together with Mark Hudson looked secure. Grant Basey played well at right back although Jimmy Kebe showed him a clean pair of heels twice early on as he cut inside to cause problems. Grant learnt his lesson though and Kebe was little threat thereafter. Yassin Moutaouakil was also busy at right back but did a lot more pressing than Jose Semedo does (understandably) and Lloyd Sam had a better game as a result.

Nicky Weaver didn't have much to do but he saved Hunt's penalty and was harshly adjudged to have come off his line before the ball was struck. He had already stood up to Doyle's first-half penalty and seen it ricochet off the bar. He had no chance for the first as Sonko powered home a header just before the break.

Up front Gray had a very strong game and worked well with Luke Varney. Gray made his penalty look easy after Luke had taken a tumble under a challenge from Sonko as he burst into the box after a fine through-ball from Lloyd Sam. Luke scored the crucial third goal as he got up from a penalty appeal to head home the cross that Lloyd Sam fired back into the box.

I got home in time to see Varney collect the man-of-the-match award from Matt Holland (shave that schoolboy tache off!) and tell us that he couldn't wait to get back into the dressing room "because the boys were buzzing." The crowd leaving the Valley were also buzzing and we can go to Preston next week in confident mood that we can add to our six points. It's very early days but Nicky Bailey might just make the difference to our season this year.

Friday 22 August 2008

Royal Oak next?

The word on the street is that the famous Royal Oak could be about to close. The pub has a long history with the Addicks and is widely regarded as the favourite matchday drinking venue for Charlton diehards. Should it close, it will join the Watermans Arms, The Victoria, The Thames Barrier Arms and the Horse and Groom in the graveyard of Charlton boozers.

The Oak has been struggling for two years since Clive Still took it over. A makeover by the Freeholder last year ripped the character out of the pub and the extension has had the perverse effect of actually making the pub quieter, not busier. It has been up for sale since before Christmas but there has been no interest at the £160,000 asking price. Clive has actually moved to Norwich, so the pub has been run by the existing bar staff for the last few months. Trade has hit rock bottom and home match revenue alone doesn't look like saving it.

I understand that it will be open tomorrow for the Reading game but close thereafter. Perhaps the plan is to open it on matchdays only for a while (like the Horse & Groom did), but the end may be nigh unless Mr Still finds a buyer.

Thursday 21 August 2008

Weekend 3 Championship Preview

Third weekend of the season and a second home game for those sides who kicked-off at home on the opening day of the season. The table will still look skewed as a result, so important that we get something from Reading as we try to consolidate our start. I think we will run them very close, it's just the Live TV Jonah that worries me. Here' how I see the rest of them panning out...

Birmingham City v Barnsley

A poor start for Barnsley gets tougher at St. Andrews. Birmingham have had a two-win start with Kevin Phillips making an immediate impact. I can see them collecting another three points to lead the table tomorrow night.
Prediction; 2-0

Blackpool v Sheffield United

The Seasiders were many pundits tip for the drop season (not mine) and they have not started well. They have another tough game on Saturday against Sheffield United who will be buzzing from their 3-0 demolition of QPR last week.
Prediction; 1-1

Cardiff City v Norwich City

Cardiff have had an relatively easy start to the season and have collected four points from two games so far. Norwich have played well in both of their matches but only have a point to show for their efforts. I'll go for the Canaries to get a result here to correct the form guide.
Prediction; 1-2

Charlton Athletic v Reading

I believe we played better at Watford than we were given credit for and that we deserved a point from the game. Left-back could be a problem if Grant Basey does not recover from a hamstring strain. That apart, we should be looking to get at Reading and give them a game for the 90 minutes. If we can do that and restrict Hunt, Doyle and Co, I think we can get a result which would take us to the top of the table, albeit only for a couple of hours. It would be good to see Todorov and/or Ambrose making the bench to increase our attacking options. I'll stick my neck out and go for an unusual Live TV win.
Prediction; 2-1

Coventry City v Bristol City

A decent start for both of these sides who remain unbeaten. Bristol won away at Blackpool on their last travels and Coventry squeaked a win at home to Norwich. If City defend well they should have enough to nick a goal. In the circumstances, I'm going for a draw.
Prediction; 1-1

Crystal Palace v Burnley

Burnley have started with two straight defeats and Owen Coyle is neck-and-neck in the sack race with Iain Dowie and Jan Poortvliet. It's not the time for a trip to Palace and I can't see then getting anything here.
Prediction; 2-0

Derby County v Southampton

No team in the division will be more desperate for a home win than the Rams. Their long-suffering 30,000 faithful were denied a fortnight ago by Doncaster Rovers but they rallied for a point at Ashton Gate last week. Saturday's fixture presents the perfect opportunity as lambs Southampton enter Pride Park. Pressure on Poortvliet to intensify.
Prediction; 3-0

Ipswich Town v Wolverhampton Wanderers

Ipswich continued their impressive late team rebuilding by bringing in Ivan Campo a couple of weeks ago and were close to signing Shloa Ameobi but have held-off pending a hamstring injury. They have also managed to get Ben Thatcher to join them, so presumably money's not as tight as at the Valley. They were surprisingly beaten by Preston in their opening home game and I would be very surprised if they lost two in-a-row. Wolves, however, have had a very solid start to the season and a draw would do for Mick McCarthy. Big Chris to continue scoring during the honeymoon period, but Town to share the spoils.
Prediction; 1-1

Nottingham Forest v Watford

Aidy Boothroyd will be rubbing his hands here. A fortunate three points against London rivals to maintain an unbeaten start and now promoted Forest who were walloped at Swansea last week. The Hornets are strong at the back and if Priskin, Smith and Rasiak can do any damage, it should be enough to secure the points.
Prediction; 0-1

Plymouth Argyle v Swansea City

A West Country derby of sorts. The Swans will be well supported again as they look for more early season points. Plymouth have only managed a draw from their opening home game against Wolves and I can't see them getting more than a point here and I wouldn't be surprised to see Swansea take all three.
Prediction; 1-1

QPR v Doncaster Rovers

Iain Dowie won't know whether to laugh or cry at his prospects here. Desperate for a win to stave off the sack, he'd want a winnable home game which this should be on paper. However, Rovers won impressively at Derby last time on the road and can play relaxed football at Loftus Road. A defeat at home to promoted Donny to follow last week's drubbing at Bramall Lane might trigger the first managerial sacking of the season.
Prediction; 1-1

Sheffield Wednesday v Preston North End

Both of these sides have had decent starts. Wednesday were well beaten last week but will be confident of getting at Preston quickly on Saturday. Preston meanwhile have two straight wins to defend and will know that their chances of a third will depend on maintaining parity for as long as possible in this one. I tipped PNE for the drop this year, so am still of the opinion that their start is a flash-in-the-pan. Wednesday to score early and go on to wrap things up.
Prediction; 3-1

Get behind the Addicks this week!

Tuesday 19 August 2008

London Half-Marathon

Earlier this year, in a moment of weakness, when 5th October seemed like a lifetime away, I talked myself into entering the first London half-marathon which will start and finish at the O2 Arena and effectively circle the Valley. A number of friends in the area were also entering and, not wanting to be left out or look incapable, I went on-line and signed up.

Now it's only seven weeks away and, whilst I have been doing a bit of running during the Summer, I haven't shifted the excess weight required to make me go faster, so I started a strict regime last week counting the calories in and those burnt. It's going to be a long struggle keeping off the beer and wine as well as watching what I eat and sticking to my training schedule. I have decided to run for Cystic Fibrosis as they need the money, but probably just as importantly, for the added incentive of not wanting to feel guilty about letting a charity down!

I also have the incentive of wanting to compete with the younger entrants I know who will be taking part and I am planning on running in Charlton colours as I think that might give me the final incentive I need to ensure I do as well as I can. If you have entered the race, I would love to hear from you.

Monday 18 August 2008

Nervous Wagstaff goes on loan

Scott Wagstaff has been put out to Bournemouth "on an initial month's loan." Let's hope the 18-year old learns from the experience and manages to get some games under his belt. He was the first of the new crop of youngsters coming through to look like he was feeling the heat of first team football after a very promising debut at the back end of last season. We shouldn't be surprised if he's the only one that this happens to during the season ahead.

The Yeovil game did for him as he looked lost in the first half and was substituted at half-time. Alan Pardew spoke after the game of one of the team looking nervous but disingenuously tried to say he wouldn't say who it was. I think it would have been better all-round to have said nothing and given the lad more direct support.

Championship Round-Up

Our defeat at Watford sees us occupy a mid-table 12th with six other clubs who have won one from two.

Coventry, Birmingham and the unlikely Preston lead the table with the perfect 6 points. Coventry had a good 2-1 away win at Barnsley and Birmingham came from behind at St. Mary's to beat Southampton by the same score, Kevein Phillips again coming on to net the winner. Meanwhile, Preston rode their luck to beat Palace 2-0. Palace went close twice and had a strong penalty appeal turned down. The defeat leaves them fourth bottom.

Big Chris Iwelumo netted twice as Wolves won their first home game 4-1 against Sheffield Wednesday to go fourth on four points. Reading also won at home 2-0 against Plymouth to join Wolves on four points. Cardiff City are also on four points having snatched a late equaliser at Doncaster Rovers. The fixtures are favouring the Bluebirds after playing Southampton at home; next week they have Norwich at Ninian Park. The point also puts Doncaster on four points and an unexpected 8th placing. Bristol City and Watford are the final clubs on four points, City having drawn at home to Derby County.

After their surprise home loss to Preston, Ipswich bounced back by winning 3-0 at Turf Moor. Super Kevin Lisbie scored his second of the season in a match which was delayed for an hour because of a stranded parachutist on the stand roof. All clubs should learn a lesson from this!
Result of the day was arguably Sheffield United's convincing 3-0 win over promotion expectant QPR. Diminutive Billy Sharp scored all three as Iain Dowie moved into the lead in the Championship sack race. QPR face Doncaster Rovers at home next week and the pressure will be on the Hoops. Rangers and Sheffiled Wednesday remain on three points are are joined in mid-table by the Swans who beat fellow promotees Nottingham Forest 3-1 in front of 16,611 fans.

The bottom of the table already contains a number of the fancied strugglers; Norwich and Blackpool got their first point courtesy of a 1-1 draw between the sides at Carrow Road, which will be a disappointment for Glenn Roeder after an unlucky defeat at Coventry on the opening day. Norwich dominated the game and Jamie Cureton hit the woodwork but they had to rely upon a second half Daryl Russel l goal to salvage the point. Plymouth, Forest and Palace remain on one point after home draws last week and Derby join the one-point club after their draw with Bristol City.

Barnsley, Southampton and Burnley occupy the trap-door places on nil points and they all face tough away matches next week at Birmingham, Derby and Palace respectively.

Attendances weren't great this week considering it was the first home game; only three sides, Norwich, Sheffield United and Wolves broke the 20,000 mark. There were only 14,413 at Watford and 1500 of those were Charlton fans. Southampton managed 18,925 at home but Birmingham presumably took 2-3,000, so apart from a half-empty stadium, the atmosphere might not have been great for Southampton. Doncaster's first home game against F A Cup finalists Cardiff City was watched by 11, 873, so they will struggle to avergae more than 10,000 if they struggle this year.

A home win for the Addicks in the early game on saturday would push us up to 4th and we would probably slide back to 8th after the rest of the days games are played. Our players should be looking forward to Saturday; if we work like we did on Saturday, we should be able to make a game of it and I think we can beat Reading.

Saturday 16 August 2008

Watford 1 v Charlton Athletic 0

Why is it that the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune seem to work disproportionately against us? It's not just me is it? We competed strongly with Watford today and deserved something from the game but our chances were dealt a massive blow by a poor refereeing decision aided by an inept Linesman. Referree Williamson (according to the programme) sent Kelly Youga off in the first half for a last-ditch tackle as Watford broke into the box but replays will show that Kelly made a decent contact with the ball. The Linesman was as well placed as the 1500 Charlton fans behind the goal but he flagged in Watford's favour as he did throughout the match; he was suspiciously bad.

By then, we had managed to go a goal down to nemisis Tommy Smith who got wide of Jon Fortune and ran in to beat a flat-footed Nicky Weaver. We had started the game brightly and had given as good as we had got up until then. Hameur Bouazza nearly scored with his first touch, a swerving drive that narrowly missed the top corner. Therry Racon was having a lively game in midfield and was winning lots of possession and feeding Sam and the over-lapping Semedo on the right in particular. Varney and Gray were working hard against a strong and well organised Watford back-four. With Mark Hudson superbly marshalling our back four, the goal didn't look the end of the contest but the sending off did.

Hameur Bouazza was sacrificed for Grant Basey second half and can have few complaints. Apart from his early shot and a decent break in which he put an off-side Varney in, he had contributed little. Mind you, Nicky Bailey had a slow start too and although he redeemed himself in the second period, he might have hoped to have done a little more and he looked off the pace. Having said that, we played better with ten men and did as much attacking as Watford without creating too many clear-cut chances. Jay Demerit and Leigh Bromby were working overtime to restict us and to support Mat Sadler whenever Lloyd Sam got wide on the right.

Therry Racon limped off to be replaced by Matt Holland and Jose Semedo eventually made way for Chris Dickson to come on with Lloyd Sam reverting to full-back. With three up-front we began to work Watford harder and Varney managed to wriggle through for his best chance but his shot was smothered. Dickson worked hard in confined space but we couldn't get the goal we needed. Watford continue to break and went close on a couple of occasions but the game was really about whether or not we could equalise and we couldn't, but we finished the match attacking with ten men.

Alan Pardew can have few complaints with the work his team put in and the spirit they showed. From that perspective it was better than most of the games we have played in 2008 and bodes well for the games ahead.

Nicky Weaver made several trade-mark saves in the second half but was caught flapping for Watford's first attack which Hudson cleared and might have got closer to the goal which Smith rolled passed him. Rob Elliot might not have to wait too long for another game. Hudson was superb and Fortune had another decent game although he will be disappointed he didn't make it harder for Smith to score. Semedo was sound whilst he was on and Youga had looked ok at left-back until the sending off. Racon played well until limping off and Bailey had an ineffective debut as I have said. He has a quick turn a la Andy Reid and a similar ability to switch the play. I am sure he's probably a bit rusty having sat out the last couple of Southend games and will look better on Saturday.

With Bouazza offering little on the left, we relied upon Lloyd Sam and Jose Semedo to penetrate on the right. Semedo overlapped well and Lloyd Sam never stopped running but he needs reminding he is a winger and should be foraging up and down and not sideways in a congested midfield. Alan Pardew's post-match analysis will be interesting because we looked to be deliberately trying to narrow the midfield, presumably to provide more close support to the front two, which might account for why Bouazza was so quiet.

Gray and Varney had typical games for them but chances were limited and they were up against a really strong looking Watford defence which closed space down quickly and worked in pairs to tackle and clear-up.

It would have been good to have got something from this match to aid the confidence going into the live game against Reading on Saturday but we showed enough today to give you belief that we can record successive home wins (in the league!).

Friday 15 August 2008

Amdy Faye signs for Stoke

At last we're shot of him. He was never going to give Alan Pardew any selection headaches this season but now the deal has been done and Tony Pulis has seen enough to convince him to "buy" Amdy Faye. I assume there was a fee and that it is relatively small as neither club wishes to disclose details. At least we know his wage burden has been removed and there will be a noisy welcome for him when he comes back to the Valley next season (assuming he's still at Stoke).

Amdy Faye was a disastrous Iain Dowie signing, probably the worst of the lot. He seemed out his depth whenever he appeared in a red shirt and I can't think of any redeeming features. His sojourn to Glasgow with Rangers last season seemed to fare little better and I am surprised that a Premier League club is prepared to take him.

Since I started this post I have been interrupted by my work on several occasions, enough to now see that Aswad Thomas has been loaned to Brentofrd for a month. A sensible enough deal and hopefully that's the comings and goings done for the week and we can settle down to the action tomorrow!

Team selection gets easier

Jerome Thomas has duly been loaned out to Portsmouth for the rest of the season and you can't really see him coming back. As far as the player is concerned, I arrived in the "anti" camp relatively early. Possessed with buckets of ability, he has been a major disappointment. Content to amble through games when it's not going our way, he has looked to me like one of those pro's who is happy to pick up his wages irrespective of whether or not he's in the first team. Good luck to Pompey, maybe Harry can get more out of him than we did.

As more and more players leave, Alan Pardew's job gets in picking the team gets progressively easier. At the current rate, and with two full weeks left in the transfer window, we should be able to get the team to pick itself and dispense with the Manager altogether, cutting the wage bill even further. Why, at this rate we might even make a profit to return some of Derek Chappell's investment!

Root & Branch

The latest surprise announcement from the Valley re players being loaned out as well as possible transfers of Zheng Zhi and Amdy Faye finally crystalise a position that has been developing all Summer. The club has obviously had to raise revenue and slash costs in order to avoid Administration and, whilst this came as a something of a surprise to an initially disgruntled Alan Pardew, it looks like he's come to terms with the task and has now decided to make the most of it and purge the squad of those he considers to have have been negative influences in the dressing room.

I think if you look back on last season, our appalling form during the run-in, which Pards was unable to affect, must have been down to a significant level of dressing room discontent. The signing of the four loan players in January looks the catalyst for this, especially as they came into an already large squad with personal and club expectations that they would get games during their loan periods.

The ultimate failure to make the play-offs triggered the sale of our most valuable assets (Varney excepted) and it is very hard not to see this fuelling existing dressing room discontent and negativity about the club and probably about Alan Pardew as Manager. Pards has been in a very difficult place here; it was his decision to bring in the loanees, presumably in an effort to intensify competition and up our attacking options as we chased promotion. However, it looks like he didn't forsee the drastic action required during the Summer and was initially caught expressing his surprise whilst trying to defend his playing squad. The seriousness of the financial situation looks to have got worse or the expectations around it looked to have been managed by the Board as the Summer wore on.

Knowing that he would have to rely much more on the crop of youth players who were blooded at the end of last season when our promotion hopes had faded, Pardew made it clear that this senior pro cull would be an opportunity for some of them this year. As the cull has intensified that opportunity has grown and I believe Pards has got to the point where he has lost the critical mass of last year's first choice squad and now decided to take this opportunity to root out the remaining malcontents and start afresh. Interestingly he has spoken this week of having "built new teams" in his second seasons at Reading and West ham, although neither were as dramatic or enforced as ours. From a fans point of view, Jerome Thomas is not only one of the remaining big wage earners but also the most obvious of sulkers, so it's absolutely no surprise that his name was in the frame with the annoucement of more players to be loaned out. I am sure we would have sold him if there had been any interest,

I'm not, for a minute, saying that all of those sold were bad apples or had lost their motivation, but if Thomas joins Sinclair and Fleetwood on loan, there really are only a handful of survivors pre-Pards; Ambrose is injured so couldn't be sold or loaned; Fortune is playing but we nearly sold him to Stoke last year and he was offered a move again in the Summer and is now one of only two centre-halves left; Holland was Captain and Player of the Year last season - he's lost the Captaincy, is too old to command a fee and has always given a 100% when picked.

Sometimes new teams have to built and something was clearly wrong at the back-end of last season. We should face facts and recognise that we do at least have a Manager who has experience of having done this before. More importantly a promising crop of players have emerged and our financial position must be approaching stability. Promotion this season isn't a realistic option in the circumstances so we need to support the new team as it develops and see how far they can go this year.

Unless we have a collapse and are in trouble of relegation, I believe we need to stick with Alan Pardew and the fans need to back him. Forcing him out because we are mid-table at Christmas will only cost the club money we can't afford and we take another big risk because there aren't many better Managers than Pards who would take us on (with little funds available) and I include Alan Curbishley in that. When the sack comes for him at Upton Park he will want another PL job.

If our recent demise means the loss of the Premier League Glory Boys who have swelled our gates, then so be it. Perhaps the booing when we don't win games will recede as they inevitably move on.

Thursday 14 August 2008

More players to leave this week?

The Newsshopper has been uncannily accurate in it's on-line postings during the close season and is today suggesting that Jerome Thomas could be one of several more players to leave, possibly before Saturday. Alan Pardew is quoted as saying he wants to loan "three or four" out. If this is true, then the need to cut costs continues and it looks like slashing the wage bill is next in line as our saleable assets dry up.

Zheng Zhi is again being linked with a move to West Brom for c £2m and if Thomas was loaned out, you have to wonder who else Pards has in mind. Presumably some of the fringe players but the saving associated with their wages would beg the questions "is it worth it?" or "just how bad are things?"

Weekend 2 Championship Preview

It seems like a very long time ago that Watford v Charlton was a Premiership fixture. Nonetheless, it should represent a decent test of the current squad and whether or not we can build-on our encouraging opening day win. Here's how I see the Championship panning out on Saturday...

Barnsley v Coventry City

A real test this for Coventry. Barnsley were beaten at Loftus Road last week and will be determined to open their account. The Sky Blues squeaked a win against Norwich at the Ricoh and Chris Coleman was not particularly happy with the manner in which they did it. I suspect he might not be any happier after the visit to Oakwell.
Prediction; 2-1

Bristol City v Derby County

Ouch! Not the fixture you would want after losing your first game at home to newly promoted Doncaster. Nicky Maynard squandered a couple of opportunities to open his account for the Robins at Blackpool last week and will see this as his chance. The whole Derby side will have similar feelings. City should be too strong here but I expect Paul Jewell's side to challenge this year and he may get the reaction from them he needs.
Prediction; 1-1

Burnley v Ipswich Town

Two poor losers from the opening weekend. More was expected of both of these sides last time out and neither will want to start with two blanks. I can see them sharing the spoils.
Prediction; 1-1

Doncaster Rovers v Cardiff City
A perfect fixture for Doncaster Rovers after their surprise victory at Pride Park on Saturday. Cardiff don't travel well and the pressure may be off after opening their account at home to Southampton. Donny to be sitting proudly in a play-off spot come 5pm.
Prediction; 2-1

Norwich City v Blackpool
Glenn Roeder's men will be itching to get out at Carrow Road and get the result their performance deserved at Coventry. Blackpool started badly with a home defeat to Bristol City and this could be a poor start for them.
Prediction; 2-0

Preston NE v Crystal Palace
Neil Warnock was quick to comment this week on how hard he believes his Palace side will be to beat this year. They moved quickly to offset the loss of Clinton Morrison by signing Leandre Grifft and John Oster who scored on Tuesday evening. I could see Palace winning this but Preston got a good result away at Ipswich last weekend and they may have more resolve about them than I thought.
Prediction; 0-0

Reading v Plymouth Argyle

Only a home win will do for the Royals and I expect them to get it.
Prediction 3-1

Sheffield United v QPR
The Blades received a boost with week with the news that James Beattie is nearer a return than anticipated. They would probably have preferred to play this fixture later in the season when he's back but they should have enough to get the win.
Prediction; 1-0

Southampton v Birmingham City
I can't see Southampton getting anything here. Tey went down at Ninian Park last week and Kevin Phillips and Co got the boost of a last minute winner at home. I don't think King Kev will leave it so late this week.
prediction; 2-0

Swansea City v Nottingham Forest

Two of the promoted clubs meet here and Swansea will feel this is a three-pointer. If they can maintain the passing game they showed at the Valley last week, home advantage should see them home and dry.
Prediction; 2-0

Watford v Charlton Athletic
We probably won't get a better chance to win at Watford than this week. Their home record is not brilliant and they have as many off-field pressures as we have had. The signing of Nicky Bailey should up the morale of the team this week and if he can settle quickly into the midfield we can get off to a quick-start at Vicarage Road.
Prediction; 1-2

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Sheffield Wednesday
Wednesday got off to a flyer last week going two-up inside the first five minutes. They won't get this all their own way and Big Chris will be looking to open his league account at Molineux.
Prediction; 2-0

For those of you travelling to Watford, I really home we can get behind the team and let them know that the boo-boys don't travel.

Wednesday 13 August 2008

Bailey looks the part

Nicky Bailey has duly signed in a deal worth "up to £700,000." I have been looking at what we might be getting and this article from Steve Claridge is very promising indeed.

What's more, Nicky Bailey actually looks like the player we need; not unlike a bulldog, close-cropped, pugnacious and ready-to-bite.

Nicky Bailey for £400,000

The Essex Echo is reporting that Nicky Bailey is Valley-bound for £400,000 from Southend having been left out of their squad which went down 1-0 at home to Cheltenham last night. I hope he knows what he's letting himself in for because he will be expected to step up a division, and organise and boss a Championship midfield. It seems a lot to ask for a player of this valuation. We can but hope.

Tuesday 12 August 2008

Charlton Athletic 0 v Yeovil Town 1

Ultimately a disappointing result although the performance deserved better and yet the match still gave cause for concern.

Pardew opted to change Weaver, Semedo, Hudson, Sam, Racon and Gray from the start, instead bringing in Elliot, Moutaouakil, Basey, Holland, Wagstaff and Bouazza. The line-up looked strong but obviously a bit dis-jointed with Youga partnering Fortune in the middle of defence and a packed midfield that saw Bouazza start upfront alongside Varney.

Nonetheless, the Addicks made a quick start and should have taken the lead. Jonjo Shelvey had a superb shot from eighteen yards finger-tipped around the post after six minutes by the fully stretched Wagenaar. Wagenaar dived bravely to intercept at the feet of Hameur Bouazza moments later and did very well to punch the ball from John Fortune's head as he rose to meet a corner. Luke Varney pulled a shot wide having cut in from a useful ball over the top from Thomas. Thomas himself found the ball at his feet and back to goal three yards out following a scrambled corner but again Wagenaar saved his back-heeled attempt.

At this stage you got the feeling that it might not be our night and Yeovil promptly went down the other end and scored against the run of play. It was poor goal to concede and not one I think they would have got with Hudson in the middle. They played the ball into the box from a set-piece where Youga was beaten to the header and the ball dropped for Warne in space between Youga and Fortune and he finished clinically low off of Elliot's left-hand post.

Charlton continued to press in the first half but Luke Varney was guilty of squandering two decent chances when supported well by several team-mates offering better options.Worryingly, there was time for John Fortune to limp off before the break as Jose Semedo came on to make an unlikely centre-half pairing with Kelly Youga. We know we have no proper cover in central defence since selling Madjid Bougherra and without getting adequate cover will be taking a major risk until the January transfer window.

The second half was a predictable disappointment as the game slowed down. Yeovil lacked any further attacking ambition and their back four slowly got to grips with what we had to offer as well as the substitutes who came on to try and influence the game; Sam and Dickson. Varney had a near post header which he lifted over the bar having beaten the keeper and Holland flashed another near-post header from a corner on the opposite side wide of the left-hand upright towards the end. We got the final frantic three minutes of added time as we forced a series of corners but it was too little too late as usual despite the advanced Elliot who got close to heading one of the corners.

The 6,000 crowd booed the team off at the end which was harsh but, I am afraid, a shape of things to come if we can't get a run going or improve the overall quality of our play at home.

For me this was not a bad performance as I have said. Moutaouakil had a nervy reintroduction although he did little wrong. His first touch was generally poor but he improved with the game. Basey was my man-of-the-match and it's clear he is going to challenge Youga for left-back. Youga himself did ok in the middle but cannot be expected to play in that position in league games. Fortune had little to do, as did Elliot in goal. In front of the defence we looked a bit uncertain as to the game plan. Bouazza kept dropping back and cluttering the midfield where Wagstaff looked lost. Holland and Shelvey were busy and Thomas again a class apart man-on-man but whose contribution in terms of delivery dried-up as the game went on. Shelvey was one of the few players to have a better second half.

Bouazza is a winger and doesn't look like he can play striker or central midfield. Varney was guilty of being selfish, although he can probably be forgiven for thinking he was best place to try everytime he got a chance. Lloyd Sam looked like he wanted to know and had a better showing than against Swansea. Chris Dickson did a lot of running but his chances were limited.

So, in summary, this was a frustrating game and yet another League Cup disappointment. Being out of this competition is probably a good thing, especially if we can bounce back at Watford on Saturday. Their financial position looks worse by the day and I understand they are having serious problems in avoiding going into Administration with the 10 point deduction that would bring, not to mention the attendant fire-sale of remaining assets. Probably a good time to reflect on the unpalatble medicine we have had to take of late. Perhaps they will have a central defender and missing-link midfielder we can get on the cheap?

We travel to Watford with a 100% league record and in realistic hope of maintaining that, at least into our third game of the season.

It's on....

Within the hour of my post this morning the downpour halted and it's been dry, warm and windy since. I have just been assured at the club that the game will go ahead and have bought a ticket for the match, so don't my my previous ramblings stop you from coming down this evening.....

If could be off?

Half-seven and it's been hammering down in Charlton for several hours. The forecast is for continuous rain until mid-morning and then several hours respite before it starts again at 4pm through to kick-off against Yeovil.

I'd say there's a chance that this evening's fixture could well fall victim to a waterlogged pitch. If you are one of the 5,000 planning on attedning, I suggest you check later on before donning your wet-weather gear and squelching down to the Valley.

Monday 11 August 2008

Championship Round-Up

Thousands of smug Charlton fans back at work this morning and ready to engage in the Monday morning "how did your lot do?" ritual. It will be better next week once the glory boys from the Premier League can also join in, but let's enjoy it for what it was.

All of the reports and blogs have been pretty consistent in what they saw against the Swans and whilst we got the job done, I don't think anyone is crowing just yet about our chances this season. Watford away on Saturday looked a hard task last week but with their lack-lustre draw at Palace and a mood in their camp akin to ours of late, this is possibly a game we can travel to with some optimism. Again, like us, their home form was indifferent last year and we have managed good draws there in the last couple of visits, so I don't see any reason why we can't get another. Hameur Bouazza will be gagging to get on and show his old club what they are missing.

Speaking of Palace, Paddy McCarthy had a mixed debut and one of his clearances had to be saved by Julian Speroni to the horror of the assembled Glaziers. In terms of the McCarthy v Hudson debate on the internet during the Summer, a definate case of 1-0 to Charlton.

It was interesting to note that the three promoted sides were pitted against Reading, Derby and ourselves. If you had been told they would manage a win, a draw and a defeat amongst them I don't think there would have been many punters with a correct tri-cast. Derby's shock home defeat by Doncaster had Paul Jewell sweating in front of the cameras and he looked like he was going to be sick. He had a new team on show but will still have been extremely disappointed not to have arrested last years losing ways. Reading's draw at Forest was obviously a better performance but I thought the Royals might have started with a bang.

I was a bit miffed to see Brum sneak a last gasp Kevin Phillips winner but I expect Sheffield United to compete all season, so it might look like a more favourable result in the months to come. Bristol City's 1-0 win at Blackpool was another decent result and there will be a similar feel-good factor in Bristol today.

Ipswich were surprise losers at home to PNE and East Anglian rivals Norwich also went down at Coventry. Chris Coleman was not satisfied with the Coventry performance, however, and thought Norwich deserved something from the game.

At what I believe will be the bottom end of the table, Cardiff ambled past a poor Southampton team and Sheffield Wednesday pulled out a performance and a result to match Doncaster Rovers', by thumping fancied Burnley 4-1.

Good to see today that Mark Robson has not been out of work long. His old Spurs pal Mark Stimson has had him appointed as first team coach at Gillingham to extend the Charlton-Gills connections. On this basis we can probably expect a loan signing or two to follow down to the Priestfield in due course.

I will be going to the Yeovil Cup game tomorrow when, I too would like to see the bulk of the side play again. However, unlike some fellow Bloggers, I just can't see it. Weaver could be rested for Elliot; Grant Basey can expect a start either in place of Youga or Thomas; Moutaoukil could come back in, if not being kept for Watford; Scott Wagstaff and Josh Wright could feature and it's the perfect match for Stuart Fleetwood and Chris Dickson to get some Valley playing time.

I have learnt not to expect anything from the League Cup, so have no expectations as to the result. If we get through it's another opportunity to develop the youngsters and if we go out there will be no further early season distraction to the business of the Championship.

Saturday 9 August 2008

Charlton Athletic 2 v Swansea City 0

Phew! Glad that's out of the way and we have at least got off to a winning start. In all honesty it wasn't a difficult match and Swansea can have few complaints (certainly not the Jacks I spoke to after the match).

Pards got a dream start with debutant Mark Hudson heading home unopposed from the first corner after only two minutes. The back four were rarely troubled after that and the only disappointment for me was that we didn't go after them for more goals until later in the game.

Swansea spent the first half probing the right flank but Kelly Youga stood up to everything they had to try. Mark Hudson was faultless and Fortune had an a superb game alongside him. I was critical of Fortune last week but need to say here that he was excellent and that he looked like he has a partnership going with Hudson. Hudson was sublime and played the model Captain's role in addition to heading the opener.

It took Swansea until the 35th minute to test Weaver and he saved smartly then for Youga to clear. Swansea had another half-chance before the break but the Addicks went in deservedly 1-0 at half-time.

Pardew was quick to act in the second half and was right to replace Shelvey relatively early on with Matty Holland after 55 minutes. Swansea had started the second half more brightly and we needed to mix it up. They huffed and puffed but bar one effort which Weaver pushed out for Fortune to clear, they didn't look like scoring. Swansea were reduced to ten men after a suicidal couple of minutes from Gary Monk who picked up two quick bookings and the ensuing red card. Jason Scotland looked lively when he came on but by then Grant Basey was on for the lack-lustre Jerome Thomas and new loanee Hameur Bouazza had replaced a disappointing Lloyd Sam. Charlton looked comfortable against ten men and the second goal, a near-post header from Andy Gray from a free kick, was all that was required to end the contest. Luke Varney could have rubbed salt into the wounds but his snapshot, when put through, cannoned off of De Vries. Weaver was called upon to save a free kick and swipe the loose ball clear after that but the result was in no doubt.

Bearing in mind the turbulent pre-season we have had, this was as good as we could expect and the players looked really up for it. It bodes well for the difficult away game at Watford next week.

The signing of Hameur Bouazza should not be under-estimated and is more significant than may first appear. He is a Premier League player who knows the Championship well. He is with us for the season and should provide a valuable supply-line to Gray and Varney. Lloyd Sam has some much needed competition and hopefully it will rub off on Thomas too.

I am of a mind to make the trip to Vicarage Road on Saturday.

Come on you Reds!

Thursday 7 August 2008

Cranie to join on loan in time to face Swans

With the Number 4 shirt being left unattached yesterday, we can expect our third signing of the season to be Portsmouth's Martin Cranie on a season long loan. I'm sure the delay is in the detail around what we will pay towards his Premier league wages and on what terms we can sign him permanently should that suit us and him come May. You have to believe Waggie will be doing everything he can to get Cranie in on time for his debut on Saturday to help lift the mood.

So, the missing midfield jigsaw piece will have to wait a bit longer. Bearing in mind the club's finances and the fact that the transfer window closes in little over three weeks, we have to prepare ourselves for making do with what we've got.

Wednesday 6 August 2008

Weekend Championship Preview

Despite the disappointing transfer activity and increasingly pessimistic forecasts for the season ahead, you have to look upwards and hope that this will be a season to relish. As you know, I have my doubts but will believe we can yet add quality to our squad where it's needed most and that our youngsters will give us something to cheer about all season.

The opening fixtures are an interesting mix and might produce a number of surprises....

Birmingham City v Sheffield United

Ouch! I wouldn't want to open away at St Andrews. Alex McLeish's boys will want to start as they mean to go on, at the top of the table, and will be expecting a comfortable home win. Sheffield United have strengthened during the close and will be expecting a top 6 finish.
Prediction; 1-1

Blackpool v Bristol City

A tight game in prospect here. Blackpool were hard to beat at Bloomfield Road last year but City made the play-offs and should look equally strong this season. A strong City following can urge them on for the point.
Prediction; 1-1

Cardiff City v Southampton

If this game were played later in the season my money would be on it being a relegation encounter. I'll go with home form to be enough for the Bluebirds.

Prediction; 1-0

Charlton Athletic v Swansea City

I don't think Swansea will pull up any trees this year but you really don't want to get them in the first game. At least we have home advantage although that rarely worked last year. We should have enough here despite the squad short-comings but I can see the Swans opening their points account.
Prediction; 1-1

Coventry City v Norwich City

Chris Coleman will be desperate to get off to a winning start and I expect Coventry to get it. Freddie Eastwood to put the Black Country nightmare behind him and score on his debut.
Prediction; 2-0

Crystal Palace v Watford

I wouldn't fancy Palace away first game and I suspect Aidy Boothroyd's boys won't either. It will be interesting to see how Palace have dealt with the losses of key players during the season. They have replaced them well and should match-up.
Prediction; 2-1

Derby County v Doncaster Rovers

They do like to pit promoted and relegated teams against each other on the first day. I can't see the fairy tale for Donny lasting too long and they might get the tonking Derby got most weeks last year.
Prediction; 3-0

Ipswich Town v Preston North End

Ipswich had a great record at Portman Road last year and know how to take advantage on their own turf. Preston are one of my favourites for the drop and I will be shocked if they get anything here.
Prediction; 2-0

Plymouth Argyle v Wolverhampton Wanderers

Argyle have signed ex-Charlton man of few games, Simon Walton, for an undisclosed fee but thought to be a club record (in excess of £500k). Like when at charlton, Walton struggled to get a first team outing at QPR and whilst he will play at Home Park, he might have a big challenge on his hands. Wolves have a useful looking blend of youth and experience and I can see them sharing the spoils come 5pm.
Prediction; 1-1

QPR v Barnsley

Iain Dowie has already upset Flavio Briatore and the word "sack" has been mentioned between them. I hope not because it's still early enough for Rangers to appoint a far more capable manager to shape their season. I think they should do the decent thing and give him 20 games before paying him off. Rangers have had a dismal pre-season but we should take that with a pinch of salt. If Barnsley do beat them it will be all the evidence we need that all is not well in the Rangers camp.
Prediction; 1-0

Sheffield Wednesday v Burnley
Wednesday look like they have another long struggle ahead and Burnley are being talked up as promotion contenders. I can't see it myself and think Wednesday could get off to winning start.
Prediction; 2-1

Nottingham Forest v Reading

The cameras have gone for another of the relegated v promoted matches and the revival of Nottingham Forest. It should be a good match to watch but I expect Reading to skate it and signal their intent for the title.
Prediction; 0-3

Come on you REDS!

Tuesday 5 August 2008

Playing Squad Targets 2008-09

Despite the 11 (eleven) players who have departed in the Summer, we still have 34 "professionals" on the books. By my reckoning, 21 of these are likely to play this season and the chances of the other thirteen will depend on how well that 21 do. In tense anticipation of the first game, I have run my eye down the list and am giving you my opinion of what we realistically need to see from them as well as what we can probably expect. I have ranked these from my first team downward...

1.Nicky Weaver - Looks and plays like he's 34 or 35 - in fact he's only 29. Weaver is a decent keeper but not outstanding and undoubtedly suffers from having to follow Dean Kiely.

Target; Would like to see his 13 league clean sheets from last season increased to 20 and him taking greater command of his area. He's a decent shot stopper but far too often the ball still ends up in the back of the net.
Drinking View; Will need to maintain last seasons level of performance to keep his place and the four in front will be key to that. I expect Rob Elliot to get an opportunity due to form if not injury at some point. Can't see him beating 15 clean sheets.

2. Yassin Moutaouakil - Needs games and early error free performances to secure the right-back berth. Jose Semedo is his only challenger for the shirt at present and may not be good enough in that position to keep him out for any length of time.

Target; Must secure the position by the end of September and dominate. If he can do this and shore up the corner, then the defence will benefit and he can look to get forward and support the midfield which he has previously shown to be his forte.
Drinking View; No reason why he can't become a big plus for 08-09. Hudson can help as might another experineced centre-half.

3. Kelly Youga - In a very similar situation to Yassin. Capable enough but needs to cut out the costly errors and make the position his own. He too can bomb forward and could offer our midfield much needed support.

Target; Ditto for Moutaoukil
Drinking View; I think Pard's criticism folloiwng the loss of possession on Saturday that lead to the Bilbao winner was deliberate and intended to get a solid performance from Kelly this week. Another plus in 08-09.

4. Mark Hudson - Barring injury, he should be an ever-present this season. As captain this will be crucial to settle and motivate the side as well as the defence.

Target; Needs to share the responsibility for protecting Nicky Weaver and the target of 20 clean sheets. Must stay fit and provide support for the youngsters around him.
Drinking View; Much will depend on his central partnering options. Him and Jon Fortune can't expect to see the season out unscathed and a Martin Cranie would certainly help. That still wouldn't give us two for each position and Amady Faye is a desperate measure - an Achilles Heel position for this year.

5. Jon Fortune - Poor Jon probably feels he's never been given the credit he's been due at Charlton. He often over-performed in the Premiership but has a tendency to make the Championship look beneath him. It probably hasn't helped him that we have been ready to let him go several times in the last couple of years.

Target; Needs to form a partnership with Hudson and knuckle down to the fight. I would like to see more aerial threat (and several goals from him) at set pieces.
Drinking View; Likely to become third choice with the arrival of another centre-half. He'll play second fiddle reluctantly and we won't see the best from him.

6. Jerome Thomas - Should be the automatic left wing choice but he isn't nearly consistent enough to keep the shirt.

Target; The same as every year, to play 40 games, score 6 or 7 and supply a dozen more for the strikers. Must look to get in at least 10 decent crosses every game.
Drinking View; Assuming no-one's naive enough to be tabling a £2m offer, he will start the season but be dropped regularly. Won't get more than 3 goals or provide the ammunition for the front men to get their goals.

7. Lloyd Sam - Like Thomas, should be automatic right wing choice but has disappointed since making the first team. Hides too often and panics when in on goal.

Target; He faces better competition than Thomas but should be looking to play 30 games, get 5 or 6 goals and contribute to ten goals from the strikers. Needs to get his crosses in too.
Drinking View; Will play less than half the games and face stiff competition from Ambrose, Wagstaff or maybe Varney.

8. Jonjo Shelvey - Much is expected of this early developer. Will need to put in a Bowyer-like first season if we are to thrive. It's a lot to ask from a 16/17 year old and we could even lose him as he isn't old enough yet to sign pro forms!

Target; Needs to target 25 appearances (probably no more) and get half a dozen goals. I hope he plays with the belief he showed in his first few appearances and doesn't get neutered by having to play a functional role.
Drinking View; Can be the star of the season if we don't ask him to do too much. Needs an experienced holding player alongside him who we have yet to sign. Will be rotated with Racon, Semedo, Basey and Wagstaff to share the workload.

9. Matt Holland - Our 34 year old Player of the Season. Gives everything but is short of pace now and needs more experienced players around him than he's got.

Target; Another season like last year would be as good as we could hope for. I'd like to see one of his 35 yard efforts go in this year.
Drinking View; The elusive experienced signing we need would free him up for the cameo roles he's more qualified to play and keep him fitter for when we're chasing the game.

10 Andy Gray - A make or break season for Andy after a disappointing half-season since signing in January. Looked like a partnership with Luke Varney could have been forming when the season finished.

Target; Must get 15 goals if he stays fit. He won't play every game or certainly not too many 90 minutes due to competition from Dickson, Fleetwood, Todorov and maybe even McLeod. If he can play in 35 games, we need his partner (Varney) to be getting 15 goals as well from playing alongside him.
Drinking View; Looks more like a supplier than an out-and-out goalscorer. I can't see him getting the ammunition he needs from midfield to get the goals he needs to cement his place and will likely rotate with the other forwards.

11. Luke Varney - The most natural footballer at the club. Must concentrate on finishing and scoring. Like Gray, he needs the supply and without it drifts wide to try and get involved. Quick footed and alert, Gray can provide him with the knock-downs and lay-offs he needs, but Gray needs good balls through as well as searching crosses.

Target; Should be getting 15 goals and will likely get enough appearances to support this.
Drinking View; Unlikely to get the service needed from midfield to get the goals or form a partnership with Gray or anyone else.

12. Grant Basey - Strong left-sided player who will be pressing Youga, Thomas and maybe central midfield.

Target; Should build on his first six appearances last year. If he can 20 games we might see where his best position is. For me, he should be challenging Kelly Youga closely for left-back.
Drinking View; Will get 20 games next year and could become a regular.

13. Jose Semedo - Hot-headed Jose is a good ball player but prone to attacks of the Red Mist and racks up the disciplinary points. Something of a utility player, he's probably best in central midfield but, again, like a number of the others would benefit from a better, more experienced player alongside him.

Target; Needs to challenge for a midfield place if Yassin Moutaouakil sews up the right-back spot. To do this he needs to be more adventurous and incisive with his passing. Square running and passing in the Championship invites pressure.
Drinking View; Shelvey and Racon might make enough of an impression in midfield to limit Jose's chances this year and he will probably feature more from the bench than as a starter.

14. Amady Faye - I have to include him because he's still here, big enough to play in the middle of defence or midfield and he made an appearance on Saturday!

Target; Needs to find himself a fresh start, hopefully for a fee, albeit a fraction of the £2m Iain Dowie wasted on him, not to mention the £1m in wages.
Drinking View; No-one's going to take him and he'll get a few substitute appearances if things aren't going well and we are desperate or thin on the ground.

15. Darren Ambrose - Still yet to fulfil his potential and currently looking injury prone. An infuriating player to watch and one that we need to finally get something from or cut our losses.

Target; Should be a goal-scoring midfield regular. I'm not sure he knows where his best position is but for me he goes missing in games far too often. Bags of ability when he wants to know but not the best team-player.
Drinking View; He will get plenty of games this year when fit because the workload in midfield will be too much for the youngsters and our wide players are unlikley to deliver enough. I suspect he'll be satisfied with that and 5 goals.

16. Therry Racon - Has made a good fist of the pre-season and will get some appearances early on. He's busy and prepared to shoot but too naive to hold midfield, so I hope he's used carefully. He has an eye for a pass and could become good friends with Messrs Gray and Varney.

Target; Great chance for Therry after the disappointments of last year to break into the side ona regular basis, particularly if we fail to strengthen before the window closes. He should be looking to play in 25 games and get 3 or 4 goals.
Drinking View; I think he can get the appearances but will have to settle for more from the bench than the whistle and I think he can get and create goals.

17. Scott Wagstaff - Another youngster with a great opportunity to break into the first team. Lloyd Sam looks a soft target to me and must take his chance when it comes.

Target; a couple of ten-game runs would be a great second season, especially if he can up the crossing rate which shouldn't be hard from where it was last year.
Drinking View; needs to be protected in terms of the games he gets as his confidence could suffer if he's played in a struggling side. I can see him getting games and appearances at the expense of Lloyd sam.

18. Zheng Zhi - With all the outgoings he looks like a seasoned pro and one of the last links to Premier League football.

Target; Needs to find a club with bigger international appeal than Championship Charlton.
Drinking View; Won't trouble Holland, Shelvey, Racon & Co again and will be moved on before the Olympics finish.

19. Svetislav Todorov - Potentially the best "new" player at the club. Fingers crossed that he can stay injury free and get back the goal-scoring heights of his past.

Target; To break into the front two positions and net 10 goals.
Drinking View; I can't help feeling he's passed his best and that a repeat injury (third time) stalks him. Curiously absent from the pre-seasons despite being "fit" for some time. Hopefully it is a case of slowly slowly and he can contribute 10 goals.

20. Chris Dickson - late developer who has raw ability, pace and a sniffer's instinct. Debut season ruined by loans and injury.

Target; to get a goal from every other game he plays. I think that would give him ten.
Drinking View; he might not get the appearances he needs and may be relied upon too heavily as a super-sub. I wouldn't be surprised if he's loaned out early on to give him games (and redcue the wage bill).

21. Stuart Fleetwood - Hard to tell from the ten minutes I saw of him on Saturday. Another who could be loaned out to give him league games.

Target; doing "a Dickson" wouldn't be bad and getting goals on a short loan before returning and scoring but managing not to fall through a glass table would be a good season.
Drinking View; To do just that.

23. Darren Randolph - On a season's loan at Hereford to get experience and I can't see him returning.

24. Rob Elliot - I expect him to deputise for Weaver but will need him to break a finger to get a prolonged shot.

25. Harry Arter - 19 year old midfielder who will be lucky to get a handful of substitute appearances and maybe a few end of season appearances.

26. Josh Wright - another 19 year old midfielder who will compete with Harry Arter this year.

27. Martin Christensen - A mysterious midfield prodigy who has yet to play for the first team. Signed from a link-up with a Danish club last year and has been out on loan overseas pretty much since. Don''t expect to see him this year.

28. Mikkel Jensen - Read the same as Christensen but in the reserves.

29. Dean Sinclair - Signed from Barnet but nothing much has been seen of him. Has generally disappointed when he ha made the rare appearance.

30. Rashid Yussef - Promising youngster who might get a chance this year if everything goes tits up.

31. Chris Solly - Promising youngster who's too young to get a chance this year whatever happens.

32. Aswad Thomas - On the fringes last year and would benefit from a loan.

33. Izale McLeod - Another disappointing signing so far. Currently coming back from a long injury.

34. Danny Uchechi - Young striker making his way in the Reseves.


Monday 4 August 2008

Championship Prediction 2008-09

Everyone else seems to be having a go at this, so I thought I'd offer my two penneth. Rather than try and be hopelessly accurate at this stage of the season, I've hedged my bets and gone for a Top, Middle and Bottom approach. Rationale as follows....

Reading - Minimal personnel changes and Stevie Coppell committed for another season. I expect Reading to be very strong at home and get the points they need on the road to wrap up the title.
Sheffield United - Finished last season strongly and have bought well with Halford, Sun Jihai and Henderson. Kevin Blackwell looks like he still has money to spend. Presumably the pockets of the Board at Bramall Lane are deeper than our own or they may be in for a hard time if they don't make it this year.
Birmingham City - Lee Carsley, Kevin Phillips and Marcus Bent should bolster an already capable enough squad. McLeish needs a quick start because expectations will be high and Brummies can moan like no-one else.
Derby County - Paul Jewell has refreshed his squad with Rob Hulse the cream of the crop. He will be determined to prove he is a better manager than the clubs he has had to manage of late.
Bristol City - Arguably over-performed last year in making the play-offs but Gary Johnson is a shrewdie and gets the best from his team, so no reason why they can't repeat last season's finish.
Coventry City - Having avoided the drop, Chris Coleman has been given money to spend and I am sure he will take City up the table. Having signed Wolves flop, Freddie Eastwood, he may be close to getting Clinton Morrison which would go some way towards the likely loss of Michael Mifsud.
Crystal Palace - I suspect the Palace dressing room has not been a happy place since they failed to get past Bristol City in the play-offs. Several of their better players have left or have signalled intentions to go, but Simon Jordan has supported Neil Warnock in getting replacements in and I think he has bought well.
Wolverhampton Wanderers - Mick McCarthy is building a young side at Molineux and with Sylvain Ebanks-Blake still there, they may get the best out of Chris Iwelumo.

Charlton Athletic - I have us at the top of the middle section on the basis that we sign at least two decent pros before the end of August; an experienced and capable midfielder (like Brian Howard) as well as a central defender (like Sam Sodje). If we don't, we risk sliding down the table...
Watford - Had a very similar season to us last year and have had a similar Summer. Fire sale with little incoming. However, they should still be capable of mid-table in this division.
Barnsley - Simon Davey has been active in the transfer market re-shaping his side. Iain Hume is one of the biggest transfers into the Championship at £1.2m and Darren Moore and Luke Steele will improve a Barnsley side who have been at home in the Championship.
Burnley - Not one of favourite clubs, but Owen Coyle has spent a couple of million during the Summer and Chris Eagles from Manchester United may be a player to watch on the wing this year.
QPR - "Evolution not revolution" said Iain Dowie in terms of the modest transfer dealings so far from the billionaires at Loftus Road. Bearing in mind his profligacy whilst at the Valley, either he has learnt a lesson or his paymasters are being parsimonious. I obviously don't follow the hype that Rangers will get promoted this year.
Nottingham Forest - Forest will relish the chnace to re-establish themselves in the Championship and Colin Calderwood is one of the brightest managers in the game. Robert Earnshaw and Andy Cole won't answer their prayers but they might get enough goals to propel them clear of the drop-zone.
Ipswich - In a similar boat to Watford and ourselves. Richard Wright was a good buy but I suspect they may rue spending £600,000 on Kevin Lisbie. Jim Magilton will need to ensure he doesn't fall any lower than mid-table or he might find himself out of work.
Swansea - Lots of hope and expectation down on the Gower peninsula. Roberto Martinez has brought in a load of cheap foreigners to compliment those he already had. You get what you pay for normally so I don't expect to see Swansea steaming towards promotion but they can expect to hold their own this year.

Norwich - Glenn Roeder has ben busy buying players but he was left with only 7 or 8 professionals at the end of the season so needed to. There isn't much money at Carrow Road these days and I think Norwich will do well to finish mid-table. They need a Boardroom takeover to bring in fresh money if they are to prosper again in this league.
Blackpool - Simon Grayson steered Blackpool through last year's dip in the Championship and they looked like they had fun doing it. He's keeping the blend of experienced journeymen pros and youth whilst encouraging his team to have a go. It will be hard to match last year's finish but they should avoid the drop.
Cardiff City - Dave Jones performed a minor miracle at Cardiff last year. In spite of the financial pressures and the poor start, he kept them up and somehow made the Cup Final. I don't think anything has improved on the financial front and they have lost a couple of their star youngsters without adequate replacements. Mark Kennedy and Jay Bothroyd won't fire you into the Premier League.
Sheffield Wednesday - Brian Laws struggled to get Wednesday out of the drop all last season and with no significant transfer activity it looks like he'll have to do it again.
Southampton - Their season mirrored Wednesday's last year and their financial is plight is probably worse than at Hillsborough. This is a club that Richard Murray and Co are fighting to avoid imitating. Jan Poortvliet will need to learn fast in the Championship or he risks taking Saints into a fatal relegation battle.
Doncaster - Sean O'Driscoll will be relishing a crack at the Championship but it's a big step for the side who scraped up in third and I think they will emulate Scunthorpe and Colchester by returning to Division 2 in 2009.
Plymouth Argyle - Argyle finished the season poorly and it was sad to learn that Paul Sturrock is suffering with Parkinson's. They are a selling club and struggle to attract players to the West Country. All-in-all, not a good place to be and I fear they may find it very hard this year.
Preston North End - Alan Irvine breathed a bit of life back into PNE when he arrived last year but the struggle continues and he's only managed to bring in Barry Nicholson from Aberdeen on a free so far.

I wish I could be a bit more optimistic but I am already wrestling with some dark demons and am trying to look on the bright side. A comfortable 2-0 win over Swansea on Saturday would help enormously :)