Saturday 31 October 2009

Carlisle United 3 v Charlton Athletic 1

Charlton crashed to their second defeat of the season at Brunton Park this afternoon. Lowly Carlisle saw the visitors off in the second-half with two long range shots from Graham Kavanagh.

The glass half-empty brigade will be telling us the writing’s been on the wall for some time having drawn so many games of late. The half-full variety will no doubt dwell on the enforced absence of Elliot and Richardson. The 4-5-1 Party will bemoan the starting formation of 4-4-2 and so on.

The simple fact for me is that this game has served as a bit of a reality check. The honeymoon period of the new season in League One is well and truly over. At full strength we have a decent first choice keeper and a competent defence. Our midfield is stronger than most in this division but our forward options are much weaker. On a day when Leeds again scored four and Mk Dons drew level with us on points, we simply didn’t carry enough goal-threat. Burton is an ageing journeyman striker who has barely managed to get out of single goal figures in any one season. McLeod looks like League Two is his level and outside it he appears more like an athlete than a footballer.

There was barely a chance in the opening 30 minutes for either side. Nicky Bailey floated a shot over the bar after half an hour but the game came to life before the break. Dailly was booked for a last ditch tackle with the crowd baying for him to see red, he was only shown yellow. Ian Hart hit the woodwork from the resulting free-kick and Carlisle suddenly found their feet and the home crowd their voices. Within a minute they had a loud appeal for a penalty as someone looked to be pushed in the box as Charlton back-peddled, but the referee was quick to award a corner. The pro-Charlton BBC London commentator didn’t sound at all convinced that the decision was a good one and from the ensuing corner, the referee awarded a penalty as if he was correcting his earlier call. Carl Ikeme stopped Ian Hart’s penalty but Hart knocked the rebound in.

As the players returned to the half-way line Phil Parkinson vented his spleen and told referee Hayward exactly what he thought of the penalty decision. I didn’t hear what was said but I will assume it was loud and unpleasant as our Phil was sent to the stands for the second-half.

Shortly afterwards, Mr Hayward may have been reproaching himself for the penalty because he awarded Charlton a spot-kick as Burton was felled heading into the box. Deon levelled from the spot and we went in 1-1 at half-time.

We needed to get a grip of the game at the start of the second –half and I felt we should have changed to 4-5-1 with Shelvey on for Burton or McLeod. We didn’t make any changes and we couldn’t get control of the match. Carlisle had grown in confidence and were increasingly taking the game to us. The nail in the coffin came from a long range effort from Kavanagh which rocketed past Ikeme. Parkinson then made the changes with Basey, Shelvey and Mooney coming on but before we could get back in the match Kavanagh scored again from distance but this time with a curling effort. Game over.

Darren Randolph will presumably be pacing up and down outside Parky’s office on Monday morning, although to be fair to Ikeme he sounded like he had a good enough debut and could do little about all three goals. Omozusi also sounded like he had a decent outing at right-back, but if you are going to compete and win games, you have to carry a goal threat and we are very obviously lacking here.

We now face two potentially morale-sapping cup ties at Northwich Victoria and Southampton before what is now an even more important match when we will need to beat MK Dons at the Valley to hang on to second spot. To do that we need to play to our strengths and start with a 4-5-1 formation. David Mooney should also be given more time as we already know what little goal threat we have in Burton and McLeod. I don’t fault either of them for effort but neither are going to do the damage we need in order to get out of this division.

Heading north....

Heading north this morning (if they didn't go yesterday), the executive Charlton Athletic coach will be carrying two new faces in Carl Ikeme and Elliot Omozusi as well as one that will be smiling a fraction wider than usual.

Ikeme we heard about on Thursday. A reserve keeper whose last appearance at Brunton Park saw him concede six whilst between the sticks for Stockport. I rate his chances of getting the nod before Randolph as very slim indeed. Also on the bus will be Elliot Omozusi, a young right back signed as emergency loan cover from Fulham for the injured Fraser Richardson and Chris Solly.

Richardson is struggling with a groin strain and has been for a number of weeks. He was talking this week about hoping to be able to play at Carlisle, but he clearly needs to rest up so he can return fully fit. The big question is whether Phil Parkinson will start with a specialist right-back by playing Omozusi or whether he will use Kelly Youga in that position and deploy Grant Basey on the left?I thought Kelly looked very comfortable at Gillingham during the second-half when deputising for Richardson and I would be inclined to stick with what we know. I suspect, however, that Omozusi may get a start on the basis that we need cover for several matches and it may be as well to introduce him now.

Parkinson himself will likely have a spring in his step having had a year added to his contract this week. It's clearly an endorsement of his start to the campaign and I guess as much as he could expect following relegation last season. I am sure he will be looking forward to a longer extension come May if he can lead us back to the Championship.


Friday 30 October 2009

League One Weekend Preview, Game 15

Our fifteenth match of the season and nearly a third of the way through. We hang on to our automatic promotion spot by the skin of our teeth despite a flurry of draws in the last eight games. Nelson Avila usually has a different take on statistics and performance and he makes some interesting points ahead of the Carlisle match....

First, that current form over the last eight games puts us 12th and that we have been outscored by 15 other League One sides in the process. For me that is a telling statistic and one we need to address if we are hang on to an automatic place. Secondly, and on a more positive note, Nelson tells us that we have faced five of the current top nine sides during those eight games. What's more, we have also visited four of the sides with the best home records and that it will be another four months before we face anyone else in the top nine at their place.

So, in layman's terms we should be able to increase our points tally in the coming months and he may have a very good point here. Carlisle are typical of one of those sides we should relish playing. To my mind they are a Tranmere at the moment and the latest news of Boardroom unrest should be the signal we need that this is our chance to put back-to-back wins together over the coming weeks.

My fear about our lack of genuine firepower apart, I can't see us losing at Brunton Park I can't see a hat-full of goals. I'm going for us to sneak it. Over an extended League One weekend, here's who's got whom...

Southend United v Gillingham
Sarfend take on their Thames Estuary neighbours this evening in a match that might be short on finesse. I understand that this has become a bit of a grudge match but suspect the Gills appalling away form will hinder them here,

Brighton & Hove Albion v Hartlepool
The Seagulls appalling home form(lost five) comes up against a Hartlepool side who look like they are more comfortable playing away from the edge of the North Sea. Hartlepool to pile on the misery.
Prediction; 0-1

Carlisle United v Charlton Athletic
The scene of some memorable Charlton victories in the past, tomorrow's could be another on the road to promotion. I think we have enough about us to hold them but we need to be more clinical when goalscoring opportunities come our way and we can't afford the profligacy of Izale McLeod.
Prediction; 0-1

Exeter City v Brentford
The Grecians need to convert draws at home to wins if they are to be safe this season. The visit of a wobbly Brentford should be another opportunity to do this but the Bees have ground out three draw and a win in seven on the road and might be good enough for another important point here.
Prediction; 1-1

Leeds United v YeovilTown
Following their defeat at Millwall, I was very surprised that the Whites bounced back at Bristol Rovers, especially to win 4-0. Yeovil won at Bristol Rovers themselves last time out and will probably be looking forward to playing at Elland Road in front of another big crowd. Trouble is, Leeds will be too strong for them.
Prediction; 3-0

Leyton Orient v Southampton
Creamed 4-0 at Huddersfield last week, the O's will be desperate to play back at Brisbane Road but face a rejuvenated Southampton side who are scoring from all positions. They will do well to take a point here on current form.
Prediction; 1-1

Mk Dons v Bristol Rovers
Rovers could do us a favour and upset the apple-cart here. Trouble is, they are on a run of poor form and the odd goal from Chris Dickson isn't changing results. MK look strong and consistent enough to challenge us for an automatic place.
Prediction; 2-0

Millwall v Colchester United
Millwall know this division and can be relied upon to beat certain sides at home e.g. Leeds. Colchester play for draws away from home and that could be their downfall at the New Den.
Prediction; 2-1

Stockport County v Norwich City
With only one win at home in seven and a 2-0 defeat at Brentford last week, Stockport won't be relishing this encounter with much-improved Norwich. City will be cheered on by a good away following and I can see them romping this.
Prediction; 0-3

Tranmere Rovers v Swindon Town
Tranmere are struggling to recover under their caretaker manager. After an initial home win, they lost 1-0 at Hartlepool last week and might find Swindon a tough proposition at Prenton Park. Looks a good shout for a draw.
Prediction; 1-1

Wycombe Wanderers v Walsall
If Wycombe are to have any chance of getting out of trouble this is the sort of game they must win. Gary Waddock's arrival has sparked a few fighting performances and only a 93rd minute goal at Exeter prevented them from taking all three points. They should go one better tomorrow.
Prediction; 2-1

Oldham Athletic v Huddersfield Town
A potential cracker here with both sides pushing for a play-off berth. Huddersfield were very impressive despite losing at the Valley a fortnight ago and followed that up by smashing four against the O's. I can see more goals here and the Terriers coming out on top.
Prediction; 2-3

I'll be glued to the internet - COME ON YOU REDS!!

Thursday 29 October 2009

Crisis at Carlisle

We may be struggling with injuries ahead of the Carlisle game with Elliot out and every possibility of having to play without a recognised right-back as Chris Solly is injured and Fraser Richardson unlikely to recover from last week's groin strain in time. However, Carlisle look to have problems of their own.

Having plummeted to 18th in the table, manager Greg Abbott is feeling the heat and today their Chief Exec and leading shareholder, David Allen, has resigned saying that the club can't move forward without changes at the top. I suspect this could well rub off on their players for Saturday and it could be the slippery slope for Abbott.

We are being linked with another loan signing before Saturday to provide cover at right-back but my money would be on Kelly Youga filling in with Grant Basey at left-back. Protected by a five man midfield with Shelvey lending support for the lone striker, I think that will be our best chance of victory at Brunton Park.

Randolph's big chance..

It wasn't so long ago that the Charlton support was split over whether Rob Elliot or Darren Randolph should be the next first choice keeper. It really is something that Elliot's torn abductor muscle injury and six or seven week lay-off should be greeted with doom and gloom from the Addick faithful.

I have always been in the pro-Elliot camp and was alarmed by Randolph the first time he got the nod over Elliot and conceded a couple of poor goals. However, he is a highly rated keeper who has done pretty well wherever he's gone on loan, even if he has thrown a strop on occasions after not being selected. The botton line here is that Randolph is our first-choice reserve keeper and he should be putting on the gloves to face Carlisle. We should all get behind him and hope that this spell is his big opportunity to prove how good he is and give Elliot some stiff competition.

Carl Ikeme has been drafted in from Wolves on loan as cover but we will all have to hope that he is not called in action. He is a 23 year-old who looks like he's only ever been a second or third-choice keeper and made only 25 league appearances in his career.

I see that Phil Brown has finally paid the price at Hull City and his sacking comes in the wake of Audit concerns over Hull's finances. With relegation looming large, Hull could be the next club to "do a Charlton."

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Hit the road

Charlton embark on the longest of all possible league journeys on Saturday when we head to Carlisle. For a brief moment I wonder whether our boys will fly up for this one. Don't be silly,we are a League One side and the lads will face a six hour road trip at 57 miles per hour. I only hope they are up there on Friday and get a rare overnight at a Travel Inn before the rigours of battling to hold on to second spot in the table. Leeds bounced back from defeat at Millwall and were emphatic 4-0 winners at Bristol Rovers last night, another bitter-sweet result for us.

On Sunday week our F A Cup tie at Northwich Victoria will now kick-off at 1.30pm to accommodate ITV, so demand for away tickets is likely to be lessened.

We then face the Saints in a very tricky looking JPT cup clash at St Mary's on the Wednesday after the Northwich game. Pardew's men have won four matches in-a-row scoring 13 goals in the process. Those of us who aren't making the journey for the Paint Pot Trophy will be able to get our fix for this one on Sky Sports One.

I have to say that I will settle now for three league points and still being in one cup competition as we go into the crucial home match against MK Dons on 14th November.

Monday 26 October 2009

Wise rumour quashed

The South London Press is reporting that the rumoured takeover interest of Wise, Jiminez and Co has ended over "key details" in the deal. If you knew absolutely nothing about the reason for a loss of interest, quoting "key details" would be as little as you could say.

Whatever the reason, I hope it's all true and that's the last we see of the Weasle Wise. In more detailed reporting, "a source" close to the collapsed deal has said that this leaves the way clear for the Two David's, Sullivan and Gold. Obvious therefore, that the SLP is also running the piece that David Sullivan has set his sights on the near-death Crystal Palace. Hard to know whether to laugh or cry? Perhaps West Ham would be a better place for the pair of them after all, assuming they are still keen on working together.

Sunday 25 October 2009

Off to er, Norwich Victoria in the Cup.....

We have been drawn away to Northwich Victoria of the Conference North division in the first round of the F A Cup to be played on 7/8th November. Northwich is in Cheshire and whilst they have a reputation for giant-killing in the Cup, they have been struggling in recent years and went into Administration in May having already been relegated to the Conference North.

No doubt the draw will be very good news for Northwich's bealeagured finances but tickets for visiting fans will likely be at a premium, especially if the match goes ahead at Northwich's tiny ground (record attendance just over 3000). I'm guessing they might look to host us at a larger venue if they believe they can attract significantly more than their current capacity. There is every chance that the match will be televised as the cameras search for the first big upset of the F A Cup.

On a separate note, I have two spare programmes from yesteray's game and will post on to the first two people to provide with names and addresses. I'm all heart.

Gillingham 1 v Charlton Athletic 1

After winning promotion at a Wembley final in May, Gillingham had their second "cup final" of 2009 yesterday when they entertained the famous Charlton Athletic. That might sound a tad arrogant but that's precisely how their fans saw it yesterday. Their largest crowd of the season, up 25% on their previous best at just over 10,000 squeezed into the Priestfield to see the action.

A measure of just how keen people were to be at this game was that Gillingham's "Great Hall" (pictured below) was packed with 380 paying punters. Mike Sullivan, the Gills Sales Manager, told us how excited they were to be facing the Addicks and thanked those in the room for their patronage in filling the venue. As if to reinforce the point he told us that hospitality bookings for their next game against Oldham were currently at "39" and he wasn't joking.

Irrespective, we enjoyed a decent meal and free beer courtesy of Scottish and Newcastle. Our seats were in the back row of the second tier of the Gills Main Stand that runs the length of the pitch and the view was excellent. The only problem was that the seats reserved for dining guests are very close to the Gills home end which was filled with those Medway residents who, shall we say, feel more strongly about the Valley Express initiative than some others!

The tone had already been set in Paul Scally's programme notes. He established his right not to have grown-up a Charlton fan in spite of being born in Merriman Road, gone to school at Our Lady of Grace and having grown-up playing in The Heights with Charlton-supporting mates. Nope, he went to Millwall as a ten year old and was hooked. Fair enough, but he then went on to say that having grown-up in Charlton he knows it's in London, SE7 and "no matter how much some try to kid themselves to the contrary, they are therefore not a Kent club as I so often read and hear." Shame then that our travelling fans didn't bring with them the large flag bearing our name and "Pride of Kent."

Phil Parkinson surprised me again this week by playing a 4-4-2 formation throughout. It didn't work and we would have been able to create more attacking chances if we had played five in the midfield or with Shelvey behind Burton. As it was, McLeod and Burton both played like lone strikers and Semedo and Racon had to work that much harder and play much deeper in midfield just to compete.

The game was desperately short on opportunities for either side, so it was a surprise there were any goals. The diminutive Simeon Jackson was hardly in the match but he popped up Hales-like at the death to nab the equaliser after John Nutter had scored in front of the Charlton fans with a spectacular slice. We had one half-chance in the first period which McLeod earned by racing through on goal, turning inside his man and with the goal opening and the keeper looking isolated, he miscued another shot and lashed it high and very wide. Nicky Bailey was spraying Hollywood balls about all afternoon but most went straight out or straight to a blue shirt. Lloyd Sam didn't really get any return again against his two markers, so all-in-all we weren't able to properly support the front two.

We were solid enough at the back again although the muscular Dennis Oli was a constant threat without Gillingham really causing too many problems. When they did look most like scoring in the second-half, Rob Elliot was there with his "one-a-game" brilliant low stop from ten yards.

To the eightieth minute then and that sublime slice from John Nutter which arced beautifully over the despairing dive from Simon Royce and revealed the 100 or so Charlton fans who had previously been enjoying the Gills hospitality. Frosty stares all around in the Upper tier but, hey, you pays your money and you takes your choice. As far as I could see we were simply celebrating our goal, nothing more, but it was an obvious provocation for some of the more agitated Gills fans behind the goal who poured down to the front to point and gesture, their faces contorted with rage, but maybe just contorted. A well orchestrated chorus of "Stewards, stewards do your job" told me that this is a regular response if visiting guests are spotted.

I immediately feared the worst in terms of the Gills response on the pitch and we got it. Within three minutes they were level after pressing the urgency button and finding Jackson in a crowded box with a yard of space. It was then that one of those Gills fans around us stepped over the line and was very offensive to one of our party, a Manchester United fan, who showed significantly more resolve that I would have been able to had the words been spat in my face. Unfortunate then, that the match should finish for us on such a downbeat note.

Predictably after the game I understand there was a confrontation between rival Herberts down the side of the station, in spite of a very visible police presence. We had a drink ourselves away from the station but there were groups of mainly Charlton fans prowling the streets that did nothing to endear us to the bitter locals. I suspect they might play up when they come to the Valley in March.

The draw keeps us in second place behind Leeds who lost as predicted 2-1 at the New Den. With Bristol Rovers going down at home to Yeovil and MK Dons getting beaten at Southampton, only Colchester, Huddersfield and Norwich prospered at the top.

Next weeks opponents, Carlisle, managed a late 2-1 win over Southend that should give Greg Abbott a stay of execution until after our game at least. I won't be making the trek north for this one but I hope to be listening to a reversion to 4-5-1 with Shelvey re-introduced behind Burton or Mooney who made another encouraging late cameo upfront.

Saturday 24 October 2009

Take Courage...

Late on Thursday I was offered what I guess was a late replacement seat "in a box" at Gillingham for a spot of hospitality. I say "a box" because this is the modern euphemism for what might amount to a pre-match drink and meal with a good seat thrown in. I'm not even sure if Gilligham have boxes? "Never look a gift-horse in the mouth" I was always told. Not sure where that originates but I accepted the offer quickly and have peddled my ticket on to another deserving Addick.

I had hospitality at a couple of matches last season and (The Valley and the Emirates) it makes a pleasant change although it never feels as completely comfortable as being in your casual gear (Marco) with your footballing pals, completely free to roam and make what you will of the day.

So I'll be spruced up on my moderate best behaviour. I am guessing Gillingham's attempt at hospitality might be less professional than our own but I shouldn't pre-judge and hope to be pleasantly surprised. There is then of course, the prospect of appearing like a gatecrasher at a party if we score. Cheering loudly in what I suspect will still be a largely "home" environment always attracts unwanted attention, but what's a fan supposed to do?

Come on Charlton, make us feel as unwelcome as Billy Connolly's proverbial fart-in-a-spacesuit!

Thursday 22 October 2009

Charlton Bloggers.....

Anyone with more than a passing interest in CAFC knows that we have a supporter base that has an almost unparalled interest and close connection with the football club. Certainly since the mid-eighties when the very existence of the club was in doubt, Charlton fans have rallied in many unique ways in defence and support of their club. That bond was hardened for many by a seven year absence from the Valley that crystalised what was most important about our club; home and community.

It's been no surprise that the bond between the fans and the Board has been so special over the last 20 years. The fan on the board, Target 10,000 and subsequent campaigns, fans employed in key club roles including Chief Exec and a committed and award-winning community scheme. The Premier League years gave the club a chance to spread that work with charitable work overseas. We pioneered Kid-for-a-Quid and Valley Express. Our supporters were central to all of this and much more.

I was on holiday once and was identified as a Charlton fan within the first day or so by a Rotherham supporter who told me that he had met two Charlton fans previously on separate occasions, both of whom, to his mind were "fanatical." He said to his wife "this bloke won't just buy tickets for the odd match, he'll have had a season ticket for twenty years and go to practically every away match. I had to laugh, but he was spot on.

You might be wondering by now what the title of this post has to do with the above? Well, I got to thinking about the number of Charlton Blogs that there have been and the number that are still running and still appearing. I was prompted by New York Addick's revelation that he will be returning home and that his active blogging days may be coming to an end.

From a quick count, the total is around 50. During the close season I decided to put a link from each club in League One to the best looking blog that I could find about them. This might sound straightforward but it was a real struggle as you can probably tell if you ever try one of the links. In many cases all I could find was one of the franchised message-boards that are run by businesses looking to sell advertising rather than dedicated supporters who want to talk about their club. Finding Charlton Bloggers is simple. As soon as you find one, all of the others are invariably linked.

The other key thing with blogs is about how often they are updated. Finding a regularly updated blog on an opponent is often as hard as finding one in the first place. Typically they are a full match behind and often worse. If you add to that the relative health of our message boards, and Charlton Life in particular, then I think you begin to get a much fuller view of the strength and dedication of the support we have for our club.

Perhaps it's the anorak in us but I like to think it has much more to do with our history and the kind of people we are.

Wednesday 21 October 2009

League One Weekend Preview, Game 14

Gills fans aren't looking forward to our visit on Saturday. In spite of their good home record and the form of Canadian front-man Simeon Jackson, talk on their message-boards is of a potential spanking from the Addicks. This might be a classic case of over-estimating your opponents but their away form has been as poor as their home form good and they look short upfront in spite of Jackson's eight goals this season. Scott Vernon started a loan period from Colchester on Saturday but limped off in the first half and has gone back to Essex. So the signs look good, although I am very wary. Our last visit still haunts me and Mark Stimson's side won't need any incentive in this one.

Brentford v Stockport County
Both of these sides have been faltering of late. Stockport were thumped 4-0 at home by Millwall last week and they won't fancy this although they have performed better away from home this season.
Prediction; 1-1

Brighton & Hove Albion v Oldham Athletic
Brighton have managed a couple of wins of late and Oldham have slipped from the play-offs to 12th following their defensive shut-out at the Valley. I can see Oldham getting another 0-0 here if they put their minds to it.
Prediction; 0-0

Bristol Rovers v Yeovil Town
The Cider Army will be relishing the short trip to Bristle although Rovers are smarting from their defeat at Southend and know that they have two home games in which to make up some lost ground on the top two. Chris Dickson is due another goal after missing three good chances at Roots Hall.
Prediction; 2-0

Carlisle United v Southend United
Carlisle haven't won in seven and will hope for a bit of good fortune. If they don't get it then the visit of the mighty Addicks next week might look like another lost cause.
Prediction; 1-1

Colchester United v Walsall
Colchester got a draw at Wycombe last week and will be very confident of their sixth home win of the season. I can't Walsall coming close here.
Prediction; 3-0

Exeter City v Wycombe Wanderers
Wycombe haven't won away this season and it took a late goal at home to Colchester last week to get a point. The Grecians know that home form is what will keep them in League One this season.
Prediction; 2-0

Gillingham v Charlton Athletic
I can see all three results here and fear that Gillingham might be too direct for us. having said that, I believe we are a better footballing side but will need to take our chances. I'll sit on the fence.
Prediction; 1-1

Hartlepool v Tranmere Rovers
Tranmere may have won their home game last week with a caretaker manager but this looks like a very hard game against a Hartlepool team who won very well at Swindon last time out.
Prediction; 2-0

Huddersfield Town v Leyton Orient
Town looked a good side last week, especially going forward and it's no surprise they are unbeaten at home. This looks like win number five.
Prediction; 3-0

Millwall v Leeds United
I'm surprised this is a 3pm kick-off bearing in mind the history of these two. Millwall look to be back near full strength and should provide Leeds with their hardest game of the season. I think the Lions might have enough here and if they win Leeds will not fancy their trip to Bristol Rovers on Tuesday.
Prediction; 2-1

Norwich City v Swindon Town
City came very close to the point they deserved at Leeds on Monday but will play with that much more confidence at Carrow Road where they have been finding goals easy to come by. Grant Holt's a good bet for the first goal.
Prediction; 3-0

Southampton v MK Dons
Possibly my match-of-the-day if not Millwall at home to Leeds. MK Dons look like the model of battling consistent whereas Southampton have strung a couple of impressive away wins together. Can't see much between these sides here.
Prediction; 2-2

Sacking watch

Ipswich Town managed their seventh draw of the season last night at home to Swansea City. Not so bad from 13 games you might think but the fact is they haven't managed a win yet and are bottom of the Championship. Not the start Roy Keane was expected to deliver and things might get a lot hotter for Keano come the weekend when Town travel to second-bottom Plymouth. Looks like a must-win game for Keano.

In the Premier League, Paul Hart and Phil Brown hang on by their fingertips as their clubs have become relegation favourites and they play each other on Saturday at the KC Stadium. Portsmouth have new owners and a new Director of Football in former boss Avram Grant. Paul Hart looks like he needs back-to-back wins if he's to have any chance of avoiding the tin-tack.

In our own division, two of the bottom four have already said goodbye to their managers; Wycombe to Peter Taylor and Tranmere to John Barnes. Southampton are off the bottom and have hit a run of form that means Alan Pardew is probably safe until the New Year at very least. That leaves Carlisle's Greg Abbott who looks in big trouble. Without a win in seven, they face the unpredictable Southend this weekend in Cumbria and if they lose that,they will hardly fancy their chances against the Addicks next week. I suspect Mr.Abbott might not even see the Charlton game, or he does, it could be the nai lin his managerial coffin.

Happy days....

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Takeover talk rife again...

Hard on the heels of reported interest from David Sullivan, we heard yesterday that Tony Jiminez and Dennis Wise could be brokering a deal to buy our club involving another Middle Eastern consortium. Wise and Jiminez have been spotted in our Directors box on a couple of occasions this season which lends veracity to this rumour.

As someone convinced that Dennis Wise is a Wrong 'Un, I hope that this is not the strongest of rumours or that any involvement he may have is upfront or in passing. The sooner he gets another silly Newcastle-type offer the better in my mind, just as long as it isn't from a Charlton-buying consortium.

In view of the fiasco surrounding similar takeover hype last season and the disastrous effects on our season, we have to hope that these are rumours for now or that any associated due diligence takes six months so we can focus on the job in hand of challenging for promotion. You would think that any prospective buyer would be prepared to sit tight and see whether they are potentially buying into a League One or a Championship club, but I guess that would seriously influence negotiations and the price that they would have to pay to gain control.

Whatever the truth, having been touted around at a knock down price for over a year since the Zabeel deal broke, I can't believe there is urgent new interest, although Sullivan is now free of his other club and has the cash to splash if he's serious. I suspect these rumours will run and run before there is any chance an announcement or of confirmation of interest from our Board.

Back on Planet League One, lucky dirty Leeds managed yet another last gasp winner last night over an unfortunate Norwich side to end our brief spell at the top, but does at least keep Norwich 9 points behind us. I don't see Leeds maintaining this form and when they do lose I suspect they could get a major bout of the colly-wobbles. I hope they can keep it going to win their other game in hand at Bristol Rovers in a few weeks time.

Yesterday our U18's were drawn to play Gillingham on 3rd November in the first round of the F A Youth Cup and the fate of the first team in the F A Cup first round will also be known on Sunday when the draw is made. Let us hope that we can listen to that draw on the back of a decent performance and result from the Priestfield.

Monday 19 October 2009

Filthy lucre?

A number of the Sunday papers were running the story that David Sullivan has expressed a desire or intention to own and run Charlton Athletic Football Club. Strictly speaking, after printing the letters D-a-v-i-d S-u-l-l-i-v-a-n, I think there is a legal requirement to then qualify who he is and how he's made his money. That seems to be the way and the obvious implication is that it is in some way less acceptable perhaps than how other people earn their money.

Let me say here and now that I have no problem whatsoever with how David Sullivan has made his fortune. Pornography is a take-it-or-leave-it activity as far as I am concerned. It is bought and traded in mysterious shops without windows and sold in newsagents in opaque plastic bags. From experience, it's not that easy to access when you crave it most and not that important when you do get ready access to it. I should point out, of course, that my comments here refer to the pre-internet days although I am reliably informed that simple searches on the internet today don't make finding it a complete formality today. Enough about that already, I want to talk about David Sullivan and the possible implications for our club.

Sullivan is 60 and until recently has been part-owner with the Gold brothers of Birmingham City FC. He is an East-End boy and a West Ham fan at heart. Still living in Essex (in his Playboy mansion of course) he was automatically linked with HIS boyhood club after selling his interest in Brum but the Hammers have huge debts and may be a bridge too far for a man once reported to have a fortune of £500m. Assuming his investments have taken a pasting (like everyone else's) then you can guess on what pile he may be left with? Buying a club with reported debts of £100m may just be too much, even if it would have been his first choice. Let's face it, he chose to invest in Birmingham City at a time (16 years ago), when West Ham might have been a realistic option.

So, to Charlton Athletic then and his interest and intentions for us are being reasonably widely reported. Maybe he needs the ego-boost like the majority of his Customers or perhaps he just needs the profile? Being the figurehead at Birmingham City can't have been the greatest experience over the years even if he did have Karen Brady to soak up a lot of the immediate pressure as Chief Exec.

Charlton fans are already speculating that "Murray won't sell" to "someone like him." Not how I see it by any means. To my mind Sullivan is precisely the type of person Murray has been hoping for. He has a proven track record of running a club on a pragmatic budget, of affordable growth as well a history of delivering, even if Birmingham have failed to escape from the yo-yo cycle of promotion and relegation.

I would welcome his investment as I am sure we would see some statement of intent fairly quickly. Maybe he would commit to the redevelopment of the South Stand with promotion and I am certain he would spend relatively heavily to get us back into the Championship or beyond if we get up this season.

If I am honest, he has always struck me as "Alan Sugar Junior" which is the only downside. Not because Sugar isn't a good businessman but because he has that aggressive, sometimes single-minded, dare I say it, Jewish-businessman-approach to things (I don't know or care if Sullivan is Jewish) which can upset people very quickly. However, I'd gladly take his investment if it secures the clubs' financial future for the next five years and increases our chances of moving closer to a return to the Premier League. I only hope we don't have to have Karen Brady as part of the package.

Saturday 17 October 2009

Charlton Athletic 2 v Huddersfield Town 1

Phil Parkinson's side did what they needed to this afternoon and beat Huddersfield to go back to the top of the League One table. It was a good match for the neutral and one that my Aberdeen-supporting guest enjoyed thoroughly, even if he thought the Terriers did enough to deserve a draw. That's as maybe but we stuck to the task today, took the lead twice and played out five frantic minutes of added time.

The starting formation was a real surprise for me as Parky bowed to fan pressure and began with Burton and McLeod upfront. Jonjo Shelvey can have few complaints at being dropped after his recent showings and it will do him a power of good to have to fight his way back into the side. The other change, although more predictable was the return of Sam Sodje for Miguel Llera. With Matthew Spring starting alongside Therry Racon, I assumed Jose Semedo was not ready to return but he was named a substitute.

Cheered on by 1500 noisy Yorkshiremen, Huddersfield started with intent and it was clear they had not come for the point like their Lancastrian counterparts last week. In amongst counter-attacking sweeping Charlton moves, the Terriers were doing all the pressing, so it was a shock for them when Charlton won a corner on eight minutes and Sam Sodje hurtled onto the cross and planted a thumping header into their net to open the scoring. After that we had to watch a lot of Huddersfield possession and they flashed a couple of curling efforts from the left hand side across Elliot's goal. They were finding space in the midfield as Spring and Racon struggled to contain them. Pilkington in particular looked very strong on the ball and his delivery was excellent all afternoon. He had seen one free kick held by Elliot before getting a second attempt some minutes later after a harsh decision against Spring. He made no mistake this time as his fierce shot beat the wall and cannoned off Elliot's left-hand post and in for the equaliser. It was only what Town deserved and we needed a response going in at the break.

Credit to Phil Parkinson for starting the second half with Semedo on for Spring. We had been losing the midfield battle and Semedo helped turn it. Within four minutes of the re-start we were in front again. A free-kick was played up into the box and Sam Sodje got up and headed the ball across goal to McLeod who managed to get enough on it to send it looping back across the keeper and in. McLeod celebrated once again by removing his shirt and getting himself booked. If I was Phil Parkinson, I would have subbed him there and then. Unforgiveable and unprofessional.

The referree had been upsetting the home fans all through the game and was mocked ironically every time he did give us a decision. I don't think he had a particularly good game but a number of our players were guilty of looking for fouls and, in McLeod's case, for diving on a couple of occasions that may not have helped his claim the third time.

Huddersfield came back at us and they played a number of very good balls into the box and with players arriving were unfortunate on several occasions; they did crash the ball in from a corner but the ref was blowing for a push as it hit the net. Antony Pilkington then failed to score from three yards out as he closed in on goal but a lot of credit must go to Kelly Youga for getting so close and putting him under so much pressure.

McLeod could have wrapped things up after collecting a long ball from Bailey. His first touch was unusually good as he made room for a thunderous strike which whistled over the bar. Huddersfield responded again and this time they got to the goal line before the ball was played back to Jordan Rhodes in space and central to goal but his low strike was brilliantly blocked by Elliot and the danger averted. Therry Racon might even have added a third after he was played in on goal by a beautiful pass from Lloyd Sam but Therry hesitated and allowed his pursuer to get a tackle in.

A spate of substitutions followed for both sides as Scott Wagstaff came on for Lloyd Sam and towards the end, David Mooney made his loan debut for Izale McLeod. Huddersfield looked dangerous to the end but our players were determined and did well to hang on for the win.

The back four were outstanding today. Youga again had the beating of their right-side and Richardson did well on our right. Dailly was solid once more and Sam Sodje was my man-of-the-match.

Nicky Bailey was his industrious self without shining again. Semedo broke the play up when he came on and Racon looks a better player alongside him. Lloyd Sam didn't do enough but he did get a number of good crosses in after the break and forced a save from Smithies before being subbed. Burton didn't do a great deal and McLeod saw more of the ball than him and did at least finish well when Sodje gave him his chance.

As we look down on the chasers tonight, that point against Oldham last week was vital and not the end of the world as seen by some. I can't wait for Gillingham next week and only hope we don't let ourselves down like we did at Colchester or the last time we played there in the F A Cup.

Striking competition

News late yesterday that Phil Parkinson has moved to bring in a striker, albeit on a six week loan. David Mooney, a 25 year old Irishman has been draughted in from the Reading stiffs. He is a six footer who arrived in England in August 2008 but who failed to make his mark there, featuring only twice before an end-of-season loan to Norwich where he made nine appearances and did manage three goals.

Like Chicago Addick, I dont think this says a great deal for the Charlton-playing prospects of Dickson or Fleetwood. I don't believe Phil Parkinson can see beyond Dickson's personality, even if he does score a hatful at Rovers and the omission that he hopes Dickson is successful there because they have money to spend pretty much confirms that he's not going to feature long-term whilst Parky's in charge. Fleetwood simply doesn't look like he's cut out for the game at the higher level.

With McLeod rapidly confirming that he is more athlete than footballer, that leaves only the industrious but ageing Burton and the boy Tuna. So, David Mooney is welcomed and will get a bench seat and probably an early outing although form would tell us not to expect too much. A loan until 1st December is also unusually short and it may be that Parky is trying to maintain the front to Burton and McLeod that it is strictly as cover due to Burton's Hernia/broken nose.

Either way, our need for striking options good enough to get promoted and score in the Championship remains blindingly obvious to me but we all know that finding and securing those sorts of players usually involves spending large sums of money whilst rolling the dice.

Friday 16 October 2009

The nation's best striker?

I ordered rail tickets for our upcoming match at Yeovil earlier in the week and had a dilemma over what delivery option to go for. You know, the free "standard" second class delivery, the chargeable first class or the very chargeable premium courier version. My dilemma was that all options came vis Royal Mail whose workforce have been taking sporadic industrial action for some time now and who are threatening the start of whole days of national walk-outs.

In the end I opted for standard delivery as we still have weeks to the game and I worked on the assumption that I could always collect at the station on the day if they got lost in a Royal Mail warehouse in the meantime. I have made several other on-line purchases this week and have had to check who the deliveries come from, just to be sure I know I am not in the hands of Royal Mail if it's Parcelforce who have the work. Being a largely stereotypical bloke, I also rely on the internet for increasingly more of my shopping and with Christmas looming, a national postal strike could force me back to the shops.

Royal Mail is a subject dear to my heart as I have been responsible for switching my work's large volumes from one supplier to another in recent years. The issue with Royal Mail is that for post, they control the last mile in the delivery chain, the Posties, as that part of the service has not yet been opened to competition. So, you can switch your mail to TNT Post or others but you will be similarly affected by a Royal Mail strike.

Packet and Parcel delivery, however, is different for anything over a 1kg in weight or thereabouts because it's the domain of the courier company and here there has long been competition for Royal Mail's Parcelforce. Trouble is, when a strike looms, you can't easily switch any volumes to other couriers because they have capacity limits and simply can't handle all the additional traffic that would like to use them.

The sad fact is, a solid national strike by Royal Mail employees is probably one of the last Unions who can really wield a big stick and whose action has a disproportionate affect on Britain plc and Joe Bloggs. Timing is everything and in the midst of this recession and with Christmas looming, they look to me to have got their timing just about perfect.

The Unions case is, of course, very defensive of an industry desperate for modernisation which will hammer jobs and working conditions. As usual they are exaggerrating elements of their case which only detracts from the stronger points in my mind. I should say now that I have little sympathy for Royal Mail's management which has failed in many ways to modernise just like their service. It's still one largely dominated by former shop-floor workers who once they cross the line believe their primary role is to confront and harass workers because that is their only experience of management.

Of course the sad thing is that the Government sits above it all wringing it's hands. The only way forward is full privatisation. It might not be good for the Consumer in far flung places in terms of cost, but eventually it would lead to innovation and better services although the days of paying significantly less than a pound for next-day delivery of an envelope to the other end of the country would be long gone.

In the meantime, my money would be on the Union. They look to have the upper hand and I wouldn't be at all surprised if Gordon Brown feels he has to intervene to prevent a damaging national strike prior to a General Election he looks destined to lose as it is, let alone on the back of a calamitous postal strike.

Thursday 15 October 2009

League One Weekend Preview, Game 13

I couldn't make the latest Supporters Trust meeting last night, but I am pleased to hear from inspector Sands that progress continues and that two sub-groups have been formed to look further into the areas of constitutional/secretarial and membership/communication before reporting back for further decisions. This might be the dry end of things, but they are a must if a Trust is to be established on the right lines. The threat to the Club's existence may look far less likely since the stabilising Board moves of the last couple of months, but I firmly believe that we now need a vibrant Trust operating in harmony with the club which can be used as a safeguard in the event, however unlikely, that the future of the club is threatened again.

Enough of that, we have game number 13 looming against Huddersfield Town on Saturday and we are desperate for a win, and probably a convincing one at that, to re-focus the early-season promotion push. I have a friend and his family down from Cambridge for the day. I believe it will be his eighth visit to the Valley and he has yet to us win. I do not believe in superstition and am doubly keen that we lay this ghost.

Town now occupy the eight spot that Oldham held when they visited last week and their season so far has not been unlike our own in that they started brightly but until last week had gone five league games without a win. They thrashed Exeter 4-0 last week with Jordan Rhodes netting a hat-trick of headers but their away form has been poor, with only one win, one draw and four defeats. I think we will get the win we need to send us top of the table at least until Leeds play Norwich on Monday...

Charlton Athletic v Huddersfield Town
After the frustrations of a faltering home draw with Oldham, I am going with the Addicks to step it up, score some goals and see Huddersfield off here.
Prediction; 3-1

Leyton Orient v Brentford
A rare League One London derby and Brentford have been impressive away from home, losing only once at the Valley. The O's by contrast have only won one at home, so this looks like a nailed-on draw to me.
Prediction; 1-1

MK Dons v Gillingham
It's official, Gillingham have the worst away record in the division having managed just a point. Much as we'd like them to do us a favour and get something here, I suspect they will be relying upon their impressive home form next weekend when they get the chance to put us in our place at the Priestfield Stadium (sic).
Prediction; 2-0

Oldham Athletic v Southampton
This will be a test for saints side that has strung a couple of results together and who are threatening to get off the bottom of the table. Oldham though, looked tough cookies to me last week and I can see them getting the better of Pardew and Co north of Manchester.
Prediction; 2-0

Southend United v Bristol Rovers
Rovers didn't play last week and their game in hand (at home to Leeds) could see them draw level with us in second place. They have won four on the road and will see this as a chance to maintain the pressure at the top. After his almost inevitably hot start, Chris Dickson has been quiet for a few weeks and needs another goal here if he is not to threaten to repeat his Charlton form. the Shrimpers have lost some gloss in recent weeks and are need of a confidence-boosting victory. Looks a draw to me.
Prediction; 1-1

Stockport County v Millwall
Millwall are good play-off bets but they need to improve away from the New Den. Their home and away form is perfectly symmetrical having won three, drawn three and lost none at home but having won none, drawn three and lost three away. More worryingly for Kenny Jackett, they have only notched two goals on their travels. Stockport won at Tranmere in the week and will have a good go here, although Millwall might be resilient enough for a point.
Prediction; 0-0

Swindon Town v Hartlepool
Swindon have been going along nicely and sit well-placed in seventh. They are unbeaten at home and will fancy their chances of keeping that record intact. Hartlepool have been decent away, twice winning, twice drawing and twice losing. This might be their third defeat.
Prediction; 2-1

Tranmere Rovers v Brighton & Hove Albion
I am surprised that Tranmere are not bottom of the table, so poor has their form been. Having sacked Barnes and McAteer they responded in the week by going down at home to Stockport, not a result that would have quelled the booing at Prenton Park. If they lose this, I suspect they will take a step nearer the basement.
Prediction; 1-2

Walsall v Exeter City
Two of the lesser lights of League One meet here and after their spanking at Huddersfield, it looks like a hard ask for the Grecians.
Prediction; 2-1

Wycombe Wanderers v Colchester United
As surprised as I am that Tranny are not bottom, I am equally surprised that Wycombe are below them. I thought they had more about them but I guess the table doesn't lie and having sacked Peter Taylor, they have now appointed Gary Waddock from Aldershot. I think he'll get a performance out of them here but it might not be enough to beat big bad Colchester.
Prediction; 1-1

Yeovil Town v Carlisle United
I'd like to see the sweep on how many Carlisle fans make the journey to Somerset. I'm guessing they might do well to break three figures. Town have been hard to beat at home and this looks like a step too far for Carlisle.
Prediction; 2-0

Leeds United v Norwich City
Match of the Day even if it is a Monday night. Leeds will have benefited from the rest and may have one or two first choice players fit again - thinking Becchio/Snodgrass. Paul Lambert meanwhile will be very pleased with his side's recent form and particularly their prowess in front of goal. I think the Canaries could be good value for a point at least here and will go with the bustling Grant Holt to cause some problems.
Prediction; 2-2

Bring on the Terriers!

Wednesday 14 October 2009

F A Cup 1st Round

If you thought having to enter the Johnsons Paint Trophy was a new low, we were reminded yesterday of another consequence of our fall from grace. We will be participating in the F A Cup 1st Round for the first time in 29 years when we went and beat Harlow Town 2-0 at "Sportcentre." The draw for the first round takes place on Sunday 25th October after the Gills match. Our odds of making the fourth round might be much shorter than usual but did make the fifth round in 80-81 when we had, what was in my mind, the most memorable F A Cup tie when we were beaten narrowly 2-0 by Bobby Robson's all-conquering Ipswich Town.

Last night, Gillingahm maintained their unimpressive away form by going down 2-0 at lowly Brighton. Managerless Tranmere matched that by losing their fourth home match of the season as Stockport. Things could be much worse for the Addicks!

Monday 12 October 2009

Pressure's on...

Phil Parkinson has come in for some criticism over his tactics in the Oldham match and all around there appears to be a mini crisis of confidence in the collective Charlton conscious.

The facts are that we played all our attacking football after switching formation to 4-4-2 but having waited for over an hour and having failed to score, the obvious conclusion was that he should have changed it earlier. Hindsight and all that, but the bloke has to work with what he's got and however you look at it, he isn't blessed with anything like the best striking options in the division. Fact is, I would probably swap ours for most of those I have seen so far. So he has to play to his strengths and to date those have been in midfield. Plan B may be to switch to 4-4-2 but that must be second choice only if we aren't making headway through midfield. We really do need to increase our striking options and a loan signing of a proven goal-scorer would be my absolute priority if I were Parkinson or Murray.

Our failure to score in three successive league games is also heightening the tensions and frustrating fans but we shouldn't forget that we got two draws in those games (one at Elland Road) and were a whisker away from beating the Latics. Now is the time to get behind the team as we did when we upped the ante on Saturday. I hope our fans show some patience on Saturday as I don't believe we should panic and start 4-4-2 and I don't think Parky will do that. We need to try and take the lead by playing to our strength in midfield and only switching to 4-4-2 in the second half if we haven't managed to score. The alternative of starting 4-4-2 is that we lose an effective midfielder for a less effective striker and the risk of that is that you invite pressure and increase the chances of having to fight to get back in the game rather than taking the lead. Remember, we have only gone behind in three league games (Orient, Southampton and Colchester) and we won one and drew one of those (which we were very unfortunate not to win).

We will take the maximum 2,354 visitors to Gillingham after selling out today and will have plenty more in the stadium courtesy of friends and neighbours. We need all the support we can get in order to urge the team on and try to maintain our early-season momentum before the long trip to Carlisle and the televised JPT tie against Southampton, in both of which the players will need to largely cheer themselves on.

Saturday 10 October 2009

Charlton Athletic 0 v Oldham Athletic 0

Charlton remain unbeaten at the Valley after today's encounter but it was really a case of two points wasted. A Millwall mate of mine told me before the match that they would come for a point and he was spot on.

The Latics were encouraged in the first half by a flat Charlton display. Pawell Abbott saw and won plenty of long balls but he was ploughing as lonely a furrow as Deon Burton in the opposing half. Our back four included the rumoured-to-be-injured Richardson as well as Llera, Dailly and Youga and we looked pretty comfortable throughout, even if they had to contend with Abbott.

Our problems started in midfield where we didn't really get going until a formation switch after the hour mark. Racon looked tired and neither Bailey or Sam were making much headway on the flanks. Perhaps Sam was still feeling his tight groin, but he lacked the pace and fluidity of recent weeks. Shelvey was going through the motions and poor Deon was fed on scraps in the opening first half as we failed to get an effort on target.

Things changed after Shelvey rightly made way for McLeod as we moved to 4-4-2 and the urgency button was pressed. Kelly Youga started to press forward and seemed on a one-man mission to score. Lloyd Sam was replaced by Wagstaff as we began to turn the screw and the chance of the game was presented to McLeod by Racon after he broke free on the left and delivered the perfect centre but McLeod miscued terribly and the ball went right. Leon McKenzie was introduced for Burton as we upped the ante and Miguel Llera flashed a header from a Bailey free-kick onto the top of the bar with the keeper stranded on his line.

There was time for Youga to ping an overhead effort off the bar before added time but it wasn't to be. Oldham had long since resigned themselves to battling for the point and they had two players booked for time-wasting by the end by ref Horwood, who I thought had a great game.

Disappointing though this was - only two wins in seven league games - it won't look as bad if we beat Huddersfield next week and return to the top of the table. The pressure's on as the pack close in behind us and I expect us to respond. We need three points next week and a table-topping performance at Gillingham if we are to continue to vie for top spot.

Saints away in JPT

Charlton fans were the "Fans of the Week" on Soccer AM this morning but they were hardly a lucky omen as we drew Southampton away in the JPT. Not the best draw we could have hoped for and we will need to be on our game if we are to have any hope of progressing.

Looks like we might have to beat Oldham today without Fraser Richardson and Lloyd Sam. A huge chance on the right-side for Solly and Wagstaff if Parky is prepared to repeat their selection from in the week. Leon McKenzie should be an option on the bench and I believe we will need the first goal if we are to win. C'mon you Reedddsssss!

Friday 9 October 2009

Two sacked in League One...

Three posts in one day? Whatever next? John Barnes and Jason McAteer have been relieved of their duties at Tranmere today. Rovers have started their campaign very poorly and are currently languishing in 22nd place. Walloped 4-0 at home by the Addicks last month, Millwall put five past them on Saturday and the Tranmere board have called time on their bold and, no doubt, costly appointments.

John Barnes will be bitterly disappointed as this probably spells the end of his managerial ambitions after poor showings at Celtic and as Jamaica's national boss.

Barnes and McAteer are not alone in walking the plank today. Wycombe Wanderers have reacted to their poor start by showing Peter Taylor the door. Taylor's managerial record is significantly better that Barnes' but with Wycombe a place below Tranmere at the bottom, their Board are obviously desperate for a chnage in fortunes before they get sucked into a prolonged relegation battle.

The black spot passes from John Barnes to either Phil Brown or Paul Hart in my opinion. Portsmouth's appointment of Avram Grant as Director of Football this weel won't have helped Paul Hart sleep any easier.

Varney returns...

Any remaining doubt about Peter Varney's role in the non-takeover this Summer was firmly quashed this morning as the club announced his appointment to the Board as a non-exec Director. The statement from Richard Murray goes on to say that he "was a real asset to us in completing the recent £7m capital injection."

This is very good news for all Charlton fans and builds on the momentum of the season so far. Varney has clearly remained very close to Richard Murray throughout and the timing of this announcement after Murray resumed Chairmanship of the plc is not coincidental.

Hail to the Chief!

Rangers & Celtic to join the English leagues?

It may just be wishful thinking on his part, but Glasgow Rangers Chief executive , Martin Bain, is saying that he expects Rangers to leave the SPL within the next decade. It's an old argument, of course, and one that would prove highly contentious both north and south of the border.

The simple truth is that the Old Firm dominate Scottish football to a mind-numbing extent that largely brings the annual SPL title down to the four matches they play against each other. The rest of the professional sides in Scotland lead a precarious existence in terms of financial viability and the revenue from their Rangers and Celtic games is vital to their continued welfare. However, the argument that the Scottish leagues might actually thrive if they once again became properly competitive is an intriguing one. I am convinced that Aberdeen would see a re-awakening in their fan base if they felt there was something to challenge for and the Dundee and Edinburgh clubs might experience the same revival that could re-invigorate football on the East coast. I know that I would feel that making the effort to get north for a couple of games a season would be far more worthwhile. As it is, the football is just an excuse to catch-up with mates.

There is also a very strong nationalist argument in Scotland that they would be better off without the Old Firm. Like it or not, the fact is that a large majority of Celtic fans feel little affinity with the national side. Their Irish heritage and international appeal as a club with left-wing sensibilities leaves them aside from much of the rest of Scotland. You might assume that Rangers would automatically be sympathetically viewed across Scotland as the antithesis to Celtic, but the fact is they are not. The clubs long traditions of pro-Britishness gives them strong support in traditional conservative heartlands of England, Northern Ireland and large parts of Scotland, but this in itself also makes them unpopular in Scotland at large. Their fans are seen as being so pro-English that at times they are anti-Scottish. It doesn't help that the Scottish media is so Rangers biased. If you want proof of these views, you only need attend a Scotland international; Old Firm fans are conspicuous by their absence and the rare sightings of Rangers or Celtic tartans are often greeted with jeers.

The real problem for Rangers and Celtic is winning sufficient influence in England and the thorny question of where they would start and what would happen to the clubs who would inevitably miss out. The idea that they might start off in League 2 is a logical one in terms of them having to earn their place in the higher leagues, but the Football League will have a strong fight on it's hands getting all of the clubs to agree to it when two of them know they will dropping out of the league to make way. However, with the far more frequent churn at the bottom nowadays, perhaps the way could be sweetened for the two losers with a cash lump sum or other incentive to help them get back into the league the following year. Rangers and Celtic would create significant interest amongst fans of English clubs as they made their way through the leagues, which I believe they would, although you have to wonder if they would settle for several years at least outside the PL and without their financial lifelines of European football. This is the key reason why I believe it remains a step too far as things stand.

Entry into a European Super league might be the easiest way for the Old firm to get more lucrative and competitive football. Let's face it, if the Big Four dominance in England continues for much longer, they might also fancy the challenge and the clubs left behind might also find a renewed interest in a return to the days when everyone had a chance of the title and the cups were shared around.

In the meantime, I am really enjoying life in League One although would much prefer to re-enter the Championship with a young side brimming with confidence and ready to have a go

Thursday 8 October 2009

League One Weekend Preview, Game 12

This weekend we have another opportunity to return to the top of the table, although it would need Bristol Rovers to beat Leeds and for us to improve our goal difference them by three. There is the view, of course, that a Leeds victory might be a better result as it would help establish a gap over Rovers. A no-lose situation I guess but we need to ensure we put in the performance required to beat Oldham Athletic.

The Latics are in eighth and have won two, drawn one and lost two of their five away games, scoring just four goals but conceding only five. They have won, drawn and lost in the Capital so far this season to the O's, the Bees and the Lions respectively. Elsewhere they were beaten at Carlisle but won at Southend. Hardly outstanding but we need to be wary and cannot afford the casualness displayed at times in the week.

I am going for us to win again and cap a return to winning ways in the league. Two-nil is probably as much as we can hope for. Here's who's playing who and my take on things...

Hartlepool v Brentford
Horrible Friday night trip this for loyal Bees fans. Brentford are blowing hot and cold right now and this might be a cold night by the North Sea as Hartlepool seek to recover their home form.
Prediction; 2-0

Southend United v Southampton
Another Friday evening kick-off for the Shrimpers, although I suspect there will be a considerable Saints following making a night of it on the town. Pardew has yet to see a win away and I think he might wait a while longer.
Prediction; 2-0

Carlisle United v Norwich City
Norwich have steamed up to seventh under Paul Lambert and have been free-scoring at home. It's been a lot tighter for them away from Carrow Road but this is a match Lambert will see as one his side could win. A draw is probably the safest bet.
Prediction; 1-1

Charlton Athletic v Oldham Athletic
Oldham will come to the Valley defending a four match unbeaten run and Dave Penney will be hoping top scorer Pawell Abbott can add to his four goal tally. Deon Burton is due a goal and Izale McLeod might also fancy his chances from the bench.
Prediction; 2-0

Gillingham v Wycombe Wanderers
Gillingham's home form is keeping them out of the relegation places but Wycombe's away by comparison has them second bottom. Routine home win here.
Prediction; 3-1

Huddersfield Town v Exeter City
The Terriers are unbeaten at home but have suffered set-backs at Walsall, Millwall and Colchester in recent weeks. Time they picked up a win before slipping in their next away game.
Prediction; 2-0

Leyton Orient v Colchester United
Not a game for the faint-hearted this one. A winnable match for Aidy Boothroyd, I can see them edging this.
Prediction; 1-2

Mk Dons v Walsall
A derby of sorts I suppose. Walsall will be hoping to further dent MK Dons unimpressive home form and I think they could scrape a draw here.
Prediction; 1-1

Swindon Town v Millwall
A side that has yet to lose at home plays one who hasn't won away. Millwall's injury list is shortening and they are picking up results as a consequence. A draw looks on the cards to me.
Prediction; 1-1

Yeovil Town v Brighton & Hove Albion
Basement scrap here and Yeovil should be looking forward to their third win of the season.
Prediction; 2-1

Come on Charlton, let's win the next two and put ourselves in the frame for a memorable victory at Gillingham that would probably enough to see us go top of the table again.

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Charlton Athletic 4 v Barnet 1

I'm just back from the pub am am feeling very good. The beer has helped but the match was what has created the feel-good factor.

Early on it looked like a potential disaster. The bulk of the home support was squeezed into the West Lower and with so many people unfamiliar with the seating arrangements, there were herds of people entering and leaving the same exits trying to find their seats. The crowd may have been relatively small at 4,522 but there were still queues for ticket-holding fans to get in. To add to all that, we even went a goal down on ten minutes after Nicky Bailey gave away a square ball across our box. Barnet seized the errant pass and John O'Flynn was put in to beat Elliot from an acute angle.

We started with Elliot, Youga, Basey, Dailly, Solly, Bailey, Spring, Racon, McLeod and Tuna in a 4-4-2 formation. As Suze pointed out, Spring must qualify as one of the "six" despite only starting three games previously, unless they count coming on as substitute, in which McLeod has the edge. Either way, we looked very relaxed this evening, even after conceding the early goal. McLeod levelled pretty quickly after Barnet's goal from a deflected drive but it was clear during the first half that a number of our pros felt very comfortable with this level of opposition. Youga, Dailly and Spring in particular were very casual on the ball and did things I don't believe they would have risked in a league match.

It was good to see Basey, Solly, Wagstaff and Tuna start and it was a very successful evening in terms of how they acquitted themselves. Basey was solid at centre-half and when he switched to full-back to accommodate Mambo as a central defensive substitution. Solly and Wagstaff provided all the attacking impetus down the right in the first half and Tuna, although understandably hesitant, worked hard and got his reward with the second Charlton goal which clearly meant as much to him as anyone else in the ground and you could see the improvement in his play after that.

Two-one at half-time was probably fair although Barnet had some decent players on show and played their part in making a game of it. The left back, Kenny Gillet caught my eye, as did Micah Hyde on the left wing.

Within ten minutes of the restart, Stavrinou came on for a tired-looking Racon who was getting little protection from Matt Spring and Shelvey replaced Tuna. Phil Parkinson turned to the crowd as Tuna was withdrawn and appealed for a big round of applause which probably wasn't needed but went a long way towards making it a special full debut for Tamer.

Shortly afterwards we won a free-kick 20 yards out and Nicky Bailey atoned for his early defensive blunder by smashing home the shot into the keepers top-left in front of an empty Covered End which was worth the £5 entrance money on its own. It was a peach a strike and I am not sure any keeper would have kept it out even if they had managed to get a hand to it. It certainly makes you wonder why we don't go direct more often.

At this point Barnet knew they were beaten and there was an inevitability about the fourth. In many ways it mirrored the second goal against Walsall this season when Scott Wagstaff broke clear from midfield on the right and ran home to score. This time it was McLeod who provided the quick lay-off instead of Burton, but the run in was the same. The finish was better though as Wagstaff clearly remembered the drill and had the confidence to fire high into the top corner, scraping the bar as it went in.

Four goals and the 4,000 Addicks fans were sated. Credit must also go to the visiting Bees who took close to 500, far more than I gave them pre-match credit for and who cheered their side throughout.

All-in-all a very successful evening and Phil Parkinson will be the happiest man having won at a canter whilst handing more games to emerging players and trying different tactical approaches. Roll-on the 9.30 draw for Round 3 (Quarters!) on Soccer AM on Saturday. I am liking the Johnstone's paint Trophy and the vast majority of those present will be back for the next match if we are drawn at home.