Sunday 31 January 2010

Charlton Athletic 1 v Tranmere Rovers 1

After the match yesterday I was driven to drink instead of blogging. Four weeks of New Year abstinence went for a Burton following a third successive inadequate home performance where we scraped a draw to go with the fortuitous win and deserved loss against Hartlepool and Leyton Orient. I wasn't alone as a number of mates appeared in the Royal Oak to support the inquest.

Tranmere started the match with the sort of inferiority complex you would expect from a side headed for League Two. They were defending from the outset and rarely got more than two men into our half. It was a signal that we should have moved up and camped on them until we opened the scoring and forced them out. We didn't manage it. 

Instead, Lloyd Sam and the busy Kyel Reid worked away on their flanks and provided what ammunition they could but Burton and Mooney struggled again to play as a pair and we weren't getting enough bodies up to create the opportunities necessary. Semedo played much better yesterday than against the O's because Tranmere weren't pressing him but he was playing too deep in space just in front of Daily and the returning Sodje. That left Nicky Bailey with too much to do and we simply failed once again to win the midfield battle. Prior to the match I was interested to read Rovers fans bemoaning their poor midfield so was hopeful this would be the key to the match. 

Tranmere created next to nothing in the opening forty-five but you could see that they had recovered from their initial stagefright and were at least beginning to feel like they were worthy opponents. Shortly after the start of the second-half, for the third home game running, we conceded a goal. This one was just one of those things that happens every now and then. A harmless looking corner was flicked on at the near post and struck Sam Sodje on the hip and rebounded over the line with a stationary Darren Randolph gazing on. Rovers couldn't believe their luck and the fans behind the goal celebrated like they had taken the lead at Old Trafford. 

Sodje was quick to seize the ball and run to the centre-spot like a schoolboy determined to atone for his error. He spent the rest of the game trying to get on the scoreline again and came close on a couple of occasions. The goal did at least spur a Charlton response and we upped the ante significantly until Nicky Bailey forced a loose ball over the line from close range from a corner which Burton had knocked down into the melee. One-one then with plenty of time and once again there a feeling that we would now do a Norwich and go on to win the match. Unfortunately, the pace dropped again and we got to 70 minutes without taking the lead. Our first substitute was already on, Randolph for Elliot who injured his back after half-an-hour. Phil Parkinson made his move to shake things up but managed to take off the best player we had on show. Reid was substituted for McKenzie and left the field to a crescendo of boos. Perhaps he was tired or not match fit but there was no sign of it up to that point. Wagstaff came on for Lloyd Sam which meant we were stuck with Mooney and Burton upfront who were not causing any real problems and who were tiring.

We rallied at the end and came close to the winner but that was after we escaped conceding a second as Curran fired wide with the goal gaping and Goodison slammed a shot against the bar. With Norwich and Leeds both winning, there is now a growing gap of five and potentially eight points with their game in hand to Leeds. The talk in the pub was now of the closing pack and the inevitable Charlton fear that we will collapse and finish outside the play-off places. With three tricky away fixtures now coming up at Walsall (Tuesday), Swindon and Bristol Rovers, we may be desperate for points by the time we run out at the Valley again when we play Yeovil on 20th February.

The back four were again pretty solid today and Christian Dailly was my man-of-the-match by some way. Darren Randolph had another less-than-impressive emergency appearance and his flapping punch shortly after coming on didn't do much for confidence, although he could hardly be blamed for their goal. Nicky Bailey was below par and with Semedo failing to get forward, we struggled in the middle. Mooney and Burton ran and chased but there was very little interplay or awareness of one another. It was a game where a scampering Chris Dickson might have caused them problems but Parky saw the problem on the wings instead of upfront.

Time to knuckle-down and grind out a few results to salvage something from this season. I will miss my fifth, sixth and seventh matches of the season in the coming weeks as I refuse to travel back to Walsall on Tuesday and the 6 Nations interrupt the schedule. Things may look significantly different next time I see us play.

Friday 29 January 2010

Hurrah for the left winger!

Phil Parkinson has a good track record of bringing in players to fill the positions most needed. He has done it again today with the loan signing until the end of the season of Kyel Reid (note his first name is not mispelt here) from Sheffield United. Reid is being described as an "out and out left winger" which I assume will mean he is left footed and doesn't wander more than five yards from the left-hand touchline. I will also assume for now he is quite fast, has a few tricks and can cross the ball. 

Wikipedia tells us that we will be the seventh club he has turned out for,  although only West Ham and Sheffield United have been permanent moves. With a total of little over 50 first team appearances to his name, perhaps we shouldn't expect too much but he is only 22 and has a string of England U17, U18 and U19 caps to his credit. He is another south London lad and joins Burton, McKenzie and the Sodje brothers with the distinction of having been brought back "home" by Parky.

I am sure we will see him tomorrow if he's match fit. Let us hope he does better than some of our more recent January loan signings.

Thursday 28 January 2010

Crime & Punishment

Would appear to be the theme of the week so far. First we have the surprise announcement that Crystal Palace have been put in Administration. The penalty for this was duly imposed by the Football League today as the Eagles were landed within three points of a relegation place. The timing of this was very hard to understand with Palace having a potentially lucrative F A Cup tie at home to Wolves next week, although rumours of £30m of debt may have made it a simple necessity with a court visit scheduled for yesterday to hear a winding-up petition from HMRC. I suspect this story is far from done and that they may not come out of it nearly as quickly as other sides or in anything like the rude health that Southampton appear to be in. Simon Jordan has been keeping an unusually low profile so far but he looks heavily committed to much of the debt, so it will be interesting to see how far the Administrators go. The fact that Jordan was apparently "furious" that Agilo called in the liquidators may indicate that he's not out of the woods on this yet.

We then had the latest instalment of stupidity in the long-running career of Rio Ferdinand. The Football Association found him guilty of being a frivolous individual and his appeal against the standard three match ban for being such was increased to four. He was reminded by the panel that throwing a punch at a Championship player whilst coasting to a 4-0 win was completely unnecessary, even for a man with obvious learning difficulties.

The third crime, is currently awaiting punishment. The people running Portsmouth Football Club should take a long hard look at themselves in the mirror and if they don't believe they are part of the problem, they should do the honourable thing and resign to heap the responsibility where it it lies. They are all going to be out of work soon enough, so why not go now with some dignity. The latest chapter in the farce saw their web-site shut down because the people running it had not been paid. I am guessing that wasn't a fantastic sum of money (because it was paid today) but it shows you how desperate things are down there at the moment.

Chief Executive, Peter Storrie, is already facing criminal charges but this evening is openly pointing at a split within the club as they prepare to offload Younis Kaboul to Spurs, presumably to meet this months wage bill. The only surprise in this is that Spurs are rumoured to be prepared to pay £11m for him which I find astonishing given Pompey's plight. They are £60m in debt and their anonymous Arab owner has yet to make an appearance and doesn't look like he has the money to solve their problems. They too face a winding up order by HMRC a week on Wednesday and with relegation beckoning, it looks like just a matter of timing before they follow Palace and take the ten point penalty. Before long I can see them being back where they spent most of the last 50 years , in the third division.

Let's all get behind the team on Saturday and cheer them on to three vital points and a small step nearer avoiding a similar punishment of our own.

League One Preview, Game 28

Back on the horse for us Addicks fans on Saturday at the scene of the crime. Relegation-threatened Tranmere are the visitors and they come trying to improve on the 4-0 thumping they suffered back in August at Prenton Park. If we needed instant motivation following our first home defeat of the season, we got it on Tuesday when Leeds lost their second league match in succession at Swindon (third defeat in four) games) where they were well beaten. With our rearranged match at Walsall to follow on Tuesday there is half-a-chance we could pull level or even overtake Leeds inside a week. For now we ought to focus on beating Tranmere...

Brighton & Hove Albion v Millwall
Millwall were my favourite tip for the play-offs and they have finally arrived in the zone this week following a home over Southend. Albion are fighting for their lives at the bottom and it will be a mini-disaster if they have to start life at their new stadium in League Two. They will need to overcome their appalling home form to get anything here and I suspect the Lions may be too strong for them.
Prediction; 0-2

Bristol Rovers v Wycombe Wanderers
Rovers are in danger of falling too far behind in the race for the play-offs. Wycombe's away form is poor - one win all season - and this doesn't look like number two.
Prediction; 2-0

Carlisle United v Leyton Orient
Buoyed by their success in front of the cameras this week, the O's will leave London in good mood but I suspect the long journey may take it out of them. Carlisle are into the top half of the table and have a home game against Leeds coming up which may see them make a Wembley final albeit the JPT. Too much incentive for Carlisle.
Prediction; 2-0

Charlton Athletic v Tranmere Rovers
Surely the horror shows of the last two home games will be banished and we will set about Tranmere and get the job done comfortably inside 90 minutes?
Prediction; 2-0

Gillingham v Walsall
The Gills failure to score against Colchester at the Priestfield last week cost me £636.76 on my five match accumulator last week but I wasn't counting any chickens with the other four safely in the bag after 80 minutes. Expect them to go one better here.
Prediction; 1-0

Leeds United v Colchester United
Potentially League One match-of-the-day. Leeds are showing every sign of cracking and Colchester might have a real go here. They have nothing to lose as they chase the trio at the top and a win would put them within five points of their hosts. I can't forget how well Leeds knocked the ball around at White Hart Lane, even if they rode their luck at times in that match. They are better than some of their results of late but they have a JPT second leg semi-final approaching and will need maximum concentration. A first home league defeat might be too much to hope for.
Prediction; 1-1

MK Dons v Exeter City
The Grecians are in need of a result to halt their slide down the table. Can't see it here as MK Dons maintain their play-off challenge.
Prediction; 2-0

Norwich City v Hartlepool United
The run Norwich are on is reaching epic proportions. Their win at Walsall in the week after falling behind shows immense character and you can't see them fluffing this one even without Grant Holt.
Prediction; 2-0

Oldham Athletic v Brentford
The Bees battled back for a home point against Southampton in the week and they have been improved of late and harder to beat. Oldham are in a desperate struggle to avoid the drop and a point here might satisfy both managers.
Prediction; 1-1

Southampton v Stockport County
I am surprised to keep hearing talk of Southampton cruising into the play-offs. they are much improved of late but the gap to sixth remains a relatively huge 13 points. Alan Pardew is using his financial resources to take advantage of the insecurity of other clubs and the Saints should start next season as one of the favourites for promotion from League One. In the meantime, they will have to satisfy themselves with finishing close but no cigar.
Prediction; 3-0

Southend United v Swindon Town
Our match at swindon is looking daunting at the moment. They will be full of zip after thumping Leeds and I can see them picking up maximum points here against a faltering Southend side.
Prediction; 0-2

Yeovil Town v Huddersfield Town
The terriers paltry away return of two wins and two draws has cost them this season and this looks like a hard ask against a Yeovil side who fight hard at home. Huddersfield may need to regroup in the Summer.
Prediction; 2-0

Wednesday 27 January 2010

Hope springs eternal

Addicks fans woke yesterday morning to the memory and repercussions of our first home defeat, live on Sky to lowly Leyton Orient and yet most will have gone to bed last night with a warm feeling and renewed optimism about the future.

There was much to cheer yesterday; I went for a run during the afternoon amidst some weak winter sunshine which made me think about the warmer and brighter days to come. Not long after I got home, news broke of Palace having gone into Administration. There are two distinct views we can take on this as Charlton fans and we look split between rejoicing and worrying about our own predicament.

The evening's fixtures then gave us more reasons to be cheerful. Both Norwich and Leeds raced into early deficits which lasted well into the second half. Leeds managed to get well and truly beaten 3-0 at Swindon and the stats tell you of a proper hammering - Swindon had 13 efforts on target to Leeds' one! The wobble continues and Leeds face a bouyant Colchester side at Elland Road on Saturday. Norwich managed to recover at Walsall with two late goals and we now find ourselves at a crossroad, hoping they too go into Administration or perhaps that they continue to beat everyone they play to deny rivals points.

In the Championship, QPR got a five goal pasting at high-flying Nottingham Forest which should result in someone being sacked if previous behaviour is anything to go by. I don't think they have managed to find a new manager yet, so presumably this result rules caretaker Mick Harford out. The win takes Forest level on points with the Toon who get the opportunity tonight to restore their lead at home, against, ahem, Crystal Palace. The result this evening might speak volumes for the potential affect of Administration in SE25.

Morale at Selhurst Park will have fallen off a cliff and it could yet spark some backs-to-wall defiance from their squad. Far more likely , in my view, is that they will implode. Neil Warnock made some flippant comments last night about bringing in bodies to replace departing players and the realisation that all of their efforts on the pitch this season towards a play-off finish have been chalked-off at a stroke, could yet prove fatal.

Palace drop to 20th and now hover four points above the drop zone. They have a run of fixtures against their relegation rivals which look easy on paper but these matches are now six pointers and any loss of form will hurt them.

I think I can speak for nearly all Charlton fans in saying we are all pleased to see this disaster befall Simon Jordan. The history between us is long and well known. His Boardroom spat with Richard Murray and the constant sniping at us and our club from the cover of his newspaper column have earned him this. The nation also had to suffer his unbearable arrogance on a series of Dragons Den where as a member of the panel of successful entrepreneur's he got the opportunity to sneer at start-up businesses, something he managed with far more relish than his colleagues.

In terms of laughing at the misfortune of Palace fans we appear split as I have I have said. Most have sympathy for the staff and small businesses who will be affected directly and we have personal experience of that through down-sizing if not Administration in recent years. There are those with some comfort in their hearts for the Honest Joes at Selhurst Park and the rest who think we should revel in their misfortune whilst we can.

I can't be a hypocrite over this. I have detested the majority of their self-important supporters for over 30 years. I was attacked as a 14 year old by bullying Palace fans after a match there in the 70's and spent five seasons being made to feel like a second-class citizen by patronising officials at their club and generally unwelcoming locals in and around their ground. I detest everything about their club and am delighted at the news. I for one wouldn't care a jot if they were wound-up properly and disappeared forever.

Our own financial situation remains parlous and, without investment, Administration stalks us too. It that comes to pass, however, it won't have anything to do with Palace's own failings and I don't believe in superstition or the tempting of fate. I also won't feel any better about it, should it happen, for not having celebrated the collapse of Crystal Palace. Who's laughing now? Me for one.

Tuesday 26 January 2010

Glad all over

Baby, I'm a glad all over!

Time for a moan

Right, first thing's first. Instead of dozens of dozy stewards who do next to nothing each week, can we get a handful of them converted to turnstile operators? Four of the ten turnstiles to the East terrace (Harvey Gardens) were shut yesterday and I queued for five minutes which shouldn't be necessary with a 15,000 home gate. It was at least the second game in succession where we've done this. Not a major problem last night but it may be before the end of the season if we get caught out by a larger than anticipated walk-up gate.

Grant Basey might not be as good a player as Kelly Youga but we should all remember that he is still only 21. He has made a decent job of covering for Youga and some focus on his positives should outweigh the odd honest mistake like last night where he was skipped past having had to get back to attempt a covering tackle. Too many of of fans expect perfection from defenders and the game doesn't work like that.

Similarly, Miguel Llera has done a sterling job in my mind back-filling for Sam Sodje who we should remember earned himself a four match suspension. No-one was complaining when he got forward to salvage a point against Swindon and, whilst he does have a habit of slicing clearances, we should note that he is invariably getting to these balls to put something on them, not necessarily being beaten. Again, last night I thought he and Dailly were solid under pressure but some on the Messageboards immediately single him out for blame. Presumably because it must be someone's fault that we conceded a goal?

We aren't blessed with any of the division top five scorers, so have to accept that what we have is much of a muchness. Deon Burton has over-performed in my book and put in another shift last night although we were short of decent supply. Mooney was chasing scraps too and whilst he wasted the best chance we had, we should remember he's a Reading reserve player and still new to first team league football. I'm not making excuses but these are the players we have and we don't have the funds necessary to buy anything better.

McKenzie is an experienced grafter and I am not sure we will ever get more from him than the odd cameo appearance and goal. Dickson is a non-league player with some unorthodoxy about his game that gives fans hope but he is still very inexperienced at this level and struggles to stay onside. He achieved instant hero-status because of his desire to play and the goals he scored whilst on loan at Gillingham but his return this season for Bristol Rovers wasn't enough to secure him an extension and he has hardly been prolific since getting his latest chance in red.

When you assess our forward options, it's clear that supply and goals from midfield is what has propelled us to challenge for promotion. When that doesn't work well, as per last night and in the Hartlepool game, it's no wonder that we don't get it all our own way. Jonjo Shelvey will develop into a big game player but he's still only 17 and is not producing enough regularly enough to warrant an automatic place in the side. He should be being used as an impact player and should understand why he's being dropped after poor matches rather than persevered with. By comparison, Lee Bowyer never ambled through matches at his age.

Nicky Bailey is simply the best midfielder we have, but he needs to be partnered by a holding midfielder with more pace than Jose Semedo. Semedo is decent when he plays a bit deeper and gets the extra two yards in which to play the ball out but he struggles when closely marked, like last night. I'm not sure we have a better middle pairing but the manager needs to know when to change it. Substitutions don't always mean someone has been playing poorly. Sometimes they are tactical and players need to understand that.

Lloyd Sam is the best winger at the club and we shouldn't forget that in most games this season he has been double or treble-marked which has inadvertantly created opportunities for other players. He doesn't always provide a string of match-winning crosses but he should be given more support and consideration than he gets from an impatient Valley. He does have off games, of course, but if we don't win games there is usually someone laying the blame at his failure to provide the ammunition.

We don't have a decent left winger which is the biggest gap in the clubs arsenal. Kelly Youga does a fine job over-lapping and this probably makes a back for poor Grant, although he can get down the wing and cross on occasions as he proved against Hartlepool. If we do one piece of business in this window, please let it be a left winger. We might just get another ten per cent out of Lloyd Sam if we can create some balance to our play.

Finally, after an 18 match unbeaten home run we slipped up last night. It wasn't a great performance but Leyton Orient made it difficult and we missed our chances. The team didn't deserve to walk off to a chorus of boos. You wouldn't have heard that at Carrow Road or Elland Road in similar circumstances. A dignified silence can sometimes be more powerful than the urge to boo however self-satisfying it might be.

Moan over.

Monday 25 January 2010

Charlton Athletic 0 v Leyton Orient 1

Well, we did it once again in front of the Sky television cameras. We fell flat on our faces and can have few complaints. For the peanuts you get from Sky for League One games (£30,000), we might be better off telling them to poke it next time. The added numbers on the gate would recoup most of the broadcast fee and we don't need advertisements for staying at home when Charlton play.

It was a derby match and we haven't been playing particularly well at home of late, so my prediction of an easy 3-0 win looks hopelessly optimistic now. If I am honest, this result has probably been coming for a couple of months now, especially based on our uninspiring home performances.

I'm sure more of you saw the match on television than were present this evening (barely 15,000 home fans) , so I am not going to attempt to recount what you saw. I don't know what the Sky pundits thought of it but they usually talk matches up and whilst there was enough from both sides to do that, I thought the game lacked quality even if both sides looked more evenly matched than the league table suggests. When I think about the football Leeds played at Spurs on Saturday, we were light years away from it.

We lost the midfield in the first half and Orient were quick to pressure Jose Semedo whenever he got the ball. As a consequence he was forced into a series of errors and Nicky Bailey had to spend the half covering his midfield partner rather than looking to link the play. The back four did well enough although Grant Basey was skinned on one occasion which could have proven costly.

Orient moved the ball well and quickly when they got possession and they looked decent moving down the flanks, although I thought their end product was poor. Apart from a free header that McGleish saw late, they didn't look like they believed they were capable of scoring during the first half. For us, Mooney and Burton chased long balls and once again played like two lone strikers but it's hard when the central midfield is playing so deep and struggling. Lloyd Sam provided what support they did receive although Shelvey had another wasteful game in my view. It is really expecting too much to win matches playing like this at home. We need to attack with purpose and support the front two, something we rarely threatened during the opening forty-five. We failed to put Orient under any sustained pressure during that period and didn't build any forward momentum. There was an obvious problem with Semedo and a bolder manager may have changed it early on.

Nil-nil at half-time and under-performing but you can always convince yourself we will get going in the second-half, especially when we are attacking the Covered End. We looked sharper for the first few minutes but then former Addick Scott McGleish got on the end of a far post ball and his header beat Elliot. What disappointed me most about the goal was that the fourth or fifth match in succession, Nicky Bailey hit the deck after losing out in a challenge in a desperately schoolboy attempt to sway the referee. Just as in the last game, he collapsed holding his face this evening as if an eye had been gouged out, only to recover completely once it was clear the ref was having none of it. He's too good a player to cheat like this and he risks getting a bad reputation for it. He does more than enough for the side for the odd honest mistake to be perfectly acceptable and Phil Parkinson should make him cut it out.

The goal gave the O's a lift and the incentive to stick at it. They weathered the Charlton response and survived the initial lift we gained from our substitutions, and might even have added to their lead. I thought it very telling that Semedo was first to go off, even if I would have taken Shelvey off at that stage.

Wagstaff, McKenzie and Dickson all made a strong and lasting impact against Hartlepool after coming on but it only lasted for ten minutes at most this evening. Dickson was caught offside repeatedly which did nothing to help our momentum and Wagstaff was trying to do everything at top speed when we needed more composure. Dickson badly needs a goal as I sense his legions of well-wishers are beginning to see what an increasing number of managers have found out for themselves - that he looks like a flash-in-the-pan.

We can perhaps count ourselves unfortunate not to have managed an equaliser from the openings we did create but a victory would have been harsh on the O's. Our League One rivals will have been laughing throughout the second half and the media will be content to continue their focus on the Leeds v Norwich title battle, safe in the knowledge that Charlton can't hack it. Perversely, having missed the chance to draw level with our main rivals this evening, they both get the opportunity to increase the gap to six points tomorrow night if they win their respective away games.

Phil Parkinson has some work to do to get his side motivated for Saturday and focused again to begin another run of unbeaten games that we will need if we are to stay in the hunt. In addition to the three points, we are in desperate need of a cohesive and sustained attacking performance. We are at least playing a side we beat 4-0 at their ground earlier in the season but a solid 2-0 win is probably what we would all settle for this evening.

Saturday 23 January 2010

Palace to be plunged into a relegation battle?

News yesterday that Charlton have reported Crystal Palace to the Football League for failure to pay what I assume is the £100,000 balance on the Paddy McCarthy transfer fee from 2008. This comes on top of Palace's latest financial woes which sees them headed to the courts next week to hear a petition from good old HRMC for outstanding monies.

Having been unable to shake Palace from his shoe, Simon Jordan has been increasingly distancing himself financially. The playing staff remain their only assets and in today's markets it's looking like you can barely give them away. The heavily touted Victor Moses remains at Palace and goal saviour Darren Ambrose attracts no interest. Jordan made what he was adamant was his last financial contribution in the Summer when in put £5m in to keep the club afloat. Despite that Palace have had reported problems paying players this season and Jordan has been publicly critical of poor attendances at Selhurst that are hurting finances further.

They are fortunate that they have had a better-than-expected season and sit on the fringes of the play-offs with 37 points. The hope of a windfall from an unlikely play-off appearance or even a distant dream of the Promised Land have probably kept Jordan from pressing the big red button. In the absence of any further investment, he must be very close to taking his club into Administration so can knock the debtors, including ourselves which would presumably give him a sense of satisfaction amidst the embarrassment and humiliation of being a fallen Dragon.

Timing is the big issue. If it's going to happen in the short to medium term, he will need to pick his moment. The first thing to do is stockpile debt and that looks to be nicely under control. The second is to try and ensure that the ten point penalty does not put you down or blow your chances of promotion. Palace's play-off prospects should become clearer over the next six weeks and they may well get a prompt from the courts in the meantime. Put simply, if they fail to keep pace with Leicester, Sheffield United and Cardiff City, then he may opt to take the penalty now rather than try to hold off until it becomes applicable next season. That way, they would drop to the fringes of the relegation zone and have a chance of surviving and beginning next season without a ten point deficit.

The message boards are alive with debate on this topic and there seems plenty of sympathy for Palace. Personally speaking, people who live in glasses houses really shouldn't throw stones and you should be careful what you wish for but that won't stop me opening a bottle of champagne amid a fit of hysterics if Palace's predicament worsens significantly. I am afraid I owe them that and they would be celebrating wildly at our expense if they could. Simon Jordan has spent a long time setting himself up for this fall so enjoy it when it comes. I only wish he loses more of his fortune and learns to gain some humility in the process.

Friday 22 January 2010

League One Preview, Game 27

It's not quite a complete League One card this weekend as a handful of sides will be competing in the fourth round of the F A Cup (if only). Our match at the Valley will take top billing on Monday before there are eight catch-up matches to be played on Tuesday. For now, here's my take on Saturday's games and ours on Monday...

Bristol Rovers v Hartlepool United
Hartlepool were fortunate to get a goal at the Valley and I suspect they might struggle to create anything at Rovers.
Prediction; 2-0

Carlisle United v Stockport County
Carlisle are recovering from their disastrous start to the season and after their splendid JPT first leg win at Elland Road, they will be confident about putting basket-case Stockport away here.
Prediction; 2-0

Gillingham v Colchester United
No love lost between these two sides who have a recent history, at least, of trading players. The Gills are strong at home and Colchester will go their on the back of having conceded twelve goals in their last two matches. The Gills could do us a big favour here.
Prediction; 2-0

Mk Dons v Tranmere Rovers
Rovers need to start picking up points away from home if they are to have any chance of playing League One football next season. Personally I think they will go down and MK Dons should be too strong for them here.
Prediction; 3-0

Norwich City v Brentford
This might be a tougher game than it looks on paper. Brentford picked up a good point at Huddersfield on Saturday and might prove hard to break down. Norwich can't win every game and whilst they have a good squad playing with a lot of confidence, I don't believe they are as good as we are being lead to believe. I can see them dropping points in their next five games (Walsall, Millwall and Brighton away) but it might be after they have gone top of the table.
Prediction; 1-0

Oldham Athletic v Millwall
Millwall's wretched away form looks like it could yet cost them a play-off place. If they are to make it, they will need to get results at sides fighting the drop. This could be a case of two points dropped.
Prediction; 1-1

Southend United v Wycombe Wanderers
Southend's challenge has gone off the boil in recent months and they are firmly mid-table. they need a winning run to threaten the play-offs and who better to start with than Wycombe Wanderers.
Prediction; 2-0

Yeovil Town v Exeter City
Somerset-Devon derby and what should be Yeovil biggest gate of the season, although that will be less 10,000. Should be a close contest but my money's on Yeovil to edge it.
Prediction; 2-1

Charlton Athletic v Leyton Orient
We can't play as poorly as we did in beating Hartlepool this week. The cameras are no great friend of the Addicks and I suspect the stands might look depressingly half-empty if this week's match was anything to go by. The O's should at least have a 1,000 fans there which might make for a better atmosphere. I don't see any huge goal-scoring threat from Orient and we should be confident of notching a couple if the Hartlepool game was anything to go by. We look to have a goal or two from the bench if they get enough of a run and if we are winning by then, we might be more comfortable here than we were on Tuesday.
Prediction; 3-0

Wednesday 20 January 2010

44 Inch Chest

Went to see this film today on the strength of the cast and it being written by David Scinto and Louis Mellis of Sexy Beast fame. I wasn't expecting too much and thought they might be cashing in. Couldn't have been more wrong. The script was brilliant and the casting superb. Ray Winstone plays his usual starring anchor role but John Hurt steals the show as the cantankerous Peanut. Ian McShane is on top form as is Tom Wilkinson.

It was far from the gangster film it's being sold as, which is a shame as it's much more intelligent than that. It will transfer very easily to the stage and there are dozens of classic lines which I think will lift the film to cult status. As long as you are not offended by bad language (there is absolutely no let up and the most popular swear word is also the most offensive), go and see it.

Leeds to be toppled on Saturday?

Now that my blood pressure has settled down, it's worth a word on the bigger picture and that improved last night despite the scratchy Charlton performance. The three points we bagged mean that both us and Norwich can draw level on points with the Yorkshire Massives this weekend if we win our respective matches.

Norwich will be odds-on to overwhelm Brentford in Norfolk and we will be similar odds against the O's on Monday even if most of those present last night may feel less confident than the Bookmakers. Leeds meanwhile will have two games in hand as they will be playing another cup tie, this time a potentially stretching match at White Hart Lane which will be the televised late kick-off on Saturday. Leeds could do without a third successive defeat following last night's surprise 2-1 loss at home to Carlisle in the first leg of the JPT Northern Monkey final. Personally, I will be cheering them on for a draw. Suddenly the long-awaited crack may be appearing even if Jason Beckford looks set to play out the remainder of the season in League One. Following the Spurs tie they travel to Swindon on Tuesday evening for a very awkward league match.....

With Huddersfield only managing a draw against the Bees at home, it was left to Swindon to keep pace in the hunt with a 1-0 win at dispirited Stockport. Whilst all the talk is understandably about whether or not we can make an automatic promotion place, the play-offs look increasingly assured as we now sit 15 points clear of 7th.

Addicks fans will be interested to hear that our match at Bristol Rovers scheduled for Saturday 13th February has now been moved back to the Monday night for Sky. Puts a spanner in my plans for a Saturday in Bristol but will save me a ton as I will put my feet up in front of the telly instead.

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Charlton Athletic 2 v Hartlepool United 1

The lowest league crowd of the season at the Valley so far witnessed probably the poorest footballing spectacle we have been part of at home this season. No doubt there will be talk of winning ugly and that the mark of a good side is one that wins when it doesn't play well etc, but make no mistake, this was dire.

There was a strangely muted atmosphere around the ground this evening before kick-off. Trade in the Oak was slack even by today's sobering standards and there were no queues at the turnstiles. Hartlepool's tiny travelling support of approximately 70 looked lost in the Jimmy Seed and there were acres of red seats elsewhere around the ground. Only the top tier of the Covered End looked remotely healthy.

Perhaps the anticipated line-up of Elliot, Richardson, Dailly, Llera, Basey, Sam, Semedo, Bailey, Shelvey, Mooney and Burton would tear from the blocks and get the crowd going. You know, notch a couple of quick goals and then play some swashbuckling football as we swaggered our way to the biggest win of the season and slashed the goal deficit to Norwich and Leeds and had them trembling in their boots? No such luck.

The opening thirty minutes were as poor as I have seen this season home or away (with the notable exception of Colchester). Absolutely littered with basic mistakes. Miguel Llera gave his detractors a couple of howling first touches to warm themselves on; Semedo looked ponderous and was caught in possession the first three times he touched the ball; Lloyd Sam let another dolly pass slide out under his feet on touchline; Jonjo Shelvey couldn't find any range and Deon Burton's touch was absent. Even the Ginger Maestro was finding it hard to get going. Hartlepool couldn't do anything but string a few passes together in amongst all this.

Yet on 30 minutes, we took the lead! Grant Basey was one player trying to get the game going and broke down the left flank from a good ball out from Burton and knocked a fine cross onto David Mooney's napper six yards out. The pace of the cross and Mooney's connection was all it took to beat Flinders. The goal did at least lead to an improvement before half-time as we finally began to cut out some of the mistakes. Ironically, it was during this spell that Hartlepool got their best chance of an equaliser when the ball found it's way to Ritchie Humphreys in a yard of space on the penalty spot but he wasn't expecting it and under-hit his shot straight at Elliot. One-nil at half-time and we could convince ourselves that we would get to work and score some goals in the second forty-five.

My guess is that the loudest voice at half-time was Chris Turner's because his side started the second-half like they were chasing the game and determined to do something about it. Two minutes in and with men committed to the attack, Antony Sweeney cut into our box and was picked up by Llera. Sweeney was running across the goal as he tried to make space for himself but Miguel decided to stick a leg out to see what would happen. Denis Behan scored from the spot for an unlikely looking leveller but one which ironically enough gave the scoreline some balance it probably deserved.

We huffed and puffed after that as Hartlepool retreated into their half and tried to hang on to what they had. Mooney fired wide and Shelvey clipped a post but it was going to take a change of personnel to restore the lead. Leon McKenzie came on for Shelvey and we began to find a bit of momentum but it was the double substitution of Wagstaff and Dickson for Sam and Mooney that finally made the difference. Lloyd Sam wasn't really in the match during the opening period but he had shaken a leg in the second-half and was running at the Pool defence by the time he was subbed. I would have left him on for another ten minutes, but it was Wagstaff who did the damage within minutes of joining the action. He looked very quick with his first few touches and he seized the ball thirty yards out with plenty of support and options in front of him. Just as I screamed "no-ooo," his selfish low shot whistled passed the dive of Flinders and nestled beautifully in the Hartlepool goal.

It was poor game over and all we managed after that was a close-range Chris Dickson header that beat Flinders but was ruled out, presumably for a push on the man he beat to the ball. We then had what looked like a boy streaker in a luminous green mankini. The poor sod had obviously been waiting his moment and made his dash seconds after Dickson scored. I wonder whether or not he was aware that the goal had been ruled out. It was disappointing to see him man-handled away when I am sure he could have been frog-marched off with a little more decorum. Still, when you are part of a highly-trained elite hit-team I suppose you cherish moments like these when you can show off your skills.

I was baffled by the 14,636 crowd. Barely 3,500 on top of season ticket numbers. We haven't played at home for three weeks where we are unbeaten all season and haven't lost home or away for ten games. I suppose the gate for Leyton Orient could actually be less bearing in mind it's being televised. Rick Everitt may have to put his thinking cap on to stimulate interest and cash-in on what promises to be an exciting finish to the season, especially if Phil Parkinson can get the team to play some football in amongst winning games.

P.S. I'm turning CAFC Twitter off - it adds nothing when you're at the game but is intensely annoying.

Monday 18 January 2010

Season ticket prices frozen for 2010-11

Surprise news from the Valley that season ticket prices for next year will be frozen if purchased by 31st March irrespective of whether that buys you League One or Championship football. The club have also said they will be offering a limited number of five-year season ticket deals at the current prices.

I am pleased the club have moved proactively this time and avoided the criticism of last year when communication on this was so poor. It is good news too that the club have listened to the voices of those prepared to make a five year commitment on season tickets. This should represent decent value for money for fans with the spare cash and bring in c £700,000 in additional revenue if they can sell the 500 being offered. Not sure why the deal is being limited to 500? Perhaps it's Marketing bull in the hope of creating a panic to get one - I can't see them turning anyone away who is willing to commit to five years.

League One Preview, Game 26

Tomorrow night should see 17,000 expectant fans at the Valley to urge their heroes on to a ninth home win that would see us draw level with Norwich in second place and within three points of runaway leaders Leeds. I hope the gate tomorrow sees the start of a fortnightly increase as the Addicks cement their promotion credentials and the exciting battle for the Championship builds. With the smallest away following of the season expected from the north-east enclave of Hartlepool, we will need a thousand extra Addicks if the 17,000 average is to be maintained.

Preparations for this game couldn't really be better. Fraser Richardson made his return to the side at the end of the Wycombe match and can expect to start. It would be good to see Youga making the bench and it will be game three of Sam Sodje's four match ban. We are due goals from our forwards and Hartlepool may well arrive in low spirits after their 5-0 home hammering at the weekend. There will be an argument that we might feel the backlash from that performance but I am firmly of the view that we will win convincingly - an early goal could see Pool heads drop.

The games being played tomorrow and Wednesday are catch-up matches so could make significant alterations to the league table. All eyes at the top will be on us...

Charlton Athletic v Hartlepool
I am confident we will this game but we should exercise some caution around the next three home games. Expectations are that we will romp all three and we should be prepared for a set-back. We are not so much better than the majority in this league that our games are formalities. We are having to work to get results in most games and are always likely to concede a goal. Hartlepool, Orient or Tranmere may well come with a nothing-to-lose attitude and might just make things very difficult for us. It won't be a time for wailing and gnashing of teeth if it happens. Looking back at the '80-81 season, we are a couple of points adrift of where we were at this stage but lost and drew in the next three games. An opportunity then to go one better, but we will need to concentrate and our fans must get behind the side come what may.
Prediction; 3-0

Huddersfield Town v Bristol Rovers
Huddersfield are ten points adrift of us but their home form is mustard and they have dropped only six points there all season in three drawn games. Bristol Rovers are all or nothing on the road this season and this is likely to be another nothing.
Prediction; 2-0

Leyton Orient v Yeovil Town
This is a golden opportunity for the O's to clamber out of the basement places. Yeovil rely upon their home form to keep themselves out of trouble and Orient must capitalise on that tomorrow evening. They lack firepower but should have enough here for the points.
Prediction; 1-0

Stockport County v Swindon Town
Swindon can be a little bit unpredictable away from home but this is a match they should win with something to spare. County are in chaos and heading for League Two.
Prediction; 0-2

Oldham Athletic v Tranmere Rovers
Tranmere have been my long-term favourites to join the League One exodus and only their home form can possibly save them. Oldham are uncomfortably close at the bottom and will see this as the perfect game to gain some breathing space on Wednesday.
Prediction; 2-0

Come on Charl-ton, come on Charl-ton!

Sunday 17 January 2010

Pressure tells

After a relentless run of 47 points from their last possible 54 (15 wins, 2 draws and 1 defeat), Norwich City moved within three points of Leeds United who lost only their second league game of the season yesterday. If that is not an impressive enough set of statistics, Charlton Athletic are only three points behind Norwich with a match in hand and face the prospect of also moving within three points of Leeds when we play our match in hand at the Valley on Tuesday. That neatly summarises our overall performance this season and maybe we should take a minute to celebrate that.

Leeds have been the runaway successes of League One this season and having reached the northern section final of the JPT and the fourth round of the F A Cup after their historic win at Old Trafford, their fans could be forgiven for thinking that the divisional title was a formality. Trouble is, they have been lack lustre in recent league games and late winners aside, have been fortunate to keep picking up maximums. To use a boxing analogy, they were counter-punched at home to Wycombe last week and were fortunate to stay on their feet for the draw. Yesterday they were floored at Exeter City where they were sent staggering around the ring by two superb Grecian goals before hitting the canvass.

Whilst Norwich and our good selves face a relatively easy few weeks, a glance at the Leeds fixture list presents significantly more obstacles. Only four of their next seven games are league matches and only one of those is at home against a Colchester side looking to bounce back from yesterday's mauling. They have to go to Swindon, Hartlepool and Orient having already faced Carlisle and Spurs away from home in cup competition. If you add to that the prospect of losing Sulky Sue, then there are reasons to be cheerful a-plenty.

Parky needs to get maximum concentration from our boys in the meantime, but we could well see mighty Leeds crack once again under the strain and in the words of Kevin Keegan, "I would bloody love it."

Yesterday's day out appeared to have the Addick faithful in top form and talk was of how much fun this season has been in comparison to the recent lean years. Away games have been worth travelling to once more and there is a growing sense of camaraderie on the road. Again yesterday I saw a sea of recognisable faces and we got another opportunity to celebrate an away winner rammed home in front of us by the player with whom we identify most. The celebrations behind the goal were heartfelt and suggest this may just be the season to finally turn our fortunes longer term.

Saturday 16 January 2010

Wycombe Wanderers 1 v Charlton Athletic 2

Charlton Athletic finally got down to business in 2010 and won their first ever competitive fixture at Adams Park. With Leeds United losing at Exeter and Norwich crushing Colchester, it was a vital three points that keep Charlton firmly in contention for automatic promotion.

It was a frustrating day for me as we were edging our way through Earls Court as the game kicked off and we didn't arrive until half-time. South-east London traffic was to blame as it took us over an hour to get through New Cross. Twitter updates confirmed the side I expected to see (Elliot, Basey, Dailly, Llera, Omozusi, Shelvey, Bailey, Semedo, Sam, Burton and Mooney) and the opening goal from Jonjo after Beavon had missed a sitter for the home side. We drove right up to the ground and were directed to park directly outside the away end by a couple of stewards who could see the desperation on our faces.

It was my first visit to Adams Park and I thought it was decent enough for a small ground. The main Adams Stand (I am so pleased it wasn't the Adams Family Stand) looked like it had been cloned from Millwall and the away end, appropriately named the Dreams Stand (after the bed sponsor), was good enough for the 1600 travelling Addicks who filled it.

By all accounts, we were a tad fortunate to be one-up at the break but a couple of chances apart, Wycombe hadn't looked like causing as any major trouble. The second -half started well enough and within minutes we created the chance that should have put us two-up. A quick break saw Lloyd Sam skate through a high off-side line and lay a ball on for the over-lapping Mooney who got clear on goal but shot slightly early. He didn't catch the bouncing ball well enough or get enough angle to beat Shearer in front of the expectant Addicks but his shot squirmed through Shearer's hands and rolled agonisingly wide of the post. We continued to press and with space on the left and right, created a succession of crosses which flashed across the Wycombe box. It was from one of these where a Basey cross evaded all the sliding red shirts, that Wycombe broke quickly down their right flank. The ball was knocked across the box and through Semedo's legs to Jon-Paul Pitman who took a touch as he swivelled around to crack a shot beyond a helpless Rob Elliot.

We didn't panic but continued to press when we had the ball and with substitutions arriving for both sides, Chris Dickson and Leon McKenzie became the spearhead for Burton and Mooney. Dickson looked particularly sharp. He got up well at the back post to knock a ball down and forced a couple of corners by running at defenders as Wycombe began to rock. McKenzie too was busy and turned two defenders inside out in a twisting run into the box that very nearly saw him create a shooting opportunity from close range. The winner, when it came, was from one of these attacks when we committed men forward; Jonjo Shelvey saw a header from four yards brilliantly palmed out by Shearer but the ball was kept in and played across the box for a Bailey shot which was blocked. The deflection fell kindly for the ginger maestro who strode onto the loose ball and buried it from ten yards.

Fraser Richardson made his awaited return to the fray before the end and Elliot Omozusi deserves a mention for the good grace with which he left the field. Richardson settled quickly into the game and made a couple of trademark runs down the wing to deliver penetrating crosses.

Wycombe missed the chance of an equaliser from a corner after a free header was glanced wide but looked beaten and the Reds played the remainder of the game out. Wycombe looked a poor side to me and it's no surprise they are facing a relegation battle (Jon-Paul Pitman looks like he has something about him in front of goal and reminds me of Ebanks-Blake).

It was our first double of the season and on Tuesday we get the chance of our second against Hartlepool who were humiliated 5-0 at home today by MK Dons. If we can beat Hartlepool on Tuesday, we will draw level on points with Norwich City and move within three points of leaders Leeds United. With two further home games to come against relegation candidates Leyton Orient and Tranmere Rovers, it really is very much within our own hands to press home our challenge. Having beaten all three away already, we could complete four doubles before the end of January.

Friday 15 January 2010

Don't do it Curbs!

The "richest club in world football" sacked their 9th manager since August 2007 this morning. The average managerial reign under Flavio Briatore including caretakers is, erm, about 3 months. Just enough time to get to know all the players and the names of the tea lady and cleaners etc. What a joke club QPR have become.

I suppose the individuals who have been prepared to take the job on - John Gregory, Luigi De Canio, Iain Dowie, Paulo Sousa, Magilton and Hart have departed while Harford, Gareth Ainsworth (twice) and youth coaches Steve Gallen and Marc Bircham have had spells in caretaker charge - have all been paid up to leave early, so will have been smiling, if not laughing, all the way the way to the bank. Briatore, Mittal and Ecclestone have failed to invest the sort of money R's fans expected when they arrived amid much ceremony, and I am guessing most of what they have spent has been on managers.

John Gregory's sacking was particularly naive as was Harford's who actually delivered the immediate improvement expected whilst in charge. It all points to a common denominator and that would appear to be the puffed-up Formula One cheat, Briatore. If I were a Rangers fan, I would have pulled all my hair out and have been gunning for some of what Flavio's got left before now. I am not, of course, so frankly all it does is gives me a quarterly chuckle.

However, having worked their way through so many bosses already, Alan Curbishley appears to be rising towards the top of the list and having been out of the game longer than I suspect he envisaged when he departed Upton Park, he may be tempted. If he does, you will have to think he would be doing it against his better judgement. Curbs is his own man would expect to be left alone to do his job and might expect a fair run at it in order to make his mark. Neither of those look assured with Briatore's track record, but the lure of the money, the profile and the local working might prove enough to finally persuade Curbs to lower his sights.

Thursday 14 January 2010

League One Preview, Game 25

It's looking increasingly likely that our first match of the new decade will go ahead at Adams Park. Not so long ago we may have had higher ambitions but there it is, and we will go there as only slight favourites for the result.

The Adams park pitch has undersoil heating and the Chairboys are confident the match will go ahead. It's raining across much of the Capital this morning and with positive day-time temperatures now through until the weekend, then the 1500-1800 travelling Addicks should be confident that the match will be played.

Wycombe's last outing, of course, was a very creditable point at Elland Road where they took the game to their hosts in the second-half and might have won the game. We will need to be on our game and will hopefully have one or two players back in contention, if not starting. The Chairboys are sitting deeply in the mire at present in 23rd and they are five points adrift. Gary Waddock is trying to settle the ship but they have managed only four wins all season, three of them at home.

We beat Wycombe 3-2 at the start of the season in a decent match in which we looked a cut above but were ultimately forced to hang on as Wycombe fought hard for a late equaliser. I hope our players remember that and that we take the chances that come our way to make this game safe. With something to do now in order to fight for second place, I am expecting a strong performance from our boys and believe we can get the points to hold third until we play Hartlepool at the Valley on Tuesday. This is how I see the rest of the League One games, assuming they go ahead...

Brentford v Carlisle United
I thought Brentford looked like a decent team at home but Carlisle have lost fewer away games than anyone outside the top six. I see this being very close and a draw looks a strong possibility.
Prediction; 1-1

Colchester United v Norwich City
Match of the Day in League One. Paul Lambert returns to his former club with the side he beat 7-1 as Colchester manger on the first day of the season. These games have a habit of being turned around in the return legs and Norwich are certainly playing well enough to win. However, Colchester are a big unit and their may be a fair level of local pride at stake and a determination to show Lambert he didn't necessarily leave for anything better. A draw or home win is probably the shrewd bet and I will take the draw.
Prediction; 1-1

Exeter City v Leeds United
The Leeds machine rolls into Devon on Saturday where Exeter defend a home record of only two defeats. Leeds may still be carrying a cup hangover and Jermaine Beckford could still be focusing on a move away from Leeds. That could see him strike again but I think this could be an upset if the Grecians can score first. It would certainly add some much-needed spice to the promotion battle with Leeds tied-up in two cup competitions.
Prediction; 2-1

Hartlepool v MK Dons
MK Dons are all or nothing away from home and this is the sort of trip where that gets you nothing. Hartlepool look solid mid-table but know that a run now might just give them something else to play for in the run-in.
Prediction; 2-0

Huddersfield Town v Southend United
A patchy away record comes up against a formidable home one - Huddersfield are still unbeaten at their place. looks a forgone conclusion to me.
Prediction; 3-0

Leyton Orient v Bristol Rovers
The O's are in trouble at the foot of the table and know that their home form is what will save them. Rovers have yet to draw away from hoe this season but that means they have won four and lost an unimpressive eight times. My money's on the O's.
Prediction; 2-0

Millwall v Southampton
My first instinct here is "come on you Lions!" However, Millwall are eight points clear of the Saints and are far ore of a play-off threat at this time than Pardew's side. A draw would probably suit us but Millwall play well against the better sides and are hard to beat at the New Den. I think this will be close and we might just see that draw.
Prediction; 2-2

Stockport County v Oldham Athletic
Greater Manchester derby here and Stockport are in a real mess. Bottom-of-the-table and ten points adrift, it's looking hopeless although relegation is a secondary concern to County fans who fear their club will be wound-up before the season's out.
Prediction; 0-2

Swindon Town v Gillingham
Winless away fro the Priestfield this term, following the Gills on the road can't be much fun and I suspect their turnout in Wiltshire will make our at Wycombe looks massive. The Gills will win away at some point this season and their best chance might be before Simeon Jackson departs for greener pastures. Against the odds, I'll take Gillingham for a Jackson-inspired upset here.
Prediction; 0-2
Tranmere Rovers v Yeovil Town
With only win away win to their season, Yeovil don't carry a great threat away from their Somerset enclave. Tranmere have notched five home wins and might just be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. they have a lot to do but this is very winnable.
Prediction; 2-0

Walsall v Brighton & Hove Albion
Cash-flow for the Saddlers must be reaching tipping point. They haven't played since before Christmas and will once again be roasting chestnuts in a bid to rid their field of permafrost. Brighton have a creditable 4-4-4 away record and could come very close here.
Prediction; 1-1

Wycombe Wanderers v Charlton Athletic
With Leeds and Norwich both having sticky fixtures, this is as good an opportunity as we are likely to get for awhile to break back against the Bookies favourites and I am taking our boys to do it. I hope Mooney is back in contention and it would be great to see Richardson or Youga make the bench for a second-half substitution. Deon Burton owes us a goal following his sending-off and he's most likely to open the scoring.
Prediction; 1-2

There, I hope that's not putting too positive a spin on this weekend's results.

Tuesday 12 January 2010

Rumour Mill

The big freeze won't have helped but it's been a quiet January transfer window so far up and down the leagues irrespective. The big thaw looks like it's underway, albeit very slowly and with it we may start to see some movement.

Jermaine Beckford has been a want-away at Leeds for the best part of a year and his 20-odd goal haul and match-winner at Old Trafford look like booking him his move. When you add to that the fact that he a surly and arrogant git and enjoys a love-hate relationship with Leeds fans, then you can see them cashing in. It looks like Leeds will not be taking any chances on their promotion train being derailed this time and they are being linked with Wes Hoolahan and Simeon Jackson. This would make perfect sense as the fee for Beckford should comfortably cover both players and in addition to replacing Beckford, they would be damaging Norwich's chances in the process. Norwich couldn't resist a big bid for Hoolahan, even if it were by Leeds.

The other knock-on of this scenario would be that the Gills would be left looking for a striking replacement for Jackson and Chris Dickson remains high on their list. I can see him going there in spite of the managerial tit-for-tat over his failed loan deal before he joined Rovers. Business is business when it comes down to it and I don't believe Parky has changed his mind about Dicko's long-term Charlton future despite what he's purported to have said in the last couple of days. The fact is that if we get our extension to David Rooney's loan, then Dicko will fall back down the pecking order. If Akpo Sodje became available for an extension too, Chris Dickson would simply be surplus to requirement once again.

There seems like little other business likely to be conducted by us and my money would be on any other signing being players for the future (youth) or cover for any possible outgoings at virtually no fee. I am thinking of a goalkeeper if Darren Randolph finds himself a better opportunity than reserve football or at worst a prospect to cushion the blow of losing Jonjo Shelvey. I don't think Shelvey is playing well enough yet to get the sort of move we couldn't resist. He's unlikely to get regular first-team football outside the bottom-half of the Championship at the moment.

The one player whose departure could spell the end of our promotion hopes is Nicky Bailey but I believe that's plain for all to see and that the Board have invested too much in our promotion bid for that to happen just yet. If we fail this season to make the Championship, I don't think the club will have any other options come May without significant new investment and I think they would see that as the optimum time to cash in on Bailey and rebuild during the close season.

Saturday's Wycombe Wanderers match looks like it should go ahead and it's a game we need to win if we are to stay in touch with the top two. If we don't take three points, then we face the prospect of slipping to fourth before we play Leyton Orient at the Valley in front of the Sky cameras on Monday 25th January.

Sunday 10 January 2010

Izale slips away

Rejoice! Peterborough United have taken Izale McLeod off our hands until the end of the season. The deal includes an end-of-season option to purchase the goal-every-ten-games for the Addicks striker and perhaps we should collectively pray that Izale nets at least half-a-dozen to justify a permanent move. Posh looked doomed to be playing League One football next season and just as long as he's not a total flop, then there's every prospect they will be lulled into thinking he will be the man for them in a lower league and take him off our hands permanently.

In the big two League One clashes that beat the snow and ice yesterday, Norwich won their ninth successive home match.That's every game since we were denied a win there by a contentious late Grant Holt equaliser. They didn't have it all their own way but were ultimately too strong for Exeter. Weather aside, Norwich should face more of a test than they have had in recent months in their next two, both away at Walsall and Colchester. If they survive those then their run looks set to continue because I can't see Brentford or Hartlepool troubling them at Carrow Road following that.

There was at least a little bit of cheer for Addicks fans as Leeds United hung on at Elland Road for a point against second-bottom Wycombe Wanderers. After conceding a shockingly soft early goal, the Chairboys fought back to level in the second-half and they hit the woodwork twice as they came very close to ending Leeds unbeaten run at home. Perhaps it was a one-off reaction following their euphoric cup win at Old Trafford but they have to go to Exeter and then Swindon in the next two and will do well to take four points from those if they go ahead. They also have the first leg of the northern final of the JPT to contend with, so fingers-crossed that they are over-stretching themselves. A big money move for Little Lord Fauntleroy might also upset the balance at Elland Road. Fingers-crossed.

Friday 8 January 2010

Twitter confession

As an avid Blogger, I have been carrying a slight feeling of guilt for a number of months about Twitter. Everyone else appears to have jumped on it and to be hooked. Snippets of valuable information are coming from Twitter and I was left wondering what I might be missing out on. Matchdays, in particular, seem to spark Twitter users (Twitterers?) into life, although so far this season I have either been at the match or listening to it, so I was left wondering why I needed additional comments on what I had just seen or heard.

I am not an early adopter of new technology although I love gadgets and work "in IT." It took me two years to discover that Blogger was a fairly intuitive, help-yourself service and not something that you needed programming skills to operate. However, the snowball that is twitter has been building so I actually bothered to have a proper look and jump in a couple of weeks ago. I thought I would start slowly by following only a couple of things, CAFC Official being top of the list.

For the first few days, it all went very well and I found I was effectively getting the components of the club's daily Bulletin email as they happened, rather than summarised at the end of the afternoon. More importantly, I got the message that there would be a second pitch inspection at Walsall at Midday and that the referee was confident the game would go ahead. I was impressed.

Then on Saturday, after the match was called off, I got a number of annoying Tweets telling me that the club's Twitterer, had forgotten his coat etc. Not quite so relevant. The volume of Twitter traffic from Charlton appears to be on the increase and yesterday I received a record (for me) of 29 Tweets yesterday on CAFC Official. A handful were contributions from fans but the majority from the club. There were one or two pictures of the snow covered pitch and covers; another told me the game was off and then there were a whole load that added nothing of any value - a close-up a Robin, news that his seven-a-side game that evening had been postponed, a calculation of the volume of snow on the pitch etc.

I appreciate that Tweets are limited to 140 characters and as such, several Tweets are often needed to relay a piece of information fully, but yesterday was not a good day for me and Twitter and I am left wondering whether or not to continue? Perhaps it was a one-off or maybe I should look for other Twitterers whose output and content more closely resembles what I am looking for?

I then wondered about how this works and who pays for it. I use my mobile for Twitter on the basis that I can get pretty much all the information I need if I am on-line. So I know that I will pay SMS charges for those Tweets I receive. No big problem at the moment as I have hundreds of spare text messages in my monthly deal. However, I am guessing that Twitter sites that generate large volumes of SMS messages - like CAFC Official - are valuable to the mobile companies. As such, they probably offer incentives to encourage traffic. If this is the case, then I can see an explosion in the volume of non-information that is pumped out and the value of Twitter will be lost, for me at least.

Am I right or am I missing something?

Thursday 7 January 2010

Saturday Wipeout

I would normally indulge myself today with a look at Saturday's League One fixtures but it looks pretty pointless this weekend as the entire coupon is likely to fall victim to the snow and ice. Charlton were unusually quick and negative in yesterday's bulletins to say that they intend to get a decision made on Friday to save any Monkey-hangers a long and fruitless trip south, although the prospects of a football-less day in London are somewhat more appealing than one in Walsall. The temperature in Charlton this morning is -2c. We have two inches of lying snow with more predicted this afternoon.

The transfer window looks the slowest yet so far across the country. Perhaps that's the snow but more likely it's the freezing economic conditions in British football. Thankfully for us there does appear to be more interest in Izale McLeod than just Hearts whose manager is keen but whose Chairman isn't. Step forward Peterborough United, those Championship giants with whom we hope to trade places in May. Izale is a Peterborough-type of player if you ask me and I can see him banging in a dozen or so goals to keep them up...

Speaking of economic conditions, Stockport County look like they are in serious trouble. The club was sold to their Supporters Trust for £1 a while back by their former Chairman who took the freehold of the ground and left to concentrate on managing Sale Sharks. The Sharks have chewed the pitch up and Stockport fans are amazed to have been left feeling like second-class citizens at their own ground. Sorry chaps but it isn't yours any longer is it? The recent bout of match postponements has affected their cash-flow and sitting bottom of League One is a disaster waiting to happen to a club already in Administration. Their debts aren't massive relatively speaking but without a benefactor what they owe to Her Majesty's Custom and Excise could spell the end. Fans recently walked from Stockport to Manchester to complain about the ineptitude of their Administrators and to raise the profile of their cause, although they appear to be preparing for the worst. All of the squad is up for sale and they are desperate for revenue to keep their club afloat. They harbour hopes of the Council saving them but a less antagonistic attitude to former Chairman Brian Kennedy who ploughed £13m in whilst in charge would probably be a better bet. I believe we are close to the straw that breaks the camel's back in terms of clubs going bust and Stockport could be the first. Football is due a market correction of banking proportions. My only hope is that we do not become one of the victims - the government certainly won't be bailing anyone out.