Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Review of 2008

As we head into the final couple of days of the year, it's worth looking back on what has been a frankly rubbish year which has seen the club move from a position to return to the Premiership, to rock bottom of the Championship with League One football looking almost guaranteed for next season.

I guess the warning signs were there from day one of the new year when bottom of the league Colchester came to The Valley and took away three points courtesy of a Kevin Lisbie brace. Throwing away stupid points at home was always likely to be our undoing, although we witnessed something of a purple patch in the next three home games with a thumping victory over Blackpool, a hard fought win over promotion chasing Stoke and of course that sweet mid-week win over Palace. Unfortunately, that was to be the last time we would witness a Charlton victory at The Valley until the final game of the season.

Much has been made of Andy Reid's departure in the January transfer window and opinions differ on how much this influenced the rest of our season. From my perspective, whilst our dip in form can not be enitrely attributed to the loss of the Irishman, we have certainly lacked a midfielder with similar skill, influence and direction since he left and one is left wondering if things might have been slightly different had he stayed.

In transfer terms, the new year also saw the arrival of Andy Gray as well as the start of the loan epidemic which seems to have continued since. In no particular order, through The Valley doors before the end of the season came Greg Halford, Sam Sodje, Lee Cook, Leroy Lita and (for a very short while) Scott Sinclair. It's fair to say that none of these players particularly endeared themselves to the Charlton faithful and, with the exception of a couple of Lita goals and some fairly solid performances from Sodje at the back, none of them made the telling contribution to the promotion push we were expecting.

With just three wins altogether after the Palace game until the end of the season, it's fair to say the rest of the season did not go according to plan. Particularly bad memories of that period include throwing away a two goal lead at home against Watford, a woeful defeat to Preston North End, last minute heartache against Wolves and abject performances and losses in the away games I went to at Ipswich and QPR. Our season had limped to a pathetic end, although it at least finished on a high was a resounding win over relegation threatened Coventry City and a goal and fitting send off for Chris Powell.

I remember feeling encouraged by Alan Pardew's programme notes on the final day of the season and, along with our performance that day, I was confident for the season ahead. Pardew talked about how he and the squad had learnt their lessons and that they would be coming better wiser, fitter and better prepared. Still with a season of parachute payments to come, surely nothing could go wrong in our quest to the return to the Premiership. Could it?

Err, yes. The club's financial situation was apparently more precarious than many supporters had imagined and the summer saw the departure of a number of players to lower the wage bill and recoup some of the money spent, much to Pardew's dissatisfaction. On their way out were all the previous season's loan signings, Chris Iwelumo, Paddy McCarthy, Madjid Bougherra and Jerome Thomas (a little later). It's fair to say that Zheng Zhi would also have been on his way had the right offer come in.

More worrying from my perspective, was the fact that Pardew had failed to reinforce where necessary ahead of the new season. Mark Hudson arrived from Palace, but with McCarthy going the other way and Sam Sodje heading back to Reading, we looked drastically short of cover at centre half with Jonathan Fortune the only other recognised centre back. The only other arrivals before the season kicked off were Hameur Bouazza and non-league striker Stuart Fleetwood. No sign of the influential midfielder we seemed to be crying out for.

Nevertheless, the signs appeared encouraging against Swansea City on the opening day of the season with a competent 2-0 win. Pardew looked to rectify the midfield issue with the signing of Nicky Bailey from Southend United and all of a sudden I began to feel som optimism creep back. A 1-0 loss away at Watford (not helped by Kelly Youga's sending off) was followed by a thumping 4-2 victory over Reading in front of the Sky cameras which had most Charlton fans genuinely excited about the season ahead.

That was over four months ago and as we all know, the reality is now very different. I missed the home game against Ipswich so the game against Reading was the last time I saw a Charlton victory. What has gone since has been catastrophic and ultimately leaves us our position in the Championship hanging by a thread. It's hardly worth analysing in depth the sixteen games that have passed since we last notched a vicotry, but heavy defeats to Barnsley and Sheffield United at The Valley stick out most in my mind and there can't have been any doubt that Pardew had to go.

Unfortunately, he has left us with a squad whose confidence has been shot to pieces and whose ability to perform to the standard required in this division has been called into question. Luke Varney and Darren Ambrose have left, with Martin Cranie, Deon Burton, Jay McEveley and Martyn Waghorn all arriving (and Linvoy Primus having been and gome) but as we stand it seems like we're shifting around deck chairs on the Titanic. What's more worrying is that Parkinson is now talking about the reinvigorating effect of bringing in more players in January (more).

So where to from here? For me, Parkinson is not the man to take us forward so it's worrying that he is talking about how he has 'mapped out' with Richard Murray and Steve Waggott how he wants the squad to look. I honestly believe that the squad we currently have is strong enough to compete in this division. Without necessarily challenging for a play-off spot, we should at least be sitting comfortably in mid table. As it stands we are five points adrift from safety at the bottom of the table with little sign of a way back.

Unfortunately it looks like the board has dithered too long and you are left wondering how much better our position might look if we had salvaged more than three points from the twenty four available since Pardew's departure. I understand that Parkinson was the cheapest option and so the board wanted to give him a chance, but I'm afraid the record of assistants stepping into a departed manager's shoes is poor. Ricky Sbragia is the exception that proves the rule, just ask Chris Hutchings and Tony Adams.

If the board are thinking of getting a new man in (and it looks increasingly like they might not be), then they are certainly going to have a job on their hands. With vacancies currently available at Blackpool, Derby and Nottingham Forest, all of whom are in a better position than us, there will be some competition to get their man. Whoever in charge is also going to have some difficulty attracting playing talent to the club, with League One football almost certainly on the cards for next season.

So all things considered, 2008 will go down as an annus horribilis for Charlton fans. What seemed to be such a promising year descended into a farce. I would like to say that things can't get any worse in 2009, but something tells me they just might before they can get any better. However, I can't be down beat before the year has even started. I honestly think the squad we have is good enough to stay in this division, it just needs the correct guidance and the insertion of some sorely missing confidence. Let's hope the new year brings a change in luck for the Addicks. Happy new year everybody ... come on you reds!

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Charlton 2-2 QPR

I managed to make it up to The Valley yesterday, and was pretty glad I did as it was a decent game of football played out on a lovely winter's day. Shame there it didn't end in three points for the south London team but you can't have it all I guess.

Traffic problems meant I arrived late so hurriedly bought a programme and a pint and had a bit of time to consume both. I don't know if there is any relevance to this at all but the squad list had been stripped of all youth players, those put on loan (Randolph, Ambrose, Varney) as well as Linvoy Primus and Jay McEveley. Surprising then that the latter was in the starting line up but who was I to complain. Keith Gillespie's imminent departure meant he had no part to play, with Jonjo Shelvey taking a place on the bench alongside the displaced Grant Basey.

For the first ten minutes I thought Charlton actually played OK. We pretty much controlled the pace of the game and QPR didn't appear to be offering much. However, the remaining 35 minutes were a total horrow show. The defence looked poorly organised, the midfield sat far too deep and the front pairing hardly got a sniff of the ball. It was little surprise when Lee Cook whipped in a curling free kick after 16 minutes after Hameur Boauzza had stupidly fouled. Even more stupid was the fact that we didn't have anybody on the post for it.

Going into half time, I was more than content to take my time over my pint and miss the first few minutes of the second half. Luckily common sense took over and I was back in my seat for the second half kick off as Charlton began to show a bit more appetite for the game. The first goal came from a excellent passing move which left you wondering why we didn't witness this kind of thing more often. Sam's cross from the right actually found the head of a Charlton player and all of a sudden we found ourselves equal courtesy of Nicky Bailey.

The game had undoubtedly swung in Charlton's favour but as is common with this side, there was a lot of posession with no end result. As such, we were punished at the other end when Dexter Blackstock took advantage of a questionable challenge on Mark Hudson and lack of defensive cover to put the Hoops 2-1 to the good. Charlton kept coming though and another Lloyd Sam cross saw Cerny punch the ball through a crowd of his own players, only as far as the diving head of Nicky Bailey.

We then entered usual last ten minute heart in mouth territory. And the point we had fought so hard to win almost disappeared into a puff of smoke as Heidar Helguson hit the post and Emmanuel Ledesma smashed in the rebound from the underside of the crossbar. Having thrown my programme to the floor in disgust, my head was firmly in my hands. It was a pleasant surprise therefore when I raised it to find that the goal had been disallowed for an earlier foul. This was all too much for Parkinson who got sent to the stands. It looked to me like Kinsella has taken charge of touchline barking orders well before Parkinson headed off, but it was left to the Irishman to guide us through the last few minutes.

So a point won then but valiant draws with good performances will only take us so far and it won't be far enough to preserve our Champiosnhip status. I would doubt very much that this will have been enough to keep Parkinson in a job past the end of the year (although he still does have one game left to prove everybody wrong), and the board seriously need to start considering managerial options to rescue our season. With Colin Calderwood being sacked on the back of Forest's defeat to Doncaster Rovers (which also sent us bottom), they need to act quickly to ensure their preferred candidate is snapped up and also to make sure Forest don't gain any extra momentum on us. We will probably be entering 2009 bottom of the league and on the back of the club's worst run in history, so I guess things can only get better.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Dear Father Christmas

Firstly, Happy Christmas to everyone out there who's been reading A Red Divided.... From Richard and I, we both hope you have a great festive season whatever you're doing and we hope that your 2009 is everything you hope and wish it to be....

And now onto my Christmas wish list.

3 points please boss.

I think we are getting closer to breaking the duck, the 14 game streak without a win is smarting now, and I'm desperate to get that win that we need, and more importantly, we deserve.

I do think we'll get the three points very soon, and ideally, I'd like to do Norwich in the cup on the 3rd.... they were OK opposition wise, but back at The Valley, I think we've certainly got what it takes to do them over and progress in the FA Cup.... which, perhaps, is what we need to boost the teams confidence... a decent cup run....?

So for those who are going to be heading to The Valley on Boxing Day, I'm going to go out on a limb and predict a 2-0 victory to the red side from south London....


Wednesday, 24 December 2008

QPR Preview

And so we come to the last home game of a year that most Charlton fans will want to forget. What an absolutely gutting one it's been. Visits to The Valley have been all too miserable this year and if any set of fans are in need of something to smile about this Christmas, it has to be the Addickted. Standing in the way of us and a bit of festive cheer is Flavio Briatore's revolution led by Paulo Sousa. They are pushing for the play-offs and will provide a stiff test (although to be honest there aren't many teams who don't these days).

The general consensus seems to be that Parkinson needs to pull rabbits out of hats in this game and the next (against Sheffield United on Sunday) in order to keep the manager's job on a permanent basis. Parkinson strikes me as a fairly decent and straight forward guy but unfortunately it's difficult to disagree with this line of thought. Two points gained from the eighteen available to him so far tells its own story and if we continue in this vein of form then we can probably start preparing for the third tier at the end of January.

Potential candidates for the managerial hot seat continue to be thrown around in the press, with Paul Ince and the combination of Paul Trollope and Lennie Lawrence the latest in the mix. I am not sure what I make of either of those two to be honest. Ince, like many of the Addickted, I do not think I would be keen on. He succeeded in saving Macclesfield from non-league football and getting the Milton Keynes franchise promoted to League One, but his record at Blackburn can not be ignored and I can't help but feel this will have effected him somewhat. On a personal level, he also does not strike me as a particularly nice man. The Trollope/Lawrence combination is an interesting one but again their successes have been played out at a lower level. I am also very wary of a two man management team.

Whether Parkinson stays or whether a new man comes in, I think irreparable damage has been done by the dithering we've seen over the past couple of months. Pardew was given far too long before the axe finally fell (sorry, before he left "by mutual consent") and I think the same has happened with Parkinson to be honest. Some would suggest that he would need to be a magician to turn around what he was left with, but he was given the chance to make his own loan signings and stamp his authority on the team, both to little effect.

The board's statement that they would not be making a managerial appointment until the new year as there could be no change of player personnel until such time simply doesn't wash. Surely you want new man to have as much time as possible to assess the squad, work out who is in and who is out and identify any potential transfer targets in time to hit the ground running in January. What they probably meant to say was, "We'd like to give Phil Parkinson until the end of the year to see if he's up to the job in which case we won't have to make an expensive new managerial appointment".

In player terms, it's difficult to know who is still around and who is available to play these days. Linvoy Primus seems to have returned to Portsmouth (although I never reading anything about it on the club site), Keith Gillepsie is about to head back to Sheffield (more) and Jay McEveley (who I thought was out for ages and heading back to Derby) is apparently fit again. Blimey. Rumour has it, we also have some of our own players rather than those we are borrowing off other clubs but reading down the squad list (as I am doing now) it is looking less than inspirational for a relegation dogfight.

Anyway, Parkinson has to cobble together a team for this game and he seems to have stumbled upon something approaching a starting XI over the past couple of games. It seems to be a fairly sensible line up to be fair, with the only mystery being what on earth has happened to Svetoslav Todorov. I was hoping his return from injury would provide an experienced head around which to base our attacking play (not to mention a few goals) but he seems to be slowly fading into the background.

All things considered, this is what I reckon Parky will go for on Boxing Day: Elliot, Cranie, Hudson, Fortune, McEveley, Sam, Semedo, Bailey, Bouazza, Gray, Waghorn. Subs: Weaver, Shelvey, Holland, Todorov, Burton.

Even the optimist in me can't see us getting anything more than a draw out of this but maybe Parkinson can provide a bit more motivation in the knowledge that he probably has two games to save his job. Due to transportation issues I don't know whether I'm going to be able to make to the Valley although hope I can to cheer the team on one more time this year and pray that The Valley will be a happier place to visit in the new year. Regardless, a very happy Christmas to everybody and here's hoping for three points on Friday.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

There Are Places I Remember....

For those who don’t know, the title of this post is the first line of a 1965 track from the album Rubber Soul called “In my life” by the Beatles. Coming from Liverpool, The Beatles have, without a doubt had the greatest musical influence on my life but also on my personal life too!

So the lyrics…

There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain

All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new

Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

Though I know I'll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more
In my life I love you more

So… where was I…...I was on the way to work this morning, taking the tube, rather than on my motorcycle which is my usual form of transport and as a result of not really having to concentrate, my mind was wandering and inevitably it got wandering about football….and specifically about moments in football where something has happened and you will never forget where you were when it happened…. Some are random and some are strange…. But in my life….

Hillsborough 1989 – I was living in the Far East at the time with my family and I remember my ‘arl fella getting a phone call about it telling us what had happened and him then frantically trying to get in touch with his kid brother a match going red and his brother in law to make sure they were ok. In the weeks that followed, I remember being sent dozens and dozens of newspapers and magazines from family back home to let my mum and dad see exactly what had happened….

The 1989 FA Cup Final – I was in Liverpool on holiday with my whole family…. My brother and granddad were the blue noses’ in the house and I remember going mental, dressed head to toe in the new Liverpool kit me ma’ had bought me… and our kid in his new everton kit…. I remember my granddad recording it on the VCR and later wishing he never did, every time I went round, I insisted on watching it over and over again!

Both the 4-3’s between Newcastle and Liverpool are fresh in my memory, we were living in Saudi Arabia, it was about 1am when Colleymore stunned King Kev with his injury time winner…. Cue me and me ‘arl fella screaming in the living room and me ma’ running down stairs shouting, what’s gone on, what’s gone on….what matches they were, Asprilla was immense.

The whole of 2001. Christ, we as Liverpool supporters wait years and years without a trophy and three come along at once. I was on my “gap” year this year… I was in Vancouver for the FA Cup Final with my best mate who is a gooner, I had arrived in Sydney two hours before kick off of the Uefa Cup Final and watched it in a Liverpool supporters bar…the lasting memory was walking around Sydney the next day when a fella in a suit comes running up to me and jumps onto me giving me a huge hug and a kiss… he gets off me, takes off his tie, un-buttons his shirt….and there is a Liverpool shirt….turns out the lad was from Norris Green and moved to oz the year before…. Classic.

Gerrard Houllier returning after his heart operation…. I was at Uni in Newcastle, watched it in Bar Oz where I got chatting to a lad who is now one of my best mates…. A huge game, huge importance…. Roma, the history, the revenge…. The victory. Get in there.

GET IN YOU BEAUUUUUTYYYY!! Haha…. Fucking Andy Shithouse Grey….. I was in the David Lloyd in Kingston where I was living watching this on their big tele…. The goal went in and I was the only one watching, I jumped up, screaming and shouting…. They all thought I was mad….. little did any of us know…. This was going to be the start of the best journey I’ve ever been on.

Fuck Off Mourinho…..Fuck Off Mourinho….I’d grown up with me ‘arl fella telling me about the kop on those famous nights against St. Etienne and against Boroussia Munchengladbach and that… but until the Champions League Semi-Final, I’d never, never, experienced anything like it. YNWA had me in tears, this is what I support Liverpool for, the emotion, the fact the kop and the rest of the ground was full 45 minutes before kick-off…. This was Liverpool FC, this was the KOP, this was our night. The phantom goal, the Gudjohnsson miss…. The Celebrations after…. Standing outside the kop in-front of the man who made us the power house we are (Shanks) singing Fuck Off Mourinho…..Fuck Off Mourinho….was just special!

Tell me ma’ me ma’, to pack my bags up full…. I’m off to Istanbul….I’m not even going to go into details…there are to many to go into, but for those who want to know what my trip was like, my mate who was with us, wrote this a year after the final… sums it up nicely….comfortably the best 4 days of my life.


So…. am I mental? Am I the only one who remembers exactly what they were doing for specific matches?

Monday, 15 December 2008

When it Rains, it Pours

*time to take a deep breath and step back and look at the match tonight*

In terms of the match, well, for those who saw it, you saw it, for those who didn't, Ellington nicked an equaliser in the 94th minute much to the heartbreak of the home supporters.

What to say....I'm actually gutted... in fact, devastated is more the word.

Upon arriving at the ground I was surprised to see that Parkinson had dropped Weaver in favour of young keeper Elliot... and to be honest he probably chose a decent match to give the lad some match experience. He didn't really have a lot to do during the match but when he was called upon he did a good job, his distribution was good and although he could have done better with the penalty, I think it must be said that Ellington is very good at wrong footing keepers!

I thought this was a good performance from the Addicks, there was some lovely football played, and following a spell of pressure just short of the half hour mark The Addicks upped the tempo with Lloyd Sam picking up the ball 12 yards out following a Derby slip-up and chose to go near-post and had Bywater well and truly beaten, only to be denied by the post.... "Christ", I thought to myself, "it's going to be another one of those nights in South East London".

Charlton were rewarded for all their pressure with Andy Gray slotting home from 6 yards. Lloyd Sam and Jose Semedo linked up well to get the ball into Gray who controlled the ball with some great skills and got the right side of the Derby centre half to slot home.

Before and after the 34th minute goal, Charlton looked the better of the two sides, with Derby struggling to get a shot on target. Debutant keeper Elliot had little to do in the Addicks goal and at half time Charlton had the lead.

The second half started where the first had left off, with Charlton all over the visitors who were still suffering from the blues that plagued their trip down to London (they got caught in the blackwall tunnel after a lorry carrying knickers had shed its load...I shit you not.... Sorry, I had to get that one in there!) Anyhow, I digress.... back to the match.... Bouazza missed a golden opportunity to put the Addicks two up when he let rip....it was a cracking effort, the only criticism is that he could have probably taken the ball on another 5 yards before having a pop.

However, the tide turned. Derby had a goal disallowed for offside, which I actually thought was a good decision. Having seen the replay on tele, it was clear that when the ball was initially played a Derby man was offside and while he may not have been active at the time, he became active a second later.... However, with the doubt about the disallowed goal still clearly in D'Urso's mind, he awarded Derby a penalty after a Jose Semedo "hand ball".... Christ, if I've ever seen a harsh decision, this was one. Either way, the ref made his mind up and Ellington stepped up and slotted into the bottom left hand corner, with Elliot completely bamboozled!

The Addicks responded well, with Lloyd Sam setting up Waghorn for his first goal for the club. He had a good game despite clearly taking a knock early on in the first half. It could have been 3 or 4 for the Addicks, with Bouazza and Sam both having efforts saved by Bywater who kept the Rams in the match.

urghh.... so here we are again....

15 minutes left......
10 minutes left.....
5 minutes left.....
that's it, surely.... 93 minutes gone....
fucking hell ref, when are you going to blow???
94 minutes dead on and the score is 2-2.

Basey flicked the ball on following a long throw and Ellington, off balance, pounced, and put the ball past Elliott. GUTTED. Absolutely heartbreaking in fact.

So what do I take from tonight:
  • The crowd were brilliant, in full song and really behind the team. They allowed the team to be patient and to play the game they wanted to. Even at the final whistle they continued to support the lads who were clearly devastated.
  • This was a great performance by the Addicks, they were creative, made opportunities and really looked like a team ready to play football. I'm confident they'll recover from this and I'm DEFINITELY confident, there is NO CHANCE that Charlton will be going down this year.
  • The negatives are clearly dropping two points.... the positive is gaining one.
  • Losing to another last minute goal is heart breaking and its something that needs to be looked at by the coaches to try to help the side remain calm under the pressure and in the last 5 minutes of the match.

I'm looking forward to Norwich on Saturday..... Let's take this match, regardless of the result, and build upon it. The foundations are there, it just needs to be tweaked to get the results that we know we are capable of.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

The View from the Continent

I wasn't at the game last night as I am still working over in Germany, which also means I am likely to miss the Derby County game next Monday. At the moment, I can't decide whether this is a good or a bad thing but having read some of the reports from last night I may be sparing myself some serious heartache.

Another defeat, without a win in twelve and at risk of being cut loose at the bottom with Forest and Doncaster … not looking great is it? From what I've read about last night's game, it seems we were turned over by another pretty average side which is all it takes these days. I have to say I was pretty confused by the inclusion of Izale McLeod and I'm not sure Semedo deserved to be dropped in favour in Holland. It didn't take long for him to get a run out from the bench though as luck does also not seem to be on our side with Jay McEveley going off with a suspected fractured shoulder.

From my currently distant perspective it is frustrating that we haven't been able to build on what we saw against Southampton. Although it wasn’t electric, it was certainly an improvement and to my mind gave reason to believe that Parkinson may be able to do a decent job for us. However, one point from twelve tells a different story and if you believe the Daily Mail (more) then he is heading the same way as Pardew. As many have pointed out, the problem with Parkinson is his association with the Pardew era and it's difficult to overlook this. His post match interview gives the impression that he is a decent guy just trying to do a good job until told otherwise, but I'm not sure this is enough right now.

This season is quickly beginning to mirror the 2006/2007 season but played out in a league lower. Manager gets sacked, caretaker given a run only to find he's not actually that good, new man comes in just before Christmas but it's too little too late. Will there be a different ending this time around? I do think we would benefit from a complete change of managerial steer and I do think there is enough time to turn things around. My two principle concerns are a) the squad has been, for lack of a better way of putting it, 'mucked around with' so much over the past year and I'm not sure it's good enough any more and b) I think confidence levels amongst the players must have dropped through the floor by now.

So where to from here? Newspaper speculation aside, it's difficult to know what must be running through the board members' heads right now. Whether they stick with Parkinson or twist with a new man, I think they need to make a decision before we travel to Norwich in a couple of weeks time and stand by it for the rest of the season. Any changes beyond this are only likely to be detrimental to our cause. Personally, I think we need somebody new to come in although it has to be the right man and they have to appreciate the magnitude of the task in hand.

Billy Davies and Adrian Boothroyd are still the obvious front runners with Big Sam apparently ready to pack his bags for Sunderland (lend us Andy Reid back would you?). However, I had a strange dream about this last night and there is something in the back of my mind that tells me it could still happen: the return of Curbishley. Whilst many appointments could be seen as a gamble, for me there is no doubt that he could turn this rabble around and save us from an away trip to Hereford next season. Whether this is seen as a backwards step is now a moot point I would have thought. It's all about survival and if Curbishley is the right man to manage it then the board need to swallow their pride and make a move.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Charlton 0-0 Southampton

For the first time in a long time, I actually enjoyed watching Charlton play this afternoon. I enjoyed cheering them onto the field, I enjoyed cheering them off at half time and I enjoyed cheering them off at full time. It was also a very refreshing change to not hear any boos around the stadium (except for those directed towards the referee) and to watch a team that actually looked like they knew what they were doing. Fair enough, we didn't win but we didn't lose and we didn't concede a goal, something we hadn't managed in thirteen previous games.

Parkinson's starting XI incorporated a number of changes from the one that took the field to QPR. Ensuring that there are no more than five loan players in the match squad is clearly a juggling act, and on this occasion Linvoy Primus and Martyn Waghorn made way. Fortune returned to the centre of defence, with Jay McEveley starting at left back. Mid-week goal scorer Thierry Racon was surprisingly dropped from the squad altogether with Bailey returning, and Deon Burton making his debut up front with Andy Gray.

The first half made for encouraging viewing and the Saints had Kelvin Davies to thank for a string of decent saves, especially from Deon Burton's overhead shot. In truth, we really should have gone into the break a goal to the good but a lack of cutting edge in the final third of the pitch, along with some dubious refereeing (the Southampton players' arms must have been invisible to Mr. Mathieson) meant that it remained deadlocked. The second half was a bit of a different story and in all honesty I think most fans would have been pleased with a point leaving the ground. The Saints piled forward and Nicky Weaver showed what he can do when on his day with a couple of decent saves.

Of the new boys, Jay McEveley had a decent enough game and I would imagine that Grant Basey and Kelly Youga will struggle to get a look in whilst he is still there. Keith Gillespie showed some good positional play but his legs clearly aren't what they used to be and by the time he was replaced by Lloyd Sam with about ten minutes to go, he looked like he had had enough. Deon Burton looked lively in the first half, with his overhead attempt being the obvious highlight. He was ineffective in the second period however and I really don't think he is the answer to our striking worries.

Of the rest, my man of the match award would be split between Mark Hudson and Jose Semedo. Hudson made some important clearances in the first half and clearly works better alongside Fortune than he does Primus. As for Semedo, why oh why was Pardew so reluctant to play him in central midfield? He showed why he shouldn't be wasted at right back with a great performance in the holding midfield role, making a number of good covering tackles. Weaver also deserves a mention for a solid performance, especially after the Sheffield United horror show of last week.

All the indications seem to be that the manager's job is Parkinson's if he can prove himself in the caretaker role. I've said before that I don't believe he is the man for the job, but I am happy to let him persuade me otherwise and today's performance went a little way to doing that. Fair enough, it's not like we played them off the park (and Southampton are not a great side) but the man isn't a miracle worker and after last weekend's debacle it was a great improvement. With Doncaster and Watford drawing, it's pretty much a case of as you were (although Forest did win) so there is still all to play for. I think I can actually enjoy my Saturday evening now having not watched another completely inept Charlton performance. More please!

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Loan Athletic

What's going on?! The Championship has gone loan crazy and Charlton are at the heart of it. In addition to the recent arrival of Keith Gillespie from Sheffield United and Martyn Waghorn from Sunderland, Deon Burton has today signed temporarily from Sheffield Wednesday and Jay McEveley from Derby County, with Luke Varney going in the opposite direction to Pride Park. Blimey. So come Saturday, by my calculation we could end up with a team made up of 64% loanees. It would look something like this:

Weaver, Cranie, Hudson, Primus, McEveley, Gillespie, Racon, Semedo, Bouazza, Waghorn, Burton

I have to say I am very uneasy about all of this. Firstly, we don't have a permanent manager authorising all of these loans. If Parkinson is apparently getting so much say in the loan market, is this an indication he is in line for the job on a permanent basis? Secondly, the instability that loan signings brought last season appeared to contribute to a steady slide down the table and we can't afford it to have the same affect this time round. Thirdly, are the players we are bringing in actually of a decent calibre? I've heard Gillespie had a decent enough game against QPR, but Deon Burton? Seriously? A journeyman striker who seems to me like a poor man's Marcus Bent. Please somebody tell me something different!

Lastly, a word on Luke Varney. With his loan move being 'with a view to a permanent move', it looks like we may have seen him play his last game in a Charlton shirt. As with too many players who have played for Charlton recently, it's a case of what might have been. For all his enthusiasm and pace you never got the impression he was comfortable at this level (the misses against Burnley and QPR spring to mind). That said, a change of scenery (nearer to his native East Midlands) may do him some good and he'll probably do a Chris Iwelumo on us and start knocking them in for fun.

I won't lie, I'm really worried about what's going to happen on Saturday. We need a win very badly, but will all the new faces be able to gel in time?

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Respect And How Not To Earn It, Rooney Style.

We're well into November and with it, were seeing sides well bedded in and we've already seen our share of big matches in both the premiership and in the championship.

The other week when I was at home, it was the turn of Everton to entertain Manchester United at Goodison. Always a tasty fixture, this one proved to be no exception, thanks largely to the immature actions of the player that was once championed as the future of Everton FC. I remember speaking to my uncle when Rooney was just 12 and he was singing the boys name and telling me how he was the future of Everton etc etc.. I wonder; if I asked him today what he thought of the player-come turncoat, whether his answer would be complimentary. In fact, I wouldn't need to, his view is one shared by most Evertonians following Rooney's defection along the M62. That of embarrassment.

Listening to the match on the radio, Darren Fletcher split the Everton centre half's and slotted home. One-nil to the Mancs...but it wasn't just a goal, it got personal. Wayne Rooney, in front of the Gladwys Street faithful celebrated this goal by kissing the Manchester United badge and in doing establishing himself as one of the biggest twats in Merseyside's footballing history. Here was a Scouser, a lad born and bred in LIVERPOOL celebrating a goal against the club that made him who he was by kicking 40,000 people in the bollocks and kissing the badge of his new club and arch-rivals....

Listening to the call in following the match, there was consensus among the pundits and callers that Rooney was a complete and utter disgrace, to himself, to his family and to Liverpool as a city. I understand that he endured hell as he moved to Manchester United, but too be honest, it was one of the most controversial transfers in the last 30 years, and football in Liverpool is taken very seriously, probably too seriously if I'm honest with myself, and there were some shocking things said following his departure, many of which were said with emotion running high following the departure of the biggest talent in English football to an arch-rival and all this after him telling everyone that he was "once a blue, always a blue”.

I just couldn't understand why he'd bother to do something so stupid? And to piss off so many people? He's not a kid, he's a grown man, an adult, a role model (apparently)...but the one thing I don't think he is, is a Scouser. He may have been born within the city limits, and he might sound like a Scouser, but he lost all credit with me and with many Scousers following the videos on the internet and in the press of him singing "build a bonfire and put a Scouser at the top" alongside Gary Neville at a Manure Christmas party..."what a twat" I thought at the time and since, he's done nothing to change my opinion. In fact, he's just worked hard to cement himself as a twat and the badge-kissing in front of the Gladwys was just another incident in a long line that highlight everything that’s wrong with our society. Its no wonder the FA have to launch “respect the referee campaigns” when we have players like Rooney around, his actions on the pitch are appalling, insulting and unfortunately it doesn't look like a situation due to change any time soon.... well, not given Rooney's latest stunt.

Sadly, I also think the damage he has caused between himself and the people of the city is irreparable; I for one wouldn't have anything nice to say about him, and therefore using the morals and values that I were taught as a child, just wouldn't say anything at all.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Who's Next?

So, I wrote my match report on Saturday evening, closed my laptop and headed off to a friend's party trying to put Charlton related thoughts to the back of my mind so as not to dampen the mood. I was having a pretty decent evening and got chatting to a couple of Watford supporting friends about the plight of our clubs. They were big Boothroyd advocates and stressed that they were disappointed that he was no longer their manager before speculating who might replace him (I'm pretty sure Brendan Rodgers wasn't one of the names that came up). One of them then turned to me and said, "so, you must be pleased Pardew has gone?". "What?!". "Didn't you know? He's left by mutual consent". I didn't know, that was the first I had heard of it.

I always seem to hear about significant Charlton related news second hand. When Dowie got the boot, I was happily eating a bowl of coco pops when I got a call from a friend at the gym telling me to tune into Sky Sports. When we bid Les Reed farewell, I was out of the country snowboarding and got the news by text message. When Pardew was appointed, again it was a text message delivering the news. I never manage to find these things out myself! Anyway, this one was always coming but it was a bit of a shock to the system nevertheless. As many blogs have pointed out, Charlton fans are simply not used to this rate of managerial turnover.

I will look back on Pardew's time in charge in terms of what might have been. When he arrived almost two years ago I, like many others, felt that the board had finally got the right man after the disasterous tenures of Dowie and Reed. Whilst he could not keep us in the Premiership, I did not blame him for this given what he was left with. Last season started encouragingly but slipped away as Pardew's judgement got confused with too many loan signings and an all too frequently changing starting XI. The number of sales Pardew was forced to make over the summer I think took most by surprise, but the fact remains he failed to get the most out of a largely talented squad. I am sure it won't be too long before he is back in work, it's just a shame it didn't work out for him at Charlton.

We are now looking for what will be our fifth manager in just over two and half years and we absolutely can not afford to get this one wrong (witness Leicester last season). Organising and motivating a demoralised squad who have just been plunged into the Championship relegation zone is not an easy task and requires a steady hand. The speculation has already begun in the papers and on the blogs, most notably New York Addick's excellent piece (more) left no managerial stone unturned. To my mind, these are the main contenders and my thoughts on them:

Phil Parkinson - caretaker manager and if he gets a couple of good results against QPR and Southampton then he could provide the board with a particulary easy (and cheap) option. Like many of the Addickted though, I am against his permanent appointment. I think we need a completely fresh start and his involvement with the Pardew era would prevent that. His managerial record at Hull was also less than brilliant.

Mark Kinsella - see above. Reserves are also floundering this season.

Alan Curbishley - his name is the only one I read about in the papers this morning and he made sure he has cleverly failed to rule himself out of the job, despite commenting that he wanted his managerial return to be in the Premiership. There is no doubt in my mind that he would be able to sort out the mess we have found ourselves in. However, the consensus seems to be that his reappointment would represent a backwards step and a failure to sort out for ourselves as a club what has gone wrong. In addition, I would not wish his excellent reputation at the club to be tarnished by a disappointing second spell and would not consider him for the position.

Sam Allardyce - currently available and with an excellent record at both Notts County and Bolton (the jury is still out on his time at Newcastle in my opinion). He certainly would not bring 'sexy football' to The Valley, but he would bring considerable experience and a knack of turning out an organised side. His wages may be prohibitive however.

Billy Davies - knows the division and has a good Championship record at both Preston and Derby. Question marks remain over whether he would be the man to take us any further given his Premiership record with Derby, as well as the manner of his exit. Was also interviewed when Dowie was given the job, which by all accounts did not go as well as was hoped from either side's perspective.

Adrian Boothroyd - did brilliantly to get Watford to the Premiership but performances over the last couple of seasons haven't been too dissimilar to Charlton's and I have a nagging suspicion that this opportunity might have come too soon for him.

Gus Poyet - on the basis of his playing style and his television interviews, I like the guy and he appears to have the potential to be a good manager. Unfortunately he only has experience as a number two and there is no guarantee that being a good assistant means being a good supremo (ask Sammy Lee and Carlos Quieroz).

Lawrie Sanchez - not a option I had thought about until reading NYA's article but not a bad shout. Did very well at Wycombe and as national manager of Northern Ireland, before a short and undistinguished spell at Fulham. Out of work and available.

Plenty for the board to think about and having just written down most of the potential candidates, not a very easy decision at all. I'm not sure what timescale they have in mind for the appointment although I would have thought the new man would want to get his feet under the desk ASAP. All things considered, my preference would be for either Davies or Allardyce. I'm not sure Davies will come though after his previous experience with the club and I think Allardyce will cost too much money. Speculation is all well and good but for now though the focus needs to remain on getting something out of our next couple of games and giving the new manager, whoever it may be, the best possible starting position.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Charlton 2-5 Sheffield United

First things first, apologies for the lack of blogging recently. I started a job in Germany the week after the Barnsley game (shudder) and have been knee deep in bockwurst and financial statements since then, without too much time to get down my thoughts on Charlton's plight. Anyway, I was able to make it back for the game today with relatively high hopes given the encouraging reports I had read from the away games against Plymouth Argyle and Birmingham City. I should have known better really ...

Going to watch Charlton at the moment is akin to going to school knowing the chief bully is there waiting to nick your dinner money: you know it's going to happen, but you have to go anyway. This game proved to be no different and has left me thoroughly disillusioned and frustrated. When James Beattie's goal went in after seven minutes, you knew it was going to be 'one of those afternoons'. Linvoy Primus's header a little under ten minutes later offered some hope to The Valley faithful but once again we showed we are masters of throwing away any kind of promising position.

Two soft Sheffield United goals before half time left most wondering whether it was too early to leave with 45 minutes still to play. Those who decided to stick with it probably wished they hadn't after a calamitous Kelly Youga own goal and an excellent Alan Quinn strike within ten minutes of the restart turned a sound beating into a thrashing. Hameur Bouazza reduced the deficit shortly after but by then most of the crowd were either a) on their way home or b) calling for Pardew's head. Some sense of loyalty made me stay until the final whistle. We conjured up a few decent chances in that time without any end result.

So what to make of all this? For me, Pardew's position is untenable. We are now eight games without win, and for all his chopping and changing we look no closer to getting one. He looks short of ideas and the team look short of confidence, leadership and inspiration. I don't blame him for sticking with the same side today that took to the field at St. Andrew's, but how can the performance have differed so dramatically? Weaver's confidence looks shot to bits, there was little creativity in midfield and Andy Gray looked like a lost soul up front. Linvoy Primus was probably our best player on the pitch but that is hardly an accolade given the dross that surrounded him. What must Martyn Waghorn think he has got himself into? Left on the bench and thrown on when the game was dead and buried.

I've just read Pardew's post match interview. His assessment? "Bloody Awful". That is to put it mildly Alan. I honestly don't know where we go from this. Pardew seems intent on digging his heels in and the board don't have the b*llocks or, perhaps more accurately, the money to sack him. We are stuck between a large rock and a very hard place. I think that our next two games could be telling. I don't expect us to get anything out of the QPR game but I certainly do expect us to beat Southampton this time next week. If we don't, it's time for somebody to front up and do something about this because what I saw today was humiliating. Ideas anybody?!

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Liverpool vs West Brom - A Match Report

One of the reasons for the lack of blogging from me lately has been the fact that I am in the process of moving down to the big smoke on a permanent basis....I know, I know...what the fuck am I thinking, leaving the north...where the sun shines all day, the beer is cheap and the ladies....well, the ladies are just stunning...even if you can't understand a word they say!!

Upon returning home last weekend and fed up of cleaning and moving shite out of my Everton Valley flat, I decided to go up to Anfield to watch us against West Brom. A quick shifty on a forum I frequent sorted my ticket, block 105 in the kop...that’s smack bang in the middle....happy days.

The 15 minute walk up to Anfield listening to terrace talk on radio city, with the legendary Ian St. John providing his tuppence...got me thinking...last year or the year before probably would have seen me nervous about this match. Probably because I would have seen it as a possible banana skin.... Not this time though. We are a different side this year, winning matches after a good or bad performance, rather than playing well but just not getting the right luck as has been the case in the past.

The big fat lady has shone on us with come from behind wins against the Man City and Wigan and a fortunate penalty against Athletico (ignoring the other two cast iron pens that were ignored by the ref though)....but this is what separates the best from the rest...its being able to get result after good and bad performances AND getting the luck as well.

So...getting back to the match.... Kick off came and went and too be honest we bossed it from start to finish. With the exception of Ismail Miller who had the better of Agger for much of the game, West Brom looked a poor side, devoid of any creativity....unlike their fans who provided Rafa Benitez with a difficult conundrum after about 60 minutes when they began chanting his name.... Rafa duly acknowledged the men from the midlands and continued to bark instructions from the touch line.

Liverpool won the game 3-0 with Robbie Keane netting his first two league goals in his red shirt. Thank fuck I said to myself when his first went in....only ten minutes before kick off I'd been on the phone to a match going red about his poor form in front of goal...."just fuck him off" was my mate’s quote, 20million pounds and he still can't score... I was also losing patience with Keane. It was a lesson for me though....a reminder to keep supporting the lads through thick and thin... Both goals were crackers and the second from a tight angle after rounding Scott Carson was Keane telling the crowd that he's back, and he means business.

Strikers are funny people...a bit like a bird who’s PMS’ing, always in need of reassurance that you love and support them....a bit mental (particular reference to Craig Bellamy threatening to take Jon Arne Riise's knee's away from him to site one example) and ridiculously fragile!!

Arbeloa finished off the match with a stunning strike into the top corner down at the kop end. Happy days.

A mad dash back to mine...to get out of my soaked clothes and into town for dinner with the missus and a few mates....this is what I’ll miss not living in Liverpool. Liverpool wouldn't be Liverpool without LFC....and I’ll have to get back home ad much as a I can to get my fix once I’m in London permanently.

Thoughts from 36,000 feet....

It’s been a while since I last blogged, a change of job, a new nephew, a hectic work schedule are amongst just a few of the things that have kept me away from the keyboard. However, cruising at 36,000ft en route to Valencia with a few mates, I decided to get some thoughts down on my laptop...

Since my last post a lot has happened in the footballing world too. The most concerning (and disappointing I think) has been the plight of the Addicks, who are at risk of establishing themselves firmly in the drop zone as we approach the busy Christmas period.

Things have gone from bad to worse in terms of results, but the big question is have the performances got any worse? The answer, from my perspective is no.

The gap between top and bottom in the Championship isn't huge and from where I see it, Charlton's last few results have been poor, but much of that has come down to lapses in concentration in the final quarter of the match. I'm the first to say that throwing away a two goal lead is unforgivable, but it doesn't take much to turn it around, the important thing is that the players believe and have the belief that THEY can do it, and that they have the support of the people. I'm not saying this with my rose tinted glasses on either, I know changes need to be made.

Starting with the manager, I really do think he needs to assess his position at the club and also his performance as manager. I have, on a number of occasions questioned his player purchases and I think he's made some major errors on that front. In addition to this, his player selection policy is nothing short of random. If Pardew wants to hold his head up high, he needs to admit fault for not managing the team how it needs to be managed. As a manager, he needs to motivate the players to believe they are the best....take David Moyes as an example...in the 2005 season he managed to lead a very mediocre Everton team to 4th in the top flight of English football...and I really do believe it came down to his motivation of the players.....

Pushed to provide an answer as to whether I think Pards should go....I respond with the question who would you want instead? Dowie? You must be fucking joking. Keegan? No ta' mate, I'd rather eat my own arm than have him at the club. What about Aidy Boothroyd? But is he any better than Pardew? I'm not so sure he is. But then the questions is…. Is it just change we need? Look at what change has done for Spurs? I genuinely think we do need a change, but only if Pard's resigns, because the last thing we need is to be paying off another manager at the minute. Until he does resign, we need to continue to pledge our support to the players and urge them to keep their heads up high.... Fuck it only takes 4 or 5 wins on the trot and the whole season changes.... Take Sunderland last season as an example.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Charlton 1-3 Barnsley

Apologies for the delayed match report but I've needed a bit of time and a few stiff drinks to come to terms with what I (and 20,000 other poor souls) witnessed yesterday afternoon. As I stood in the pouring rain waiting for a train to take me back home, I could not remember a more miserable Charlton experience. When I thought things couldn't get much worse, a fan who I was chatting to told me that Southampton had won and that we were in the bottom three. Great stuff.

Like all the other blogs who have already expressed their thoughts, I don't really see much point in detailed review of the match. In summary: they scored after two minutes, got another two before half time when we couldn't muster a shot on goal, they protected their lead comfortably in the second half and we managed a goal which we hardly deserved and was hardly cheered. We were an utter shambles. Like the Inspector, I was pretty much ready to leave at half time but hung around in the hope of something which never came.

When people around you are literally laughing at the team's performance, you know something has gone badly wrong. Pardew's team selection was again changed although he could have put our the under-11's and they would have at least looked like they cared a bit. With the possible exception of Nicky Weaver (who I feel sorry for), I don't think I could pick out one player who played with any kind of urgency or desire to claw our way back into the game after we had gone a goal down. Barnsley are not a first rate team, but they were organised, committed and made us look stupid.

But wait folks ... according to Pards it's because Linvoy Primus wasn't fit. Once the 35 year old injury prone loanee is fit again, we'll be fine. Won't we? Pardew's book of excuses gets longer and longer. A couple of weeks ago it was because we were missing Zheng Zhi, then Todorov, and now Primus. The fact of the matter is, injuries or no injuries, Pardew has a squad at his disposal which should be capable of mounting a promotion challenge. To send out a team to put in a performance like that and serve up half baked excuses to the fans is frankly unacceptable.

It would be nice to think Pardew has a shred of professional integrity and would walk away from the job but judging my his comments he is not prepared to do that. What is clear is that one way or another we need a change because at the moment we are hurtling towards League One at a frightening rate of knots. This season can be salvaged but Pardew is not the man to do it. Sign me up for the Redvolution.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Barnsley Preview

It's the proverbial six-pointer against Barnsley on Saturday and if Pardew is not feeling the pressure for this one, he should be. It seems that we were lucky to come away with a point from Ipswich after a lacklustre performance from another much changed side. It hardly bodes well when the opposition manager says it looks like we went there to get beaten. Apparently we appeared more likely to score once we had got our goal, it's just a shame there were only eight minutes left by that point.

The opinion on the blogs since the Ipswich game seems to be one of general resignation that Pardew is not the man to take us forward. Unfortunately, without a win in five now, it is becoming increasingly difficult to disagree and if we don't get a result this weekend then the end could very well be nigh. He's running out of time and options and he needs a convincing and spirited display from this team against the Tykes to give him a fighting chance. However, to use his own words, we are currently 'a team in recovery' so whether we will see such a performance is far from certain.

One of the most frustrating aspects of Pardew's managerial reign to date has been his inability to pick a consistent side, so it's no surprise that the official website is reporting that 'he may tinker with his starting XI again for the game' (more). After the radical changes against Burnley, he returned to a more recognised line up against Ipswich. Apparently the new 'formula' that he had been working on wasn't the answer he was hoping for, something most of the crowd at the Burnley game could have told him before a ball was kicked. Perhaps it is to his credit that Pardew was quick to recognise his mistake, but some would say dropping Josh Wright, Grant Basey and Izale McLeod (all starters against Burnley) from the mid-week squad all together merely highlights the fact that he doesn't know what he's doing.

To be completely honest, I think the team he picks for the Barnsley game is largely irrelevant. He says he needs to pick a side which he feels 'will show more offensively than they did at Ipswich', which could be perceived as his way of saying that we can't create a chance for love nor money at the moment. We hardly have a wealth of attacking options, but we do need to have a go on Saturday. Barnsley are unbeaten in three and just notched their first away win of the season at Doncaster on Tuesday so will have their tails up. However, they do have the worst goal tally away from home in the league (that's two) and the worst overall away record (five defeats out of seven). We can't afford to muck this up.

At the back, I would imagine Pardew will stick with Hudson and Cranie at the centre of defence and I would hope with Yassin at right back, although his substitution for Semedo against Ipswich does leave you wondering. I don't know why Basey was dropped on Tuesday, especially when he had a decent enough game against Burnley and delivered the free kick for our equaliser. Kelly Youga didn't exactly make a great impression on his return with the concession of a penalty, so I'd like to see the Welshman restored to the starting XI.

I would only make one change in midfield I think, replacing Darren Ambrose with Hameur Bouazza. Ambrose has frankly done nothing this season to warrant a place on the pitch and, whilst occasionally frustrating, at least Bouazza has a bit of pace about him and creates chances either for himself or team mates (Nicky Bailey's goal against Ipswich being the obvious example). Pardew seems reluctant to play Semedo in central midfield and with Josh Wright seemingly out of the picture again, I can't see past Bailey and Holland for the starting positions (although there is always the option of bringing back Jonjo Shelvey). I would expect to see Lloyd Sam on the right wing.

Up front, Pardew predictably stuck with Varney again Ipswich for another zero return. Don't be surprised to see his name on the team sheet again on Saturday. He desperately needs a break, if only to drop to the subs bench, but one suspects he would make the starting XI even if he urinated in Pardew's kit bag. Continued resistance to play Chris Dickson from the first whistle and Izale McLeod's disappearance from Tuesday's squad means that it's likely to be one of Todorov and Gray to partner little Luke. With Gray not even on the bench for the last two games and Todorov saving Pardew's bacon last weekend, I expect the Bulgarian to start in spite of a mediocre mid-week performance. Of course, Stuart Fleetwood is back from his loan at Cheltenham Town but surely throwing him at the deep end would represent too much of a gamble, even for Pardew?

Inevitably this won't be correct, but I predict that the following team will be doing battle for us on Saturday: Weaver; Moutaouakil, Hudson, Cranie, Basey; Sam, Bailey, Holland, Bouazza; Todorov, Varney. Subs: Elliot, Primus, Semedo, Ambrose, Dickson.

The negative way to approach this game would be to highlight the fact that we haven't won in five, the positive way would be to remind ourselves that we haven't lost in two and have come from behind on both occasions to secure a point. We really need to score first against Barnsley to get the crowd on side and give the players a bit of belief. In his interview Pardew at least acknowledged the following: "In the past when we've got the first goal we've been restricted so we're trying to get into a mode where we get the first goal, then go on and get a second and then a third". I just hope that this isn't more meaningless rhetoric and he can actually deliver, or else he will be left without any more straws to clutch at.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Ipswich Town Preview

The games are coming thick and fast at the moment, with a mid-week trip to Ipswich for the Addicks this evening. Kelvin and I made the relatively short trip to Portman Road last season for a game which was best forgotten (I always seem to be saying this!) as our play-off hopes took another dent, so I hope for better on this occasion. It was of course only three weeks ago that the Tractor Boys were at The Valley, a game for which I was absent although the reports were hardly glowing in spite of a 2-1 win. Saturday's encounter with Burnley will certainly have given Pards something to think about in his team selection and it's fair to say we won't see the same starting XI (well, let's hope not anyway).

With the exception of Nicky Weaver, Pardew seems to have played every player in every position in which they are comfortable so far this season and you would hope he knows his best team by now. I'm pretty sure he doesn't but Saturday should have given him some clues and I hope this is reflected in tomorrow's side.

Starting at the back, hopefully the penny has dropped that Martin Cranie is not a full back (left or right). He looked completely out of position on the left on Saturday and the decision was even more baffling given that Grant Basey and Kelly Youga were both available. However, he did put in a relatively assured performance at centre back in the second half in place of the tiring Linvoy Primus. On this basis, I would start him alongside Mark Hudson in central defence with Grant Basey moving to left back. I'm not sure what Pardew's thoughts are on Kelly Youga at the moment but I don't get the impression he'll be bringing him back for this game. At right back, Yassin put in a decent performance against the Clarets so it's difficult to see him being displaced.

Once again, we are left guessing what formation Pardew is going to play so there could be an extra midfield place up for grabs. Lloyd Sam has made an impact in the past two games when he has come off the bench and is deserving of a starting place in my opinion. Curiously the official website ( more) speculates that he could play on the 'left flank' which is confusing and would be a waste. He seems to link up particularly well with Moutaouakil on the right, not to mention the fact that he is right footed of course, so to play him on the other side of the pitch does not make sense. I would want to see Bouazza return to the left flank but the same official match preview doesn't even mention him so he may not be in Pardew's thoughts (or am I reading too much into this?). I expect we will see Ambrose on one side of the pitch or the other against his former club, although I don't think he deserves this on the back of his last couple of performances.

In the centre of the park, Nicky Bailey had a poor game and looked like he was missing an experienced partner in the middle. Whilst I thought Josh Wright's second half performance against Burnley was encouraging, I'm not sure it merits a starting role tonight and I would imagine that Matt Holland will return. I would actually like to see Semedo given a chance alongside Bailey although I doubt Pardew shares my view on this one. He also has Jonjo Shelvey at his disposal after he returned from England Under-17 duty, although I would not expect him to make an appearance here.

So what's going to happen up front? Todorov deserves a start after digging us out of trouble on Saturday, and although he may tire I think he will be given that chance. I don't think he is the kind of striker you can play up front by himself, and for that reason I think Pards will give him a partner to run around with. I would not expect that to be Izale McLeod given his performance at the weekend and he may be lucky to get a place on the bench. No mention of Chris Dickson in the official preview and I'm struggling to think what he's done wrong. He's been given a few minutes here and there at the end of a handful games during which he has at least shown a little bit of urgency. I appreciate he's not the finished article, but did McLeod really deserve a chance ahead of him on Saturday?

In all likelihood Pardew will probably turn to one of his two experienced strikers: Luke Varney and Andy Gray. The mental pressure must be mounting on Varney and I honestly think he needs to be rested for this game (watch him start and score a hat-trick). Furthermore, as New York Addick points out, Pardew risks losing further credibility by persisting with a player who is simply not doing what he is put on the field to do. There is every chance that he will make space for him out wide which to some extent would remove the responsibility from little Luke of being on the pitch to primarily score goals, but that would be burying his head in the sand. Having said all this, Andy Gray and Svetoslav Todorov do not strike me as a natural partnership so Varney will probably get a start.

So all things considered, here is how I see then lining up: Weaver; Moutaouakil, Hudson, Cranie, Basey; Sam, Bailey, Holland, Ambrose; Todorov, Varney. Subs: Eliot, Primus, Wright, Bouazza, Gray.

Ipswich are probably favourites for this one having been unbeaten since we took all three points from them at The Valley, and you certainly wouldn't bet against Kevin Lisbie scoring after he found the net against Plymouth at the weekend. I hope (and it is hope, not expectation) that we can come away with at least a point and build a bit of confidence ahead of Saturday's fixture against Barnsley, but we need Pardew to pick a team which will give us a fighting chance of doing that.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Charlton 1-1 Burnley

A point won or two lost? On reflection, a draw was probably a fair result but I'm pretty sure Luke Varney won't have been sleeping too easily since Saturday. It was the typical game of two halves: in the first half we didn't look like we knew what we were doing, second half we actually resembled a football team.

Pardew's choice of starting XI was radical, baffling and unsuccessful. Andy Gray wasn't even a substitue and neither were Kelly Youga or Jose Semedo, with Izale McLeod, Josh Wright and Grant Basey along with the returning Mark Hudson making the starting line up. Holland and Bouazza had to make do with a place on the bench. The most worrying aspect of the line up was seeing Martin Cranie start at left back. It seems Pardew will fit him into the team wherever a space becomes available so don't be surprised to see him start up front against Ipswich on Tuesday.

Anyway, whatever Alan had in mind with his new look team didn't work . We looked completely disjointed and I don't recall us having a shot on goal in the first half. It could have been worse as well had it not been for the referee ruling out Martin Paterson's strike which he initially appeared to have let stand. As it was, we fell behind shortly afterwards when Steven Thompson lashed home what looked to be a fairly avoidable goal. Not much else noteworthy happened in a first half which I imagine the players and crowd will want to forget.

Nothing was happening for us. Josh Wright looked out of his depth, Nicky Bailey was having a poor game, Cranie looked out of place at left back, Ambrose was having his usual frustrating game, and please do not get me started on Izale McLeod. I have no idea why he was started ahead of Chris Dickson (who did not even get a place on the bench and must be wondering what he has done wrong), and it's fair to say he hardly cemented his place in the side. He contributed absolutely nothing and it was to everybody's relief that he was withdrawn at half time.

Pardew threw on Lloyd Sam and Svetoslav Todorov at the interval and we started to look like we kind of knew what we were doing. Josh Wright looked more assured, Sam added a bit more thrust and Todorov showed how a striker should position himself and he was on hand to nod in Grant Basey's free kick with 15 minutes remaining. It looked so easy but we've made heavy weather of easy chances all season, a point rammed home when Luke Varney somehow managed to miss having rounded the Brian Jensen in the Burnley goal. To be fair, he had been forced wide but this is a striker we paid two million quid for so you do expect better. When the full time whistle went, the team were actually applauded off the field by a crowd who I thought were excellent throughout.

Pardew's starting XI was worryingly bad and really did strike me as a panic selection. If the first half performance had carried over to the second then I honestly think he would no longer be the manager of Charlton Athletic. To give him his dues though, he recognised that he had made a mistake and the substitutions he made at half time paid off. What will be interesting is to see whether he's actually learnt from this and makes a decent team selection at Ipswich tomorrow evening. Barnsley at home next Saturday is probably the more important game, but if we can get something from the trip to Portman Road then so much the better. If we play like we did in the second half, there is a chance that we might.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Burnley Preview

To say it's been a rollercoaster week as a Charlton fan would be somewhat of an understatement. I can't remember the last time there has been so much thought and comment on the blogs, and a lot of my week has been spent reading and digesting it all. Opinions of events both on and off the field have been varied and it's pretty clear that emotions are running high amongst the Addickted right now (and with good reason).

The withdrawal of Zabeel Investments from negotiations yesterday was a blow, but after close to a two week gap after their initial 'indicative offer', perhaps not all that surprising. Like many, I'm not entirely convinced that their reasons for withdrawal completely stack up. There was a genuine eagerness amongst most for this deal to go through, and I include myself in that number. But now the deal is dead, I have started to ask myself whether there would have been such an appetite for it had the situation on the pitch not been so bad.

I think the reason many were so keen for this deal is that it presented itself as a kind of escape route from our current plight, buying ourselves out of trouble if you like. Manager not getting the results? Sack him and to hell with the financial consequences. Strikers not scoring? Buy a couple of new ones in January. As frustrated as I am about our manager not getting us results and our strikers not scoring us goals, it would be far more rewarding to come up with a more constructive and measured approach to the problem than simply throwing cash at it. I am conscious that this could be perceived as showing a lack of ambition and willingness to move forwards, but maybe I'm just stuck in the Charlton way of things.

Regardless of opinions on the takeover (or lack of), it's crucial that the club moves on quickly. Lest we forget, it's still about eleven men on a field on a Saturday afternoon trying to win a football match. This is something which we've not being too well at of late if it had escaped your attention. I wrote Tuesday's match report without having heard Pardew's press comments. Unfortunately I found them to be as predictable as I did disappointing. He commented that we 'lost our way' in the second half and also trotted out the usual line about bringing in 'fresh faces' for the next game (although worryingly he did say that this could be from 'outside the squad', which I hope doesn't mean he's thinking about starting one of the tea ladies up front or something).

To say we lost our way in the second half is to state the obvious and anybody at the ground on Tuesday could have told you that. The question is WHY we did, something which he failed to address. Fresh faces are all well and good, but are Josh Wright (promising youngster with no first team experience) and Izale McLeod (long term injury victim who hardly proved himself when fit) really going to be the solution? They are no better than the players who started in their positions on Tuesday. Pardew seems to be missing point. It's all about how to get the most out of the team you have on the field for ninety minutes, which he simply is not doing right now.

So what to expect tomorrow? Today's latest from Pards creates more questions than it does answers to be honest (more) and a detailed breakdown of this interview would take more time than I have at my disposal right now unfortunately. He does assure us however that he is going to change the team a bit, as well as the 'formula' of the way we play. What this means I have no idea but it sounds like a man on his last roll of the dice and I hope it pays off because we badly need a win.

For tomorrow, the return of Mark Hudson to central defence after his suspension is a given I would imagine. I thought Moutaouakil had a decent enough game at right back on Tuesday so would like him to retain his place, and I would also like to see Sam return on the wing to compliment the Frenchman. Matt Holland could do with a rest so I would put Jose Semedo in a defensive midfield role to allow Nicky Bailey to push forward. With Varney being given Pardew's backing despite missing a couple of decent opportunities against Bristol City, I expect Gray will be sacrificed with Todorov taking his place.

I have more chance of my lottery numbers coming up than predicting accurately the team which will take the field tomorrow, but here's my guess: Weaver; Moutaouakil, Hudson, Primus, Youga; Sam, Semedo, Bailey, Bouazza; Todorov, Varney. Subs: Elliot, Cranie, Holland, Gray, Dickson.

It's pretty clear that the team needs some support from the fans, and it's been throughly encouraging to read the comments on the blogs of those who are intent on providing it. We have a part to play in getting us out of the situation we're in and I will be there tomorrow to try and do my bit along with a few thousand others. If the players show as much of an eagerness and desire to fight back as the supporters, we might still be alright.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

It never rains but it pours

The official club website has just ruined my day with the news that the Zabeel Investments takeover deal is not going to be happening (more). It has decided to focus on 'domestic opportunities in Dubai that complement the current Zabeel Investments portfolio'. Combined with 'the current debate around foreign ownership of football clubs and the worsening economic climate in the UK', that's good enough reason for them to do one apparently.

The due diligence process must have meant the Zabeel people weren't really watching the football, as the parting shot of the statement was to wish the team 'every success in its quest for promotion this season and moving forward'. Thanks a lot. This news could hardly have come at a worse time and the much hoped for lift ahead of the Burnley fixture has evapourated. So it's a case of as you were ... 20th in the Championship and no money to spend. Any kind of good news would be very welcome right now!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Charlton 0-2 Bristol City

Suffice to say, that was not the evening I was hoping for. It hadn't started well for me as I had to bunk off work early to get to the game, much to the annoyance of my boss and then had a pretty horrible journey to the ground. Things were looking up when I got to the Valley though when I heard that Yassin Moutaouakil had made the starting line up, and was then served a pint by a very cheerful and happy barmaid (which you don't find too often at the ground).

Everything seemed to be alright on the pitch as well to start with. Pardew had gone for what seemed to be a 4-5-1, with Ambrose playing behind Gray, Varney on the left and Bouazza switching to the right. For the opening twenty or so minutes we were all over them, and I think the clock was at 38 seconds when Varney found himself with only Adriano Basso to beat yet somehow failing. After that Kelly Youga went close with a decent shot from range, Ambrose and Bouazza were both denied good efforts and Andy Gray hit the post. And then it started to go wrong …

If I am honest, I got distracted in the build up to their first goal for a reason I can't remember (perhaps trying to figure out if we had ever turned out two loanees as a central defensive pair, or whether this was the first occasion we had two dreadlocked players in the starting XI … questions for another time) but when I had refocused I saw Lee Trundle bearing down on goal. He found the net when we we couldn't in seven previous attempts. You could almost see the confidence drain out of the men in red instantly, as well as the crowd. I doubt very much the boos at half time helped very much to be honest and personally thought they were entirely unnecessary. That said, I felt the frustration as much as the next man.

By the time their second goal arrived in the 52nd minute, we could easily have been a couple more down had it not been for Nicky Weaver. When it did arrive, Gavin Williams was given far too much time and space (sound familiar?) to curl in his shot and there was frankly little that Weaver could have done about it. Lloyd Sam and Chris Dickson were thrown on and at least showed a bit of urgency, with Todorov coming on slightly later to much less effect. Varney headed wide a decent opportunity late on and that pretty much summed up the evening. There was probably half the crowd left at the end to hear the team booed off the pitch.

It's so frustrating to watch us play the way we did for the first twenty minutes and then self destruct so easily. Players were literally transformed. Youga started brightly but then went into careless idiot form, Bouazza went from attacking threat to a bit part contributor … I could go on. Our manner of play in the second half compared to Bristol City's was like night and day. Their players were moving for the ball, looking for the pass, trying to make something happen. Charlton looked static, uninspired and showed little signs of positive movement.

To make matters worse, Norwich and Barnsley both won which moves us down a place and now just two points off the bottom three. I am afraid the evidence suggests we have got worse since last season. Back then we accumulated thirteen points from games against Sheffield Wednesday and Bristol City at home, and Crystal Palace, Preston North End and Cardiff City away. This season … nothing. I haven't begun to address Pardew's part in another deeply disappointing display but I'll wait until I'm a bit less tired and have had heard his press conference comments. Suffice to say, in a world where the phrase 'must win game' is rather overused, Saturday's home tie against Burnley really is a must win game.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Bristol City Preview

Tomorrow night will be the first mid-week league fixture at the Valley this season with a visit from Bristol City. The same fixture last season was also a mid-week encounter resulting in 1-1 draw. Bristol City were league leaders at the time and it wasn't difficult to see why. Their compact and tidy brand of football demonstrated why they were mounting a promotion bid whilst we were stuttering, even is they did ultimately fall just short. They have not started out so strongly this term but sit just one point outside of the play-off places after a 1-0 victory over Norwich at the weekend.

We desperately need a win tomorrow, both to lift morale and improve on our desperate 19th place league position. With Hudson and Semedo both banned for this one after events at Cardiff, Pardew will be forced into a couple of changes, although it's not like he needs an excuse these days.

The only positive that you could possibly take from the two suspensions is that we might, and this is a massive might, see the long overdue return of Yassin Moutaouakil to the right back slot with Cranie moving inside to centre half. Yassin has been out of the side since the Preston game now for no discernible reason that I can make out. His replacement has hardly impressed having been hauled half way through the last two matches, and with not even a place on the subs bench for poor Yass I do wonder if something's going on here. We will probably find out tomorrow because as the official club website suggests (more), another alternative would be for Youga to move into the centre and Basey to move to left back. This would mean that a) we have a left back playing centre half, b) Martin Cranie will still be playing right back and c) I'll be very unhappy. Throw us a bone with this one please Pards.

I can't imagine any changes to the midfield, although there might be a place for Josh Wright on the bench given how short we are after suspensions, injuries and Jonjo Shelvey disappearing to play for England Under-17's (not great timing that). I don't know whether Svetoslav Todorov didn't make it off the bench on Saturday because we lost half our defence, or because he was being rested for this one, but either way I think we will see him start up front with Luke Varney. Andy Gray will probably have to settle for a place on the bench with Chris Dickson banging his head against a wall somewhere presumably.

I hesitate to predict a team, but I always do so here is what I am going for: Weaver; Moutaouakil, Cranie, Primus, Youga; Ambrose, Bailey, Holland, Bouazza; Todorov, Varney. Subs: Elliot, Basey, Sam, Gray, Wright.

If I'm being totally honest, I don't see us getting anything more than a point of this game and our rehashed defensive line has got to be on form to contain Trundle and co. We need to play the Robins at their own game - keep the ball, keep it on the deck and show a bit of determination and character. I really want to come out of The Valley smiling tomorrow evening so please, please can we have a win?!

Fed to the Bluebirds

"The lack of comment on blogs at the weekend was quite staggering and indicative of how feelings are running."

Oh dear. Different team selection, same result. I think the above comment from Pembury Addick neatly summarises the mood amongst Charlton fans right now. If the Zabeel offer doesn't come off then it's going to be a long hard winter without much to look forward to if things continue as they are.

By all accounts Charlton started brightly at Ninian Park but were stopped in their tracks by Ross McCormack's 18th minute goal. It was again slightly bizarre of Pardew to start with Martin Cranie at right back only to withdraw him at half time for Jose Semedo. Of course, this didn't work out very well on this occasion. The game was lost by the time Mark Hudson got his marching orders but the resulting ban is the more worrying aspect of this and his presence will be missed in the centre of defence. We now have two home games in a row and I would suggest that anything less than four points out of six against Burnley and Bristol City should be considered a failure.

On a brighter note, Kelvin and I had a great evening last night indugling ourselves in some American football watching. The NFL is throwing up some big surprises this season and it's been interesting viewing. The Tony Romo-less Dallas Cowboys lost their second game on the spin with a shock defeat to the St. Louis Rams, Buffalo and Tennessee both continued their impressive starts to the season, whilst the hapless Cincinnati Bengals went 0-7 with a loss at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Cardiff City Preview

With all the news and views this week surrounding the potential takeover at The Valley, it would be pretty easy to forget that there is a game to be played this weekend. The Addicks make their way across the Anglo-Welsh border to take on Cardiff in a match would could see us overtake our hosts in the table to get somewhere close to the play-off places, or conversely edge closer towards the relegation trap door. Our opponents are not to be taken lightly having made a solid start to the season, losing just once. A mid-week victory at Ninian Park in early December last season was an encouraging victory, even if things unravelled shortly afterwards, and we will do well to get a similar result tomorrow.

Having missed the last couple of games, I feel slightly out of touch with proceedings but have read enough reports to understand that things have not drastically improved following the Sheffield Wednesday game. One thing I have stressed from the start of the season, and which I thought Pardew was doing quite well at at the start of season, is the need to keep a settled starting XI. It seems however that AP has got back into the habit of tinkering with the side in an attempt to chance upon a winning formula. It strikes me that he really does not know what is best team is and this, more than anything, is my biggest concern.

Another worry is his recent habit of switching to 4-5-1 for away fixtures. If it was an effective alternative then I could perhaps understand, but it doesn't exactly seemed to worked wonders. It is pretty obvious to everybody watching that Luke Varney is not a lone striker and never will be. So the formation essentially dictates that we soak up pressure, try and hold out for a draw and sneak a goal if we're lucky. This is hardly the style of football of a team confident of gaining promotion.

Anyway, we are where we are and Mr. Pardew has some interesting decisions to make ahead of the trip to Cardiff. Whilst the loud cries on the Charlton blogs for the return of Yassin Moutaouakil to the right back spot continue to go unheard, there is the distinct possibility that Jose Semedo will claim the position following Martin Cranie's dismal showing against Ipswich. I can't imagine the remaining three at the back changing, although I wouldn't be surprised to see Cranie partner Hudson at centre half in place of Linvoy Primus. Youga continues to do just enough to deny Grant Basey a starting berth at left back.

The midfield line up has become a bit confused of late, although things have been simplified somewhat by the news that Zheng Zhi will be out for the next two to three months following foot surgery (more). I've expressed my disappointment at ZZ's absence enough times and I do now wonder whether we will seem him in the red of Charlton again. There must be wide spread relief amongst the Addickted that Nicky Bailey has recovered in time to start in the centre of midfield, presumably alongside Matt Holland. If Pardew does decide to go for 4-5-1, then there could be room for Darren Ambrose in the middle of the park too, with Sam and Bouazza on the wing. Sam is the player likely to make way if he decides to go for 4-4-2, with Ambrose moving to the right.

Up front, I'd be pretty frustrated if I was Andy Gray. You're the club's top scorer of the campaign, finding some form and score the only goal in a hard fought away win at Doncaster. You then get dropped for the next game at Forest, and then make way for Darren Ambrose against Palace and for a striker only just returning to fitness against Ipswich. All the while Luke Varney is not exactly firing them in left, right and centre. I doubt he'll get a start tomorrow but I wish he would. I imagine Varney will be up front by himself in a 4-5-1 or partnering Svetoslav Todorov in a 4-4-2.

The team Pardew puts out probably depends on what he has for breakfast, but I'm predicting the following: Weaver; Semedo, Hudson, Primus, Youga; Sam, Ambrose, Bailey, Holland, Bouazza; Varney. Subs: Elliot, Cranie, Basey, Todorov, Gray.

I can't imagine this being a very pretty game and any points we take away we will have to work hard for. Pardew needs to get his team selection correct, but the players also need to prove that they have the stomach for a fight. With potential new owners looking on, everybody should be aware of the need to make a good impression. I hope they do just that.