Thursday, 15 October 2009

Huddersfield Town Preview

A week is a long time in football so they say, although this one seems to have whizzed by with another home match just around the corner. I had these two successive home games pencilled in for six points following a difficult run of games, but Oldham had other ideas last week. Will Huddersfield add further to the malaise?

Lee Clark has received a lot of plaudits for the way he has got his side playing, but their away form leaves a lot to be desired. One win in six games tells its own story. Their tails will up though, having beaten Exeter City 4-0 last weekend, with Jordan Rhodes claiming a hat-trick. Although with that said, Oldham were also on a decent run of form when they came to The Valley, yet they still defended within an inch of their lives for a point.

Evidence would seem to suggest that we are in a for a similar game against the team who changed places with the Latics in the league table last weekend. It was interesting to read in Nelson’s match preview that Huddersfield went to Colchester with five in defence in search of a point which they almost got. This hardly seems the ambitious approach of a team seeking promotion, but then again perhaps the percentages game Lee Clark is playing will ultimately play dividends.

So what to expect from Phil Parkinson? Following last weekend’s performance the temptation is there to make some fairly significant changes (something his predecessor would have been panicked into doing perhaps), although I expect Parky to resist the urge to do so at this point. There are some alterations he may like to consider however and I expect to see a different team to that which took the field last weekend.

At the back, I would imagine Miguel Angel Llera will probably make way for the returning Sam Sodje. Whilst Angel’s attacking qualities are superior to those of Sodje, his defending qualities are not, and for all the talk of Huddersfield coming to defend, they are also the league’s second highest scorers and know how to find the back of the net. Llera had a solid, if not spectacular, game against Oldham so may feel aggrieved to lose his place, but I still feel a bit nervous when the ball gets thrust in his direction so would be surprised if he was included at Sodje’s expense.

In midfield, Jose Semedo should be ready to return to action and, providing he is fit, I expect him to replace Matt Spring. Whilst Spring has been an adequate deputy, Semedo looks more assured at protecting the back four and controlling the tempo of the game. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that our form has dipped somewhat during his absence and I expect Therry Racon will also be happy to have him back in midfield to work alongside. It’s hard luck on Spring but his chance should come again.

So what about up front? This would be the most obvious area of change given our lack of recent goals, but be that as it may, I can’t see Parkinson making any alteration to the combination of Deon Burton and Jonjo Shelvey. They both had pretty poor games last weekend, although Oldham made it hard for them to get into it. The options for change are a) drop Shelvey and replace him with a more orthodox striker or b) drop Burton and give McKenzie a go as the lone striker.

The problem with option a), as I mentioned earlier in the week, is that I don’t think we have an adequate strike partner for Burton. Perhaps it’s being harsh, but on Saturday’s evidence Izale McLeod isn’t up to it whilst Chris Dickson and Stuart Fleetwood are off elsewhere for now. Speculation regarding the arrival of Tresor Kandol is welcome. As for option b), I don’t think McKenzie is fit enough yet for anything more than a substitute’s appearance, whilst Burton doesn’t deserve to get dropped.

Even if he doesn’t change the starting personnel, I hope Parkinson can use the bench to better effect. If the game scenario is similar to that of last week, I would imagine he will change things around a bit earlier to try and up the tempo as we saw against Oldham. McKenzie should make another appearance based on last weekend’s evidence, whilst Tamer Tuna might feel like he deserves to stretch his legs after a decent outing against Barnet in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

Finally, as Parkinson alluded to in his interview on the official website today, it’s not a great idea to start with semi-fit players, even if they would normally be in your first XI. Lloyd Sam and Frazer Richardson looked off the pace last weekend, and in hindsight Parkinson probably would have given them another week to recover. Hopefully they will be good to go on Saturday. So here is what I am expecting:

Elliot; Richardson, Dailly, Sodje, Youga; Sam, Semedo, Racon, Shelvey, Bailey; Burton.

Substitutes: Randolph, Llera Basey, Wagstaff, McKenzie, Tuna, McLeod.

Anyway, I hope we can take the game to the opposition from the off, regardless of how Huddersfield set themselves up to play. Parkinson is being rightly tight-lipped about the team he is going to put out and the way they are going to play, but hopefully ‘the good week of training’ he mentioned will help to yield all three points. You just know it will be another tense afternoon at The Valley though. See you there.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

In need of a Plan B

Judging by the blogs since Saturday’s game with Oldham, I wasn’t the only one who was left a little bit frustrated. I don’t think I recall a game when there was so much anxiety and tension in the crowd, everybody’s mental well being seemed to be hanging on us scoring a goal. It didn’t come and mild panic now appears to have set in, amongst the fans at least.

Oldham came to play for a point and a point is what they got. They strained the life out the game by putting eleven men behind the ball (I don’t recall Elliot being forced into one save in the second half) and a bit of unsporting time wasting. The thing is, who can blame them? As it stands, we are a top two side and most teams in this division will be happy to come away with a point from The Valley.

So on the basis that Oldham won’t be the last side to play 8-1-1 against us, it’s pretty clear we need to come up with an approach to combat this. Many will be clamouring for Parkinson to start with a more orthodox 4-4-2 formation, given the extra chances it seemed to open up once Izale McLeod was introduced on Saturday. It’s just a shame he had forgotten where the back of the net was.

And therein lies the problem. Which two would you pair up front, and would you drop Shelvey as a result? As if we needed reminding, Saturday clearly highlighted Izale McLeod’s limitations as a striker. Missing half chances is one thing, missing open goals is quite another. On the basis that Parkinson would only play one of Deon Burton or Leon McKenzie, our best option for a strike partner would appear to be on loan to Bristol Rovers, a team who could go level on points with us should they win their game in hand.

I do think there were other factors at play during the Oldham game as well. Richardson and Sam were both obviously not completely fit (I did have to do a double take when I saw them both walk out of the tunnel after the injury news gloom during the week) and, as decent a player as Matt Spring is, we are still obviously missing Jose Semedo and the rapport he has struck up with Therry Racon.

So plenty for Phil Parkinson to ponder ahead of what is likely to be a tough game on Saturday against Huddersfield Town, a team many fancy to cause an upset. Parky praised the performance of the team against Oldham and has publicly insisted that there is no cause for panic. However, he must wondering how he can get the team scoring again and how we can get all three points on Saturday.

On a different note altogether, it would appear that Charlton old boy Souleymane Diawara has come over all repentant for the tackle that would have appeared to crocked the world’s most expensive footballer for a month. Surely he didn’t pick up any bad habits whilst he was in SE7, did he?

Friday, 9 October 2009

Oldham Athletic Preview

After the successful interlude of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, we are now back to the serious business of picking up points in the league. Whilst one point from two tricky fixtures has seen the chasing pack gain a bit of ground on us, it has not been disastrous, being as we are just three points behind Leeds at the top. In fact with the leaders not in action this weekend, there is every chance we can reclaim the top spot for ourselves should we win in style tomorrow.

However, we will undoubtedly have to work for all three points against an Oldham side whose had won three on the trot before Yeovil held them to a 0-0 draw last weekend. Manager Dave Penney has praised their ‘resolve’ and his team lie eight points behind us in 8th position. They will be looking for at least a point out of the trip to The Valley and it wouldn’t be surprising if they set out their stall to do just that.

After what seemed like an eternity with the same starting XI, injury (Semedo) and loss of form (Llera) has forced Parkinson’s hand in recent weeks with Matt Spring and Sam Sodje being the beneficiaries. It looks like there could be further shuffling for Parky this weekend, with our right side looking to be in need of an overhaul. Both Lloyd Sam, who came at half time against Leeds, and Frazer Richardson, who was rested against Barnet, are both rated doubtful. Sam and Richardson have been two of our most consistent performers so to lose one or both will be a blow.

So how to fill the void? The right wing issue is the more simple to resolve, with Scott Wagstaff ready to come in. I watched the highlights of the game against Barnet and I must say his goal was a cracker. The right back issue is somewhat more tricky. Is Chris Solly ready for his first league start? I must admit I haven’t seen enough of him to be sure. Parkinson obviously rates him (Moutaouakil was loaned out to Motherwell on the premise that he was hindering Solly’s development) but something tells me it may be just a bit too soon for him.

In which case Kelly Youga would move to the right, with Grant Basey slotting in at left back. In my opinion Basey has been unlucky not to get more of a run in the starting XI than he has done in the past few seasons. I don’t really recall him every having done anything calamitous on the field, and there have been a number of occasions when I thought he would get a start after some frustrating performances from Youga. Hopefully he will get an opportunity tomorrow.

The only problem with this of course, is that Youga may be required to cover the centre back position with Sam Sodje off on international duty and Llera short on form and confidence (although he is apparently fully fit). The Spaniard has had somewhat of a mixed start to his Charlton career. He has scored a couple of goals but has also looked shaky at times in defence, something which was painfully exposed against Colchester. He could have done with a mid-week run out against Barnet but it didn’t happen.

Parky has suggested he will start and I can’t imagine he won’t make the starting XI. It really would be quite telling if Llera, as one of only three specialist centre backs we have and one of two who are available, is rested in favour of a specialist left back. So, providing there are no other tactical changes further up the field (I don’t think Parkinson will start with an orthodox 4-4-2), I imagine they will line up as follows on the assumption that Richardson, Semedo and Sam are all unfit to play:

Elliot; Youga, Dailly, Llera, Basey; Wagstaff, Spring, Racon, Bailey; Shelvey; Burton.

Subs: Randolph, Solly, Mambo, Stavrinou, Tuna, McLeod, McKenzie.

I’m looking forward to getting back to The Valley having missed the last two games (against Exeter City and Barnet) due to other commitments. I am, however, a bit nervous about the game given the expectation there is to take all three points. I’m not expecting an easy encounter but hopefully the memories of Colchester are close to being erased and we can close the gap on Leeds again.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Exeter City Preview

It’s a sign of heightened expectations and performances that two drawn games in succession is being considered a ‘dip’ by some. Whilst the games against Southampton and Norwich were both winnable, maintaining our unbeaten record against two teams who finished higher than us last season shouldn’t really be considered too disastrous. I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard people booing the team off against Southampton at half time!

So a chance to make everybody happy again tomorrow when Exeter City come to The Valley. Like many of our opponents this season, I don’t know very much about them other than that we were playing two leagues apart this time last year, and that they have had a solid if not spectacular start to life in League One. Paul Tisdale is considered to be one of the brightest managerial prospects on the circuit and there is little doubt he will put out a well organised and disciplined side.


It is dangerous to start to think that we will just roll sides like this over when they come to SE7 and I’m sure Phil Parkinson will have prepared accordingly, knowing that dropped points may allow Bristol Rovers to sneak into the second automatic promotion spot. This is a game we should be looking to win however, allowing to us to capitalise on any potential slip up by Leeds who face a tough away fixture at the MK Dons.

In terms of personnel, there are reports that Nicky Bailey and Frazer Richardson may not be fit to play, although I am sure we have heard this before a game more than once this season! Hopefully they will take to the field and if so then it doesn’t really make sense to ‘shuffle the pack’. If not, I would expect Matthew Spring and Chris Solly to deputise, and Exeter will probably fancy their chances a bit more.

When you’re unbeaten in eight, criticism seems a bit churlish but I do continue to worry about us defensively. On the opening day of the season we twice let Wycombe back into the game, and against Southampton I thought we were poor. Throwing away three points in injury time against Norwich wasn’t exactly smart either. Hopefully the team will have benefited from the realisation that they are not invincible and have to stay switched on for the full 90 minutes (or 93 minutes in the case of the Norwich City game).

Another worry (I’m sorry, it wouldn’t be a post about Charlton if there wasn’t something to moan about!), is our options up front. Deon Burton has surpassed my wildest expectations this season, but should he get injured, or Parkinson decide to play a more orthodox 4-4-2, then we only have Izale McLeod or a not yet fit Leon McKenzie to turn to. Whilst the jury is still out on McKenzie as we have yet to see him play, I can’t say I have much confidence in McLeod. Did someone mention Chris Dickson?

I guess this nitpicking is owing to the fact that I’m starting to worry about the next two games, away to Colchester and Leeds. These are surely the litmus test of our promotion credentials and we need to make sure we are going into them on firing on all cylinders. Stuart Fleetwood in an interview this week said that there was clear water between the top two (us and Leeds) and the rest of the league. I’m not convinced of that and think there will be 5 or 6 teams in the mix come May.

I can’t make the game tomorrow owing to plans made in advance of the season starting (I really must stop doing that) but I am hoping for a win to boost confidence ahead of the next two trips. Enjoy the match and I look forward to reading the reports.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Southampton Preview

As Benjamin Disraeli famously once said, there are lies, damned lies, and statistics. On the bare face of it, Saturday’s game against Southampton should be a walk over: we’re top and they’re bottom, we’ve got six wins and they’ve got none, and we’re twenty-four points ahead of them in the league. Even if it wasn’t for their ten point deduction, they would still be sitting in the bottom three. So how come I’m more nervous about this game than I have been for any other in quite some time?

Well, simply put, our winning run has to come to an end at some point and there is one man who will be determined to ensure that happens this Saturday. Alan Pardew has a point to prove and you can be pretty sure that his team will be pretty well prepared for this encounter. The last time he was at The Valley, he got booed off the field after we lost 5-2 to Sheffield United. He won’t have forgotten that, but then again neither have we. I’m sure there will be a lot of fans looking forward to giving him a little piece of their mind.

Following Charlton is an absolute joy at the moment and I really don’t want the feeling to stop. OK, we haven’t played the divisions stronger teams as yet, but you can only beat what they put in front of you and we’ve done it with aplomb. Watching us at Prenton Park a couple of weeks back was a great experience. The team played well, the fans were in good voice, there wasn’t a negative word said about the performance from those around me, and at the end the players came over and gave us a lengthy and heart warming round of applause. That alone made the trip worthwhile.

Saturday’s game will see the biggest turn out of the season at The Valley, although according to the official website Southampton will be bringing less with them than expected. Still, I imagine the away end will be lively and add to a fiery atmosphere. Those travelling up from the south coast will be hoping their team can return with something, although predictably Pardew has been pleading for time to gel his recruits into the team he believes will make the play-offs. To be fair to him, it is still early days, but I can’t imagine that his task over the summer was any more difficult than that of Phil Parkinson who had to sort out a demoralised mess of a squad.

Unlike Parkinson, Pardew has also been afforded the luxury of a bit of money to spend following the takeover by Markus Liebherr. Rickie Lambert has arrived from Bristol Rovers for a fee thought to be around £1 million, whilst Papa Waigo N’Diaye has been brought in from Fiorentina, albeit on loan but I can’t imagine his wages are insignificant. He has also swelled his back room staff by appointing Wally Downes (ex-Brentford manager), Dean Wilkins (ex-Brighton manager) and Stuart Murdoch (ex-Wimbledon). I wouldn’t imagine the pay off for that lot would be cheap.

So Southampton are well kitted out for a return to the Championship and are actually undefeated in three, even if they were all draws (including playing for an hour against 10 men against Colchester). This could be a difficult game for Charlton and I can see their front two, Lambert and Waigo, causing us a few problems. Pardew also had the advantage that he knows the majority of our squad and will be looking to exploit our weaknesses and nullify our threats.

In terms of personnel, it’s hard to imagine Parkinson will choose this game to start making changes when he’s won six on the spin with the same team. He may need to apply a bit of thought to who he goes for on the bench however. Will Leon McKenzie get into the match day eighteen for the first time? Regardless, unless there is a late injury, I would be very surprised if the following aren’t on the field in a red shirt at 3pm:

Elliot; Richardson, Dailly, Llera, Youga; Sam, Semedo, Racon, Shelvey, Bailey; Burton

With our following game being against Norwich City, we will be able to see how well we have adapted to the Championship compared to the two other relegated sides. I don’t think we can take maximum points from both and the warm fuzzy feeling of our 100% record may well be punctured. I know which game I would prefer to drop points in though, and it isn’t this Saturday when I am desperately hoping we can walk away with all three.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Tranmere... and Brentford at Home

We've been a little slow getting a match report up after the tranmere match, apologies for that, I've just started a new project with work so have been manic!

It was a great away day....The day started off with that rough feeling... You know the one, you go to the pub for a quiet one to discuss logistics for getting to the away ground and one pint turns into two and so forth...I wake up at 7:30 and text Richard to tell him I'll be on my way once I've tucked into a fry up...

I get to Richard's and there is no answer on his phone.. The bastards gone back to sleep I thought! Sure enough he wakes up 30 mins later and we hit the road!

A quick petrol stop and were on the M1 following a car full of west ham fans headed to Blackburn, after exchanging the usual pleasentries, a few v-signs and birds getting flicked we unfurled our charlton scarf and asked them who they were fighting today... The running or driving dual I should say, was most entertaining in the bank holiday traffic on the M1!

We got to the ground and i must admit I've never been to an away match that was so easy! We parked not even 10 mins from the ground and headed to a delightful establishment called "break time" for our lunch! A bit of banter with a few locals and the cafe staff and we were off.... £5 for two lunches and two drinks.... I love the North!

The CAFC website said that only 300 tickets had been sold for the match but I would hazard a guess that there was probably nearer to 400 people there in the end. Still there were plenty of blue seats in the away end, but there were far more in the home end's Kop. The Charlton fans were in full voice from the kick off with a loud and full rendition of many miles have i travelled, many games have i seen....

The Tranmere fans were very poor.... I heard them singing once during the match and that was when the Charlton end began chanting "Barnes Out, Barnes Out".... You could see the discontent among the fans, trying to gee the team on after each of the addicks goals, but the players heads had dropped after the second and there was to be no come back.

Charlton were very impressive, they bossed the game from the start and with the exception of about 10 mins of football before half time where Tranmere looked as though they could get a goal, Charlton were in complete control.

Lloyd Sam had a cracking game, tormenting Tranmere in the middle of the park and deep inside their half. He cut through their side like a warm knife through butter...

But it wasn't the only performance that stood out. The whole side performed well, the back four looked solid and in control, the midfield were calm and thought through what they were doing without forcing the ball into positions that it didnt need to be. The attack force had a good game as well, tormenting Tranmere's back four and with so many attacking options, Tranmere found it difficult to manage the pressure and conceeded goals.

League One offers players much more time on the ball than in the Championship and certainly the Premiership. I think that the Charlton lads have realised that they can afford to use their heads to ensure the ball is going to the right place and to concentrate on the delivery of the ball rather than just forcing it and rushing the distribution.

We stopped off in Liverpool and watched the Arsenal Man United Match, got some food and got back into the car for the trip home... in all, it was a cracking day, good banter, good weather, good times! Looking forward to our next little away trip which will be coming up very soon!

5 wins from 5 games, a club record and a position atop the League One table.... it's been a good month for Charlton, but they need to continue this momentum and keep up the pressure on the rest of the league, starting with their home fixture today against Brentford live on Sky...

It's a tough call this one, derbys always are tough, but the Valley isnt a fun place to go, it's big and it's loud and for a lot of the League One lads, it'll be one of the biggest grounds they'll have played on....

I envisage a decent crowd at the Valley this early kick off, despite the match being on Sky and with the news that JonJo Shelvy has signed a new contract keeping him with Charlton until 2012, they should be in full voice.

Brentford don't have the best of records against Charlton, but records are there to be broken and Charlton will need remain switched on for the duration of this match to prevent Brentford from snatching points.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

A Travelling Addick - Tranmere Preview

Week 5 of the 2009-10 season see’s Charlton Athletic journey up the M6 to the North West to take on Tranmere Rovers at Prenton Park.

Both sides have had contrasting starts to the season, with the Addicks taking maximum points from their opening 4 fixtures to put them atop the League 1 table. Tranmere on the other hand have won just one of their opening 4 matches under new manager John Barnes to leave them three places from the bottom of the league table.

An important fixture for both sides, history says a draw is the likely result, but with 26 goals being scored in the sides previous 10 encounters, a goal-less draw is probably not what you should be betting on this weekend!

A Red Divided will be travelling up for this one.... I couldn't pass up an opportunity to head back home for the weekend for this match! Richard has fond memories of Liverpool, the last time he was up there was when Charlton, with the inspired Thomas Mhyre in goal held Liverpool to a draw and we had a cracking weekend out in town that weekend!!

This weekend is the world famous "Beatles Festival" which means that town will be booming, so for the small number of Addicks heading up, I hope you are going to stay over night and enjoy the bank holiday party in Liverpool!


Tranmere Rovers vs Charlton Athletic
Saturday August 29th

Prenton Park
Kick Off 3pm

A Tranmere View….
Thanks to “Tranmere Italian”, “Miltipello and “eXtreme” from http://www.thecowsheds.co.uk/ for their help!

Last year saw you come agonisingly close to a play off position and finish in 7th place, your best position since your third place finish in 2004/05, but the start to the 2009/10 season has seen you win just one of your opening 4 matches to leave you 3 places off the foot of the table. Where do you see yourself finishing the season this year and what needs to happen to take that step into the play offs or promotion places?

Tranmere Italian: We have had a difficult start to the season due to effectively a total new starting eleven. We completely lost the spine of our team from last year. This year we have a mix of young loanees and youth academy players together with a few experienced pros. In terms of finishing position, at best mid table for us and little chance of the play offs!!

Miltipello: Being realistic, I think what's in store for us this season is ultimately a season stuck in and around mid-table, probably the bottom half mid-table too. The squad we have is paper thin at the moment and when we lose key players to injury I think it will really show. In order to get the play-offs we need some a 20 goal a season striker to come in, but given our budget it's going to be difficult to do this.

eXtreme: We need to show some spine and make the opposition play our way not theirs, and stop losing the ball. I can see us getting relegated this season. You said "What needs to happen to take that step into the play offs or promotion places?" A new gaffer, simple!


You’ve recently installed John Barnes as manager, a Liverpool and England legend, who’s managerial record isn’t the greatest…. What’s he done over the summer to boost, or drain your confidence for the forthcoming season? Is he the right man to take Tranmere forwards?

Tranmere Italian: I am not a Barnes fan. He wants to play total football in League 1, which is pretty to watch but not effective and we do not have the players to fulfil his style. I think he is going to take us in the wrong direction for League 1. We were awful at Leeds and could and should have lost 7-0!

Miltipello: I think the style and ideas he is trying to adopt to our game are fantastic. Swansea played their way out of this division and certainly would be great to see it work. However, unlike Swansea we haven't the cash to spend to bring in the better players who can play the passing game and that has shown in our performances so far. To end on a good note our kids have had a great chance to shine and Ash Taylor certainly looks a great prospect at centre back.

eXtreme: What's he done to drain you're confidence... well he never did have it, and I can't see him getting my confidence at all. Look what he did at Celtic " Super Cally Go Ballistic As Celtic Are Atrocious" says it all...


Charlton and Tranmere are in similarly precarious positions when it comes to the club owners and where the clubs will be going in the next few years is anyone’s guess. But you boys found yourself in a particularly unusual situation over the summer…. When you found out that Tranmere had been placed on e-bay, did you think it was a wind up? Will a change of ownership help drive Tranmere towards the Championship?

Tranmere Italian: I personally think ebay was done on purpose as the whole world knows Peter Johnson wants to sell!! He wants too much for the club though and we are in the shadow of Liverpool and Everton!

Miltipello: My first thoughts were, "Typical Tranmere". I sometimes consider ourselves the Newcastle of League One in that we'll be doing something ridiculous that'll get us in the press, but never usually for the right reasons. Changing ownership, as long as into the right hands can only be a good thing. That's not to say Peter Johnson hasn't done anything for the club, but some new blood could be the kick start that all clubs at this level desire.

eXtreme: Ebay... haha now that did make me cry not in a sad way, but more of and "I don't believe it, this has got to be a wind up" way! A change of Ownership is a must, Johnson has stated he wants to sell so we need to look to the future and hope we don't get a YANK to buy us!


What do you think League 1 holds for Charlton this season and where do you think the Addicks will finish up?

Tranmere Italian: I’m looking forward to seeing you play on Saturday. I would have thought you are a definite for play offs at least!

Miltipello: Personally I see Charlton finishing in the top 2. They've started brightly and the Valley is a difficult place to go and grab any points. I think Leeds will win the title this time around, but Charlton will certainly be there or there abouts!

eXtreme: Play offs at least! Charlton are a decent side, they've got the fans and the support of there board room, but i think Charlton will be champions


Charlton and Tranmere Head to Head



Tranmere Rovers Honours

Football League Cup Runners Up 2000
Third Division North Winners 1938
Division Three Play Off Winners 1991
Football League Trophy Winners 1990
Football League Trophy Runners Up 1991
Welsh Cup Winners 1935
Welsh Cup Runners Up 1934


The Ground:

Address:
Prenton Rd West, Birkenhead, CH42 9PY


View Larger Map

Location:
The ground isn’t that difficult to find and can be reached either through Liverpool City Centre and the Queensway Tunnel or via the M53… I’d recommend Junction 3 of the M53 and it should be signposted from there. Trains run from London to Liverpool Lime Street and connections can be made to get to either Birkenhead Central or Rockferry which are the closest stations. As usual, the trains appear to be crap from London on the Saturday and they’ll probably be dry trains too, which given the scenes at Upton Park this week, can’t really be sniffed at.

Capacity: 16,587 (all seated)

Prenton Park is made up of 4 stands: The Main Stand, The Kop, The Cowshed and the John King Stand. Away supporters are housed in the Cowshed which thankfully isn’t as bad as other “shed’s” around the country and provides comfortable settings for away supporters.

Prenton Park is not a ground that sells out, it is regularly half empty, with average attendances for last season around the 6,000 mark, there will be plenty of empty blue and white seats.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Rewind - Back to the Dark Days.... it's not a pretty sight

Last night we were reminded of the darker side of football and once again it involved sides from London and to no one's suprise, it involved Millwall (again)….

I didn’t watch the match, but I heard from friends that there had been trouble and that it was kicking off quite big. When I got in from work (quite late) I logged onto the beeb and they were showing footage of the scenes during the match, and also of the stand off between fans outside the ground that continued into the night.

The Guardian today has some photographs of the trouble on their site and from the looks of it, it was a large disturbance that involved a significant number of people and resulted in several serious injuries.

Videos of the disturbances are now appearing on youtube as well.... although this chap who filmed this must now be thinking "was it such a good idea?" He has been appearing on Sky and other TV shows, showing his face and showing his video... living so close to a bunch of hammers fans... I'm not so sure he's been wise in his moves... the funniest point though is that he was on sky sports today in a Liverpool top!!! Is he mental???

It looks as though the invasions and the provocations inside the ground were coming from West Ham and not from Millwall, which I must admit, came as a surprise, my initial reaction was that there was trouble around the away end….

I’m sure that Millwall are not completely in the clear and there are reports of police intervention in the away end during the match. Outside of the ground the press are now reporting that much of the early violence was caused when West Ham and Millwall fans were trying to get at each other through the police cordon, the police standing their ground then became embroiled in battles with both sets of fans. But I’m sure that the police and FA investigations will look into the make up of the crowds that gathered both before and after the match.

Regardless of who did what, this incident is undoubtedly going to re-open the debate around punishments for clubs that are unable to restrain their fans and maintain an environment for all, rather than the x-rated scenes that were seen at Upton Park last night.

In my opinion, the scenes inside the ground and the sheer number of fans that invaded the pitch from the West Ham end points to the fact that levels of stewarding and their positioning was a major issue. It looks as though West Ham have concentrated on restraining the away supporters and ignored their own supporters at the same time….so what do the FA do?

The expectation is that both clubs will be given a large fine and will be reprimanded by the FA, but is that enough? Do the FA have the balls to turn around to West Ham and tell them that as a result of their inability to steward and police their fans to a satisfactory level they will be disqualified from the Carling Cup?

What do you think the penalties for the two clubs should be?

On a more CAFC related topic… when the Addicks are playing Millwall, should I expect to see similar levels of violence?

I’ve never been away to the Den, I was working away when Liverpool played there a few years ago when their was violence between the two sides, but I did get a taste of CAFC’s rivalries notably with Palace and it was an intense atmosphere….

Is Charlton’s rivalry with Millwall as intense? Charlton travel lightly at the best of times, will their allocation be even smaller at the Den?

Monday, 24 August 2009

A few thoughts....

Since our last post (Hartlepool Preview) we’ve seen Charlton win twice on their travels and once at home this weekend, which gives them a 100% record after 4 matches, having scored 9 goals and conceding only 3 in the process, 2 of which were on the opening day of the season.

This is just the start to the season that the players and fans needed. With the exception of an early carling cup exit last week, it’s been a near perfect start to the season with goals coming from all over the pitch and with the side looking like they are playing with desire, drive, determination and more importantly concentration! Fans have continued to flock to the valley in their thousands ensuring that the Addicks continue to have one of the larger average attendances outside of the premiership which can only spur on the players when they need that bit of extra encouragement.

Last season I must have sounded like a broken record, the number of times that Charlton scored first and went on to concede a quick goal or a last minute goal had me harping on about the team losing their concentration too easily to almost anyone who would listen, it was usually Richard though, my other mates would just tell me to shut up!! I think that in the first four matches of the season, we’ve seen a side that is mentally stronger than it was last season and by getting a few wins under their belts, in what I would describe as a fairly convincing manner, should really set the foundations for the side to continue to push for promotion back into the Championship.

I’m a lover of statistics, I think it’s the American in me coming out, but I was thinking about when the last time Charlton won four matches on the trot was? For those who are interested, it was November 2007 (that time it was three away matches against Southampton, Bristol City and Preston North End and a home match against Cardiff City), but it’s not the first time that they’ve won their opening four matches! The 2005 premiership season saw wins against Sunderland, Wigan, Birmingham and Middlesbrough in their opening four matches!

This coming weekend sees the Addicks travelling up to the North West to take on Tranmere Rovers at Prenton Park who sit towards the bottom of the table with 3 points from their opening 4 matches, but that shouldn't be a reason for the Addicks to get complacent and I'm hoping that they'll come out firing on all cylinders and take the match to the team from the North West.

I’m looking forward to heading up North (back home really) this weekend for the match, to get out on the lash in Liverpool, see the family and my friends and to get onto the Mersey Rail over the water to watch the Addicks in my own back garden. Happy Days.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Hartlepool United Preview

It's long trip north tomorrow, for what is the second of three consecutive away fixtures. We head to Hartlepool after being relived of our league cup commitments following Tuesday's extra time loss at Hereford United, a result which appears to have been met with mild disappointment but ulitimately a certain sense of relief. This season is, after all, about getting of this division (at the right end I might add).

Like many, I'm pretty clueless about tomorrow's opposition, although their opening two results of the season, a credible draw with the MK Dons and the Championship scalp of Coventry City in the League Cup, suggest they won't be a push over. If we're to stand any chance of being in the mix at the end of the season however, these are games we really should be winning.

In terms of personnel, the good news is that following a mid-week break for most of our first choice XI, we seem to be refreshingly injury free. Dailly, Llera and Richardson are all fit to resume defensive duties and there don't appear to have been any additions to the injury list following the game at Hereford. Phil Parkinson therefore has options at his disposal, how will he use them?

To be honest, it's difficult to see him doing anything other than sticking with the eleven that took to pitch again Wycombe Wanderers last weekend. Nobody seemed to have staked a claim to a starting berth at Hereford and, more to the point, we played some good stuff against the Chairboys. As Parkinson has himself acknowledged however, we do seem to be lacking the fire to tuck away the chances we are creating.

Deon Burton and Jonjo Shelvey will need to improve on their performances last week, which were short of what they would have liked. Andy Gray, Izale McLeod, Chris Dickson and Stuart Fleetwood will all be desperate for the chance to start a game up front, and they may get their opportunity to do so in the not too distant future. Andy Gray certainly hasn't done a very good job of selling himself however, missing an open goal against Wycombe and a penalty against Hereford.

So all things considered, this who we are likely to see take to the pitch come 3pm:

Elliot; Richardson, Dailly, Llera, Youga; Sam, Racon, Semedo, Shelvey, Bailey; Burton

I can't imagine the bench will change either, although it would be good to see Yado Mambo given one of the seven spots should either Dailly or Llera suffer a recurrence of their injuries.

I'm not sure what to expect from this game. I would like to think we can start to build some momentum in the league by adding a further three points to those we picked up against Wycombe, but unfortunately I think Hartlepool will make this harder for us than we would like.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Three points, injuries and Hereford

I've had a couple of days now to reflect on Saturday's game and our start to life in the third tier of English football. It's difficult to add to what most of the blogs have said already, but here is a brief summary of my thoughts:

Positives

- After a visit to the club shop, I can confirm that I like our new kit, both home and away.

- The attendance was very encouraging indeed. Those who thought they could turn up half an hour before and walk straight up to the counter and get a ticket must have been bitterly disappointed when met with a queue around the block.

- In the first half, and for the first half of the second half, we played some decent, attractive football and didn't really give Wycombe a sniff.

- Two goals from two debutants is good news and to an extent, Parkinson has proved a point with his recruits. Dailly in particular I thought looked impressive.

- We got three points.

Negatives

- We never make it easy on ourselves do we?! I can't have been the only one in need of a stiff drink once the final whistle had blown. The game should have been done and dusted at half time, but we conceded two goals at two crucial times, and as such it seemed a bit of a laboured victory. Full marks to Rob Elliot (who I thought had looked shaky on crosses) for two world class saves in the last fifteen minutes, as well as two off the line stops, but I was a nervous wreck by the end of the game.

- We didn't really get a big enough performance out of some of the players. Given the transfer interest surrounding him, much of the attention will fall on Jonjo Shelvey, but I'm afraid he didn't live up to billing on Saturday. Deon Burton had a quiet game up front, and Kelly Youga continues to frustrate.

- I'm not really sure Parkinson's double substitution made sense. Why go from a 4-5-1 to a 4-4-2 when you are effectively looking to close a game out a 3-1 up? Surely a player like Matt Spring is made for those kind of circumstances? I won't dwell on Gray's miss, it's only game one after all.

- It was pretty sad to see such a visible reduction in match day staff, as well as the big screen being out of action.

Probably the worst thing to come out of Saturday's match however, has been the injuries we have sustained as a result of it. For Phil Parkinson to say we are now down to 'bare bones' for tomorrow night's match against Hereford, after one game, is pretty shocking. For the past few weeks, I've been suggesting (to the point where I've been sick of writing it) that we do not have adequate cover in defence. So for Christian Dailly, Miguel Angel Llera and Frazer Richardson ALL to get injured in the first game (albeit with varying degress of seriousness) is pretty galling.

Fortunately tomorrow is a League Cup game rather that a League One game, and Parkinson is likely to use the opportunity to give the likes of Yado Mambo and Chris Solly a run out. Had the game been in the league however, I wonder how comfortable would have been in starting them. Regardless, the need for reinforcements at the back is clear and it needs to happen sooner or later. Sam Sodje is currently a free agent - surely someone like him could do a job for us?

Like most of the nation's fans, I'm pretty apathetic towards the League Cup, although I would like to see us notch a win and maintain the momentum from Saturday. It also gives an opportunity for some players to prove a point, and other to stake a claim for a place in the starting XI. An embarassing defeat does nobody any good, so here's hoping for a safe and injury free passage into round two before we start concentrating on Saturday's trip to Hartlepool.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Wycombe Wanderers Preview

So here we are. On the verge of the start of another season and this one feels a bit different. For many Charlton fans (me included), and perhaps more importantly Charlton players, the third tier of English football will be a brand new experience and a harsh reality. I must admit, I had forgotten we are now expected to enter the Johnstone's Paint Trophy until the announcement of our bye was published earlier this week.

The critics, it seems, have already written off our chances of doing anything other than keeping our heads above water. For example, The Guardian today reckons that Alan Pardew's Southampton, starting with a ten point deficit, will be better place than us at the end of the season (I'll ignore the fact they are predicting Millwall to be champions). Part of me agrees with much of the predicted mediocrity. It's a new season however, and if we're going to start on a downer then we're all doomed. So first some positives.

Given the situation he has been put, Phil Parkinson appears to have done a pretty good job of getting the squad in shape in pre-season. Probably out of necessity rather than choice, the squad is now looking a lot trimmer and, to an extent, slightly more balanced. The jury is out on his new signings, Llera, Richardson and Dailly, but there can be no dobut that he has recruited in the right positions. He also appears to have given youth a chance in pre-season. Scott Wagstaff, Chris Solly, Tamer Tuna and the brilliantly named Yado Mambo, may all find they have a significant part to play this season.

Of course, putting to one side the concerns off the field, there are some on it as well. In summary, here are my major worries ahead of what is going to be a long season:

- As per last season, we are starting the term with only two recognised centre backs, Llera and Dailly, who are by no means spring chickens. An early injury to either will immediately put us in an invidious position, playing Youga or Semedo there just doesn't cut it I'm afraid. We need reinforcements before the end of the month.

- Our prized assets i.e. our midfield, could be decimated come 31st August unless a takeover allows us to hang on to Bailey, Racon and Shelvey. Losing one of them would be a blow, losing all three would be a catastophe.

- I'm still not convinced by any of our strikers. Burton, Dickson, McLeod and Gray have all shown indifferent form in a Charlton shirt, and the fact that Fleetwood hasn't been given the chance suggests that the likelihood is he would do the same. One or more of them really needs to start scoring regularly this season, hopefully they will benefit from the drop down a division.

So to the opening game. For the third season in a row, we are playing a newly promoted team. Last year's competent, if not spectacular, win over Swansea City proved to be a false dawn so whatever happens on Saturday should not be taken as a yardstick for the season. However, it is important for a positive start to restore some confidence to the squad and to the fans. Wycombe come into the match depleted by injury, but no team prepared by Peter Taylor should be taken lightly.
Like the majority of blogs, I can not see beyond the following as the starting XI (I'll skip trying to predict which seven substitutes Parkinson has to pick):
Elliot; Richardson, Dailly, Llera, Youga; Sam, Semedo, Shelvey, Racon, Bailey; Burton

As per the eve of any new season, I am excited by the prospect of seeing Charlton in action, even if there will be a fewer people there and there aren't as many recognisable names on display. Excited as I may be, I've got to ask … is anybody else just a little bit nervous?!

The Accumulator Challenge - Week 1

This is going to become a weekly fixture on A Red Divided this season, but I thought we would start off this week with the Football League.

A group of lads in my office and a couple of friends have decided to run a weekly accumulator. Each week, the 8 lads will pick a match and declare whether it will be a home or away win. Before the weekend, I will put the bet on at my local bookies and we’re going to see how we can do over the course of a season. Hopefully we'll all be able to drive away

For the superstitious out there, rest assured, we’ve enforced a Charlton black out, with no one being able to bet on the Addicks…..this was a condition that Richard insisted on!

This week’s selection is:


So we’ve got 7 home win’s and one away win, with most people shying away from the West Brom – Newcastle match, or the Middlesbrough – Sheffield United match!

Are there any on this list that are going to let us down?

What do you think?

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

In the Summertime... When the Weather is Fine...!

One of the posts that I put up towards the end of last season asked what people do when there is no football on over the summer, so I thought I’d give the Addickted an insight into what I’ve been up to! It’s been a manic summer so far, it seems that every weekend has something going on and I’ve not had much spare time to get myself down to the boozer to enjoy some R&R with the lads…

This is probably a good thing to be completely honest!! In a moment of madness I signed myself up to complete what I’ve coined a “Triathlon of Fun”. Essentially, it involves me taking part in the London Triathlon (which was last Saturday), the Windsor Half Marathon and the Barcelona Triathlon. “Why on earth would you do that?”, I hear you ask… well…I’m doing it to get fit, which is working, I’m really enjoying the swimming, biking and running, but more importantly, I’m doing it to raise money for UNICEF, and in particular UNICEF’s UNITE FOR CHILDREN, UNITE AGAINST AIDS cause.


I’ve been a long time supporter of UNICEF and it wasn’t until I started reading up on the statistics that it really hit me. 15 million children have been orphaned by AIDS or an AIDS related disease and by the end of next year; this number is estimated to have risen to 20 million. It really is a staggering statistic, so I set about thinking how I could raise money for UNICEF and I thought I’d add a bit of spice to the normal charity run or marathon by doing a few of them! If you are interested in following my progress or wish to donate www.justgiving.com/kelvinunicef is the link to allow you to do this.



It’s not all been about me getting fit this summer though…. Those who read ARD will have read in the past that I am an avid motorcyclist and that when I’m not watching football (or training for my triathlons) I can often be found around the Home Counties on my motorcycle with my friends. In June I made my annual pilgrimage to the Isle of Man for the Tourist Trophy (TT) Races. It’s a brilliant week, and I would recommend that if you are at all interested in motor racing, you try to get over there for a week or weekend during race week. The racing was stunning with lap records falling regularly. It’s amazing to think that over a 37.73 mile course the superbikes can lap at an AVERAGE speed of over 131mph and the bikes that you and I could buy in the shops lap at an AVERAGE speed of 128mph!! It really does have to be seen to comprehend it!

The video below was an early morning (~5am) run over the Mountain Road. This road is made one way during the TT and is unrestricted in terms of speed for much of the road which means you can really have some fun! Unfortunately some people have too much fun and there were a number of accidents over the mountain this year, with people letting testosterone get the better of them! It’s a brilliant road, one which I put into the same category as the Great Ocean Road around Melbourne or Highway 1 and Highway 101 on the West Coast of the US.


Monday, 3 August 2009

Catching up

A much needed break to the Pyrenees without the distractions of the internet has left me playing catch up today, both in terms of work and, more importantly, Charlton news. I was expecting doom and gloom but I've been pleasantly surprised.

Reports of the pre-season friendly games against both Ipswich Town and AFC Bournemouth have been largely encouraging and it appears that Phil Parkinson is starting to pull things together ahead of the league kick-off on Saturday. Christian Dailly seems a reasonable (if aging) signing, although I must confess to be slightly nervy at the prospect of starting another season with just two recognised centre halves in the squad following Fortune's departure. Is there another one on the way?

Much of the optimism arising from Bournemouth on Saturday seems to be courtesy of the fact that a lot of the players we weren't expecting to be there, were. Believing this is a sign that a takeover is imminent is a dangerous assumption, but it does offer some hope that somebody might be able to pay some wages next season. A midfield ravaged of the talents of Bailey, Shelvey et al. does not bear thinking about.

Credit where credit is due to Parkinson, he is getting on with the job in hand with the resources at his disposal. If you told me at the end of last season that we would see Izale McLeod play again in a Charlton shirt, I probably would have laughed in your face. Parkinson also seems to be shaping his team off the pitch as well with the arrival of Tim Breacker. Regardless of whether you like what you see on the field, you have to admire Parkinson for knuckling down and trying to do something.

So the start of the season is under a week and this kind of time always produces a mixture of emotions. Before I went away I thought that this season was a disaster waiting to happen (and it may well still be), but what I've read on the blogs since I've got back has encouraged me somewhat. Evidently a lot does hinge on whether the takeover happens, but that will have little or no impact on events on the pitch on Saturday. I can't wait.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

One month to go and (finally) things are starting to happen

In exactly one month's time, Charlton will open their League One campaign against Wycombe Wanderers. To say that we are not currently prepared for that occasion would be a huge understatement, but with the first pre-season friendly this evening, it's time to shape up.

Irony of all ironies, given the drought of news we have had over the summer, one of the stories on the official website reports on flooding at Bartram's. That would have been headline news a couple of weeks ago, but now it seems that things are starting to unravel and there is some proper news to report.

It goes without saying that top of the pile in terms of importance is the potential take over. With the cancelling of the supporters Q&A, as well as the BBC and several reputable newspapaers running with the story, it seems that there really is something in it. Reports suggest it could be completed in the next couple of weeks and that really can't come soon enough for the club to get its house in order before the new season starts.

Whether Phil Parkinson will be the one pulling the managerial strings under the new regime remains to be seen, but he continues to do so for now. Unsurprisingly, he has failed to convince Zheng Zhi to stay, although in all honesty it was never really going to happen was it? I know the Chinese captain wasn't universally popular amongst the Charlton faithful, but I will certainly miss his willingness and ability to give things a go from midfield.

Elsewhere, it wasn't much or a surprise to see Josh Wright or Mark Hudson move on to pastures new, although the fee we got from Hudson was certainly unexpected. The signing of Miguel Angel Llera should be welcomed, although if we don't want to end up in the defensive pickle we got ourselves into last season (Matt Holland at centre half anybody?), then we really need to recruit one or two more for the duties at the centre of defence.

Parkinson has promised a different side for each half in this evening's fixture against Welling United, and it will be interesting to see who is on display. For example, will any of the players out of contract feature? Will we ever see Matt Holland again now that he has decided to do his pre-season at Colchester United? Questions remain, but at least we are now starting to get some answers.

As I write there is further news with the announcement of our new sponsor, Kent Reliance Building Society, and a sneaky glimpse at the new home shirt which looks simple but actually not all that bad. They just can't stop feeding us information now they've started! I better stop writing and take a long lie down. Enjoy the game if you're going this evening and let's hope for a Charlton win to start the season as we mean to go on.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Taking Things a bit Far

So... its been an interesting last two weeks.

Last week we saw the unveiling of Kaka at Real Madrid with 50,000 spectators and fanatics turning up to welcome the Brazilian to be Bernabau....50,000 people is a lot, but he is a magician with the ball....



This week we've seen Christiano Ronaldo become the worlds most expensive footballer following his £80m transfer from Manchester United. He was "welcomed" by 80,000 spectators and mentalists and in the end had to be escorted off the pitch due to pitch invasions! 80,000 people, pitch invasions... sounds bit much, but then again, he scored a bucket load of goals last season and is probably the best player in the world at the minute, as much as it pains me to say it.




Cristiano Who????

The biggest news of the week is the arrival of Darius Vassell at Ankaragücü.....

Who, I hear you say? Well, I did too if that's any consolation. A Turkish friend of mine has kindly translated this for me... He told me that they were the Bolton Wanderers of the Turkcell Super League, last year finishing in 13th position.

His arrival at the airport was insane, with more than 3,000 people in hysterics, celebrating wildly like they'd just signed the World Footballer of the Year.

I've never seen anything like it before. I can understand getting excited for a big signing, but this is Darius Vassell.... I didn't even know he was still playing football he has been that quiet for the last few years!




They must all be praying and hoping that he emulates Milan Baros who left Portsmouth to move to Galatasaray where he became the leagues top goal scorer last season with 21 goals.

Personally, I think they've got a better chance of signing Christiano Ronaldo than Darius Vassell scoring 20 league goals next season.

So that brings me to the question of the post....

Would you have turned up at Heathrow wielding a flare, a bouquet of flowers and a scarf to welcome Darius to the Valley?

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

La La Land.... and Reality

I think the world has gone bonkers...

£80m for Ronaldo
£55m for KaKa
£18m for Glen f**king Johnson
£17m for Roque Santa Cruz

Is it just me who thinks this is just insane money? Where does this all end?

I'm annoyed for a few reasons, personally, because Liverpool have spent an obscene amount of money on a player who has had one decent season; but more annoyed on the whole because while the people of Britain, and in fact the world are working their backsides off trying to keep their jobs and provide for their family, football is just exploding.

Around us, sports are rationalising. Moto GP has moved to one tyre manufacturer and has set limits on the number of engines that can be used through the course of a season. F1 has implemented radical measures this year limiting the number of engines and gear boxes that can be used and even more radical measures in the form of a budget cap. This may have ruffled a lot of feathers, but the idea of a budget cap is a good one, which will help the smaller teams. The problem remains that the McLarens and the Ferraris, who spend upwards of £250-£300m a year on their cars don't want this leveller. I can understand this, but perhaps the FIA just need to revise the target a bit to keep the sport together.

But in the top tier of football, the fools and the idiots that run world football are continuing full steam ahead with no regard whatsoever for the people who make the sport what it is, the people who spend their hard earned wages week in and week out supporting these footballers. The behaviour of the "big" clubs in Europe is damaging the smaller clubs and lower league sides who need to try to compete with these sides when it comes to wages and the likes to sign quality players. Or in some cases young up-starts who think they are better than they actually are and demanding wages "in line" with what their "expectations" are. These footballers and the heads of world football need to get a grip and come back to planet earth.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Next Season: Captain

One of the things we missed last season, amongst many, was a sense of leadership on the pitch. In the not too distant past, there have been captains who you felt gave direction to the team, led by example, and provided some much needed impetus to proceedings; Mark Kinsella and Andy Reid spring to mind. Unfortunately I'm not sure the same can be said of Mark Hudson and it raises the question as to who should be given the armband for next season.

In fairness to Hudson, he was thrown into a very difficult situation by Alan Pardew. He had arrived from Palace and so needed to win the trust of the supporters, he was expected to be the rock of a frankly woeful back line with an ever changing central defensive partner, and captain a side expected to win promotion back to the Premier League. Add injury problems of his own to contend with and all things considered, it wasn't a particularly easy ride for him.

So what to do next season? The trouble we have at the moment is that we don't know who will still be with the club, which makes spectaculating somewhat difficult. For the sake of argument (and this article), let's say that no players other than those already known to have been released will be leaving the club. What does that leave us with? Frighteningly little unfortunately. If Hudson is not retained (and there is every chance that he will be) and that Matt Holland will not feature regularly enough to be offered the job, when you look at what we have then there is only one serious contender: Nicky Bailey.

Whilst you may argue it wasn't difficult to rise above the mediocrity last season, Bailey undoubtedly deserved the player of the season award and was one of few players who actually looked like he cared when he pulled on the red shirt. A quiet mid-season patch aside, if it wasn't for his goals and midfield play then our position would have looked a lot more nasty than it was. His style reminded me a lot of Reid, driving things forward on the pitch and trying to motivate his team mates to chase harder.

In spite of this, Bailey's desire to stay at The Valley hardly appears to be overwhelming. They may well have been misinterpreted, as comments to tabloids sometimes are, but the message appears to have been 'I'll stay if I have to'. This raises the question as to whether his heart is really in it, but I think if it stays then it will be. If he doesn't then my second choice candidate, for lack of any real competition, would be Rob Elliot. I've never thought goalkeeper the best position on the pitch to have a captain, but Elliot is passionate about the club and would be sure to 'have a quiet word' with any player not pulling their weight. If last season was anything to go by, there might be a few of them.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Wycombe to start, Oldham to finish

Get the calendars out and start cancelling some social plans: the fixtures are out.

Full details are on the official website but the highlights are as follows:

- We'll be starting the season at The Valley on 8th August against newly promoted Wycombe Wanderers - the third time in three seasons we've started our campaign against a promoted team

- We are ending it at Boundary Park against Oldham Athletic on 8th May

- Thankfully Boxing Day is a home game against Swindon Town

- For those of you looking to get your knuckle dusters out, Millwall visit The Valley on 19th December (hopefully their supporters won't have had too much festive cheer by the time they show up), whilst we head to The Den on 13th March

- The mid-week away fixtures all look to be at fairly conveniently located clubs: Leyton Orient (Tuesday 18th August), Colchester United (Tuesday 29th September) and Brighton & Hove Albion (Tuesday 1st December)

Any initial thoughts on the schedule we've been given? Or, like me, are you still trying to come to terms with the fact that we have league fixtures against Carlisle United and Yeovil Town next season?!

Friday, 12 June 2009

Next Season: Away Days

This week has been what I refer to as 'change over week'. That is to say, it's the week when the BBC Sport website acknowledges all relegations and promotions from the season, puts all the clubs in the section for their respective leagues next season, and wipes the league tables to zero. On the positive side, this means we no longer have to look at Charlton's final league position last season, on the negative it has rammed home the fact that we are now in League One. That is to say, the third tier of English football.

Instead of dwelling on the negatives of this, the Beeb's reshuffle has focused my mind on away days for next season and I think it could be one of few positives of relegation. The strong contingent of South East clubs for next season has given me some kind of hope that we may improve on our traditionally poor away followings and offer the team some much needed support on the road. Looking down the list of clubs we will be battling it out with next season, by my reckoning there are nine clubs that would be easy for the London based Addicks fan to get to: Brentford, Brighton, Colchester United, Gillingham, Leyton Orient, Millwall, Milton Keynes Dons, Southend United and Wycombe Wanderers.

Of course, some of these games many fans will not want to go to e.g. Millwall (for obvious reasons). Then there is the possibility that some will fall on a week night, making it difficult for many fans to get to. Yet all things considered, it is a far more convenient fixture list than the one we were presented with last season. There are also plenty of games that people will want to go to because they have never been to the ground before and want to add it to the 'been there, had a pie, watched the game' column.

I was on a flight home from Germany the other week, and as we flew over London we swung past the gleaming and imposing Emirates Stadium which is an impressive sight from the sky. As we got closer to Heathrow, we then went over Brentford's Griffin Park, a small and old fashioned stadium. The stark contrast between the two away day grounds was a sorry reminder of how Charlton have fallen in the past three seasons. With that said however, I am really hoping that this season will offer plenty to look forward to. The fixture list is out next week, time to get planning …

Monday, 8 June 2009

Miguel Angel Llera

The Sunday Mirror (a paper I don't read very often ) was yesterday reporting that we have agreed a deal to bring centre half Miguel Angel Llera toThe Valley after he turned down a renewed contract the the MK Dons.

I must confess to have never having heard of the player before yesterday, so I read some more about him here:

http://www.mkdons.com/page/ProfilesDetail/0,,10420~44784,00.html

Does anybody know anything about him?

In a position we were horrifically exposed in last season, I would suggest that getting somebody with experience of League One football in a (relatively) successful side can't be a bad thing.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Jog on

The club's official website continues to be devoid of anything that can really be considered newsworthy. Elsewhere there is news that Real Madrid are out smashing the bank for Kaka, the dollar signs are ringing up in Gareth Barry's eyes in a £12 million move to the Massives (weren't you wanting to play Champions League football Gareth?), Tony Adams proves he is the master of self-delusion in claiming he is in line for the Celtic job, and what do we get? Confirmation of a pre-season fixture at Forest Green, news of Thierry Racon's call up to the Guadeloupe squad, and a picture of Jonjo Shelvey on a treadmill. Brilliant.

These are hard time for the gossip hungry, although we were given something to snack on yesterday in the form of news that Darren Ambrose is set to make his way over to Croyden at the start of next month in a move to Palace. Judging by the reactions on the blogs so far, there won't be too many tears shed over this.

All joking aside, it's difficult not to feel like we're losing ground on our rivals ahead of next season. It's exactly one month since we played the last game of the season and not a lot has happened since then. The last Charlton related story on the BBC website was one day after with the headline 'Charlton boss uncertain of future'. He still is, and so are we. Furthermore, there is no indication as to which players will be released, which will be offered new contracts, and which will be sold at the first possible opportunity.

The point is, we really can't afford to be giving our opponents a head start ahead of next season. Whoever is in charge and whichever players stay and go, there is a lot of restructuring that needs to be done and it probably should have started about a month ago (well, it probably should have started about seven months ago but we won't get into that). I know a lot is dependent on any possible takeover, I guess I am just frustrated that we're not really helping ourselves for what is going to be a tough, tough season.

Please can we have some proper news?!

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

What do you do?

So it's one of those years.... You know, the type of year that most football supporters dred... the ones where we are faced with a football-less summer....

I have just dug out an old article from the beeb about "end of season blues" that I remember reading a few years ago. It highlights what we have to put up with during these dark, soulless times and I thought it was right on the money!

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/2949300.stm

"Those close to football supporters should look out for signs of depression, lethargy, inability to converse and a feeling of hopelessness - feelings which may also be common during the season, if their team is not faring well." I love this paragraph.... sums it up perfectly!

The most annoying thing about the summer, especially summers like this one, is that we are going to be bombarded with 'talk' all summer. So and so is on the brink of signing a record deal with so and so, and such and such a manager is leaving because he wants more control over the transfers. Then there will be the endless stream of photographs in OK and Hello of the footballers we pay to see each week sunning themselves on luxury yachts and hanging out with all of their other celebrity mates at Bungalow 7 or the Kensington Roof Gardens....etc etc etc....you see where I'm going....it's just all talk and no poo.

Can we not just fast forward to the start of next season?

So what I thought I would do is to get a bit of banter going between us football supporters (or obsessive as my missus would call me) as to what they do over the summer when there is no footie on the tele!
  • What do you do over the summer?
  • Do you ignore the press?
  • Are you a member of the press who writes these articles?
  • Do you suddenly start going to church in the hope that Lionel Messi will see the light and see that South-London is wonderful and that its full of t*ts, fanny and Charlton and sign for the Addicks?

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Next Season: Season Tickets

In the first in an occasional series, and in an effort to banish memories of the 2008/09 season, I'm going to look ahead at what is in store for us next season. A few pints with a fellow fan led to discussion about a lot of things related to Charlton for the forthcoming season: match attendance, who will be managing us, which players will still be left, away days to look forward to etc. You get the idea. So I thought it might be worth getting some thoughts down and see what is on the mind of the fellow Addickted.

One of the things we both remained uncertain of was whether we were going to renew our season tickets. Judging by those I chatted to around me on the final game of the season, and the comments being left on a lot of the blogs, it's pretty obvious that this a subject of uncertainty for a lot of fans. There is only one week to go to renew existing tickets though so it really is decision time.

Don't get me wrong, I really want to renew my ticket. In spite of the team's best efforts to put me off this season, I still love watching Charlton play football. I also love having a regular seat and knowing that I'll see the same faces and engage in some good natured conversation every other week. But there are a few things which are making me wonder whether it is going to be worthwhile.

Firstly, as has been widely discussed, the reduction in price came as somewhat of a disappointment. When you take into account the fact that I am not usually able to make the mid-week games, and there are always a handful of weekend games I will unable to get to, it is not looking like such a sound investment. There are a few away games I'd like to attend so it could make sense to buy my ticket on a match-by-match basis and spend the spare cash on away trips.

I would be lying if I said that the man chose to manage the side did not have an impact on my decision. If Phil Parkinson is in charge then my decision will pretty much have been made for him. Granted, he got Colchester promoted from League One but his track record at Charlton is abysmal and retaining him as our manager would show the lack of ambition to push me, and I expect others, away. I want to support my club financially but would also like some reassurances that the revenue is being well spent. Evidence over the past few seasons has been to the contrary and our failure to move on from the Pardew/Parkinson era would not help me to believe this has changed.

Finally, superstitution may make me give up my ticket if nothing else does. I had been attending matches regularly prior to it, but I bought my first season ticket during the 2006/07. Yup, that was the season Dowie pitched up and it all went wrong. The following season wasn't much to write home about and the season just gone needs no explanation. So a little bit of me wonders if I have cursed the team and that if I give the season ticket a miss next season, it might all be OK. Yes, that was the sound of me clutching at some straws.

So in summary, I have no idea if I'm going to renew my season ticket. I'll probably leave it to the very last minute and the determing factor will be whether there is enough cash in my bank account to do it. I would be interested to hear what others are thinking and whether they are facing similar indecision in what should be a straightforward choice. Help!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

1 To Go....What Does It Mean?

Well … for those sides struggling at the foot of the Premiership Table, this is the last chance saloon and the reality is that for some, it may be their last chance at playing (or managing) in the Premiership again.

For clubs, the ramifications of relegation are profound ... emergency boardroom meetings, contingency plans, player negotiations and heated conversations will be common place. For fans, staring down the barrel of relegation is a crippling and gut wrenching feeling, one that I felt for the first time this season with Charlton. It was a weird feeling, one of emptiness and helplessness, as we watched the side squander countless first half leads. The Championship's relegated sides this year were all in Britian’s top flight five years ago which I guess is testimony to how difficult life in the Coca-Cola Championship can be, especially if the relegated sides are not able to bounce back up while they are still receiving parachute payments.

Out of the sides that are scrapping down at the bottom of the table, the most surprising is Newcastle United. I think at the start of the season people expected them to struggle, but I certainly didn’t think that they’d be in the bottom three on the last day of the season, that’s for sure. They are a funny side, a side made up of world-class players, prima donnas and absolute no-marks and one that has just not been able to settle or gel together. They often look like a bunch of individual players who have never been on the same pitch together; there is no ‘connectivity’ between the players and certainly no telepathy!

There are those out there that will say they’ve been unlucky, but I don’t think luck has anything to do with it. The club have been a shambles since Ashley took over and despite him ploughing £250m of his own fortune into the club, they remain the laughing stock of the league.

The hiring and firing of five managers since May 2007 has to take a significant portion of the blame for the situation that the club find themselves in. The hiring of ‘King Kev’ was one of the most random decisions I’ve ever seen in football, and it highlighted the fickleness of the Geordie faithful. The man was running a soccer circus in Glasgow or something that like and confessed to not following the Premiership or watching the Premiership for several years before turning up to St. James' Park and being unveiled to thousands of Geordies who hailed the return of the King to the Toon, only to see him disappear after 21 matches as manager of the club.

To the unbiased supporter, it was a shocking decision to remove Sam Allardyce and to replace him with Keegan in the first place. Allardyce had a record of 8 wins, 6 draws and 10 defeats during his time on Tyneside, that’s an average of 1.25 points per game, which isn’t great admittedly, but at the same time, it's not relegation form, rather mid-table mediocrity. The issue with Newcastle United and with the Toon faithful, is that they think they are better than they actually are. History doesn’t lie. Newcastle United are, at best, a mid table side whose trophy cabinet has remained bare since their 1955 FA Cup victory and with the Championship a real possibility, things do not look all fine on the Tyne.

Monday, 18 May 2009

37 Down, 1 To Go.

I must admit, I feel slightly fraudulent sitting at my key board typing this message after a 3 month absence from A Red Divided; sort of like I don’t belong here because I wasn’t here when the shit really hit the fan for the Addicks and for that I do apologise!

Unlike Richard who has an excuse for his absence, I don’t really have one. It’s been a season where I’ve fallen back in love with football, only for us to fall out and reconcile and after a honeymoon engagement period, to find myself moping around like a broken hearted adolescent after being dumped at the altar. I’ve just read the above analogy again, it makes me sound like a glory seeker, but what I am trying to say is that I’ve been through the whole spectrum of emotions, with jubilation, ecstasy, frustration, sadness, annoyance and pride all prevailing throughout the season. It’s weird, because although I am ‘heartbroken’ I do have an electric feeling of pride running through my veins.

So where do I start.....

It’s got to be with Liverpool and what I am hoping will be a second placed finish in the premiership this season. It’s been a real roller coaster this season, emotionally, mentally and physically. As I stated a few months ago, this is the first time in a number of years that I’ve not followed Liverpool to the majority of their home and away’s both in the league and in Europe and it has really wrecked my head. Getting used to being an “arm chair supporter” has been a lot more difficult than I thought. Having to put up with dozens of super-fans and whoppers in pubs like the Famous Three Kings that show most of Liverpool’s matches thanks to the miracles of satellite technology has frustrated the hell out of me and towards the end of the season, if the match was on Sky or Setanta, I stayed in and invited the lads around to mine rather than go out and if it wasn’t then 9 times out of 10, I’d listen to it on the radio instead.

I’d by lying if I said I was happy with second place. I genuninely believe that we should have won the league this year. I’m not sure that we will have as good a chance as we did have this season, next season. United started the season slowly and were poor for much of the early part of the season, as I am sure their fans will agree, but throughout the important periods and through the winter, they turned up the heat and they dismissed the lower league sides that we struggled to finish off.

It’s quite clear where Liverpool lost the league this year; it was the number of drawn matches against lower opposition such as Stoke, Hull, Wigan and Everton that killed us. Trying to breakdown these matches and to look at why we couldn’t win these matches is difficult. The easy answer is that we didn’t have ‘Nando fit, or that Steven Gerrard was injured, but the more honest appraisal is that we didn’t have the depth in the right places to kill these games off.
It's made all the more gutting by the results we had against the top 4 sides which were fantastic. The double over both Manchester United and Chelsea, a win and a draw against Villa and two draws against the Gooners are good results. The double over the Manc's was brilliant and being home for that match at Old Trafford was immense! The atmosphere was electric and just goes to show the ups and downs of football, when you are high you are unstoppable, 4 past Real Madrid, 4 past United, 5 past Villa....

Robbie Keane was a complete and utter disaster, who, as a £25million striker should have been imposing himself on matches against these poorer sides from the first minute and not getting arsey when he was being substituted in the 60 or 70th minutes after contributing f**k all throughout the match. Given the decision to sell him or not again, I stand by my original comment that we should not have sold him though. Although he didn’t score much for us (ironically, I was actually at the match he did score for us against West Brom), he did get the odd goal, which is more than N’Gog or Babel (his ‘replacements’) have done in his absence. We all knew that he could score goals and that he could win you games, it’s just a shame he didn’t do it for us. What is more concerning though, is given Rafa’s policy of playing with one up-front and with Stevie G playing just off him, I think he is going to struggle to get a world-class striker who wants to play what will be a bit part role depending on when Nando is fit or not.

However, it’s not only the strikers who need to take responsibility for not being able to kill a game off; the midfield needs to take their proportion of this responsibility. For all Dirk Kuyt’s work and for all his running and effort, he isn’t a winger and he never will be. He needs to be replaced with someone who can create goals and who can offer that speed down the flanks that we have craved for so long. Yossi Benayoun did a cracking job in the final third of the season playing out wide, scoring some important goals and chipping in with several assists, which is more than can be said about Ryan Babel who after two seasons with the Anfield outfit, has failed to justify the £11m price tag and whom has failed to make a position his own, often playing down the left, instead of in his natural up front position.

But, with that all said, and I think it’s clear how gutted I am about us not winning the league this year, I want to say how immensely proud I am this season. How proud I am to be Scouse, how proud I am to be associated with Liverpool FC and how proud I am to have Liverpool in my blood. We’ve come a long way this season; we’ve challenged for the title all year, we’ve been top of the league and we’ve produced some hugely spirited performances; I think we have scored more goals in the last 10 minutes than any other team this season which is testimony to the heart of the team.

It’s been 20 years since we lost 96 of our own who went to watch a footie match and who never came back and I think that the club, the fans and the city did them proud this year. Stunning performances against Real Madrid and Chelsea (on the eve of the anniversary) will have had the 96 smiling down at the team and fans refusing to surrender. Standing on the kop red and blue side by side, they’ve reminded us that we’re one city and that although football is important, it’s not everything and that there are more important things in life.

Justice for the 96

Hillsborough Family Support Group
http://www.hfsg.co.uk/

The Hillsborough Justice Campaign
http://www.contrast.org/hillsborough/

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Alemannia Aachen 1-0 Kaiserslautern


One of the reasons for the lack of updates to A Red Divided has been my work commitments in Germany for the past few months. Of course, spending so much time in the country makes it difficult not to get at least a little bit interest in the Bundesliga and German football in general.

Knowing that I am football fan, one of my German colleagues asked me if I wanted to go and watch his team - Alemannia Aachen - take on the once great Kaiserslautern in a second division match yesterday evening. The answer, of course, was an unequivocal ‘yes’. Aside from the fact that it meant I could leave the office at four o’clock, I was also keen to find out how the German match day experience differed from that in England.

Ahead of yesterday’s game Allemania Aachen sat one point behind Kaiserslautern in sixth place both teams still able to make the promotion. With all still to play for and a sold out Tivoli stadium (just shy of 22,000 attendance), it certainly felt like a good place to begin an initiation into German football.

The set up was similar to something I would have expected to find in England a bit before I was born - standing room only, no cover (we survived with just a light shower), a fence between the spectators and the pitch, smoking and drinking both permitted in the stands, and a lot of flags being waved. A lot has been made of the demise of the traditional English terrace atmosphere and this game showed me what has been lost in terms of atmosphere. However, looking at the way the stadium was set up, it was also a reminder of how things could go so badly wrong if not properly marshalled.

The game itself was fast paced and certainly comparable to the standard of Championship football. Alemannia should have been ahead at half time but failed to capitalise on the chances that Kaiserslautern were allowing them. After the obligatory half time beer and currywurst, the second half started at a similarly frantic pace with Florian Müller’s pace down the left finally forcing a Kaiserslautern own goal. Benjamin Auer should have added a second when clean through on goal, but hit the post leaving Alemannia to hold on for a nervous few final moments.
One of the bizarre yet most memorable moments of the evening came after the match had finished. Alemannia are building a brand new stadium next to the old one, ready for use at the beginning of the 2009/10 season. For some reason, by luck or intention (I couldn’t work out which), the construction site was left unlocked leaving Alemannia fans to walk freely around their new stadium in a half finished state. It is an impressive one tier stadium and one which the fans, who were all terribly good natured, will enjoy watching their team playing in for seasons to come.