Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Thoughts on Millwall

It would seem that since I started writing this blog, just under two years ago, we have been inundated with new blogs. I was out on Saturday night, and feeling very hungover on Sunday. Thus, by the time I got around to writing up my 'report' there were already so many that I struggled to read them all.

It was then that I decided (not for the first time this season) that my blog was a little redundant. I am no where near arrogant enough to believe that what I have to say is any more interesting to read than what others have to say. The outcry (if you can call it that) that followed New York Addick's hint that he may call it a day is due to both the longevity of his existence, and the quality of his writing. Unlike Chicago Addick, I don't discuss anything other then football - except on exceptional circumstances. Of the other regular blogs Pedro45 writes a much more in depth preview and review of games, and Dave both writes well and is incredibly quick to comment on anything and everything. Wyn Grant's Diary is just that - a day to day history of events with more facts than personal thoughts. Doctor Kish is more of an account of Kett's thoughts, and summaries of their day's out.

I include all of those blogs, and many of the others that are a little less regular, as offering a complete 'solution' in the blog sphere and as such find it difficult to justify bothering at all. Don't get me wrong, I'm neither hoping for, nor expecting, an avalanche of comments suggesting that I keep going, and I'm not planning to stop, I just don't find the enthusiasm to get something out there quickly after games, and by the time I am ready there is very little I can add that hasn't already been said elsewhere.

Thus it is Tuesday afternoon and I am only just sharing my thoughts on a 4-4 thriller with our biggest rivals after not playing them for nearly 14 years. If I was employing myself to write for a job I would have sacked myself for such a lack of professionalism.

This not really an excuse, it's more of an explanation, and unless things change I will probably write a little less for a while as I'm struggling to find much to say that is worth reading (that isn't already there to be read by the time I write it).

Anyway, with that covered off I do have a few observations on the Millwall game. Strangely I have read differing views on the game. I am in the camp that thinks that we were just not as hungry as Millwall were. The game reminded me of many of the clashes we had in the eighties. Millwall (both fans and players) managed to intimidate our players in the first half an hour. After going to so much trouble to suggest that this wouldn't happen that is exactly what did happen. I know we were missing our two first choice full backs, and I'm convinced that had an impact, but many of the players were treating this like another chance to win three points. This is ok, but Millwall looked like they would literally run through brick walls for a result. We didn't even look like we were willing to climb over them at times.

To be fair we did get back into the game, but the first penalty was less than convincing - with the number of howlers the Ref made he could easily have not given it - but it was crucial for our fightback. I'm also not sure that Mooney would have scored had he not been tripped.

After we scored the third goal early in the second half we seemed to defend the lead. I know that has been successful in recent weeks, but in a derby game you cannot sit back and defend a one goal lead. For most of the second half we were over run by ten men. There were times when I caught myself counting the players on the pitch as we looked like the team playing with one short.

To fail to get a two goal cushion and to let ten men back level twice must be seen as a failure. For Leeds and Norwich to win as well just makes the whole day a disaster. I know we came back from 2-0 down, but that just doesn't excuse, for me, the fact that we couldn't close out a game against ten men at home when we led twice.

I am not going to apportion blame. I know Parkinson has been looking to bring in more 'Character' but (Richardson and Youga aside) we clearly need a lot more before we can hope to cope with teams with the determination that Millwall showed on Saturday. God knows what would have happened if Millwall had been allowed to keep the eleven men that stormed into a two goal lead for the whole 90 minutes.

We didn't lose, and we are still four points above Norwich, so we are still in a great position, but we are going to need to show a lot more resilience when we entertain Colchester, Norwich and Leeds next year.

My only other grumble is in relation to the action taken against the Millwall fans that stood up and danced in the East Stand after they scored both their first half goals. If the club are not able to employ stewards that can evict fans then they should bite the bullet and call in the Police (and pay them) to keep away fans from rubbing our noses in it in our own stand. I don't agree with violence, but I suspect that there would have been some very serious questions had one of the fans been stabbed after they were allowed to stay long enough to cheer for their second goal. The club went to a lot of trouble to keep Millwall fans out of the home areas, and on the whole they were very successful, but if the rumours of Charlton fans being attacked in the toilets in the East Stand at half time are true then I would expect to see heads roll.

The most insulting view of the afternoon, however, was that of the Millwall fans in the East Stand being marched into the South Stand rather than being ejected. From what I read the South Stand was sold out. Thus it was full to capacity. Thus there was no safety certificate for any more fans. I know they all stood up (something that Charlton fans do away, to be fair) but we must have broken the rules of our safety certificate by rehousing them in the South Stand. Call me pedantic if you will, but if you reward fans in the wrong section by giving them a seat in their own section there is no incentive for them to stay away. Either way, I suspect that we can have no defence, if the authorities demand that our next Millwall game is played behind closed doors. If we really did flaunt the safety rules rather then having the bottle to throw out the fans that were where they knew they shouldn't have been, and then went out of their way to let everyone know, we have to expect to be punished for it.

That aside it really was a fantastic game.

Up the Addicks!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Next... Millwall at home

Needless to say I don't like Millwall. In fact I even penned something about why I hate them back in February 2008, you can read that here.

There are a few games that mean more in isolation than the three points (or advancing in a cup competition). Local derbies are in that category. We have, over the years, changed our dislikes from Millwall to Palace. Sure when we were sharing Selhurst Park they were our nearest opposition, but history and geography dictates that Millwall are our local derby. They are the club that have fans that most of our fan base work with. We (Charlton fans living in the locality of The Valley) probably have more Millwall fans on their streets that any other.

Yes, this is OUR local derby.

As has been said in a great post by Dave we all have our own history with Millwall, but the fact remains that there will be no one there that doesn't want to win this game more than most others.

Our record against Millwall was terrible for years. Partly due to the intimidation as discussed by Dave and partly due to the fact that when we've been in the same division as them we have tended to be punching below our weight and they above their weight. That made our derby games more important to them than to us.I know that sounds snobby and a tad arrogant, but the truth sometimes hurts, and Millwall are a lower division club and we are not!

However, we find ourselves in the third division, and we have to accept that we are here on merit, and until such time as we get out of this division we have to accept that we are on more of a level playing field with Millwall than we have been for many years. It is, of course, possible that we could fail to win promotion and Millwall could achieve it. It doesn't look likely right now, but we still have a long way to go.

So, there are three points up for grabs. It would be nice to keep the run going, but for me this is all about beating the neighbours. I don't know many Millwall fans, just a couple actually, and I don't see them anymore, and, in fact, don't have their contact details, so there is no bragging rights for me, but due to the way I was brought up, and my own personal history I really, really want to win this one.

Just to clarify, I don't have any anger towards the Millwall fans. Not only would I not want to punch one, but if I saw one hurt I would offer help. I was, probably, a little less diplomatic in my youth, but I have learned to be able to switch off the animosity that I have for the duration of the game as soon as I leave the ground. I wouldn't want to be my drinking buddies on Saturday night if we lose, as I'll be terrible company, but I cannot abhor football violence. I have no problem with singing (and swearing if I'm honest - even if I choose not to) at games like this, but as well as wishing for a win and a good atmosphere, I hope that the whole event goes off without any trouble. Millwall can have as many fights as they like with West Ham and Chelsea, and chances are those other two clubs want it too, but it is not something that I want anywhere near my club, or where I go to watch football.

That out of the way, I am looking forward to a good open contest. It is very rare that derbies turn out to be a one sided game, and to be fair to them Millwall have been a good side in this division for the last season or so. I think they will come full of determination. As Dave suggests, I think it is much harder these days to intimidate football players. Just because they have nice houses and flash cars doesn't mean that they are soft. The more money these footballers earn the more demand for their job and the tougher they need to be. There was a time when that "Millwall" (the word dragged out) over and over again would intimidate both players and fans. not any more. I cannot see Nicky Bailey or Semedo being bothered by a loud chant.

I am confident of a win. I would go as far as to predict a 3-1 win. I think, due the the pressure that comes with a game that everyone really wants to win, it will not feel comfortable until the final whistle goes, but I think it will be a good Saturday night out for the Charlton fans.

Up the Addicks!

Friday, 11 December 2009

Next... Stockport away

Last Saturday's win at home to Southend was hardly lucky, but far from inspiring. We did look good at times, but overall we failed to win the midfield battle and that left us defending for large parts of the game when we should have been able to take the game to them.

In truth a similar thing happened at Brighton where we scored two goals from our first two chances (the only two we had in the first half) and then defended the lead.

With two clean sheets on the bounce for the first time in two months, and four months if you exclude back to back 0-0 draws, we can hardly complain if the team are going to carve out a goal or two then defend it to the final whistle.

I also think that our midfield is much better able to cope with Semedo in it, and he is back for tomorrow's game against the team most out of form in the league. In fact the form tables that I use on www.statto.com fail to look further than the last six games, and Stockport have lost the last seven.

Thus with Semedo back and with Basey and Omozusi looking more and more competent this game should be a formality. I am not yet convinced that Wagstaff is the answer on the left, but I have high hopes based on his last two performances. Clearly he is much more comfortable on the right, but as Lloyd Sam doesn't seem any happier on the the left I'm happy to go with Wagstaff for the time being. The biggest worry that I have is that with Wagstaff on the left we don't have any cover on the right, and cannot make a late substitution to add some energy to either flank. This is ok all the time we are entering the last twenty minutes defending a lead, but if we need to make a change to get a goal it leaves us a little short.

Such are the issues with having a small squad - something that we have not had real problems with over the last decade. Either way I'm not convinced it is going to be much of a problem tomorrow.

After tomorrow we have two tough home games followed by six very winnable games. I doubt that we will win them all, despite the fact that we have beaten all six already this season, but a win tomorrow will leave us set up for the two home games with confidence, knowing that one win and a draw will be enough for us to hold onto second place going into that run of six winnables.

I'm confident of a win tomorrow, and despite the fact that the pitch will be less than ideal I'm going to go for a hat full of goals too. I actually think we'll win 4-0, but on the basis that I've made that prediction a few times already recently (and not been right yet) I'm going to keep that to myself. Or not as the case may be.

My main hope for tomorrow is that we can avoid any more injuries or suspensions as the next four weeks we have a massive 18 points to play for.

Up the Addicks!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Brighton 0 - 2 Charlton

As has been said elsewhere it was a terrible view. I didn't know who scored our second goal until I went online on my mobile 'phone. In fact I wasn't actually sure we'd even scored until I saw some of our players running away celebrating.

I know Brighton have had some problems, and due to our own 'exile' issues I have a lot of sympathy with them, but it is, frankly, shameful that they charged for the view that I got of the game. Also, while I'm complaining, there were literally hundreds of tickets left when I bought my two, but we were in the second row (the higher the better the view) and we were either side of an isle. If I'd paid half the price for tickets at a cinema I would have walked out. I don't know who's fault it is that the isle issue wasn't mentioned, or that the worst view seats were sold first but irrespective, it has made me significantly less motivated to go to away games.

The game itself I can hardly comment on as I'm confident that those listening on CAFC TV/Player had much more idea what was going on than I did. The atmosphere was also a little dampened, I expect due to the distance we were from the action.

It was a nice day out though. As I hadn't seen my Dad for about a month the long(ish) drive was a good time to catch up, and we also went to a Fish restaurant on the front - for a steak. Well we are British after all.

So my thoughts on the game are limited, but it was a good win. I know people (including myself) have been talking about our relative positions in the league and the fact that we really should have won, but you still have to beat the team in front of you. I didn't think we looked in any trouble at all in the first half. Brighton did attack more in the opening twenty minutes of the second half, but I really couldn't see the other goal well enough to tell you if we were lucky or safe, but either way we kept our first clean sheet since 10th October. Interestingly, if you include the two cup games that makes it our first clean sheet in nine.

I have always liked clean sheets. I know high scoring games are more exciting, but I like shut outs. I actually prefer a 1-0 rather than a 3-1, save for the obvious goal difference benefit.

Sadly both Norwich and Leeds also kept clean sheets, and Norwich scored more than us. I am worried about them, I think they could pose a real threat to us. However, we are four points above them, and I'd much sooner be four points in front than four points behind, and we seem to have found a little bit of form again, which bodes well for the run we have coming up before the end of the year.

Back to back wins, but had we not had Sodje sent off at Yeovil we could well be sitting on a run of four wins, something that many were suggesting would confirm our genuine promotion aspirations a month or so ago.

Over all a good night - and it didn't rain or drop below freezing. I'd have taken 2-0 before we left, but I don't think I'll be going to the Withdean Stadium again in a hurry.

Up the Addicks!

Monday, 30 November 2009

Next... Brighton away

After two wins and a draw in our last three games, scoring eleven goals and the draw being ten against eleven for more than an hour I'm going to Brighton tomorrow full of confidence.

I'm not one for superstitions, but it does always seem to surprise me that when my Dad goes away we go on to record some great results. He is back today and coming to Brighton tomorrow.

The MK Dons game was a bit of a spanking, but at 1-0 down we made a clearance on the line just minutes before equalising. Against Bristol Rovers we looked home and dry and in total control at 2-0 up but went on to throw the lead away before coming back to win by two clear goals. What this demonstrates is what makes football such a fantastic spectator sport. Despite there being a trend for the best team to win most of the time there is always the possibility that something unexpected can happen.

If you look at form table (last six games) we are 5th and Brighton are 23rd. I know you shouldn't read results from a table, but to be fair if you are in 2nd place after 18 games you can assume that you are better than the team in 20th place. Thus both on the season in total and the last six games we should be able to beat Brighton home or away. We have also demonstrated that we are able to cope with bad weather conditions with both the MK Dons and Yeovil games. The omens look good.

The biggest worry is that with five players one booking away from a suspension we could be a little hesitant in the tackle, but as the likelihood is that these players are going to pick up that fifth yellow at some point the issue should be when, not if, and as such they should be confident to put their foot in where necessary. Also one of those players in McLeod, who I don't expect to see start, and frankly don't expect to see again if we get our way in January.

I have never been to Brighton away, but I have been to Brighton many times. Normally I go to see clients or I go in the summer (on nice days). The former doesn't require spending much time outside, and the latter is on days when you'd like to spend time outside. I have a feeling tomorrow could be a little different. The iPhone weather suggests cloudy tomorrow without rain. I hope it's right as the feeling among the Charlton fans right now seems to be that we are going to get very wet.

I am looking forward to seeing my Dad again as he's been away for about a month, and going to football on my own is just not the same. I'd love for us to score a hat full of goals, as he's missed the MK Dons six and the Bristol Rovers four, but to be honest I'd take a 1-0. Despite that I am going to go for a 3-1 win. I think, based on recent results and their league position, we will have too much for Brighton.

Up the Addicks!

Friday, 27 November 2009

Q & A with Richard Murray

Dave and Blackheath Addick have already given their accounts of last night, and I see no reason to reinvent the wheel. However, with the benefit of a night's sleep and a few hours mulling it over today I think I might be able to add a few things that the other two left out.

I'm not going to break any confidences - it wasn't one of those meetings, but I have, perhaps, had a little longer to think about how I might phrase some of the things differently rather than leave them out all together.

For those of you that have seen Richard do one of these you will know how open he can be, sometimes too much. This was evident again last night, but there was a feeling that something was different. One significant thing that I did pick up on was that Richard mentioned several times that he has been the Chairman for fifteen years. If I wasn't already starting to think that he was dropping hints that he is off soon he, towards the end of the evening, said that just in case he doesn't get the chance again he would like to thank the fans for all their support over the years.

I'm not sure if that was just because there is a chance a take over will happen at some point, or because the moment took over, but it is was clear that Richard believes that it may well be time for him to "pass on the baton". In truth, in terms of league position, we are not in as good a position as we were when he took over, but the club infrastructure is much better.

There is another thing that we should do when looking at Richard's legacy. Even if one were to conclude that we are in a worse off position now than we were fifteen years ago (something I don't, by the way) we have to consider the following (which I think Richard was trying to say):

We are, probably, a decent size Championship club. We can expect to be aiming for the top six (playoffs) each season, and we have as good a chance of promotion (based on the size of the club) as most of the Championship clubs. We are not, however, an established Premier League club. We do not have a huge stadium, we do not have a history of winning trophies.

Richard described our Premier League seasons (eight of them) as "Punching above our weight." Thus I think the legacy that Richard leaves is the memories of a great time that we may not see again for a long while. This on top of the fact that he was involved in our move back to The Valley - something that we (certainly I) take for granted these days. It was a continuing dream of mine to see us play at The Valley again in the late eighties and early nineties. If that was all Richard had been involved in he would have been a hero anyway.

The Premier League seasons, which have cost us quite dear since we were relegated in 2007, were just fantastic. We all have different memories of those times - I have loads. What that time did was build up the support to make us a much bigger club than the one that I started watching in 1980 at a dilapidated Valley.

We all take gambles, some more risky than others, but if you'd asked me in 1990 if I'd have traded a season or two in the third division in exchange for moving back to The Valley, developing it into a 27,000 all seater stadium, and held our own for at least five seasons in the top division (The Premier League wasn't formed in 1990), including beating the current European Champions (Liverpool), Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea, Aston Villa and Everton both home and away, and making the Quarter Final in both the domestic cups I would have literally ripped your hand off. In fact, as it would have sounded too good to be true I would probably have ripped your arm off and hit you over the head with the other end.

If someone offered you the chance to trade all the equity in your house and end up having to sell it to buy something smaller (responsibilities for your family aside) in exchange for the chance to live out some dream you have had for years would you do it? More's to the point would you begrudge paying for it after it had all finished. That is what life is all about - living. Richard Murray should be remembered for being part of the team that gave thousands of Charlton fans that dream.

Anyway, moving on to what was said last night:

Financially we are secure for the rest of the season. The Daily Mirror article that suggested we need to sell players was rubbish. Richard said that he made no attempt to deny it as he said that unless you are Alex Ferguson any attempt to challenge the press ends up with your comments being twisted into something else. He confirmed, as is right, that we will sell if we are made a good offer for a player. He also suggested that the Mirror could just be extrapolating on the fact that we have made it known that we are trying to offload one of our strikers. He did say which one, but I think I'll leave that to your imagination.

If we are not promoted this season then we will be selling three or more players next summer. We also have fourteen players in the last year of their contract. Some of that will be due to players we have signed on one year deals (Daily, Sam Sodje, McKenzie) and some will be players that have been here a long time and have existing contracts. One of these players (which Richard refused to name) has been outstanding this season and it is thought that keeping him playing for a new contract might just be a factor in his improvements.

This led to a question from a fan about Darren Ambrose and Jerome Thomas. The feeling in the room was that both of these players failed to 'fear' for their futures when they had long term contracts on salaries that make the current squad look like paupers. I don't think it will be unfair to tell you that Richard thought that their improvement in performance (effort) since they left us could just be because they realised that they might not be professional footballers for much longer if they didn't improve. Jerome Thomas, for example was offered, by he's agent, to all and sundry but ended up with a trial at West Brom. Ambrose, Richard told us, asked if he was going to be offered a new contract and we just said no thanks.

On the subject of loan players, Richard hinted that all those we have had this season actually wanted to join us permanently. I think that has made a big difference in their attitudes and their performances. Both Mooney and Sodje would be welcome but we need to see how finances are and this will depend on potential sales. Richard said that he asked Lennie Lawrence if he'd made a decision about Chris Dickson. Apparently that decision will be made right at the last minute. Richard did say, with a laugh, that perhaps Lennie was negotiating with him, but I think that Dickson's future, along with that of another of our strikers, that Pardew signed, will determine who we can keep and/or sign in January.

As Dave has said it is clear that Parkinson is the man as far as the board are concerned. despite saying that we can judge him and them at the end of the season if we don't go up, I got the feeling that if necessary he will be the man tasked with getting us promoted next season if we fail this time. Richard also said that anything less than top two was unacceptable. Can't disagree with him there.

There was a discussion about Sullivan and the Gold brothers. Richard made it clear that they would be acceptable purchasers of the club. He believes (and is almost certainly right) that they would make the club successful. We might not, ultimately, like their methods (Birmingham fans didn't) but we should remember where they (Birmingham) are. I wouldn't mind paying a little more for another Premier League adventure. One thing to note was that Richard gave his rationale for who they might buy, we are clearly on that list, but said that he won't approach them. If they want to buy the club they will have to approach us. This gave away that they hadn't been in touch yet!

He also talked about why Palace might not be high on that list - they don't own their own ground. Richard got one of the biggest laughs of the night by questioning whether that would make you "Happy or Sad!" He went on to explain that there is much investment required at Selhurst Park and I'm sure that is what he really meant!

Richard also confirmed that they would not sell to a consortium headed up by Dennis Wise.

In fact, it was clear that they are willing and able to keep running the club for as long as it takes to find the type of buyer that they want to entrust our club to. What this means is that we can be an established Championship club with aspirations, not unlike Hull, Burnley, West Brom and Wolves. If we really want to push on for the Premier League we need new investment.

There was talk of Dowie. Richard was, I thought, very good on the subject. He gave us a story, that I'd heard most of before, about the Wigan game - that turned out to be his last. Allegedly he had the coach driver drop him off at home with his family on the way up to the game the day before (something that none of the players or management staff knew was going to happen). He suggested that he would meat up with the team the following morning. Allegedly he turned up at 2:30 pm, after the pre-match meal and team talk. We lost 3-2, and that was his last game. There were a number of other incidents that will only be made public if this actually goes to court - they weren't shared last night. Why I think Richard was good about this is that he is happy to give Dowie something for 'his trouble' but not very much. I agree with that.

I trust that I haven't said anything I shouldn't have done. Richard did ask that bloggers don't share things that would cause him to be more careful in the future - something that Dave and I found rather amusing, but that we both respect.

On the whole another enjoyable evening in the company of Richard Murray. Nothing very new, but informative, all the same.

Up the Addicks!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

The bigger they are the harder they fall

Despite the fact that I don't go out of my way to to publicise the fact, I've never shied away from the fact that I was a Liverpool fan in the seventies. Until my Dad took me to The Valley in 1980, and to be honest for a little while afterwards too, I followed Liverpool while they conquered England and Europe.

Since our relegation from the Premier League I have spent less time watching the 'Best League in the World' yet have been more interested in the top of the table following Liverpool's successes since Rafa Benitez arrived. No one would question the excitement of the 2005 Champions League Final, and last season they very nearly piped Man Utd to their first title since 1990. I suspect that if you'd told me in 1990 that having won the championship in ten of the last fifteen years they would go at least twenty years before they won another one I'd have called you mad. It's a bit like suggesting now that Man Utd will not win another Premier League until 2029. It's, actually, one of the reasons that football is such a great sport - anything can happen.

Since 1990 there have been a number of changes in world (and especially English) football that have removed a large proportion of the potential variables of the sport. Nassim Nicholas Taleb would probably have suggested in 1990 that it was entirely possible, all be it improbable, that Liverpool could fail to win another title for twenty years plus (based on this season and what I'm about to go on to write it could well be many more than twenty years). However, the change in the finances in English football have made the potential for events to be considered Black Swans even more likely.

In 1990 Liverpool were financially stronger than most other clubs, but crucially their side was much stronger. When I say side I clearly mean squad, but there were fewer players involved back then. Before the Sky money came along bringing with it many hangers on that required, and motivated, players to demand higher and higher wages the financial strength of a club was less significant. If you were the reigning champions and you had the best side most of the best players wanted to play for you, and that made it easier to build even stronger teams. Today the Premier League is full of players that (in my view) really couldn't care less where they play, don't really care too much if they win or not, probably aren't all that bothered if they are in the first team or not. "Just show me the money".

I understand that we are all whores to money. I like what I do and I'm able to provide for my family, but if I was offered a lot of money to do something I might not like as much I'm probably take it. I have no problem with players trying to maximise their income. I think there does need to be a readdressing of the balance of income to expenditure at football clubs but it will never happen. Charlton are just one of many clubs that have overstretched and have paid the price with relegations and financial hardship. It is likely to take us in excess of another decade before we will be as financially secure as we were in 1997, the season we won our first promotion to he Premier League. The truth is that none of the powerhouses of English football care. We, like Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday, Bradford and others were relegated from their exclusive club and suffered relegation again. However, we were replaced with other sides for them to beat twice a season. It looks likely that Portsmouth and Hull are the latest candidates to find themselves in the third division just a couple of years after dining at Old Trafford, but they will be replaced too.

This has led to a number of clubs believing that "We're all right Jack" as they were in the Premier League and those outside of it couldn't compete. The latest round (I'm thinking the last three seasons) of injections of cash to unfashionable teams has caught a lot of clubs out. We were relegated due to a number of factors, but I believe mainly due to the loss of something that Curbishley brought to the table. I won't open up the debate again, but Newcastle and Middlesborough were very established in the Premier League. "If it can happen to them then none of us are safe". I think this was the main motivation for Bolton's recent suggestion that the Premier League be expanded slightly and have two divisions with no relegation from the bottom one.

This is not an attempt to keep Bolton in the top flight - something that was thought to be assured just five seasons ago. This is an attempt to prevent Bolton falling into the third division, or even lower, when they are relegated. I say when as it is now apparent that the three teams that win promotion from the Championship come into the league with more disposable income, due to lower wage bills, and players that are hungry for success, not just money. This makes it likely that we will see at least one promoted side survive for at least one season, which means that one with an established Premier League wage bill will go. £11m a year for two years is not enough to adjust. It's rumoured that Hull were willing to offer Michael Owen a long term contract last summer that would have eaten up half of that on it's own. At this point I might even suggest that despite our problems we were run better than most clubs. Both Portsmouth and Hull have much bigger financial worries than we had on relegation, and I'm not sure they are the only ones.

Thus relegation means a very good chance of long term disaster. Without aiming to pick on them, Hull have managed (in just one season in the Premier League) to go from a club with a lot of cash and a massive income compared to expenditure to a club with massive debts and spiraling costs that cannot be met from income in the Premier League, let alone the Championship. Relegation would be a total disaster for them. NB. I'm basing this on a few tabloid stories, so the facts could well be inaccurate, but the point is valid.

So where is this all going? Well, this subject has been covered many times before, and I have little new to add except to point out the main architects of this master plan are now under threat themselves.

Man Utd are a massive club. Chelsea have a very wealthy backer. Arsenal are well run, but still have substantial debts following the building of the Emirates Stadium. Liverpool are the least well protected against a drop in income. I know you could argue that with the debts Man Utd have they could also be in trouble, but for now they are so much stronger in terms of squad strength they are safe for the time being.

A point about Chelsea in relation to Man City. When Abramovitch turned up at Stanford Bridge in 2003, Chelsea had finished in the top six for seven seasons including a third and two fourths and had qualified for the Champions League twice in that time. When Shinawatra purchased Man City in 2007, they were relegation fodder. Despite the fact that they survived, they could well have been relegated that season. Thus the injection of capital that was magnified a year later when the Abu Dhabi United Group bought the club distorted the whole balance of the Premier League. I'm all for competition, and I would love to see Aston Villa or Spurs qualify for the Champions League, but I just couldn't see it happening - not with all the buying power the current top four have.

Which brings me back to the title of this post. Tonight Liverpool need something of a miracle to qualify for the knock out stages of the Champions League. They are struggling in the Premier League and they have the weakest squad they have had that I can remember. Take Torres or Gerrard out of their side and they struggle, take them both out and they are in real trouble. So why does this matter? Well if you ignore my interest in Liverpool in the seventies, it matters because it looks like the safety of another (smaller) exclusive club in English football is about to disappear.

If Man City continue their spending and actually break into the top four this season (possible) or next season (likely) or the season after (very likely) then Liverpool (assuming it's them that fall out) could start a fall from grace that is similar to the one that we have experienced. Clearly they will not end up in the third division, but a season out of the Champions League could force more cost cutting that could leave them less able to qualify next season. A second season out of Europe's Elite could (and probably would) motivate Gerrard and/or Torres to leave.

Liverpool already have average Premier League players on Champions League wages. They already have debts that can only be serviced if they stay in the Champions League. Swap Liverpool for Charlton and switch the competitions and you see the similarities.

I don't particularly want Liverpool to suffer - quite the opposite. However it does seem only fair that those greedy clubs that stole the limited resources from the weaker clubs for their own ends suffer the same fate. Assuming that the Arabs do not bore of football there is a very real chance that Liverpool will end up like Everton. A once former great that just can't get anywhere near anymore.

The bigger they are the harder they fall.

Up the Addicks!

Monday, 23 November 2009

Next... Bristol Rovers at home

This season started on fire, it was the most I've enjoyed watching Charlton for many years. The way we were playing was as much to do with the excitement as the results. You can't fail to enjoy winning though.

The league form has been less impressive recently, and the chances of us winning the division have looked increasingly remote in the last month or so. The FA Cup game at Northwich Victoria was a bad result, but in the grand scheme of things it was no real loss as we were almost certainly not going to progress very far. Let's face it, we should struggle to beat all but a few of the Championship teams, so the sooner we were knocked out the better for the league form, bearing in mind we have a small squad with significant quality in a few places.

The JPT game at Southampton was important to me as I thought it would give us a chance to play at Wembley, but despite playing well for some of the second half we were second best on the night and didn't deserve anything.

I have been much more busy since I have sufficiently recovered from my operation. Due to a number of factors (that I won't bore you with here) Mrs KHA works full time and I run a business from home and take my son to school and pick him up every day.

I'm lucky to have a job that can be reasonably financially rewarding in relation to the hours that are necessary. I'm not bragging, and I can assure you it was rare before the 'Credit Crunch' and non-existent since, but with luck, and a following wind, I can earn more in a month than someone on minimum wage would earn in a year. This means that with business very slow (as it has been this year) I can still earn more doing a few hours a day than I would in a full time job, based on the skills I have.

However, things have picked up a little in the last few months, and coupled with me taking over the school run, that Mrs KHA did while I was unable to drive after my operation, I'm struggling to find the time to write this blog like I used to. There was no intentional decision to 'take a break' and I can assure you it is merely a coincidence that I seemed to go very quiet after we spanked MK Dons.

I have little to say about the Southampton game. In all honesty I was disappointed by just how quickly I managed to disregard the competition as irrelevant when we were out of the JPT. The MK Dons game needs little discussion. There has been more than enough to read elsewhere, and despite my initial worries when we went a goal down, we showed many of the signs that I was convinced would win us promotion in that second half to re-ignite my interest in our league season.

I had a bad feeling about Yeovil. I think this was mainly because the last three years has taught me not to get carried away when things look good. On reflection the draw was a good result with a man sent off in terrible conditions. It sounds like it was a special day out for all those that went, probably not for the football, but then really supporting a club is not always just about the football. I remember losing an FA Cup tie at West Brom in terrible rain in 1990. The discussion at the time was that we'd lost to a goal scored by a puddle. On the day the game could have gone either way, but the rain just kept on coming and when the goal was scored it was going wide but the standing water changed the direction of the ball and we lost 1-0. To be fair we (My Dad and I) were in a stand with a roof that day, but never the less it created a memory that will last longer due to the conditions. I suspect that Yeovil away in 2009 will be the same.

This brings us on to Bristol Rovers tomorrow night. After being third at the end of September, just one point behind us, they went on to lose all five games in October before winning back to back games in November. We have won two and drawn four of those seven games, so our lead over Rovers is now five points. This is significant because they now occupy seventh place, just outside the playoffs - something we need to consider a real possibility for us this season. Back in 2008 our obsession with automatic promotion and the loan players brought in to get it cost us a dead cert playoff place.

Anyway, their two wins were home to Carlisle and Gillingham, sides that are hardly world class, and if we can play like we did against MK Dons, or the second half on Saturday I think we will be too good for Rovers.

It will be interesting to see if Chris Dickson finds enough form to make his move there permanent. After starting with a few goals he has not been quite so impressive as I understand it. It would be good to get some money for him, and either way I cannot see us giving him a new contract in the summer. With him not allowed to play in this game I suspect that we will never see Chris Dickson take the field at The Valley again. As a character he sounds like the kind of bloke you'd want around. As a player he sounds like like the kind of bloke you can never trust to do what is needed of him at crucial times. It's a shame, but the lad has talent, and I suspect that if you are gifted you are allowed to get away with things that create bad habits. It is no surprise that Man Utd have developed so many young talents into great footballers. Ferguson doesn't allow players to pick up bad habits, non league managers clearly don't have exactly the same approach.

I'm going to go for a win tomorrow night. I think it could be a large one too. I'm going to plump for 4-0. Don't ask my why I just have this feeling.

Up the Addicks!

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Next... Southampton away

Wembley, Wembley, we're the famous Charlton FC and we're going to Wembley!

Well maybe we're not, but this is as close as we've been since May 1998. I know we were in the Quarter Final of the FA Cup in 2006 but we had to beat Middlesborough and one of Liverpool, Chelsea or West Ham to get there that year. Despite flying to a football game we lost the Quarter Final Replay and the rest is history.
We need to beat Southampton away (not exactly easy, but we did do it a few months ago) then we need to beat one of Orient, Hereford, MK Dons, Northampton, Swindon or Norwich over two legs. Norwich or MK Dons would be a bit of a test but the rest are potentially fodder and none of them worry me as much as facing Liverpool or Chelsea at Villa Park or Old Trafford did in 2006. Was that really only three and a half years ago?
I've been trying to think of a decent comparison for a JPT Final at Wembley as opposed to an FA Cup Final at the same venue. I am trying to avoid the crude ones - and I'm sure you don't need my help with those. However, I'm struggling. I've been to Wembley many times, I'm a member of EnglandFans+ which guarantees me a ticket for all home games. I have seen Charlton play there twice. I was at the opening of the New Wembley - both the U21 game and the Full International against Brazil. I've seen England play Germany, and I was at Steve McLaren's final game in charge which was (in every way possible) a massive game.
The Play off Final in 1998 was the best game attended by just about everyone there, including Sunderland fans and a number of friends that went along to 'support' Charlton but are not Charlton fans. For this reason the match cannot be compared to anything else. However Blackburn 1 - 0 Charlton in the Full Members Cup Final in 1987 was the best day out at a football match I could remember. Take away the Playoff Final in 1988 and the first game back at the Valley in 1992 and it is still the top occasion in football for me. It was the first time I got to see Charlton play at Wembley.
In fact I purchased a scarf that day, and after the game it was put up on my bedroom wall where it stayed until I moved out of my 'family home' in 1995. It was probably the cheapest item of clothing I'd ever bought, but to this day I could find it in the loft in less than ten minutes.
At five, my Son is clearly too young to understand things like this. I doubt I would take him if we got to the Final, it's a long trip and with the parking restrictions at Wembley it would mean packing him on a tube and he is not ready for that yet, but I can assure you that I am!
I'm not going to Southampton tomorrow, I just can't spare the time. I don't have Sky Sports any more so I won't even be watching it live, but I will be listening to the scores, or more likely I'll have the score flashing up on my iPhone.
Do I want to win this game? You bet I do. I also have a sneaky feeling that we will do.
Then we get at least one game at The Valley to win our place at Wembley.
Wembley, Wembley, we're the famous Charlton FC and we're going to Wembley.
Up the Addicks!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Northwich Victoria 1 - 0 Charlton

Well, I am not very surprised and as a consequence I'm not all that disappointed.

I held off criticising the manager or the players last week, but it currently looks like we do not have what it takes to compete at any level, again. I say again as this is exactly what we witnessed after Pardew left last season. I am not going to get on the manager's back, but all of his posturing and claiming that it is his responsibility seems very shallow less than a week after he grabs himself a new contract which, I presume, guarantees him a bigger payoff if we sack him.

To be fair, I did say that I couldn't care less about losing to a non-league side in my preview of this game, so I can hardly complain if the players felt the same. I would call most of them liars if they tried to suggest that they did care after that performance.

However, we need to look at the facts. Some of the players might have salary increases if we win promotion, which they must think is a possibility - even after our recent form. Even if they were guaranteed all the oil in the Middle East for winning the FA Cup they would be no richer come the end of May than they are now. We are sadly mistaken if we believe that the majority of the players at our club care about anything other than themselves. Their reputation being tarnished by being in the first Charlton side to lose to non-league opposition probably doesn't bother them in the slightest, just as long as they pick up their several thousands pounds for this week's work.

I made it clear that I would rather progress in the JPT as we might make it to Wembley in that one. I see no reason as to why any of the players should give a toss about the FA Cup. It is debatable if any players do these days. Those that are at a club that can realistically expect to win it have priorities that put the FA Cup below the level of consolation, and those that can't possibly win it can't be bothered to go through the motions. That is why we would have had a two thirds (or more) empty stadium had we been at home. It is childish for us to get all hot and bothered under the collar about the result now.

Sure, we played badly, but the players were playing for literally nothing. Really I ask you, what difference does it make to their lives if they don't win this game? As best it is a weekend off, at worst it means that the manager will make it a little awkward at work for a couple of days.

So, on the whole I am not really all that bothered. As for there being any chance of me being embarrassed by my friends following this, you only need five minutes on Google to find a dozen other things that they could throw at me from the last three years, so they are hardly short of ammunition.

As I have said before I'm only really interested in the league this season and if we beat MK Dons on Saturday I will have forgotten all about today.

One thing I will mention though is McLeod. I have said before that I am happy for him to be allowed to leave on a free. he is just not good enough at this level, and with his salary we can't afford him now, if we fell enough divisions for him to be good enough his salary would probably send us into Administration. I know he puts in effort, and for that reason I think I've held back. His tendency to take his shirt off every time he scores is bad enough - all be it not too much of a problem on the basis that he scores so, so few goals. However, his elbow 'attack' from the kick off of the second half was disgraceful. Franky he is lucky that we lost otherwise that would have been the only thing the watching public remembered of our side.

Other than that it was great game.

I'll even go as far as to say that I would sacrifice the JPT for a return to winning ways in the League. Let's see what next weekend brings before we panic too much.

Up the Addicks!

Friday, 6 November 2009

Next... Northwich Victoria away

I haven't said much recently. Gillingham away was a disappointment. Most disappointing was that we didn't start with Shelvey in for McLeod. We never looked like carving out a decent chance in the whole game. The only half-chance we had came from a long punt out of defence that McLeod managed to get hold of thanks to his pace. Sadly, despite getting away from his defender, his shot, from less than 20 yards, was so poor that it went out for a throw-in.

I wasn't at Carlisle, but we again started with McLeod rather than Shelvey. I'm sure that the reason that we have managed to keep our wonder starlet is that he is not going to get games if he moves to a Premier League club and trebles his money. I wonder what will happen in January if he he can't get a game in the third division on second division money?

There isn't much good news to come from the 3-1 defeat, and I'm not going to ever bother to look for any but the truth is that any early confidence I had about our season (and remember I was confident before the first game) has pretty much all gone now.

I would probably suggest that Shelvey has been our best but more importantly our most effective player in many games this season. Clearly we miss Semedo's presence in the middle of the park, but Shelvey makes things happen in a way than no other player does. It's fine bringing on McLeod to add some pace in the last twenty minutes of games (although I'd personally rather never see him play for us again) but to play him instead of Shelvey I can't can't agree with. From the reports I've read McLeod even played behind Burton in a 4-4-1-1 as Carlisle. Really? Who's idea was that then?

There is some debate elsewhere about loan players. For the record I don't actually care if the players are on loan, from the academy or bought from another club for a fee. What I care about is how well they play. From a long term perspective it also matters about how we develop players for our future. With the recent press statement from Parkinson that he will be happy to sell Randolph in January I guess it's not much of a loss if the Wolves third choice goalkeeper started at Carlisle, especially if he cannot play in the FA Cup for us. The decision at right back is a little different. I think that Grant Basey needs to get some games under his belt. He has looked very impressive at times and he will not develop on the bench. With Youga switched to the right we could have given Basey a game. However, from what I make of his current contract situation, I suspect that we could get Omozusi for little, or nothing, so if he is a prospect we need to have a look at him. At the risk of being negative if we don't get promoted in the next two seasons we are going to need to offload the likes of Daily, Llera and Richardson. Thus, it is not the most unreasonable thing in the world to have a look at a young right back that might go on to better things.

The result was terrible. The performance, from what I read, was terrible. There is no benefit in pointing the finger at certain players or the manager, however, there is going to be a question floating around all season. "Has Parkinson developed/built a good side/squad or has he been blessed with entirely too many players that are too good for this division?" That question goes through my mind from time to time. When we win I find myself not caring what the real answer is. When we lose I worry that the club's long term future (or a lack of it) rests on it.

There is no doubt that Pardew spent all the family silver and ended up wasting the money, and therefore the best opportunity to return to the Premier League. Parkinson hasn't had much money, but with the nucleus of the side it should be more than possible to win promotion this season. I know that many people were predicting a struggle for us this season, but that was based on us selling Shelvey, Bailey, Racon and others. True to their word the Board have funded keeping these players at the club, and they have facilitated the signing of three good experienced defenders and an experienced striker. The bar was raised and anything short of promotion is a failure.

Anyway, we are still in second place, and despite the fact that our form is pants I would rather have the points on the board.

So to this week's cup games. I would, personally, rather win on Wednesday than on Sunday. I don't want to lose to non-league opposition, but let's face it any pride we had in our clubs status has been eroded in the last three years. I'm not saying that we are a laughing stock, but we are now discussed as the benchmark for the worst thing that could happen to your club when a team looks to be on the slide. "I mean they need to watch it or they could end up doing a Charlton!" I don't want the team's confidence to take a knocking, but, frankly if these players, that are probably all earning several thousand pounds a week, can't beat a non-league team then they will have to accept it on their CV. I have gone from being a target of ridicule to a sympathy case, it doesn't bother me in the slightest if we lose to a non-league team.

The reason I want to beat Southampton is that I still see thw JPT as a possible day out at Wembley. We could beat Northwich Victoria 25-0 and still have about as much chance of making the FA Cup Final as I do of winning the lottery (and I don't even buy a ticket).

Thus I would probably sanction playing some reserve players for this game. I don't want to humiliate the Vics fans, but frankly this is just not important enough in the grand scheme of things. With Parkinson being rewarded for our early season start with a new contract he can hardly feel under any significant pressure himself, and if Semedo, Daily or Sodje pick up a long term injury it could put us under real pressure. We also have to factor in the fact that we need to play at least six first team players at Southampton and next Saturday's fixture with MK Dons is now a massive game. I would go as far as to suggest that it is a must win.

The only significance of the FA Cup game is that it is on the TV and my Son and I have made plans to watch it together. I suspect that he will get bored and decide to play with his toys instead, but other than the father and son thing I really couldn't care less.

Up the Addicks!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Next... Gillingham away

It's a proper local derby for me. If you use TheAA.com Kings Hill is 30.4 miles to The Valley and only 16.2 miles to The Priestfield Stadium.

Add to that the fact that a former colleague is a Gills fan and will be going and it becomes much more serious. In fact, as we are technically friends (from today until Saturday morning and again from Sunday) I have decided to go and sit in the home end. My Dad is, naturally, coming along, and our former boss (who has decided to become an Addick for the day) is also going to be there. We haven't decided to 'Take their End' but we will, no doubt, be among friends if the rumours about the number of Charlton fans going is to be believed.

We sold out our allocation in two days - not a bad achievement for close to two and a half thousand tickets. I could probably have got tickets as we have already been to two away games this season, but it was decided that we would watch the game among 'friends' from Kent. Both my Dad and I live in Kent, but for those of you that think Kentish fans are just plain wrong, My Dad was born in Eltham.

So I already have enough reasons to want to win this game, before we look at this season and the current league table, but there is another reason to want to win. The FA Cup game in 2004 was a terrible embarrassment and one that I still carry the mental scars from to this day. It was supposed to be a formality, and the way that the home fans carried on, coupled with Tommy Johnson's 'Shhh' finger (photo above), made me keen to beat them out of sight at the next available opportunity. Bring on Saturday!

As for the current league position and our form, I find myself swayed towards the cup half full following our win over Huddersfield and Leeds poor performance against Norwich. Like I predicted at the start of the season Norwich seem to have found their feet now and I still believe that they could win this league. Even though they are nine points behind us I consider them a real threat to our chances of an automatic promotion place. With Leeds looking increasingly lucky in recent weeks I can see us catching them if their form doesn't improve and their luck runs out. I know it is the norm for Champions to win games they had no reason to, particularly if the winning goals come late, but it is also common place for sides like that fall away. Fingers crossed?

Despite MK Dons and Colchester being right behind us that is on the back of our worst run of form this season, during which we've won two, drawn three and only lost one. That six games has included three of the top six and two from the top half of the table. It also includes Leeds, Colchester and Norwich away. not bad eh? MK Dons at The Valley in a couple of weeks will be tough, but the rest of our games between now and 19th December when we entertain Millwall all look winnable. This should be viewed as a chance to build up another cushion like the one that we have just used to stay in the top two when playing three tough away games.

It would seem that some of the Gillingham fans are worried about the visit of the Mighty Charlton Athletic. I'm not sure they need to be if I'm honest. Sure I expect us to win, and I also expect it to be a lot more clear cut than last Saturday's win over Huddersfield, but I doubt it is going to be a 5-0 thrashing, even though I'd quite like it to be.

As for the side, I was surprised that we started with a 4-4-2 against Huddersfield, but assuming Semedo is going to play I am happy with either formation. The fact that we have demonstrated that we have a second option will keep Paul Stimson guessing and he will struggle to mark Shelvey out of the game if he starts on the bench again. I would probably play him and revert to a 4-4-1-1 with Burton upfront. I would look to being on McLeod in the second half to stretch the Gill's defence and take pressure of us if we are winning, or to chase a goal if we are not. Either way I'd not mess with the defence - assuming Richardson is passed fit. LLoyd Sam has been less than 100% fit in recent weeks so I might be tempted to start with Wagstaff and leave Sam on the bench to act as an impact player later on in the proceedings.

I note that Dave is going for a 1-1 draw. I sadly fear that could happen if we are not on top of our game. Recent weeks have demonstrated that we are not going to be able to walk through games but I think we have learned that now and should be up for this one. The atmosphere should be a little like Orient where I believe the fans really drove the players on. I can see the same thing happening on Saturday.

I would just love it if we beat them. Just love it!

Up the Addicks!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Charlton 2 - 1 Huddersfield

In a game that we really needed a win to get our season back on track I went along with just one aspiration. All I wanted was a win. I would have taken a boring game with few chances and a 1-0 win. My confidence has been affected in recent weeks and as a consequence I suspect that the players must have had a few doubts about our invincibility too. A win, any win, would have gone a long way to help that and, of course, three points would be greatly received as our cushion over third place has been all but eroded.

What I didn't dare for was an exciting, entertaining game, but that is what we got. Needless to say I am a little biased as we won, but I would go as far as to say that this was the best game of football that I have seen this season. There were not a lot of goals and Huddersfield's style of play was very direct, but the fact that the result was never a foregone conclusion and that both sides tried to win made for a very enjoyable afternoon.

As for the game, as usual, I am not going to provide a report, but some observations. After scoring early (from a set piece) Huddersfield seemed to do all the attacking. Their long throws looked very threatening, all be it that they never actually came close to scoring from one, and this contributed to them putting us under a lot of pressure in the first half. It was interesting to note that we quickly changed from the 'safety first' approach of putting the ball out for a throw when the full backs were chased down. It looked like we struggled at first, but by the end both Youga and Richardson provided fewer and fewer opportunities for the mammoth throw-ins.

I was, frankly, surprised that we started with two upfront. I can accept that against Oldham we needed more bite, but I thought, before, and after, the game, that Huddersfield's aspirations this season were such that they would come to The Valley and play for a win. I thought that against such a side we would have been better to have kept more strength in midfield. Up to half time it did look like the change in formation was causing us to lose the midfield battle.

The introduction of Semedo made all the difference. Semedo is a strange player. I mean he doesn't do anything special per se, granted he always seems to be available to accept a pass in the middle of the park, he always seems to pass the ball on to a team mate, and he does tackle well. His passing is not especially attacking - he doesn't play those defence splitting passes like Racon does, but his presence makes the whole side function better. Clearly he has a better playing relationship with Racon, who seems much more likely to push forward with Semedo behind him, but there is something that I am clearly missing. I rate Semedo very, very highly. I personally believe that he will (even if not just yet) be good enough for the Premier League. I just can't put my finger on anything specific that he does that lifts the whole team in the way that he clearly does.

Apart from Semedo returning (played 9 won 7 drawn 2 lost 0) there were some other pluses yesterday. McLeod looked much better, and despite lacking a real killer instinct, he didn't do anything wrong. I have to say that from my seat in the East Stand it looked like we was claiming for free kicks when he wasn't fouled, and in those circumstances he probably needs to get up off the floor quicker to put pressure on the player on the ball, but that's such a small thing I feel a bit picky even mentioning it.

As for the 'taking off of the shirt after scoring' this is unforgivable. I was angry when he did it a couple of weeks ago, but it was his first league goal for over two years. If I'd been his manager I would have fined him two weeks notice for doing it again, and I'd be inclined to transfer list him if he did it a third time - and I'd tell him I was going to as well. I'm going to assume that there is no disrespect by literally throwing the shirt on the floor, but as he is now on four bookings he needs just one more for a suspension. Stupid, stupid, stupid. This is the type of behaviour that reaffirms the notion that footballers are as thick as shit, and I have no idea what possessed him to do it. He did take his goal well though.

With Shelvey (who I think has been very significant in some games this season) rested we have also demonstrated that if we can keep Semedo fit we do have a Plan 'B' worth it's name.

So, overall a good day out, a win against a side that I believe will be in the mix at the end of the season, and a good game too.

We now have back to back away games against teams that I don't expect to be anywhere near the playoffs before we face MK Dons at The Valley, with an FA Cup 1st Round and a JPT Quarter-Final in between. We have now played three of the other four teams that I predicted would occupy the top two places, and we are top of the league, but will be at least second when all the sides have played their games in hand.

Things are looking good.

Up the Addicks!

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Charlton 0 - 0 Oldham

I thought I'd wait until this morning as I was just way to angry yesterday. Now that I look back I'm not sure quite what I was angry about.

Oldham came with a game plan and as the game went on they became more and more obsessed with not conceding a goal. I can't really complain about that, after all we have done that in the past, and it is the responsibility of the 'better' team to break down their opponents. I suspect that after the start we've had, and the press coverage we've been afforded there are a lot of sides that will be happy with a 0-0 at The Valley.

If you have real aspirations of finishing top two you need to be looking to win at The Valley. However, if you are happy to accept a playoff place then a draw at The Valley (and Elland Road for that matter) must be considered a good result.

So why was I so angry? Well, I felt that this was a game that we needed to win; I felt that this was a game that, on the day, we should have won; and it is definitely two points dropped.

I know we have had a shortage of quality upfront, but for me, yesterday was the straw that broke the camel's back for Izale McLeod. Granted he scored a goal against Exeter, but it was a rebound when the goalkeeper pushed it into his feet and was on the floor, six yards out. He did score against Barnet, but it was a rubbish shot (I was right behind him) and without the lucky deflection would never have gone in. Yesterday, however, he missed two chances that would have made a massive difference to our season. They were terrible misses. An open goal with a simple header and he missed the target then a gift of a ball from Racon for a one on one with the 'keeper all over the place and he screwed it wide.

Here, I'll say it, no one else seems to want to. Izale McLeod is not a goal scorer. He has fantastic pace, although he often has no idea how to use it, but the truth is that he is just not good enough in front of goal to ever be considered a professional striker. I can't help wondering how many divisions we would have to fall through for him to be good enough. The true answer must be irrelevant. If he cannot hit the target with the 'keeper off his line from six yards I guess it doesn't matter who the opposition are. I suspect that he could play in his garden on his own and still miss sitters from six yards out.

That is why I'm so angry. I'm angry that we paid £1.15m for a player that isn't good enough for the third division. I'm angry that we're paying the donkey hundreds of thousands of pounds a year when we are in real financial trouble. Worst of all, however, Parkinson is praising him for now having a good attitude. For such a limited player on such massive wages I cannot see any justification for his attitude not always being fantastic. I'm no footballer at all, but you just cannot grasp how good my attitude would be if I was given a contract on several thousand pounds a week to work part-time (by comparison to normal working hours) playing football.

I begin to wonder what world these footballers think they live in.

Anyway rant over, and I have probably been a bit over the top, but as I thought Tuna was by far the better of the two on Tuesday night and McLeod has failed to hit the target from good positions in two games in our recent run that, had he scored, would have turned draws into wins I am ready to condemn him to the scrap heap as far as Charlton are concerned. Maybe we should put him out on loan to a Sunday under 9 side. I suspect he would still not know when and where to make his runs, and he would probably still miss open goals, but at least he would be out of sight for us Charlton fans.

McKenzie, on the other hand looked like he has a lot to offer. With our shortage upfront I think we are going to have to rely on him in the coming weeks.

On the whole we failed to perform and didn't lose. We are still without Semedo, and Sam and Richardson were clearly not fully fit. Sadly it is clear that we have been found out. A suggestion by a controversial commenter on the email list called for us to make a change for this very reason before we played Colchester. With three league games without a goal and now just one win in six it is becoming difficult to deny his foresight.

Without a win soon the debate about our start will open again. Did Parkinson build a side and system that got us off to a flying start, or were the players at his disposal going to win those games in spite of, rather then because of, his management.

I'm still keen to give Parkinson the benefit of doubt, but the start we've had has built up expectation that makes one win in six just not good enough. Next up Huddersfield, who thrashed Exeter 4-0 yesterday, and are still on the hunt for a top two finish. Assuming they don't come to grind out a 0-0 we will have to be prepared properly or we could lose our unbeaten home record, and probably second place in the division.

Just a quick mention for Oldham. They really did make it difficult for us yesterday and if they are a good example of what's to come we really are going to have to raise our game if we are going to win automatic promotion.

Over to you Parkinson?

Up the Addicks!

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Next... Oldham at home

Due to taking the best part of a month off work following my operation at the start of September, I have been increasingly busy in the last couple of weeks. Clearly this is all good news as it helps to pay the mortgage, but it has made my blogging rather erratic. It also explains why I am writing a preview of today's game at 9am on the Saturday rather than on the Thursday or the Friday. Normally this would afford me the benefit of reading all the other blogs first, but this week I've not had time to do so.

Anyway, now I'm here I might as well fill in the gaps. I was pleased with the 0-0 at Leeds. I would have loved it had we won by two goals and gone top, but after the hammering at Colchester I was very fearful of the wheels literally falling off. I know this is a little disrespectful to Parkinson and the players, but after the last three years I can't help it.

My decision to go to Leeds (or not as it turned out) was almost confirmed when we lost at Colchester, but the club's decision to insist all tickets were picked up in person due to the postal strikes was the final nail in the coffin. For the record I have no problem with the club making this decision, but as I am still unable to drive I was just not able to get there to collect a ticket.

Barnet in the Johnson's Paint Trophy was both entertaining and professional. I suspect that the League's rules requiring at least 6 'first team players' to start had more to do with the lineup, but either way we put out a side that put on a good show and won comfortably - despite going behind. I don't care what the competition is; I don't care who the opposition is; I defy anyone not to enjoy seeing their team score four goals, and for this reason I just can't understand why so few fans turned out to watch the game. If you add Barnet's goal it works out at a mere £1 a goal. I know we are in a recession but you can't even buy a Sunday paper for a pound. Having said that in the past we have lost these kind of games so maybe I can understand the stay-aways.

So, on to today's game. Despite winning the first six games of the season, and being undefeated at home I can't help feeling that we are walking a tightrope. Maybe it's a result of last season (or the two seasons before it) or maybe it's as a result of our recent games being less comfortable than those six wins, but I go into today's game with a lot less confidence than I had six weeks ago.

Thanks to statto.com I am able to have all sorts of facts and figures at my fingertips when I write my blog each week. Normally I don't bother with too much of this as I am boring enough without throwing in stats. In recent weeks we have fallen down the form table (last 6 games) to 8th. we have lost to Colchester and drawn with Leeds and the two sides that were relegated with us last season. Oldham, however, are 6th in the form table with three wins and a draw out of six. This should make for a good game today.

Following our collapse at the start of 2008 I started to write about looking forward to each game as nothing more than a game of football. Bearing in mind how close the chasing pack are I cannot approach today's fixture in the same fashion. This is a game we really need to win. It's not exactly a 'must win' but it is important that we get back to winning ways in the league. With just one win in our last five league games there is good reason to question our staying power in this division. A win today would speak volumes, especially as Oldham are in decent form, and just two points off the playoffs.

Team news (something that I've never had that much to say about) suggests that we may see a couple of the Barnet heroes today as we have a few injuries to contend with. I'm happy with our squad. Clearly we have some players that are better then others, but on the whole I think all of our first team squad can hold their own in this division so a few changes here and there should not be seen as a disaster.

I've just seen that we have been drawn away to Southampton in the Johnson's Paint Trophy. This is the last fixture that I wanted, but it is what we have got. I must make my feelings clear here. I would just love a trip to Wembley early next year. It may not be the FA Cup, but it is a trophy that we can realistically win, and anything less than a Final appearance will mean failure in my book. I don't care how much money we make from it, nor do I care that the competition has a bit of a silly name, it is a chance for the fans (me in particular) to have a day out at Wembley. After the last three seasons I think the fans deserve that day out.

Today will be a first for me. My Dad is off in Tenerife again (retirement eh?) and due to my shoulder operation I am still unable to drive. I was going to get the Valley Express, but in the nick of time I was offered a lift from Daggs, who you will have read both on my blog (as well as others) with his comments and here. Let's hope that we will both have good things to write about come 5pm.

Up the Addicks!

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Colchester 3 - 0 Charlton

Our great start to the season came to a halt tonight in our worst League defeat since April 2008, when we lost by the same scoreline at Barnsley. You'd have to go back to January 2007 for a worse scoreline, and that was a 4-0 defeat at Arsenal, which you could probably claim was a better result than 3-0 at Colchester.

Strangely though I don't feel all that bothered about this result. Sure, I wasn't at Arsenal on 2nd January 2007, but I'm guessing that it was more of a hammering than tonight was. My second away fixture of the season and after the 2-1 win at Orient I was quietly optimistic that we would come away with all three points tonight - clearly I was wrong.

We have looked a lot less impressive since we beat Brentford way back on the 5th of September. In fact we have only won one of the four games since that one. Southampton and Norwich were, perhaps, excusable as they came down with us; Exeter were beaten, not at all convincingly, but a win is a win. Tonight, however, was confirmation that we are not going to walk this division.

To be fair the first goal was a freak. Whom ever is responsible is a little irrelevant, it was a shocking back header, and Rob Elliot came off his line when there was no need for him to do so. I wouldn't think that either of those events would happen more than once a season, and to have them both happen at the same time is just plain bad luck.

As I said after the Exeter game results are affected by one off events. Had Colchester scored a freakish own goal I suspect that the result tonight could well have been 3-0 to us - well ok maybe not, but I genuinely believe that the result could have been different.

With that in mind we need to accept that today was not our day and move on and look for a confidence boost with a nice easy game this Saturday.

I have given Parkinson enough stick in the last twelve months, and after the start we've had this season I can hardly really complain, so I'm going to allow this result to pass and chalk it off as a bad day at the office. However, there are many signs that this team and formation needs tweaking before much longer. I'm not saying that we have been found out per se, but we have developed a few weaknesses in recent weeks and they seem to have become bigger and more apparent.

I'm tempted to put a lot of it down to Semedo being missing to break up the opposition's attacks. Spring was quiet on Saturday and almost invisible tonight, but that is probably just wishful thinking. Overall we have been able to dominate play against the weaker teams that have come to The Valley with reluctance to attack us and have given us space. It is easy to look good when the opposition get bodies behind the ball and allow you to pass the ball around in front of them. Llera's long cross balls to Lloyd Sam have been very successful, but when he is closed down he clearly cannot make those passes.

We looked very good against Exeter until they decided to come out and play, and especially in the second half they controlled the game for long periods themselves. Many people came away suggesting that Exeter were a good side, yet they are down in 18th place and have only won two of their ten games. I have been refusing to be concerned by the fact that none of the teams we have beaten are doing very well this season, but after tonight I am a lot less confident that we are going to be successful with the same lineup that won us those six games at the start of the season.

Other worries are that Lloyd Sam still blows hot and cold, yet we rely on him a lot.

JonJo Shelvey has looked tired in the last twenty minutes of games. He is young, and he covers so much ground that it is both understandable and excusable, but it does mean that we become a lot less effective in the latter stages of games. It almost means that we need to go into the last twenty minutes of games with a two goal lead.

Llera has a real lack of pace, and seems to get flustered when put under pressure - again not a worry when the opposition dare not attack us or we have a good lead, but when teams come out to 'have a go' we look very shaky at the back.

When we defend we drop too deep and then it becomes literally impossible for Dion Burton to do anything with the long balls pumped up to him. In fact I think Burton has been great this season, but when Shelvey gets tired he tends to play deeper and deeper. That makes marking Burton easier, and even if he can win a long ball up to him he has no one to lay it off to. Thus he has to try to take it down and control it, and that is not at all easy when you have two men on you, and they know you have to take the ball down.

When we defend (again too deep) we seem to surrender the midfield which forces us to lump the ball up to Burton exasperating the problem above.

Basically the little cracks in our side have got wider and wider, and now the opposition managers are working out how to both, stop us from creating so many chances, and expose our somewhat limited defence. For example, Rob Elliot has created many attacks this season with quick throws and long kicks. Tonight, as soon as he had the ball, he had a forward blocking him so that he was not able to get a quick counter attack going.

In my view we had too many players that under performed tonight. Maybe that's fatigue, maybe it's something psychological, but either those players need to raise their game or Parkinson needs to change things around. As already mentioned Shelvey looks tired; Llera looks slow and flustered; Spring looks out of his depth (to be fair I'm not sure that holding defender is his best position); Racon looks less creative (I'm going to assume that this is due to Semedo being missing); Burton looks ineffective (as mentioned before this may well be because he is being left more and more isolated).

If Semedo is not back for Saturday I would bring Shelvey back into the middle, drop Spring and play McLeod up front with Burton and I would go toe to toe with Leeds and try to outscore them. I would being in Sodje for Llera irrespective. We need a plan B and on the basis that I now have massive doubts that we can win this division I would describe Saturday's game as one of Curbishley's 'Bonus Balls' in that anything other that a defeat is a bonus, and it will give the players a chance to pit themselves against a decent team with a new formation. I would also keep the same formation for the Barnet game (all be it with a few changes to rest some players) to give them more playing time.

McLeod looked sharp tonight, and despite the fact that I would be willing to let him go in January I think it's worth seeing if the goal he scored against Exeter is the catalyst that starts him on the way to scoring a few more.

As for Chris Dixon who has now scored more goals in the last two games than Charlton have, well we can call him back after 28 days right? That should be long enough to have a good look at McLeod then we can make that decision can't we?

Overall I don't think any of the players have let themselves or the club down this season. Spring has come into a side that has played eight games together and has been asked to do a job that is a little out of his comfort zone. We did win on Saturday, and he must feel under pressure as you don't want to lose your place in a team that has been winning.

Llera needs a special mention, tonight he was truly awful. Rob Elliot should probably not have come for the ball when a defender was not under pressure. I was not close enough to hear if either of them called for the ball, but Llera directed the ball into the corner. Even Sunday park teams know that when you head the ball back you head it wide of the post. For the second goal he allowed his man to get past him and couldn't catch him. I know he is not the quickest player on the field, but on the basis that he has never been quick he should never have allowed Odejayi to get past him with the ball. From there on his game just got worse and worse. I am a little embarrassed to confess that I was one of those that cheered when he was called off. I know it doesn't help the players, and I never booed him, but you really needed to be there to see just how terrible he was.

I have a theory as to why he was so bad tonight. I think it might have been that he was scared to put his foot in in case he was booked and missed the Leeds game. Either way his performance was well below par, and was frankly unacceptable. That said he was part of the MK Dons side that did so well last season, and he has had good games for us so I'm inclined to give him the benefit of doubt and put this one down to a bad day at the office. You'd be horrified if I were to enlighten you to some of my bad days at the office. Also I will, here and now, publicly apologise for that cheer when he was substituted. It was unfair and uncalled for as I have no doubts that he was giving his best.

I'd still like to give Sodje a game on Saturday, he did play at Leeds at the back end of last season and I think he will be an asset for us up there. Llera can come back in for the Barnet game to give him a little confidence boost for the league games when Sodje is away on international duty. It's a long season and I'm sure that all of the players in the squad will get their moment, but I think it might be a good time to give Llera a rest.

On the basis that I now think our most valuable and irreplaceable player is Semedo, I really hope that he is fit to play on Saturday.

Up the Addicks!