Monday, October 31, 2005

Silly season in Scotland

First Alan Curbishley was linked with a managerial move to Hearts; then almost immediately the papers (and other bloggers) told of Glasgow Rangers declaring their interest in Curbs on the back of their disappointing start to the season. Yesterday, Gordon Strachan, Glasgow Celtic manager said that the Premiership would be a better place if both Glasgow giants were admitted to the top league in England, though what this would do to the remaining Scottish teams wasn't mentioned. Yes, it's started to get boring in Scotland, so they start to look south for entertainment.

Pedro45 has a view on the Celtic/Rangers in the Premiership debate: If they want to join our leagues, they are welcome. But like any other club, they should start in a league where they can gain entry as did Aldershot, AFC Wimbledon and the like, and work their way up the pyramid ladder. At present, the Premiership is blocked to them both, so why not start lower down? If you think about it, they could put fairly junior or reserve teams in to the leagues every year until they get near the Conference, when they may be forced into playing more experienced teams. The journey into the Football League, and inextricably toward the Premeirship would be harder, and all told, would take about ten years from admission (depending where they start) I reckon. But you have to remember that these wishes to join England's elite started about ten years ago! If they had had the foresight then, they could both be getting very excited about it now!

Of course, it will never happen; we have a European Super League now (called the Champions League) and all the "best" teams play in that year after year. Do Celtic and Rangers fall into the best sides in Europe category? No. They may both get large crowds every home match, and have a great away following, but neither have enough money from TV rights to challenge regularly. The reason the TV money isn't there is because it has been boring watching Rangers and Celtic dominate Scottish football for the last fifty years or so (apologies to Aberdeen, Hearts, Hibs, Dundee United, Kilmarnock, Morton and Motherwell who have all had their moments in that period) while continuing to overdo the religious bigotry.

Every season we get the same pleading from North of the border, but both clubs should concentrate on their own league, then do well in European competition, and if they could be successful, they would be playing Arsenal and Ajax, Bolton and Barcelona, Manchester United and Milan, plus all the other European footballing elite every couple of weeks.

Lone Striker?

We've tried Euell...we've tried JJ...we've tried Lisbie...we've tried Bartlett...and now we've tried Bothroyd.

Maybe this new guy, who trained with the first team squad last week could play up front on his own when Dazza is out? He's certainly big and in time will be quite powerful too...

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Curbishley has Hearts in right place

Alan Curbishley was once more linked with a new managerial role today, this time with top-of-the-league Scottish Premier League side Heart of Midlothian. The Charlton manager is constantly put forward by the media as a potential replacement whenever any supposedly "bigger" club than Charlton need someone new to take the helm. Hearts have said publicly that they want an experienced person who has managed at the highest level to take them forward in terms of European competition, but does Curbs fit this bill? The names put forward so far to replace the departed George Burley and Hearts incumbent temporary John McGlynn have included Sir Bobby Robson, Claudio Ranieri, and Otmar Hitzfeld, all of whom are much older and therefore more experienced than Curbs.

Normally, a club such as Hearts would not be considered larger than a succesful Premiership team (like Charlton), but with major shareholder and potential full owner Vladimir Romanov implying he will pour considerable sums of money into the team (in a similar way to Roman Abramovich at Chelsea), the potential for success is obvious.

I doubt very much if Curbs will be tempted by this vacancy, even if Chairman Richard Murray would allow Hearts to speak with Curbs. Curbishley has brought a whole raft of new players to The Valley this season and results have been pretty good (if you ignore the general home form); he also may want to talk to Burley about why he left Hearts (allegedly due to Romanov insisting on his involvment in team selection!) before committing himself to any hasty decision to move north.

In the end, this speculation may just add value to Curbs negotiations with Murray, as an improved and extended contract has been discussed very recently between the pair.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Tired of SE7

Charlton Athletic 0 Bolton Wanderers 1

Tired legs, the result of Charlton's midweek Cup win over Chelsea, hurt Charlton today, as Bolton out-fought the home side to pilfer three points late into a dogged match. The only goal was a cruel piece of fortune for the home team, as Bolton's only reasonable effort of the match counted - Faye found space in midfield, and having no options available, took aim at goal. His shot looked fairly harmless but took a wicked deflection. You could hear the groan from the crowd as the ball was heading for the corner of the net, but amazingly, Stephan Andersen lept to his right and pushed the ball away. It was as much as he could do. The bad news for Charlton was that Nakata was quickest to follow up and he squared the ball for the waiting Kevin Nolan to tap into an empty net.

Charlton had a couple of good efforts to save a point - Johannsson having his shot beaten away, and Jaaskelainen tipping over a Bryan Hughes header from point blank range in the dying minutes.

It was disappointing to hear some of the crowd giving very negative comments about certain players near the end; Jay Bothroyd, in for his first Premiership start for Charlton due to Darren Bent's illness, took the brunt, though he tried his best all match. He was joined up front in the frantic last ten minutes by Man of the Match Hermann Hreidersson, who was immense throughout. In fact, no Charlton players had bad games - Kishishev, Young, Perry, and Smertin (before being substituted with a groin injury) all played well.

This was the first time this season that Charlton were stretched by injuries in key areas - without Bent, and with Murphy marked very tightly, the feeling was that goals would be very hard to come by. Bothroyd did not look like the answer to the home teams needs, anymore than Shaun Bartlett, Kevin Lisbie, or JJ have in the recent past.

So it's a very disappointing, although not unexpected, end to another eventful week at Charlton.

The future King has been to visit and pulled on a Charlton shirt; we've knocked the footballing Kings (Chelsea) out of the cup, and won our fifth Premiership away game on the trot (at Pompey). We've also learnt in todays defeat that points in this league don't come easy, and that a tired Charlton are far from the finished article that some fans may have thought they were.

Next week, Charlton travel to Blackburn for their next Premiership fixture, and it is Rovers that Charlton have been drawn against in the next round of the Carling Cup, with the game to be played at The Valley in late November. Hopefully, after a week's rest, and with Darren Bent back leading the forward line, Charlton's 100% away record can be maintained and the bragging rights will be with The Addicks when the two clubs meet in the cup later in the month.

Friday, October 28, 2005

English managers go head-to-head

Two of the finest English Premiership managers - Alan Curbishley and Sam Allardyce - go up against each other this weekend, when Bolton travel to Charlton in a second versus seventh clash. The official club preview is here.

Both teams are on a high and full of confidence, having won third round Carling Cup games in midweek. Charlton's victory over Chelsea gained more of the headlines, but Bolton disposed of West Ham without too much trouble it seems.

Relatively evenly matched as these teams are, Bolton have history on their side as they have won three of the last four Premiership meetings at The Valley, and also did the double over Charlton last season. Charlton's home form is something of an enigma at present, completely alienating the 100% away win record, and Curbs will be hoping for a victory on Saturday so that second place can be maintained.

The selection dilemna that Charlton's manager knew was coming has well and truly arrived now. All over the park he has to make choices, and this game will undoubtedly see some players who did not start against Chelsea back into the first eleven.

Stephan Andersen will retain the goalkeepers shirt; he was excellent in midweek, and has now confirmed Dean Kiely as Charlton's true second choice. Much as Deano will not want to admit it, he now has to wait his turn, and on current form, that could be a very long time coming.

The magnificent rearguard action at Stamford Bridge also throws up a number of possibilities for Curbishley. Talal El Karkouri and Chris Powell returned to the team and played superbly, but Chris Perry and Jonathan Spector haven't done anything wrong so far this season and don't really deserve to be dropped. El Karkouri limped off at the end of extra time in midweek, and that may make Curbs choice for centre backs easier, providing, that is, that Hreidersson has also recovered from his knee knock that saw him limping in the same game. I think that Spector will get the call at left back, simply because of the number of high balls/crosses that Bolton tend to throw at teams means his added height will help more. Luke Young should continue to captain the side from right back.

In midfield, Alexei Smertin will return, as will, almost certainly, Radistan Kishishev, both joining Danny Murphy in our most profligate triumvirate. Matt Holland and Bryan Hughes, heroes both in the cup game, will have to wait their turn I'm afraid.

Up front, the goalscoring phenomena that is Darren Bent will continue to run his heart out no doubt leading the line, and presuming that Curbs maintains 4-5-1, the two wide players will be Darren Ambrose (fresh from his maiden goal for Charlton last weekend) and Dennis Rommedahl (who looks dangerous in every match). Jay Bothroyd and Jerome Thomas will have to make do with the bench as they did at Stamford Bridge.

This is the team I expect Curbs to pick, depending on injuries:

Andersen, Young, Perry, Hreidersson, Spector, Smertin, Kishishev, Murphy, Rommedahl, Ambrose, Bent. Subs : Kiely, El Karkouri, Hughes, Bothroyd, Thomas.

For Bolton, Mexican Jared Borgetti is putting pressure on Sam Allardyce for a regular first team start, having scored three goals in his last five outings. Bolton's recent injury glut is starting to ease, and we may well see either of the recently injured Gary Speed or Jay Jay Okocha return to action at The Valley. Bolton have a large squad to pick from, and Allardyce has player choices to make which may upset some of his regulars he has warned. A win for Bolton will take them above Charlton in the Premiership table.

So Alan Curbishley goes up aginst Sam Allardyce, and these two English managers will no doubt be joined by Steve's Bruce and McLaren in the reckoning when Sven finally gives up the national team manager position and a replacement is sought.

The referee for the match is Mark Clattenburg, who has only had one bad match this season (according to Rate The Ref), and is generally well respected. Mr Clattenburg was the man in the middle when Charlton lost at home to Chelsea last season.

The one to watch for this match is Darren Ambrose, who will be fresh after being substituted in midweek, but whose form in the last two outings has been excellent.

Charlton have had a tremendous start to the season, and this week will be high on the list of those to remember among Addicks fans should another three points go into the Premiership pot. My worry is that the fans may be brought down to earth with a hefty bang, as expectations will be very, very, high following the defeat of Chelsea.

Pedro45's score prediction is therefore, unfortunately, a 2-1 home defeat, with the legs being tired in too many players after the midweek heroics, but I hope very much I am wrong! Come on you reds!

The Prince and the paupers

Today, Charlton Athletic will receive a visit from the heir apparent, Prince William, at their training ground in New Eltham. This is great publicity for Charlton, and it is wonderful that so many high ranking officials are coming to our great club to see how much a well run football club can contribute to the local community and society in general.

One note of caution, it is rumoured that the Prince will join in with training, either with members of the youth team or even some of our first team squad. The last time Willie-Boy did that was during the British Lions rugby union tour of New Zealand, and they lost 3-0!

I therefore hope that the foul drizzly weather that has greeted us this morning prevents William pulling on his boots, and Charlton can be spared a 3-0 drubbing from Bolton tomorrow!

George hanging in there

George Best survived another night in hospital, though his condition is still described as "severely ill". After the death of Johnny Haynes last week as a result of car crash, British football does not want to lose another icon so soon.

Best has lived his champagne-lifestyle to the full, always on the edge. He was one of the first celebrity footballers of the sixties, taking his place alongside Beatlemania, and holding his own (or maybe getting a Miss World to do it for him?) in a changing world where money and status for footballers came to the fore.

He scored a wonderful second goal for Manchester United in the European Cup Final in 1968, when they beat Benfica 4-1 after extra time. A Northern Ireland international, George never had the chance to play in a major championship, as his teammates were not of high enough calibre to qualify, and his efforts alone were not quite enough.

Georgie never played against Charlton for United, though he did turn out for Fulham when they played the Addicks in 1977. I saw Best play alongside Rodney Marsh in the famous Fulham versus Hereford match where they ran riot in a 4-1 win.

I hope George recovers; he may have had some poor press over recent years, but he always came across to me as a man who loved football, women, and a drink or ten, and that struck the right note with most men in this country.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Reds Strike the Blues!

Chelsea 1 Charlton Athletic 1
- After Extra Time
(Charlton win 5-4 on penalties

Nuff said.

Donny anyone?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A Bridge too far?

This is a preview of the Chelsea versus Charlton Carling Cup 3rd round tie taking place at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night, but I'm not too sure that anything I write will make sense or come true...

The official club preview is here , but that doesn't have too much positive to say for a change.

Who's going to be playing? Both teams have very large squads, and the match could be a chance for some "fringe" players to get an outing. But who knows - only the two managers really!

Let's start with Chelsea, unbeaten all season, top of the league, current Carling Cup holders, media dahhhhlings, World superstars all. Will it be Jose's team, or Hose B's team? Will Cudicini get another cup game (he played in the Champions league tie last week) or will Cech retain the goalies jersey? John Terry will undoubtedly play and captain the side (unless he's injured), but anyone of Huth, Carvalho (doubtful), Ferreira, and/or Del Horno could be in the back four with him. Gallas is being rested according to the official Chelsea site and Wayne Bridge is back in the squad. Midfield will be Lampard and Essien, but Makelele is also definitely being rested. I think that Gudjohnsen will get another run out, and Geremi may feature later on too. Out wide, SWP only played an hour at the weekend so he'll probably start, as could Robben, just back from injury. Joe Cole may be on the bench and Duff is injured still. Up front? Difficult call this. Drogba has a knock and may miss the game, which means it could be either Crespo or everybody's friend Carlton Cole. I reckon Cole may start, with Crespo on the bench.
So if this is the team that Jose picks - Cudicini, Ferreira, Terry, Huth, Del Horno, Lampard, Essien, Gudjohnsen, Robben, Wright-Phillips, Cole (C) - it is still pretty formidable. It may not have the strength in depth that the bench did when Charlton took on Chelsea at the Valley but is still a strong side. By my maths, I reckon it cost Roman over £100m, even with two academy players in the starting line up!

Who's going to play for Charlton then? We know that the side that played against Hartlepool in the last round rested a few of the first team, and that Smertin is not allowed to play. No new injuries were apparently picked up on Saturday. Curbs has said he will put a strong side out, and Chelsea are expecting that, but he could still spring a few surprises.

In goal, I expect Dean Kiely to return. Much as Anderson took Kiely's place the last time the teams met at Stamford Bridge, this time our Dane may be "rested" allowing the number two a game. Luke Young will play right back (and captain), but the rest of the defence (much like Chelsea's) could be anyone's guess. Sorondo and Spector played in this competitions early round, and our Yank will almost certainly get a game here. El Karkouri should be picked too, as he has looked in need of a game. Chris Powell will also be looking to get back into the first team equation but may not be sufficiently rested yet. Matt Holland and Bryan Hughes will want a midfield berth, and both may start. With Jerome Thomas still injured, Lloyd Sam comes back into the mix as a possible winger, and will Jay Bothroyd play with or instead of Darren Bent?

I would like to see Curbs go for a 4-4-2 start (with the option of closing things down later should the need arise) with this team:
Kiely, Young, El Karkouri, Hreidersson, Spector, Rommedahl, Holland, Hughes, Ambrose, Bent, Bothroyd. Subs from Myrhe, Perry, Powell, Kishishev, Sam, Murphy, Johansson, Lisbie. (NB: Cost of the starting eleven - £13m)

The game at The Valley saw Charlton unable to hold the ball up front when playing 4-5-1, with the pressure being returned swiftly onto the defence, so a switch to two up front may prove beneficial. Everton played with two forwards (Beattie and Ferguson) on Saturday and saw plenty of possession.

My one to watch in this match is Charlton's goalie (be it Deano or Stephan), as he will need to have a very good game for Charlton to win.

Pedro45's score prediction is tough; it could be a great night (we are capable of winning), or it could be embarrassing (if the defence gets it badly wrong, the goals could start flying in from anywhere). Head on the block time and I hope I'm wrong - I'll go for 1-0 to Chelsea and Charlton walking out with heads held high but no medals. Up the Addicks!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Getting shirty

It's now been several weeks since all:sports, Charlton's shirt sponsor, went into administration, apparently owing considerable sums to creditors. Not much news has leaked out about what will happen to the company or their continuing sponsorship of Charlton, for this season and possibly beyond.

We do know that about half of all:sports shops have been shut by the administrators, and many staff have therefore lost their jobs unfortunately. We do not know if this action will secure the long term future of what's left of the company or if the residue will be sold to anyone willing to take on the company. Peter Varney has maintained that Charlton will continue to carry the all:sports logo on Charlton shirts up until a firm decision otherwise has to be made.

This was the last season in which all:sports were due to sponsor Charlton, and we will probably never know if that contract was likely to be renewed. In some ways, Charlton fans will benefit, as the kit will now definitely change for next season, and many fans will hold off buying the current home and away shirts as a new sponsor is almost certain.

So what sort of new shirt-sponsorship contract can Charlton expect to negotiate?

Here's a list of what last seasons Premiership teams got paid to carry a sponsors logo on the front of their shirts according to -

Club Sponsor (sector) £m per Year Expiry Date
Arsenal O2 (telecoms) 5.0 May 2005
Aston Villa DWS (finance) 2.5 May 2005
Birmingham City FlyBe (airline) 0.75 May 2005
Blackburn Rovers HSA (insurance) 1.0 May 2005
Bolton Wanderers Reebok (sportswear) 2.0 May 2005
Charlton Athletic all:sports (sports retailer)1.1 May 2005
Chelsea Emirates (airline) 6.0 May 2005
Crystal Palace Churchill (insurance) 0.30 May 2006
Everton Chang Beer (brewing) 1.5 May 2005
Fulham (electronics) 2.0 July 2005
Liverpool Carlsberg (brewing) 5.0 May 2005
Manchester City Thomas Cook (travel) 1.0 Feb 2007
Manchester Utd Vodafone (telecoms) 9.4 May 2008
Middlesbrough (gaming / internet)1.5 May 2007
Newcastle United Northern Rock (finance)4.0 May 2006
Norwich City Proton / Lotus (automobiles)0.35 May 2006
Portsmouth ty (toys) 0.33 May 2005
Southampton Friends Provident (finance)0.5 May 2006
Tottenham Hotspur Thomson (travel) 2.5 May 2005
West Brom Albion T-Mobile (telecoms) 1.0 May 2006

For 2005/06: Arsenal change to Emirates (£5.5m p.a.), Chelsea change to Samsung (£11.0m p.a.), Fulham change to PIPEX (£1.25m p.a.)

This chart tells us some interesting information regarding any potential new shirt sponsor for Charlton:
1 - Unless we are a "top" club, our revenue may go down (see Fulham's figures...).
2 - More than half (12) of the above clubs contracts ran out at the end of last season, but nine companies renewed with the same club; Emirates switch from Chelsea to Arsenal next season, so there may be a few companies who did not get a chance to bid who will be looking to get in at Charlton. Who those companies may be anyone's guess; I know that message boards have floated a few company names (First Choice was one I saw...), but they can be nothing more than guesses at this stage (my own guess, nothing more, is that we should investigate a pharmaceutical company - Roche, Springer-Verlag, etc; nobody else has one, and they are teeming in dosh! I'd be happy to see Roche sponsor Charlton and for our players to run around with "TAMIFLU" on their shirts!).

In reality, Charlton's league position will have a great effect on what they may get, revenue-wise, but Charlton are never going to shift the volume of shirts that clubs like Newcastle, Liverpool, and even Spurs do. This season's great start is therefore very timely! We can hopefully envisage, therefore, getting a contract worth somewhere between £1m and £2m per annum, probably on a par with Everton and Middlesboro.

If it is true that all:sports owe Charlton some £650,000, then the likelihood of that ever coming in the direction of SE7 is low. Any monies that Varney can negotiate on a new deal will be more than helpful to fund, hopefully, a European campaign next year.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Arsenal pay the penalty

Did you see it? Could you believe it? Was it French arrogance or cheeky or innovative? Whatever it was, it didn't work!

Arsenal, 1-0 up against Manchester City blew the chance of adding a second penalty to the score when Robert Pires and Thierry Henry conjured up a farcical moment at Highbury yesterday. Pires, who had scored minutes earlier from the first spot kick Mike Riley awarded Arsenal, tried to touch the ball to his left for Henry to run in and shoot toward the goal. This is entirely legal as long as: a) the ball moves forward its full circumference; b) the penalty taker does not kick the ball a second time until the ball is touched by another player.

What actually happened was extremely controversial.

Pires took a shorter run, and tried to run his foot across the top of the ball, thereby knocking it to his left. What he did though, was miss the ball (or arguably give it the merest touch; it certainly didn't move the full circumference). All the players converged on the ball, with Henry there first. Henry though, did not think that Pires had touched the ball, so he stopped, and stood. Pires thought about kicking the ball again but dallied and City defenders then hacked the ball clear. The ref blew his whistle, and you could see the frustration as the City players thought that he would order a re-take. But no, Mister Riley gave a free kick against Arsenal because it is illegal for a penalty kicker to touch the ball twice in succession. Did Pires touch the ball twice? No. Did he touch the ball at all? I didn't think so!

Only once before have I seen something similar - and I'm not talking about the Cruyff - Olsen Ajax goal from the seventies - at Ayresome Park in the early eighties. Then, Charlton were awarded a penalty, and Derek Hales stepped forward to take it. Killer had missed a few of his recent penalties (saved, rather than wide or over) but he was king, and took charge of the situation. He placed the ball on the penalty spot and started to run up, but a yard or so before he got to the ball he pulled up and stopped. I presumed he was injured but no, he had been "ordered" not to take it by manager Lennie Lawrence, shouting from the touchline. Hales was promptly booked by the ref for unsporting conduct, and Carl Harris, Lawrence's choice to take the kick, then saw his weak kick saved by the Boro keeper!

So, what happened at the Arsenal? Did Riley book Pires? No. Did he make the right decision over the penalty? No. He got it so badly wrong that his performance just added to the French farce!

Amazingly, both managers accepted the situation and will hope it passes into folklore pretty soon. Wenger will quickly forget it because it didn't work, and any claim that it should have been re-taken will falter due to the initial arrogance shown by Pires and Henry. Pearce will not want to argue the point as City got away without conceding...

Crazy Frenchman? Je ne sais pas!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Wide Boys win it

Portsmouth 1 Charlton Athletic 2

Charlton won on the road again, their fifth away victory on the trot, after coming from behind against Portsmouth. This was the first time in 33 games that Charlton have won after falling behind, and continued Charlton's amazing 100% away form in the Premiership. The goals, both courtesy of superb passes from Danny Murphy, came from wingers Darren Ambrose and Dennis Rommedahl.

With Alan Curbishley having a pretty full squad to choose from, he decided to make two changes and start with a whole new left side - Chris Powell was dropped/rested, as expected, and Jerome Thomas missed the game through a slight thigh injury picked up in the game on Monday against Fulham. Jonathan Spector started his first Premiership game for Charlton at left back, and Darren Ambrose came in for his second start of the season at left wing, and his first start since being sent off on the opening day game at Sunderland. Changes to the bench saw Dean Kiely as sub goalie for the first time this season, and Jonatan Johansson joining Bothroyd, Hughes, and El Karkouri as substitutes.

Portsmouth started much the brighter, Laurent Robert hit the outside of the post early on, and took the lead after 15 minutes - Dario Silva outpacing Hermann Hreidersson and volleying low past Anderson from a tight angle. Ref Howard Webb then booked Kishishev (his third of the season) and big Hermann for rough challenges, as Charlton tried to breathe life into their play. The midfield was very crowded though, and Smertin and Murphy found no space or rhythm. Ambrose did fire off a couple of good shots, but both were saved by the Pompey keeper. Half time approached and Charlton were lucky to go in just one goal down.

The second half was much better, with Charlton seeing much more of the ball. Anderson made one excellent save to deny Portsmouth a second goal after Charlton's defence had gifted the ball back to them inside the penaly area. After an hour, Murphy slipped in Ambrose and he finished with aplomb, and fifteen minutes later Dennis smashed home the winner. Other late chances fell to man-of-the-match Ambrose, sub Johansson, and Smertin, but all missed the target. Chris Perry was unluckily booked late on for a challenge on Robert, although it looked to me like he played the ball well before he kicked the Frenchman high in the air!

Darren Bent had a much better game than of late, running hard and holding the ball high up the pitch, but he did not have any clear chances to score. Ambrose and Rommedahl saw plenty of the ball, and were threatening throughout. The midfield wrestled control of the game the longer it went on. The defence looked fragile at times, with Spector anonymous during the first half. Anderson was worked much harder than he has been of late, and he made several good saves. JJ came on for Dennis, and the Elk for Murphy as Curbs tried to shut out the match.

The win, which equals a club record of consecutive away wins for the top division, takes Charlton back into second place in the Premiership, above Spurs and Wigan on goal difference, and eight points behind runaway leaders Chelsea.

The victory also added further shame on BBC pundit Mark Lawrenson who had astonishingly predicted a Portsmouth win.

On Wednesday, the Premiership's top two will do battle in the third round of the Carling Cup at Stamford Bridge. The players seemed a little more concerned with next Saturday's game against Bolton after this win than the midweek cup match, so it will be interesting to see who Curbs picks for the game against the cup holders and Premiership Champions.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Good news - Lawro predicts defeat!

One piece of good news for Charlton fans is that Mark Lawrenson has predicted a 1-0 win for Portsmouth against Charlton tomorrow teatime. Here's what the no-longer moustachioed one says -
This will probably be the sort of game where you'd prefer to take your mother-in-law shopping as an excuse to miss it.

As good as Charlton have been this season I can see Pompey winning this by hook or by crook, and they certainly need a win.
Lawro has a terrible record of predicting the score, especially when it involves Charlton, so this forecast can only be good news for Addicks fans. I for one will be paying the pay-per-view cost so I can watch and cheer on my heroes, and not because my mother-in-law tells me that most of the shops will be shut by half-time!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Charlton aim for five on the bounce

Charlton will aim for their fifth consecutive away win in the Premiership early tomorrow evening, when they play Portsmouth at Fratton Park (Official club preview here). Sunderland, Middlesboro, Birmingham and West Brom have all been beaten away from home so far this season, and a fifth straight win would be a fantastic start to Charlton's season. It will also take a little pressure off the home results, which haven't been anywhere near as good - just one win from four matches played.

The players have all been together this week, since Monday night's home game against Fulham, with no international matches to upset training. A few injuries have cleared up and recent non-starters all had a good run out in the reserves midweek win, where Darren Ambrose and Matt Holland played very well according to reports. Those who have been injured recently are unlikely to force their way into the starting eleven, or even on the bench considering the size of the Charlton squad these days. Therefore, we can expect Lloyd Sam and Dean Kiely not to feature this weekend. Shaun Bartlett and Gonzalo Sorondo are also definitely out injured. This still leaves plenty of options for Alan Curbishley to consider.

Dennis Rommedahl (left) was interviewed by Sky Sports on Thursday and re-iterated the need for all the players to perform, not just in matches but in training too, in order to be in with a chance of playing each week. He also pointed out that the players were still tired from all the international match travelling in the week prior to the Fulham game.

Curbishley, who has been having initial contract extension talks with Chairman Richard Murray this week, will have a very experienced squad from which to pick the team.

Starting up front, (for a change); presuming that the 4-5-1 formation is to be continued (and there is no reason to pre-suppose that it will not be), Darren Bent will continue to plow the furrough on his own. Dazza didn't have the best of games against Fulham, and will be looking to get back to the goalscoring heroics of previous weeks. Jay Bothroyd is the only other option (and likely additonal starter should tactics switch to 4-4-2), although midweek reserves scorers Kevin Lisbie and Jonatan Johansson will no doubt travel south too.

Out wide, Rommedahl is in reasonable form and will continue to start, but Jerome Thomas had a poor game against Fulham and is under some pressure now that Darren Ambrose (left) is fit and raring to go again. I expect Thomas to get a chance once more but for Ambrose to come on from the subs bench at some stage later in the game.

The midfield continues to play fairly well, and looks to be unchanged once more - Smertin (playing against a former club), Kishishev, and Murphy should all start. Hughes will provide the back-up legs when necessary later in the game.

It is in defence that Curbs may decide to make changes. Young will captain the team from right back, but the rest of the defence could see a change from the Fulham game. It all depends on how Curbishley views Chris Powell's last few games; Chris has looked tired late on in matches (being subbed against WBA and Chelsea), and gave the ball away a few times during the second half versus Fulham. I believe it is time for Curbs to rest Powell, and play someone else. If Powell is dropped, then there are two options available for Curbs; either play Jonathan Spector (left) at left back in a straight swap or push Hermann wide and play someone else at centre back alongside Chris Perry (Spector, El Karkouri or Fortune are all capable). I suspect that Chris Powell will have played his last game for a while and will be given a well earned rest for now, and that Spector will play at left back. This leaves Hermann playing at centre back alongside Perry, although Talal El Karkouri is pressing hard for inclusion.

In goal, Stephan Anderson will continue as he has done litttle wrong; Kiely was to blame for a goal conceded during the reserves win in midweek so expect Norwegian international Thomas Myrhe to be on the bench as Anderson's goalkeeping understudy.

My team to play Pompey on Saturday is therefore:
Anderson, Young, Perry, Hreidersson, Spector, Smertin, Kishishev, Murphy, Thomas, Rommedahl, Bent. Subs: Myrhe, El Karkouri, Ambrose, Hughes, Bothroyd.

Portsmouth have made this game part of their local Kick It Out campaign. Pompey Manager Alain Perrin has injury doubts over Diao, Todorov, and Hughes.

This game is quite important for the Addicks, coming as it does after two matches without victory. It is oh-so-easy to go on a long winless run in the Premiership, as Charlton and Curbs know very well from previous experience. Portsmouth are a team that Charlton would hope to beat after our excellent start to the season, but teams and games like this so often provide the stumbling blocks to a good season. Portsmouth have made their worst ever start to a Premiership season, have failed to win at home so far this season and in fact haven't won at Fratton Park for six months, so they will be dangerous fodder. It's potential banana-skin time. If Charlton can show that the recent less-than-favourable results are not akin to their form, then a result should be gained, but it may not be easy, and the first goal scored could be crucial.

My Charlton player who is the one to watch this week is Danny Murphy (left, scoring on Monday against Fulham), who will be making his 50th start for Charlton. Danny scored in this corresponding fixture last season, and is in superlative form at present. Four goals so far from midfield; I hope Danny-Boy can continue to remind Sven that he is currently the best attacking midfielder in the country (and not just English!).

Pedro45's score forecast is a very hard fought 1-1 draw, which should be enough to keep Charlton in the top six. I'd like to hope for a single goal victory but I think it may be just beyond us. Come on you Reds!

Bad news bears!

It seems that football in the UK is in for another media pounding - hot on the heals of Christian Ronaldo's arrest on a rape charge, we learn today that a footballer (as yet un-named) has failed a drug test and has been banned for six months. The drug taken was cocaine, but as the player was tested "out of competition" it was not considered performance enhancing, and the ban is therefore not the full two-years it could have been.

I expect the tabloids will be trying to find out who this player may be - he could be playing for a Premiership club, or in the lower leagues. It shouldn't be hard to find him really; any player who hasn't been in the team so far this season and who will now have an "injury" that takes him through to February (the end of the six month ban) is likely to be under the spotlight. Don't be surprised to see the tabloids "out" someone soon...

At Charlton we have had several drug related problems, though none recent as far as I know. Lee Bowyer and Dean Chandler, then dopey youth team players, failed drug tests in the mid-nineties and faced bans that lasted most of a season, and first-teamer Jamie Stuart was sacked after he tested positive for cocaine. Another ex-Charlton youngster was also forced out of the game (in the late nineties) when he could not control the money equals power conundrum and spent his earnings on illegal substances.

It shouldn't really be a surprise when footballers are found to spend their money in a poor way - for all the sound professionals like Chris Powell there are bound to be uncontrollable idiots like Bowyer. It may be OK for glamour models, pop stars, actors and actresses, and politicians to be seen to be taking drugs but it isn't for footballers. The clubs try to educate, but peer pressure is hard for youngsters to control. That is also true of society, but the majority of society doesn't have the tabloid press peering at them at every turn, waiting for that one mistake...

Who's that scoring goals?

A nice little quiz has appeared on the BBC Sport website, asking us to name the top goalscorers at all the Premiership clubs (following Thierry Henry becoming the leading goalscorer for Arsenal midweek). Pedro45 came in with a score of 13 out of 19 - not bad according to the site, but worse than he expected! See if you can do better!

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Murphy's Law

Charlton Athletic 1 Fulham 1

I was late. It was about ten to eight when I caught my first glimpse of The Valley on this matchday. The stands rose high and the floodlights shone up into the night sky. The stadium looked magnificent, conjuring memories of when it wasn't so grand. The fans were getting into their seats and the players ready to do battle.

I normally arrive about 30-60 minutes before the match: I enjoy reading the programme; I like to see the players come out onto the pitch and warm-up; I anticipate the announcement of the team; I watch the referee and his linesmen trundle round the touch and goal lines from my West Stand seat. I even like the music and the obligatory Curbs interview on the big screen fifteen minutes before kick-off. If I can, I also like to get a beer or two in Floyds beforehand. Here, you can chat with friends, and watch the game build ups on Sky TV; Charlton occasionally getting a mention now we are high in The Premiership.

But not tonight. Tonight was different. I was late. Best laid plans and all that. Murphy's law...if only I'd known. I hadn't taken the weather into account; I should have guessed.

The early morning fog had dissipated and though a little misty, it would be a good floodlight footie night.

But I had a problem. It was ten to eight and I was still a couple of miles away from the Valley. I could see the ground but I had no chance of making the kick-off. I was late due to the early morning fog at Heathrow; I was looking down on The Valley from seat 5F, at an altitude of 10,000 feet or so, onboard a Boeing 737, traveling in towards Heathrow. The ground looks great from the sky. I have flown over the Valley before, about ten years ago one summers day. It looked good then, but better now. But this was one day when I would not be seeing Charlton play live at The Valley. No, the ground had disappeared behind the wing and out of sight. I hadn't allowed for Murphy's Law - Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

I have missed games before of course - we all have (or will!). Nearly every season one home game falls when I am out of the country on holiday, but it's controllable; I plan my travel dates only once I have the fixture list, and I don't miss many (any?) for other reasons.

I have also been late into The Valley before - usually caused by train problems. I heard the cheer when Gary Speed scored early on against us for Leeds in an FA Cup replay a few years back, and similarly from Floyd Road I heard the shouts when Derek "Killer" Hales scored against Luton in the League Cup twenty-odd years ago. I also arrived at a league game in the early eighties versus Notts County with just ten minutes to go, again due to major train problems. I think we won 2-0 that night, but I missed the goals and any worthwhile action. But this time, this Fulham game, I wouldn't be there to see anything...

It was about thirty minutes into the game by the time I'd cleared passport control, probably just as Fulham scored the games first goal! It was well into half time by the time the Heathrow Express left the terminal four platform. When I got to Paddington, it was just into the second half, and Danny Murphy had equalised.

What happened? What caused me to miss the game? My weekend in Copenhagen went well, but the BA flight home, due to land at 2.45, was cancelled due to early morning fog at Heathrow and the knock-on effects on subsequent flights. The next flight out was full (if I could have caught that, I would just have made it to the ground by kick-off I reckon), so that meant I was to be delayed by at least four hours. Then the plane I was put on had a further hours delay. In total, I was back at Heathrow five and a half hours later than planned! At least BA had the courtesy to upgrade me, though it was little consolation for missing a Charlton home game!

I finally made it home at 10.15. I had decided not to find out the score, but to tape the game when it was repeated on Sky during the night. I then watched the recorded match in full this morning, not knowing the score or what had happened at all.

There are full match reports elsewhere (official site report here). After a bright start, Dennis had hit the post in the first half. For the Fulham goal, Powell was caught napping at a free kick forty yards out, and the resultant cross was hooked in by Collins John (interestingly, John Collins also used to play for Fulham; has this first name/last name interchange ever happened before?). Early in the second half, Powell's cross was missed by the Fulham defence, and Danny Murphy crashed the ball into the far corner - a different kind of Murphy's Law.

Ian Darke told us that 79,000 spectators had been in the Valley once to see Charlton play Arsenal; Alan Smith (the Leicester/Arsenal version) told us that Allan Simonsen had scored a hat trick against him and his Leicester teammates here back in the eighties - how memories corrupt eh?!?

The team played in fits and starts it seemed; there was obvious confidence but sometimes they tried too hard. Thomas's control was poor throughout, Smertin failed to get control in midfield (Boupa Diop outstanding), Chris Powell had a tough time controlling Malbranque, and Darren Bent had his worst game in a Charlton shirt (awful really!). On the plus side, Murphy was good all night, and so was Hermann. Kishishev marked Claus Jensen out of the game. Kish and El Karkouri were booked by fussy ref Mike Rielly (41 free kicks!). Charlton had 16 shots at goal, but only three on target - something for Curbs and Merv to work on I'd say...

The point moves Charlton up to fifth, and still very handily placed in the league. A good performance on Saturday, in front of the Sky tea-time cameras will push us higher in the table once again. Hopefully, I will see that match as it happens!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Cottagers enter The Valley

Here's something for the weekend, an early preview of Charlton's Premiership match against Fulham on Monday night to be shown on live TV.

This is Charlton's second live Sky showing this season; the first was a 3-0 away win against Boro to so all Addicks fans will be hoping for a similar result this time around. This is also the third home London derby of the season for Curbishley's men, and both of the previous matches have ended in defeat; the first to Champions-elect Chelsea (yes, even in October it's safe to say this...), plus the last home outing versus Spurs which finished 3-2.

Charlton still currently sit second in the table, but come kick-off time on Monday night, this will almost certainly not be the case, with other weekend games likely to have taken several other teams above Charlton. Fulham could also be perilously close to the foot of the table by then. It is an important game for both sides therefore, with plenty of movement up the table possible for whoever wins.

Charlton have had 14 players away with their countries playing internationals since that Spurs match, and Curbs will be anxious to see that they have all returned to Sparrows Lane fit and well this morning. Those who didn't have the World Cup on their minds have had benefit of a testimonial match against Exeter to keep them match-fit. Sorondo and Bartlett are two players known to have picked up injuries during the past fortnight.

Curb's large squad is looking good provided nobody got injured midweek, and competition for places is really hotting up. So who will play on Monday, who will be on the bench, and who won't make the sixteen?

Let's start with the goalies:
Anderson, Kiely, Myrhe - all fit. The Dane is incumbent, but will Curbs keep the faith, or bring Deano back? Tough call this; I'd bank on Anderson for this match, but he needs to start making saves (the 78% shots/saved OPTA statistic isn't much good if you let relatively easy shots in as versus Spurs...), with Deano on the bench. Myrhe, who has had two international clean sheets in a week will unluckily not make the bench while these other two are fit.

Sorondo is out injured (he did his hamstring at Exeter); Sankofa and Youga have gone to Bristol City on loan for a while; all others seem fit. England's Luke Young will play at right back, and will captain the side. Hermann is fit again, and should come into the team, but should he replace Perry, El Karkouri or Powell. My view is that Chrissy should stand aside now that we have centre backs who are fit, so that Hermann can once more rampage down the left wing. Powell has played very well mostly so far this season, but has tired in recent games; he did not expect to get many games this season and has done us proud in those that he has played. I would therefore keep Perry and El Karkouri as centre backs. Fortune will miss out again and Spector will continue as sub.

Holland and Ambrose are fit, but I cannot see either displacing the triumvirate that is Smertin, Kishishev, and Murphy.
Those three have been playing brilliantly together, although all have had World Cup disappointments recently. Danny is the only one who can still make it to Germany, but he'll need to maintain his great form in order to make Sven pick him. Smerts team mates messed up in midweek by not beating Slovakia and Russia will therefore not be going to Germany, and it's been known for a while that Kish will have a relaxing Summer next year too. Hughes will make the subs bench again, as he has done little wrong so far this season.

Rommedahl and Thomas both played twice during the international break, and both should keep their places in the Charlton team on the back of good performances this season. Sam is pressing hard for inclusion, but will have to bide his time.

Darren Bent will be pleased to get a game, don't you think? That is unless Curbs takes a leaf out of Sven's book of tactics and uses him as a bench warmer too! Bartlett hurt his ankle while away with South Africa and failed to make his international farewell appearance; he must be doubtful for Monday's game. Bothroyd did his chances a power of good with a hat-trick at Exeter. Other forwards - JJ played for Finland in a midweek defeat, and Lisbie is back from his Norwich loan spell (one goal in six appearances). Expect to see Dazza on fire up front with Jay Bothroyd as sub.

My team forecast (depending on unknown injuries):
Anderson, Young, Perry, El Karkouri, Hreidersson, Smertin, Kishishev, Murphy, Rommedahl, Thomas, Bent. Subs: Kiely, Spector, Ambrose, Hughes, Bothroyd.

Fulham will be hard nuts to crack, but hopefully class will eventually tell. Malbranque has not been playing like he was a few years back, though ex-Addick Claus Jensen will probably maintain his fabulous early season form in midfield - Kish has a marking job on here. Luis Boa Morte and Collins John are dangerous if allowed space, and both Radzinski and McBride have scored at The Valley before (both for Everton). They are not a team to strike fear into anyone though, and a positive, passionate, and committed performance should see Charlton victors.

Pedro45's one to watch in this match is Darren Bent, who hopefully will maintain or better his goal a game ratio in The Premiership this season, and thereby stick a couple of fingers up at Sven (much as he did to the Spurs fans), and the score forecast is a 3-1 win for Charlton. Up the Addicks!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Ten reasons to thank Sven

Thanks Sven, from every England and Charlton supporter in the land. Why? Here's ten reasons why we should all be thankful:

1. Sven, you have managed to get England through to the World Cup finals in Germany next year; thanks Sven!

2. Sven, you even got England top of their qualifying group, which may give us a better seeding come the group stages allowing us to miss playing the best teams; thanks Sven!

3. Sven, you showed us that, even without some of our "superstars" - Beckham, Gerrard, Campbell, Cole (A), and Neville (G) - we are still good enough to beat top teams like Poland if you are allowed to pick the team you want; thanks Sven!

4. Sven, you have picked Luke Young at right back in six matches, that's more caps than any other English player in Charlton's history; thanks Sven!

5. Sven, you have Steve McLaren as your right hand man and Middlesboro have struggled without him - you could easily have chosen Alan Curbishley all those years ago and Charlton could now be struggling; thanks Sven!

6. Sven, you picked Jermaine Jenas in your squad for the last two matches and not Danny Murphy, leaving him fit, well, and determined to prove you wrong over the coming months; thanks Sven!

7. Sven, you showed Darren Bent that seven goals in seven Premiership games for Charlton is not enough to get into the England team and that he must score more if he wants a real England shirt; thanks Sven!

8. Sven, you showed the whole country that you are not just a sex-pot and do have some idea of what your job is by letting Frank Lampard play for England in the same way he does for Chelsea - with a defensive midfielder behind him; thanks Sven!

9. Sven, you showed the whole country in the last two matches how good Peter Crouch actually is and confirmed that any club who would pay over £6,000,000 for him must be daft; thanks Sven!

10. Sven, you have single-handedly saved Charlton £500,000 by not playing Darren Bent in a competitive England fixture so far, even though we begged you to give him a try out! I guess your hand will be forced by sheer weight of goals come the end of the season and that we will have to pay Ipswich the extra money next summer once Dazza has played in the World Cup Finals, but we'll make a fair bit on interest on that half a million quid in the meantime; very many thanks Sven!

6-Hit Luke

Luke Young will tonight become Charlton's most capped England player when he gains his sixth cap in the final World Cup qualifier versus Poland. He will beat the previous club record held by Chris Powell, who won five England caps during the early days of Sven Goran Eriksson's reign as England coach.

Luke initially got his chance during the England tour to the USA during June 2005, mainly due to injuries to other players. He was not part of the squad originally selected to travel, but forced his way into the touring party, and eventually onto the pitch during both matches against the United States and Colombian teams. Subsequently, he has played in the last three England matches against Wales, Northern Ireland and Austria.

Luke has got better in each of his games for England, and is now showing confidence in his own abilities and relying on other, more established, stars less. He is playing in a very similar way to that which he does for Charlton, week in, week out. He has good pace, isn't afraid to tackle, covers the centre backs well, gets forward to support the attack whenever he can, and has been getting into goal-scoring positions over the last couple of weeks too.

The media are implying that Luke is still very much a (right) back up to the injured Gary Neville, but it is still good to know that Luke is in Sven's future plans, and that he will be available for the World Cup in Germany next Summer should he be required. He has not let England down yet, and there is no reason to suggest that he will in the next few months.

The Charlton captain should enjoy his match tonight; there is no pressure on the team (unlike in other recent matches) as qualification is assured. The pride associated with finishing top of the qualifying group will count for little this evening, although both teams would like to perform well and win.

Darren Bent will be hoping to finally get on to the pitch for the full England team, after spending the last four games on the bench. With changes having been made to the team due to injury (Gerrard and Campbell out, Ferdinand and King in), suspension (Beckham out and Rooney back in), and choice/formation (Crouch out and Wright-Phillips in), Sven needed some continuity, and will therefore have Owen as captain up front. Hopefully though, Darren will get at least thirty minutes playing time for either a tiring Owen or the tiresome Rooney. If Sven decides to play Crouch, or Defoe, as substitute in preference to Dazza, then it would seem that scoring goals regularly in the Premiership is simply not good enough for England.

In other international week news:
Jerome Thomas scored in his second match for England Under 21's last night - he tapped in the second goal of a 4-1 victory against Poland's youngsters.

Matt Holland will be playing for Ireland tonight in their must win World Cup match versus Switzerland. Victory will get the Irish a play-off place at least, and possibly a direct route to the finals if other results go well. The atmosphere in Dublin will be electric!

A similar situation for Dennis Rommedahl's Denmark, who need a win tonight and Turkey to falter in their own game to have a chance of a play-off place. I hope they do it as I'm off to Copenhagen for the weekend and it will be a far happier place if they have made the play-offs!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Vote for Chris!

The club's official site is a little retiscent in asking people to vote for Chris Powell in the London Footballer of the Year category of the BBC London Sports awards, but I'm not...go to this link and let's see if we can get Chrissy-boy more votes than John Terry and Giuliano Grazioli!

Monday, October 10, 2005

Addicks in The Guardian

In a slow couple of weeks for Charlton news, due to all the players (OK, only 15 of them...) being away on international duty, it is good to see our supporters trying to keep the club's profile high, with the following response to a letter printed in The Guardian.

The letter was sent following a claim and question by Daniel Owen, World Bank, Washington, DC, also on The Guardian letters page, that

"Big football clubs have been hellbent on ratcheting up a fan base and marketing with a vengeance the world over. They have been busy gorging on African talent. Is there any evidence of an "ethical beacon", a socially responsible football club engaging in payback to these countries? Could we imagine the possibility of a Premiership club using its name, its icons and vast wealth to do some good, in alliance with other groups, in any number of African countries beset with youth unemployment and lack of opportunities, where Premiership players are household names and football is still an everyday language of passion and hope?"
Barbara Holland has duly pointed out in her letter that Charlton do indeed give something back to the community in Africa; as we do in Asia (China), America (USA), Europe (Spain), and Oceania (New Zealand) too!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Young's Special but Becks is off again

England qualified for the World Cup finals in Germany next year thanks to an unconvincing 1-0 win against Austria coupled with Holland beating the Czech Republic. At worst, they will be one of the best two group runners-up.

Man of the Match in England's game at Old Trafford was Charlton's Luke Young, who covered magnificently at the back, and also got forward at every opportunity. It was Young's best game for England by a long way, although not that different to his normal showings for Charlton in recent season's. Other England players actually passed to him in this match, and his confiedence could be seen to be high. He had one chance to score, but in a similar situation to the first he had against Tottenham last weekend his control let him down at the last moment when confronted by the advancing goalkeper. He did have a hand in the only goal though - his pass forward being flicked on by Crouch to Owen who was fouled in the penalty area; Lampard scoring the resultant penalty kick.

David Beckham, playing right side of midfield, was sent off midway through the second half for two bookable offences (the first ever England player to be dismissed in an International match twice). This probably scuppered any chance Darren Bent (left) may have had of entering the fray, as one substitution had already been made (Ferdinand for the limping Campbell) and Sven decided that Ledley King and Keiron Richardson were needed to shore up the midfield at the expense of attack-minded Cole and Owen. Peter Crouch had a very strange game up front - winning just a few headers and being tackled frequently when he did control the ball on the ground - and it is doubtful if he will be asked to start for England in an important game again. Hopefully, now that England have qualified, Darren Bent will be given an opportunity to prove his goalscoring credentials against Poland on Wednesday night; I cannot see any purpose in playing Rooney and Owen together up front in this match.

Elsewhere Matt Holland played 45 minutes as substitute for Ireland against Cyprus; Ireland can still make it to Germany via the play-off route if they win against Switzerland on Wednesday night.

Denmark beat Greece in Copenhagen, with Dennis Rommedahl playing, and they will go through to the play-offs if they win on Wednesday in Kazakstan and Turkey do not beat Albania.

Norway scuppered Scotlands outside chance of qualifying and kept alive their own faint hopes with a home win versus Moldova; a clean sheet for Thomas Myrhe in goal.

Gonzalo Sorondo's Uruguay qualified for Germany after a goalless draw with Ecuador.

Most heartbreaking of all though, was the failure of Morocco to qualify, after a draw with Tunisia. Morocco led, but an own goal from Charlton's Talal El Karkouri brought the scores level at 2-2 in the second half and that was enough for the Tunisians to go through.

Other Addicks players countries in World Cup action:

Bulgaria (left) won 2-0 versus Hungary and Finland lost 1-0 at home against Romania. Russia beat Luxembourg without suspended Alexei Smertin and Iceland won without the injured big Hermann. South Africa drew 2-2 with DR Congo, in what was to be Shaun Bartlett's last internation but for injury; Jonathan Spector was an unused sub in USA's 3-0 loss to Costa Rica.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Charlton down to 45th...

The bad news is that, following our defeat to Spurs, Charlton have dropped to 45th place in the European league rankings, down from 39th last week. It's not a surprise really, as a victory against Spurs would have probably taken Charlton above them, and into our highest ever position (they are currently 26th, up eight places after the win). As far as I know, Charlton have never so far been higher than 34th in this league.

Did anyone else notice recently that the Eurofootsie website had been taken over by online invaders? I've heard about this thing before but never seen it in practice. If you tried to link to their website (I have it bookmarked), you were directed to a page run by apparently East European or maybe Far Eastern website kidnappers; the normal Eurofootsie website and their online pages could not be accessed. The usual way out of this is not by legal means (very time-consuming and doesn't usually work as websites do not have many cross-country legal restrictions) but by paying a ransom (a contact link did appear on the webnappers page). I do not know how Eurofootsie got their site back online, but I hope it wasn't too costly a process.

Bartlett ankle deep in trouble

It has been reported today, that Shaun Bartlett has injured his ankle in training with the South African squad, in preparation for their World Cup match against the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Sky Sports News also said that this was to be Bartlett's farewell match for Bafana Bafana, after announcing his forthcoming retirement from international football last week.

The extent of the injury seems likely to keep Bartlett out of his farewell game, but Charlton fans will have to wait and see if this will impact on Shaun's ability to take the field for the Addicks; He has another ten days to recover before our heroes take on Fulham.

Some fans may be pleased that Bartlett is injured, as he hasn't looked like playing well for Charlton at all this season. It does leave Curbs with a hole though, and may lead to Kevin Lisbie being retained in the squad and not being allowed to return to Norwich for another month's loan. If Lisbie is loaned out again, and injury doubts over Bartlett and Bothroyd continue, Charlton will either have to fall back on tried and trusted "veterans" like JJ or look to younger pro's like Varney, Sam, and Walker for back up to Darren Bent.

English Gent Bent in line?

A nice article on Darren Bent today and his chances of playing in the must-win England World Cup qualifiers this next week. Dazza quite rightly points out that he has scored more goals in the Premiership this season than Owen, Crouch, and Defoe have put together. Will that get him a starting place on the pitch? Unlikely...

I think everyone knows that Sven will pick Crouch to partner Owen up front; it is the "safe" option. With Beckham playing right side, and Cole left side of midfield, and with two centre backs, our Luke Young should therefore retain his full back role in a 4-4-2 formation. There are a few "what if's" and "but's" though...

So much is being written and said in the media about changing formation; something the media hated when we went 4-5-1 in our last two matches. With three decent centre backs (who all play for "big" clubs), some, like Terry Butcher think we should play them all, with Carragher thrown in for good measure! And as Ashley Cole is out injured, and we don't have a decent replacement left back, why not play the three centre halves with wing backs - that would get rid of Luke who doesn't play for a big team in place of Shaun Wright-Pillock who does! Great; Becks could carry on in the middle then! Sorted!

One thing is certain, and that is that David Beckham will be Captain...

Monday, October 03, 2005

"Sven said he'd come and take a look...

...but I don't know either why he picked Jenas and not you for the England squad..."

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Sunday reflections

Still second, thanks to Bolton's inability to overcome Wigan, but the pack are closing and ninth placed West Ham are just three points behind us.

So what went wrong yesterday? Why did we throw away a two-goal lead against Spurs? Who did well and who didn't? What's the Pedro45 view?

This match was probably our biggest test of the season so far; the spotlight was on us, second versus fourth was the biggest game of the day in England. Lots of media interviews - Powell on Sky for instance - may have proved a distraction, as did Hermann's injury late in the week. Right from the start, our defence looked shakier than it has done all season, even against Chelsea! Young, Powell, ElK and Perry all whacked clearances away when they may have had a little more time than they realised; the confidence seemed low surprisingly.

After twenty minutes or so, Smertin started to influence, and Murphy stopped trying too hard (the pressure imposed due to Sven watching from the stand): Through ball to Dazza - one nil! We settled back and played very well. Dazza messed up a chance after Smert's had danced around Robinson, much as Kish had done a little earlier, but it didn't matter at the time. We played very well in the first half, and but for the fussy, over zealous referee, we would have dominated more.

Bent's second, five minutes after half time, should have allowed Charlton to settle down and kill the game. The joke reply from King, courtesy of another poor decision by Ref Dowd who deemed that Davids boot coming off constituted a foul, unsettled the Addicks, and galvanised the visiting fans.

Charlton continued to press, with the midfield still (just) dominant, but missed chances by both sides followed in an increasingly open game.

Mido scored with a swing, via Andersen's legs and the post, and you knew that there was probably only one winner after that. Keane duly came on, and his movement caused more problems. Does he ever not score against Charlton? - goals for Leeds and Spurs stick in the memory, but he may have scored for Wolves and Coventry too if we have played them during his time with them.

We still had chances to even things up but snatched or mis-hit efforts went wide or over.

For Spurs, Davids looks over priced and did little running. I was surprised to see him stuck on the left side of midfield, but I guess Jenas is more mobile than the old Dutchman these days. The forwards are dangerous, and the defence fairly solid if static. I was surprised at how many times Bent won the ball in the air over the taller King.

Player profiles:

Andersen - No real outstanding saves; solid rather than spectacular. Disappointing that he didn't stop any of the three goals, as none of them were unsaveable. Needs to improve if he wants to keep his place.
Young - Tried very hard, and got forward well. Will be remembered for the two late chances he missed rather than the good all round performance. Booked for (very) late tackle.
Perry - OK game. Competed with Mido in the air, but won little. Better when marking Defoe.
El Karkouri - Nervous start, but solid game. Poor long free kicks mostly. Will get better with more games.
Powell - Not his best of the season by a long way. Tired again late on; at fault with the third goal. Chrissy may have played one of his last Premiership matches for us yesterday.
Smertin - Awesome first half, he also tired and lost influence (maybe as Spurs missed out the midfield later in the game?). He's a winner for sure, and we are lucky to have him.
Kishishev - Another iffy game. Caught in possession once or twice and Curbs will have to think about replacing him for home games if this continues. Booked again.
Murphy - Tried hard, too hard early on. Imposed himself once he'd settled into the match, and showed why he's a great player. Urged the team on even when behind; didn't deserve to lose. Booked near the end through frustration.
Thomas - Average game from the wide man. Passed well and often (surprisingly) but couldn't get behind the full back and didn't try to very much.
Rommedahl - Looks more dangerous than he actually is; didn't beat his man all day, but passed and linked up well.
Bent - Three chances, two goals. I'll take that. Once injured, Charlton lost all potency (and Spurs knew it!). Probably his best game so far in a Charlton shirt.
Hughes - Did little once on for Thomas except miss a chance at the end.
Bartlett - Did nothing to show he wants to win his place back in the side. Missed a couple of chances through lack of anticipation and composure. I'm not sure where Shaun goes from here - he doesn't deserve to be in this squad at the moment - any takers?
Spector - Pushed up front; tried hard but with Bartlett going AWOL his efforts were wasted. Nice to know that this one-time forward will still give it a go should the need arise.

Overall, we shouldn't be too worried by the result. I expect to see a couple more changes for the Fulham game - Hermann back hopefully, at left back, and Bothroyd and Ambrose pushing for bench warming duties. We may see Deano, Sam, Holland and Fuller trying hard to impress Curbs over the next couple of weeks, as they could win places in the final 16 too. We are still second, with game in hand, and if we ignore the disappeared into the distance leaders, that's a pretty good position to be in come mid-October.

Bent double not enough

Charlton Athletic 2 Tottenham Hotspur 3

What is it when Charlton are winning well against Spurs? A few years back, it was an FA Cup match at The Valley, and Charlton ended up losing 4-2. Last year, a three goal lead at White Hart Lane almost disappeared in the last couple of minutes, though Charlton hung on for a win on that occasion. This time, Charlton threw away their well earnt lead and ended up with nothing against the North Londoners.

Today, Darren Bent twice beat the offside trap that Spurs played all afternoon and scored, finishing both chances very well, the first via Robinson's body, and the second by chipping sublimely over the England goalie into the top corner. Just after half time it was looking rosy red for the Addicks, but it was soon to change.

Almost immediately after the second Charlton goal, Referee Dowd gave another one of his many favours to Spurs, and a ricochet off Ledley King from the resultant free kick trickled into the corner of the net. From that point onwards, Spurs surged forwards and Charlton looked vunerable. After an hour, Mido, who put several shots more wayward than any other forward has for many a year at The Valley, was found free on the left side of the penalty box, and he swung his left leg and the ball went through Andersen's legs and in off the far post. Two all.

The third, and ultimately deciding, Spurs goal, was bizarre too. Mido collapsed in a heap as Luke Young broke forward in support down the right. Calls were made for the ball to be kicked out so that the Egyptian forward could be treated, but Charlton continued to attack. Young's eventual cross was knocked away, and you may have thought that Spurs would kick the ball out of play? But no - a fast break down the right wing, poor coverage at the back of the Charlton defence (with Young still tracking back), and Robbie Keane was left free to score another goal against the club he was once touted to play for (via Charlton's deal with Internazionale).

Bent went off injured after a nasty clash of heads, with twenty minutes still left, his right eye almost closed, and he was replaced by a lacklustre Bartlett. Charlton then had a few chances to equalise - Bartlett (twice), Young (twice), Powell, Sub Spector, and Smertin all had shots or efforts that could have led to goals, but to no avail. Dawson was brought on to shore up the Spurs defence, and the three-pronged attack became two as Martin Jol tried to close the game down.

Murphy, and Young were booked, and with Bent and Thomas substituted, Charlton's England contingent didn't have the best of days. We'll have to see if Sven decides he needs any Charlton players in his senior squad when it is announced tomorrow - hopefully, it wil be three.

Before the match, it was surprising to find that Hreidersson had been replaced by El Karkouri due to a slight injury. Our Moroccan had a reasonable game, though his flat free kicks were wasted without the big Icelander to get on the end of them. The official match report is here.

A couple of other things stood out for me during the game: Rommedahl and Thomas both failed to get past their full backs at all during the match, which is certainly not usual for this season. Spurs had a couple of women on their bench - one went off down the touchline and tunnel with Mendes when he was substituted; the other helped carry Mido off and got involved when their was blood around after Bent's clash of heads. I guess we are used to seeing the odd female involved these days, but it was the first time I'd seen two play a part at a senior match.

Referee Dowd did not enamour himself to either set of fans, and certainly favoured the whiter shirts in the first half.

It was a very disappointing end to Charlton's week.

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