Monday, January 30, 2006

Bouncing in to The Valley

Charlton return to Premiership action, after their recent cup exploits, on Tuesday night with a home match against West Brom. The Baggies are down at the bottom part of the table and once more in a relegation battle; could Charlton's resurgent form - four wins in six matches, and only one defeat - bring another home win? Let's hope so.

The official match report is here.

The team our manager picks may well be different to that which started and finished Saturdays Cup game versus Orient.

The mistake by Thomas Myrhe that led to Orients goal, coupled with the one at Chelsea in the last league game, is unlikely to effect his position in goal. However, Curbs does not like to see mistakes being made, and any further blips could lead to a recall for Stephan Andersen.

In defence, barring injuries, it is safe to assume that Young, Fortune, Hreidersson and Powell will all feature. Jon Spector is pushing for a place, but Fortune - playing possibly the best football of his career - and the "old stager" Chris Powell (left) are playing much too well to lose their places. Luke Young is the one player not performing to his usual high standrads, and it would be good to see Englands right full back return to his customary solid displays.

The midfield is one area that we could see changes - Hughes and Kishishev both had poor first hours on Saturday that led to them being substituted. Does Curbs stick with replacements Smertin and Thomas, or with the two who have been playing during the better recent form? Matt Holland had another good game on Saturday, although he did pick up an injury just after the triple substitutions. If he is doubtful, then Smertin will play in his place and Kish will keep his place too. Thomas for Hughes is one I'd like to see for this match, as I think our winger could be reeady to put in some good performances after a few months of not being in the starting line up. Darren Ambrose should also keep his place, on the other wing to Thomas/Hughes.

Up front, it looks like a double bender! Yes, our two Bent's - Marcus and Darren look set to make their partnership home debut, and it is likely that they will both play up-front in a 4-4-2 formation. Both Shaun Bartlett and Saturdays match-winner Jay Bothroyd (see top pic) are in contention, but the signing from Everton is probably a more likely starting choice for Curbs.

This is the team I expect to see take the field against West Brom -

Myrhe, Young, Hreidersson, Fortune, Powell, Thomas, Holland (or Smertin), Kishishev, Ambrose, Bent D., Bent M. Subs will be from Andersen, Spector, Bothroyd, Thomas, Bartlett, Hughes, Perry.

I think it unlikely that Euell, Jeffers, Johansson or Lisbie will make the squad, although as yet, no definite movement has occured with any of the forwards. Hopefully we will be shot of one or all of them by the time kick-off comes tomorrow night!

Tonight, a player linked with Charlton quite a few times in the past handed in a transfer request, but I expect Joey Barton to set his sights on another north-west club if he is allowed to leave Manchester City. He would certainly fit the bill at The Valley though...

It is uncertain if Charlton will make any late moves in the transfer market; Curbs has stated that someone must go before anyone comes in, so unless we wave goodbye to a forward, or Holland (left) who's being linked with Southampton, or Murphy if there is any truth in the rumours...then I doubt we will see anyone new.

For the Baggies, Nigel Quashie is likely to make his debut after signing from Southampton, while long-time defensive stalwart Darren Moore has now left the club for Derby. Ronnie Wallwork is suspended, and Steve Watson doubtful through injury.

Pedro45's score prediction is another positive one - a 3-1 win. It's just got to come right sooner rather than later in front of goal, and Marcus Bent will be looking to make an immediate impression.

The one-to-watch is Darren Bent (left) though, as eyes will be focused on Marcus, and our Dazza could well cash-in after a couple of fruitless games.

As long as nobody makes a rash challenge like Talal El Karkouri did last season, a repeat of the 4-1 thrashing Charlton received last season is out of the question. Let's hope that we finally hit some form in time for a few weeeks of tough games.

That run will include a visit from Brentford, as Charlton's luck with home Cup ties continued. The fifth round tie takes place on the weekend of 18th February; with Liverpool getting Man Utd, plus Chelsea (or doubtfully Everton) hosting Colchester, West Ham meeting Bolton, and Villa playing Man City, I doubt that our game will make it onto the live TV section again. Martin "Mad Dog" Allen has a good side, with some good players at his disposal, including former Addick Michael Turner. Charlton though will see this as a more than potential route into the last eight clubs of the sixth round. We've yet to see if Peter Varney will allow Brentford the 6,000 away fans tickets that he handed over to Orient in the fourth round...After quite a few complaints, I doubt he will be so generous this time.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Bothroyd stops Steele Fortune cash-in

Charlton Athletic 2 Leyton Orient 1

Charlton won an FA Cup thriller at the Valley earlier today, courtesy of an injury time winner from Jay Bothroyd (left). As the sides passed the 90 minute mark locked at one goal each, a money-spinning replay loomed nearer for The O's and their 6000 travelling fans. It was not to be though. Darren Ambrose burst through the centre of defence and was tripped just outside the penalty area. For the third time this season, as he has with all his previous Charlton goals, Jay Bothroyd smashed the resulted free kick into the back of the net at the North Stand end. The shirt came off, Bothroyd was duly booked, and Orient had one last fling in attack before ref Alan Wiley blew the full time whistle.

The official site match report is here.

Earlier, Charlton had taken an early lead (left), through Jon Fortune's stooping header, although there was a hint of offside about it. Darren Bent was crudely fouled out wide by Mackie, and Darren Ambrose's free kick was nodded in.

Charlton looked well worth their lead, but could not capitalise, and the O's gradually regained confidence and came into the game more. The five minutes before half time were particulay poor from Charlton's perspective, as Orient were given possession time and again, and four shots got progressivley closer to the goal. The last of these clipped the top of the bar with Myrhe well beaten.

The Charlton fans among the 22029 crowd hoped for a better second half performance, but it didn't start that way. Luke Steele scored after 52 minutes (left), having been played in on the left side of the penalty box. His firm, low, shot squirmed under Thomas Myrhe's body, and rolled into the unguarded net. This summed up the game from Luke Young's perspective - he was uncomfortable and fairly poor throughout in attack and defence.

Curbishley neeed to make substitutions, and the crowd became agitated as Jay Bothroyd stripped and seemed ready to join the fray, but was held back for several minutes. Eventually, Bothroyd, plus the fit-again pair of Alexei Smertin and Jerome Thomas all came on together, in place of the ineffective Shaun Bartlett, the seemingly uninterested Bryan Hughes, plus the labouring Radistan Kishishev.

The substitutions galvanised the crowd, and the team, and Smertin and Thomas immediately saw much of the ball. Our Russian made several jinking runs across the front of the penalty area, but could not find room for a clear shot on any occasion. Thomas had one effort blocked and another just wide at the near post. Orient therefore played much of the last twenty minutes on the break, but Fortune, Hreidersson, and Powell did good work in nullifying any chances for the visitors.

As the game neared its end, it seemed as if a replay would ensue, and thus postpone once more the re-arranged Liverpool Premiership match. But Ambrose burst and Bothroyds (left) shot lifted the Charlton fans out of their seats and much celebration ensued on and off the pitch. It could have been classed as Jay's second black-out of the season - the first at the wheel of his car in December and the second knocking the black shirted O's out of the Cup!

Charlton go into the fifth round for the second consecutive season, and will be hoping for another home tie, but a better result than in last years match. For Orient, they can travel back through the Blackwall tunnel with pride intact, and can concentrate on their league position until May.

The draw for the fifth round is at 1.30 on Monday.

Friday, January 27, 2006

West Wickham and...

As everyone else who has a blog has openly stated their preference in the current Charlton fans director election, I will nail my flag to the mast and say that I have voted for Ben Hayes.

This is after careful consideration of all the candidates, bar Sue Townsend, who I feel has served her term and should not stand for re-election. The three remaining candidates should all be capable of doing a good job, to the level that they are allowed, but Ben seemed the most appropriate to me.

His location as chair of the Bromley branch of the supporters club did not influence my vote, although I also live in Bromley. My CASC accreditation used to flow through the Bromley branch (when I was a member) but I have never attended a meeting at Tylney Road or knowingly met Mr Hayes.

I urge all Charlton season ticket holders to vote, either online or in person at the next two Valley matches, as a failure to do so could lead to the post being untenable in the long term. And we don't want that do we!?!

Orient head for The Valley

Charlton host Orient in the Fourth round of the FA Cup tomorrow, and all Addicks supporters are hoping for a win and a place in the fifth round draw.

Orient will be bringing over 6000 supporters to the Valley, and that should make for a stranger atmosphere than normal amongst the 20,000-odd crowd, as they will be seated in both the East and Jimmy Seed stands. Hopefully, it will kick start the North stand into some vocal action, and provide a fantastic local cup derby atmosphere.

Orient will be no push-overs, having an excellent away record in division two this season, and currently sit in fourth place. After beating Fulham away in the last round, I doubt if any of the Charlton team will be taking the game against Orient too lightly.

For Charlton, Alan Curbishley (left) is forced into a few changes from the team that played so well at Chelsea last Sunday. He may also take the opportunity to shuffle the pack somewhat, though a strong side will undoubtedly be put out.

The live BBC TV pictures from the Valley just now showed Peter Varney in front of shirts hanging on pegs for Murphy, Smertin, Holland, Thomas, Bothroyd, Bartlett, Bent (D), Andersen, and Powell amongst others. Whether this is an early indication of the likely team or just for show is unclear! My own opinion is that this was not a picture of who will play...

In goal, the situation is a little clearer following the Dean Kiely transfer to Portsmouth. Thomas Myrhe should start, with Stephan Andersen as sub. I cannot see this situation changing until Myrhe makes mistakes, and we know that he doesn't make too many of them...

In defence, it's difficult to imagine Curbs making any changes unless forced. Luke Young was rested for the 3rd round tie against Sheffield Wednesday, but should play in this match. Chris Powell will resume his good form at left back hopefully, and in the centre, Hermann Hreidersson and Jon Fortune are getting a better understanding with each match. Fortune has been excellent since he came into the side on Boxing Day.

Up front, Darren Bent will play, and the likelihood is he will have someone alongside him in a 4-4-2 formation. With Marcus Bent cup-tied, Shaun Bartlett is the obvious answer.

Dennis Rommedahl has a broken rib - courtesy of his clash with Luke Young last weekend - and will miss the next couple of matches at least. Darren Ambrose was man of the match last Sunday, so he can expect to play (probably out left or behind the front two), and also in midfield, Matt Holland (left), Radistan Kishishev and Bryan Hughes (possibly switched to the right side where he may be more comfortable) look to have fairly secure places.

With the injuries fairly obvious, as are the players whom Curbs has said are available for transfer, the outfield substitutes are likely to be from Chris Perry, Jon Spector, Kevin Lisbie, and the now fit Alexei Smertin and Jerome Thomas. Danny Murphy continues to be discounted, probably on personal grounds.

Pedro45's score prediction is a resounding win for the home team - 4-0. It's about time that Charlton put their seemingly annual trial and tribulation against a lower league team behind them and I expect to see plenty of chances created and shots on target. Orient have had their moment of glory and should be brushed aside to concentrate on the league.

The one-to-watch is Bryan Hughes (above), who seems to have a habit of scoring against inferior teams - Palace, Birmingham, Hartlepool, etc.

The dome is currently up at The Valley as the light snow has been falling in South London this evening, and this should make for a good pitch; the benefit here being with Charlton I feel, who should be the better passing team. But this is the Cup, and anything can happen!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Chelsea and out - Curbs and In!?!

A good week for Charlton so far, with the great point and, more importantly, performance at Chelsea, followed by news that more signings are likely (if not imminent), and Curbs being strongly suggested as a serious candidate for the England job once Sven hangs his head in shame for the last time.

The fall-out from the match at Stamford Bridge is interesting; much pleasure amongst Charlton websites, but a lot of disdain from various Chelsea "fans", many of whom seem to be kids with short memories (probably only back to when they were born in the nineties!). Yes, Chelsea played well below par; yes, both of the linesmen took brave decisions on close offside decisions, all of which seemed to favour Charlton; and yes, Charlton haven't won anything much in the way of silverware recently (when compared to Chelsea). But that is missing the point somewhat; this was an excellent performance by a visiting team, the first to take anything away from Chelsea in a Premiership match this season, and from one that cost a mere fraction of that of Chelsea. Charlton have now gained results at Stamford Bridge twice this season, and would have last season too but for a magnificent swallow dive by Lamps and an unbelievably generous penalty decision from Reilly. As Charlton fans, we know we cannot currently compete with Chelsea (or Arsenal, Man Utd, Liverpool and others) in monetary terms but when we get it right, we know we can compete on the pitch. Unfortunately we don't always get it right...

Unless we get drawn against each other in the FA Cup in a future round, last Sundays game will be the last meeting between the clubs this season, and I guess our Portuguese friend Mr Mourinho will be quite happy about that.

Transfer speculation continues, but most is clap-trap! One website was suggesting that we will sign both Andy Reid and Zat Knight on loan this month. Unfortunately, Premiership rules (as I understand them) mean we can only take two players on loan from other Premiership clubs in a season, and we've currently got Smertin (left) and Spector. Unless we sign Smerts (which is a possibility...) and/or dump Spector (very unlikely) then this is hogwash!

Andy Reid on a permanent basis also hits some sites, and this could be a go-er. Curbs still favours 4-4-2 and we are without a proper left-sided midfielder (as opposed to left-winger) since Konchesky crossed the water. Whether he will pay a few million for Reid seems remote though, seeing as Reid hasn't really cut the mustard at Spurs this season or since his transfer from Forest.

Lee Bowyer (left) is still strongly linked, and this transfer may still happen. With their injury situation, it may be that Newcastle want to hold on to him until the last January moment. Bow's wages may be a problem, and could still scupper any deal, as could any contract penalties imposed for poor (on-field or off-field) behaviour. Personally, I don't think this will happen until maybe the summer.

Is Danny Murphy (left) going anywhere? He could, if reports of talks on Tyneside are true, but there is also mention of personal problems, which may be why it's been quiet in this regard. If Curbs did fancy selling, then surely being open about it and seeking the highest bid would be preferable to the unsettling rumours we have currently.

No mention, other than hope and speculation, of any moves for Lisbie or Johansson. The possible free transfer move of Dean Kiely to Portsmouth may result in a bid for Robert Green, and our two unwanted (by the fans anyway) forwards could figure as make-weights here. It'll be a shame if Deano does go; he is a great favourite within the clubs ranks, and he is a legend that we will always thank and remember on his future returns to the Valley.

Spurs fans are pleading for Charlton to prise Antony Gardner away from White Hart Lane; I cannot see this happening - if you fail a transfer medical in August because of dodgy knees, you are not going to pass one come January!

Jason Euell is still in limbo-land. He will not play for Charlton again according to his own Icons website, and it remains to be seen if Birmingham feel they need him after recent displays. I think if they think they can get out of relegation worries without him, then he can take a long Caribbean vacation within the next month or two, and not bother taking his football boots(like me!).

Franny Jeffers is another who will not be seen in a Charlton shirt again, barring miracles. I doubt very much anyone will pay him his current salary so that bars a loan move, or anything but a good transfer option (from Franny's perspective).

There is also talk of Jay Bothroyd being linked with a move back to Italy, with his former manager interested apparently, and also with Darren Bent attracting a £7m bid from Sampdoria. Sorry, but if Ashton was worth seven mill, then Benty is worth double that, and Samp won't be able to afford him!

As always, the only definite transfers are the ones we see announced on the official website, but Charlton chat is always welcomed elsewhere by us fans!

Sven has had the rug pulled from under him at last. I made my own thoughts about his NoW set-up on here a week or so back, so will not repeat my rant. Curbs (left) is being mentioned in many dispatches as a possible viable alternative - ex-England bosses Venables and Taylor both giving him a good write up. The feeling is that England needs an English manager, but who? Allardyce - possibly the papers favourite currently due to Bolton's lofty Premiership position, and their unbeaten Euro exploits. Bruce - very unlikely... McClaren - not going too well on Teeside currently, and may be unemployed by the summer. He is the likely option though if England reverts to an English coach. Curbs has as good a chance as any, and Varney's idea of a coach going to Germany to shadow Sven and watch how things are done at close hand is an excellent idea.

I hope that Curbs doesn't leave, but if he does take the England job, I'll be proud that he came from Charlton. His CV will look good - Managerial experience: Charlton Athletic and England!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Bent goal knocks Eider Down

Chelsea 1 Charlton Athletic 1

Carling Cup? Premiership? Same score. Jose Mourinho won't be able to claim that the result wasn't real for this one, as Charlton became the first team not to lose a Premiership fixture at Stamford Bridge this season, and repeated their Carling Cup feat of securing a 1-1 draw against the competition holders.

The goalscorers (pictured left) were Eider Gudjohnsen and Marcus Bent; Chelsea took the lead in the first half from their first corner, but Charlton equalised in the second half with a well-worked move that ended with Marcus Bent heading over Peter Cech.

The official match report is here.

New-signing Bent came on as sub just before half time for Dennis Rommedahl, who was cleaned out by team-mate Luke Young when they both challenged for a high ball. Our Danish winger suffered a kick to the thigh and a back injury too, and couldn't continue after treatment.

Curbs made one change to the team that beat Birmingham last week - Darren Ambrose replacing Shaun Bartlett after a switch to 4-5-1 formation. Ambrose had a good game and was man-of-the-match according to Sky Sports.

At times, it was backs to the wall, and after Chelsea scored after 18 minutes, the writing really was on the wall for the Addicks. However, hard work, passion, commitment and no little skill, combined with Chelsea's tendency to over-play meant that Charlton came more and more into the game.

It helped that the FA had asked two Fulham supporters to be linesmen, as this evened up the balance of having a Palace supporter as the referee.

When Carvallho was sent off for his second bookable offence shortly after Charlton's equaliser, it looked as if an away win may have been secured. Darren Bent and Darren Ambrose both had chances to win the match, but it wasn't to be.

The whole Charlton team played well, though Chris Powell had a particularly tough game handling first Joe Cole, then Shaun Wright-Philips. The midfield (Holland, Hughes, and Kishishev) did exceptionally well in keeping Lampard and Gudjohnsen quiet for most of the game. This was a real team effort that secured Charlton's second Premiership draw of the season.

Next weekend, Charlton get a break from the Premiership, and take on Orient at The Valley. On this showing, there is only one outcome, but we know that Cup football isn't that predictable. Orient will be as much the underdogs next week as Charlton were today.

Tomorrow, rafts of Charlton supporters will go to work with smiles on their faces; we didn't beat Chelsea at Stamford Bridge this time, but a point is the next best thing, and it shows that the Cup win was no fluke.

Friday, January 20, 2006

I Don't Want To Go To (Chelsea)

Why? Because we might be on a bit of a hiding to nothing!

This year's league champions are nigh unbeatable, although we did turn them over in the Carling Cup back in October. Will this affrontary rebound on the Addicks though? It could, and big time!

The official club preview is here.

Charlton's record against Chelsea on their last two matches at Stamford Bridge is quite good; On the trophy presentation day at Chelsea's last home match of last season, a weakened Charlton team fought magnificently, only to be outdone in the last minute by an Olympic winning dive from Frank Lampard. Frankie Junior would have won gold for that for sure, not only because it was so graceful and he rose to great heights to get over Jon Fortune's leg, but because it started about three yards outside the penalty area, and ended up three yards inside! Mike Reilly was so impressed, he pointed to the spot. It didn't end there though! Makelele's penalty kick was well saved by Andersen, but the Frenchman snuck in the rebound to save his undoubted blushes and score his one and only goal so far for Chelsea.

The last match Charlton played down the Kings Road returned an even better result. The Carling Cup victory was celebrated long and hard - possibly too long and hard, as Charlton's form went to pieces over the next few weeks! The good memories are of a committed Addicks team equalising quickly with a trademark Darren Bent (top) goal after a mistake by Huth. The second half and extra time were all Chelsea, but the defence stood firm that night. Penalties don't count in the Mourinho household apparently, so I won't mention them...(it was 5-4 by the way!!!!).

So to Sunday's game. My own concerns are to do with our still fragile defence, and the number of chances most of the teams we've played have created. Yes, the team as a whole has played much better, with heart, passion, and endeavour, but West Ham left The Valley wondering how they lost, Sheffield Wednesday scored two goals and missed more, and Birmingham created a whole host of chances that Emile Heskey contrived to miss. If we give Chelsea half the chances Birmingham had, then we could get severely embarassed.

Team-wise, I doubt we will see too many changes; Thomas Myrhe will continue in goal, as he has done nothing wrong. It will be interesting to see if Stephan Andersen is the sub goalie now that he has got over his virus, or if Deano continues on the bench.

Luke Young will play right back, Jon Fortune and Hermann Hreidersson will hold the middle, and Chris Powell will play at left back, unless Curbs decides on a major personnel change which is unlikely.

In midfield, Matt Holland and Radi Kishishev will continue centrally, and it would be a major surprise if Dennis Rommedahl was left out again, as he is playing very well at present. On the left, Bryan Hughes made one and scored one last week, so he'll be in for sure. Alexei Smertin (left), is now fit again, but is loan-tied, and Danny Murphy may make it back onto the subs bench after his hamstring injury. If not, Darren Ambrose will continue to come on late in games.

Up front, 14-goal Darren Bent will obviously play, but will new signing Marcus Bent or Shaun Bartlett play alongside. My view is that Marcus will start, and Shaun will come on for the last twenty minutes or so. This tactic over the coming weeks may work, as our South African is a tireless runner and good defender, and if our Bent forward line can get us in front, then Barts may help retain any lead (not that I think that may happen on Sunday!).

The line-up should be:
Myrhe, Young, Fortune, Hreidersson, Powell, Rommedahl, Holland, Kishishev, Hughes, Bent (D), Bent (M).
Subs - Andersen, Spector, Perry, Bartlett, Murphy.

My one-to-watch this weekend is big Hermann (left) - we need a great game from him to have any chance. Pedro45's score forecast is not a happy one - I think we might get beat 4-0 I'm afraid, as Chelsea go in search of their 11th straight Premiership victory.

Pedro's recent predictions have been quite close, and I really hope I'm wrong and that the Blues have an off day, and that Charlton rise to the occasion at Stamford Bridge once more. I'll be glued to the TV to see our boys keep the dream alive.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Jason and the Astronauts

What's happening with Jason Euell's transfer to Birmingham then? Late last week, our Jase seemed well on his way. A fee had been agreed between the clubs, terms had also been discussed, it just needed "Pure" Gold to write the cheque (or maybe he leaves that to Mrs Peschisolido?).
The initial delay was undoubtedly because Charlton didn't want him to line up against them at The Valley on Saturday (and do to us what Bryan Hughes did to them!); I guess the Brummies thought they would save a weeks wages if he couldn't play on Saturday, and therefore left the signing till after the weekend.

Come Monday, and Curbs phone doesn't ring...

When the phone hasn't rung by Tuesday, someone checks things out with the Blue Noses and they've had " a change of priority..."

Is this due to most of their squad now being fit - Forsell, Heskey, Dunn, Izzett, and Sutton all featuring on Saturday - or is it a ploy to reduce the fee that Charlton skillfully negotiated? Let's not forget that Curbs maintained that Euell could go, but only if the price was right. He also said that the Brummies first bid was way short of Charlton's valuation. More negotiation, and eventually a deal is struck. But now it's off.

So where does this leave our Jason - one of our Jamaican internationals? Nowhere it seems. With Marcus Bent coming in he is still further down the pecking order in respect of a place in the forward line. In midfield, he is a poor third in the attacking central midfield role behind Murphy and Ambrose, neither of whom can get a game themselves at the moment!

Unless he and Curbs both have a major change of heart, then Jase is bound to leave this month, but if we decide not to sell him to Birmingham (if they are trying to welch on the deal and pay less for instance) who will he go to?

The Croydon mob are apparently interested, but that may or may not be paper talk because they had a bid for him turned down last January. Harry of the Portsmouth seems to bid for everyone (Deano is linked today...) and mild rumours have come from Jason's agent (Finnegan) about proposed moves down south in the past, and West Ham have also been interested (according to Finnegan), but they have set their sights on bigger fish recently (Ashton). Boro were also linked today, and that may end up being a real enquiry or not.

That really doesn't leave much option for Jason; it's one thing not playing when you've been out injured for four months, but now he's fit and not getting a game, something has to give. Either Curbs (or Murray) take less dosh from Brum, or Palace, or Boro, or we go for player swap (plus cash?) with Harry (Matt Taylor?), or Jase rots away in the reserves till the summer and the whole transfer saga thing starts again.

Whatever happens, people will say he's had a raw deal, but let's not forget that this all started with a stupid tackle against Man Utd some 15 months ago.

With £2 million heading out the door to Everton for Marcus, it would be good to get some cash rolling inwards, but it seems that it wil be less than we initiatlly thought for Jason.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Full Marcus

I'm trying here to be the only website that doesn't come up with some sort of Double Bent headline, after Marcus Bent signed for Charton today from Everton. Marcus will join namesake Darren in contention for a place in the Charlton forward line at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, and for the rest of the season.

Bent (M) has played against Charlton on quite a few occasions, but he will be remembered by most for the game he played at The Valley on New Years Day about four years ago for Ipswich. On that day, with Ipswich having a strange up and down season that culminated in relegation, Marcus scored twice in the first five minutes, giving the Tractor Boys a two-nil lead. Luckily for Charlton, they slowly pegged the game back and scored a second half winner.

The £2.5 million transfer fee is high according to some, but with a large proportion of that seemingly about to be recouped by the sale of Jason Euell (to Birmingham), then it isn't such a bad option.

I expect Marcus Bent to take over the number 9 shirt from Euell.

The need for another centre forward (apart from Darren Bent) who can play the lone or main striker has now been addressed, and with Shaun Bartlett and Jay Bothroyd the club now has a few attacking options. Where that leaves Charlton's other forwards - Kevin Lisbie, Francis Jeffers and Jonatan Johansson - is open to discussion. This blog certainly sees no future for any of them at the club in the short or long term, and off-loading all three could see an increase in incoming transfer revenue and a lowering of the overall wage bill compared to previous, which will please Messrs Varney and Murray!

Now it's a question of whether Curbs can find additions to the squad in the other areas where it is needed - a defensive central midfielder, and a centre half with pace, plus heading and tackling ability.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

News of another Sven-gate misjudged?

There must be so many people in this country who really, really, want England to win the 2006 World Cup in Germany this summer, but does the News of the World?

Today, they (the NoW) published an account of a "set-up" that they manipulated whereby Sven Goran Erickson was whisked off to Dubai to meet a wealthy Arab, on a consultancy basis, only to find that the whole thing was a hoax and conspiracy to get Sven into saying some things that he shouldn't.

The FA had complete knowledge, apparently, of Sven's trip to Dubai, and that the basis was to meet someone who wanted to possibly get involved with (and maybe buy...) a Premiership club. What the FA and Sven didn't know was that it was a sham, and that the over-dinner conversation would be recorded, manipulated and led so that Sven's replies would make him appear anti-English, at a time when the country needs everyone to rally round.

How the Editor of a major Sunday newspaper can think that he would get support from the country after a set-up like this is beyond me!

Of course, the scenario is not new; Don Revie, the England manager of the mid-seventies submitted to a similar escapade, and met with Arab sheiks, and subsequently became the manager of the UAE team, after walking out on England. Revie made mega-bucks from the deal, but right up until he was on his death bed, the great British public felt betrayed and had little sympathy for a man who they saw as treasonous.

The vilification that Sven has had since being linked with Chelsea a couple of years back was nothing compared to that which Revie suffered for the rest of his life.

Personally, I don't care what Sven has said and done, on this occasion, or in the past. So he's been unfaithful to his wife - big deal, so have half the country! So he's paid £4 million a year as England's football manager, and has bedded some very desireable women - that is the dream of half the country! All I care is that England are successful and given every chance of winning a tournament for the second time in their history. They may never have a better opportunity than they have this year, but the NoW is obviously trying to scupper that dream...

So why did the "News of" do it? Is there a conspiracy against our Swedish manager from within our shores, or was the plan hatched from farther afield?

Could it have anything to do with the newspapers owner (Rupert Murdoch) being an ex-Australian and now naturalised American? Both of these countries have qualified for the World Cup so any dispruption of possible opponents England would benefit them. Will Murdoch's world-wide newspaper operation be conducting similar unsettling tactics in every country that may have a good chance of beating the Aussies and Yanks? Stranger things have happened...

I have to admit to a disliking (and that's putting it very mildly) for Murdoch; having worked in the print trade all my life, Murdoch's anti-union tactics during the Wapping dispute twenty years ago have tainted my view somewhat. I will not go into the politics here, but I still own and use a mug bearing the message that we should boycott all of the Murdoch-owned newspapers (Sun, Times, NoW) for what they did to 6000 honest workers back then. I am proud that I have never bought a Murdoch paper since then. I well remember tavelling back from Carlisle, when and where Charlton had gained promotion to the old First Division, and heading straight down to Wapping to picket Murdoch's Sunday papers in May 1986...

Maybe it's time for all of us, all of the country, to stand up for England, and boycott the titles that Murdoch owns, or at least the News of the World, after this latest tabloid abomination.

Rupert - we don't want your interference! If you are that scared of England's football team, come over here and become English. That way you can pledge your support properly!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Old Boy Gives Brummies the Blues

Charlton Athletic 2 Birmingham City 0

It wasn't very pretty, but Charlton won three more valuable Premiership points this afternoon, courtesy of goals from Bryan Hughes (left) and Darren Bent. The official website match report is here.

Hughes was playing against his former club, and it makes a very nice change for a Charlton player to score against his old colleagues - it was his second league goal of the season. Bent scored his 14th goal of the campaign, racing away in injury time to smash a shot past Maik Taylor.

Most of the match was a gritty, dour, affair, with Birmingham having most of the ball and most of the efforts on goal. Hughes' goal was Charlton's only worthwhile effort in the first half, from their first corner. Charlton have had less corners this season than any other Premiership team, so it's good to see that they still work on them in training! For Birmingham, Chelsea-loanee Jarosik went closest, with a couple of reasonable shots.

Charlton almost had a dream start to the second half, when Matt Holland almost made it three goals in consecutive games, but his volley went just wide. The Brummie forwards then contrived to miss many a chance, with last ditch tackles, all out effort and more than enough passion just about keeping Charlton in front. Myrhe, Young, Fortune, Hreidersson, Holland, Hughes, Bartlett and Kishishev all put their bodies on the line at times, but none more so than my man-of-the-match Chrissy Powell. With Jerrmain Pennant in good recent form, he knew he would have a hard afternoon, but Chris came through with flying colours, keeping the ankle strapped winger quite quiet all day, and stemming the flow of potentially dangerous crosses into the box.

Brummie manager Steve Bruce played all his cards, throwing on attackers at the end at the expense of his defence, and this left them vunerable to a breakaway goal. Up stepped (or actually ran very fast) Darren Bent (left) to speed past Mario Melchiot in injury time to thump in the second Charlton goal, and it was game over.

It was great to see the pasion return to a Charlton team; weaknesss obviously still exists, or the Blue noses wouldn't have had so many chances. But when tackles needed to be made, they were, when headers were there to be won, up they jumped, when the ball was required in row Z, there it went. The team couldn't win every tackle, or header (especially against a team as tall as Birmingham's), but the effort in getting to the second ball was immense.

This was excellent stuff, a real return to the Charlton that so many of us know and love. There was no place in the squad for any of the recently missing Danny Murphy, Jerome Thomas, or Alexei Smertin; in Murphy's case, he may well be on his way out of the club if stories from Floyds can be believed.

Next week, Charlton take on heir apparent Premiership Champions Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. A repeat of the passion, effort, and will-to-win shown today may not be enough to beat the best team in the country, but at least it could mean they have to break sweat to beat us.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Transfer Speculation

Have you noticed that it's all gone very quiet at the Charlton end over the last couple of days? Could this be a sign of Alan Curbishley (left) being involved in transfer activity, and if so, who does it involve?

The players likely to be moved out are easiest to deal with first -

Jason Euell: Almost certain to go, probably to Birmingham, but not until after this weekends match. Portsmouth could make a late bid to snatch him, though with three Spurs players signing plus one from Auxerre (and a £10 million plus outlay) earlier this week, this is less likely.

Franny Jeffers: Out of contract in the summer, and unlikely to get an offer to renew it. On a large wage so the club will want shot of him at the earliest opportunity. Millwall have expressed an interest, but I'm not sure they can afford his current wages. Jeffers will want his contract paid up in full before committing to another one elsewhere, so some sort of negotiation and/or compromise is likely, or Franny will be stuck in the bar until the end of June waiting for his current deal to run out.

Dean Kiely: I guess Deano is pretty unhappy about the current situation, but unless another club comes in with an offer, Curbs will not want him to go anywhere. Curbs says he needs three top-class keepers, but with Elliott and Randolph chomping at the bit for games, plus our young Hungarian also out on loan, surely we have enough goalkeeping back-up to let Deano go if he can make a few bucks for himself?

Kevin Lisbie: All we need is an offer I guess, but one doesn't seem to be forthcoming. Of course, if we wanted a player, he would almost certainly be offered in part-exchange; Dean Ashton (or Robert Green) are the obvious links here, as Lis spent time at Carrow Road on loan.

Jonatan Johansson: Another linked with Norwich; JJ is out of contract at the end of the season, and another unlikely to get a decent renewal offer, even though he is a fave of our esteemed manager. It may be time for our Finnish rep to find a new club if he can.

Shaun Bartlett: While Shaun is in the team, it's unlikely that he will go, so speculation linking him with Sheffield United may be mis-judged. Also out of contract in the summer, I doubt Curbs will extend or offer a new one bearing in mind the South Africans ankle injuries.

Danny Murphy: The rumours persist, with the Guardian saying he was in talks with Newcastle all day Tuesday on Tyneside! Curbs has twice denied this, although he does have a stated interest in Bowyer. If Freddie Shepherd could swap the two, he would be a very happy and lucky man. I cannot see any way Charlton would agree to that, unless a cash adjustment was also made - the £2.5m mentioned seems about fair to me! Dan has been great for Charlton's profile, but he does seem to disappear for long parts of the season; please come back the Danny who played the first ten games of this season, and lets sell the player we've had in his shirt since then - that would be a good deal!

And who is coming in -

Well, this is all speculation...

Dean Ashton: Almost certain to leave Norwich, but with a £7 million price tag, he is very expensive, and Norwich would do well to get that sort of money from anyone. Who can pay it? Pompey probably not; Brummies definitely not; West Ham - maybe? We can't, but we can pay a large amount plus Lisbie/JJ. A definite possibility...

Phil Jagielka: Will he leave, won't he? As The Blades are on course for promotion, I think they may just hang on to their most prized player. He will definitely jump ship if Sheffield United don't get promoted this season, or when they are obviously going back down again...

Bernardo Corradi: I'm not sure what happened to Valencia's Italian target man? We were strongly linked but then the trail went dead... A possibility to revive the deal?

Lee Bowyer: Bow needs to move back to London, but the only options are former clubs Charlton and West Ham. The Hammers probably don't neeed him, so that leaves us. A good marketing tool for Mr Shepherd to dangle in front of us as he wants Murphy but a deal could be done without our midfield meastro going in the opposite direction.

J Lloyd Samuel: Also revived in the papers this week - His mum told me that he didn't know anything about the speculation back in October, and that he wanted to get to the summer and review his options then. Still out of the Villa team, and with just 18 months left on his contract, he would almost certainly be sold if an offer were made. Villa have good cover at left back, Charlton do not - an ageing Chris Powell and a central Hermann sharing the job, plus a young Youga in the wings. A maybe...but more likely in the summer.

Steve Sidwell: With Reading almost guaranteed promotion, this is unlikely. He would fit in superbly though if the chance to sign him was available...

There are probably a few other names that we could mention, including many linked with moves to the Premiership from overseas. Wouldn't it be nice to get an english speaking, goalscoring centre-forward from a Russian team or similar, and have him bang in 15 goals in the back half of the season! We might even win the odd game bearing in mind our defence!!!

I guess we will get some idea once Curbs does his press call later this afternoon, but it is intriguingly quiet at present...

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Blue view

Charlton take on Birmingham on Saturday, at The Valley, in a very important Premiership fixture for both clubs. Charlton have not been in the best of form lately, while Birmingham have been in a slight revival, Steve Bruce has been very obvious in the transfer window so far, while Alan Curbishley has been furiously trying to deny that he is selling anyone, let alone trying to buy.

Curbs (above) actually has a pretty good record against his old clubs - West Ham, Villa, and Birmingham. We'd probably beat Brighton too if we ever played them these days!

A win will cement Charlton's season, and lead to a levelling off I think and a mid-table finish; talk of relegation should disappear if the Addicks can win three points here. A defeat will leave teams like Birmingham, Portsmouth, Everton, and Albion all hoping that they can catch up with Charlton over the next month or so, and the pressure would then almost certainly be on.

The official site match preview is here.

Luke Young is almost certain to return to captain the side after being rested for the Wednesday cup game last week, and there may be other changes after the reserves had a good workout on Monday.

This is the side I think Curbs will put out aginst the Brummies -

Myrhe, Young, Fortune, Hreidersson, Powell, Holland, Kishishev, Hughes, Rommedahl, Bartlett, Bent.

Subs will come from Andersen, Perry, Spector, Lisbie, Euell, Johansson, Bothroyd, Thomas, and Ambrose.

It doesn't sound as if Danny Murphy is going to be fit, although he and Smertin were said to have trained late last week. If they are both fit, then one of them could come into the team in place of Bryan Hughes.

Hughes himself will be hoping to play against his old team - wouldn't it be nice if he did what many ex-Charlton players have done and scored against his old club!

My one to watch for the Brummie game is going to be Jon Fortune (left), who will have his hands full with Emile Heskey this weekend. Fortune had to bide his time to get into the team this season, but he always does his best, even when this is obviously not good enough against the best players (he must have nightmares about Theirry Henry!). He is the right sort of player to mark big Bruno though, and it must be good for Hermann to get a rest from having to "fight" the big guys each week.

Pedro45's score forecast is a positive one, with Charlton coming away with a 2-0 win.

Curbs has yet to do any business in this transfer window, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if Jason Euell (left) gets his wish and is allowed to leave the club after Saturdays game. Should he sign for Birmingham beforehand, I expect Charlton to include a clause in his contract stating that he cannot play against Charlton this season, much as Scott Parker had when he left. With Jason gone, I expect Curbs to try to replace him with a similar attacking signing, so we could have some of the transfer movement at last that fans have been demanding.

On another matter, the spin surrounding the election of the clubs Supporters Director is gathering pace, with all the four candidates getting as many column inches as they can at every opportunity. I have yet to make my mind up who I will vote for, but I will say that I am not in favour of someone being in the post too long (ie more than one term) and I won't therefore be voting for Sue Townshend. This is nothing aginst her; I would have the same view whoever was the incumbent director. I believe that all four will have their manifesto's available within the club programme this weekend.

Come on you Reds!

Monday, January 09, 2006

O's a Lucky Boy!

Charlton were drawn at home to Leyton Orient in the fourth round of this seasons FA Cup earlier today.

I remember two previous cup ties against The O's - one a dire 1-0 defeat at Brisbane Road in 1982, where Ian Moores scored the only goal of the game. Moores was a true enigma - he had a reasonable career, playing for Spurs in the season they got promoted (1977/8 I think), but he did have the habit of playing some truelly awful matches, and missed many a good chance, including several when we beat Spurs 4-1 that season. Of course, on that FA Cup day, he scored - I seem to remember he rose to meet a corner at the far post early in the second half and seal the win. Mervyn Day was in goal for Orient that match, and two other players with Charlton connections - Tommy Taylor and Nigel Gray also played.

The other tie was a two-legged League Cup affair in 1990 played at a near empty (well, under 4000 crowd) Selhurst Park. Charlton went two-nil down late in the first half, only to get one back in injury time - Gordon Watson the scorer. Scott Minto equalised late in the game, although I don't remember that goal, rare though Scottie's were. The second leg at Brisbane Road was equally dramatic, with ref Alf Buksh awarding a dodgy penalty to Orient well into injury time. The feeling was he didn't fancy another thirty minutes running around, so gave a handball against Darren Pitcher in order to get home early! Charlton "legend" Kenny Achampong, who had played for us a few times the previous couple of seasons played in both the Orient teams that we met. He did have a great song sung to him - "Kenny Ach-am-pong, Ooom bie ahhh! Kenny Ach-am-pong, Ooom bie arrrr!" etc - one of my all time favourites!

So Charlton meet another lower league team at home, and another upset could be on the cards. As fans, we worry hugely whenever we get drawn against lower league teams, but the reality is that we beat most of them eventually (OK, let's forget Walsall twice), however tough we seem to make it. I'd much rather have Orient at home than Villa or Boro (or similar) away...

Counting chickens, and I am very aware that that is not a good thing to do, I would be very happy to meet the winner of six of the other ties (home or away) in the fifth round, which is a 40% chance of a favourable draw. There you go, once in the quarter-finals anything can happen!

My dream is that Charlton do get to the final this season, and Luke Young (left) may well get an opportunity to lift the Cup, but you know what will happen - Wembley won't be finished and we'll therefore have to jump the train down to Welsh Wales for a Cardff FA Cup final.

"Disappointment always in my dreams" as someone once sang...

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Dennis Double earns win in Heck of a battle

Sheffield Wednesday 2 Charlton Athletic 4

Charlton won a tense FA Cup 3rd round battle, scoring four goals at Hillsborough today, their first win at this ground since 1953. Dennis Rommedahl showed his worth with two in the first half, and Matt Holland scored the second today, and his second in a week (and also his first ever FA Cup goal!). Darren Bent finished the scoring with a breakaway goal a couple of minutes from the end.

Charlton were twice pegged back by - first through an early equaliser from Paul Heckingbottom, and then when Heckingbottom scored again midway through the second half to make it 2-3 (see pic). Both goals came after set pieces, and a worry is that all five goals conceded this week (against Everton and today) came from similar circunstances.

Charlton had made two changes from the team that lost at Goodison - Jonathan Spector replacing the rested Luke Young at right back, and Radistan Kishishev coming in for hamstrung Danny Murphy as expected.

A win is a win at the moment, and it is good that Charlton have made it through to the fourth round draw. Hopefully, the draw will either throw up a home game against a team that Charlton have a genuine chance of beating (although who that may be is difficult to predict at present!) or an away game at a ground that I haven't visited with Charlton before (Torquay, Cheltenham, or Preston, or the new grounds of Coventry, Walsall, or Chester would be good!). It is probably unlikely that a non-league team will make it through to the fourth round, although Tamworth and Nuneaton both earnt replays today aganst more illustrious opposition.

Friday, January 06, 2006

The Owls and the Pussycats

Charlton travel to Yorkshire tomorrow for an FA Cup third round tie against Sheffield Wednesday. The omens are not too good however, and Charlton may be happy to settle for a draw and a replay back at the Valley.

Injuries are starting to play a part in the make up of the side this season, with several potential starters not being available.

Sorondo has missed three games now following the late "horror" tackle from Fabregas, and he may be out for a few more weeks if reports of a broken foot are correct. Smertin is still out with his knee ligament trouble, and the virus that Jerome Thomas has contracted seems to be lingering quite a while. Jay Bothroyd has disappeared from the scene after his much publicised black-out caused car crash.

Add to that the players who are out on loan at present - Randolph, Ricketts, Walker - and those that are not good enough - JJ, Jeffers - plus El Karkouri being away with Morocco and the squad that Alan Curbishley has had to draw from this year is quite stretched.

So who will be carrying the Charlton flag into FA Cup battle tomorrow?

Curbs still has three fit goalies to pick from, but any move away from the incumbent Thomas Myrhe would be a big surprise. Stephan Andersen will no doubt be a sub.

In defence, Luke Young will captain the side once more and, if he has recovered from his thigh bang at Everton last Monday, Hermann Hreidersson will also feature. Whether that is at left back, his best position, or at centre back is a little less certain, but I expect Chris Powell (left) to retain the left back spot, and Jon Fortune to continue in the middle with Hermann. The only other option appears to be to play Chris Perry in place of Powell or Fortune.

Up front, Darren Bent will run his heart out once more, and he will probably play alongside Shaun Bartlett unless Curbs switches formation.

In midfield, some options remain, but they are not as clear as they once were. Without Alexei Smertin alongside, Danny Murphy has struggled to assert himself, and he may therefore be convenientely rested due to a minor hamstring injury picked up at Goodison. That leaves Kishishev, Holland and Hughes seemingly unchallenged in the centre of midfield, with a wide option being provided by Dennis Rommedahl and/or Darren Ambrose. Personally I'd like to see Charlton play with two wide players and Hughes relegated to the bench.

The substitutes will no doubt come from those mentioned above, plus Kevin Lisbie, hopefully Jason Euell, posssibly Franny Jeffers, Jonathan Spector (who is happy to stay at The Valley for the rest of this season having no chance of getting a game at Old Trafford on current form...) plus any remaining youngsters if needed.

The game should be a time for Charlton to regain confidence and form, but the FA Cup doesn't always allow that to happen. Wednesday have nothing to lose and will attack at every opportunity if they have any sense. They have won their last two matches, and will be the happier side going into the game. The pitch should be reasonable, and the atmosphere good, with a large Charlton contingent travelling.

But, and there is always a but with this type of game, it is Charlton...a team with a dreadful defensive record recently. This is the worst type of banana skin that Charlton could step toward at the moment.

Maybe I'm too pessimistic? Too negative? We are the Premiership team let's not forget!

Hopefully then Charlton will come away with a win - Pedro45's score prediction is a 2-0 victory, and the player to watch is Dennis Rommedahl (left) who could just be the match winner we want in the cup this season!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

If only we had a centre half like him!

I boarded my train to work this morning, about an hour later than usual, and who was standing there in front of me, leaning against the train wall? Paul Elliott MBE, former Charlton star and Commission for Racial Equality special advisor for football. He looked very natty in his long brown leather coat and carrying a Louis Vuitton briefcase!

If only we had a centre half of his calibre playing for us now...

I remember seeing Paul make his Charlton debut, at Selhurst Park in 1982, against Palace. I think we lost but he had a good game in a struggling team. He rarely lost his starting place after that and was sold to Luton in desperation a couple of years later for just £150,000 when the wages couldn't be paid. As far as I'm aware, Paul has always lived in Chislehurst, or at least had a home there.

He didn't score many goals, but one memorable one was at The Valley against Brentford; Charlton were losing, and playing poorly, when Paul picked up a clearance on the half way line. He moved forward, beating a couple of players and then unleashed a thunderous shot from 30 yards or so that flew into the top corner of the net. Charlton took control of the game after that and ran out easy winners.

Paul eventually had to retire due to knee injuries after a 15 year professional career, where he also played for Chelsea, Pisa, and Celtic.

It's not often these days that you meet any of your current or former heroes going about their normal daily business, although a whole bunch of them now seem to be around on match days helping out on corporate matters.

I have been lucky enough (?) to have, many moons ago when Pedro45 was a mere pup, bumped into ex-England international Ray Crawford when he was doing his shopping in Cheesemans in Lewisham, a huge store that is no longer there. He was pleasant and gave myself and my sister his autograph, and a smile. He was in dispute with the management at the time, and out of the team, and I'm not sure if he ever played for Charlton again after I'd met him.

I also used to see Scott Parker fairly regularly when he was a teenager, usually on a Thursday when he did his day-release course in London. He used to board the Bromley North to Grove Park shuttle train at Sundridge Park, and looked quite shy and dapper in his (probably one and only) suit.

If Charlton had players of the quality of these three in the team now then they wouldn't be in so much trouble...

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

North West passage leaves Charlton lost

Everton 3 Charlton Athletic 1

Charlton lost yet another game in the North West yesterday, this time to an Everton team that completely deserved their points. Listening on the radio, Charlton seemed to have several chances to score and add to Matt Holland's first half equaliser - Bartlett, Hughes, Ambrose, and Lisbie all missed good opportunities and Fortune also hit the post. But problems in defence may have meant anything Charlton scored was immaterial. Everton scored three goals from set plays: the first was a penalty after Dennis Rommedahl was adjudged to have impeded Kevin Kilbane - Thomas Myrhe saved Beattie's initial penalty kick but he scored from the rebound; The second goal, just before half time, and the third were both headers from Tim Cahill after free-kicks. Everton hit the post twice too.

Curbishley's line up, playing Murphy in place of Kishishev, left little midfield cover for the fragile defence that we know and love so much, and Everton's midfield ran forward seemingly unchallenged for most of the match.

A poor result then to start 2006, and another poor performance to boot.

The outlook is not much better - Jason Euell did not figure in any of the three teams of 16 players picked during the holiday period, but Kevin Lisbie did. Murphy is still in a sulk over not getting his England place back (he really hasn't had a decent game since that Spurs home match...) and has a hamstring injury now, while El Karkouri is off to play for Morocco in the African Nations Cup. Franny Jeffers is back from Rangers, but has yet to score on the pitch this season. If he can't do it against Kilmarnock, will he be able to against Birmingham or Villa? Sorondo is sort-of fit, but yet to last out 90 minutes for the first team, and Spector is awful at left back. Smertin has dodgy knees, and may be out for a few weeks, Bartlett dodgy ankles which may keep him fit for a few weeks.

Our good young players are all out on loan it seems - James Walker joining Elliott, Randolph, Ricketts, Sodje, Youga and Sankofa in gaining experience this season at other lower league clubs. This is one way to control the wage bill, but personally I'd like to see some of the higher earners farmed out - JJ, Lisbie (again), Jeffers (again) - and not come back.

Signing ten new players in pre-season has not had the desired effect (which was to take the club up to a higher level), mainly as the culprits listed above (and others) are still involved. I think it time Curbs took decisive action and shifted out those players that are not good or eager enough to play in this team. That should allow him the opportunity to get players in who can make a difference. If it does not happen this month, it may be too late to do so come May...

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year Toffee Battle

Charlton travel to Everton for another Premiership match tomorrow, their first match in 2006, and their third and Everton's fourth game in the last eight days. Both teams won their last matches and kept clean sheets, Charlton by two clear goals against West Ham and the Toffeemen courtesy of a last minute Tim Cahill goal against bottom club Sunderland.

It is expected that Alan Curbishley will pick a similar team to that which won on Saturday, but there could be returns for Gonzalo Sorondo and Alexei Smertin after injury, and Danny Murphy after suspension.

If Sorondo is passed fit (he failed a late fitness test on his bruised foot on Saturday), he will come into the centre of defence, with Hermann Hreidersson likely to move across to left back in place of Chris Powell.

In midfield, barring any unknown injuries, Murphy could return in place of either Bryan Hughes - who has been ineffective in the last two games - or Dennis Rommedahl - who played well in patches aginst West Ham. If Smertin is also fit, he may replace Matt Holland, but this is less likely and it could be that Smerts is out for some weeks with his knee ligament damage.

Tactically, the return to a 4-4-2 formation has paid dividends, but Everton tend to line up with five in midfield, and Curbishley is known for liking to match up whenever possible. This may mean a switch back to 4-5-1 with Murphy and Ambrose (or Thomas) coming in for Bartlett and Hughes.

Everton's defence has been very loose recently, almost as accomodating as Charlton's, so the outlook is for plenty of goals. However, usually when this is the case both sides tighten up completely and it would not surprise me to see a single goal win this match.

Pedro45's score prediction is therefore a 1-0 win to the Londoners, and my one-to-watch is Dennis Rommedahl (left) who could scare the daylights out of the Everton rearguard if he gets the chance to run at them at pace.

On a different note, it was interesting to see that Curbishley has denied any contact with Graeme Sounness since August, after papers linked them in talks about Danny Murphy. Similarly, that means that no discussions have taken place over a possible Lee Bowyer transfer back to the Valley. Another name linked with a transfer to Charlton has been Everton's Marcus Bent, with Peter Varney all but admitting some interest, and if it is likely to happen then tomorrow would seem to be the opportune time to get discussions underway.

The truth though on most names linked with transfers to and from Charlton would be that it is all paper talk, with an element of agent-speak involved. Players who have a eighteen months left on their contracts tend to be put in the showcase by agents chatting to newspapers, and Curbs has admitted that movement is difficult at this time of year. The good news from Charlton's perspective is that money does seem to be available if the right players can be prised from their clubs.

With Dean Ashton (left) also being linked, and Norwich having expressed an interest is the past over Jonatan Johansson and Kevin Lisbie, there may be some sort of possibility of a swap plus cash and a deal that helps both teams. The £7.5 million price tag quoted in some papers is way off the mark. Sheffield United are another club whose promotion ambitions may encourage them to seek new players, and they have been linked with Charlton's Bartlett, Lisbie, Fortune, and Holland recently - there could be some truth in this link, and again the possibility is Phil Jagielka could be exchanged for one or more of the players mentioned above(plus cash).

Additionally, with Harry Redknapp back at Pompey and likely to wheel and deal as much as he can, there could be more movement as he buys and sells than in any previous season; Garry O'Neill anyone?

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