Friday, February 24, 2006

Rickety Villa playing for three points

Charlton's non-stop February football extravaganza, part 6, is a home meeting with Aston Villa. The good recent form will hopefully continue, and three points could take Charlton back into the top half of the Premiership again.

With games coming thick and fast, it's good that Curbs has a decent sized squad to pick from, and that most of the players are currently fit. Smertin and Powell were rested in midweek, so they could both feature again if required.

This is the side I expect Curbs to put out -

Thomas Myrhe - Still doing a solid job, little pressure at present.
Luke Young - Getting back to his best form; on a concerted push for the World Cup squad and Germany now.
Hermann Hreidersson - Also getting back to reasonable form after a sticky patch. I still miss his marauding runs from left back, but have to make do with the occasional foray from the centre every other match.
Chris Perry - Bouyed by his display against Crouch and Liverpool, only one goal conceded during his last three games is good form. Not always at his best against fast moving forwards (Vassell for instance), will be busy with Luke Moore tomorrow.
Chris Powell - May play instead of Spector but not certain, as Spex did well up at St James. Chrissy is doing the business when called upon though, so I think Curbs will have him back.
Radostan Kishishev - Obviously went through a bad patch mentally, but physically the best we have in midfield. Runs all day; never flinches, and uses his experience to cover others mistakes. A goal would win him Sportsmen of the Year!
Bryan Hughes - Our Scouser seems to play every week, and did very well against Brentford in the last home game. Needs to contribute more in Premiership encounters though.
Matt Holland - Playing against a team he turned down a few years back, so will want to do well. Could be the match winner...
Darren Ambrose - A good game at St James and he should keep his place with Jerome Thomas nursing a training ground knock.
Marcus Bent - Effort, passion, and no little skill. A very good buy; his partnership with Dazza gets better every match.
Darren Bent - Not enough superlatives in my vocabulary - excellent every week. I wish he didn't get caught offside so much, as his pace causes problems anyway. Mellberg and Ridgwell aren't the quickest cente back pairing, and he could cause damage.

Subs will be from Darren Randolph (if Andersen is still injured), Talal El Karkouri, Jon Spector, Jason Euell, Alexei Smertin, Jerome Thomas (if fit), Jay Bothroyd, and Shaun Bartlett.

My one to watch is going to be Matt Holland, as I think that the middle of the park is where this game will be won.

My score forecast is a positive 2-0 victory. Villa are unbeaten in seven on the road, so are due a poor result. Hopefully it will be tomorrow!

I'm going to be missing the match as I'm in transit to a place where the temperature is the same as here (34 degrees), except in centigrade, not fahrenheit! I'll be able to watch the Liverpool match on TV though, and will be back for the Boro game. Come on you reds!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Stalemate in North-East

Newcastle United 0 Charlton Athletic 0

No goals, but a point gained. Charlton's quest for a Eurpoean spot or relegation safety (delete as applicable) was one point better off after last nights goalless draw on Tyneside.

Curbs made four changes to the team that beat Brentford on Saturday - Marcus Bent, Jon Spector, Matt Holland and Darren Ambrose playing instead of Jay Bothroyd (dropped), Chris Powell (rested), Jerome Thomas (injured in training) and Alexei Smertin (also rested).

The official match report is here.

Both sides had chances it seems, with Newcastle having the better efforts. Thomas Myrhe did well, although at one point it seemed he might have to be replaced in goal by rookie Darren Randolph, after taking a knock to the head.

The radio commentary was interesting, and it was nice to have Scott Minto giving analysis for a change. For those fans who did travel, well done, your singing came over loud and clear on the radio!

The team have little time to relax, and hopefully, no new injuries will have been picked up before Saturday's home match against Villa. Curbs will probably ring a few more changes for that home game to prevent tiredness, with Smertin, Thomas, Powell, and El Karkouri, plus Euell (who was a playing sub last night) all back in the frame to start.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Newcastle - take two!

Charlton take on the Geordie boys at St James Park in a re-arranged Premiership game on Wednesday night.

This game was postponed after Xmas due to poor weather conditions around the ground, making it tough for fans to get in. The original match preview is here.

For Newcastle, Scott Parker is almost certain to play; it will be the first time he has faced Charlton since his acrimonious departure a couple of years ago.

Since the New Year, Shearer has now scored his 200th (and 201st) goal for Newcastle, making him the all time top scorer at the club; he may be injured tomorrow anyway, as he missed Saturday's FA Cup game.

Also missing, since the first game was postponed, is Graeme Sounness, now replaced as Newcastle manager on a temporary basis by Glenn Roeder. Since the former West Ham man took over (with Shearer helping as a coach...), the Geordies have picked up quite a bit.

For Charlton, the team may not change much from Saturdays cup winners, except that Marcus Bent will almost certainly replace Jay Bothroyd.

My one to watch is going to be Luke Young. He will be up against a rampant Charles N'Zogbia, and will have his hands full controlling him based on the last few games I've seen.

My score prediction is a bit icy - can Charlton trouble the dodgy Geordie defence? Probably...but can they contain the surging Newcastle front men? Doubtful. I'm going to plump for a 2-1 defeat I'm afraid, but I hope I'm wrong.
I just hope that the snow that has fallen in South London today isn't a foretaste of what might come in the North-East tomorrow...then we would have a fixture pile up!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Cup Draw - It's home to Boro!

Number 5...Charlton Athletic, will play...Number 8 Middlesboro!

So there we have it. Our midweek FA Cup quarter final is against the Boro.

The other ties are

Villa or City Vs Bolton or West Ham
Chelsea Vs Newcastle
Birmingham Vs Liverpool

As Chelsea/Liverpool are still in the Champions League, their games will be a one-off match with no replay.

As the rest of us are not in the Champions League, there will be a replay if the scores are level at 90 minutes.

The Charlton game is to be played week commencing March 20th, on either the Tuesday or Wednesday night, and we may even make it onto the TV this time, though it's not certain!

I've only been to one FA Cup quarter final with Charlton before - the sixth round tie at Old Trafford twelve years ago. That was a great day out; Smeichel sent off, drawing at half time, Things Can Only Get Better booming out as all the fans jumped up and down and joined in, then Andrei Kanchelskis running riot and spoiling the day before Carl Leaburn scored a late consolation.

The only other time we've made it to the sixth round in recent history was six years ago, when Bolton, and a certain Claus Jensen, ruined another chance of cup glory.

Hopefully, this year we can win and get even closer to first a FA Cup final appearance during my lifetime.

Come on you reds!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Short-sighted "View"

It was with interest and anticipation that I bought my copy of the first edition of the new Charlton fanzine - Valley View - at yesterdays game. The young seller was certainly courteous and thanked me for buying a copy (only a quid...). I was, though, very disappointed once I settled down in Floyds and started to read what was contained inside.

First, my comments here are only meant to be a personal view, and constructive, though it won't surprise me if they are not taken that way by the protagonists behind this project.

The argument as to why we might need a fanzine in these days when blogs are regular and several can be held elsewhere - I'm of the opinion that all material published on or about Charlton is welcome, in whatever media chosen.

But Valley View is no Voice of the Valley, or even anywhere near as good as Valiants Viewpoint or Goodbye Horse, or other long gone Charlton fanzine predecessors.

First, let's get the visual matters out of the way -
1. Too many spello's! Use the spell check boys - I lost count of the amount contained, but there is almost one in every article...I particularly liked Danny Murphy's "viscous" tackle on Rommedahl!?! Nobody's English grammar is perfect (least of all mine!!!), but spelling is easy these days...
2. The cartoons are generally very good, and the Sven strip quite funny. But the "Charlsberg" cartoon is offensive, and that lowers the tone of the whole fanzine. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for taking the mickey out of Brighton's biggest rival (Trademark), and I hope that Jordan tenureship takes them into oblivion, but
not at the expense of missile attacks on football stadia!
3. Not enough pictures! Yes, OK, the paper is rubbish so they don't always look good, and pix take more effort to publish (copyright etc) but they really will liven up the read and give a more balanced look.
4. The Darren Bent article finishes mid-sentence - do we have to wait until the next issue for part two? Mr Editor - it's your responsibility to check these things!

Next, editorial content. I think it's a fairly good effort to have articles like those contained, but there is nothing new! Nearly every piece included has a contemporary published online already or been talked to death on the message boards. Murphy has gone, and plenty has been written upon blogs and official websites about that. The "Curbs Out editorial"? - read New York Addict for a better and more in depth view! Andy Hunt and his Belize Jungle Dome set up has also been covered extensively online over the last six months. The Brentford Preview means that two pages are already out of date for anyone who might want to read it today.

And what of the next issue? The 2005 A-Z is a good idea although blinkered, and you won't be able to put that in the next issue; you've dealt with "Benty going to the World Cup", and a broader "What's Wrong with Football" piece. If you can repeat the two pages of Palace jokes in the next issue I'll be happy, but I doubt that can happen, unless you just change each mention of Palace to Millwall. Five pages on the next couple of away games is also a little too much (and it's done much better in the matchday programme by the way).

So it's going to be tough to see what can be included in the next issue (out in just three weeks time at the Boro home game) unless there is a general shift in editorial focus so that themes can develop.

I doubt I will bother with buying the next edition. I'd really like to, but I think that everything will be re-hashed web-talk, or not relevant to the majority of Charlton fans. 3/10.

Bees brought to their knees

Charlton Athletic 3 Brentford 1

Well, we made it - quarter finals. Three down, three to go...

Goals from Darren Bent, Jay Bothroyd, and Bryan Hughes secured the result, before Brentford's Isaiah Rankine scored a late consolation.

Bent's early goal, following a delightful lob over the back four by Kishishev, after just three minutes settled the nerves during a strange first half. The game was just about calming down into a familiar home game pattern when crowd trouble in the south east corner of the South Stand brought a uncomfortable atmosphere to The Valley.

What caused the trouble is unclear (unlike the previous occurence caused by Van Nistelrooy's over-zealous celebrations in the same area...), but it may have been either stewards asking fans to sit down (not really a reason for the disturbance...), or rival factions (old-boys versus glory hunters?) within the Brentford area. It certainly did not involve any Charlton fans. The scenes actually deterioted after the first few hooligans were brought out onto the running track, and one striped shirted Brentford supporter ran from the east stand to join in. Eventually, with players and referee sensibly slowing the game right down while the police and stewards dealt with things, calm of some sort was restored in that area.

Charlton continued to control the game, and a free kick (his second try) from Jay Bothroyd (see above) just before half time gave Charlton the breathing space in the tie that they needed. Bothroyd's free-kicks are amazing! He has scored four goals for Charlton now; all at the Covered (North Stand) End of the Valley, and all from free kicks tapped to him to strike. His celebration wasn't as vociferous as the one in the last round (versus Orient) as he kept his shirt on this time!

The Brentford team came out onto the pitch early for the second half - a Martin Allen tactic to keep them warm I guess - but it made little difference to general play. Bothroyd was replaced by Bartlett after an hour, and with his first touch he set Bryan Hughes (left) free to score through the goalkeepers legs. 3-0 and it was game over.

This goal was also within seconds of the suited supporter, prize drawn to shout instructions from the technical area, was first allowed to stand up. He quickly got told to sit down again by Allen!

Charlton then sat back and relaxed, trying to hit the Bees on the break, and Ambrose, on for Kishishev, almost made the most of several jinking runs.

As it was, a late goal from ex-Arsenal trainee Rankine, and a Sodje header which hit the post in injury time, were all Brentford could claim in the way of decent efforts on goal.

The quarter finals now beckon for the Addicks, and this in itself may bring an intersting sequence of matches. Left in the cup, as of time of writing, are Chelsea, Colchester, West Ham, Bolton, Stoke, Birmingham, Preston, Manchester City, plus Newcastle, Aston Villa, Liverpool, and Middlesboro. Charlton's next four league games? Newcastle, Aston Villa, Liverpool, and Middlesboro! So it is fairly likely (about even money I suppose) that Charlton may have to play a team twice over the next month, in both FA Cup and Premiership. Usually, when this is the case, the games tend to have the same venue, so we could end up with a Tuesday night trip to St James or Anfield, or a home tie against Villa or Boro...

When you look at our results this season, I'd be quite happy with a tie against almost all of the above clubs - we've beaten Liverpool, Boro, Birmingham, West Ham; beat Chelsea too on penalties; and cannot play much worse in games against Villa or City. Newcastle still have huge defensive problems, and Bolton are fighting (sometimes literally) on all fronts and don't always take the FA Cup seriously. I'd be happy to play any of the non-Premiership clubs, as would fans of any of the other top division teams.

What I really hope for is that Liverpool are drawn against Chelsea - that way the ridiculous palaver of Champions League teams 6th Round ties being settled in one leg only will be avoided for fans of teams that rate this competition.

We'll know more when ball 5 comes out of the bowl tomorrow lunchtime...

Kish and make up!

I've just seen the plea from Richard Hunt, a very respectable and long-standing Charlton fan based (I think still) in Prague, to give support to Charlton's Number 7.

Kish - if you read this, we value you immensely!!! You do so much crucial work for our team that generally goes un-noticed, but you are always willing and able to give your heart and soul to the team and their play.

Every teams fans have their favourites, and these players are usually the goal-scorers or glory players, neither of which decribes you. But this doesn't detract from the effort and skill which you bring to the team. A team of eleven Danny Murphy's would be beaten every week. A team of eleven Radostan Kishishev's would not! (OK, maybe, but only because you are too small to be goalkeeper too!)

I wish every Charlton supporter would appreciate what you bring to our team - determination, commitment, will-to-win, and no little skill. We are a better team with you playing, and long may this continue.

You made our opening goal yesterday, and have been involved in creating several others over recent weeks - long may this continue, and it would be magical if you could get back onto the scoresheet yourself.

Our club, Charlton, prides itself on being fair, honourable, and respectable. Our fans should support every member of the team, whether this is their favourite player or not. The cheers that ring out when we score or at the end of each game are for the whole team, and not just one or two individual players. Please allocate your piece of the cheering from this each week, because you really do deserve it.

I hope you will take heart from this message; most of us supporters want you and the club to succeed!

We are a proud club - and you are our one and so far only Bulgarian international representative. Hopefully, in coming years, when the next few Bulgarians are playing for Charlton (or other Premiership clubs), they will look back and think that this was only made possible by the contribution to Charlton's playing history made by you, Kish.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Two down, four to go

It's cup week again, and the fifth round brings Brentford to the Valley for an all-London clash. The Division One side are another potential banana-skin to Curbs boys, but good recent home form should be enough to see Charlton through to the quarter finals.

Brentford will be no mugs though. They are third in their division, and have won their last four matches, so will be full of confidence. They have a young team, complimented by some experienced pro's, so are well balanced.

Charlton will want to remember the last home game, where European Champions Liverpool were sent packing, rather than the last away game, where they lost 3-2 to Manchester City. At least Charlton managed a couple of goals in both games.

The cup game will see at least one change to the starting eleven, with Marcus Bent cup-tied. Curbishley may make other changes too, with a few players not performing, and others doing well in the reserves.

In goal, Thomas Myrhe will no doubt continue, with Stephan Andersen as sub.

The defence was lambasted by Curbs for conceding three last weekend, but did ever so well against Liverppol. I expect Young and Hreidersson to hold their places, but Perry to return in the centre, with Powell at left back. El Karkouri and Spector to miss out.

The midfield also gives Curbs plenty of options with almost everyone fit and available. Smertin and Kishishev are certainties, and I'd like to see a change out wide with Thomas and Ambrose both given starting berths, with Hughes dropping out.
Matt Holland is also available.

Up front, with Darren Bent a certainty, and a 4-4-2 formation also favoured recently, it will be either Jay Bothroyd, Shaun Bartlett, or possibly Jason Euell who plays. Bartlett has been missing from the first team squad for a month or so, allowing him to appear on African Nations Cup TV coverage, and Euell may need to beg Curbs for a match shirt this week. I therefore expect Bothroyd to start, with Euell on the bench.

This is the team I'd like to see start -

Myrhe, Young, Hreidersson, Perry, Powell, Ambrose, Smertin, Kishishev, Thomas, Bothroyd, Bent (D). Subs - Andersen, Spector, El Karkouri, Euell, Holland.

My one-to-watch is going to be Darren Bent. Dazza is now back in pretty good form, and if he can stay onside, looks like scoring in every match.

My score prediction is going to be a happy one, with a first quarter final appearance at last for Charlton after six years of trying. A win 3-1.

Come on you reds!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Barton Fink!

Manchester City 3 Charlton Athletic 2

Better, but no banana unfortunately...

A quiet first half, a commonality for Charlton away from home these days, where Charlton conceded a solitary goal to defender Richard Dunne, was followed by a transformed second half, with goals flying in for twenty minutes. The bad news was that Charlton let in as many as they scored in this half, and therefore lost 3-2.

Curbs request to the players to stay in the game lasted just twenty one minutes. A corner wasn't cleared and it fell to Dunne inside the area. Three red-shirted players were close, but none close enough to block the shot past an unsighted Myrhe. This was actually the only shot on target from either side in the first half...

The second half started much brighter - Charlton took the initiative, and were rewarded when a fabulous through pass from El Karkouri (playing in place of the unwell Chris Perry) found Darren Bent just onside. His finish was superb, and bulged the back of David James net. Sadly, parity remained for just three minutes when Samaras, on as a second half sub for Trevor Sinclair, headed a classic goal from a Joey Barton cross. It got worse for the away team as Barton then shot from over 25 yards to score past Myrhe off the post. Charlton rallied though, and a fine move down the right led to Kishishev's excellent cross, and another classic header, this time from Marcus Bent.

Charlton had chances to level, but not much luck after that. In the last minute, El Karkouri thumped a volley toward goal but James saved well at his near post.

So it was another defeat away from home, another in the north-west, and another with three goals in the deficit column. Overall though, a much better performance than some of the others dished up away from The Valley recently.

The game was noteworthy for a couple of very poor refereeing decisions, including one where the ref over-ruled the lino and gave Charlton a throw which led directy to the Bent header, and another, and possibly the worst ever(!) where Marcus Bent dribbled the ball past Luke Young who was given offside. How that falls into line with players not interfering until they move toward the ball is crazy!

Curbs was a little more upbeat afterwards, but most questions were regarding the vacant England managers job, as he, Pearce, and Allardyce (the three English candidates..) were all in one ground together.

In all truth, this defeat probably signalled the end of any European ambition Charlton may have had through a league position this season. The result means that Charlton can concentrate on the Cup for a change, and now look forward to a fifth round tie at home to Brentford on Saturday.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

City on Sky

Charlton take on Manchester City tomorrow, bouyed by their midweek success against reigning European Champions, Liverpool. A repeat of that form should see a welcome return to the top half of the table for the Addicks.

Curbs is likely to stick with the same team that won on Wednesday, although Powell and Holland are fit again.

This is the likely line-up:
Myrhe, Young, Perry, Hreidersson, Spector, Kishishev, Hughes, Smertin, Thomas, Bent (D), Bent (M). The subs will be from Andersen, Powell, Euell, Bothroyd, Bartlett, El Kakouri, Holland, and Lisbie.

I'd like to see Matt Holland back in the side in place of Hughes - he will contribute more and allow Smertin more time and space in central midfield.

The game will bring back memories of the 5-2 drubbing that Charlton took back at The Valley earlier in the season. That game was the real low ebb of Charlton's patchy home form this season, and will be remembered for the way Trevor Sinclair taunted Jon Spector all afternoon on the right wing. Vassell and Cole also caused havoc, and their pace and movement embarrassed the Charlton defence time and again in that match. Hopefully, our general play and tactics will difuse a similar scoreline.

City are in good form at home, having won their last three, but overall, are not playing brilliantly. Charlton therfore do have a chance of getting something out of the game, and Pedro45's score prediction is a 1-1 draw.

My one-to-watch in this match is Marcus Bent - in his first four games for Charlton, he has scored once and hit the woodwork twice. He works hard, does get into good scoring positions, and knows where the goal is. His partnershiop with Darren Bent is improving with each game, and hopefully tomorrow will show what a dangerous pairing they can be together.

Come on you reds!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Champions of Europe!

Charlton Athletic 2 Liverpool 0

Life is never dull when you're a Charlton fan! Abysmal on Sunday, our lads were simply magnificent team-wise last night. I believe that this is the first time that Charlton have ever played the reigning European Champions (When Forest and 'Pool won it years ago we were in Divs 2 or 3; when Man Yoo won we were winning the Championship...), and it was fantastic to skip out of the ground at the end of the match with a huge grin on my face.

As I joined the throng of Scousers leaving the South stand exit in Valley Grove (many had left early for beer or food accumulation for the coach journey home) I just couldn't remove the smirk...Champions of Europe. Huh!

Curbs made three changes to the starting eleven - our went Powell, Fortune and Ambrose, and in came Thomas (Hurrah!), Spector and Perry.

So what happened? Well, Charlton started, as they have many recent games, slowly. Liverpool had much possession and sprayed pases around all over the place. Crouch, Morientes, Kewell, and Cisse all looked lively and dangerous. Cisse kept taking on Spector for pace and our Yank did fairly well, blocking about half the crosses attempted. One flick by Morientes went straight to Myrhe, and other half-chances were blocked by last ditch tackles.

Perry was magnificent; he repeatedly tried to head the ball from under Crouch's armpit, and was quite successful with this action. I don't think the lanky one had seen this tactic before! Hermann had a run in with Crouch too, as the ex-Spur backed into him and fell over in the six yard box, claiming a penalty. Our Icelander made his feelings known vocally!

In midfield, Smertin, Hughes, Kishishev and Thomas found very little space and time, and balls to the two Bents up front were few and very inaccurate.

Mostly balls were just lumped upfield as best could be and Marcus or Darren made chase, without much success.

Then the game changed. Kishishev found himself with a little time and lobbed the ball over the Liverpool back four for Darren Bent to chase. Dudek came out but Dazza got to the ball first. As their paths crossed, Bent went down. Penalty! I was a long way away but others closer say it was a dodgy pen...well, I'm with Curbs here. We haven't had a home Premiership penalty for over a year and a half and have had plenty of good shouts in that time. This was one minor step in evening things out. Well done Andre - I said he might come good!

Dazza cooly slotted it into the corner; the crowd was buzzing. Most decided that this was a good time to go to half time early - fools! Again, the ball went down the inside right channel and bobbled around between Bent and the defence; Luke Young had stormed into the area and just kept going till he caught up with the ball...LASH! Through Dudek's legs it might have gone but it sat nestling in the bottom corner now...2-0! Mayhem! The half time whistle went and, for the first game in what seems like months, there was no booing as the players walked off!

The second half was notable for just a few things: Dazza crashed a shot unluckily against the bar; Marcus hit the post (he should really have scored...) after a great run from an offside Dazza; Robbie Fowler came on to a great big cheer; and Thomas Myrhe made his first save in ages with a great stop from Moreintes shot.

Here's how I sum up each players night -

Myrhe: Excellent stop late on, and marshalled the penalty area well.
Young: Back near his best after a long time away. Was that red nose the result of someone knocking some sense into him and telling him to perform if he wants to go to Germany this summer?
Spector: Possibly his best game for Charlton, when up against a very good player in Cisse. Distribution not ideal, but overall the boy done good.
Hreidersson: After his spat with Crouch was rarely seen, but won plenty in the air and cleared his lines with aplomb whenever necessary. A rock!
Perry: Man-of-the-match. Hilarious watching him beat Crouch in the air time after time.
Kishishev: Played right side and did well in breaking up balls to Kewell, and runs from Sissoko.
Hughes: Played inside but found little time, so just lumped it over his shoulder all the time. Made good tackles but very uneffective overall.
Smertin: No time or space but harried and competed whenever he could. Struggled against the sheer bulk of Sissoko.
Thomas: Was an outlet all night and tried to find space, but consistently closed down by Sissoko which prevented much constructive play.
Bent (D): Ran all night and few opportunities, but made the best of all he got - a penalty, hit the bar, and created chance for Marcus.
Bent (M): Ditto, and should have scored. Did well defending corners and overall work-rate superb.

Subs - El Karkouri for Smertin, Ambrose for Thomas did well in last fifteen when the game need closing down.

And what of my one-to-watch, Mervyn Day? He stood on the sideline all night, and didn't even have the chance to catch the ball and throw it back to a player taking a throw in. Come on Merve - do something!

After last night, every Charlton fan should have a smile on their face - the message boards will be positive, the Curbs for England brigade will be out in force, Ben Hayes will claim it was he who changed the Addicks fortunes (only joking...), and the world will seem a better and brighter place.

Charlton can rightfully claim to be Champions of Europe right now, up until their next game anyway!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Pools Win Guaranteed?

Just when the club is at it's lowest ebb for two years, we find that the next game in what is going to be a long, long, season is against the current European Champions!

What chance of a Charlton win then? Not a lot, but then again this is the sort of match that our boys tend to rise to...I doubt we will win, or even draw, and it wouldn't surprise me in the least if we took a fearful hammering, but I oh-so-hope for one of those days when you skip out of the ground at the end of the match with a smile on your face.

It's unlikely that Curbs (above) will change the line up too much - we don't seem to have many options just now...Unless the couple of knocks that Curbs mentioned today prove the undoing of someones fitness, this is the obvious team -

Myrhe will be in goal; Young and Powell the full backs, and Fortune and Hreidersson the centre backs. In midfield, Smertin and Kishishev will start, and Ambrose or Hughes or both will also do the Premier league handshake routine first up. It would be great to see Jerome Thomas (left) start tomorrow night, as he seems to be a shining light in a very long tunnel just now, but that depends on Curbs mood and whether he thinks Scouser Hughes will be needed once more. Up front, it'll be the Bent boys, and probably a switch back to 4-4-2 from the start.

Other options apart from Thomas? Not many; Holland is injured, as is Rommedahl. Lloyd Sam seems to have disappeared from view with a long term injury, and Jason Euell is out of favour and in a boat rocking mood. Sorondo has been out for six weeks (the length it was said he would miss with the broken foot he got on Boxing Day) and neither Perry or El Karkouri offer much of an improvement at the back. Up front, Bothroyd and Bartlett could be subs, but neither will start in front of a Bent.

For Liverpool, they will probably have Jerzy Dudek in place of the suspended face-slapper Reina. I expect Benitez will chop and change from Sundays starting eleven, so Finnan, Carragher, Hyypia, Riise, Warnock, Traore, Luis Garcia, Kewell, Alonso, Sissoko, Hamann, Crouch, Fowler, Morientes, Agger, Kromkamp, etc, etc, will have to wait and see who starts. I bet that youngster Robbie Fowler is looking forward to playing against our defence eh?!?

My one-to-watch tomorrow is going to be Mervyn Day (left). Merve the swerve gets a lot of stick these days, and if the events on the pitch get too awful to bear, I'll switch my gaze to the pot bellied one, and see what he earns his match-day money doing.

Pedro45's score prediction, if I really have to make one, is the same as I predicted for the recent Chelsea game - a 4-0 defeat. At Stamford Bridge I was proved very wrong as our boys came from behind to almost snatch a glorious victory; hopefully we can repeat this sort of result or better.

The score may be influenced by an "unknown" referee - Mr Andre Marriner of the West Midlands - who has reffed two previous Charlton games, both last season. We won both (Norwich home 4-0 and Grimsby away 2-1), so we are on a hat-trick with Andre! This also appears to be Andre's first 'Pool game, so he may either spend all match being chatty with the superstars and give them lots of benefit, or ratty with the millionaires and flash lots of cards!

Hayes Stings Others in Director Battle

The big Charlton fan vote has gone the way of Ben Hayes. But what does this voting split tell us?

Brian Cole - 372 - 17.5%
Ben Hayes - 464 - 21.9%
Vince Nieswiecz - 456 - 21.5%
Sue Townsend - 405 - 19.1%
Spoilt papers - 423 - 20%

1. A huge percentage of the season ticket fan base did not vote (86%!).
2. A small percentage of the fan base voted when they were not allowed, or season ticket holders voted more than once, or 423 votes for Danny Murphy's wife have been disallowed on a technicality.
3. With the result oh-so-very close (less than a hundred votes between all four candidates), no clear winner has emerged.

Where does this leave the club?

I think in pretty good hands. I voted for Ben, as he came across as the best overall candidate.

I also think he will be more visible in the role than Sue Townsend has been for the last two years, and this is what the club needs at this time. Ben certainly sent plenty of notices around to me when I was a member of the Bromley branch of the supporters club.

It was an interesting month or so of election fever, and included dirty tactics, although who was to blame for various online smear campaigns isn't clear. It probably wasn't Sue as she doesn't have a website of her own, so it's unlikely her first venture as a webmaster would be to bad-mouth any of the others...It was good to see all the nominees taking an interest in blogs and chat-rooms, and I sincerely hope that My Hayes continues the neccesary dialogue between fans and director in future.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Jerms leave Charlton Unwell

Tottenham Hotspur 3 Charlton Athletic 1

Outfought. Outplayed. Out-skilled. Once Jermain Defoe had opened the scoring within the first fifteen minutes, you could tell it wouldn't be Charlton's game. A second goal, that had been coming a long, long time, by Jermaine Jenas, just before half time, and the final Spurs goal, and second from Defoe, which came just 46 seconds into the second half, killed the game as a contest.

Jerome Thomas (above) did pull one back for Charlton with twenty minutes remaining, but much huffing and puffing failed to bring any further reward. Thomas's goal was his third against Spurs, and his fifth in total for Charlton.

As expected, Kishishev played instead of the injured Holland, but the side started as 4-5-1 with Marcus Bent out wide right. Charlton started slowly, as usual, and with just Darren Bent up front, the ball kept coming back at the Charlton defence incessantly. Once Defoe scored, after jinking in the area and having his shot deflect off Luke Young over Thomas Myrhe, Marcus was moved up front with Darren, and the 4-4-2 formation worked better. There was still little invention though, and from the good amount of posession, the ball was continually knocked around between Smertin, Kishishev and Ambrose, then back to a defender, before being lumped forward and lost.

Eventually, Jenas made a break from midfield, was fed by Keane and the covering Powell couldn't stop the shot going in that made it two-nil.

Marcus Bent was unlucky just before half-time - his great volley cannoning back from the crossbar after being set up by Darren.

Half-time per-talks can work wonders, but just as Charlton needed to get out of the blocks quickly, Spurs made it three-nil. Defoe was found all too easily and nipped the ball over Myrhe. Young tried to keep the ball out but failed on the line.

Charlton did play better after that, but a weakened Spurs team (Lennon and Tainio both going off injured) held firm. Jerome Thomas cut in from the left wing to fire a shot in at the near post with twenty minutes left, but Charlton failed to create much after that until the match was in injury time. Then, Hreidersson found himself with a free header eight yards out from a free kick, but Robinson saved well.

A poor result from the Addicks perspective, at a ground where Charlton usually do well, it does not bode well for the midweek game against Liverpool.

The drop in morale that the club felt when Scott Parker left seems to have resurfaced now that Danny Murphy has left in similar circumstances, and disquiet is resounding from the message-boards, through to the stands and board-room, and no doubt to the dressing room too.

Charlton look rudderless. The players in the side are certainly trying, running hard, putting in the tackles, competing, but it's just not clicking. It is up to the management to deal with this situation immediately, as the club is most defintely not yet out of trouble this season. With the players lacking confidence (Young especially...), and certain unrest remaining (Euell making waves again...), we need a leader to take hold and bring us out of this malaise. If Curbs is that man, let him step forth now - there is certainly no player or other coach at the club currently that seems to have the necessary instinct to drive the team onwards.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The January transfer window has closed, and with it Charlton find themselves without three of their squad - Dean Kiely, Jonatan Johansson, and Danny Murphy.

Let's deal with them in post-title order -

Danny Murphy

When our Dan was good, he was very good. He scored great goals from free-kicks. He controlled the midfield. He threaded passes through the defence to Darren Bent et al to score. He was a star in a team without stars.

And maybe that was the problem, and one of the major reasons he left.

Danny didn't want to be the biggest name on the teamsheet; he could never claim to be that at Liverpool. He wanted to be a star, but not the biggest, that's all. At The Valley, arriving with Jeffers and Rommedahl, he fitted in quite nicely. The team was still a team, but the degree of quality was seemingly being improved, and Danny was a great tabloid story focus. But Dennis and Franny didn't hit too many heights last season, and Franny is now also on the periphery. Only Rommedahl has the chance to carry on in the side, and if he did indeed have a training ground bust-up with Murphy, Dan had nowhere to go, but out.

My over-riding memory of Murphy at Charlton was not of any of the goals he scored, but when, during the early part of last season, he played a (bad) pass from midfield that was intercepted on the edge of the penalty area. He then stood, hands on hips, as the ball was run out of defence straight past him. He made absolutely no effort to tackle, chase, or intervene. He didn't care. He lowered his head. His whole body language was negative. At that point, I knew that we may get the odd good game out of him, but he would never be a "real" Charlton player.

This was just prior to Charlton changing to the 4-5-1 formation at Spurs, after a poor run of results. The change was as much to accomodate Murphy in the side as anything, because he'd become unreliable in a central midfield two. When Curbs needed to revert back to 4-4-2 this Christmas (after another poor run of results), it was Murphy who eventually ended up out of the side.

He scored ten goals for Charlton in only 64 games - that's pretty good for a midfield player, especially a Charlton midfielder! Great free kicks against Sunderland and Spurs, a penalty versus West Brom, and a few from open-play (Fulham, Blackburn, Albion again, Birmingham). His assist level this season (eight) was top until Xmas.

He goes to Spurs - the team that he turned down to join Charlton - when they have a foreign manager. One of Danny's reasons for leaving Liverpool (and not joining Spurs at that time) was that he wanted to play for an English manager. What has changed? Spurs are having a good season, and may well qualify for Europe for the first time in years. Danny wants a piece of that. Presuming he plays. Will he regularly get a midfield place in the team ahead of Carrick, Davids, Reid, Jenas, Lennon, Tainio, King, etc? Maybe initially, but only if he is performing. Spurs midfield certainly hasn't added any pace with his arrival!

Goodbye Danny. I'll miss you and your wife's Times column (and occasional Five Live seat), and I'm glad that you will not be playng on Sunday against us. You were good, but not that good...

Jonatan Johansson

There's only one JJ, if you ignore Jermain Jenas! Our Finnish striker has had an up-and-down career at Charlton, and has now joined Norwich on loan till the end of the season.

JJ could be good (see first season...) but unfortunately quite bad too (see last year or so...).

When he signed from Rangers, he was expensive (£3m!) and a winger. Curbs played him through the middle and after a sluggish start caused by a hamstring injury (received in a pre-season friendly) he started to rattle the goals in. He scored 13 in his first full season including a memorable goal against Spurs (after an outrageous Graeme Stuart dummy had fooled Sol Campbell...). JJ also became the king of the overhead kick - scoring a last minute equaliser in the 4-4 draw with West Ham, and then two more (from some way out) against Exeter in the cup. JJ was always a great crosser of the ball too.

With Shaun Bartlett arriving and looking such a threat in the air, their partnership was keenly anticipated. The problems came when Bartlett and JJ both started to get injured, and they actually played up-front together comparitively rarely over their careers at The Valley.

His blond locks, made him a bit of a ladies favourite, till he cut them all off. With it, went the talent too maybe...

In recent times, JJ has been ineffective through the middle and played out wide more and more. He made it back into the starting line up this season when Rommedahl was initially dropped, but created little. Several sub-standard games left the fans wanting more from him, but no apparent chance of that happening.

JJ is Charlton's record international appearance maker (having beaten Mark Kinsella's record of 33 caps), and he will always be remembered for that (until it's broken...).

Good luck JJ - I'd be happy to see you do well at Norwich, and you will not get too much stick from me on your next return to the Valley.

Dean Kiely

What can one say about Deano. He stayed six years; kept numerous clean sheets; made amazing saves that won games or points that Charlton had no right to gain. A star man.

And quite nice with it too!

He did lots of work with local charities, and it's them that will probably suffer most now he's moved on to Portsmouth. The fee of £150,000 now plus another £200,000 if Pompey stay up is cheap if it works out.

Deano had his bad times (most were this season!), including a famous spat with Andy Todd. Deano arrived for a midweek game at Villa Park sporting a black eye and bad bruising around his cheek. The rumours abounded, as Toddy was sold, and moved back up North. Did either have an affair with the others wife? Who knows... I also heard a story about Todd's wife asking Deano's wife to accompany her to view a new house the Todd's wanted to buy. Apparently, when Mr Todd came to make an offer, he was told it had been the Kiely's! Deano's wife had liked it so much she persuaded her hubby to buy it! It may or may not be true, but it's a good story.

Deano made it back into the Charlton team in November for the Blackburn league cup game; his mistake led to the second equalising goal, as Charlton let slip a two goal lead and lost in the last few seconds. He then conceded five against Man City, kept a clean sheet against Sunderland, before letting in three at Wigan, two of which could be attributed to him. That was his last game for Charlton.

A star performer on his day, he may be a little past his best now.

His most memorable game was probably against Birmingham away a few years back, when he kept out Christophe Dugarry almost single-handedly.

He will always be welcomed back to the Valley though. One of the top goalkeepers ever to play for the club, and right up there with Sam Bartram, Charlie Wright, Nicky Johns, and Bob Bolder.

Good luck Deano.

Zero-Zero Degrees

Charlton Athletic 0 West Bromwich Albion 0

It was cold. Very cold. No goals. Not much fun. And at the end of the night the news that everyone had been hoping wasn't true was announced - Murphy signed for Spurs...

Quickly through the game - Marcus Bent started, but didn't get much service in and around the box. Matt Holland started but got hurt and substituted after 40 minutes. Darren Bent missed a sitter. Thomas Myrhe pushed a header onto the post. The ref blew his whistle lots and lots!

No goals. No fun. But at least we still got one point. Curbs can scratch his head, and after the game he had lots to say about the Danny Murphy situation. The problem was that most of it contradicted what he'd been saying all month previously...

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