Sunday, May 07, 2006

A Piece of Cake

Manchester United 4
Charlton Athletic 0

Alan Curbishley's 729th and last game as Charlton manager ended in abject defeat, as United romped to an easy win. It was so easy, that Rio Ferdinand even had time to eat his tea while still on the pitch! He was pictured eating Jaffa cakes toward the end of the second half; quite a few did he have time to stuff into his face!

Curbs last teamsheet included a recall for Jason Euell, in place of Darren Ambrose, while Shaun Bartlett maintained his slot up front. There were substitute places for youngsters Lloyd Sam and Darren Randolph, which was a positive sign in an end of season game. Surprisingly, Jay Bothroyd was also an unused sub.

The goals came through a Louis Saha header following a corner (left); an unchallenged Christiano Ronaldo poke from six yards; a Jason Euell own goal (his last goal in a Charlton shirt probably...); and a second half 25 yarder into the bottom corner from Keiron Richardson (who was earlier unlucky with the scores level to hit the bar from fully 35 yards!). Stephan Andersen made a number of good saves, and kept the score as respectable as could be.

Darren Bent was Charlton's only threat to the United defence, with a couple of efforts late in the first half.

So poor was the first half performance, that Jonathan Fortune and Lloyd Sam were brought on at half time, for the outpaced Osei Sankofa, and for Bent, in an effort to spare him the type of injury that might harm his inclusion in the World Cup squad (that is announced tomorrow).

It was tough to get any positives from the game: Lloyd Sam did well, and dribbled and kept the ball whenever he had the chance - Some of this may have been down to the fact that he had nobody to pass to...; Andersen made good saves but seemed rooted to his line for the second game running; Nobody was booked, so Charlton definitely finish top of the Premiership Fair Play league this season, thereby giving the club (and it's new manager) the chance of European competition next season if lucky in the draw for inclusion (about a 6 to 1 shot!); The Charlton fans sang loudly and willingly, in a Premiership record 73,000 crowd. That was about it...

There are probably too many negatives to go into a single blog post: Kishishev losing the ball for the fourth goal summed up his season and why some fans don't like him; Euell's own goal similarly, a result of not tracking back quickly enough until it was too late; Bartlett's ability (or lack of...) made it so easy for Ferdinand (see top paragraph); Mervyn Day standing with arms folded giving no feedback to a perplexed Curbs halfway through the first half... I could go on, but won't.

Some players may well have played their last games for Charlton - Powell, Perry, Sorondo, Kishishev, Euell, Bartlett, and maybe Sankofa, Fortune, Andersen, Bent, Holland, and Hughes too. I guess the only players on show guaranteed to get a game next season with a new manager are Lloyd Sam and Darren Ambrose, though that depends on his game plan.

So the end of an era is here. Curbs will fly off to New Zealand to see his sister for the first time in thirty years, thanks to a parting gift of flight tickets from the club (I presume they are First Class tickets Richard?). The tickets were presented to him by Sir Alex Ferguson (left), who also handed Curbs a bottle of red wine to savour sometime during the lazy summer he has planned for himself (unless another decent offer comes along..?).

So it's farewell Curbs and it's the end of another Premiership season for Charlton. Fulham's late penalty versus Middlesboro means Charlton move down to a finishing position of 13th place (two places worse than last season).

We've had some huge highs this year - beating Chelsea in the League cup; five Premiership away wins on the bounce; Darren Bent's 22 goals; the FA Cup run; and stuffing Liverpool at the Valley come to mind. But we have also had depressing lows in this season of peaks and troughs - Murphy and Smertin walking away from the club; Curbs resignation; the awful North-west region away form.

At the end of it - we are still a Premiership club; still well respected; still hanging in there with the big boys; and still in with a chance of winning a cup (if West Ham can get to a final, so can Charlton...) and European competition. On our day we can give the big boys a game (most still have to put their first team out to ensure a result when playing Charlton!), and we can usually beat enough of the other teams, as long as they are not playing too well, in order to survive. Next season we should be able to survive once more in this hardest of divisions, and our new manager will have the backing of a great baord of directors and the best Chairman in the country.

We can bid farewell to our manager with heads held high, and look back remember where we were when he took charge; we can remmeber all the highs (Wembley) and lows (Parker) of his tenure, and at the end of it, we will all smile and say Thanks Curbs!

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