Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Is this really good news?

Sparrows Lane is convenient for SW1 if one needs a positive story

There has been an excessive preoccupation with agency. This has led to a failure to fully grasp the constraints which systematically bear on the freedom of manoeuvre of actors. [A paraphrase of comments by Huddersfield supporter Tony Payne].

The debate about the relationship between structures and agency (individual actors) is as old as the hills and highly relevant to football. A Manchester United supporting friend of mine thinks that agency (Ferguson) has been underplayed compared with structure (money) in accounts of their success.

Recent debates at Charlton have focused on agency - the role of various managers, notably Phil Parkinson. This debate has got a bit repetitive in various fora with everyone taking entrenched positions (not least myself).

Managers do play a key role in football in terms of recruiting players, coaching them (although others are usually involved there), selecting the squad and deciding on the tactics.

One thing I have never been able to work about football is why managers are expected to motivate players. The players at Leamington are largely Academy rejects and they get paid little more than expenses. Yet it is evident that they love playing the game and do so with verve and passion. It's a bit of a paradox - or perhaps it isn't - that highly paid Championship players need motivation.

Anyway, I want to talk about something else. The following announcement was made yesterday by the club:

'Charlton were named the Community Club of the Year at the 2009 Football League Awards last night. The Addicks accepted the accolade in front of more than 800 people at a gala dinner at Grosvenor House, Park Lane, London.

Among the aspects of Charlton's operation praised by the judges was the groundbreaking Street Violence Ruins Lives campaign and the work carried out by the Charlton Community Trust in deprived townships in South Africa. The Addicks beat off competition from Burnley, Sheffield United, Watford and Wolverhampton Wanderers to claim the award, which follows last year's Advance Performance Best Community Initiative honour in a similar category. The Football League Awards show will be screened on Sky Sports 1 [today] at 6.30pm.'

Now in many senses this is very good news. We also picked up an award recently for the second year running for being the most family oriented club or something like that.

What is more, a continuous stream of politicians (and members of the royal family) make their way to Sparrows Lane, particularly those with a social inclusion agenda. James Purnell, a would-be Labour leader, was there recently.

I have written about Charlton's political relationships more generally and at greater length in the journal British Politics. I am a bit uneasy about politicians getting some free publicity at our expense when it is far from clear what we get in return. I would have the same objection if it was one of Dave's Toffs or a Cleggover as I do to New Labour politicians.

My more general point is whether our community activities take up too much of our attention. Before someone in the club E mails me to tell me I am off message, I should point out that I realise that the money spent on community activities is ring fenced, comes from different sources and could not be spent on players or other on the pitch activities.

What does concern me is that, particularly with a chief executive with a community operations background, our strategic focus is drifted from on the pitch to off the pitch.

I know that all this work gives us a very positive image, although the downside is that sometimes we are a little bit too nice. I am not suggesting for a moment that we should abandon it or even downsize it.

But the board has to remind itself that they are running a football club, not a social inclusion project, and that the fans will judge the club primarily by what happens on the pitch rather than how many off the pitch awards we pick up.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Austerity theme for relegated club

New style season book

Charlton have decided to respond to their relegation to League 1 by theming the club on austerity lines. Season ticket books will be replaced by a book based on the ration book used during and after the Second World War. 'Points' will be taken out of the book by the gateman depending on the previous week's result.

More points will be taken out if the club wins than if it draws and fewer will be deducted if it loses. If the club does well, fans will run out of points before the end of the season. Additional points can then be purchased from a team led by Rick Everitt who will positioned around the ground dressed as 'spivs'. Earlier in the season they will sell nylons for sweethearts and luxuries such as light bulbs and chocolate.

If the team does not do so well and season ticket holders are left with surplus points, they can be exchanged in the club shop for surplus goods such as Zheng Zhi mugs. There will also be some new austerity lines available such as copious supplies of Brylcreem. The smoking ban in the ground will be lifted and the famous 'Red and White' cigarettes will be also be sold once again. Other products available will include Kilkoff Kone pastilles and Boar's Head tobacco. The refreshment kiosks will sell peanuts, Bovril, Horlicks and Charrington's Toby beer.

Standing will be permitted in all stands except the West. Grandstand seats in the West Stand will be pre-bookable at branches of the RACS, aka 'Robbing All Customers Slowly'.

A special box will be erected in the space between the East and Jimmy Seed stands and at half time scores will be placed alongside a number of letters such as A, B, C etc. A code in the programme will, for example, tell you that the placement of boards saying 1-2 against letter C will means that Charlton Reserves are winning at Aldershot at which point a faint cheer will echo round the ground. Should the letter W appear, it means match abandoned.

The official programme will be eight pages without pictures and will contain 'Club Notes' and 'Echoes Across the Valley'. The Rickshaw service will be operated by unheated buses with difficult gear changes. 'Clippies' will invite fans to 'move on down inside' and 'room for five more on top'.

Players will wear baggy knickers. They will be paid a maximum wage of £20 a week, but with bonuses of £2 for a win and £1 for a draw. They will be expected to walk to the ground carrying their own boots, but may have the opportunity to rent a semi-detached property with inside amenities from the club.

A club spokesperson explained, 'We won't have much money next season and this is one way of keeping the club solvent whilst giving fans a football experience not available anywhere else in London.'

Matt mourns Charlton's fall

Matt Holland has expressed his regrets to Sky about Charlton's demise and you know with him that it is not crocodile tears. He is showing his age a bit, and he has been asked to serve the cause in positions that are not his own, but no one can doubt his real commitment: Holland

I do wish the likes of Sky would not refer to us as a South London club. We may be going down, but we're not going back to Selhurst Park.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Viper, where is thy sting?

The second versus first clash in the BGB Midlands Division today ended in a 0-0 draw between Atherstone Town and Leamington in front of a bumper crowd of 1,020. The result is two points lost for the Adders who fall back to third place. Nuneaton Town are now in second place, seven points behind the Brakes and with a game in hand.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Basey wins under 21 cap

Stade Sportif Deich Ettelbruck

At the time of writing Grant Basey, who could well be Charlton's first choice for left back next season, is winning his first under 21 cap for Wales as they take on Luxembourg in Ettelbruck. Ettelbruck has a population of 7,500 and the stadium is home to FC Etzella, one of the Grand Duchy's more successful teams, although their Uefa Cup record has been poor.

Jonjo Shelvey has now played in two matches that England have won in the Under-17 championships being held in Hungary.

Another move down the North Kent Line

After Josh Wright's move to Gillingham, another Charlton hopeful has taken a trip down the North Kent line. Charlton midfielder Rashid Yussuff has joined Blue Square Premier Ebbsfleet United on loan for the rest of the season.

The 19-year-old, who has made one appearance for the Addicks first team this season, goes straight in to the Fleet squad for Saturday's trip to Kettering Town after previously playing in the Conference for Northwich Victoria.

He will thus have the experience of playing the Poppies (known elsewhere in Northamptonshire as the Ploppies) at the Rockinghorse Road stadium. It has been alleged that Kettering once funded a space probe to Uranus to see if there was any intelligent life there, as there wasn't any in Kettering.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Gray days

Andy Gray reflects on his time at Charlton saying he has had a great time with the club: Gray . Whether it's been so good for us is another matter, but one can hardly blame him for injuries and personal problems. Even so, his signing was not exactly a stroke of genius by Pardew.

Gray may return to Sheffield United in the summer, but only if they are not promoted.

Goal clips on line

For anyone starved of goals at The Valley last Saturday, I would recommend the seven goal action from The New Windmill Ground now on line: Goals

I would particularly recommend the opening goal which is an El Karkouri style free kick and the fourth goal in which postman Josh Blake, having just come on as a sub, makes his delivery with an overhead kick.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Wright loaned to Gills

Brussels: Josh Wright has been loaned out to Gillingham for the rest of the season, to include the play offs if necessary. There is a certain irony in this as if the Gills are promoted we will be playing them next season. If the Spanners fail to go up, we will be one short of our own Kent cup.

Given that Charlton look certain to be relegated and Leamington are odds on favourites to be promoted, two more promotions and relegations for each side would see them face each other in the Conference.

As I was going through Ebbsfleet on the Eurostar on Sunday, I was reading about the big housing development planned for there and the boost that fast train services to London will give to the Medway area and much of Kent. All of these areas are served by the Rickshaw.

That's why I think Charlton could still be a long-term investment for someone at some point. On the other hand we could end up ground sharing with Ebbsfleet in the Conference.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Club shows ambition

Brussels: Leamington have demonstrated their ambition by swooping for forward/attacking midfielder Reis Ashraf. Like many Leamington players, he is a Sky Blues youth academy product, but played for MK Dons last season. This year he has been working for the Glenn Hoddle soccer academy in Spain. It is a sign that Leamington are now preparing for Southern Premiership football as they continue their rise up the non-league pyramid.

The Brakes have quietly dropped the Charlton shield from their programme which celebrated the clubs' kit sponsorship by Joma. As my driver said when he dropped me at St.Pancras yesterday and saw my Charlton Athletic bag, 'Oh dear, oh dear.' Fed up as I am with the performances on the pitch, I will continue to display my loyalty to the club.

That is why I will renew my season ticket at the earliest opportunity. Failing to renew won't change the board's mind about the manager, it will deprive the club of much needed money.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Deano's Son Shines in 7-1 romp

Leamington beat Woodford United 7-1 at the New Windmill Ground today, including a hat trick from Mark Bellingham, but in many ways the hero of the hour was Dean Kiely's son, Chris, brought in on loan from Gillingham to stop the Brakes leaking goals. The crowd of 615 saw Kiely make a series of brilliant saves which looked impossible until he achieved them. Unfortunately, he did not keep a clean sheet after a mix up in the Brakes defence allowed the Byfield Road side to score a consolation.

Woodford are managed by former Leamington player and coach Darran Tank and are in many respects a team of Leamington rejects, as the crowd was not slow to point out in some friendly banter. Six of the squad of seventeen had at one time played for the Brakes.

But any knowledge they had of the Leamington team was of no avail when Jai Stanley opening the scoring on 9 minutes from near the halfway line with an El Karkouri style free kick from near the halfway line, admittedly helped to its destination by the swirling wind. James Husband then made it 2-0 with a great move and that was the half time score.

Playing down the slope, the visitors got into the game more in the second half in a rather scrappy phase of the game with a lot of action in midfield. The ball sometimes went so high that were planes still flying from Coventry Airport they would have been endangered.

A flowing move on 64 minutes that allowed Mykel Beckley to score put the outcome beyond doubt. Then Josh Blake, who has been at the New Windmill since the club was re-formed, came on as a substitute. Some brilliant play by the highly skilled Marcus Jackson set up the postman who was able to make his delivery with a superb bicycle kick.

Woodford pulled one back, but this only re-energised the Brakes who made it 5-1 through Bellingham. A penalty then saw former Brake Aaron Parkinson sent off for a second yellow and P.C. Bellingham banged the ball to rights from the spot. On 90 minutes he made it 7-1 as Brakes acclerated towards the title.

For a 10 minute journey it had to be better value than the 0-0 draw at The Valley. Pictures here: Brakes

Why I am not at The Valley today

Even a money back voucher wouldn't entice me

The Observer asked me to cover today's match, but I had to turn them down. A very practical reason is that I am spending the week in Brussels and the car to take me to St.Pancras comes early tommorow morning.

However, there is not a lot to entice me to make the journey down to SE7 these days. Relegation is effectively sealed and in some ways that is better than it hanging on other teams' results on the last day of the season. There's no sign yet that we will start playing our probable League 1 side.

I will be going to watch Leamington v. Woodford United. Although the Brakes are in a polar opposite position to the Addicks, 11 points clear at the top of their division, promotion is not done and dusted yet. There is everything to play for and we can expect a tense atmopshere at the New Windmill Ground.

Woodford (or 'Woodfield' as Steve Watt on Radio Scilly managed to call them this morning) can from a rather odd industrial village in Northamptonshire, Woodford Halse. It was created when the new Great Central Railway needed an engineering works placed at a mid-point on their system when land was cheap. There are still rows of 19th century terraces and a slightly menacing atmosphere. Whether any of their hard men turn up today remains to be seen as their away record is very poor.

We will be providing coverage from The Valley as well. I was amused when I was at a workshop in London today and the chairman of a S.E.London amenity society made an intervention. One of the panel then started to say, 'I was chairman of an amenity society in North London ...' which drew the retort 'That's the wrong side of the river.'

Preston on red alert

Preston North End have been placed on a 'red alert' for their visit to The Valley today. I am not quite sure whether that is meant to be a poor pun on our colours ot to indicate that the Invincibles are in a state of nearly military prepardness after their three days of R & R.

Manager Alan Irvine, who will be accompanied by his translator, saw the Addicks play at Molineux and thought they did really well so does not think it will be a case of turning up to collect three points at the gate: Red Alert

I am somewhat baffled by the news in the E mail bulletin that Thierry Racon has been called up for the Guadeloupe national side. Before he becomes a rare contemporary addition to the honours board in The Valley reception hall, it should be pointed out that Guadeloupe is a French overseas department and hence part of metropolitan France. It is not a colony, as stated in the E-mail Bulletin, but is entitled to vote in French elections. Hence, I do not see it can have a national side any more than the Isles of Scilly team is a national side, notwithstanding its recent triumphant tour of Cornwall and the fact that it has been trained by David Beckham and Steven Gerrard.

If you are going to the match today and buy a programme, it will include a free poster of Zheng Zhi to add to your 'what might have been' collection. You might also been incentivised to take the free trial on Cafc TV where you can have the thrill of hearing Andy Gray talking about his injury problems or Phil Parkinson talking about why we have not signed a trialist from Cameroon. Probably he wanted the minimum wage and we couldn't afford it.

A decision has to be made after today's match about whether to retain Soares on loan, but I don't really see a lot of point. We need to give match experience to players who might be available next year.

Enjoy the game!

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Preston exhausted

Preston North End's players are so exhausted that they are taking the unusual step of a three day break in advance of Saturday's match at The Valley: Fatigue

Apparently they find the length of the journey intimidating. Whether they will be intimidated by the Charlton team is another matter, although I think the Addicks could actually win this match, irrelevant though it is.

There are doubts about keeper Rob Elliot who has a back problem, although he has been training. If he isn't available, Darren Randolph, who has been doing well in training may replace him, although Nicky Weaver could also be available after playing in the reserves. Butterfield and Youga also have fitness problems.

Valley of Gloom

The latest piece of analysis or knocking copy: Gloom

It's quite a detailed and serious piece of analysis with a comment by our very own Sacha Zarb. The first comment, made by a Fulham fan, is apposite: did Charlton over achieve or under achieve?

I'm not sure that a patronising comment by Danny Murphy will go down too well with the Addickted. He always thought he was too big for the club and his sense of importance was enhanced by his C list actress wife and her column in The Times.

I think we were punching above our weight in the Premiership, enjoyable though it was, but are definitely punching below it in League 1. Whether that means we can bounce back up is less certain.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Zheng Zhi for Baggies

The 'wild man of China' when he first joined the Addicks

A flurry of reports has confirmed the interest of Black Country yo-yo club West Bromwich Albion in signing Zheng Zhi on a free transfer at the end of the season. There is no way that the Chinese captain could feature in Charlton's League 1 plans and we cannot get any money for him so it is best to get him off the books as soon as possible.

The Baggies are probably a suitable destination for him as Zheng Zhi is a top quality Championship player, but not quite good enough for the Premiership, which about sums up the recent record of the Baggies. Better than being a side heading for League 1, of course.

Zheng Zhi simply played too much football, creating injury problems which severely limited his availability for us. He showed at Wolves the contibution he can make. 'What if?' questions are always unanswerable, but I wonder if we might still have had a fighting chance of avoiding relegation if he had been available all season. It's all questionable whether we made as much commercially of him as we might have done.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

I make friends with Glazier - shock picture

This photo is from the opening of the new factory of our sponsors, Kingdom Signs. From left to right: Maggie Grant (born Thornton Heath, supports Charlton); Wyn Grant (born Greenwich, supports Charlton); Cllr. Tony Harbour, Mayor of Didcot (born Thornton Heath, supports Crystal Palace; Andy Candelent (one of my sons-in-law, supports Southampton, Bournemouth and Didcot Town), owner of match analyst Homer the Cherry Hound).

The Valley of the Doomed

Another analysis of the reasons for our fate: Doom

There's not much that's new there, but it's reasonably sensible and restrained. What does irritate me is the repetition of the headline £20m debt figure when most of this is owed, in effect, by the board to itself. In any case, what matters with debt is whether you can service it.

One Australian once accused me of 'wallowing in the stagnant pool of my own vapidity' and too much reflection on our fate may not help future recovery. I think that the club has some underlying structural problems and I may reflect on those when I have time.

Just after I posted this the chief football writer of the Mirror rang up, ostensibly to do a story on the financial challenges facing League 1 and League 2 clubs. However, he seemed very interested in Charlton and seemed to think I might be able to dish the dirt - which I wouldn't do even if I knew anything.

Time is running out a bit, as it looks as if my call up to government service is imminent. There have been many delays along the way and I thought it was never going to happen. But these are desperate times.

I am meeting my new boss on April 1st and I can't imagine that she will be all that keen on either Charlton or blogging. Also I will be commuting to London from Warwickshire so that they will take up a lot of time and energy.

The Izale McLeod business seems to be rumbling on. Apparently there are going to be new discussions after a 'cooling off' period. It really must have gone off at The New Den. Did someone start throwing spanners?

The thought of McLeod as one of our strikers next season does not fill me with a lot of enthusiam. I know he can run about a lot, but strikers need to be able to find the back of the net, an art we have lost at Charlton.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

Iwelumo puts Wolves ahead

As expected, Phil Parkinson made only one change in the 4-4-1-1 lineup which worked well at Reading on Tuesday, writes Philippa Nicholson from Molineux this afternoon. With Wolves loanee Darren Ward unavailable, Matt Holland stepped into the vacant slot at centre back. Shelvey was on the bench. Former Addicks striker Chris Iwelumo was in the Wolves line up and, as always, there was the worry that he might score against his old club, even though he has not scored for 16 games.

Sting was a curious choice in the warm up period - there aren't many barley fields in Wolverhampton - but then we had the usual injunctions to the home crowd to get behind the team and the corny fanfare from Thus Spake Zarathrusta.

Wolves kicked off through Ebanks-Blake in the spring sunshine in a far from full stadium. Holland got his first touch, evidently playing on the right of centre. A nasty ankle high late challenge was made on Youga, but all that resulted was a free kick. McCarthy indicated to the referee that his player had got the ball which was nonsense.

Wolves made a dangerous attack, with the ball flashing across the six yard box, but Hudson headed clear well. Minutes later, Holland defended well. Charlton made a decent attack involving Soares, but the ball flashed across the six yard box with no one there to connect. Wolves counter attacked and won a corner. Elliot punched the ball clear well to Racon.

The referee spoke to Kightly for shoving Youga and kicking the ball away. Parkinson was very angry at the referee's failure to take action for the second time. The home crowd started to get a little impatient at the failure of their side to dominate. Zhneg Zhi made on attempt on goal, but it was way over the crossbar.

Zheng Zhi combined on the left flank with Kandol, but the ball went back to Youga. However, Charlton kept possession in the Wolves half well. Eventually Wolves won a throw in. Zheng Zhi went down under a late challenge, another example of the home side's physical play.

Charlton got a free kick directly in front of goal just about a yard behind the 'D'.
Eight Wolves players were in the wall and Bailey's shot hit it. The move ended in a free kick against Kandol.

Zheng Zhi was brought down again and Charlton got a free kick in the Wolves half. The move ended in an offside ruling which drew protests from Hudson. Butterfield and Zheng Zhi were playing well, while Holland was slotting in comfortably at the back where he was keeping an eye on Iwelumo.

Charlton came forward well, but the near post cross was cleared. The home crowd tried to lift their team. They thought the referee was favouring Charlton, but for once the officials seemed to be impartial. Zheng Zhi dribbled round the keeper and put the ball in the net, but the offside flag was raised.

Wolves won a corner as the half hour approached. The ball went in the net, but the flag went up for pushing and shoving on Elliot by Iwelumo and Ebanks-Blake. Soares was mowed down from behind and the Addicks got a free kick. Bailey was brought down on the edge of the area by a late challenge. Wolves organised a wall of five players. The shot beat the wall and dipped but Hennessey in the Wolves goal was able to make the save.

Hudson was brought down by a challenge and led to a free kick and more complaining by the home fans about the referee. Tempers began to fray as Youga and Kightly battled off the field. Kandol went down clutching his face and Parkinson indicated that he had been elbowed.

A hand ball was awarded against Wolves to the annoyance of the home support. A Wolves free kick was greeted by ironic cheers and the referee called Kandol over for a word after allegations of use of the elbow.

But then the inevitable happened and Iwelumo scored in the 36th minute at the near post, the Scot's first goal in seventeen games. Up to then Charlton had been holding Wolves well and a neutral would not know there was such a gap in the table between the two teams.

Wolves had a shout for a penalty with Iwelumo being held back. Kightly upended Youga for the third time and at last the referee got his yellow card out. A Wolves player went down, I think it was Berra, and Hennessey came out to complain to the referee that Soares had used the elbow.

Ebanks-Blake beat Hudson and won a corner, Matt Holland having intercepted the ball.
Elliot was barged over the line but kept the ball on the line. The goal seemed to have unsettled Charlton who were not playing with the same verve they had displayed earlier in the half.

Two minutes were added on. The lively Zheng Zhi tried to pick up a long ball from Elliot on the edge of the area, but the referee gave a free kick after a Wolves dive. Iwelumo complained that he was the victim of pushing and shoving, but the lino was having none of it. The rather scrappy half came to a close. Charlton had played quite well, but once again had gone behind.

Half time: Wolves 1, Addicks 0

Zheng Zhi equalised for Charlton on 51 minutes, making use of an assist from Bailey. and creating the space to operate from 25 yards out to put in a superb shot. He raced the bench to embrace the Charlton physio. I just wonder if we had had Zheng Zhi available for most of the season we would have been relegated.

Charlton's players were furious when Wolves were given a penalty for an alleged handball by Hudson on 70 minutes. Ebanks-Blake stepped up to the spot, but Elliot made the save by diving to the left. It's curious that such saves are always described as a 'miss' in commentaries. Surely one of the bright spots of the season is the emergence of Elliot, a Bexleyheath lad who is also Addickted. He will do a good job for us in League 1.

The home support were far from happy about their side's performance. Indeed, unless Wolves have a lot of money to invest, it is hard to see them doing a Hull in the Premiership (and even they have faded).

However, they got their three points on 79 minutes when Wolves won a corner. Charlton always look vulnerable at set pieces and the ball went over the line off the unfortunate Matt Holland. Iwelumo celebrated the strike and it was initially attributed to him, but Ebanks-Blake may have put the ball in off Holland. In the Premiership it would have been referred to the Dubious Goals Committee, but in any case it does matter, as it was possibly the final nail in the relegation coffin, even though the Addicks have not yet been officially relegated.

Supremo Phil Parkinson said afterwards, 'We have lost to two scrappy goals in a game we deserved something out of. We feel hard done by. We have played well here and need to carry on playing with a lot of pride, although our chances of staying in the Championship are slim. That Chris Iwelumo left for a nominal fee, about £400,000, I believe, hurts because we have needed a striker like him who can score scruffy goals.'

Wyn Grant comments: Iwelumo was, of course, constantly criticised by the Addickted when he was at The Valley. Presumably he went because (i) he was not scoring enough goals and (ii) his wages were quite high. However, the budget is going to be even more constrained next season.

Despite the calls by probably a majority of the Addickted (there is no accurate way of measuring opinion) for Parkinson to go sooner or later so that a new manager can bed himself in, my expectation is that the board will review the position in the early summer. I am far from convinced that they will replace Parkinson.

To those who say it's a 'results business', they might say the test will be League 1 results. I am agnostic about Parkinson. He inherited a demoralised and in many ways inadquate team and a 2-1 defeat away at Wolves is better than a 1-3 loss at home under Pardew. Some say they may boycott the club if he remains, but I have always supported the team rather than the manager. I was fan of Curbs, and I had doubts about Dowie, but I still kept coming.

I may, however, not make the trek down to London so often to see League 1 football, even though I will retain my season ticket. This will require some thinking about the form to be taken by Addick's League 1 diary. And I thought I was just parking the Premiership Diary for a while!

Fight back wins away draw

Getting to the Garrison Field for the match. Photo credit: 4-4-2

The Isles of Scilly team fought back from a 2-0 deficit to draw 2-2 with Falmouth Town away yesterday. There will be a return fixture on the islands in the autumn. (Thanks to Steve Watt in the Radio Scilly studio for this information).

Falmouth Town has particular associations for me as it was the last ground at which I watched football with my father after he had retired to Cornwall. They were then at their peak and won the Rothmans Western League title three years in succession. However, the cost of travelling up country forced them back into the South-Western League (where Charlton are now scouting for players).

It's back to reality now for the Scilly players and the weekly fixture at the Garrison Field between the Woolpack Wanderers and the Garrison Gunners in the world's smallest football league. I'm not sure whose ahead at the moment as the website hadn't been updated when I last had a look.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Jangling nerves at Molineux

Wolves seem surprisingly nervous about tomorrow's encounter with Charlton: Wolves

Of course, a well run team takes every encounter seriously rather than three easy points to be collected by turning up on the day. Given recent poor form at Molineux, if Wolves do not score quickly, or Charlton go ahead, the crowd will be on their back and the players will get even more nervous.

I had foolishly forgotten that Darren Ward will not be available. The options to replace him are Matt Holland and Kelly Youga and Mark Kinsella has hinted on Cafc TV that Holland is the most likely stand in. Much as I admire Matty for his dedication to the cause, he doesn't fill me with a lot of confidence as centre half - and, to be fair, it's expecting a lot of him.

In all honesty, I do not think we will get anything out of tomorrow's game and I am going for a 2-0 win for Wolves. Given the proximity of Wolves, I have often gone to away games there, despite a rather threatening atmosphere, but not tomorrow. However, Philippa Nicholson will be providing match day coverage.

In these difficult times, one consolation is to recall previous victories. On the occasion of my 53rd birthday, I saw us beat Wolves 3-2 at Molineux. It was our first win there for 47 years. We had last won in 1953 and victory gave us 53 points. I used to travel to The Valley on the 53 bus. Five goals were, of course, scored in aggregate, three by Charlton, again making the magic number 53.

We do have a milestone birthday for one of our children on Sunday, but I wouldn't want to read the result off from that because it would imply an even bigger drubbing than I have forecast.

Tassie Tiger joins hiss team

Good day. I'm Towzer from Tassie. I'm sitting on my deck overlooking the Harbour where the wind is ruffling my fur [nothing new there then].

Some of the refereeing this season has been appalling. If our fate wasn't effectively sealed, I would feel much more aggrieved about the decision at Reading which gave a penalty against us for a fair challenge and then denied us one at the other end.

Having watched League 1 matches in the past, I can assure readers that the standard of referees and linos is even worse there than in the Championship. A mobile clinic from Specsavers is often needed. Balding and ageing linos who have broken their bottle of hair restorer in the cramped dressing room are a menace. But the worst problem is the referee who thinks he will make his reputation by enforcing every rule to the letter. I recall one match with a whistle happy RAF officer who was clearly used to being obeyed without question (however much muttering there was in the ranks). Consequently, the match proceeded for much of the time in bursts of twenty or thirty seconds.

As part of our preparations for League 1 blogging, we felt that our Hiss of the Match team needed strengthening. We are pleased to welcome the first Australian cat to work for a Charlton website, Towzer from Hobart, Tasmania. Towzer is a no nonsense cat who will thrive in the physically competitive atmosphere of League 1. His hobby is fighting possums and he once came home with a possum claw in his head.

League 1? No worries, says Towzer.

We have a preview of today's Sub-Standard forecast: 'WOLVES ENJOY FISH SUPPER'

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Wolves hoping for home win at last

The teams at the top of the Championship are not exactly running away with the league and Wolves have gone for four games without a home win. However, they hope to put that right when they meet 'rock bottom' Charlton at Molineux on Saturday:

In another interview, supremo Mick McCarthy reckons that the Addicks will be tired after playing Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday. Perhaps a chance for Phil Parkinson to make a few changes, although I can understand that he would be reluctant to do so after the relative success at Reading.

For those who like to read their results off the table, this match is a foregone conclusion. Wolves will be wanting to get their bid to replace the Baggies in the Black Country yo-yo dance back on track.

I thought Wolves were impressive when they beat us 3-1 at The Valley, coming back after being stunned by a Bailey opener. Perhaps Bailey can weave his magic again. They are not invincible.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Hard fought draw offers little hope

Charlton gained a creditable point in a 2-2 draw at Reading tonight. It means that they are unbeaten by promotion hopefuls Reading this year, but it will do little for their struggle against relegation. A harsh penalty against Charlton immediately after half time, and a failure to given one at the other end just afterwards, probably denied the Addicks all three points.

Zheng Zhi starts for Charlton in tonight's match against Reading. Whether this latest throw of the dice by under fire manager Phil Parkinson will succeed remains to be seen, writes Philippa Nicholson. Although undoubtedly talented and much missed this season, the Chinese captain is far from match fit. Soares was also in the line up with Sam dropped and Burton on the bench.

Youga made a very disappointing pass which was easily picked up by Reading, but the match got off to a relatively quiet start. Bailey tried a shot from distance but it went well over the crossbar to ironic cheers from the resident Royals.

Reading broke in a threatening attack and there was an absence of any effective challenge from the Charlton defence. Racon put a poor ball into the area. The Addicks did start to put one or two moves together, but to little real effect. Youga won a free kick for Charlton. Some tactical time wasting by Elliot upset the home support.

Reading launched an attack down the left, but the ball went into the side netting and in any case the flag was raised. Spring made a poor pass when went straight to Little. Zheng Zhi started to get involved, but did not produce anything special.

Charlton took the lead through Nicky Bailey on 16 minutes after a good cross by Racon, stunning the home support who were expecting to coast to three easy points. Could Charlton hold on to the lead? Reading had an almost instant chance to equalise, but found the post rather than the net.

The ball came off the post again for Reading after a defensive effort by Ward. The home side started to resort to the long ball in the hope of outwitting the Addicks defence. Ward chested down well in defence.

Reading won a free kick in a dangerous position, but Charlton were able to clear at the expense of a throw in. Youga defended to prevent Reading winning a corner. Reading won a free kick just outside the area as the half hour mark approached. Doyle's effort came off the crossbar for a goal kick.

Zheng Zhi displayed his skill when he controlled a Youga throw in well. Reading threatened again and Youga's clearance failed to do what was required. Bailey headed the ball away, but Reading won another free kick in a promising position, animating the home support. Following the free kick, a shot came in from distance giving Reading the first corner of the evening. Charlton were able to clear.

Reading won a second corner. Eventually Racon was able to clear. Charlton took their time over the resultant throw in, enraging the home support. Racon and Zheng Zhi combined well. As the minutes ticked down to half time, Charlton did enough to deny Reading any opportunities, despite their resort to the long ball.

Two minutes of time were added on, but the stoppage time ended with a free kick taken by Elliot for a foul on Kandol. The half time whistle followed and there was some booing from home fans annoyed that the script was not being followed.

Half time: Royals 0, Addicks 1

Fifteen seconds into the second half the referee awarded a penalty to Reading, Long going to ground in the area under a challenge from Ward. It was a harsh decision, but Elliot was sent the wrong way by Long to dash Charlton's hopes.

Bailey was brought down at the other end, but referee Taylor failed to give the penalty. Clearly a 'homer'. The home crowd had come to life again. Charlton won their first corner of the game, but it was cleared by Long.

After some good build up play, Bailey made a good run but his effort from a tight angle went straight at Federici in the Reading goal. Spring put in a decent free kick but it was cleared. Federici was able to gather from a second Spring free kick after Bailey had been fouled.

Bailey played a good ball to Youga, he put in an excellent cross to the back post, but Racon's shot went straight at Federici. Zheng Zhi put in a super ball to the unmarked Spring. Youga went down injured, the referee did not stop play, but then Long went down as well. Hunt was taken off and was replaced by Tabb.

Duberry blatantly pushed Zheng Zhi and the referee blew for a free kick after a delay as the game entered the last half hour. Charlton had a shout for a hand ball on the edge of the area. The home support had become subdued again.

Zheng Zhi was pushed in the back right in front of the referee, but no action was taken. Spring created danger by giving away possession twice. A Reading free kick led to a corner. Reading took the lead from a header by Long on 66 minutes. Charlton did not defend the corner well. The home crowd found their voice.

Tabb picked up what looked like quite a head injury and required some quite lengthy treatment. Spring was taken off and replaced by Dickson. Kandol made a late challenge on Rosenior, leading to a Reading free kick.

Rosenior threatened, but the referee ruled that Elliot had been fouled. Long was given a yellow for dissent. Charlton hearts beat faster as Ambrose came on to replace Soares for the last fourteen minutes

Bailey made an excellent challenge, but the referee awarded a free kick. Duberry climbed all over Dickson, but no free kick was given. However, when Zheng Zhi went to ground, a free kick was awarded to boos from the home crowd. There were about three or four hundred Addickted in a crowd of under 18,000.

Charlton had not given up and forged forward regularly. However, Pearce was defending well, cutting out successive Charlton attacks. Reading took off local hero Glen Little, not that he had sparkled that much, and was replaced by Steve Harper.

Charlton won a free kick on the edge of the area. Bailey took it very well and Hudson put a towering header into the back of the net to make it 2-2. It was a reward for their determination and inventive play.

The Royals went for the winner and appealed for a penalty, but the referee decided not to give them another chance to go ahead. Zheng Zhi was taken off and replaced by Holland, while Cisse was replaced by Hunt for Reading.

Elliot was under pressure but gathered at the second attempt. Hudson went down in the box and had to go off for treatment. A small group of Addicks started a conga in the away end. To be fair to Reading, they sportingly gave the ball back.

Five minutes were added on. Charlton made a break, but Ambrose's effort was straight at Federici. Reading counter attacked, but Butterfield defended well. Bailey made a sliced clearance. Elliot gathered the ball bravely at the feet of Long.

Doyle won a free kick in a dangerous position. The Charlton wall lined up on the edge of the penalty area. The ball went straight out for a goal kick as the home fans streamed for the exits.

Poor defending by Youga gave Reading a corner, but the referee blew the final whistle as the boos rang out.

Reading memories

Playing Reading at Elm Park on a murky January day. Photo credit Tom Morris

I have a surprising number of Reading memories associated with Charlton and they are of defeat in particularly distressing circumstances. This is apt given our present situation with the Reading media describing us as 'the basement club' ahead of our visit tonight. The 4-2 home win against Reading was one of the few satisfying results of the season. Admittedly, we rode our luck to some extent, but you also make your own luck.

A defeat by a margin of two goals is probably what we can expect tonight. In the past Charlton sometimes pulled off victories in surprising circumstances. One of my good memories of the Premiership was having a weekend in Liverpool when we away to Everton. All the Toffees in the hotel were looking forward to an exhibition match and three easy points the next day and we won 3-0. But that was the 'old' Charlton and some of the spirit has left the club.

I have quite a lot of connections with Reading. One of our children lived there for some years when she was a manager at Reading Station with her house in earshot of the old Elm Park ground. A good friend grew up in Reading and didn't have too high an opinon of the place. She is now one of those rare phenomena: a Manchester United supporter who goes to Old Trafford and lives in Greater Manchester. I must admit that at times I have enjoyed winding up the dedicated Addicks who have the misfortune to live in Reading.

After a long period when I was bringing up children in the Midlands, my return to The Valley was followed by my first away match at Reading on 7th May 1995. It was the last match of the season and a blazing hot day. I walked the short distance from our daughter's house and we lost 2-1. The Charlton consolation was scored by Dean Chandler. What happened to him? Read about his patchwork career, including an appearance for the English learning disabilities team here: Chandler We finished 15th in the old first division that season.

My 50th birthday, 11th January 1997. Again I make the short walk to Elm Park. It was a murky, foggy day. I have reproduced above an atmospheric picture taken by Tom Morris of Andy Petterson in goal. For some reason I thought we had lost but in fact we drew 2-2 with goals by Lisbie and David Whyte, Whyte, Whyte. Once again we finished the season in lower mid-table, four places above Reading.

On 6th December 1997 we lost 2-0 at Reading. This time I was there as reporter for the club web site, Rick Everitt having taken a holiday in Australia. The fact that I was writing for the official web site shows how belt and braces things were in those days.

This had been a particularly distressing week for Charlton as Jamie Stuart had failed a drugs test, leading to all sorts of newspaper headlines about the Addicks that played on our nickname in the best traditions of British sporting journalism. I interviewed Curbs on the pitch afterwards and my respect for him grew that day. He was clearly shaken by Jamie Stuart's actions and also depressed by the defeat. I was so fed up myself that I drove off in a bad mood and got caught by a speeding camera. Little did I think that day that this would be a promotion season.

I was quite surprised by the strength of reaction to my last post. Perhaps I should have chosen more judicious wording after a 21 hour flight from Australia. What the response does show is the strength of the passion among the Addickted and the depth of our despair.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

What's the way to Foots Cray?

That was the question I was asked in Melbourne yesterday. I am now back home and when I got to Singapore I heard of our 2-3 defeat at home by Watford. We took the lead, one of our strikers actually scored two goals, yet we still failed to win. Phil Parkinson talked of an air of resignation and this tells the tale of a team that has lost all confidence.

I used to watch League 1 football now and then when I went to Rushden and Diamonds games. Compared with League 2, there were fewer agricultural clearances and the game was played at a faster pace. However, there was occasionally some woeful defending which allowed goals to be scored which would not have been possible in the top two divisions.

Next season we are going to see a mixture of journeymen and youngsters. Some pessimists think we will go straight down to League 2 which, given our high fixed costs, would threaten the future of the club. I think we are more likely to be mid-table on the fringes of the play offs.

Those who complained about mid-table mediocrity in the Premiership should reflect on what they wished for, because we could now face the same in League 1.

Friday, 6 March 2009

Addicks down under

Melbourne: The Charlton fan who recognised my bag at Sydeny Airport agreed with me that we had run out of road. He thought that Dowie should shoulder the main blame for the club's demise, although also thought that we had tried to do too much too soon.

The match against Watford is almost an irrelvance, but we want to try and end the season on a high note. I would think a 1-1 draw is the most likely outcome.

Pedro on Charlton Athletic Online has done an excellent review of the strengths and weaknesses of players and who is likely to be available next season. I think we will lose Bailey and Racon, hopefully keep Shelvey at least until Christmas.

More non-league talent?

Orange, NSW: One of the aspects of Charlton's recent policy I have been most sceptical about is the search for non-league talent, even if it did lead to the Non-League Paper awarding us the accolade of being 'the club that takes the non-league seriously'.

Now it looks as if more such talent might be heading our way, this time from the august heights of the Carlsberg South-West Peninsula League: Newquay

The club has denied that it is launching a scouting mission to watch the two club Isles of Scilly league.

There's au autumnal chill in the air here on the Central Tablelands, so it's time to head home and join the wake.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

McLeod mystery

According to the E-mail bulletin, Millwall say that Izale McLeod has returned to Charlton, presumably as uwanted goods, but Phil Parkinson says the matter is far from resolved. Moreover, the shell shocked supremo clearly doesn't want him back saying that he can't play him either in the first team or the reserves.

Why is not clear. Is he thought to be too poor even for the reserves (where Zheng Zhi is making his long awaited oomeback, sadly too late)? So much for our strike force.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Charlton till I die

A chorus of this chant floated across the world to Brisbane as Charlton went 1-2 down to Doncaster at The Valley tonight. This was a must win match and League 1 football next season now looks unavoidable.

Doncaster took the lead on 50 minutes, but Nicky Bailey equalised with a great strike. Unfotunately, he conceded a penalty minutes later.

The news that Darren Ambrose was coming on said it all and he managed to miss a sitter in the dying moments of the game. Dickson being offside and wide also emphasised the lack of a credible strike force. But Shelvey impressed with his skill and effort.

Leamington won 3-0 at Dunstable Town.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Brakes sign Deano's son from Gills

With long-term goalkeeper Richard Morris out injured for the season, leading to a tendency to ship goals that has threatened their title challenge, Leamington have signed Deano's son Chris Kiely on loan from Gillingham for the rest of the season. He is the spitting image of his dad and his grandad still lives in Warwick.

Buttering us up

Brisbane: With the injured Graeme Murty returning to Reading, Charlton have resorted to a loan from Crystal Palace to fill the right back slot and have brought in Danny Butterfield. Read more about his stop-start career here: Butterfield

No doubt this will rekindle the debate about Moutaoukil. Good as he is at going forward, his defensive capabilities remain in doubt. Coaching could improve them, but there isn't time for that.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

The task from here

The next four matches will probably determine whether the Addicks have any chance of escaping relegation. At one time Doncaster looked doomed for the drop and a quick return to League 1 - not such a bad place to be considering that they were a Conference side not so long ago.

But Doncaster have staged a recovery and they are now a respectable mid-table side just behind Palace. They have also won five games away. Nevertheless, I think that we will do the double over Donny.

Watford are a strangely inconsistent side, but they have only won two games away. There is a greater risk of this match being a draw, but hopefully we will manage to get all three points.

We then have to face Reading and Wolves away, what Curbs used to call bonus points. But now we need points from these games badly. Given the way that the top sides keep faltering, it's not impossible.

The Northamptons of this world are set up for League 1. They have stadiums of the right size (Sickfields is, I think, rented from the council). No doubt they tell their fans that they aspire to Championship status, but really the set up is designed to stay in League 1.

We have high fixed stadium costs and the example of Leeds shows how difficult it is to get out of League 1. And apparently the sharks are already circling some of our better players.