Monday, March 27, 2006

Twenty for Benty

Decent performance, decent atmosphere, three pigeons, three goals, and three points.
Yes, it's been another entertaining afternoon at The Valley.

I thought we played pretty well for the vast majority of the match, and if we could consistently achieve the level of commitment that we have shown in the last two matches over the course of a whole season, we would have no trouble at all in finishing as a top six side. This is the best I have felt about following Charlton in a good few months. We still have the Cup run to look forward to, some more winnable home games are just around the corner, new players will be arriving in the summer, and England are going to win the World Cup. All is well with the World.

Honourable mentions this week go to Darren Bent, Jerome Thomas (again), Luke Young, and Chris Powell. The other midfield trio didn't perform badly either. I was a little worried during the first quarter of the match because Parker and Emre were just being allowed too much time to settle on the ball and dictate play, but after we got our noses in front, (Parker's wondergoal aside), both players drifted out of the game and the midfield battle was won. Both of our fullbacks were bombing forward and overlapping the midfielders, the standard of crossing was much better, and one of our strikers scored a goal through finally attacking a ball at the near post rather than drifting deep.

Most of the match reports I have read seem to give the impression that Newcastle were the better side, and I can't quite understand that. In my opinion it was the best we have played in a while, and the crowd once again rose to the occasion and sung throughout. "We all agree, the Pigeon is better than Parker", and "Pigeon Pigeon, what’s the score?" were just inspired, as was the impressive wing-play of the bird itself. Even the East and West stands were starting songs today. Hopefully the atmosphere generated at both games this week will be replicated throughout our coming fixtures. It's an obvious thing to point out, but it's clear from our last two performances that the team really does respond when their backing in the stands is so vociferous. I really hope we can keep it up.

Congratulations to Darren Bent on his 20th goal of an increasingly impressive first season in the Premiership. Given guessed the right way, but he was beaten by the power of the strike. Now that the game is over and the points are safe, we can also give credit to Scott Parker for his 30-yarder. It was almost an exact replica of the goal he scored for us down at St Mary's a few years ago, and fair play to him for running the length of the pitch in order to celebrate it with his own fans. I can think of a number of other players who would have run towards the Covered End with one finger to their lips in that situation.
Lee Bowyer was unlucky with the own goal, but he did acknowledge the home faithful before leaving the field at the final whistle. We were linked with him quite heavily earlier this season and I think that he still wants to play for us; it's my prediction that Curbishley (if he doesn't get the England job) will snap him up in the summer. It's been reported that he would like a move back to London and although he's 29, he definitely still has a couple of years left in him at this level. We could certainly do with a player like him in the squad.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Newcastle Preview

After all of the excitement regarding the FA Cup this week, the Newcastle match has snuck up on us almost unnoticed. Don't forget to put your clocks forward before you go to bed tonight, or else you could find yourself arriving at the ground rather early for the 2pm kick off.

Newcastle arrive at the Valley on the back of three straight defeats, but all 3 of those have come against the Premiership's current top three sides, so perhaps that isn't really the best indicator of their current form, and mood within the club.
There are no doubts that they are a more 'together' unit since Souness departed, and the results since then have seen them slowly climbing the table, and they now find themselves in an almost exact mirror image of our own position. Played 30, Won 11, Drawn 6, Lost 13, the only difference between the sides on paper this year is the fact that Newcastle have a +2 goal difference over us, and the winner of tomorrow's match will climb up to 11th, leapfrogging Manchester City.

Scott Parker is set to make his first proper return to The Valley, and I'm unsure what kind of reaction he will get from the home faithful. There have been a couple of occasions this season where he has appeared in past highlights on the big screen pre-match, and portions over the Covered End have even seen fit to boo his image on those occasions, so I assume that he will be in for at least a modicum of ill feeling tomorrow. From a personal point of view, I won't be booing. He was an absolute star for us and although we didn't part on the best of terms, we got a good price for him, and I believe he deserves a round of applause when he takes to the field. He was our player of the year on more than one occasion, and in truth, can you really blame him for wanting the chance to play for a bigger club? He gave his all while he was wearing red, and that is what I remember him for.

Worrying team news on the BBCSport website claims that Darren Bent is struggling with an injury ahead of this match, and may need a late test on his ankle problem. Everybody knows just how important he is to us, and if he doesn't make the starting XI I will be a whole lot less confident about us getting a result. Bartlett and Bothroyd up front just doesn't inspire confidence anymore purely because Bent has raised the bar for striking standards this season. His namesake Marcus is back in full training, again according to the BBC, but they claim that it is unlikely that he will be fit enough to start.
From the Toon's perspective, Elliot is suspended because of the red card he picked up against Chelsea in midweek, but Boumsong is available again after serving his one match ban. Alan Shearer will also be making his 400th appearance for Newcastle, and his final appearance at The Valley.

Much of my prediction this week rests on the broad shoulders of Darren Bent, and whether or not he manages to pass his fitness test. I'm betting that he will though, and that he will once again get onto the score sheet.

Cynic Athletic's Prediction - 1-1 Draw (Bent - Shearer)

Friday, March 24, 2006

Cup draw favours us again

If a place in the Semi Final’s of the most famous cup competition in the world isn’t motivation enough for the side, the fact that we have now been paired with London rivals West Ham will surely further reinforce our desire to beat Boro in the replay.

Of the teams left in the hat, we have once again been given possibly the easiest route to progress.

There is no doubt that the draw has been kinder to us than it had been to any side left in the competition. Sheff Wed, Orient, Brentford, Boro and West Ham is possibly the easiest route to a final that any team could dream of in FA Cup terms, but before we get too carried away with the possibility of a major final, there is still the small matter of Middlesbrough to deal with. We HAVE to win this replay now. A Semi Final against The Hammers (probably at either White Hart Lane, Villa Park, or Stamford Bridge), would be a wonderful occasion for all of us. If you weren’t planning on going to the replay at Boro, do whatever you can to convince whoever needs convincing that a trip up there is crucial. You still have three weeks to negotiate time off with your employer, and we need as much support as possible up there if we are going to make the dream come true.

The club have announced free coach travel for all fans travelling up to The Riverside. Match tickets remain at £20 adults, and £10 concessions.
Tickets are going straight onto general sale, and we have an allocation of 1500.

The Semi Final draw in full:

Chelsea Vs Liverpool
Charlton or Middlesbrough Vs West Ham United

Ties to be played 22nd/23rd April

Proud to be a part of it

Owing to the fact that I needed to be at work by midnight and have only just arrived home now, I have missed most of the initial reports and reaction to last nights result.
I presume that the national press will this morning be pulling out the old ‘bore draw’ chestnut, but personally I thoroughly enjoyed the game, and was proud of the way in which we played.

The atmosphere (especially in the J and H blocks of the North Upper) was just superb throughout. It reminded me of the Ipswich play-off game at times, everybody was up for it, not just the usual singers. I’m not sure quite how well the acoustics of the ground carried the sound, but I can categorically state that it was the loudest noise I have heard at The Valley in at least 5 seasons, so well done to all who were both loud and proud last night.

On the balance of play I think that we could argue that we deserved to win the match, but a replay is not the end of the world. At least it ensures that we will definitely be in the draw for the semi’s, and Boro will surely feel that the hard part of the tie is over for them. They will no doubt believe that they can turn us over up at The Riverside, but if we perform up there with the same passion and desire we showed last night, I have no doubts that we will prevail.

Honourable mentions go to the seemingly ageless Chris Powell, Jerome Thomas, and the much maligned on this page Brian Hughes, who I thought had his best game in ages.
Despite those good performances, what let us down was the fact that we simply didn’t work their keeper enough, (especially in the second half) despite having the lions share of posession. In truth, we are playing without a real playmaker at the moment, and although that is something Curbs will obviously remedy in the summer, playing with 3 defensive minded midfielders often leaves us lacking in options when the opportunity for a quick counter attack presents itself. Perhaps that is the reason that so many of our forays forward seem to end up fizzling out just past the half way line, before the ball is passed either backwards or sideways. We just have no fulcrum in the middle around which the side strings fluid attacking moves together.

Another observation was regarding the general standard of our crossing. We seemed to get the ball into decent positions down the flanks a number of times, but unfortunately the delivery of the final ball was lacking. Most were cut out by the first man, and whatever went over his head just seemed magnetically drawn towards the bandaged bonce of Ugo Ehiogu; perhaps that’s just good positional sense from the defender rather than poor crossing from ourselves, but either way, I thought he had a great game for them.

Anyway, when I started writing this I certainly didn’t mean it to sound negative. A big well done once again to both the fans and the players, I was proud to be a part of the crowd for this match, and my strained vocal chords this morning are testament to that. A draw keeps the season alive, and I truly hope that we can reproduce the racket that we made last night when we get up to Teeside for the replay.

I have already booked the day off!

Come on you Addicks.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Middlesbrough Preview

This match has been covered from just about every conceivable angle over the last few weeks on the Charlton web, but it's proving far more difficult to get a handle on the way our opponents are gearing up for the clash.
Just how importantly do they view the match?

I've done more google searches that I care to remember, trying to track down a Middlesbrough site similar to our own forevercharlton, but I have now come to the conclusion that their fans either don't know how to use the internet (other than their rivals site), or that they simply don't have a massive online community. All of the relevant build up on their official page is sealed under the premiumtv lock and key, meaning that if you don't pay the subscription fee, you wont get to hear any of the official buildup; so we are left pretty much in the dark as to how strong a side they plan to put out this evening.

Perhaps it works to our advantage that they are still heavily involved in the UEFA Cup as well as the FA Cup and the Premiership. A poll on their official site shows that only 11% of Boro fans consider this match to be more important than their European Quarter Final with FC Basel exactly a week today. Perhaps they will rest one or two players, especially seeing as how they also have to face Bolton in the Premiership before jetting off to Switzerland presumably on Monday or Tuesday next week.

McLaren himself has already shown recently that he is perfectly willing to sacrafice 'smaller matches' in exchange for being able to field his strongest team in Europe. When Boro came to the Valley a fortnight ago, there were 9 changes from the team that took to the field against Roma in the match before. This Quarter Final is obviously more important than that Premiership match was, but how likely is Mclaren to risk an injury to a big player just 4 days before the team leaves Teeside for a date with the Swiss?

The form book shows that neither side can claim to be at the top of their game at the moment. Boro have lost their last three matches in all competitions, whilst from our point of view, Darren Bent's goals against Boro at the Valley remain our only victory, and indeed our only goals, in our last 5 matches.
Bent will obviously continue up front, but it remains to be seen whether Curbishley will persist in utilising the 5-3-2 formation he employed at Highbury last time out, or whether he will revert back to a 4-4-2, presumably with Bothroyd or Bartlett coming in up front alongside Darren. Jerome Thomas should also start. He single handedly turned the League game against Boro when he came off the bench, and Curbishley cannot have forgotten that.

So, the stage is set. The ground is going to be mostly sold out, it's live on the BBC, Tony Christie is going to lead the pre-match clap-along, and it's over to the players to prove just how much they want it.

On the bright side, we have already done the double over the side we are facing tonight.
On the other hand, we have never beaten Boro in the history of the FA Cup.

Cynic Athletic's Prediction - 2-2 draw (Bent, Bothroyd - Viduka, Yakubu)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Boro match set to sell out...

A couple of days to go until what has been widely described as the most important Charlton game in years. Middlesbrough at home in the FA Cup Quarter Final.

Ever since the fixture was announced there has been much debate as to whether we would be able to sell The Valley out on the night. The way the club has gone about pushing the remaining few thousand tickets could almost be described as a form of harassment! The official site has had numerous interviews with the clubs staff, and all of them have stated at least once just how important it is that we all attend; also, the club have repeatedly mentioned a promise for preferential treatment when it comes to the ticketing arrangements for any potential semi final, or even a trip to Cardiff. Some fans have even had letters sent to their homes, and text messages from the club, despite already having bought their tickets.
It’s been almost relentless over the course of the last week, but now with a day to go, it looks like it has all been a success.

I have just called the ticket office for an update on how well the sales were going, (it took 10 minutes on hold at 10p a minute), and I was told that there are only 200 seats left on sale in the home areas.
The bloke I was speaking to also claimed that they were expecting some tickets back from Middlesbrough tomorrow, so some home fans will be able to pay on the gate tomorrow night. Boro’s official site claimed that they were allocated 3350 tickets for the match, and most estimates seem to be that they have sold a shade under 2,000 of them. I was unable to confirm that with Middlesbrough because their ticket office closed at 5pm, but if we take that as the correct number, it will leave somewhere around 1,000 tickets for sale on the door.

I would imagine that most it not all Charlton fans planning to attend will already have their tickets now. Seeing as the game is on the telly, and that most of the tickets have been sold, I don’t imagine that too many fans will be turning up on the night to scrap over the remaining 1,000 seats. My estimate for the attendance is 26,685 and I don’t think that is too shabby at all. Even the Massive’s had 10,000 seats left spare for their match against the Hammers last night.

Anyway, the clubs battle to get bums on seats looks like it has been a success, but I wonder how far short of capacity we would have been without all of the propaganda. Is there really a fan out there who had decided not to go, but was persuaded to buy a ticket only because of the desperate please made by Varney, Peacock, Kishishev, and Curbishley? I rather doubt it.

Lets just hope that the team's performance lives up to the hype that the club have built for it.


Update - Just spoke to the Boro ticket office. As of now, they have only sold 1400, they have 300 left to sell, and the rest have been returned to Charlton for sale on the night.

Sunday, March 19, 2006


“Dennis Rommedahl makes his first appearance since fracturing his rib in January - and Jerome Thomas returns to the starting line-up against his former club as Alan Curbishley reverts back to the 4-5-2 system that served him so well earlier this season.” The Official Site

So that’s how we managed to win so many away games earlier on in the season, we had 12 players!
Well someone at Highbury obviously got wise to the plan before kick off, only 11 eventually took to the field, and promptly got hammered by an ‘unplayable’ Arsenal.

We started with 2 wingers for the first time in ages, but to be honest, Arsenal aren’t the sort of opponents to play that kind of formation against. We would have done better with players in the side who can tackle a little bit more. Wingers are outlets but you need to have the ball before you can utilise them, and getting the ball off of today’s opponents is often difficult when they are in full flight.
I have a feeling that Curbishley will now drop Rommedahl again next week, citing the old ‘we tried it and it didn’t work’ chestnut. It seems to me like he has engineered himself the perfect excuse just because he doesn’t want to accommodate two wingers in the same side at the moment. Hopefully he will prove me wrong with his team selection vs Boro, but for some reason I don’t hold out much hope.

From the sound of it today, 3-0 was a bit flattering towards us so there can certainly be no complaints regarding the result. It’s one thing conceding 3 at Goodison Park, it’s another thing entirely when you concede 3 to Arsenal at Highbury. They are just such a superb team when they get going. Such fluidity, fluency, grace, and power when they attack, sometimes you just have to hold your hands up and say to a team “that is how football is supposed to be played”.
I’m proud of Charlton, and proud of my history as a Charlton fan, but I’ve often found myself wondering what it must be like to have a team like Arsenal to follow around the country every week. Not just for the fact that they win more often than we do, but just because the football they play is almost a joy to watch at times. Even when they lose, you know that you’re going to see them trying to play the right way. On the deck, slick accurate passing, and done at a speed which can just be devastating.

Ah well, at least the players can take comfort from the fact that they wont have to play there again.

Just as a side note following on from the telling off we received from Peter Varney earlier this week; Wyn Grant mentioned a letter he received today from the club stating how the club needs our support for the Cup game on Thursday, and that there are still 6,300 tickets remaining. Well, I got the same letter as well, despite the fact that I have already bought my ticket for the game. Surely the club could have checked their database to see who has and hasn’t already purchased tickets before they send out a letter designed to campaign for support…

Friday, March 17, 2006

Arsenal Preview

In all of our years in the football league, we have only visited the marble halls of Highbury 24 times, and the 25th visit tomorrow will be our last.

I made my first visit to Highbury before I even saw a game at The Valley. My first ever memory of live football was standing behind the goal with my old man as Arsenal played Man Utd. I don't recall anything about the game - I was so young. All I remember was that there was a really big clock at one end of the ground, and I was transfixed by it, probably missing most of the game whilst in awe of the minute hand clicking slowly round.

I have a real thing about football stadia, and I actually feel quite upset that we will never play at the famous old ground again. Alright, more often than not we lose whenever we go there, but there was always the odd magical day like the 0-0 draw we ground out as a newly promoted club, or Euell flicking the fourth into the net and then running towards us in the Clock End. Maybe I'm being a tart, but it's kind of sad that a lot of young football fans will never get to see a game at Highbury.
I feel the same about the old Wembley too; It may have been an awful ground, coming apart at the seams almost, yet it remains the scene of our 2 greatest triumphs, and memories seemed to echo around that concrete saucer even when there were no fans inside it. There was a gravitas about the place, a sense of history and tradition. Although both new stadiums are going to be superb, some of the charm is going to be lost. It's as simple as that.

With regards to the game, I've tried to be optimistic recently, but even an eternal optimist will have trouble in honestly believing we are capable of a victory in this match. The best we can truly hope for is a draw, and a goalless one at that. If Arsenal get their noses in front with the talent that they have in their side, the champagne football tends to flow, and teams end up succumbing to them without so much as a whimper. We are not made of as stern a stuff at the moment as we have been on recent visits, and I fear what will happen to us if an early goal or two are scored. The statistics back up this paragraph; Arsenal haven't dropped a point in any of the 13 games in which they have scored the first goal so far this season.

Robin van Persie was rumoured to be making his comeback in this match, but the latest news from BBC Sport seems to suggest that he just might miss out. Adebayor and Henry will likely continue their partnership up front.
Cole, Clichy, and Cygan (unfortunately) are ruled out.

From our point of view, Marcus Bent has been named in the squad but will need a late test in order to prove his fitness. The last two games he has played have seen him limp off during the second half. I don't think we should risk him here. He is obviously lacking match practice, so lets not worsen his injury. He can't play against Boro, so lets give him a full week or so to recuperate and train in order to get his fitness levels back up ahead of our run-in. Rommedahl and Sorondo are also back in the squad, but again are unlikely to make the bench.

Congratulations to anyone who got a ticket for this one. Make sure you get a few pictures. Your kids might ask you what it was like to watch a football match at Highbury one day...

Cynic Athletic's Prediction - 3 - 0 defeat (Adebayor, Henry 2)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The points-gap table

75. Chelsea
60. Man Utd
58. Liverpool
49. Tottenham
47. Arsenal
46. Blackburn
45. Bolton
43. Wigan
42. West Ham
40. Man City, Everton
39. Newcastle, Charlton
34. Aston Villa, Middlesbrough
32. Fulham
27. West Brom
24. Birmingham
21. Portsmouth
10. Sunderland

Alright, it might not look like the prettiest thing in the world, but it’s an interesting way of looking at The Premiership Table.
A different way of showing how far behind Sunderland are, how far ahead Chelsea are, and how much of a muchness the rest of the league is.

Chelsea are going to win it (sticking my neck out a bit there), the bottom three are going down, so therefore the only real fireworks are going to come in the race for Europe.
From Arsenal to Charlton in the points gap table, there are 9 teams within 8 points of each other; and with only 9 games to go (27 points to play for) I don’t see why we can’t make up 7 points on Blackburn or 6 points on Bolton and possibly sneak into the final UEFA Cup spot. I’m not sure about the ruling, but Boro made the quarter finals last night, and if they were to go on and win the thing, the Premiership might even be allocated an extra spot in next years competition.

Looking at our fixtures yet to come with an overly optimistic view, you could argue that we could win all of those home games, and possibly Fulham and West Ham away, which would give us 18 points from our last 9 games, and that may well be enough to push us right into the European reckoning.
Of course, football can never be predicted like that, and I have no idea who the teams above us still have to face, but with so many Addicks claiming that the season will be as good as dead if we lose to Boro, it made me feel a little better about the last 9 games.

Plus we have an advantage over all of the other sides in that mid-table quagmire. We specialise in run-ins.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

England Candidates

I haven’t really paid to much attention to the recent news regarding Curbishley meeting with the England bigwig’s for an informal interview, but seeing as how I am stuck for a story to write today, I might as well give my opinions on the available candidates, and how I think they would do as England boss.

Sam Allardyce –

I’ve just never liked the man. In Premiership terms, no one can dispute the superb job he has done at Bolton, but he lacks experience of managing in Europe, and he also lacks experience in managing the egos of top class players. Bolton have a quite similar wage structure to ourselves, and although the players at The Reebok earn average salaries in footballing terms, I’m not sure that Sam would be able to motivate players at the next wage bracket up.
People say that playing for England should be motivation in itself for those fortunate enough to wear the shirt, and while a World Cup is around the corner that may well be the case, but when the job becomes available, the World Cup will have already come and gone. Would the likes of Beckham, Gerrard, and Rooney respond well to Allardyce’s strangulating safety-first style of football when the upcoming fixture is an International friendly against Bulgaria?

Stuart Pearce –

Even though he is even less experienced than Allardyce in the managerial achievement stakes, I would consider Stuart to be a better candidate, and one who would have more public appeal. Everyone remembers the courage and passion he displayed for the Thee Lions during Euro ’96, and you truly got the feeling that it meant as much to him as it did to you or I when he put that penalty away.
There is a certain level of public support for Stuart purely because of that passion. The average football fan likes him, and that gives him a certain advantage over Big Sam.
I see Stuart as an outstanding young manager who has a huge future managing in both the Premiership and International football worlds, but in my opinion it’s too soon for him to be taking up the poisoned chalice. If he were to get the job and fail, his stock would be permanently lowered. I’m certain that he will take the job one day, but not yet.

Steve McLaren –

Personally I think it’s a travesty that Steve is still the manager of Middlesbrough, and it’s only because of the seemingly unending patience of Steve Gibson that he is. I think that with the amount of money the man has had to spend, any other Premiership chairman would have shown him the door long ago.
It’s a mystery to me why he has been involved with England for so long without ever really achieving anything domestically. If he gets the job, I shall emigrate.

Martin O’Neill –

No doubts here about the man’s ability to man-manage and motivate. A manager who is respected by all in the football world, and an intelligent thinker about the game. Martin took Leicester City from relative obscurity to mid table Premiership security, and also masterminded their way to a major trophy. When given his chance at a bigger club, he delivered trophies there as well.
His availability to take the job depends very much on the condition of his wife Geraldine. Martin left the Celtic hot seat because she was still receiving treatment for cancer. It is believed that her response to the treatment has been positive, and Martin is said to now be considering a move back into football management.
Perhaps the England job will be perfect for him. Because of the length of time between International fixtures, he won’t have the day-to-day hands on responsibilities of a club manager, and that will allow him to still spend a reasonable quantity of his time at home with his wife. This is an appointment I would be happy with.

Alan Curbishley –

There seems to be a genuine 50/50 split between people who think Curbs could do the job, and those who think that he is just too tactically naïve.
My personal opinion is that although Curbishley is a hero to all of us at The Valley, he wouldn’t have what it takes to manage England.
Similar to Sam Allardyce, Curbs has little experience in dealing with players of England calibre, and there have been occasions during his tenure at Charlton where his man-management and motivational abilities have also been called into question. The likes of Euell, Jeffers, and even Rommedahl to an extent will testify that if you get on the wrong side of Alan, you will find yourselves out in the cold. England could not afford a similar situation between its manager and the likes of Rooney or Gerrard.
Alan has carte blanche at The Valley. Even if the fans or the board disagree with his decisions, we respect them, because of who he is and what he has done for us. I don’t think Alan would react well to the national press challenging and cross examining every management decision he makes, purely because he is just not used to that level of scrutiny and exposure. The situation with the Barwick meeting last week is almost proof of that. Curbs publicly stated that he was disappointed that the news about the meeting came out. Well, that is something he would have to get used to if he truly wants to take the job.

The national perception of Curbishley is decent enough. Everyone knows what an incredible job he has done with Charlton, but, and I’m sorry to say it; we are viewed by the rest of the Premiership as a team which plays boring football.
The FA cannot allow the England team to be viewed by the public in similar light. Curbishley is a star, but with the greatest respect to the man, I just don’t think that he’s a bright enough star for England.

These aren’t the only candidates of course. The likes of Hiddink, Hitzfeld, and Scolari have also been mooted, but to be frank, I don’t know enough about them to offer even a semi-relevant opinion.
I would prefer the England job to be held by an Englishman in truth, but I’m not overly adverse to another foreign manager taking the post. Eriksson has made that scenario much easier to digest and accept. When Sven took the position in 2001, all of the talk was about the fact that he wasn’t English. A few years down the line, and nationality doesn’t come into it anymore. No one talks about his origins; he is just the England manager.
This time around though, it’s a little different from previous changes in managerial staff. When Taylor left, we wanted Venables, when Venables left, we wanted Hoddle, then Keegan, then Eriksson, etc. This time, there is no truly outstanding candidate, and that worries me a little. Perhaps we will wish that we hadn’t forced Eriksson out in the first place. After all, he has been the most successful England manager in our recent history.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Bent puts Boro to the sword

Curbishley’s tactical acumen has been called into question on more than one occasion this season, and although the first half today wasn’t much of a ‘come and get me’ plea to those watching at Soho Square, at least he made the changes at half time which turned a relative snorefest into another three points.

Late goals they may have been, but who cares about that? Darren Bent once again underlined just how much he is worth to us, and the abilities of the man were accentuated by the difference between his two finishes this afternoon. The first was a superb header where he showed great desire and hunger to beat Pogatetz to the ball, whilst the second was all about the timing of his run, arriving late in the box, and a simple finish when unmarked. Superb.

Honourable mentions also go to Myhre, who made a couple of excellent stops, and to Thomas, who once again showed why he has to be given a starting place when fully fit. I apologise to one and all if I am starting to sound like a broken record, but we just look a much more potent attacking threat when we have orthodox wingers in the side. Jerome has that ability to run with the ball, beat players, and draw free kicks in dangerous positions. We need to get both him and Rommedahl fit again.

Today’s win was important for a number of reasons. Firstly, we have now opened up a 6-point gap between ourselves and the bottom 6, whereas if we had lost this afternoon, Boro would have leapfrogged us and our position would seem far more precarious. Also, there is the psychological factor to consider ahead of the Cup game. It was nice to demoralise our opponents with such a late winner, and hopefully the fact that we did it will still be fresh in their minds when they come back to the Valley on the 23rd. Lastly, it keeps the run of home results intact, and that can only bode well for the confidence of a squad which has had more than a few knocks recently.

I’ve just been looking through our Valley form since Boxing Day, and the stats are shaping up quite nicely. We’re unbeaten, we’ve won 6 out of the 8 matches that we have played in SE7, and we have conceded only 3 goals in the process, two of which were in the FA Cup. The club have even taken to calling it ‘Fortress Valley’ again.

The facts and figures make great reading, and the players must know that although the performances they’ve turned in haven’t been brilliant, they have still been getting the results.
I can't remember which of the pundits claimed that picking up points without playing well is the hallmark of Champions, but whoever he was, we're proving him wrong!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Middlesbrough Preview

This weekend we welcome Middlesbrough to the Valley for the first of two meetings within 11 days.

The average Addick would argue that the league game is nowhere near as important as the Cup encounter (and they'd be right), but if we were to win this one in style we could no doubt carry a psychological advantage into the crunch match on the 23rd.

Boro have been far from convincing throughout much of this season, but actually arrive in SE7 in decent form. Since the embarrassing 0-4 home defeat to Aston Villa, the club have won 6 of their last 7 games, and conceded only 2 goals in the process. A lack of genuine pace up front is made up for by the physical strength and presence offered by Viduka, Hasselbaink and Yakubu, the trio have plundered no fewer than 40 goals between them so far this season.

Their team news shows that Boateng faces a late test after turning an ankle in midweek, but other than that they are likely to remain unchanged from the side that beat AS Roma at The Riverside on Wednesday. I watched a repeat of that match, and it was probably the most boring game of football I have seen all year, including our home 0-0 draw with Villa. Yes, at least there was a goal in this game, but Boro somehow manage to remain boring even while they are putting the ball in the net. I don't know how they do it, but they seem to have an almost Boltonesque way of strangling all life from football matches. Strange really, when you consider the amount of undoubted talent that they have in their side.

Team news for us shows Marcus Bent facing a late test on the hamstring injury which forced him off last weekend, and perhaps (hopefully) Jason Euell pushing for a starting place ahead of Matt Holland in the centre of midfield. Rommedahl looks set to miss out again after his comeback match in midweek was called off.

Over the course of the Premiership years, more than half of the games we have played against the Teesiders have ended all square, but we've managed to score 5 goals in our last 2 games against them, so perhaps our strikers will be able to find their shooting boots again tomorrow.

After 3 consecutive 0-0 draws in the league, it's about time that we tried to play a little more expansively again. Especially at The Valley.

Cynic Athletic's Prediction - 2-1 Win (Bent, Euell - Yakubu)

Friday, March 10, 2006


Interesting piece in the Daily Mail today regarding the topical subject of ‘Amarillo’

It seems that in this particular case, a woman who played the track repeatedly into the Wiltshire night air was hit with as Asbo, a £500 fine, and then had the offending stereo equipment seized by the local council.
All of this because the track was audible in the house next door, and the neighbour whose delicate ears had been assailed by the racket, decided to complain to the environmental health department at her local authority.

So, there you have it, a precedent has been set.
We now have legal backing for our attempts to stop the club from making us look stupid on national television, and we can stop Tony Christie’s impromptu gig before it starts with a few well-placed phone calls to Greenwich Council. Surely the din will be heard in the local streets, just claim to be a local resident of either Harvey Gardens or Charlton Lane when you call.

Seriously though, what are we thinking with this. You can tell by the reaction of supporters on cafcfans and from the aftermath of Inspector Sand’s post on All Quiet, we just don’t want it to happen. Surely it’s not too late to listen to the views of the fans and cancel it?

I’m of the opinion that this kind of pre-match entertainment should be banned from football. We are going to see a highly charged emotional sporting event, (an event which you could argue is the clubs biggest game in years), and there is no way we need the “velvet tongued vocalist” to raise our passions ahead of kick off. We should all be up for it anyway, why would we need his ludicrous clap along routine?

The game is on a Thursday night. Everyone is going to be coming straight from work, and it’s highly likely that the ground won't even be half full when Christie takes to the microphone. Just what is the point?
If you want to get passion and vocal support from the fans, bring out the likes of Hunt, Mendonca, Robinson, Kinsella and Brown before kick off, and then once the game starts, make sure that the teams performance is worthy of the support they are craving from us.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Midfield options diminishing

Just a quick post regarding Smertin.

Although he has never really belonged to us I will still be sorry to lose him, especially now that the midfield options available at the club are looking so Spartan.
The partnership he formed with Murphy earlier this season was the best we have had in the engine room for at least a couple of years, and although he hasn't quite been the same player since Danny left; I always feel more comfortable when he is in the middle than either Hughes or Holland.

At the start of the season the partnership with Murphy was clearly the first choice. Now, if Smertin goes, both of those players will have left the club within 5 weeks of each other, and in both cases Charlton have been powerless to sign replacements. With both Thomas and Rommedahl seemingly unable to stay fit this term, the club is left with 3 other midfielders to choose from. Marcus Bent will be able to drop back to fill one of the midfield berths, but he is banned for our FA Cup adventure, so if we can't get the wingers fit we are going to be in serious trouble by the time the quarter final comes around.

Lokomotiv president Valeri Filatov commented earlier in the week that "We're interested in signing Alexei Smertin, but only on certain terms. I've talked with Smertin and his agent but we haven't had talks with Charlton, so it's all still open to question". Why on Earth would he need to have talks with Charlton? We don't even own the player. Does this mean that we could veto any deal between Chelsea and Lokomotiv because the player is contracted to play for us on loan for the rest of the season? I was under the impression that there was no recall clause in this loan deal, just a clause to state that we couldn't field the player against Chelsea.
Curbs' seems resigned to losing Smertin anyway, and he doesn't normally comment on stories like this unless they are virtually done and dusted. However, as I write this the time is marching on towards 6pm, and apparently the Russian transfer window closes at midnight...

Displaying my own ignorance, I didn't even realise that players could still be sold to other countries while our own transfer window is closed. Obviously they can in the case of Russian clubs, because Hibs are currently involved in a similar situation with their own player Gary O'Connor, who is also on his way to Lokomotiv Moscow after apparently walking out on the SPL side.

I'm off for a night shift now. When I return home tomorrow morning I expect to find that Smertin is no longer a Charlton player. Whatever you think of the man's ability, there can be no denying that certain areas of our squad will look incredibly threadbare if he goes. In my opinion, we would be one serious injury away from a crisis.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Premiership Projections

I found a nice little tool on the BBC website this afternoon.

It allows you to predict every result in the Premiership from now until the end of the season, and then update the league table to reflect your predictions. If you have 10 minutes spare then it's definitely worth doing.

For some reason the table I've ended up with still doesn't show as being entirely complete, (Bolton have only played 36 games for example) but I have checked through all of the boxes and I definitely haven't missed out any of the results, so perhaps the BBC haven't taken into account some of the fixtures which have been moved to Sunday or Monday for TV coverage, or maybe there are a couple of fixtures still TBA.

My table shows that the last day saw West Brom once again defy the odds and perform another last gasp escape from relegation. Their 0-0 draw away at Goodison Park mean that they edge out of the bottom three at the expense of Midlands rival and all round 'massive club' Birmingham City, whose 2-0 defeat at The Reebok consigns them to CCC, and probably Steve Bruce to the sack.

Chelsea walked away with the title, Arsenal nipped in to take the final Champions League place, while Tottenham managed to book themselves a slot in next seasons UEFA Cup. My table shows that West Ham also need to dust off their passports, but bear in mind that Bolton still have an inexplicable 2 games in hand. Lets just say that they win one and lose one, thus leapfrogging The Hammers into Europe.

As for Charlton, 15 points from our final 10 games see us finishing in 11th place, 2 places above where we currently sit in the real League Table. Hopefully, the reason that we lost 3-0 at Old Trafford on the final day was because we rested all of our best players in preparation for next weeks FA Cup Final...

Here’s the link to the Prediction page. Give it a go, and feel free to add a comment below detailing where Charlton finished in your own final League Table.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Point Proved at Anfield

There won't be many teams in the Premiership this season that will claim four points from their 2 games against the European Champions, but Charlton have done just that, and I was extremely impressed by the calibre of our defending yesterday.
Because Liverpool dominated possession and had a large number of attempts on goal, neutrals will claim that they deserved to win the game, but I wouldn't necessarily agree with that. Skilled defending is as much a part of football as skilled attacking, and our point was fully deserved for what was an outstanding defensive performance against a side who boast an impressive home record so far this term.

Spector (who I have often criticised on this page) had the best game I have seen him play for us, Hreidarsson was consistently in the right place at the right time, Perry dealt well with Crouch, and Young was his usual dependant self. Bodies were thrown in the path of incoming strikes at goal, and such commitment from the back four was refreshing to see, especially considering the way in which we have surrendered without even a whimper in so many other away trips this season.
When Liverpool did manage to find their way through our defence, they found Man of the Match Thomas Myhre in sparkling form. Three times in the first half he made excellent saves; twice from Djibril Cisse, and once when he flung himself to his left to divert a mis-hit Hreidarsson clearance wide of the post.

Perhaps the reason the defence stood out so much today was because the midfield didn't stand out at all. I don't know if I suffer from a selective blindness, but I never notice Hughes and Holland when they play. Once again today I felt that the game just passed them by, Gerrard broke through the middle numerous times and neither of them were anywhere to be seen. Kishishev was wasted out on the wing, and Ambrose was also guilty of not affording enough protection to Spector at left back.
Darren Bent suffered a similar fate to that which he suffered on the same pitch for England earlier this week. He was not involved in the game at all, starved of service, and totally isolated up front on his own. Both Bothroyd and Euell came off of the bench midway through the second half and acquitted themselves reasonably well though. There was one occasion where Bothroyd lost the ball, and then slunk away towards the halfway line when he should really have been trying to win the ball back, but other than that he did ok.

As the game progressed the Anfield crowd started to get frustrated with their side, and the murmurs of discontent from the terraces must have served to further strengthen our resolve. The post match stats show that Liverpool had 21 attempts on goal to our 3, but in truth I never really felt in too much danger. Indeed, we could have even nicked it at the end through either Jason Euell, who lacked composure in front of goal, and Spector who blazed over when in a decent shooting position.
It would have perhaps been harsh on Liverpool if they had lost the game, but there is clearly an issue with their strikers which they need to address. Fowler is not feared by Premiership defences anymore, Crouch hasn't scored for Liverpool in 2006, Cisse must surely be on his way out of Anfield, and Morientes just hasn't lived up to his billing.

We haven't scored ourselves in three games either, but to be honest I'm not too concerned about that. Our primary objective recently has been to halt the run of away defeats, and we have done that with two 0-0 draws, both obtained from grounds where I really didn't think we were capable of getting them.
I'm confident that both goals, and more attractive football will come once we get the likes of Thomas, Rommedahl, and even Marcus Bent back to full fitness. The latter is obviously struggling, he was pulled off today for the second game running nursing a hamstring injury.

So, Middlesbrough at home are next up for Charlton in an FA Cup dress rehearsal at the Valley next Sunday. It's long been a cliché that League results are much more important than a Cup run, but given our current middle of the road league position, I wonder how many Addicks would swap a home reverse next weekend in exchange for a victory in the Quarter Final.

I certainly would.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Liverpool Preview

A tough task looms for the Addicks this weekend, away to the European Champions. A team who we recently disposed of 2-0 in SE7, but are likely to be an entirely different proposition on their own patch.

Liverpool’s home record this season is second only to Chelsea’s. They have taken 35 points out of the 42 available so far this season at Anfield, and they have conceded an average of only 0.3 goals per game during that run. The only team to go to Anfield and record a maximum was Chelsea, and if you discount the 4 goals they plundered that day, Liverpool’s defensive record at home would read played 13, conceded 1. Possibly the best defensive statistics I have ever seen from a side at this stage in a Premiership season.

A lot of things have to go perfectly if we are to record a double over The Reds. Gerrard will have to be marshalled well, the crowd will have to be frustrated, we cannot give away free kicks around the edge of our box, and we must overcome an absolutely bewildering jinx which seems to suggest that we are simply incapable of winning games in the North West of England. We have lost on 9 of the last 10 visits to this region of the country.

Darren Bent is set to make his second appearance at Anfield within 4 days. If we had been told last week that Bent would score during the course of one of these 2 appearances, I think that most real Addicks would join me in hoping that the goal was scored in a Charlton shirt rather than an England shirt. Hopefully he has been saving his Anfield goals for this encounter.

Our official website claims that Curbishley is likely to revert to a 4-5-1 formation, thus leaving our newly capped hitman up front alone this weekend. Presumably Marcus Bent will drop back to the right side of midfield, and the other midfield positions will remain unchanged unless Smertin can convince Curbishley that he has sufficiently recovered from his knee injury.
Since Spector replaced Powell at left back we have kept three clean sheets in 4 games, so he looks set to continue alongside Perry, Hreidarsson, and Young in the Addicks rearguard, and the latter of those defenders will have a job on his hands neutralising a resurgent Harry Kewell. He is the main source of crosses into the box, and with a player like Peter Crouch waiting in the middle it’s critical that Young manages to stay close to Kewell and prevent him swinging balls over.

Personally I would like to see us go 4-4-2 rather than 4-5-1. We all saw first hand how isolated Bent was up front on Wednesday, and the same thing will happen again tomorrow unless he has someone alongside him to win his knockdowns and anticipate his movement off the ball.
It’s likely that we will be under heavy pressure for long periods of this game, so the defence will need time to recuperate when they do manage to clear our lines. Up front alone, Bent is limited as to how well he can hold the ball up, and I fear that without support we will be unable to give our defence the time they need to reorganise themselves between Liverpool attacks.

The only real Liverpool team news is that both Carragher and Fowler return to the squad after missing the home game with Manchester City, and Finnan is due a late fitness test on the neck injury which stopped him representing his country in midweek. Morientes and Crouch look set to continue up front.

It’s been a good while since we recorded a famous away result in the league. The 1-1 draw against Chelsea was an excellent point of course, but it wasn’t a victory. I can’t remember the last time we recorded an away win against a side in the Premiership’s top three.
Live on Prem Plus tomorrow we have a chance to spring a major surprise, and a result of any kind would serve as a huge confidence booster going into the last 10 games. It’s well documented how adamant the squad are that they aren’t going to suffer the usual end-of-season slump, this is an ideal chance to prove just how committed we are to a big finale.

Cynic Athletic’s Prediction – 1-0 Defeat (Crouch)

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

"England have gone Bent" - Cheers Lineker.

Well it’s half time at Anfield as I write this and Darren Bent’s debut hasn’t gone quite the way he planned it thus far.
What he has done, he has done well, but the fact remains that it took him seventeen and a half minutes to get his first touch of the ball, and he only had a few brief glimpses of action in the remainder of the half. Not that it was his own fault however, as England's poor showing in the first period didn't do much to help his cause.

I’ll admit, I ended up watching Darren’s movement rather than the match in its entirety, and for the most part he was left plowing a lone furrow up front. The supply to the forwards was almost nonexistent, and because of that Rooney kept having to drop deeper in order to look for possession, leaving Darren extremely isolated up top.

When England attack it’s rare that they play with a long ball over the back four. They are much more the sort of side that will get the ball wide and attempt to swing in a killer ball; or try to pick teams off through slick passing through the defence. I’m not sure whether Bent will be out again for the second half, but if he is, he needs to come to the ball more, demand possession, and then turn and run with it. The players around him are good enough to create space via intelligent runs, and they will make themselves available to lay the ball off to. Darren would then see himself come more into the game.
He did however manage a decent effort on goal 5 minutes before the break. Turning well and firing a snap shot wide of the far post. When I saw the replay I actually thought that the shot got a slight deflection off of the defender, but a goal kick as given and the chance was gone.

Lineker has just announced that Bent will indeed be out for the start of the second half, so I’ll get back to the game, and continue this report at full time.


With Crouch coming on not long after the break I was hopeful that Bent would be able to feed off of his knock downs and create more of an impact than he did in the first 45; but it just wasn’t his night. He continued to get into promising positions (and was unlucky to be flagged offside on a couple of occasions), but ultimately it was Crouch himself who was in prime position when the chance came. Joe Cole’s late winner means England turned their half time deficit around, and that can only be good for squad morale as the World Cup approaches.

I don’t think Darren will be too pessimistic about his chances of going to the Germany on the strength of this showing. Granted, things didn’t break for him in front of goal on the night, but he was constantly jostling for position and creating space with intuitive runs off of the ball; and the crowd certainly showed their appreciation for his work rate when he left the field on 80 minutes to be replaced by his main rival Jermain Defoe.

This was the last friendly to be played before the squad is announced, and if Darren misses out I will consider him extremely unlucky.
As previously stated, Defoe is his main rival for the final strikers seat on the plane, and he was totally ineffective for the duration of his 10-minute cameo.

Bent would have earned more ‘credits’ on the pitch than Defoe did this evening, and provided that both players have acquitted themselves well in training all week, the battle between the two could well boil down to a straight shootout in the remaining 11 Premiership games. Whoever is in the best form when June approaches, wins.