Saturday, April 29, 2006

All good things...

When the announcement was made by Richard Murray, the first reaction was a moment of total silence around The Valley, which then gave way to a round of spontaneous applause as 26,000 people turned to their neighbours and said "I knew that was coming".
The truth is that we did all know it was coming, but perhaps we didn't expect it to come quite so suddenly. I certainly thought that if he wasn't going to get the England job then Alan would see out the final year of his contract before leaving the club, but I can understand why he has decided to call it a day now.

He has done wonders for us, and he will rightly be considered a Charlton legend for generations to come, but there can be no disputing that we have reached a point in the clubs development where a change of management is the only way to move things forward. My feelings at the moment are probably best described as a cautious excitement about what is coming next for Charlton. Obviously I am sorry to see Curbs leave the club, but the prospect of a new manager with new ideas about both players and tactics is definitely what we need. I have listened to the views of other Addicks all season long, and the one word which seems to crop up more than any other when they talk about the club is the word 'stale'. The symbiotic relationship that Curbishley shares with Charlton has simply grown too comfortable for both parties, and that is the reason it has now been brought to an end.

Being 23 years old I have never really known life under any Charlton manager other than Curbishley, so I'm not quite sure what to expect once a new man is appointed with regards to how quickly the squad will be turned upside down, and how quickly the players left behind will be able to adjust to life with a new manager. I can't imagine that Murray doesn't already have a shortlist of replacements in his mind, so hopefully it will just be a question of getting the new guy in quickly once the season ends, and giving him all summer to get to know the club and its playing staff.
Obviously he will also need to be given a transfer kitty of sorts in order to make his own mark on the squad, so I wouldn't be surprised if we also see the back of Darren Bent after the World Cup. He is the only player we have worth any real money, and with a time of transition ahead it surely makes sense to sell him while his value is high, rather than to keep him another season and risk the fact that he only scores 7 league goals next term. If that occurs, he will only be worth half as much next summer.

So, the next manager... One thing I do not want to see is the appointment of someone like McCarthy or another manager who has failed at another club in the Premiership. We need a man with passion; we need a man from the lower leagues who will have the stomach for a fight, and a man who will be desperate to rise to the challenge. A man with a totally fresh approach to The Premiership. My first choice would be Adrian Boothroyd from Watford, my second choice would be Parkinson from Colchester (who I've been informed was at The Valley for the Portsmouth match a fortnight ago), and I haven't really had the time to think of a third choice yet. Other names that I have heard banded around thus far are the likes of Martin Allen (Brentford), Harry Redknapp (God forbid), and even Paul Jewell (Wigan).

With regards to the match, it was a shame that the players weren't able to cap Alan's final Valley fixture with a win, but it was always going to be difficult for them to perform immediately after finding out the news about his resignation. In the back of all of their minds will be the fact that they may well have to be looking for a new club and possibly a move to another part of the country by the time next season comes around.
The reception that Alan got from the fans after the game will surely have meant a lot to him (although I can't quite understand why so many people left the ground at the final whistle), it must have been a difficult decision for him to arrive at, but in the cold light of day, it's the right decision.

Thanks again for everything you have done during these 15 years Alan. It's more appreciated by those of us who love the club than you will ever know. Best of luck for the future.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Blackburn Preview

The aim at the start of the season was to make a real push for one of the lower European places. Midway through the season that goal was still semi-attainable, but as the sun begins to set on 2005/06, all that is left for Charlton is the slight possibility that we could still achieve a top half finish.

After the Reebok debacle last weekend it looked very much like 10th place was beyond us, but West Ham lost at home to Liverpool in midweek, and with their upcoming games being WBA away (fighting for their lives), and Tottenham at home (a week before the FA Cup Final), perhaps a Charlton win against Blackburn this weekend might just be enough to lift us above the Hammers. It wouldn't mask the problems that we have both at the club and within the squad, but it would certainly shed a little positive light, and bring some cheer to a fanbase which seems almost apathetic about the future right now.

Blackburn arrive in SE7 still harbouring dreams of European qualification through their league position. A few weeks ago their fans were already dusting off the passports in anticipation, but it's all up in the air now after a Charltonesque end of season collapse. They haven't won in their last four games, and with Chelsea next on the list for them, a win at The Valley is almost a necessity if they are going to cling on to their 6th place in the Premiership.

The danger men on Saturday will be Morten-Gamst Pedersen down the flanks, and motor-mouth Craig Bellamy up front; between them they have scored 27 goals so far this season, and Rovers have only failed to find the net in one of their last 10 Premiership encounters.
The main doubt for them ahead of the game is regarding the fitness of their Captain, and Charlton old boy Andy Todd. He injured a knee in Blackburn’s last game against Birmingham and must wait to see whether he requires surgery.

From Charlton's point of view, Curbishley has responded to the news that tactical genius Scolari may have been offered the England post by executing a tactical masterstroke of his own. Kevin Lisbie has been recalled from his loan spell at Derby. I expect he will be on the bench for this one, probably coming on late in the second half to record a double hattrick.

Don't forget that the kick off is at 5:15 due to the match being on pay per view, and what looks likely to be a sell-out crowd is set to be entertained pre match by pop group Amici Forever, as well as all of the usual end of season presentations. I thought I remembered reading somewhere that Richard Murray was going to be addressing the crowd live on the pitch after the match, but I've had a quick look around and I can't find the link for wherever I saw that. We'll just have to wait and see what, if anything, he has to say.

Cynic Athletic's Prediction - 6-0 Win (Lisbie (6))

Monday, April 24, 2006

Feeling Low

Getting thrashed in the North West of England is something I am getting acutely fed up with.

I remember having a bit of a rant about it before we played at The City of Manchester Stadium a few months ago, but at the time I was still confident in our ability to turn things round. It's just not that easy for me anymore, things just look bleak right now. Our record over the course of our last 12 games in the region stands:

Played 12, Won 1, Drawn 1, Lost 10. We have scored 6 goals in those 12 games, and conceded 33. There is simply no possible excuse for this run of form, It’s not as if all of the sides that play in the North West of England are entrenched at the top of the table. Forget Man Utd and Liverpool, there are still the likes of City, Bolton, Blackburn, Everton, and Wigan who simply do not compete against whenever we travel up there.

There has got to be some explanation for this, it cannot just be coincidence. Maybe there is an issue with the way we prepare for these matches? Do we travel up a couple of days before and book into a hotel? Or do we catch a flight on the morning of the game? Whichever it is we obviously need to start doing the other because the current preparation for these matches just isn't working, surely this must be looked at by the club because if things stay as they are, we might as well not even bother going next year. God forbid Leeds get promoted as well.

We are an average mid table Premiership club, we can beat these teams at home, we can win games in London, we can win games in the North East, and we can win games in the Midlands; law of averages says that sooner or later we should be able to put in a relatively competent performance at one of the North West grounds, and yet it still doesn't happen. Four goals against Bolton (twice in 2 years), three against Wigan, four against Blackburn, three against City, and three against Everton, it just isn't good enough.

Okay, so we have a few injuries, the defence is patched up, and the season is dead in terms of actually achieving something this year, but these players are still professional footballers who are defending like schoolboys and playing without passion. It shouldn't matter that the back four haven't had too much time to gel together as a unit, they train together every day. The tasks they are being asked to complete are straightforward. Win headers, win tackles, talk to each other, stay goal side of your man, etc. The midfield didn't give the back four too much protection I'll grant that, but still at the end of the day when you are jumping to win a header, it's just the defender and the striker, 1 v 1. No one to blame but yourself if you lose the header. Same story if there is a 50/50 ball to be competed for.

I'm not even going to get started on Myhre's performance.

There is no way we are going to turn our form around at Old Trafford on the final day, so we simply have to beat Blackburn now. If we lose at home next week then that will be our fifth defeat in six games and we could well end up finishing 12th or 13th in The Premiership. A few years ago that would have been fine, but not anymore I'm afraid. Not when we've got a striker banging in goals up front the way Darren Bent is. We should be far higher up the league than we are, and there is simply no denying it. We have underachieved this season with the strongest squad we have ever had. You have to ask why.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Bolton Preview

News leading up to the Bolton game is that both Marcus Bent and Johnathan Spector have both played their last games of the season, and in Spector’s case, probably his last game for the club. Curbishley has given Marcus Bent the luxury of an extra month off to reward all of the stupendous work he has done for the side this year, and he hopes that Marcus will return a fitter and stronger player next term. I certainly second that.

As for players who WILL be involved at the Reebok, Sankofa looks set to make his first start for the club, and the official site reminds us that Darren Bent is bidding to become the first Charlton striker to hit 20 top flight goals in over 50 years. I’m not sure this will be the game where he reaches that particular milestone, but I do back him to break the record at home to Blackburn a week later.
In midfield, I would expect to see Ambrose come in for Thomas, which will leave Hughes out on the left, with Kish and Holland in the centre. The back four will pick itself due to the players we have available, and either Bartlett or Bothroyd will complete the XI.

Bolton are a bogey side for us there is no doubt about it. We have only ever beaten them once in our Premiership years, and they are looking to conclude a second successive double over the Addicks. Their team news shows that Diouf will sit this one out while he recovers from his hernia operation, while Ben Haim returns from his one match ban.

Comparisons can certainly be drawn between the sizes of our two clubs, and the league table shows that with a victory this weekend we could leapfrog the Trotters into the top half of the league. Why then is it portrayed by the media that Bolton have had a decent season, and we have merely had an average one? Although the football we play hasn’t exactly delighted the watching pundits this year, no one could claim that Bolton’s particular brand of industrial football has set the league alight either. I can’t think of many other teams (not clubs) that I dislike more than Bolton, they strangulate teams that try to play football against them, they use excessive force in the tackle (a polite way of saying that they’re dirty b*stards), and they will deny us both space and time on the ball. Their tactics don’t encourage football to be played, and if they really have ambition of moving their own club up to the next level they will have to add a few more craftsmen to their collection of cloggers.

Much as I would love us to beat them at their place, I can’t let the heart rule the head. They haven’t scored a goal for four games, and I can’t see our patched up defence keeping them out.

Cynic Athletic’s Prediction – 2-0 Defeat (Stelios, Nolan)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

HH takes a break

The main Charlton news today relates to the fact that Hreidarsson had been issued with a three match ban for the last minute 'elbow' at Craven Cottage last week. HH apparently pleaded guilty to the charge of violent conduct, and although the club was given the right to appeal, they chose not to persue the matter further. Hermann will now miss all of our remaining fixtures, and that means that our defensive options are almost stretched to their limit.

Sorondo and Perry will be able to cover in the middle, and I'd assume that Sankofa and Powell will take the full back positions, but if we were to suffer another injury blow up at Bolton (fairly possible when you consider Sorondo's injury record), I don't know who we would turn to. I was just looking through the squad list and does anyone know what's happened to John Fortune? I don't remember reading about him getting a long term injury, but the last time I can remember seeing his name in the matchday squad was way back on February 5th at White Hart Lane. With El Karkouri gone, and Fortune seemingly invisible, we are one injury away from having no defenders fit for our last couple of games.

I'd still be interested to find out what happened with El Karkouri (incidentally, regular readers of the page will remember the email I had a while back claiming to be from Talal himself, I did reply to that email but I have not received any further communication from him). He left fairly suddenly, Smertin left fairly suddenly, Murphy left fairly suddenly, Kiely left fairly suddenly, and back in the summer the Paul Konchesky move also sprung up out of nowhere. We went into this season with what Curbishley described as the strongest squad he had ever worked with at Charlton. I find it odd that with all of the dead wood there is at the club, the five decent players mentioned above have been the ones shown the door.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Walking wounded snatch the win

Credit where credit is due. Not too many of us predicted a Charlton victory today and even fewer would have predicted one after watching the first 70 minutes of this encounter, but by hook or by crook we managed to turn what would have been a hugely demoralising defeat into an unlikely victory. On top of that, both of our goals were top quality, and Darren Bent had a hand in both of them. An intelligent square pass left Hughes with a tap in for the first, and a powerful run accompanied by an unstoppable shot eventually delivered the three points.

Bent has had a few critics in the media recently, claiming that Premiership defences have got to grips with him after his wonderful start to the campaign but he answered that accusation this afternoon, and you can tell how much the goal meant to him by his celebrations. Two more goals in his remaining three games should be well enough to see him on the plane to Germany.

It was good to see Sankofa finally get his chance, but I wont dwell on the rest of the match too much. Pompey were the better side for long periods and will think themselves unlucky to be going home empty handed. For the second occasion this season, we have picked their pockets and come from a goal behind to win 2-1. While Curbishley's comments about it being a heroic effort are probably a little over the top (we should really be beating sides like Portsmouth anyway), I’ll forgive the over indulgent post match comment purely because of that patronising arm around Redknapp's shoulder at the final whistle. "Awww so close, never mind 'Arry, maybe next year eh. Oh, assuming that you're still in our league of course!"

I've been pretty gloomy over the last week or so, but I am taking some comfort now in the fact that our home form is looking rather formidable. Since New Years Eve we have played 12 games at the Valley and won 8 of them, drawing the other 4. Three of those matches were in the cup of course, but that still leaves us with a league return of 21 points out of the last 27 available at The Valley; plus we can claim to be undefeated in SE7 in the calendar year of 2006. If we avoid defeat in our final home game against Blackburn, then by the time the new season comes around we will have an unbeaten home run stretching back 8 months!

What an odd season it's been. For the first third of it we were demolishing teams away from home and losing at The Valley, the middle third saw a decline in form both home and away, and the final third has seen us losing games on the road but supplementing our league position on the back of home results. Consistently inconsistent kind of sums it up.

Still, that's football I suppose. At least a victory today means that I will actually bother watching Match of The Day this week, it's been a while since I've done that.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Portsmouth Preview

Before most games we play I try to read the fans forums and unofficial sites of the team we are about to face in order to ascertain what kind of mood their supporters are in, and how highly they rate their chances against us. I am sure fans of the other clubs reciprocate this habit, and if there are any Portsmouth fans reading the Charlton web today, these are the kind of comments that they will be reading:

Portsmouth might just find us easy pickings on Monday. Anyone want my ticket? - Inspector Sands

I might find something better to do with my time on Monday. Like paint the shed again - Frankie Valley

It was just more of the same old tedium - Cynic Athletic

There was a sense of inevitability about the Addicks' most recent defeat - Official site

I make it 174 days without a {away} win (and counting) - New York Addick

Lack of any invention or prowess from a Charlton side desperate for a change of direction - Chicago Addick

Yes, things are far from rosy in The Addicks garden. If you’re a Portsmouth fan reading this, it’s not that us Charlton fans are miserable b*stards, it’s just that the football we are serving up right now just doesn’t inspire confidence or compliments from the fans.
As I have said on more than one occasion recently, I really wish I could be positive about our prospects in upcoming matches, but I just cannot find the hope to cling to. Even star-of-the-season Darren Bent has seemed a little off the pace recently. Perhaps the weight of the team and the dreams of the fans on his shoulders are finally beginning to take their toll.

Team news from the Pompey point of view shows that Lua Lua faces a late fitness test, but it looks as though both Todorov and Davis aren’t going to make it. Benjani will continue up front, and I wonder what are the odds on him getting his first goal in English football against us?
For the home side, BBC Sport claims that Curbishley has no fresh injury worries, but Curbs was so openly disappointed with our performance at The Cottage that I wouldn’t be surprised to see him ring the changes tomorrow.

Cynic Athletic’s Prediction – 2-1 Defeat (Bent – Benjani, Lua Lua)

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Defeat again at The Cottage

I'm none too qualified to talk about the performance today due to the fact that I was at work from 10 until 8 and I didn't even get the chance to listen to it on the radio, but from the various match reports I have read it looks as if it was just more of the same old tedium. However, thanks to the genius of 3g phones I have already downloaded and watched the goals and to be honest, both were preventable.

The first one was just a calamitous piece of defending from a free kick, Boa Morte managed to score from a ridiculous angle at Myhre's near post without the keeper even making a dive for the ball. I'm not sure whether Jason Euell was meant to be guarding the post or not, but surely he should have sensed the danger and hacked the ball away once he saw it curling past the wall. As for the second goal, Sorondo was far too flat on his feet as Boa Morte burst past him. You have to hand it to the striker, both the run and the finish were excellent but he still managed to get past two of our players and slot it beyond Myhre with barely a hint of a Charlton challenge. No wonder Curbishley was furious at half time.

I've spoken to one or two people who were at the match and both have said that the fans were loud for the majority of the first half, but as the rain set in the noise began to drift away, and quite a large number of the Addicks had departed by the time Mr Atkinson blew for full time. We had a couple of chances to nick a point late on, but a combination of poor finishing and good goalkeeping managed to fend us off.

The fact that Jerome Thomas consistently starts on the bench is really beginning to frustrate me now. I know that I have a soft spot for the bloke, but am I really the only one who thinks that he has been our most positive attacking player in recent weeks? Sankofa again spent the whole 90 minutes watching from the sidelines (he must be wondering how badly the team needs to play in order for him to get his chance), while Powell and Hughes (2 of the better players from the Riverside) were also dropped from the team in favour of Euell and Sorondo. I suppose we don't know whether or not Hughes picked up a slight knock in the Boro match, but I honestly believe that Euell was only brought into the side in order to put him back in the shop window before the transfer window opens again. I wouldn't be surprised to see him start our remaining few games now, and then leave the club in the summer (probably to someone like Sheff Utd for 500k).

So, we have a day to lick our wounds before resurgent Portsmouth arrive in SE7. The form that they are in at the moment means that we will have a tough battle on our hands if we want to stop this run of defeats before it gets too noticeable. I don't think I can stomach another media battering about how our players 'just can't be bothered to turn up once the 40 point barrier is breached'. The papers were talking about us doing this months before the end of the season, and it's so frustrating to see it happening again.

On a separate note, the videos that I have from the trip up to Boro mentioned in this article range from about 30mb to 300mb in size. I haven't had much luck in finding a site which will allow me to host files of that size without having to pay for the privilege. I can't stick up links to the videos until I overcome this little problem, does anyone have any experience in getting such large files hosted?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Fulham Preview

It will be with a heavy heart that Charlton travel to Craven Cottage tomorrow. Curbishley claimed after the Cup defeat that he was going to repay the faith of the travelling 5,250 by leading the team to as high a Premiership finish as possible. Logical then, that he has set the team a conservative target of 6 points out of our last 5 games.

Whilst Fulham's league position shouldn't inspire much fear, it doesn't really tell the story of their season. They have been superb at home and simply abysmal on the road. Only the top 6 have won more home games than The Cottagers this term and that is reflected by the fact that of the 36 points they have amassed thus far, 32 of them have been from home matches. Couple this with the fact that we haven't won at Craven Cottage for 20 years, and it's enough to make you feel downright miserable about our prospects this weekend.

I named this site Cynic Athletic because when it comes to my team I have always been a pessimist, but in the three months that I have been writing this page I have made a conscious effort to remain upbeat about the club and its prospects. At the moment I'm having a real hard time in doing that. I'm sorry, but the performance up at The Riverside has really got to me (I have now finally braved the re-run), and its shaken my confidence in our ability to win matches right now. If I'm honest, I can see us getting a bit of a hammering tomorrow. Of course, there is always the chance that the players will react positively to the criticism they have received this week, but it's blind faith that is nurturing this hope I'm afraid, not logic.

Although Marcus Bent is available again, I would like to see him start on the bench and the team switch to a 4-5-1 formation. Powell, HH, Perry and Spector if fit, (and only because we have no other option) across the back four, Thomas, Ambrose, Kish, Holland and Hughes in the middle, and Bent up front on his own. There is a growing throng of Addicks asking for the youth players to be involved a little more now that we don't have anything to play for, but other than a cameo role from the bench, I can't see Curbishley drastically changing the side before the end of the season.

From Fulham's point of view, Charlton old boy Claus Jensen is unlikely to be fit, Bocanegra is definitely out, whilst Michael Brown is beginning a three match ban. Their key man is likely to once again be Steed Malbranque, a player whom I have always rated very highly. Most of Fulham's attacking verve and inspiration comes through the Frenchman, so he will need to be well marshalled by whoever starts in the centre of midfield for us.

It's the last London derby of the season for the Addicks, and we come into it with a few bad runs to break. We haven't won in our last 11 away games. We haven't won at Fulham in the top flight since 1950, and we haven't even managed a goal there since we came up to The Premiership.

I can see us breaking one out of the three.

Cynic Athletic's Prediction - 3-1 Defeat (Bent - Malbranque, McBride, Boa Morte)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

An Empty Feeling

Although I recorded the match on Sky Plus, I still haven't been able to bring myself to watch it all again. I want to see the goals, I want to see how good Darren Bent's early chances really were, and I want to know if the wonderful atmosphere we created actually made it into the ears of those watching at home, but I just can't bring myself to press play. There is an empty feeling in my stomach this morning, I had really got myself believing that we could go up there and do a job on Boro but in truth, as soon as they got their second goal, I don't think we ever looked like we were going to get back into it.

The Journey up was great. We had a good old sing song on the platform at Kings Cross, and the songs continued to sporadically ring out all the way up to Middlesbrough. We got into the ground rather later than most because we split from the majority of Charlton fans when we left the station and opted to find a quieter pub in order to calm our nerves. Once we got into the ground the atmosphere was simply awesome. I don't know where everyone got all of that ticker tape from, but I was right on the far left of the stand and when I looked across the hordes of Addicks throwing that stuff into the air it just looked brilliant. Fair play to the Directors and Chairman for coming over to the fans before the kick off as well.

I took my digital camera to the game and I managed to get some decent video of the day. A couple of brief clips of the crowd singing while waiting to get on the train at Kings Cross, and also the 5 minutes leading up to kick off when the players came out. I'm not sure about the best way to get them all on the internet, but I'll have a play with them later on today and hopefully get the link stuck up on here so you can all have a look.

I was a little disappointed when the team was read out and it included Shaun Bartlett but lacked Jerome Thomas. There was an occasion in the first half when Bartlett had the ball down the inside right channel, he burst his way into the box and just when any natural striker would have pulled the trigger, he decided to square the ball to Gareth Southgate. There weren't even any of our players up alongside him, and It was that kind of evening for us really. I was sitting next to a kid who must have been about 7 years old, and even he was telling Spector to "F***ing look before you boot it upfield". The delivery of the ball forwards to the more attacking players was awful al evening, Powell (although he didn't play too badly) was also guilty of just thumping it out of defence when a short ball into one of the midfielders would have been a better option to take.

To be honest, although Murphy left in acrimonious circumstances, he was without a doubt the most creative midfielder we had at the club and his departure has left a bit of a void in the middle. We don't have a playmaker in there anymore. Nobody who can run along the midfield line and then spot the run of a striker and slip it through a gap for him to run onto, and that is something that we will surely need to sort out when the transfer window opens up again. Rommedahl can play creatively when he wants to, but he had a relative novice up against him last night in the shape of Taylor and he still never managed to get past him. In fact, I think the only time I saw the flying winger beat a man last night was when he was running towards our own goal, before playing it back to Thomas Myhre.

In order to win big matches your players have to be able to rise to the occasion, and in the cold light of day, we simply didn't do that. Boro totally deserved their victory on the night, and I just hope now that they can go on and beat The Hammers at Villa Park aswell. The future certainly looks bright for that club. They had a number of youth players on the field last night, and if you combine that with the fact that their chairman isn't afraid to spread a few quid about I think Boro could be a real force in seasons to come. I have been to The Riverside on four seperate occasions now and I have never seen their fans so up for a game. The place was buzzing when they got their second and third goals, and although they never managed to shut our fans up, I don't think our players truly believed that they had it within themselves to claw us back into the match when it went to 3-1. All of the 50/50 decisions were given Boro's way by Dowd and I'm starting to wonder if he has something against Charlton. Our record under him this season? Played 5, lost 5.

Man of the match was probably Mark Viduka. For such a big guy he certainly can turn on a sixpence, and our players were just afraid to tackle him for the fourth goal. The defence never really got to grips with him all night.

We were all hoping that the journey home was going to be a party on the trains, but in truth, most people just covered their heads and slept. As I posted last night, I got a phone call from someone telling me that one of the carriages got badly damaged, but seeing as how no one else has reported it this morning it looks like that may have been wide of the mark. I did speak to one fan who said that a few seats got ripped out near to where he was, but nothing that could constitute the smashing up of a carriage, and he states that he certainly didn’t see anyone get arrested.

The train managed to get back to Kings Cross 45 minutes ahead of schedule, but the coaches were nowhere to be seen, so we ended up having to hang about on the streets of London until 3am. After a brief and somewhat disheartened rendition of Valley Floyd Road we were all left quietly to our own thoughts, contemplating how disappointing the evening had been, and where the club is to go next. The season is over in truth, all that is left to play for now is that top half position in The Premiership. In years gone by that would have been more than enough to keep the fire burning in the bellies of our players, but after having the promise of something greater on the horizon for so long, they will have it all to do if we are to avoid our customary end of season slump.

Final word has to be about the fans once again (and also a final thank you to the board for all of the free travel). I was honoured to be a part of the crowd at The Riverside last night, and regardless of the score the support was unwavering throughout the whole 90 minutes. It was the best atmosphere I have heard at a Charlton game in a number of seasons and to be fair, we deserved a better response from the players than we eventually got.

Train Damage?

I've just arrived home from the match, and while I don't have the energy to write a summary of the game this evening, I thought that I should post about a phone call I recieved at about 2:45AM outside Kings Cross Station.

It was from a friend of mine who was on one of the planes, allegedly not too far away from Peter Varney, and apparently he got a call to say that one of the carriages on the second train had been 'smashed up', and that 30 Charlton fans had been arrested for the damage. Over £120,000 spent by the club on free travel to the match, and then this. That's gratitude for you...

This news is unconfirmed of course, but I thought that it should be shared anyway. If it's the truth, I'm sure we'll find out more about it in the morning.

As for the game, I was fuming when I came out of the ground and was more than ready to sharpen my pencil and get stuck into the side, but a long journey home has calmed me down somewhat, and I think I'll allow myself more time to digest the day's events before I go off on a tirade.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

If I picked the team...

Not too long to go now... I've got about 3 hours of my night shift left, and then hopefully I'll be able to get a couple of hours sleep before it's time to get underway.

Here is the formation and team that I would like to see Curbishley put out this evening:






Monday, April 10, 2006

Boro Preview

So here we go then, the biggest game of the season so far, and a game which could effectively end the season if we were to lose it...

Before the home game with Boro I remember predicting that we would draw with them on the night, be paired with West Ham in the Semi, and then beat Boro at The Riverside in the replay, but now that the game is so close I'm starting to feel more than a little nervous.

It's so important that we don't concede a stupid early goal up there. Both fans and players have been talking about little else for over a fortnight now, and with all of the preparation that has gone into this match, I wonder how the players would react to going 1 down in the 5th minute.

I went to both Wigan and Blackburn away this season, we conceded early goals in each of those games and subsequently went to pieces, conceding 4 to Blackburn and 3 to Wigan. If things go wrong for us on such a big occasion would we be able to pick ourselves up and get back into the game? Well, It's the job of the 5,250 Charlton fans to ensure that if an early setback occurs, we don't get frustrated, we don't get disheartened, and we don't get on the backs of the players. Just keep singing the songs and have faith in our ability to turn it around. Boro are a Jekyll and Hyde team at the Riverside, and I'm entirely confident that if both fans and players go up there with the right attitude, eventually we will prevail.

As far as team news goes, Darren Bent will obviously slot back in up front presumably in place of his cup-tied namesake, and it remains to be seen whether Curbishley will stick Bothroyd up front alongside him, or whether he will leave Darren plowing a lone furrow up front, and pack the midfield with 5 instead. Powell will probably return at left back, meaning that Hermann will drop back into the centre with Chris Perry, while Spector will continue to deputise for the injured Luke Young.

Key areas are going to be the flanks, and how well we deal with the robust threat of Hasselbaink/Viduka/Yakubu. I am confident in our ability to win the central midfield battle, and I also believe that either Thomas or Rommedahl (maybe even both) will be able to make things happen on the wings for us, but the height and physical precense that Boro have up top means that it is imperative that Spector sticks close to Downing and stops him providing crosses.

I haven't been able to find out how many tickets have been sold in the home areas for this one, but I assume that the match will not sell out. They had a local derby with rival Newcastle at the weekend, and there were over 4,000 empty seats there, plus their continued involvement in the UEFA Cup should also mean that a few of the working class smog-monsters will save their pennies for an away trip to Bucharest rather than spend it on a Quarter Final Replay. Most of their official build up is only available for fans who have paid to join Boro World on their website, but from what I can gather, certain sections of their support feel that they have already done most of the hard work by getting a draw at The Valley. Perhaps that attitude will also work in our favour.

These are the sort of games that every club wants to be involved in, and the sort of game where every fan wants the right to say “I was there when…” in the event that a glorious victory is earned. If we do manage to pull it off, it’s going to be one hell of a party on the train back to London.

Come on you Addicks, we’ve done all we can to give you the advantage, now go out there and make us proud.

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

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Bent + Bothroyd = Blank

I got back into the car after today's game just in time to hear Talksport's informed analysis, and the analysis was thus. "A contender for the worst Premiership game of all time".

While I'll admit that the entertainment on show was never really going to appeal to fans other than those of the clubs involved, it was hardly as bad as they were making it out to be. Reporter Ian Abrahams proclaimed to the nation "The afternoon wasn't a total loss, I got to watch the grass grow", well I'm sorry Ian, but I don't know quite what you were expecting when you came to The Valley this afternoon. Everton have scored 11 goals in 17 away games, while Charlton so clearly had their minds on other things, it doesn't take a genius to work out that entertaining the nation was not our utmost priority this afternoon.

As it happens, I think the man most directly responsible for the poor standard of the game was referee Peter Walton, the man who incidentally also took charge at the second most boring game of the season; West Brom at The Valley. He simply refused to let the game flow, and punctured it with a seemingly endless series of ludicrous and petty free-kicks. Neither team was even given the chance to gain any momentum and the football on show clearly suffered because of it. The last four Premiership games Walton has refereed have finished 0-0, 1-0, 0-1, and 0-0 again. Those four matches have produced no fewer than 17 bookings as well; I don't think I'll bother going next time he is set to officiate in SE7.

My honourable mention this week goes to the Bulgarian Beckham. Kish was all over the place, and even had the former boo-ers in the attic of the Covered End singing his name at one point. His passing was thoroughly decent, and he didn't stop running the entire time he was on the pitch. Wise move to withdraw him when we did, lets keep him fresh for the Boro.

As for the rest of the midfield, I think they were made to look worse than they were today by the static performances delivered by the front two. Its frustrating to see counter attack after counter attack fizzle out just past the half way line, but I was so conscious today of the fact that there was simply no one up front for the midfielders to lay the ball off to. If you're a striker, when you make a run you should be running into space, or drawing a defender with you to create space for someone else. It's not a difficult concept, but it's one that neither player seems to understand. Bothroyd ran down blind alley after blind alley; and as for Bent, he only ever runs for a ball when he is certain that somebody else is going to beat him to it.

On a more positive note, the defence looked solid enough for most of the game. All of them played reasonably well, and Spector's performance at right back was especially pleasing when you take into account the fact that Luke Young's season appears to be over. I don't know what it is about our treatment room, but it seems like players are taking a month just to recover from a touch of indigestion. It wasn't a surprise at all to see the club come out and state that Luke's World Cup chances are now hanging by a thread. Curbishley claims "He had a similar injury last season and was out for about six weeks but we felt we might not have treated it properly then". Why not? And why did you let him back into the side if you knew the injury wasn't treated properly? It just doesn't make sense.

I suppose the most obvious thing to come out of today's game is the fact that without our top scorer we just don't threaten teams. Just make sure that when you fill in your player of the year ballot, you underline the letter 'D' in front of the word 'Bent'.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Everton Preview

If we didn't have such a huge game next week, we would probably be describing this match as one we needed to win in order to achieve our ambitions of finishing in the top 10. But, the fact is that we do have a huge game next week, so to be brutally honest I'm none too fussed about the result of this one.
Any Charlton fan in their right mind would swap a defeat tomorrow for a win up at The Riverside and the players will be thinking a similar sort of thing I'm sure. The injury that Young sustained at Upton Park goes to show that you are only ever one bad tackle away from missing the biggest game of your season, and nobody else will want to be on the treatment table when Operation Riverside takes place on the 12th.

Curbishley will bring Spector in for Young and is likely to stick to the flat back four, whereas Rommedahl will likely drop out of the first team in favour of Jerome Thomas. Marcus Bent will start up front against his former club, and the official site has dropped a hint that perhaps Darren Bent is due a rest. I don't think I can blame them for that. What is the point of him picking up a calf strain or something stupid like that so close to next week? With Marcus Bent already cup-tied, if we lost Darren aswell we would be looking at a front two of Bothroyd and Bartlett up at Boro. Hmm. Yep, I think it's safe to say that we shouldn't risk our top scorer in this one.

From Everton's point of view this campaign started disastrously, but has got better and better for them the longer it has gone on. After 12 defeats from their first 19 games, 8 victories from their next 13 has seen the club rise from 17th to 10th in the league, and a couple of their players still have their sights set on a place in Europe again. They are always difficult to break down but if the truth is to be told, playing Everton is normally a dull affair at both ends of the pitch.

Their form away from home is pretty similar to ours. They have obtained 18 points on the road so far this term, and yet scored only 11 goals from their 16 away games. Just goes to prove the way that they like to play really, nick something, and then hope to hang onto it.

Village idiot Mark Lawrenson thinks that Everton are going to snatch this one 2-1. I think that we will get a late point.

Cynic Athletic's Prediction - 1-1 Draw (Thomas - Beattie)

E-Mail from Talal?

Not sure quite where to start with this. I recieved an email today from someone claiming to be Talal El Karkouri.

My first though when I saw that in my inbox was 'Who's on a wind up then?', but the email address looks genuine enough, and the email itself doesn't read like a wind up, so I thought I'd post it anyway and leave you all the chance to make up your own minds.

I remember thinking when I read the article this morning that it was a bit vague. Talal was quite a popular player among the Charlton fans, so it was strange to see him leave the club without even a direct quote from the man himself. The headline of the article aswell was rather strange, "competition to fierce for Talal" makes it sound a bit like there is something going on behind the scenes that we aren't aware of. Its hardly a ”Thanks for you're efforts, good luck in the future” headline is it? More of a “Talal can't face being on the bench, so he’s limping out of the club” headline. Very unlike Charlton.
Anyway, wind up or not, here is what I recieved at 12:51 this afternoon:

I am concerned that the news brief on the official website posted by my club Charlton Athletic may be misleading to the supporters.

I am disappointed that I have not been involved much this season although I have recovered full from any injuries.

I have participated in the reserve games in order to remain in top condition and ready to be recalled to the first team.

After I was told by my manager that I would not feature in any of the up coming Charlton games, I agreed to go to Quatar to play first team football for the next few weeks.

I have not discussed a permanent move with any clubs at this time.

I very much appreciate the support of the Charlton fans, and will address other concerns mentioned in the article upon reaching Quatar.

I wish my team the best of luck in their up coming games.

I am posting this to you on my way to London Heathrow for my departure to Quatar.

Many Thanks,

Talal El Karkouri
Thursday, April 06, 2006

I would appreciate it if you not post my email address or distribute it.

Draw your own conclusions, and I would appreciate some comments regarding this…

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Quick Update

Just a very short update to this post.

I just spoke to Boro again, and they told me that so far they have managed to sell 13,500 seats in home area for the Quarter Final replay. The deadline for season ticket holders to reserve their own seats has now passed, and the tickets are on general sale.

Tata Talal

Talal El Karkouri has been sent out on loan to Quatar side Al Gharafa until the end of the season with a view to a permanent move in the summer. In situations like this, the clubs normally agree the potential transfer fee before the loan commences, but there is no mention of his price in the article.

I quite liked old Talal, he made the odd crazy challenge or two but he had good positional sense, and was able to play quite creatively for a defender. His last performance for the first team was up at the City of Manchester stadium earlier this year, when he created a goal for Darren Bent with a superb defence-splitting pass, and popped up in their box in the last minute to almost steal a point for us.

The player himself claims that a lack of first team opportunities are the reason for him wanting the move; that and the opportunity to play in 'The Asian Champions League!'
In his two years with the club, he has made a total of 48 appearances, scoring 5 goals.
I will remember Talal mainly for his committed performances, his driving runs forward, and a wonderful set piece goal against the Gunners at The Valley.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Boro urge fans to snap up tickets

I was looking at the Boro official site this afternoon, and they have now made a plea to their own fans to spoil 'Operation Riverside'. The article says that we are trying to turn the match into a home game, and Middlesbrough have urged their fans 'not to be outsung by the army of 5,000+ traveling Londoners'.
Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that 5,250 will be the largest Addicks congregation outside of SE7 since the play off final back in 1998. There is no way that they are going to shut us up on the night.

I rang the Boro ticket office a few minutes ago to see if they could give me any indication as to how well tickets have been selling so far. Unfortunately, I think my Southern accent kind of gave the game away when I finally got to the front of the queue! The bloke was extremely unhelpful, and told me that he couldn't tell me how many tickets were available, because seats are still reserved for season ticket holders until 5pm this evening. They are aware that all our tickets were sold within the first 26 hours that they were on sale. Perhaps they are being cagey about numbers out of worry that there will be Addicks trying to gain entry to the home ends of the ground on the night. I'll just try again in the morning and put on a dodgy Northern accent.

As Inspector Sands claims, a major factor on the crowd up there will be the outcome of their second leg against FC Basel which is live tomorrow night on ITV 4 at 8pm. It's all they're talking about at the moment, and if they overturn their 2-0 defeat in Switzerland, that will put the added financial drain of another European away day into the fans minds, and perhaps a few of them will make the decision to avoid our replay and save their money for the UEFA Cup game. I'll probably watch their game tomorrow, it's a massive game for them so they should play their strongest side, and I'm interested to know what McLaren thinks that is.

From our point of view the club claim that we have been issued another 400 tickets which will go on sale tomorrow at 9am, but Varney stated that 150 of those tickets have already been reserved as the initial allocation was oversubscribed somewhat. One of my mates claims to know someone whose brother's stepmother's second cousin's roommate's girlfriend works for Middlesbrough. He told me that there are up to 2,000 more tickets available, but if we took the extra allocation from them, we would have to pay for the tickets even if they weren't all sold by the night of the game. I'm not sure I believe that, but there you go. I'm sure the club has a waiting list, and if there are tickets available we will find a way to get them sold.

Monday, April 03, 2006

4k sold on day one

I Just have to say, fair play to the masses who queued outside of the Valley for a good couple of hours this morning, and fair play once again to the masses who made 08712261905 the hottest number in London all day.

I‘ve been at work all day, but the bloke getting the tickets for me via the phone line had to wait a good hour before he could even get in the queue, and it was another hour before he reached the front of it. At 10p a minute, with all those people holding for over an hour, I wonder just how much money the club made today! It's claimed that the hotline number took over 10,000 calls within the first 2 hours of the tickets going on sale. It's great to know that so many of us are going to be there up at The Riverside, it's going to be a real night to remember.
The word from the official site is that we have already sold over 4,000 tickets for the trip, and that is fantastic going.

The total number of tickets availabe is 4,800, and there can be little doubt now that we are going to sell our allocation out. Both trains are fully booked, the club have chartered two planes, and both of those have been sold out as well. There is a possibility that a third plane is also going to be made available aswell, but its likely that there is already a long waiting list for spaces on that. Free coach travel is still available from over 50 pick up points throughout the South East. Although more coaches are a lot easier to organise than more planes or trains; if you are planning on getting in on whats left of the freebies, you'll need to be by the phone first thing in the morning, and prepared to hold if necessary. I myself managed to get on the second train leaving from Kings Cross, and I count myself lucky to get that.

The club have been proved right in their decision to offer the free travel, and the fans have proved today just how up for it we are. Whether we win or lose up there the atmosphere promises to be superb, and I just can't wait.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Who did West Ham play today?

I've always been a massive fan of the way Sky present their football. The coverage of the match is always excellent. The cameraman shows you what you actually want to see (take note ITV), and the commentators/pundits are the better by far than their counterparts on the terrestrial channels. However, today’s broadcast was so totally and utterly biased in West Ham's favour that it got almost embarrassing at times.

Who were the pundits in the Sky studio? Jamie Redknapp, (son of 'Arry the 'Ammer), and Rio Ferdinand (former player). The prematch coverage was all about how West Ham's fortunes have been on the up over the last 12 months, the change in their fans' attitude towards Alan Pardew, how Rio felt about their progress this season, their chances in the FA Cup, and of course, Teddy's 40th birthday.
For those of you who didn't see the programme, Richard Keys even said "Lets hear from West Ham manager Alan Curbishley" at one point, and I'm not joking.

Half time was spent talking about how Charlton had only come to defend in numbers (although they did say that we played well in the first half). Then, the post match formalities were dominated by the presentation of the man-of-the-match award to the undeserving Mullins, and a birthday cake (for crying out loud) to dear old Teddy. We were then taken through the highlights of West Ham's best attacking play, and some of their efforts on goal. Oh, and then we heard what the West Ham manager thought of the game.
Now to be fair, Sky probably did give Curbishley a chance to speak after that, but I'd turned it off in disgust by then. I'd rather wait a few hours and then hear it from our own web site. At least that way, after the interview, I won't have to listen to Rio and Redknapp debate what effect Curbishley's words would have on West Ham.

Now that I've got that little rant out of my system, I can say that I was really proud of the way in which we played. The Boleyn is never an easy place to go and get a result, but we stifled the creativity they have in midfield (so much so that their captain was withdrawn as ineffective), and contained their threat down both flanks.
Our man of the match would be difficult choice; Hughes, Holland, and Kish were great, both full backs played well, and both Perry and Hreidarsson were accomplished. Rommedahl starting ahead of Thomas surprised me, but after another relatively unproductive performance he was taken off during the second half. Although he is a player capable of producing a moment of magic, producing it once a season just isn't enough.

So, honourable mentions this week go to the entire team, with the possible exception of Marcus Bent, who I am beginning to get the hump with. I know that he isn't fully fit yet, but do you need 100% fitness to chase a ball which is only 4 feet from you? Or to tackle an opposition player who is heading in your direction with the ball? I will gladly eat humble pie if he turns out to be a decent player for us over the next couple of years, but when we bought him I remember saying that it was too much money, and I still stand by that assessment.

Anyway, a draw continues our run of recent good form. I'm not too concerned that we have drawn three of our last 4 away games 0-0, its much better than losing them. Winning your home games and drawing your away's will get you far in this modern Premiership, and it's always prudent to get the defensive strategy right as an away side before you worry about going hell for leather in search of goals. We can play attractive, expansive and fluent football. We have already seen it in the earlier part of the season; it's just a shame that we couldn't produce more of it today in front of Sky.

They might have mentioned us if we had…

Saturday, April 01, 2006

West Ham Preview

As far as the majority of neutrals are concerned, Charlton have had a relatively poor season, and West Ham have had an relatively successful season; yet if we were to beat them at Upton Park on Sunday, we would go level on points with the Hammers. Indeed, a win by three clear goals would see us leapfrog them in the Premiership table.

On paper, there is no reason why we shouldn't feel confident about a trip to East London. We have triumphed on each of our last three meetings with West Ham, and the spirit that the players have shown during their last 2 outings really seems to have rekindled the faith of the supporters. The feelgood factor which surrounds the club at the moment reminds me of the way we used to feel during our first couple of years as a Premiership club, and Curbishley has issued an appeal to the fans to once again turn up the volume at the Boleyn Ground this weekend.

The preview on the official site claims that Curbishley has a fully fit squad to choose from for the first time in months, so it will be interesting to see what he views as his strongest XI. There are also claims in the official preview that perhaps Bothroyd will claim a starting place ahead of Marcus Bent, although personally I would like to see us stick with the side that beat Newcastle last weekend. The only change I would welcome would be the possible inclusion of Rommedahl at the expense of either Hughes or Kishishev.
Matt Holland looks set to make his 100th appearance for the Addicks.

From West Ham's point of view, it looks like Hislop will continue to deputise in goal for the injured Roy Carroll, while the form of Ashton and Harewood look set to leave Zamora consigned to the bench again, where he will have the company of birthday boy Teddy Sheringham, and possibly former Charlton winger Shaun Newton.

Etherington will surely start for West Ham, and if both Thomas and Rommedahl start for us, then there will be three out and out wingers on the pitch which could result in a very open game. Hammers captain Nigel Reo-Coker is a player whom I would love to have in our side, and whoever the central midfielders are, they will have to stick close to him if the midfield battle is to be won.

I'm confident that 'Operation Riverside' will be a success on the 12th of next month, and if it is, West Ham will be all that stand between us and our first ever appearance in the UEFA Cup next season. This is the perfect chance for us to strike a psychological blow ahead of any potential semi final. As far as I am concerned, a draw this weekend would be a good result, but a first away win in 10 games is not out of the question.

Cynic Athletic's Prediction - 2-2 Draw (M.Bent, Thomas - Ashton, Harewood)


A crippling run of night shifts has seen me sleeping through all of the normal waking hours and working through all of the normal sleeping hours this week, so apologies to all for the lack of updates over the last few days.