Friday, June 30, 2006

Powell leaves with a heavy heart

Chris Powell left Charlton's playing staff for the second time in his career today and has signed a one year deal with Premiership newcomers Watford. He's been an absolute legend during his two spells at Charlton, and I'm sure that his personality and passion will be missed as much by the rest of the squad as it will by those of us in the stands.

Murray has left the door open for a return in a coaching role once he hangs his boots up, but I thought that was the point in re-signing him anyway, Why not just offer him the deal now? The manager must have had the final say as to whether or not Powell was offered a new playing/coaching deal, so perhaps the two of them just don't see eye to eye.

No one truly expected Powell to play as many games last year as he did, but it is a testament to the stamina and skill of the man that he rose to the challenge once again and performed admirably in the Premiership. In short, he is a consumate professional who stands for all that is good in football, and I'm gutted that he's leaving us. The full story is here, and an email sent round on the bulletin promises that a full interview with Chris will be up on the official site tomorrow.

With regards to the squad Powell leaves behind, we have now lost Murphy, Smertin, Kiely, Powell, Perry, Bothroyd, Spector, Jeffers, Johansson and Bartlett, and signed only Marcus Bent and Cory Gibbs to replace them. According to this article Gibbs isn't likely to start training until November at the earliest, and he will likely require at least a month in order to get his match fitness back so we might as well rule him out until 2007. Luke Young has had a new deal on the table for a month now which he still hasn't signed, and if he does decide that his future lies elsewhere then as far as I am concerned, we will be in the midst of a defensive crisis.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Dowie tells of transfer plans

Iain Dowie has this afternoon warned Charlton fans that although new signings are in the pipeline, they aren't likely to materialise until after the Word Cup. I think we all kind of assumed that really, but it's nice to actually hear the man confirm that 'friendly talks' has taken place with other clubs, and the ground work has already been laid down behind the scenes.

"Very few clubs have completed any transfers so far this summer because of the World Cup, and the situation we are in is no different. One of the reasons I have been out at the World Cup was to see at first hand a number of targets from clubs both at home and abroad that we are actively pursuing, and we're getting close on several fronts. We've had a series of friendly talks and we're close to sealing some deals that I believe will be exciting for both the fans and the club itself.
We're looking at a number of players, including some younger acquisitions. I'm very much into joined-up thinking and planning for the longer term so supporters can expect some good buys for the future as well." - Iain Dowie

See the Official site for the full story.

The most commonly linked named remain Sidwell, Mears, and Jason Roberts, while other less touted possibilities are the likes of Trinidad and Tobago midfielder Carlos Edwards, and even veteran Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink if you believe Clubcall.

With regards to Sidwell the more I hear about him the less bothered I am about actually signing him. Reading fans who I speak to regularly have told me that they aren't too bothered about keeping him at the Madejski because of his tepid form last season, and the comments he made a couple of weeks ago about wanting £16,000 per week because he has a wife and kid to feed also didn't go down particularly well with me. I know that we need a ball-winning midfielder, but do we really want a contract rebel who has always maintained throughout the pay dispute that his primary wish is to remain with the Royals? I remember posting a while ago about only signing players who view Charlton as a dream move, and I'm not quite sure Sidwell fits that bill. I wouldn't moan if we signed him mind you, but I do have the odd reservation or two.

Here are his latest comments.

"Charlton are the only team to have tabled an official offer. We spoke to them and they offered me a certain amount. I have since told Reading to try to match that because my preference is to stay, but they haven't done that, so that's why it's all in a bit of a limbo at the moment.
I'm a South London boy and Charlton would be closer to home, if it works out great, but as I say, I want to stay at Reading and if I can do a deal I'll be very happy.
I've done a lot to get Reading into the position they are in today and should be rewarded for that. I'm a bit disappointed the club don't value me like I think they should. And it's not just me. A few of the lads should be rewarded with contracts. I am making reasonable demands that the club can pay. Reading are in the Premiership now, not League 2 where some people at the club think we still are. The whole club needs to be run like a Premiership club." - Steve Sidwell

That partial statement is taken from his latest diary entry on To read the rest of it, go here. You will need to log in to view the diary. Just choose username cynicathletic and password cynicathletic. It may chuck you back to the main page once you are logged in, but find Sidwell on player A - Z, and then click the diary link to access the members content.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Another date with Scolari

Well we rode our luck on occasions in the first half but we're through, and once again England have done the bare minimum amount of work required in order to get the job done. The BBC sum it up pretty well in truth, "England looked comfortable and clumsy in equal measure on a strange afternoon in Stuttgart."

It's boldly obvious to all football fans that we have gone just about as far as we can go in this tournament unless the standard is upped, Portugal will rip us to pieces if we continue with this type of disjointed and boring style of football. The first change that I would make would be to drop Michael Carrick again, why he was considered the be the right man to slot into the holding role on the strength of his showing against Belarus last month I will never know. Perhaps even being linked with a transfer to one of the top 3 clubs is enough to earn you a chance in the England squad these days.
Hargreaves acquitted himself well as the holding player against Sweden, so what is the point in moving him to right back in order to accommodate Carrick? Why didn't we just let Carragher continue in that position and leave Hargreaves where he was?

In truth the whole formation changing thing is really starting to annoy me. No matter how much you move the players around them, Lampard and Gerrard cannot play together and both perform to their maximum, they are just too similar. It's got to be time to stop trying to arrange the rest of the team around that central fulcrum and just deal with the problem itself. Drop one of them, bring Beckham into the middle to orchestrate the play, and give the boy Lennon his chance out on the right. I know it's difficult to bench one of the three or four truly World-class players that we have but we can't keep playing like this. We need to find a system that works for us and then fill it with the best players available, not choose a system which might not work, but accommodates all of the players that we have.

FIFA's statistics claim that Frank Lampard has had more shots on goal than any other player in Germany, and he has yet to find the net. Is it really feasible at this stage of the competition to keep him in the side just because he is getting into the right positions? He might be due a goal, but that's no guarantee that he is actually going to get one...

So Phil Scolari's Portugal are next on the list. At least they won't be at full strength when they take to the field against us. Red cards for Costinha and that little poison dwarf Deco mean that they will both have to sit out the Quarter Final, and if there is any justice FIFA should give Figo a retrospective red card as well in light of a blatant head butt. Couple that with an injured Ronaldo and with any luck Portugal will have to play with almost their second choice midfield. I'm not going to get too excited though, Scolari has put paid to England's chances in the last 2 major tournaments and you can bet your bottom dollar that he will have a plan B which actually works.

Interesting little statistic I found about Phil today. His various teams have won every single World Cup game that they have ever played in. 10 games, 10 victories. No wonder the FA wanted to sign him up so badly...

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Addicks set for a rough start to 06/07

Traditionally, one of the greatest moment of the close season is the announcement of next years fixtures. It's the day when key dates can be penciled into diaries, annual leave can be booked, and away trips can be arranged. A sign that football is back.

This year however I don't feel the same tingle up and down my spine as I have in previous years. Perhaps part of the reason for this is the fact that football hasn't even finished yet, or maybe it's just that I'm now growing accustomed to life in the Premiership and used to the fact that we have to play the best teams in the land twice a season. Either way, when you look at the fixture list for 2006/2007 the first thing that you notice is the horrendous start that we have been handed. West Ham away on the opening day, swiftly followed by Manchester United at the Valley, bogey side Bolton, and then Champions Chelsea...

Those first couple of games with Dowie in charge were always going to be hugely important to the club. A couple of early wins would help to get the doubters off of his back, placate the cynics among the fans, and breed confidence throughout the team but when I look at the fixtures (yes I know I'm a pessimist), I can't see us getting more than a point from those first four games. Four out of our first seven fixtures are London derbies, and out of those seven encounters at least five opponents will be targeting a top six finish. Dowie will certainly have his work cut out if we are to be in a mid table position after that little lot.

The best month for us looks to be a November in which we face Man City, Wigan, Reading, and Everton. The run in doesn't look to bad either but I suppose we can't really judge that until we have seen everybody in action. Each Premiership season has thrown up a couple of surprise packages, like Everton a couple of years ago when they finished fourth, or the leagues underestimation of Wigan and West Ham last year. At the moment I don't feel too confident about the coming campaign (neither does New York Addick by the looks of it), but I suppose that's to be expected right now. The new guy in charge has released players without signing any replacements so far, so hopefully when the signings finally begin to roll in, my confidence in the squad will grow. The link with Jason Roberts is definitely a step in the right direction.

Other notable dates next term are a home tie with Fulham on Boxing day, the Champions visit to the Valley on February 3rd, and a last day trip up to Anfield. The full fixture list can't be printed on a site like this for copyright reasons, but it can be found here.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

England remain in lukewarm form

Well by hook or by crook we've managed to finish top of Group B, but once again the performance from England has raised so many more questions than it answered. This was supposed to be the game in which we really stretched our legs and showed the rest of the footballing world that we have come to win this tournament, but in truth we were lucky to escape with the point we needed in order to seal our second round date with the South Americans.

Sweden were the better side for long periods, and while we proved we are still capable of scoring (wonderful) goals, some of the defending we exhibited was nothing short of shocking. I have tried to dwell on the limited number of positives thrown up by the Paraguay and T&T matches, but now that knockout football is on the way and one mistake can throw you out of the tournament, it's plainly obvious that we just aren't playing well enough right now to cope with any of the top sides in the competition, sides that are now on the horizon as paths towards the final can begin to be mapped out...

As far as I can make out from the BBC's World Cup wall chart, we are likely to face either Portugal, or the loser from the Holland/Argentina match tomorrow in any hypothetical Quarter Final, and if we were to progress a stage further, then it is likely that we would run into Brazil, Spain or France. This is assuming that we dispose of Ecuador in the last 16, of course.

The Ecuadorians aren't really a side to be feared on paper. None of their players would get into the England squad let alone the England team, and of their three games so far they have only been the better side in one of them; that was against Costa Rica where they won 3-0. Poland walked all over them and somehow contrived to lose the match 0-2 back on the 9th June, whilst Germany should really have hit them for 6 yesterday.

They strike me as the sort of side whose heads would drop if they go a goal behind early on in an important game, and I don't envisage any problems for us on Sunday. Our players are vastly more experienced than theirs when it comes to pressure situations and as long as we are tight defensively, we will prevail. Gerrard will surely slot back into the centre of midfield in place of Hargreaves, whilst Owen's injury will more than likely mean Peter Crouch also returns. Walcott should come off of the bench at some point, and if he doesn't we really need to wonder why we bothered taking him in the first place.

With Owen out, Rooney unfit and Crouch just rubbish, the fact that Walcott continues to be overlooked by Eriksson is just an insult to The Premiership's top English striker, who could be forgiven a wry smile or two in light of the fact that the strike force he was omitted from has scored just one goal in three World Cup games.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Brighter times are ahead

You could be forgiven for thinking that England had crashed out of the World Cup yesterday due to the amount of negativity broadcast across the internet this morning by our nations journalists, and whilst it is obvious to all that there are problems within the side at present, I’m trying to keep the faith and cling to the few positives we can draw from 2 lacklustre performances in Group B thus far.

We have two clean sheets, we have two wins, we are top of the group, Rooney is back, Lennon played well when he came on, Terry looks in commanding form, Gerrard’s found his shooting boots, and we have no players who are one booking away from missing a second round match due to FIFA’s decision to wipe the disciplinary slate clean once the group stage is complete.

I find it so much easier to be optimistic with England than I do when it comes to Charlton, and yes, I know there are plenty of negatives that I have just chosen not to mention but will it really do our chances any good if we dwell for too long on those negatives? Bottom line: Played 2, Won 2, Scored 3, Conceded 0.

One of England’s failing over the last few years has always been an inability to easily dispatch inferior sides who play negative and defensive football. Contrariwise, one of our strengths has been that we tend to raise our game as soon as the standard of opposition goes up. Perhaps this is due to the fact that our players are almost solely based within The Premiership, a league in which there aren’t really any teams that will play an entire match without the slightest intention of scoring against you. Trinidad were such a team in my opinion, a team who didn’t care for scoring goals and didn’t care for winning the game, they just wanted to keep a clean sheet.
It isn’t easy to steamroller a team intent with this kind of notion. People can harp on all they like about courage, organisation and safety-first strategy, but England were in a no win situation yesterday against opposition playing ‘the game of their lives’, so the fact that we did win is all that should matter in my opinion.

Brighter times are ahead. England’s first team have now chalked up 8 straight wins. Ok, we lost to Northern Ireland and Belarus, but we have also beaten Argentina on the last 2 occasions in which we have faced them. Lets have a bit of positive attitude from all who have the Three Lions in our hearts, and we’ll see where we go from there.

As for Charlton, things are still pretty quiet on the home front. Two longish term transfer saga’s are still in the offing. Jlloyd Samuel is again rumoured to be on his way back to the Valley for a shade under £1.5m, while the Sidwell story also continues to rumble on, the latest being these comments from their chief exec Nigel Howe:

“We've made it clear that Steve is not for sale. We have no intention of selling him whatsoever.

Whilst a lot of clubs have intimated that he has a 'talk clause' in his contract, they can talk to him as much as they like because he's not leaving.
We've had no official bid for him. It's all conjecture. It's about money. If I had an agent working for me I would want to get the best deal possible. I would do everything in my powers to do that. Footballers have short careers and want the best contract they can. But there's a fair price for everything.
We've had an on-going discussion with Steve's agent and we're confident we will agree terms, it's just a matter of fine tuning.”

But in the Reading Evening post, Sidwell doesn’t seem so sure about whether or not he’s staying…

“My agent had a meeting with Hammo (director of football Nicky Hammond) last week. We were offered a new deal and I will meet my agent to discuss that today.
I don’t think what Reading have offered is really what we’re looking for, though. It’s a platform to work from but I’m sure there is room for negotiation and improvement on that. I’m certainly not saying I would leave. It depends on the club and their ambition.
It is down to Reading. This contract has got to be the right one for me. I have told my agent that because I have a baby boy and a wife to look after.
If I can’t get what I could get somewhere else then I might have to look elsewhere. Reading say they have ambition and they have certainly been saying the right things, but we’ll see if they put their money where their mouth is and talk the talk.
Every player wants to be the best and play at the highest level possible.”

We should have signed him last summer really. He had just been named as the 3rd placed player in the CCC's Player of the year awards, and his contract was in its last months. A year down the line and his side are in the same league as ours, he has 3 years left to run on his current deal, and Reading fans who I know claim that he hasn't been the same player this term as he was last. The fee being talked about will have to be a minimum of £2.5 in order to activate the talk clause mentioned by Howe, but in reality the final figure will probably be a little more than that if we are to beat off competition from Everton.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Bring Brazil down a notch

"If we were watching any other team in the world, I'd say that they just aren't at the races today" - Mark Lawrenson

As I write this there are 35 minutes gone in the Brazil vs Croatia match and I have been drawn to my keyboard thanks to continuous comments like the one above from the BBC's commentary duo. We already know that Brazil are a great side with talented individuals, but they are not Gods, they are not unbeatable, and they do not deserve this consistent and sickening adulation from those who watch them play.

Why the 'if they were any other team' Mark? Are Brazil not capable of having an off day? Motson is guilty of this misguided worship aswell; upon the South Americans winning their first corner of the tournament he was heard to utter "Oh do Brazil have to bother taking corners now?" Well yes they do actually John, because those are the laws of the game. What about this one; "When the Croatians broke then, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Kaka and Adriano didn't even bother chasing back, they were sure enough to say 'Oh well, we can just let the defence deal with it'." Well, that's just poor and irresponsible football in my book, not an opportunity to manufacture another compliment.

They have just been built up so much by all and sundry that I was almost disappointed when they took to the field in their traditional yellow shirts as opposed to long flowing capes and luminous Spandex with the letter 'B' emblazoned upon their chests. Yes they are capable of producing moments of magic (Kaka has just put them in front), but to be honest I haven't seen anything in this World Cup so far that England should be quaking in their boots over, and that includes this first half performance from the reigning Champions.

I love watching great teams play great football and I'm not anti-Brazil by any means, just anti the incessant talking-up of a side we are likely to have to face eventually if we want to go all the way in this tournament.

None of the favourites have set the World alight. Argentina, Holland, Italy, Portugal and Germany have all looked good in patches but in my opinion they have all missed the opportunity to lay down a marker that says 'we are the team to beat this year'.
Granted we didn't perform to the heights of which we are capable during our first match, but the World Cup is a marathon not a sprint, and the pundits who were so quick to criticise the performance were the same pundits who have been telling us all season that the mark of Champions is the ability to win games without playing well.

The actual performance aside, the tournament couldn't have gone much better for us so far. The draw between the Swedes and Trinidad and Tobago means that a victory on Thursday will see us qualify for the knockout stages after two games, add a draw against Sweden next Tuesday and that will be enough to see up top Group B and go on to face the Group A runners up. Ecuador look likely to fill that position at the moment, and I'm not too frightened about the prospect of playing them...

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Make your mind up, Luke

It's been a quiet week down at Charlton considering the fact that a new manager has just been installed. Not much transfer speculation, no further players have been released, and the only official comments to come out of the club are from Murray, firstly affirming that Dowie was always the first choice for the managers job (not quite sure I believe that), and secondly revealing that Luke Young has been offered a 'lucrative' new three year deal.

Frankly, I'm a little bit annoyed with Luke Young and the whole new contract situation. The club announced the fact that the contract was on the table at almost exactly the same time that Sky Sports News broke the news that the player himself had handed in a transfer request. That smells a little bit off to me. The club must have known about Luke's transfer request before Sky Sports did, and it seems to me like a contract was then thrown together and made public as quickly as possible in order to muddy the waters surrounding his availability. You can't blame the cub for this, and so far it's worked. There have been no further developments on the story since the new contract was announced.

The only comment from the player so far has been to chastise the club for allegedly overlooking a contractual obligation to review his current deal. He states that this is the reason that he has handed in the request. He also claims in the same statement that "he is aware that there is a change in management", but that this change doesn't give the club an excuse not to fulfill their obligations. If this was the only reason that he announced his desire to leave, then why didn't he sign the new contract as soon as it was put down in front of him? I can't imagine that the terms of the deal wouldn't place him pretty close to the top of the pile when it comes to the top earners in SE7, if not the very top.
Also, as he is 'aware of the change in management', surely he can understand that the new manager needs to have the final say about who's deals are extended and who's deals are terminated. We have to remember that Young is not out of contract and unsure about which club he will be at next season, he is just after a review of his current contract. The transfer request was slapped in less than 48 hours after Dowie was installed, that's barely even time for the bloke to unpack his personal belongings let alone start to assess which players are deserving of a pay rise.

The West Ham link has been around for a couple of months now and it continues to pop up in every story where Young's future is mentioned. Luke will be as aware of their interest as the rest of us are, and which ever way I look at this situation I keep coming back to the fact that the deal has been on the table now for 7 days, and yet it remains unsigned.
The guy is our Captain, and therefore a liaison between the rest of the squad and the manager. It cannot be good for the side, or the image of the club when viewed by possible new signings, to have the Captain involved in this kind of contractual unrest. I want Luke Young to stay with the club, and if the statement he made about the lack of a new deal being the only reason he placed a transfer request is the truth, then what reason does he now have not to sign?

If he does indeed decide to leave for Upton Park, I'll be fuming if it's for the paltry £3.6M that has been touted. Mills has been brought in to make sure that the club doesn't continue to get it's pants pulled down over the price of outgoing players, and if West ham want our Captain (who is an England International), then they should damn well have to pay us what he's worth.