Monday, 30 March 2009

Holland 3 v Scotland 0


This nightmare of a sporting year for me continued on Saturday at the Amsterdam Arena. No, I wasn't expecting to see Scotland get a result but I was hoping for a performance. We got neither. Scotland played with absolutely no ambition and the game was over on the stroke of half-time as Robin Van Persie headed home the second unopposed header of the game. It wasn't even as if Holland were anything special - they just didn't need to get out of second gear.

I left early in the second-half in search of solace in beer at £6-7 a pint. On the trudge away from the stadium, I got talking to another disgusted looking Scotsman who was adamant that the problem was we were watching a Championship manager with Championship players playing Premier League opposition. He had a point and was too gracious to remind me that Charlton are really a League One club now when the obvious subject of the Addicks came into the conversation.

I am not going to Hampden to watch the Iceland game and I won't be at St Mary's on Saturday. Instead I think I will put an afternoon's graft in the garden.

Friday, 27 March 2009

No Administration in the Championship...

The deadline for going into Administration and our ten point penalty this season passed virtually unnoticed yesterday.

No great surprise for us, as our third-party debt is relatively small. There being little point in the Board seeking to write-down debts to themselves that they are effectively prepared to write-off in any event. It could still have happened of course if other creditors had been able to put us under pressure or the Board considered that the transition to League One was unmanageable and, therefore, sought to take the points hit now rather than during next season. For that reason alone there should be grounds for some optimism and I am pleased that Richard Murray has again been proved as good as his word.

Slightly more surprising was the fact that none of our relegation co-horts with wider debt problems took the option either. Southampton, Watford and Norwich are the three with the biggest financial exposures, but Watford are effectively safe and they would have dropped right back into the mix with a ten points deduction; the Saints and the Canaries both have realistic hopes of avoiding the drop at this stage and Administration would have meant certain relegation. The fear for the latter two is that they might have decided to delay the inevitable in the hope of salvation and could face the calamitious prospect of relegation and a ten point deduction next season.

Interesting also to note the one big mover in the Championship on deadline day. Unbeleivably for me, millionaires/billionaires QPR decided to loan top scorer Dexter Blackstock to Nottingham Forest. QPR are going nowhere again this season and the goals have dried up for Blackstock but surely they aren't so short of funds that they loan their best forward out? If I were a Hoops-fan, I would be livid. It would be a straw-that-broke-the-camels back moment. Ambition, my arse.

Right, must get ready for City airport....the pipes are calling.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Scots A-Way

If you think following Charlton Athletic has become difficult in recent years, spare a thought for a fellow Addick who also follows his home country. It's eleven years since Scotland last participated in a World Cup finals. I was there in France as "the flag" will tell you. It's been a mighty struggle to qualify for anything since.

The desire and support of the fans is unwavering and we go again on Saturday into a match that looks like mission impossible. The Dutch in the Amsterdam Arena is a massive task. Five years ago they exacted 6-0 revenge over us for having had the temerity to beat them 1-0 at Hampden in the home leg.

If the Dutch better us over the two games, and you have to take them to do that, we will need to finish above Norway just to get the chance of a play-off place for South Africa (assuming we can finish above Iceland and Macedonia). That is probably within the capability of the current squad but it's no foregone conclusion and the opposition we are likely to face in any play-offs will most likely be strong favourites to beat us. The wait may well go on.

In the meantime, it's down to the 8,500 ticket holders for the Amsterdam Arena to urge their countrymen on. I will be there and we will enjoy ourselves come what may.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Should they stay or should they go now?

No, I'm not talking about the managerial team. With Tom Soares packed back to the Stoke stiffs this week there is mounting speculation about the playing staff clearout in the Summer. Mark Kinsella has said as much to the Newsshopper this week as 14 contracts come up for renewal. Having been relegated two years ago we sold on those players for whom we could realise fees and have gradually culled all the PL wage-earners. The task now will be to reduce the overall size of the squad to reign in the outgoings and to ensure enough new blood and characters for a fresh start.

Here's my view on who we are likely to keep and who is likely to go as well as some personal observations on both;


It's never easy to judge goalkeepers who have to play behind a team that goes down.

- Rob Elliott - He's done ok for me and whilst nowhere near the standard or Kiely or Carson, he is still very young in goalie terms and may yet mature into the finished article. He will be on affordable wages and I can see him playing all next year.

- Darren Randolph - Those who have seen him more than I have speak strongly in his favour. I'm coloured by the bloopers on his Valley debut. Like Elliott he won't be on big money, is young and should be retained.

- Nicky Weaver - He had seen his best days when we signed him and he'll be lukcy to find another Championship club unless he takes a wage cut in the Summer. He's out of contract and the chances of a renewal at the Valley are zero.


- Kelly Youga - Looked a real find when we signed him and was good to watch although he tends to mess around on the ball and invite trouble. He's had a poor season and his distribution has become a problem. He's always keener to hold a player off the ball than get ahead and play it - never a good sign. If Parkinson stays, I think Youga will be alright, although I believe Basey is a better option, especially for League One.

- Grant Basey - I think he gets a hard deal from Addicks fans. He's quick, direct and likes to get forward. He can get caught out of position but they all can and he is still young. A must for next season.

Right Backs

- Yassin Moutaouakil - Disliked by Parkinson and his attitude at Bristol City when he came on and couldn't be bothered to run for the ball has raised big question-marks. However, he looked top class when he arrived. He has pace and awareness and also links up well down the wing. His problem so far has been that his mistakes have been costly. If Parky stays I think we might look to get shot but I would keep him and play him next year.

- Danny Butterfield - Can't see what he's added above and beyond Moutaoukil. Either way he's not afforable in League One.


- Mark Hudson - Not his most enjoyable season I am sure but he has the game to make us hard to beat in League One. He is on decent Championship money and might be a target for those we leave behind. I'd like to see him play all next season but he could be flogged for a cheaper recruit.

- Darren Ward - He's done ok but would probably want too much money to make it a permanent move and to play in League One. Can't see him being here in June.

- Jonathan Fortune - Forch has been unlucky with injury this season but he I think he could form a decent League One pairing with Hudson. He will be on good money and has been a target for other Championship sides previously. I think he's due a testimonial and I can see him staying unless we get offered a price for him (£500,000?).

Central Midfield

- Nicky Bailey - Has been our most influential player and knows League One. He will be a target for Championship clubs and money talks. If we can hang on to him we should because I don't think we'll be able to replace him.

- Matt Holland - A stalwart who has benefitted from Charlton dropping out of the PL. It's extended his career at the Valley and he will be hoping he is retained as one of the experienced pros. He will be on good money and the Board might see him as being too expensive for League One and we're not short of options in the middle. Please don't think of converting him to a centre-half full-time.

- Matt Spring - Has played less and less in every game to the point of not featuring at all last week. He's under contract so will probably start next season although he'd not be my first pick.
-Therry Racon - One highlight of this season and a player who has spent some time on loan in League One. With youth on his side, this could be a big season for him and he must be a starter for me, although he needs a grafter tight alongside him to win the midfield.
- Jonjo Shelvey - Surely he'll start next season having signed a deal last month? Promises to be a big player for us if we can find the right role for him. I'm not convinced at the moment with holding midfield or anything out wide. Maybe in the hole but that would mean playing five in midfield again. Perhaps that's what we need to do next year if we can't improve our striking options because we haven't got two worth playing together at the moment up front.

- Zheng Zhi - No chance of him facing League One opposition. Wages too high and he'll have ambitions of the PL or Championship at least. He's out of contract so there'll be no fee either.

- Jose Semedo - It will be good to have a fully fit Jose back in the side. If we keep him, he would be amongst my preferred pairings with Bailey and Racon. He provides the added Curbs factor of being useful elsewhere across the pitch if necessary.

- Rashi Yussuff - "Toks" is twenty this year and has failed to break into the first team. With a long list of midfielders ahead of him, even allowing for some departures, it's hard to see him getting a chance and he could go as we trim the squad.

- Scott Wagstaff - Similar problem to Yussuff. He has at least broken in to the first team but had a nightmare against Yeovil in the League Cup and has not been seen since. Another squad victim?

- Josh Wright - Ditto Yussuff and Wagstaff. He did get on against Burnley this year but faces a big task next year to break in against League One opposition.

Left Wing

- Not a strong position for us, hence all the loanees who have been tried. I prefer Bailey in the middle but he might be best-fit here to accommodate Semedo and Racon. Not sure about Yussuff, Wagstaff or Wright's left-wing capabilities (no left footers?) but that could be an option. Looks like a priority if we are bringing new faces in.

Right Wing

- Lloyd Sam - Has the game to be a real threat in League One. Really needs to get the confidence to score goals and 09-10 could be his big chance. I think he'll start next year.

- Darren Ambrose - Not sure he's got a proper position. One of the biggest disappointments I've come across. Missed his chance at Ipswich and he'll regret that. He'll take a huge pay cut and still be playing for someone else next year if he's lucky.


- Tresor Kandol - Good game against Watford but I've seen precious little to hang my goal-scoring hopes on. He is better in the air than anyone else we've got upfront but that's no reason for hanging on to him. League One might be his level but Leeds have been keen to get shot and I can see why. I would let him go back.

- Deon Burton - Tries hard and looks busy but he had never been a goal-scorer throughout his career and it's hurt us this season. He's under contract and we're stuck with him.

- Izale McLeod - Hasn't exactly ripped it up on loan at Millwall in League One. He needs to re-find what he had at MK Dons. I can't even see him managing a goal against us in the future. If he starts next season with Burton up front you can forget any ideas of challenging.

- Andy Gray - Nightmare season for the Scot both on and off the field. He might return ready and willing in August but if anyone offers us half what we paid, he'll be gone. He'll score more goals than Burton and McLeod put together but I won't lose any sleep if he moves on.

- Chris Dickson - Unfulfilled potential. Apparently not very good at playing to orders. Cheap and contracted, so he looks like it's make or break for him next season. Needs a run of starts and a run of goals. A possible target for a cheeky Gillingham or equivalent, although we're hardly likely to be in the market for a quality striking replacement so I suspect the Board will hang on if that happened.

- Stuart Fleetwood - We really need to make our minds up with this bloke. Ample evidence to suggest he'll be another Charlie McDonald or Scott McGleish. Perhaps he's one for League Two.

- Svetoslav Todorov - Something's not right with Todorov. We failed to play him week after week when he returned from injury when everyone else was mis-firing up front. He'll be on good wages and he's had a lot of money from Charlton for little return since signing. Cut our losses.

So, I think we need cover at right-back and possibly centre-half, as well as a left-sided midfielder and a goalscorer or two who are genuine improvements on what we've currently got.

The decision about the management team has to be taken first.....

Sunday, 22 March 2009

"It's clear price will be a major factor..."

Words of wisdom from our Chief Executive, Steve Waggott, on page 15 of yesterdays programme. Waggott was obviously either struggling to fill his page (my guess)  or is frustrated at not yet being in a position to tell us what the plans are for season ticket deals next year (maybe both?).

If you didn't get a programme, I've summarised what he said below...

- We're at the business end of the season (it's 21st March)
- Perfomances have improved (even if results haven't)
- Despite what you might think, no-one at the club is giving up until relegation is mathemical certainty (as opposed to a certainty).
- However, we are now considering third tier football (so are all of our fans)
- There's no parachute money next season and even less TV money (just in case there was anyone left who isn't painfully aware of this).
- There are a tough few months in store as we restructure the business (again).
- It would be good to do a Leicester and bounce back (as opposed to a Colchester).
- The Board discussed season ticket pricing this week. It's very important to get it right (and...).
- We have to strike the right balance between highest pricing the market will bear and yet making it attractive enough to appeal to the largest number of fans (and...).
- It's been a poor season and season ticket sales will plummet irrespective (unanimous on that one - the only question is what can we do to minimise this?).
- There's plenty to play for in the last eight games (it doesn't look like it out there does it?).
- We will need to regroup and all push in the same direction (stirring stuff).

I have known Steve Waggott to nod to for years around and about the club as well in local pubs on odd occasions. He always worked long hours in his Community role and I have no doubt he's been working equally hard as Chief Exec this year. Unfortunately there has been very little to show for it and communication with the clubs supporters has been almost non-existent. He can't be blamed for the dire performances on the pitch or the fact that he has had a suffocatingly vicious circle of events to try and break. However, I think he would struggle to document his successes since he took over from Peter Varney.

At a time when there is a growing clamour for Phil Parkinson to be relieved of his duties, I think it's premature to be calling for Waggott's head but he really does need to pull a rabbit out of the hat if he's to restore some of the confidence lost in him this season. Peter Varney resided over a halcyon period in our history in the PL but his legacy will be the almost non-stop sequence of ideas and initiatives which invariably struck the right note with the supporters at just the right time. I am thinking about the annual free away travel, the various "Operations" for big games - three planes to Middlesbrough on a work-day - and the genius offer of a free season ticket in the event of a very possible first season return (and second) to the top flight. With Varney back on the firm as vice-chair of the Charlton Community Trust, I wonder whether he's refreshed sufficiently to lend Waggott some help in getting an imaginative and compelling new deal ready so that he doesn't have to scratch around to fill his page in the Birmingham programme.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Charlton Athletic 0 v Preston NE 0 (zzzzzz)

I'm writing this watching the second-half of the England v Scotland 6 Nations game (must be Frank Haddon's last match in charge). I witnessed another dismal first half at the Valley and then had to get home to send an urgent email for work. I wanted to return for the second half (I can get home and back in ten minutes) but the minimum-wage, common-sense doners we employ on the gate were in full Jobsworth mode and adamant that I wouldn't be allowed back in, season ticket or no season ticket. Rules is rules etc etc, absolutely pathetic. On reflection, they did me a favour, although it meant Mrs Peeps had to watch the second-half without me.

You can probably guess, that I am not best pleased right now and that first-half "performance" didn't help. You really have to wonder what's going on in the dressing room and how Phil Parkinson goes about motivating his teams. We were abject at home yet again. Preston spent the first half probing for an opening on the flanks from which to feed Grizzly Parkin (has he put some weight on or what?). Our back four (Youga, Hudson, Ward and Butterfield) coped easily enough, although Youga was all over the place. Butterfield got a great last-ditch block tackle in after 25 minutes or Preston might have tested Rob Elliott seriously. Other than that they did little. 

Trouble is, we did even less. A couple of lone Shelvey runs aside, there was nothing else to talk about. Ambrose, trying to earn a new contract, did nothing on the right flank to strengthen his case and him even starting matches now is annoying. He's on big wages, contributes very little and is surely to be released in the Summer. Why didn't Lloyd Sam start today? He will be relied on come August. Nicky Bailey had a quiet first half on the other flank but received very little from Youga to be fair. Racon struggled to impose himself on the midfield and his partner, Shelvey, spent a lot of the first half roaming for space. Zheng Zhi was playing in behind Kandol and he had a busy half without really playing with Kandol. I can't see ZZ playing in League One, so, again, why aren't we looking ahead and trying something else? Maybe Phil Parkinson is thinking solely of Number One and is so desperate to get a third win to improve his appalling record, that he's selfishly putting out the best side he can? Either way, they haven't been playing with any conviction for months and we've become accustomed to conceding goals and losing matches. It's high time someone intervened and told him that the game is up and we need to be planning for August, if not to put him out of his misery and finally give us some optimism of a change for the better. 

It's an international weekend next weekend and then Southampton away, so we don't have to endure another dire performance until Birmingham City on 11th April. If we are not relegated at Southampton, we will probably get the opportunity to actually witness it at the Valley. That would be the final kick-in-the-teeth. Mrs Peeps has just come in and tells me that the second-half was just as bad as the first. A few late chances but the crowd go home disappointed yet again.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Parkinson to finish on a high!

Phil Parkinson is rallying his team for Saturday's game against Preston. He is quoted on the club site saying that "it will be nice for the supporters to finish the season on a high, and that's what we intend to do." Does he really think we can finish on a high this season as we get relegated?" He should also have given some serious thought to what he's been saying in previous weeks about what's going to happen next, because none of it has come to pass. I really do hope we win tomorrow because he'll have nothing much to say afterwards, if we lose, other than focus in on the obvious events of the game, you know the sort of thing, "we needed a response after they took the lead and we didn't get one."

He is also being quoted in the Newsshopper confirming what we have already got accustomed to, and that is that players will need to be sold to finance any arrivals. It's always good to be forward looking but his position must surely be untenable in seven games time. I suspect season ticket sales will not only slump but will not take off until further decisive action has been taken to change the way the club and team is managed. The club are maintaining that Parkinson is here to stay but they said that about Pardew and were forced to act. We have had too many poor managers in recent years but that's no excuse for retaining another one longer than we absolutely have to and that's 3rd May.

Can you imagine what will happen in September if our current form is continued into the new season? We will have demonstrations (albeit from a smaller attendance) again behind the West Stand and another season will be in jeopardy. My season ticket renewal will depend on how the club reacts to relegation. Keeping this failed manager won't be a good start. Hanging on to the nucleus of the squad will also be key but I suspect we may have more medicine to take as most of the loanees flee and our more able players are targetted on the cheap.

Weekend Championship Preview, Game 39

Preston at home on Saturday and the game I have been least interested in seeing so far in this miserable season. I was going to spend the afternoon at Bexley Rugby Club watching them play and the three concluding games of the 6 Nations (a mate plays for them). However, Mrs Peeps has reminded me she has a girls night out and that I had promised to look after the children (be fairly sober), so I will be at the Valley after all.

Expectations from me are very low for this game. Cardiff put the after-burners on last night by beating Watford and Preston will be fired-up to get a result. Even though we are overdue a home win, I suspect we will succomb once again.

Here's who's playing whom elsewhere...

Birmingham City v Norwich City
Reading's late season wobble has given Birmingham the impetus in the automatic promotion stakes and it's now in their own hands once again. Norwich will be praying for a continuation of the their two successive wins but I have to go with Birmingham to edge this.
Prediction; 2-1

Blackpool v Southampton
Golden opportunity for the Saints to drag themselves out of the mire. Three points from safety, they really don't want to be beaten here. Blackpool have slipped in recent weeks and their mid-table security has gone. A win here will enable them to draw breath and play some football in the last few weeks of the season. 
Prediction; 2-1

Charlton Athletic v Preston NE
As I have already said, we are overdue a win, but we are overdue a lot of things that we haven't had. Horribly predictable looking match in prospect. The vet has got his gun out.
Prediction; 1-2

Coventry City v Doncaster Rovers
Mid-table fare here. After losing at home to Reading, I can see Rovers bouncing back at the Ricoh Stadium.
Prediction; 0-2

Crystal Palace v Reading
Reading got a good win at Doncaster but it's looking too little too late. They have to win here and this is the sort of game that will appeal to the Palace party-poopers. I'm going for Warnock's men to put a spoke in the Royals' wheels.
Prediction; 2-1

Derby County v Barnsley
Barnsley are not out of the woods yet but their 3-1 trouncing of Palace last week has shown that they have the mettle to avoid the drop. I can see them grinding a valuable point out here.
Prediction; 1-1

Ipswich Town v Watford
Nothing game in prospect here and that's just what I think Watford will get.
Prediction; 2-0

Nottingham Forest v Wolverhampton Wanderers
Forest in deep trouble and they face a Wolves side who are probably three matches away from a return to the Premier League. Wolves have the ammunition and the motive and should be unstoppable here.
Prediction; 0-2

Plymouth Argyle v Burnley
Argyle are in trouble and play Burnley at the wrong time as the Clarets go in search of precious play-off points. After the highs and low of their fantastic cup runs, they need to concentrate on getting something from the league and I think they will do it.
Prediction; 1-2

QPR v Bristol City
City do well when they travel down the M4 and they are still in play-off contention although they need a strong finish. A point here wouldn't be a bad return and I can see them getting it.
Prediction; 1-1

Sheffield Wednesday v Swansea City
The Swans look to have blown their play-off hopes but it's been a fantastic opening season for them in the Championship and Roberto Martinez will be confident of improving next year. Wednesday have also improved under Brian laws this year and look only a couple of players short of finally putting a promotion bid of their own together. They have been decent at home and should see Swansea off here.
Prediction; 2-0

Cardiff City v Sheffield United  
Having played last night, Cardiff get an extra day to recover as this is the Sunday match. It promises to be the Championship match of the weekend. United have been strong away and Cardiff equally strong at home. Both are in the play-off berths and will have the advantage of knowing the results of all the Saturday matches. A point apiece looks like a good shout.
Prediction; 0-0

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Blackheath 45 v Barbarians 57

At least I think that was the final score! Over 100 points racked up and not a penalty taken throughout the match. It was a thoroughly entertaining game for the 2000-ish crowd and a very fitting celebration of Blackheath's sequicentennial (150 years).

Blackheath had obviously gone to a lot of trouble for this game. They had a three-piece jazz band on the go outside the club-house and a number of tents doing beer, food and merchandise. The £12 entry fee included a match programme which was a very good idea, although the need to give change caused a five minute queue prior to kick-off.

There was a poignant silence of sorts before the match in memory of Drew Rayment a 17-year old Blackheath player who died of cancer on Sunday after a year long fight. During the 'silence' there were whispers over the tannoy from friends, family and sections of the Blackheath crowd. Friends and supporters had raised over £40,000 to help send him to the US for specialist treatment and that money will now be used elsewhere. 

If you don't know, the Barbarians are a touring side whose players join by invitation only and are selected on their credentials as "gentlemen" on and off the pitch. They invite players from all over the world and are renowned for the fact that every player wears their club socks as part of the Barbarians strip (black and white hoops and black shorts). Thinking about the cliches that rugby is a hooligan's game played by gentlemen and that football is a gentleman's game played by hooligans, I wonder what a footballing equivalent Barbarians side would look like (Savage, Bellamy, Wise, Barton, Diouff etc)?

The only downer for me was that there were so many rugby poseurs in attendance this evening. I'm afraid you get these everywhere at rugby but they are particularly visible at club rugby. They are invariably horrible middle class social climbers who see rugby as something that they or their children might somehow benefit from. They sit there gossipping throughout the match, hawing and guffawing at each other without a clue what's going on. They are encouraged by the cliquish mentality of rugby clubs - the private clubs, boating blazers and public schoolboy rituals, much of which is also phoney as they can't have all gone to public school. Like golf, the game is slowly changing but it can't come quick enough for me. 

15 points and counting

Barnsley eaed their relegation worries last night by seeing Palace off 3-1 at Oakwell. The win lifts them up to 19th on 43 points with Plymouth Argyle (20th).  That leaves us effectively 15 points adrift from Norwich City, although we do have a game in hand.

Meanwhile, Preston are out of the play-off places and are now a couple of points behind Burnely who drew at Ipswich last night.  They are level with Cardiff on points but the Bluebirds have three mathces in hand and play one of them this evening at home to Watford, so should be beyond Preston's grasp soon. That means Saturday becomes enormously important for Preston and why I fear they will be too determined for us. If we were to lose against Preston, then we would go to St. Mary's at least 15 points behind (Norwich are at Birmingham on saturday and Forest entertain Wolves) with six to play. Defeat there would condemn us mathematically.

On a lighter note, I am going to wander up to the Rectory Field this evening to have a few pints at The Club and see Blackheath's 150 year celebration game against a Barbarians side which should be an entertaining and stress-free sporting spectacle. It's £12 (adults) to get in and everyone is welcome.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Pardew's MOTD gaffe

Alan Pardew was a rare guest on Sunday evening's Match of the Day 2 and it might be a long time before he's asked back. He has caused a furore by using the word "rape" to describe a Ched Evans tackle on Michael Essien. You know the sort of thing - "he absolutely rapes him there." Those involved in the game love to use new one-liners to describe what's happening and very often they are for effect or humour. However you look at this one, it's a poor choice for a live television audience and naive unless Pardew said it without thinking.

A far more understandable and widely acceptable use of the phrase might have been to describe how we felt when Pardew collected his £1.Xm sacking package earlier this year having steered us headlong towards relegation. The fact that we had to sell our most saleable asset that week in order to make the payment was much nearer the mark.

Monday, 16 March 2009

That's loyalty for you...

Impressive season ticket renewal sales from a Championship club. This season they had 19,700 season ticket holders and, having launched their new deal for 09-10, have already signed up 18,000 so remain on target to match or better that.

Let's think now - Wolves as their fans clamour to bag a Premier League seat next year? Sheffield United as their fans lick their lips at the prospect of promotion via the play-offs and the luxury, come-what-may of a £15m windfall courtesy of West Ham? Perhaps it's a resurgent Derby County since interest rocketted with the arrival of another man called Clough? No, the answer is Norwich City. Yes, Norwich City, them that were in the drop zone when they launched their scheme and who, even now after two consecutive wins are only two points clear of third bottom Barnsley.

How have they done it? Well they offer kids tickets at £25 for the season and they have a much wider range of pricing and options than most other clubs, Charlton included. £350 seems to be the going rate in the Family Stand or £377 on the sides (wings) and £427 for a half-way line seat. All tickets have been sold with the guarantee of a 20% reduction in the event that they go down. Hats off to them for having the bottle to go early and risk the admin. and hassle of potentially refunding 18,000 ticket holders. 

Are we that much poorer than Norwich this year to justify the widely expected slump in Valley renewals? I am sure we can match or better their pricing, albeit for League One, but the view is that our 17,000 existing season tickets will decline towards 10,000 or even lower.  

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Wolverhampton Wanderers 2 v Charlton Athletic 1

As anticipated, the gap to safety is now effectively 14 points (including goal difference) and Barnsley can increase that margin by picking up two points from the three games in hand they have over Nottingham Forest who were walloped 5-0 yesterday at Burnley.  The Tykes get the first chance to do that on Tuesday when a demoralised Crystal Palace head north to the Republic of South Yorkshire. So, we remain on course to be relegated at St Mary's on 4th April.

For the record we were beaten 2-1 by a mis-firing Wolves side who were grateful to scrape the win. Despite competing for large parts of the match, Sylvain Ebanks-Blake had a penalty saved by Rob Elliot and we were never in any danger of winning this game even after Zheng Zhi posted a 'come-and-get-me' goal from distance to briefly level matters in the second-half.

Hard to know what Parky's expected to say after yet another defeat which only adds to his disatrous managerial record. More "ifs" and "buts" but his league record speaks for itself. Played 20, won 2, drawn 6 and lost 12.  If our squad of players was the worst in the division and we were being outplayed every week I could have more sympathy for him. The fact is, that whilst too many of our players aren't pulling their weight week-in week-out, we are actually competing in most games for long periods but we are being beaten by sides with greater concentration, determination and belief. These are the qualities that set the best managers aside from the also-rans. We have looked absolutely bereft in these departments all season and it can be no coincidence that there was no significant improvement when Parkinson took over November. He was part of the managerial problem and the Board would do well to bear that in mind when the inevitable happens.

I won't profess to being able to offer any strong opinions on this game as I spent most of the second-half glued to the Italy v Wales 6 Nations contest which looked more likely to serve up a shock result. Posting was then delayed whilst Scotland rattled Ireland's cage but, predictably, succombed to second-half pressure to keep Ireland's Grand Slam hopes alive. Just as I believe Phil Parkinson has to be put out of his mangerial misery, Frank Haddon must also walk, although finances at the SRU are so equally perilous that he could yet get a stay of execution a la Parky.

I was at my sister-in-laws yesterday (still am) and we all watched the boxing last night. Enzo Maccarranelli's career was ended in spectacular fashion and the main event was equally disappointing. Marco Barrera's superb career record of only ever having been beaten by reigning world champions was spoilt by an early clash of heads which caused an enormous gash on his forehead. The fight had to be stopped but the referree and ringside doctors let it go on for several rounds longer than they should and Khan had taken an unassailable lead by then. Amir Khan will be slightly disappointed he didn't get the chance to out-box the Mexican because he had shown all the signs of being able to do it. Adopting a much more disciplined defence, he had bullied Barrera from the off but it was hard to tell how much better Barrera might have been had he not been fighting through a stream of blood in his left eye.  

So, Preston at home next Saturday and, if I had anything better to do, I'd do it. they came from behind at home to Coventry yesterday to keep their play-off hopes alive. Cardiff will surely overtake them with their games in hand, so this is probably the worst time possible to be playing them. You have to think they will simply be too focused and determined for us.  When the football offers us nothing and the season is over bar the shouting, it's time for the Board to launch a PR offensive to maintain supporter interest for next season. If we fail on this front now (as I believe we have done for much of the season) , I believe we will do even more irreparable damage to our fan-base and propsects for next season.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Weekend Championship Preview, Game 38

Nine games to go and effectively 13 points from safety including goal difference. If we lose at Molineux, as I expect us to, the gap is likely to increase to 14 points if one of three sides at the bottom get results. With eight matches remaining and five wins then required to close the gap, it's only realistic to expect that mathematical relegation could come at St Mary's if we fail to beat Preston at home a week on Saturday.

Barnsley v Blackpool
Barnsley came close to beating Birmingham City in the week as Michael Mifsud put them in front with eight minutes left. City managed an equaliser but the Tykes should be confident of seeing Blackpool off at Oakwell on Saturday. A win would give them parity with the Seasiders on 43 points.
Prediction; 1-0

Burnley v Nottingham Forest
Forest went down at Watford on Tuesday and they will find this a much tougher match. Burnley look to have the bit between their teeth as they close in on a play-off place and recovered from an early two-goal setback to thump Palace 4-2. Trouble for Forest.
Prediction; 3-0

Doncaster Rovers v Birmingham City
Sean O'Driscoll won't want this season to end. His Donny side are top since Christmas and had another decent win in the week over QPR. Birmingham will present another test for them but Doncaster can play with confidence and that could be enough for jittery Brum.
Prediction; 2-1

Norwich City v Plymouth Argyle
After beating Cardiff in the week, Bryan Gunn will tell his troops that this might be their last opportunity to save themselves from League One. A second successive win should see them clambour out of the drop-zone and drag Argyle back in.
Prediction; 2-0

Preston NE v Coventry City
PNE have finally slipped out of the play-off berths courtesy of a scrambled home draw against Wednesday which they only managed in the second minute of added time. A must win game for Preston although Coventry hardly arrive with anything to argue about.
Prediction; 2-0

Reading v Ipswich Town
The Royals are making a meal of catching Birmingham. They will get the first chance in the week when they play one of their two games in hand at Doncaster, but first they need to win at home. That should be all the incentive they need, especially after conceding that late equaliser to the Addicks.
Prediction; 2-0

Sheffield United v Derby County
United missed the opportunity to build a cushion on their play-off lead in the week by drawing at home to Blackpool. They had to come from behind to get a 2-2 draw and, like Reading, will be under pressure to secure all three points this time around. Derby are surely safe now and can secure their Championship status at Pride Park.
Prediction; 1-0

Southampton v QPR
QPR look to have gone on holiday early and have managed eight games without a win. No surprise then that the knives are out for Paulo Sousa. The Saints will know that their best survival chance comes in the next four matches. If they can avoid defeat here they have Blackpool, Charlton and Watford in the next three games. I can see them overcoming QPR and Charlton but that good work could be undone at Blackpool and Watford.
Prediction; 1-0

Swansea City v Crystal Palace
Palace's appalling run continued in the week when they squandered a gifted two-goal lead. You need to battle at Swansea and I think they've lost all their fight.
Prediction; 3-0

Watford v Sheffield Wednesday
The Hornets look to have put their serious drop worries behind them. Up to 17th they have a two-win cushion on danger. They must be favourites here but Wednesday are proving obstinate this year and I'll go for them to grind out a point.
Prediction; 1-1

Wolverhampton WanderersCharlton Athletic
It was good to see we didn't throw the towell in at Reading after losing our lead to two quick goals but it's surely too much to hope we can get a result here? Wolves ran us ragged at the Valley earlier in the season and they should have players queueing up to score despite their wobble of late. 
Prediction; 3-0

Bristol City v Cardiff City
Championship nail-biter of the weekend. This is the Sunday match and a play-off battle between neighbours. City are just oustide the play-offs and trail cardiff who are just inside by two points. Bristol will be desperate to overhaul their Welsh cousins but I suspect Cardiff won't lose two in a row and will know that the draw maintains their advanatge.
Prediction; 1-1


Thursday, 12 March 2009

League One Manifesto

How should we prepare for life next season in League One? In between getting on with the rest of my life, I find myself preoccupied with this and here's the Ten Point Plan I'd be advocating with the Board...

1) Remove the seating on the Lower North. Proper standing on the Covered End. We could still sell tickets in advance to prevent any segregation issues, but it would allow a return to the good old days when we could associate freely. It would encourage more singing, more noise and boost support at away games. It would enable the club to offer a credit crunch cheap season ticket whilst not having to discount seating too much. It would cause massive interest throughout the game.

2) Close the Upper tiers in the West and the North for the season to focus support closer to the pitch.

3) Revert to a modern version of the 1980-81 strip that saw us storm out of Division Three. We need to get rid of the associations with this disastrous campaign. Fans will moan about another new strip but buy one all the same.

4) Offer a three year season ticket for the price of two years. This would go some way to satisfying the disappointments and hopes surrounding the freebie deal whilst incentivising sales this Summer.

5) Announce an Open Day at Sparrows Lane in the Summer with a cricket match, beer tent etc. The training ground could cope with the reduced numbers now and it would help bridge the current gap between club and fans.

6) Set-up a pre-season schedule of "proper" friendlies. A mini-tour against seaside clubs including successive Saturday fixtures would encourage fans along and to get into the spirit of the new season before it's upon us.

7) Investigate a one-off return of the Kent Cup. It would be good for community football and we might see some silverware!

8) Re-energise the social side of supporting the club. This isn't a lucrative business but it builds a togetherness amongst the supporters. We have the facilities for this after all. We are just lacking the imagination and determination to make it successful.

9) With number 8 in mind, get the lease on the Royal Oak! It's up for auction on 8th April with a guide price of £85,000 but it should go for well south of that. It would be a no-brainer if the club owned and managed it. A proper club-pub that would provide a seven-day-a-week focal point for fans in a way that Bartrams never can. Low risk too - it's cheap and the lease could be sold on if it doesn't work out. I'll run it for nothing.

10) Clear things with the fans on the last day. The Norwich game gives the club the perfect opportunity to address the supporters in a candid and honest way about the massive  disappointments of the season. It might enable a drawing of a line across what's happened and send people home with some optimism and renewed enthusiasm about next season. Richard Murray is a good speaker and he'll never get a better opportunity to talk to all of our fans than at a game. Derek Chapple and Steve Waggott could also do with standing up and telling the fans how they feel and what they are doing to get the club back on track. If it was publicised in advance, I am sure they'd get 20 minutes attention of the vast majority, especially as it's an early kick-off.

There, that's off my chest.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Anyway know the way to Glandford Park?

Bolton Wanderers fan, Gareth (of Betfair) gives an outside view of what I believe us Addicks might have been staring at, too intently for too long.....

At any other stage of the season a draw away at Reading would have been an excellent result.  I don’t think many people would argue that they’ve got the most quality in their side out of the teams in the Championship. The Addicks need to win pretty much every game if they’re going to play Championship football next season, and I doubt many are betting  on that happening.

 As a neutral I feel it would be a shame to see another big club drop into the third tier of English football.  There are positives I suppose though, Sheffield Wednesday only spent two seasons in that league and their fans got a trip to the Millennium Stadium to watch them promoted in the play-off final.  Leicester City are flying this season and it looks an almost certainty they will win the league, I think some bookies have even started paying out online-bets  that the Foxes would win the league, probably best not mention Leeds United though.

 Former boss Alan Curbishley probably summed it up best for me.  Speaking to Sky’s Goals on Sunday he said: “It's to do with bad decisions. I was there for 15 years and now they've had four managers in two years.

 "The decision-making has obviously had a big effect. It's not worked and when you get on that downward spiral it's very difficult to get out of it. I could perhaps have imagined Charlton coming out of the Premier League, but I can't imagine them going down to Division One in such a short space of time."

 ’m with Curbs on that one.  Charlton are definitely not a League One club.  Then again it is all about the running of the club.  I don’t even want to go blaming Iain Dowie (though I’m sure a few fans will), and the board backed him with some pretty serious money as well. 

 I’m a ‘the glass is half full’ sort of person and in all honesty I don’t think going out of the Championship is as damaging as going out of the Premiership if that makes any sense.  When you get relegated from the Premier League a load of money is lost but when you drop from the Championship to League One the change in finances isn’t as drastic.  The Addicks can get rid of all the players who just haven’t performed this season (probably a long list to be fair) and Phil Parkinson can start to build his own team.

 The jury is still out on Parkinson as a manager as far as I’m concerned.  He did a magnificent job at Colchester but then an abysmal one at Hull.  The start of his Charlton career hasn’t gone too well all things considered but I’m not sure even Jose Mourinho could get them out of their current predicament.

 Shelvey signing a professional contract was a massive boost, and from what I’ve seen of him he looks a very accomplished player and perhaps one-day an England international. I said I wouldn’t mention Leeds United but Fabian Delph has been rocking for them this season and I can see Shelvey doing a similar job at the Valley next season. 

 There is no doubt about it, things at the Valley are about as bad as they can be.  Away days at Scunthorpe and Southend are hardly mouth-watering prospects but with a club the size of Charlton Athletic I doubt it will last more than two seasons, at the most.  If by some miracle they do stay up this season it will feel like winning the FA Cup and in some ways knowing your fate in advance is a lot less painful than the bitter taste of relegation on the last day of the season.

- Gareth.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Reading 2 v Charlton Athletic 2

The race to be the first side relegated from the Championship this season hotted up this evening as Charlton conceded another 1-0 half-time lead to a 2-1 reverse before levelling matters with only five minutes to go. The point wasn't enough to shorten our lead at the bottom as Norwich moved 11 points clear by beating Cardiff at home. Southampton could only draw 1-1 at home to Derby to maintain their 10 point differential and Barnsley, who drew 1-1 with Birmingham, are still 12 points away. With 9 games left now we can expect relegation to be confirmed in four or five games time.

Having suggested it was the time for a number of player changes in readiness for League One football, Parky made just two and neither of those will benefit us next year; Zheng Zhi started in a five man midfield as Deon Burton was sacrificed for the lone Kandol and Tom Soares was brought back for Lloyd Sam. On the basis Zheng Zhi and Tom Soares will be just behind Darren Ambrose out of the Valley come 3rd May, this makes no sense to me but then I am not trying desperately to save my job, unlike Phil Parkinson. Why should he sacrifice points now for possible benefit in August when the only real hope of him being here in August is by finishing strongly?

We got had a good first half, having plenty of possession, quietening the "Mad Stad" (righto) before our only candidate for Player of the Season, Nicky Bailey, scored his eleventh of the campaign as he converted Racon's cross having been played on by Soares. Reading hit the Charlton woodwork three times in the opening half to give notice of what Addicks fans knew they would face second half.

Both sides emerged with their respective manager's words ringing in their ears and it took Reading 15 seconds to equalise. Darren Ward was harshly judged to have brought Shane Long down but Long got up to convert the spot-kick nonetheless. The Addicks should have have a penalty seconds after the re-start when Nicky Bailey was brought down but the referree "bottled it" according to the CAFC TV commentator (Tildesley?), who was much better than some of the numpties we've had to endure in recent weeks. Charlton continued to press from midfield, especially Racon and Bailey, but it was Reading who scored again on 67 minutes when Long headed in from a corner to take the lead.

Ambrose was brought on for Soares after 77 minutes but it felt like deja vu. Nicky Bailey had other ideas, however, and he picked Hudson out at the back-post on 85 minutes from a free-kick and big Mark headed home an unlikely but deserved equaliser. I am pleased for Hudson because I think he's had a bad press recently. He was at fault for Watford's third goal but he has been one of our better players this season.

The referree had a stinker by all accounts and we came off worst in some very poor decision-making. It's just as well we're so far behind because it would be a hard pill to swallow if two additional points here would have made much difference.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Midweek Championship Preview, Game 37

Our turn-out at Reading tomorrow evening will probably be our lowest ever at a Reading v Charlton fixture. Probably as poor, if not worse, than some of the Reading showings at the Valley in the past. The heads have dropped and Plucky is talking of making changes, which is what we have to do now in preparation for next year. Youth looks like it will be given a chance, so expect Shelvey and Wright to feature. If Parkinson can overcome his prejudices, he might also consider starting with Basey and Moutaouakil at full-backs - neither Youga or Butterfield were too clever on Saturday and we are going to come under pressure at the Madjeski Stadium.

Here's my take on the other midweek matches....

Barnsley v Birmingham City
Could be a long dark night for Birmingham City. It's grim oop north and I fancy Reading to close the gap with games in hand. Barnsley have games in hand over those below them in the drop zone but they need to be winning at home and I think they'll get what they need.
Prediction; 2-0

Bristol City v Coventry City
Fresh from their predictable cup exit at home to Chelsea, Coventry's season is effectively over and they shouldn't take too much knocking over here.
Prediction; 2-0

Doncaster Rovers v QPR
With all the talk of Rangers appointing their latest manager (a different one every year - oh how I'll laugh if it's Paul Ince), things can't be too rosy in the Hoops camp. They look to have blown the play-offs and a defeat here would just about seal it.
Prediction; 2-1

Norwich City v Cardiff City
Poor old Norwich, they aren't getting too many breaks; after winning against the odds at QPR last week they got clattered at Blackpool on Saturday and are in deep trouble having played three games more than Barnsley. Realistically, they are now five points adrift of safety and Cardiff will present a huge obstacle. The Canaries will do well to get a point.
Prediction; 1-1

Preston NE v Sheffield Wednesday
Preston are still hanging around the play-offs despite my conviction that they aren't good enough. I still think they won't make it but they might sneak this one to make a fist of it.
Prediction; 2-1

Reading v Charlton Athletic
Reading are lying in wait to topple Birmingham for the second automatic place. They have a great chance here to cut the defict to one point with two games in hand and I fully expect them to take it. I suspect we will avoid the battering we are due but it might come at Wolverhampton on Saturday.
Prediction; 2-0

Sheffield United v Blackpool
Blackpool will be breathing more easily after besting Norwich last time out. The Blades should be too strong here.
Prediction; 2-0

Southampton v Derby County
Southampton's bubble was burst by Birmingham on Saturday but they only went down one-nil and they might put up a good fight here. Derby know a defeat would drag them back into the mix and that be enough to secure them a result.
Prediction; 1-1

Swansea City v Plymouth Argyle
The Swans have disappointed of late but they should coast this. Plymouth are a realistic target for Southampton if they can put another few results together.
Prediction; 2-0

Watford v Nottingham Forest
Watford looked vulnerable defensively to me on Saturday although the filip of only their third away win of the season may give them the edge here. Forest are battling though and I'll go for them to share two points here.
Prediction; 0-0

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Ipswich Town
Mick McCarthy's team talks this week will be straightforward - win the next two home games and they are virtually in the Premier League. Ipswich look like they will forego the chance to extend their losing play-off sequence this year and this might be as tough a match for them as it will be for us on Saturday.
Prediction; 3-1

Burnley v Crystal Palace
Burnley get another day's rest after losing at Arsenal on Sunday - this is played on Wednesday. Owen Coyle will need to refocus his side if they are to make the play-offs (which they deserve this year) and this must be one of the easiest games you can get at the moment.
Prediction; 2-0

Sunday, 8 March 2009

The morning after...

There are just five homes left to endure before we can bring the curtain down on this miserable season. Preston, Birmingham, Blackpool, Cardiff and Norwich. Hardly awe-inspiring but they are all involved in the promotion and relegation issues, so all should come looking for the three points that will be available on the big red cushion.

The mood I am in at the moment, I couldn't care less if we lost the lot. However, it would be good to dent Birmingham's promotion hopes and the relegation party on the last day could turn into a proper wake if Norwich go down with us.

Curbs was on the box today telling Sky Sports News that we have had too many managers since his departure (no shit Sherlock). He believes we got rid of Dowie and Reed too quickly and that there was little point in ditching Pardew when we did. He stopped short of saying Parky must be given longer but that was the inference. Dowie was only given 15 games but his behaviour during that period was concerning (not travelling with the players, losing the team on a training run prior to a match etc) and history has shown that he paid big prices for poor players. Reed was unfortunate in that he was a lame duck in the way he was appointed and the media crucified him. However, I can't agree with him over Pardew. The bloke simply had to go after the performances that lead to the 5 goal home hammering by Sheffield United and we were going down with him in charge, make no mistake.  If I read Curbs right about his view on Parkinson, I take issue with that too. He should have been relieved of his duties after failing to win during his "caretaker" role and we can't risk him ruining next season. Sure, any new manager is a gamble and we run the risk of another bad decision but that doesn't mean you should avoid taking it.

Sticking with Parky could cost us a couple of thousand season tickets renewals. All we have left is our fan base and that must now be defended at all costs. We need a clean slate and some real incentive to believe next season won't be as poor as this one has been.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Charlton Athletic 2 v Watford 3

Things went from bad to worse today. Having effectively been relegated in the week by losing at home to Doncaster Rovers and falling a mile behind safety, there was every hope we could play with some freedom today and see off a poor Watford side. Unfortunately, we only proved today just how bad we really are. We managed to recover from a goal down to dominate the first half and yet are so inept that we rolled over and conceded the game to a side who may yet join us in Division Three.

This defeat reflects very badly on Phil Parkinson. Motivation and leadership are key to this game, especially when you don't have any money,  and it must surely be obvious to everyone that he is lacking in both. Don't get me wrong, he's trying his hardest, but the facts shout for themselves. Eleven (11) points from fifty-four (54) tell you all you need to know. He has to go. We cannot risk starting with him in League One. I feel so strongly about this that my season tickets are in jeopardy for the first time in 33 years.

Watford dominated the opening 20 minutes and played like a side who knew this was their best chance of three points away from home from their remaining games. They split the Charlton defence on seventeen minutes as they played two men in and Don Cowie broke free to beat Elliot easily from 15 yards. That was the wake-up call we needed and we found it relatively easy to equalise. Tresor Kandol broke clear and, for the first time since he arrived at the Valley, he showed us what he's capable of by rounding Loach and slipping the ball home. We also got the Kandol handspring and somersault which was equally impressive. 

Kandol repeated the feat ten minutes later by stooping to head home from a corner, and frankly, that should have been the signal for the end. Deon Burton managed to head wide from six yards after a fine move from Racon and Sam before the break and 3-1 wouldn't have been an unfair score at half-time.

Unfortunately, something untoward happened at the break. Watford came out revitalised whereas Charlton looked like they thought the job was done. The Hornets re-established themselves and after 56 minutes they got an unexpected equaliser when Gregor Rasiak took a ball on his chest 22 yards out before volleying home spectacularly. I thought this might prove a wake-up call for the Addicks but I was wrong. We failed to respond despite Zheng Zhi coming on for the inept Spring and Todorov making a rare appearance for Burton.  We weren't threatening and the biggest mistake of the match saw Watford win it. Hudson failed to hold off Priskin and he lifted the ball over the advancing Elliot for the win. Soares replaced Sam before the end but the game was over and we had wimped out yet again

The game is well and truly up and it's time for some blood-letting. Players who will not be here next season need to be axed and we need some blatant honesty from the Board and the management team. Season ticket renewals will be critical to finances next season and serious thought has to be given to the current view that Parky will be kept on come what may. 

We now face two away games against Reading and Wolves, both of whom are likely to be competing in the Premier League next season. We have avoided a real spanking all season but I fear one may be imminent. The thought of a late run to avoid relegation has proven to be a pipe dream and we are heading down with embarrassing ease. If we are not careful, we could fall through League One and reach an all-time low.

The only good news for me was hearing that the prize idiot who sits in the row in front of me won't be coming next season. He wasn't allowed to use the toilet nearest to him in one of the hospitality lounges recently because it was only for the use of the players, who were having their pre-match meal, so he's packing it in. He's going to Ebbsfleeet instead next year, which confirms my opinion of him.

I met a long-term Addick after the game and he told me he had seen two faces today  from twenty years ago and so, coincidentally, had I. We are going back to the past, and, in a strange way, I am looking forward to it.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Weekend Championship Preview, Game 36

Watford come to the Valley on Saturday in a game that now takes on more importance for them than it does us. Alongside Barnsley and Blackpool they hover above the drop zone on 39 points with Southampton and Forest a win away beneath them. The Hornets were brought down to earth at Home Park in the week in a match which saw Plymouth scramble above them. Watford have only managed two wins on the road all season and this might be the best shot they get of a third.

Morale in the Addicks camp will be on a new low after the dismal loss in the week and the harsh reality that the long struggle this season is going to end in an unthinkable second relegation in three seasons. Most of our players will have less to worry about in the current economic climate than those watching in the stands, but for some, it will be the end of the gravy train and, frankly, they can have no complaints. I had to laugh when I read Darren Ambrose's latest spouting that he's out to win a fresh contract. Who's he kidding? He will be lucky to get offered League One money come the Summer.

The big question now is will our side be able to play some relaxed and attacking football in the remaining games or will we continue to struggle as Parkinson begins the process of prioritising the playing staff for 2009-10 in League One?

I fancy he will stick with his current side for another week or two until the "almighty task" becomes mission impossible. It's a shame we haven't been able to make a real fight of it because it's shaping up to be a titantic battle to avoid joining us...

Birmingham City v Southampton

Southampton are on the kind of roll that we have long envisaged and travel to St. Andrews on the back of three successive wins. Their luck will have to hold here if they are to keep that run going. City have been stuttering of late but they have a very impressive 12-3-3 home record and despatched battling Bristol City in the week. Can't see many goals here and have to take Brum to edge it.
Prediction; 1-0

Blackpool v Norwich City
Six pointer here. Blackpool lost at home to Burnley in the week whilst Norwich, inexplicably, got a result at Loftus Road. Blackpool need to arrest their slide and they won't get an easier opportunity than this.
Prediction; 2-0

Cardiff City v Doncaster Rovers
Fascinating game in prospect at Ninian Park. Doncaster Rovers are playing care-free football as we saw in the week and they will look forward to this. Cardiff have games in hand and look certs for the play-offs. they might have to settle for a share of the spoils here.
Prediction; 1-1

Charlton Athletic v Watford
Watford look like they should have all the drive and urgency here but they are an average side who have been poor away all season. Unless they manage to score first, you have to think our players will finally show some attacking prowess, albeit far too late.  
Prediction; 2-0

Crystal Palace v Preston NE
Palace have been pathetic in recent weeks  and they will be grateful for their mid-season surge. They will laugh at our demise this season but may well join us next year unless something fundamental happens at Selhurst. They don't own their ground, their owner has been trying to pass on his responsibilities for a season now and their manager isn't far away from retirement. I really don't understand how they could let a player like Danny Butterfield go on loan to us and believe it's symptomatic of a deeper problem. This game could come at just the right time for PNE.
Prediction; 0-1

Derby County v Bristol City
City need a win at Pride Park to maintain their play-off hopes. Derby conceded two second -half goals at home to draw with Swansea in the week and they aren't out of the relegation woods just yet. It might be hard to split these teams.
Prediction; 1-1

Nottingham Forest v Swansea City
Amazingly, Forest are out of the bottom three and Robert Earnshaw repaid another slice of his fee with a brace in the win over Preston last time out. Same again would do Forest and I'll take them to repeat the feat.
Prediction; 2-1

Plymouth Argyle v Reading
Reading have two games in hand on Birmingham City and only need to make up two points. They won't want that gap to increase as City are at home, so I think we'll see them turn Argyle over and plunge them back into the mire.
Prediction; 0-1

QPR v Sheffield United
Fill your boots Sheffield. QPR were out-done by Norwich in the week and there's no reason why you can't match that. The play-offs have gone for the richest club in the Championship but not for the Blades who will be counting the points down.
Prediction; 0-2

Sheffield Wednesday v Wolverhampton Wanderers
Championship Match of the Day in prospect here as the nervy table-toppers go to unpredictable Wednesday. Both sides have scored and conceded plenty this season and this could be a topsy-turvey match.
Prediction; 3-3

I've had a shufty at the remaining games it's looking like we could get relegated at St. Marys. A defeat down there would be a double whammy and would probably mean we would be mathematically relegated with six games left to go. That would be a further embarrassment on our club and the last humiliation in this season which is vying strongly for the worst ever.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

McLeod must stay

Izale McLeod has fallen out with Kenny Jackett and wants to return to the reserves at the Valley. The trouble is, Millwall have taken him on loan until the end of the season, so he's under contract and Charlton need to agree any premature return. The cause of the problem according to the South London Press is that Izale has had to be disciplined on a couple of ocasions already and is now bemoaning the fact that he has been getting subbed after 60 minutes and most recently after 45 minutes of games.

I sincerely hope the club takes a stance here and makes him sit it out. It sounds to me like he's been acting Charlie Large and, having failed to deliver on the pitch, is sulking at being treated like any other professional (sic). Kenny Jackett goes up another notch in my estimation and I only hope Phil Parkinson has the balls to put him firmly in his place. Darren Randolph created a similar scene when he was dropped at Hereford earlier in the season and we took him back, so maybe McLeod thinks he can do the same.

Mcleod hasn't had a good run in the Charlton side since we signed him but he's shown nothing to warrant one - one goal from 19 outings, albeit many as a sub is a poor retunr from a player we paid £1m for. This was a chance for him to drop down a division and show everyone what he could do. He's obviously struggled at Millwall and taking him back won't solve anything. We might have the weakest forward options in the Championship but they aren't strengthened by the addition of Izale McLeod. The sooner we cut our losses the better.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Charlton Athletic 1 v Doncaster Rovers 2

First, those of you who decided to stay at home this evening (and there were plenty of you) will be pleased to know that you made the right decision. In a deceptively cold, wet and windy evening, Phil Parkinson's Charlton side failed to maintain the efforts of recent weeks and a poor quality performance got the result it largely deserved. Surely there can't be too many Addicks still in denial that this is a relegation season.

The side we put out was as expected. Danny Butterfield slipped into right-back alongside Hudson, Ward and Youga who were protecting Rob Elliot. Soares, Racon, Spring and Bailey were in midfield and we played with Shelvey just behind Chris Dickson up front. In appalling conditions, we struggled to hold possession in the first half against a Doncaster side who adapted better to the wind and who again passed and moved around us. We struggled to get a grip on the midfield and were disjointed playing the ball forward. Chris Dickson and Jonjo Shelvey looked like they had made a bet beforehand over who could get the most shots in. Both were guilty of wasting what decent attacking positions we did create by shooting far too early, from distance and poorly.

Doncaster dominated possession and the majority of the first 45 minutes was played in our half without creating too many chances, although Elliot made a crucial intervention to stop Coppinger from finishing an excellent five man move. Charlton actually hit the bar too as Dickson nodded on from a goalmouth scramble but it was as close as we came to their goal in the first half.

It took Rovers only five minutes in the second half to open the scoring and the excellent Coppinger finished another good move by collecting a one-two to curl the ball beyond Elliot's dive. Doncaster then got everyone behind the ball and frustrated Charlton as we tried to up the tempo. We were still struggling and Phil Parkinson made the right two substitions for me at the right time when he took off Soares and Spring on the hour and replaced them with Sam and Burton. Once again Soares wasn't really in the game and I am struggling to see what anyone sees in him. Lloyd Sam isn't the finished article but he does at least get involved in the match and has obvious pace. Matt Spring has made a decent contribution since he arrived but he's had a couple of quiet games of late and I think we lost the midfield battle today because he wasn't pulling his weight. It didn't help that Racon got an early booking and was watching his tackles, although he was fortunate to survive a second yellow late on for a similar tackle to the one was booked for.

With Spring off, Shelvey dropped to midfield where he is more comfortable and Burton was able to press up with Dickson. We continued to frustrate, wasting more attacks with pointless shots and there was no final ball. It was beginning to look like a 1-0 shut-out when Nicky Bailey roared in to get on the end of a dropping ball 15 yards out and managed to ping it passed Sullivan for another trademark finish. Could we finally go on and win a game having been behind? It took five minutes for the answer and it was Nicky Bailey who handed Rovers a penalty after lunging in on Ritchie Wellens in a suicidal tackle. Bailey protested his innocence but it looked stonewall to me. Brian Stock smashed the penalty home and that was pretty much that. All that was left was for the half empty Valley to empty rapidly towards the finish. There was a chorus of boos at the whistle but not enough people left to make it too loud.

With Southampton, Forest, Plymouth and Norwich all winning, the game is up and I suspect we will hear that in Phil Parkinson's language from now on. On Saturday he completes his 18th league game in charge and matches the 18 games that Alan Pardew managed earlier in the season. The sad facts are that Parkinson's return from 17 games so far is 11 points and he can't now better Pardew's meagre 16 points which got him the sack. There has been an improvement in performances under Parkinson and he seems to have the eye for a grafter but his loan signings have all been established pros, hardly any risk-taking or unearthed gems. Personally he comes across as a good bloke but, for me, he has been a failure and serious consideration has to be given to starting next season with him in charge, irrespective of the finances. It is, after all, a results driven  business.

Midweek Championship Preview, Game 35

A bit late in looking at the fixtures this week. Maybe busier at work but probably apathy getting the better of me. The results from Saturday were so unpredictable and heart-breaking that I am taking a different view on the games being played this evening and tomorrow.

Blackpool v Burnley
The Clarets are maiking a fine job of messing up what should have been a glorious season for them. Arsenal should end the second of their two excellent cup runs (just imagine) and this might have cost them promotion as they have slipped out the play-off spots. It's a tense local affair and "B'pool" might just get to stick the knife in.
Prediction; 2-1

Cardiff City v Barnsley
Surely this is a cert home win? Barnsley can limp over the line from here and Cardiff have two or three games in hand on their play-off rivals which could catapult them into automatic contention. Cardiff too strong.
Prediction; 2-0

Charlton Athletic v Doncaster Rovers
We have to win this game and I am going to go for us to shade it with a proviso. We must play 4-4-2 and we need to get a goal from one of the front men. I think Donny will have a goal in them and I think we have a goal from midfield but we can't keep relying on them and it's high time our forwards weighed in. It would be really good to see Chris Dickson scoring but I don't care if Burton or Kandol get one,  although I don't rate either of them. Our only double of the season?
Prediction; 2-1

Crystal Palace v Wolverhampton Wanderers
Wolves are clearly following the Charlton Athletic Guide to Screwing Up a Championship Lead. Expect them to get beaten by falling Palace, who have inexplicably allowed us to take Danny Butterfield from their side for the rest of the season. I haven't had a chnace to gauge the reaction of Palace fans to this but I am guessing they won't be happy about it.
Prediction; 2-1

Derby County v Swansea City
The Swans will still have play-off ambitions but if they keep dropping points that won't last much longer. Derby are safe but should be good enough here for at least a point.
Prediction; 1-1

Ipswich Town v Southampton
Ipswich have lingering play-off hopes but they face a resurgent Southampton side who have won two-in-a-row. It could just be their death rattle,  but I'll go with the Saints to make it nine points out of nine and undermine our result.
Prediction; 1-2

Nottingham Forest v Preston NE
Yep, another fixture similar to the Ipswich v Southampton game. Forest won well at Reading on Saturday and they should be up for this one. Preston's away form has been poor and has cost them a safe play-off place.
Prediction; 2-0

Plymouth Argyle v Watford
Both of these sides are on 39 points but Watford have two games in hand on Argyle, so I guess we should wish them well down there on the basis that Plymouth have been very poor recently and look like one of the more catchable outfits. Having said that, their win at Wolves on Saturday will have given them belief. Maybe a draw is the most predictable outcome here.
Prediction; 0-0

QPR v Norwich City
Norwich looked like one of the poorest sides we've played this year on the three occasions we faced them. Bryan Gunn's magic touch wore off after the 4-0 opening game and they are really in trouble. I don't expect any upsets here even if QPR look to have blown it for another year.
Prediction; 2-0

Sheffield Wednesday v Reading
Based on recent results, this should be a comfortable home win. Reading are stuttering badly and with those around them all losing too, they can be forgiven for complacency. I can see them having a good go this evening but still being edged out.
Prediction; 3-2

Birmingham City v Bristol City 
One of tomorrow, games. Things must be bad at Birmingham right now to feel the need to bring in Useless de la Cruz who wasn't even acceptable to the Addicks and we've  loaned anyone with a pulse this year. City are finishing strongly once again and another upset could be on the cards. Birmingham's fickle following could be on their sides backs within half an hour if City take the game to them.
Prediction; 0-2

Coventry City v Sheffield United
The other of tomorrow's matches. City won at Carrow Road on Saturday but that doesn't take much doing right now. They will face a revitalised Sheffield United who can see the finishing line and have a bit more to play for.
Prediction; 0-1


Monday, 2 March 2009

And the latest loanee is...

Danny Butterfield (I was going to include a pic of him but in every one I can find he's wearing an offensive shirt). The Bulletin informs us that he's been signed to replace Graham Murty who now returns injured to Reading. Murty looked a decent player from what I saw of him but it never looked long term. When he arrived he was honest enough to say he was trying to get fit and doing Parky a favour. He was also quoted in the Reading press a couple of weeks back saying he couldn't wait to get back in the Reading first team. Well it won't be for a while now!

Butterfield is a capable right-back and can also play on the wing. I've always thought he was one of Palace's better players. Strange then that they have agreed to let him come on loan for the rest of the season when he's been a first-team choice recently. Maybe Jordan's trimming his wage bill now that their season is over.

So, still no place for Yassin Moutaouakil. You got that Moots? You're not wanted lad. Parky might have seen the light by giving Racon a chance but he's missing a real opportunity here to bring on a player who looks like an unpolished diamond to me.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Swansea City 1 v Charlton Athletic 1

Just like last week, another decent result is undermined by the sides around us largely matching or bettering it. Fair play to Parky and the lads - all we can reasonably expect at this stage of the season is to put in the performances and avoid defeat, which we have been doing of late.
With 12 games left to play, the Addicks desperately need to close the ten point chasm on Nottingham Forest who produced a stunning 1-0 win at Reading yesterday. We have a chance this week but will need to produce back-to-back wins for the first time since December 2007. Even then, we might only draw level with Norwich who are one place above us now and who lost calamitously at home to Coventry yesterday and now find themselves in hot water. Southampton managed back-to-back wins of their own yesterday and have thrown themselves a lifeline. Plymouth, Barnsley and Watford all won their games to distance themselves and it's Blackpool who are slipping at this vital stage of the season. Plymouth's eye-watering win at Wolves just about summed our luck up.

Watford's home win against Palace and Doncaster's latest win against Derby on Friday night, means that both will come to the Valley in relaxed mood which could work for us. Doncaster, however, might have the bigger point to prove, having been robbed by us earlier in the season for our only away win of the season so far.

Whilst we have been poor for most of the season, it's our form away from home which shows just how bad we've been. Mustering only 8 points from a possibly 54 would put any side in the relegation zone, and the fact that we only seem capable of forcing draws now even when we are matching opponents tells you all you need to know.

Relegation is what we deserve this season and it might be a necessary evil if we are to regroup properly as a club and get ourselves on a level footing so we can move forward once again. There is, of course, always the risk that we are unable to compete even in League One and the unthinkable happens, but you have to believe that remnants from the current squad would be good enough to make our side competitive and that youth and a little bit of money might make the difference. Who knows, perhaps we would be seen as a real bargain at League One valuation and might just attract new board members or owners with the funds needed to refloat the club.