Friday, 29 May 2009

Is the Fans Forum working?

Early days admittedly, but I find myself asking the question after the notes from the last meeting on 14th May were published yesterday on Charlton life.

Not sure why it takes two weeks to release a page of notes, but the club appear to have to agree these in advance, so maybe that accounts for part of the delay.

So what did we learn? Not a lot really; Phil Parkinson's future appears to be in just as much doubt as the fans think; we might not be able to afford to use the big screen without a sponsor next season; JD Sports are unlikely to renew their Carbrini brand shirt sponsorship which could mean new home and away shirts if a new shirt sponsor is found; season ticket sales are "encouraging." The rest of the discussion appears to be taken up with the Fans Forum governance (replacement of members, tenure etc), request for a regular page in the programme and, bizarrely, a bar/lounge of their own to "raise profile."

Parky first then - his future was questioned in relation to negatively affecting season ticket sales. Steve Waggot reportedly suggested that if wavering fans renewed, the club might be able to use the additional funds to get rid of him but that "it was unknown at this point as to his position going forward." This was followed by a question about a possible takeover affecting Parkinson's status and the response that "as further information regarding this isn't available at present, it was difficult to discuss in detail." Hardly a denial that something is going on especially when "at some point in the not too distant future, an announcement would have to be made either way, but it was unclear when this would be."
News that the club might not be able to afford the big screen without sponsorship is the latest humbling news about club finances. How long before we apply for our evening matches to be played during the afternoon so we don't have to put the lights on? Perhaps the club could tell us how much it costs to operate the big screen? If it was affordable, it might be something fans would feel strongly about contributing towards? If not, I'd rather it was sold than have the embarrassment of it being blank at every home game.

No real surprise re JD Sports in the current climate, especially with us now representing League One. Bearing in mind how difficult it was in getting Carbrini on board, I wouldn't hold my breath on a new shirt sponsor unless there is a takeover at the club, so the notion of new home and away shirts is probably just that for now. 

Steve Waggott thinks season ticket sales are "encouraging" for this stage (14th May) but added the caveat that the number of renewals historically doubles in the week before the cut-off. That's this week, so let's see what numbers are unveiled next week. Unless, of course, the deadline will be extended from 1st June under the guise of the weight of applications or perhaps the fact that there's only a skeleton staff left to deal with what applications they have had. Either way, the threat of the cut-off is hardly what it used to be in the 27,000 full house PL days. My guess is Steve will be disappointed when the first figures are revealed.

In summary then, this is just the level of information we've historically gleaned from "supporters evenings." I thought the idea behind the FF was a better two-way flow of information and that doesn't appear to be happening. Certainly not from the fans upwards (I don't believe fans have a problem speaking up or making themselves heard) and the club will only really ever tell us what we absolutely need to know.  

I might be being unfair here but I also get the distinct  impression the FF might be looking like high maintenance in the current climate.


Thursday, 28 May 2009

End of May and it's all happening....

The Irish consortium controlling Sunderland in recent years have been bought out by Ellis Short, another ambitious American. His first mistake as new owner has been to sanction the appointment of Steve Bruce - a hard and costly lesson for Ellis methinks.

Portsmouth look close to being bailed out by an Arabian businessman assuming they get through their due diligence and the first decision there may be to confirm Paul Hart's temporary managerial role or perhaps to make a more ambitious appointment.

In Scotland Celtic are on the look out for a replacement for Gordon Strachan and are sniffing around Owen Coyle and Tony Mowbray. It would surely only be an emotional decision if Coyle accepted the post having secured Premier League football for the Clarets. Mowbray on the other hand has not been seeing eye-to-eye with the West Brom Chairman for some time and he could decide enough's enough.

Aberdeen have finally tired of the Rangers-loving Jimmy Calderwood and they are casting around for a new manager, although former players are probably the best bet for a club that needs to build on it's glorious achievements of the not-to-distant past. Mark "loyal" McGhee and Eric Black are being talked up over the border.

Chelsea court Ancelotti and Newcastle take deep breaths on Shearer and Dowie and Dowie's brother. Even Gareth Southgate will be sweating over his meeting with the most loyal Chairman in football. Elsewhere in the Premier the change is all about strengthening for next season.

Meanwhile, in the Coca-Cola leagues Reading are are the lookout for a new boss and Kevin Blackwell ponders his future at Sheffield United. Ian Hollway has already got back on the horse at Blackpool and Jonny Metgod has joined Clough at Derby. The Coca-Cola clearouts are of credit crunch proportions and have been going since the season finished. Even play-off losers Millwall announced 10 to go yesterday - five of them who arguably could have expected another season.

There's a common theme running through many of the biggest changes here in terms of takeovers and managerial replacements, and that is that they are the clubs who have, generally speaking, failed or disappointed this season. No great surprise in that of course but it is happening across the board.

The one club that should perhaps figure high on this list in terms of changes is our own Charlton Athletic. Not only a second successive relegation in three seasons, but a financial calamity and we look to be caught in a debt spiral in League One unless we can break the mould. Rumours abound of course but the ongoing silence has fans shifting in the seats and cynics amongst them claiming nothing's going on. Heated speculation of an announcement last week came to nought and another week is closing out. 

However, let just take stock for a minute; it is still only May; most players contracts don't expire for another month; the transfer window doesn't open until 1st July; we know any takeover negotiations are delicate matters, price-affecting and can unsettle staff, players and supporters, so there should be no great surprise at the silence. On top of all that, we know that the Board do want to sell and they have remained tight-lipped over all of the most recent speculation. Peter Varney too has said nothing - him a fan like us as well - someone who has nothing to lose by denying his involvement in any takeover if there was no truth in it - when asked directly by the SLP he didn't deny it.

What's more, the Board haven't taken any decision on extending Phil Parkinson's managerial position and there has been zero movement on players - incoming or outgoing. Again, at the very leat you would have expected the announcement of the termination of those contracts expiring for the players everyone accepts won't be kept on because they are not good enough and too expensive in any event for League One, irrespective of who owns the club next season e.g. Darren Ambrose. At the bottom of the food chain a large number of staff have been laid-off at the Valley  but that was immediate cost-cutting post the last match and they can be replaced relatively easily when the need arises.

I remain very confident something is happening and we just need to be patient. I only hope any announcement doesn't ultimately disappoint in terms of the people involved, the depth of their financial backing and height of their ambition. New owners who manage to acquire control but end up with limited funds in terms of making the changes we need or financing the club properly for a few years at least would only be like rearranging the deckchairs on the Titantic.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Charlton's poor away following

If the figures shared on Charlton Life today are to be believed, then our average away following was 708 for the season. Knowing that we were on a rock bottom 300-odd for the final matches as all hope had gone, I guess I was surprised that the average might be as high at 708, particularly as they were precious few derby matches at which to skew the average - both Palace and QPR were night games too.

More surprising then, that ours was the smallest away support in the division. Palace averaged 1090, Barnsley 1200 and Doncaster 1508. I was immediately suspicious of the Donny and Tykes numbers but it has been pointed out on the thread that South Yorks derby matches (both Sheffield's) and the games against Preston, Burnley and Blackpool may have helped them both here. Looking for some excuses, we did have the worst away record in the division to go with our support, managing only two wins - at Doncaster and Southampton. Let's hope our away form wasn't because of our away support. I looked to the top of the table to contradict this worrying theory only to find it was table-toppers Wolves with 2808!

If we were to compare away support as a percentage of home gates, then the picture would worsen still - something like 3-4%. I know actual home attendances were well below those published but that was presumably a factor of us playing so poorly at home and they would have been closer to the paying numbers given if performances had been better.

If the above logic holds true, then we should see a healthy improvement next season (certainly as a percentage of home gates), what with the increase in local derby games and the south-east-centric nature of the rest of the division. I am guessing too that there will be a number of new grounds for some of our younger fans as well and if we have a half-decent season we should improve on 700 in spite of the opposition. Everyone I have spoken to recently tells me they are fired-up and looking forward to doing more away games this coming year. Let's see those fixtures please!

Monday, 25 May 2009


Something goes for Addicks fans. Despite not wanting the unpleasant visit from MILL-WALL next season (let's hope it's Boxing Day), it was ultimately great viewing to see them beaten in fine style by Scunthorpe yesterday. Like Chicago Addick, I shouted "y-e-s" so loudly yesterday when Scunny hit the winner that my baby burst into tears. It was a great match for the neutral and had shades of '98 all over it, especially when it went to 3-2. If Harris had managed to beat the keeper with two minutes left, we may indeed have been in for extra time at 3-3. I met a few Millwall fans I know in the evening and it has to be said that they took it very well (better than we would). I have another coming for lunch today, and I am practising sincerity and empathy (he doesn't read this).

The icing on the cake was the humbling of the Geordie Nation. As New York Addick points out, it was a result the rest of the country was pining for in some strange way. They have a fat and bloated Chairman who's made a balls of it. He, stupidly, spent a fortune bringing the nark Dennis Wise in to meddle as Director of Football (laughs out loud) and then had the audacity to sack Sam Allardyce far too quickly after a sticky start. Alan Shearer even called it wrong too. He has turned down better offers to manage the Magpies before now but I think he saw this as an easy opportunity instal himself as the Saviour. They were looking relatively safe when he took over and it would only have taken three wins to sort it out. Sorry Toon, but you got what you deserved and we're all laughing now.  I was surprised to learn that the Geordies have been in the top flight for 16 years. I still think of them as a yo-yo club. Still, I guess they are once again...

The only other comment from yesterday was that Roy Hodgson surpassed Curbs' in managing to take un-fashionable Fulham into Europe. Today they will be booking their three coaches to take their diehards to the first match. A dozen celebrity fans will no doubt join them on the night via private jet. Jealous? Not-half.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Gills at the Valley next year

I had hoped that this weekend might see the gloom begin to lift for Addicks fans. Shrewsbury beating the Gills would have at least meant that we could look down on at least one of our nearest neighbours. Instead Gillingham took the game to Town and thoroughly deserved their last minute winner after creating a number of goal-scoring chances in the first half. Josh Wright played a mature 90 minutes in the holding midfield role and nearly broke the deadlock in the first half but his drive through a crowd of players was saved. It's a recurring statement this season, but how the mighty have fallen.

It's also interesting to hear our name in the clutch of those offered by commentators for the Gills to drool over. There seems to be an expectation that "Charlton and Norwich" will somehow be favourites for promotion next season. Without serious investment, Charlton will be fighting to stay in League One and I believe Norwich might be in a similar position. Meanwhile, Southampton will be lucky not to suffer another relegation if they go into Administration.  

Fortune (Charlton's misfortune) would appear to suggest Millwall will be promoted tomorrow to finish the rubbing of salt into the massive Addick wounds. As I have said before, I shan't cry if we don't have to play them next season (or ever again) but I will still manage a 24-hour smirk if they lose.  

Thursday, 21 May 2009

This is the weekend where...

Newcastle lose at Villa and Alan Shearer's managerial gamble goes horribly wrong. Iain Dowie will be wearing that clueless expression not normally associated with rocket scientists and will have another glimpse of failure to add to his CV. The blind Toon Army will back him through next season but anything short of automatic promotion and he may fall from grace.

Sheffield United and Burnley should play out a nail-biter for Premier League glory. Very hard to separate these but my money's on the Blades to nick it and cap a heart-breaking season for Burnley.

Millwall will be roared on by 45,000 plus at Wembley. I don't want to play them next season but I suspect they might not enjoy being favourites and the weight of expectation might prove too great. If they lose expect widespread disturbances on Sunday night as the drink takes effect and tempers fray.

Surely Shrewsbury will manage to beat Gillingham again after putting seven passed them in the league early in the season and getting a 2-2 draw at Priestfield.  

Rangers will close out the SPL title amid acrimony at Celtic for blowing it.

Charlton fans will continue to shift uncomfortably in their seats in the absence of any anticipated changes. It's high time we had a comment one way or another from Mr Varney. We only want to know if there's any truth in the rumour or not. It's not too much to ask is it?

Transfer window to be abolished?

Football League Chairman, Lord Mawhinney has expressed a desire to see the transfer window system abolished for domestic transfers. He believes the FIFA ruling on transfer windows was introduced primarily to regulate the movement of players between countries and that is obviously far less of a problem for Football League clubs.

The Football League don't have the power to change the current set-up which is why Mawhinney is effectively lobbying the government via the Culture Minister for a change. FIFA don't have a great track record of listening to others let alone anyone from these islands, so any changes are likely some way off. 

However, I'm not sure a change would benefit a club like ours. The fact that the big boys are limited to do their dealings in the three months of January, July and August has probably helped us over the years. Imagine how things might chnage if clubs with money could bring in a Carlos Tevez type player for the last ten games of the season to help them avoid relegation? The fact that the windows are relatively short also helps the smaller club get more value for their player sales when buying clubs often need to move quickly to conclude a deal and avoid losing players to rival clubs. 

Meanwhile, no announcement so far this week from the Valley and the fear that there is nothing to these rumours grow. I remain confident that something is going on behind the scenes and that the silence is what you would expect following the enormous disappointment of the aborted Zabeel deal in January. If there was nothing in it, I am sure Peter Varney would have said as much before now rather than remain silent knowing this would encourage speculation and false optimism. If we start to see any significant player decisions being made by the current management team, that will be time to ridicule these rumours and get back to the wailing and knashing of teeth. 

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Pre-season friendlies....

Our first-team friendlies look like they have largely been sorted out and with the exception of a hopefully sunny day out (weekend break) at Bournemouth on Saturday 1st August, they are uninspiring. 

The Welling game which has usually been played a week or two weeks before the opening day of the season is now the first game on a Wednesday evening on 8th July (yet to be finalised). The first team squad will just have returned from their Summer holidays and this match will appear even more like a practice match than in previous years. It hardly maximises the money-making opportunity for Welling either being played during the week. Strangely it comes almost a fortnight ahead of the next friendly game against Crawley Town - what's the logic here? Maybe Welling couldn't fit us in after this.

I hope Crawley aren't expecting a bumper Charlton following when we go there on Tuesday 21st July because they will be disappointed. I can also see this being used to play a younger Charlton eleven.

Barnet away is next up on 25th July and at least it is league opposition on a Saturday, although it's a venue we've been to several times in recent seasons and won't attract me to venture around the north circular.

Our annual home game won't be against an exotic sounding foreign team or a hoped-for Premier League side. Instead will be Ipswich Town on Tuesday 28th July. The fact that Roy Keane is now their manager appears to be the big draw that the club are pinning their hopes on (I hope they know he won't be playing). Again, I suspect the turn-out will be poor, due to the quality and familiarity of the opposition and the fact that it's an evening game as opposed to a Saturday.

So to Dean Court then in Bournemouth on Saturday 1st August. This is probably the only one I will definitely attend (Ipswich if I am doing nothing else) unless I decide to be on holiday at this time.

The fixtures are out on 17th June and they promise to be more interesting although our opponents might make sobering reading when we actually see them printed in black and white. Please let the rumoured takeover come to pass!

Monday, 18 May 2009

Steve Coppell anyone?

Steve Coppell is not everyone's cup of tea as a manager. He walked out of Maine Road after only 30 odd days in charge and has resigned from other positions when he has felt he has not been as successfull as he should have been. He was prepared to do the honourable thing after Reading were relegated last year from the Premier but was persuaded to stay on. He lead Reading to within a win of automatic promotion this season and had to suffer defeat in the play-offs. On the back of that he has put his hands up and resigned saying he should have done better than fail to win in any of the last 9 home games. 

Coppell's managerial history is impressive and he has a track record of making the play-offs and getting sides promoted, not to mention the F A Cup final with Palace. His achievement of finishing 8th with Reading in their first year in the Premier League matched Alan Curbishley's with Charlton even if they were relegated last year. 

For me, he appears to be a Charlton-sort. He does his talking through his team and has a down-to-earth approach to life. His ability to motivate players and get the most from what he's got has been amply demonstrated and I believe he would make an excellent choice to rebuild our side to challenge for promotion next season assuming our financial situation were to change significantly for the better with new investment. 

The rumoured new Boardroom takeover includes a view that Curbs would be reinstalled as manager. This would be immediately popular and whilst Curbs' options appear to be increasingly limited elsewhere, I am still not sure he is ready yet to acknowledge his failure to progress from West Ham by returning to the Valley. Reading, however, might look a better option for Curbs - still a Championship side and with Madjeski backing....

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Sadness, anger and hope

Just back from a fantastic weeks break in Cyprus (Paphos and the west/south). I had every intention of doing some blogging whilst I was away but was simply too busy. At £6 a meg, mobile blogging was out of the question and I found myself out of easy access of an internet cafe. Mine host is still awaiting connectivity to the WWW at his sumptious new gaff so I have enjoyed the break in more sense than one.

So, I have returned all eager-beaver and have been catching up all day on what's been going on everywhere and not just all things CAFC.

First, I was saddened to learn of the unexpected death of Rose of Denmark barman, Dave Fowler, on 6th May. I had heard that Dave had been taken into hospital prior to my departure. He has had a smoking related illness for quite some time but he actually died as a result of a fall/stroke whilst in hospital although it's not clear in what order. David Hatch from SE3Addick's FotopagePage has paid Dave a fitting tribute and his collage of visiting fans for this season is now displayed above the bar in the Rose and says it all really.

Dave Fowler was a quiet man but missed nothing. I think it's fair to say he was uncomplicated and very much at home working in the Rose. West Ham through and through, I was very pleased to see that that the Hammers emblem had been added to his shirt in the photo above. Dave would have loved that.

On a more depressing note, I return to the developing furore about MP's expenses. I try not to get involved in politics here for a number of reasons, not just because it's primarily a Charlton blog, but I have to comment on this. We are now seeing many of our politicians for the hypocrites we've always suspected they are and it's sickening. The fact that it's not party-specific doesn't help matters either as it simply reinforces the notion that it's all about ambition, greed and power irrespective of the slant they have taken. How many people don't realise they have paid their mortgage off 18 months ago? If you forget to tell the tax man you have starting working again and have claimed unemployment benefit for 18 months you are brought before the court and they laugh at excuses like this. I sincerely hope we see some prosecutions here and that they aren't simply allowed to repay their way out of it. I can reclaim my legitimate expenses at work but if I hired a helicopter to go to a meeting in Birmingham, I would expect the sack for taking the piss. How Sir Gerald Kaufman can say he has more serious constituency issues to deal with when questioned over why he tried to buy an £8500 television on expenses, I don't know. Either way, expect to see the electorate take revenge on the fraudsters at the next elections as the largest number of new MP's ever enters the House of Commons.

And finally, some hope. I have today heard strengthening rumours of a Peter Varney-lead boardroom takeover with money-men from the middle-east. The talk is of an annoucement this week. It would be a massive shot in the arm if it happens and might go some way to finally lifting the gloom at the Valley and bringing real hope for 2009-10.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009


I did it again today for the third day in succession; I immediately went to the Championship page on the Beeb. I have now bookmarked League One and will try harder tomorrow.

Being a Championship side meant I kept an eye on what was going on in the Premiership, in the same way that I had a passing interest in the Champions League results when we were ourselves Premier League. I was dropping someone off last night so listened half-interested as the Gunners crashed out of Europe. I know Chelsea have a crunch game tonight but I have packing for a holiday to sort out and there might be something interesting on the box that will distract me from Stamford Bridge. A couple of channel hops to keep track of the score is all it should need.

No, my horizons need to be lowered, so I have scoured the League One page and guess what? It's clear-out time. Leyton Orient 8, Carlisle 6, Swindon 13. Players released I mean. Charlton must surely announce something close to the top end of that lot soon, and how many players respective clubs bring in will determine how much stronger or weaker they might be than last season. I say this on the basis that the modern game depends on relatively larger squads. Very few sides are able to go through a term with less than 20 playing first teamers. Tactics now demand differing formations at home and away; managers are under more pressure to keep squad members happy and the pace of the game brings more injuries. The days of a side winning the league with only 14 players featuring are long gone.

I am hoping Millwall will make the Championship because I will not look forward to playing them next season. However you look at it, it's two thoroughly unpleasant afternoons. Instead, I will wish Kenny Jackett well and pray that we pass each other when we are next promoted, whenever that may be.

I am actually going to be in Cyprus from Friday for a week and will be the guest of one of Millwall's finest. So, I am going to watch both play-off games and cheer the Lions on. It will be that much easier as I can't bare Leeds United!

Monday, 4 May 2009

Charlton Athletic 4 Norwich City 2

This cruel season finished on a relative high yesterday in the sunshine as the Addicks put four past Norwich City  and ensured we get to play them again next season. Norwich were supposed to be fighting for their lives and you assume they have been putting up a rearguard action in recent weeks to encourage 3,000 plus fans to make the trip. If they have, there was absolutely no sign of it yesterday. They went behind to the first decent Charlton chance after ten minutes when the diminutive Nicky Bailey headed home a fine Lloyd Sam cross and, somehow, they contrived to concede  another two quick goals before the half-hour mark to Deon Burton who went on to score the first hat-trick I can remember for eons (someone remind me). In between times they tried to take the game to Charlton but it looked like attack was the best form of defence as they were so brittle at the back. 

Chants of "you're not fit to wear the shirt" confirmed that the game was up for City and all interest in affairs at Home Park evapourated. A small group of City fans were escourted from the East Stand before half-time when they realised there was no point in enduring any more. Norwich did manage to pull one back before the break when Alan Lee finally got a header to attack. Kelly Youga had been shifted into central defence earlier after Darren Ward had been stretchered off having landed on top of Youga's and underneath Alan Lee's not inconsiderable frame. Youga was an obvious weak aerial link and Lee managed three good second-half headers but it was always going to be too little too late. 

Charlton extended their advantage soon after the restart when Lloyd Sam roared past the full-back and drove his low cross into the path of the back-stretching Burton who managed to get enough of a touch to score his hat-trick. Sammy Clingan netted an excellent free-kick in front of the Norwich fans but that was pretty much it. You felt Charlton could have got six or seven after going 4-1 up with 40 minutes to play but they lost interest in attacking after Norwich had made it 4-2.  

It was a memorable day for Chris Solly, who made his debut for the injured Ward and, for  my money, was the man of the match if you didn't have to give it to Burton. He looked solid at the back, was quick to attack and showed no fear or inexperience. Scott Wagstaffe and Tamar Tuna also got on before the finish and all three are likely to feature next season.

The official attendance was 22, 020 and I had hoped there might actually be something approaching that number in the stadium for the last game. Unfortunately, the vast gaps in the home seating was as bad, if not worse, than in recent matches; we really have driven some of our fans away and it will take a sustained promotion campiagn to get them coming again. In the short-term they are the thousands who will not be renewing their season tickets. 

No big annoucement either of the rumoured takeover. Hopefully news for another day.

After the game we enjoyed an end-of-season drink at the Anchor in Hope on the riverfront where there were a number of old faces I first got to know during the 80-81 season. The talk was of next season and how much better it might be than the dross of  the last few years. Let us hope.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Brentford , Exeter and Wycombe confirmed

Three sides we have played in Cup competitions in recent years have been promoted from League Two and will play us next season. Battling to join them via the play-offs are Gillingham and Rochdale, another two Cup opponents in recent years. Shrewsbury or Bury are also in the hunt but I hope the Dale or the Gills make it; Rohcdale because their history of failure has been so long and so appalling, and the Gills because it's we owe them a couple of good hidings to atone for that miserable 3-2 F A Cup defeat.

Personally, I hope Millwall make it out of League One. Largely so we don't have to play them next season and also because I think they deserve it. Kenny Jackett's done a great job on peanuts and, let's face it, they will be heading back down again very soon. We've just got to hope we time our promotion right so it coincides and we can maintain this glorious run of not having played them.

I am really looking forward to today's match and only hope our players don't manage a final disappointment by handed Norwich the game on a plate. I am not sure I could cope with 3000 mocking Canaries should the unlikely happen and they stay up.

A a final note, it was sad to see Ricky Hatton laid unconscious on the canvas in Las Vegas in the early hours. He was well beaten again and surely the time has come for this honourable former champion to retire gracefully and avoid further damage to his boxing legacy and his health.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Gareth's betting tips for the final day of the season

I imagine most (or all) of the Valley faithful will be glad to see the back of this season.  The final game of the season against Norwich gives the Addicks a chance to drag the Canaries down with them, though to be honest I think Barnsley might pull it out of the bag and win at Home Park anyway.  With that in mind I’ve made a few selections if you fancy dabbling into the world of online football betting on Sunday.

Plymouth will be glad to see their season over, after starting reasonably well they dropped off completely and looked like relegation candidates themselves for a while.  Barnsley aren’t the best side in terms of quality, but they’re not shy when it comes to the big occasions. Remember their mental FA Cup run last year? They’ve also beaten both Sheffield teams this season in their South Yorkshire derbies and I really fancy them to take all three points when they visit Plymouth on Sunday.  Barnsley are on offer at 7/5, which I think are fairly decent betting odds considering what they’re playing for.

Preston need to beat QPR at Deepdale on Sunday to stand any chance of getting in the play-offs.  The good news for the Lancashire side is that QPR have managed just three wins away from Loftus Road all season, drawing nine and losing ten.  If ever their was a ‘home banker’ it is this fixture, with Preston winning more home games than anyone else in the league this season.  The odds aren’t great, round about the 8/15 mark, but I can’t see QPR getting anything at Deepdale myself.

Another home banker, Ipswich at home to Coventry.  Roy Keane seems to have had an immediate impact in East Anglia, perhaps he could be football’s Alan Partridge? Probably not to be fair, he’ll be to busy walking his dogs and attacking paperboys.  The players will know Keane has big changes planned and they’re playing for their future, in front of the home crowd and it will be the first game Keane has managed at home since taking over.  Again the odds aren’t great at 4/6 but it looks a pretty safe bet.

I hope you all enjoy your last day of what must have been a miserable season. As an outsider I am sure next season will see your fortunes turn.

- Gareth

Blades to swell Palace crowd

With all of the talk about desperate Norwich fans buying tickets in home areas at the Valley just to be there on Sunday, Sheffield United have no such problem as Palace have allocated them the whole of the Half-hour Wait stand. That means there will be 7,000 United fans in north Croydon tomorrow and Place might give us a run for our official  gate for a change. Palace can do this, of course, because their season ticket holder fit easily into the Holmesdale and they can segregate the side-stand quite easily.

As it's the last day, I am guessing they might have had 14,000 there, so add in the United fans and they could be looking at c 21,000. With 15,500 season tickets and 3200 Norwich fans, we will have c 19,000 before match-day sales. With season ticket absenteeism this season and tickets being recycled, match-day sales have suffered as we've played relegation football. I would expect several thousand day-trippers to turn-out for the farewell, so we should just pip Palace in my view. 

Millwall's turnout at Carlisle isn't expected to create similar problems. The all-ticket affair will see much more modest numbers as Millwall fans save their money for the boot-watering prospect of play-off clash with Leeds United.