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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Can We Turn the Level Back to Easy?

After the euphoria of Saturday, things have calmed down a bit and the scale of our task looms large before us once again. Its a bit like one of those racing video games. They're either too easy that you're miles in front with nobody in sight that you eventually get bored rigid after 10 minutes or your brothers' turned the level to extremely difficult that no matter how many times you return to the grid it all proves so impossible that you end up crashing the thing just to get even.

So it seemed on Saturday evening. After a 4-0 thumping of the Hamsters our prospects looked a piece of cake and was starting to look just too easy, just 3 points behind the ferret fanciers and they visit the Valley in a couple of weeks. What was all the worry about? But now after Sundays result, its all turned difficult again and we're already starting to talk about life "down there" - as long as we go down fighting!

And it's all because the ferret fanciers have recovered. After their 8 straight defeats Wigan, it seems, have got it all together again. A near victory at New Highbury, than a saved penalty from the normally reliable Solano against Newcastle, "and they dared to believe again and went on to win the match courtesy of a wondrous 30-yard free kick by Taylor after Oguchi Onyewu had upended Leighton Baines. "

And, of course, like much of our season its a goal scored by someone who hasn't played or scored for years. This time it is was some geezer called Ryan Taylor, who "sidelined for most of the past year, initially with a fractured metatarsal and then a broken leg, Taylor’s goal was his first since October 2005" and therefore moves Wigan six points clear of us again.

So if you thought last Saturday was a game and a half then think again 'cause Curbs' was easy in comparison. We always beat the Hamsters, don't we, and they haven't won for years. But the game at Vicarage Rd, just like our win over Portsmouth 5 weeks ago, which was our first away win for 25 games, will be even more important and record breaking. Why, 'cause we're now going for our first consecutive Premiership win for 60 games.....

Not since Sept 24th 2005, away to West Brom, have we won two Premiership games on the trot, 60 long agonising games ago. And if you're looking to apportion management blame it works out as - under Curbs 32 games, Dowie 12, Reid 7 and Pardew 9. Of course, if it wasn't for that linesman during the Fulham game we would already have broken that dismal run and it could be that we will have reason to point to those 2 lost points at the end of the season.

But for now it's back to that bloody video game, difficult level, 'cause with Charlton nothing ever comes easy...

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Charlton 4 West Ham 0

Sorry, Curbs but business is business ain't it? You're just lucky you don't have to play us every week. Oh, and good luck for next week, Spurs ain't nearly as good as us.

Remember those objectives awarded us a couple of months ago, "abject and inept", well now its a bit different. "They are a team transformed" in the observer with "ambitious, confident, committed" compared to the Hamsters "Spineless. Toothless. Gutless". MOM to Jerry Thomas, "The former Arsenal trainee scored two peaches and played a part in one of the others." And probably the best summary is "There were so many outstanding contributions, and the attacking adventure Charlton posed through Darren Bent, Darren Ambrose and Thomas was a revelation".

Over at the independent we're described as "vibrant and awesomely committed", the Hammers were "outplayed, outfought, out-desired", "his (Mullins) midfield partnership with Nigel Quashie was simply over-run", "Hasselbaink, superbly set up the third. He had appeared to lose the ball but won a determined tackle against Paul Konchesky" and finally "It was a rout".

The telegraph explains it all with "Charlton under Pardew look like a side with as much spirit, composure and confidence as you could imagine for a side who have spent five months in the Premiership relegation zone. Remarkably JFH "was full of running and enthusiasm, a coaching achievement worthy of manager of the season. And picking out the pick of the crop, "Matt Holland again running midfield, the tireless work of Darren Ambrose and the tackling and energy of on-loan Alexandre Song". The MOM when to "Darren Ambrose. Started the rout with a fine volley and kept Charlton's attacking flow going throughout with some crisp, intelligent passing. And Moment of the Match: "Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's shuddering challenge to win the ball off Paul Konchesky and set up the third goal for Darren Bent. It was the sort of tackle to bring a tear to the eye." And a touch of gallows humour but worryingly for Curbs, "Magnusson, slumped in his seat with the expression of a man who should be kept away from sharp instruments".

The times doesn't go overboard with praise but gives us some scores, which all seem a bit low,"Carson 6, Young 6, El Karkouri 7, Diawara 7, Thatcher 6, Ambrose 7, Holland 6, Song Billong 6 (Faye 85min), Thomas 8, M Bent 7 (Hasselbaink 35min, 5), D Bent 7 (Zheng 82min).

But while we celebrate now there's a little dark cloud on the horizon which is due to arrive in the late afternoon at the JJB. Wigan are just a tantalizing 3 points in front now but today face a Newcastle team recovering from a mid-week european game in the UEFA. Newcastle have won 3 in a row but have failed to score 7 times away from home ( even the Addicks have only failed to score 6 times away from the Valley ) which is probably why Lawrenson opts for a disappointing 2-0 home win....

Saturday, February 24, 2007

"I hope our luck is a bit better than yours"

This is apparently what Richard Murray said to Curbs when he called to wish him good luck on getting the West Ham job in December, which goes some way to demonstrate the relationship that the two of them had at the Valley. But since that first day win over manure, the job at West Ham seems to be getting more difficult for Curbs. With only one win in 12 games the pressure is on our old manager and he could probably do without a visit to his old stomping ground today..

The conversation between Murray and Curbs is reported in a very good in-depth article in the independent where it also reviews todays game. The article also gives various reasons to suggest that we have come out rather well in Decembers manager swap deal. Curbs' lack of communication skills is mentioned, negative moods, his complaining with even "sulking" being suggested.

Pardew, meanwhile, "was popular among the staff", making his replacements' job much more difficult. And to think that we said back in April that it'll be very difficult to find someone like Curbs to manage Charlton...

In fact, it goes some ways to showing the benefits of managing a club that doesn't have a lot of money to throw around. Expectations have been high at West Ham all season and failure on the pitch has been that much hard to take. And now there's the spending of £19m that raises hopes even more. Then there's the concern about points being deducted over the Tevez and Mascherano deal.

On the other hand, Pards has had precious little to spend and has to draw an improvement from other sources. A trip to Spain, changes to the Training Ground all appear to have improved the feelings in the camp. It all comes down to whether we are good enough or not, although at this point in the season passion, belief and fight can win games. Just look at Sheff U.

As for todays team news, it seems that both Hreidarsson and Bougherra are out, still recovering from injury so Elk's partner in defence looks to be Diawara. At least they both speak the same language.

Friday, February 23, 2007

28 of 38 - West Ham (home)

Well, it had to happen one day - Curbs returns to the Valley. Normally, after 15 years together, two promotions - including giving us our first Championship for 65 years - and remembering the emotional cheers last April, you would have hoped for a little nostalgia and cheerful banter on his return. But, football isn't like that sometimes for, unfortunately, our ex-manager choose inexplicably to join the club just over the water, West Ham. We don't dislike them as much as we do the Palarse, maybe because we've usually proved ourselves superior to them on the pitch, but that's not the point. A break after 15 years was always going to be difficult but his joining his beloved West Ham almost feels like an act of betrayal. In fact, it feels a bit like your ex-wife marrying your best mate and then inviting herself round for a cup of tea to show off her new expensive clothes and accessories.

But, because of the awful dilemma that both teams find themselves in, this little meeting wouldn't be over a cosy cup of tea, will it? For, as if Curbs' return in a Derby match is not enough, then we have the added tension of it being a right royal Relegation Battle with only 11 games to go. Both teams are 6 points from safety and need to win, and badly.

And if that is not enough to whet your appetite, then there's the addition conflict that our new Manager is playing against his old club and particularly against the Club Chairman that sacked him just two months ago, saying, allegedly that he was a cancer that had to be removed......

It all makes for an explosive encounter. Fortunately for us, the Hamsters are anything but on fire at the moment and are currently useless having lost their last 4 games, to Villa and Liverpool and twice to no-hopers Watford. They've scored just 18 goals all season and an abysmal total of just 4 away from home in 13 games, that's one goal every 292.5 minutes.....or once every 3.25 games and as they've gone 158 minutes since the last time they scored away from Upton Park, we've got nothing to worry about. More important their current form is reportedly woeful and they've only won once in their last 11 games in cup and league and that was against Brighton in the Cup.

Unbeaten for 50 years at the Valley
See what I mean, the reason we've always liked seeing the Hamsters is that, although never knowingly beaten them in the Cup, in the League it's a completely different story. Overall, we've done the business 13 times, with 10 draws and a miserly 8 West Ham wins. In the Prem. it's even better - Charlton 5 wins, West Ham 3, with 2 draws.

Home at the Valley in the 15 league games between us, they've only ever won once, back on October 12th 1957, 50 years ago. We've won 7 and there's been 7 draws. And in the 5 Premiership games, they've never won at the Valley where it stands at 3 Addicks wins and 2 draws.

The Opponents
Old Boys Reunion
There's a host of old boys, apart from Curbs, Day and Peacock, returning on Saturday, so for them it's more like a school reunion than a football match, especially as most of them wouldn't be bringing their kit. There's Konchesky ( he must be gutted, leaving us to get rid of Curbs and look what happens), Bowyer, Cole, Spector and dear old Shawn Newton. There's talk of playing Konchesky but its likely that only Carlton Cole will get to run about. Captain Reo-Coker is suspended and Spector is out injured as is new signing Lucas Neill. Upson seems to have recovered though and little Bent will get a chance to see what an £6 mill, but rising to 7.5, defender looks like.

If you really care about who we're playing, you can read a fans eyeview from the Hamsters standpoint. For me, I was shocked to read a few weeks ago what Curbs' pays these no-hopers. Apparently Neill collects £70k per week, Boa Morte £50k, Upson £45k, Kepa £35K, Quashie £25K, Davenport £20k and that's just the January bargains. I bet he doesn't pay Konchesky anywhere near as much...

The Addicks
Bentie's Back
After having to cheer on Marcus for the last 7 games, its good that not only has he not been sold but here he is again, skipper and leading goalscorer Darren Bent, although the cafc seems to question whether he'll start. Having discussed the team yesterday, all we can say is that Pards will stick as close to a winning formula as he can with: Carson, Sanfoka, El Karkouri, Hreidarsson, Thatcher, Rommedahl, Faye, Song, Holland, Marcus Bent and little old Darren Bent.

1-0 to the Addicks
The good news comes from that git on the telly who states the bleeding obvious with "This is such a big game for both teams that I expect it to be a tense, nervous affair," but then forecasts a 2-1 Home Win. Bad news is that he appears to be losing his sure touch, as he only got 2 results right last week. Nearer home, pedro45 sees a 2-1 Addicks win and more important, our own top prediction scorer, 16 right from 27, Angela Morris from cafcpicks has also gone with a home 3 points.

And with the Hamsters not due to score away from home for another 134 minutes, all we have to do is find the net once to claim the three points. I fancy Marcus to score his 100th league goal, at last.....

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Step Forward Eleven Heroes

After last nights 1-1 at Vicarage Road, its now 6 points and a lotta goals to make up. The race is on, there's no room for any half-measures, especially in home games - we have to attack and go for maximum points. Well, that's only my opinion 'cause now the important job is down to Pards.

So what team is he going to put out? Perhaps we should expect the same team that played so well against manure 2 weeks ago: Carson; Sankofa, Thatcher, Diawara, Bougherra; Rommedahl, Song, Holland, Faye, Ambrose; M Bent. But El Karkouri was suspensed that day and Hreidarsson was out injured as well and as we've all been told we can now add little Bent and Young to the squad as they are now fit to play.

And despite what we say, it will depend on whether or not Pardew sees it as a game that must be won or a game that cannot be lost. Is he going to worry about what team the returning Curbs names or will he be set on inflicting as much hardship on his former employer as possible no matter who plays? Anyway, here's a selection of ideas as to who will be out in red on Saturday.

Pards' first three have to be: Carson, little Bent and Holland. Scotty because he's our best keeper, Darren because he's our leading goalscorer - at last back after missing 7 games ( and returning as captain, one assumes) - and Matty H is playing too well, inspiring everyone, as highlighted by addicktednet player of the month poll for December.

Next down must be Thatcher, Song, Rommedahl. Thatch because he's been playing so well that we've almost forgotten Traore ( and of course for "winning" third spot in the guardianoscars awards for tosspot of the year - come on, he deserves better ) , ditto for Song, Pards' view - "you could have put him in a Manchester United shirt and you wouldn't have noticed any difference. I thought he was terrific". And, of course, the ubiquitous Dennis, because, one day - one fine day - he's going to forget he's not playing for Denmark and at last going to produce something.

So that's six in, we need 5 more but now it begins to get a bit difficult. Two of our starters against manure, Bougherra and Faye, were injured during the game, and although Faye only lasted 40 minutes and Magic managed to finish the game, all we are told is that everyones' fit, but with no mention of the little old irish fella.

Anyway, despite the apparent return to fitness of Luke Young, Osei Sankofa continues to impress at right-back and with the added experience of marking Ryan Gibbs last time out could well keep his place. After missing his first Premiership game all season at Old Trafford, El Karkouri will return at centre-back after his suspension and Marcus Bent will be rewarded for his efforts as stand-in for Darren during his lay-off by playing the second-striker in our return to a 4-4-2 line-up.

So two places left, centre-back and midfield. At centre-back the two realistic candidates are Hreidarsson and Bougherra, both recovering from an injury. With Hermann H playing a full 90 minutes every time he's been available to Pardew, it'll be a surprise if he doesn't return, but then life's full of surprises isn't it.

With the continued lamentable and enforced absence of our one-decent creative force Andy Reid, as much forced from the management as his injury, after his premature return last time, the one midfield slot is between Faye, Zheng, Ambrose and Thomas. It all depends if Pardew wants width and goes with either Thomas or Ambrose on the left, or sees a need to strengthen midfield with either Faye or ZiZi. Thomas has started 3 of the last four games but then there was no Darren B available and in all those games we had 5 players in midfield. He'd now be a brave man to play 4-4-2 and also include 2 wide men in such a vital game. So I expect him to play Amady Faye to tighten up the midfield where Song, Faye and Holland has a nice ring to it.

Sub: Randolph, Bougherra, Thomas, Ambrose, Lisbie

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Come On Watford ?

Maybe we can occupy ourselves tonight down the pub watching Liverpool or Chelsea playing some boring two-leg European thing and amuse ourselves with the thought that it probably matters to someone, when in reality there's really only one important game being played tonight - Watford v Wigan.

A Watford win would give them an incredible 21 points and finally lift them off the foot of the table, a position they have occupied since we swapped places after our Guy Fawkes night blitzing of Blackburn, and a home win would therefore push us down again to bottom spot. A Wigan victory, however, would leave us 8 points, and a worse goal difference, away from the coveted 17th position. A comforting draw, meanwhile, would leave the places as they are but give Wigan a 6 point lead over the Addicks and the Hamsters.

And looking at current form, a home win is not so unlikely. Whereas Wigan were inspired against the Arse last week, they have nevertheless lost 10 of their last 11 games in Cup and League, and meanwhile Watford have been going in the opposite direction. They still don't score many goals but their 1-0 FA Cup win over Ipswich on Saturday was their fourth win in six League and Cup games and their fifth win in the last nine games.

They also managed a 1-1 draw at Wigan in September and were drawing this Vicarage Rd fixture 1-1 again when it was abandoned in December. Plus the fact that Wigan have never won at Vicarage Rd. OK, there's only been three games there, but history sometimes has its mysterious effects.

Meanwhile Adrian Boothroyd explains his teams recent revival by admitting last week that he had been guilty of placing too much pressure on his players since the beginning of the campaign, and that he had since adopted a more relaxed approach to training and matches. And while his fellow relegation-fighters are putting stress on high fitness levels, Boothroyd takes a more laid-back approach - Of tonights game and the forthcoming fixtures he adds - "there is no pressure on us, because we are not expected to do anything."

Lets hope that he thinks the same come March 3rd..

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sticks and Stones.....

What's that about "Sticks and Stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." Well, maybe not hurt but bloody irritate, yes.

For while Pards and Curbs have wisely kept out of any potential war of words regarding Saturdays game, it seems that the West Ham chairman, Mr Eggert Magnusson can't keep his mouth shut. Apparently the "News (?) of the World" had the story first although it was also in the beeb over the weekend, although with certain offending words removed. Then it was repeated again in all its glory in the sportinglife.

Outlining the reasons for Pardew's dismissal in December, Magnusson told the News of the World: "There was no purpose to talk about it publicly at the time. But the key factor was something was just not right in the dressing room. Tension had been building between the players and the manager for a while. There was a cancer we had to cut off."

Well, that just about spells it out and puts the dots on the i's so to speak, unless, of course, there's been some mistake on the News' (?) part - wouldn't be the first time would it - some element of lost in translation perhaps, although English is not exactly an unknown language in Iceland, just ask Hermann Hreidarsson.

But it all seems rather strange that Egghead should choose to wait over two months to tell everyone his reasons. Maybe the timing is not a coincidence with such an important fixture coming up in just 4 days time. And Eggbert, whose 60th birthday it is today, didn't get to be the CEO of an import/export and bread and biscuit manufacturing company without being able to spot people's weaknesses. Maybe he thinks that our Pards is going to get upset by his words, loss some sleep and take his mind of the more important issue of Saturday.

Well, think again Mr Egghead. Not for nothing is Pards' motto - Tenacity, Spirit and Flair. If you want to play psychological games, try it elsewhere. This is not the time to be giving interviews to news(?)papers containing acid remarks about ones' ex-employees that your team has to face in their next game. For it's just possible that your barbed comments are going to worry your own Manager rather than ours.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Wigan Chase ( or is it Handicap?)

OK, Monday morning and only 5 days to go before the season starts to really get going. But while we all look forward to Saturdays epic against the Hammers, there's another very important game taking place on Wednesday night over at Vicarage Road between bottom club Watford and 17th place team Wigan. Its Wigans game in hand over us and if they win they'll be 8 points clear of the Addicks and with a much better goal difference. The game was abandoned on December 30th with the score at 1-1 and although a home win would push us down to the bottom of the table, it's vital that Watford do the business and deny Wigan any points on Wednesday. With their "lucky" win over Ipswich in the Cup on Saturday, Watford have now won 4 of their last 6 games in all competitions and continue to fight, so a home win is not so unlikely.

With Sheffield in 15th and Man. City in 16th, both 10 points clear of us, it would take a monumental run of victories on our part to catch either of them up even though Man. City are not enjoying life at the moment without a win in 4 games, so it looks like Wigan or bust. And with Jewell's team realistically being the only team we can catch to reach 17th, any points they gain against Watford are going to make a difficult job that much harder. Fortunately, Watford will also see it as a game they cannot afford to lose so it becomes a must win for both teams.

To gauge the size of our task in catching Wigan, I had a quick shifty at their remaining fixtures and as far as we're concerned it doesn't make for good reading. They have 12 games left and they have to play every one of the nine other teams in the bottom half of the table. That leaves just 3 games against top-half opposition with Bolton ( whom they beat at the Reebok) and Newcastle at home and Liverpool away.

And while you could argue that playing against other teams fighting for their lives may not be the easiest way of getting three points, its best to point out that 3 of their home games are against teams currently floatly aimlessly in midtable ie Spurs, Middlesbrough and Fulham, all of which have only one away win to their name this season, plus another home game against West Ham, currently, the only team not to have won away all season. So, not what you might call a difficult run-in.

Yes, we were inspired by Wigan's disastrous run recently of 8 consecutive Premiership defeats, which ended with a 2-1 win over Portsmouth, but they then surprised us all by almost beating the Arse at New Highbury. And before you get too carried away, its best to remember that they have at least the knowledge that they can string a few wins together to get out of trouble with the memory that they won 4 on the trot in October/November, a run that terminated with their win over the Addicks. If you can remember its now 61 games since the Addicks managed to win even 2 games in a row.

But if you need a second opinion, the beeb, tired of discussing life at the top end of the table, turned their attentions a few days ago to the problems facing teams at the bottom of the table. They looked at the three games between the bottom three in February and voicing their opinions are none other than Graham Taylor, our former striker Mark Bright and Hammers stalwart Julian Dicks, "assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the three teams going into this potentially season-defining spell." They give some interesting views but maybe you shouldn't take their opinions too seriously as they all go on to predict a home win for the Hammers in their game against Watford a week ago.

And then there's BBC Sport football expert alan hansen that threw his hat into the ring with a few mixed emotions recently. Seeing Wigans' failure to hold on at the Arse as a bonus to "the bottom three", he then goes on to pronounce - "Out of the bottom three Charlton look the team most likely to have a chance to me." So there's hope yet, it seems..

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Our Dismal Away Form

After being told for the third time this season, by our third man in charge, that the Season Starts Here, its tempting to take a look at the Premiership table this morning to see exactly how much we have to catch up.

The gap to Wigan in 17th place is still 5 points but they have a game in hand at Watford next week which could see us 8 points adrift and with an inferior goal difference. Conversely a Watford win that night could see us pushed down to bottom spot. Take your pick. But dreaming of better things and searching higher up the table, its obvious from looking at just the bottom half where our season has fallen apart. To illustrate the point, there's three apparent groups in the bottom 10 teams.

Group One
Spurs, Middlesbrough, Aston Villa and Fulham in 11th to 14th positions have all, just like Charlton, only won 1 away game all season but while the Addicks have only got two draws at Newcastle and Bolton, Spurs and Middlesbro' have 5 draws and Villa and Fulham 7. They also have much better home records to give them 32/33 points.

Group Two:
The next group is Sheff U, Man. City and Wigan in 15th to 17th place, all of whom have managed 3 wins away from home. Sheff U won at Newcastle, Wigan and Watford all by 1-0. Man.City have won at Villa, Sheff U and West Ham. Wigan have wins at Fulham, Bolton and West Ham. On the Addicks visits to seven of these grounds this season - and we only have one left of them at Watford - we managed just 2 points at Newcastle and Bolton.

Group Three:
And then there's the bottom three - West Ham, Charlton and Watford with only 2 away wins between them.

Speaks volumes doesn't it? Its our away form, or lack of it, that means we are sitting on only 20 points. We have the most defeats away from home of anyone - 11 now - and we only have 2 teams in the bottom half of the table yet to visit. Whatever Pards says about the next 2 weeks and the following two games against West Ham and Watford, it's the three away games during April in the North-West at Man. City, Everton and Blackburn that may well decide our season.

We need at least 6 more victories - and a couple of draws - to get to 40 points and we'll need a couple of away wins to help any slip-ups at home. We have the game at Watford to look forward to but it's the three April games that are vital.

The first up are Man. City, who, after being unbeaten at home until December, have slipped up somewhat with defeats against Spurs, Bolton, Blackburn and Reading in the last two months while they only have a 0-0 draw against Watford and a 2-1 win over Everton to lift their spirits. We visit them on Good Friday April 6th and we need to win.

On April 15th we visit Goodison. Everton have only lost 2 home games this season to Villa and Chelski but Man. City, Wigan and Middlesbrough have all managed to get draws there and here it was that we won our last game in the North-West on Jan 22nd 2005, 1-0 to the Addicks. So shades of Portsmouth, lets do it again.

The visit to Blackburn, April 28th, on the other hand looks impossible. Their only home defeats have been to Chelski, Bolton, Manure, Newcastle and the Arse although both Spurs and Everton have got away with 1-1 draws. We've lost there in the last two years, 4-1 last year, 1-0 the year before that with our last win being on Oct 20th 2003 with a Hermann H goal in that season that we've all forgotten by now, 2003/04, when we finished 7th.

And it's probably these games that Pards is referring to when he says we have to go out to win games, draws are no good to us now. So have we got any ex-players to help us out up there? Well, we have. There's Ben Thatcher to do us an "Amady Faye" with a goal against his ex-teammates at Man. City while at Goodison we have Marcus Bent, still stuck on 99 league goals, to score against his ex-Everton teammates. And we've also got Matt Holland whose last Premiership goal was in that 1-0 at Everton back on Jan 22nd 2005 - time for another screamer, please Matty.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Manure 2 Charlton 0

After the not wholly unexpected result at Old Trafford, the most relevant thing this morning is what Pardew had to say after the game - "Our season starts here, we can't change what we are, which is a 20-point team, and we have to improve. We have to attack our last 11 games and do what Portsmouth did last season. We saw signs today and I believe we can go on a run and get the 20 points we need. We cannot accept draws, we have to chase games from now on. It’s that mentality I have to put into my team before the West Ham game."

And despite another defeat, there's a good report for us in the independent, "Faced by a team whose endeavour and spirit belied their position near the foot of the table" and a quote from Fergie, "It was a difficult game, applauding Charlton as much as his own players. "It was a surprising performance because teams at the bottom of the table don't always have the confidence to play. They came out and acquitted themselves well and they gave us a few worrying moments."

As for the observer its much the same but with a strange bonus of Dennis being given MOM who got the vote for an "energetic performance on the right side of midfield, even if he should have opened the scoring after nine minutes" and with the fans "remaining buoyant throughout and winning the best chant of the day competition with their 'We'll race you back to London' jibes at the United masses."

In the telegraph two of our debutants get a mention, "Alexandre Song, a midfielder from Arsenal, and Madjid Bougherra, a defender late of Sheffield Wednesday, played their full parts in making United work and wait for a ninth consecutive home victory in the Premiership."

While in the timesonline there's some more interesting scores: Carson 7, Sankofa 6, Bougherra 7, Diawara 6, Thatcher 6, Song 6, Rommedahl 6, Faye 5 (Zheng Zhi 40min, 6), Holland 6 (Hughes 73min, 6), Ambrose 7 (Lisbie 73min, 6), M Bent 6 - which suggests that Carson, Bougherra and Ambrose were our best players.

In the dailymail there's more talk on our new Song, "In Alexandre Song, the 19-year-old Arsenal midfielder making his Charlton debut on loan, Alan Pardew had a young man possessed of tireless spirit and a mature comprehension of the game. "Song wouldn’t have looked out of place in a United shirt," said Pardew," although unlike the Observer they castigate our Dennis for "carelessly squandered a decent opening in the ninth minute by shooting tamely into the side-netting."

On the horizon - well, over it actually as its two weeks away - there's West Ham and if you haven't read frankie yet he'll oblige by pointing out their current woes while the independent simply tells us that they were "shocking."

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Looking Forward to Saturday?

So who's looking forward to Saturday? Another trip up north and probably the Addicks hardest game all season, away to manure at the Music-Hall of Snores. As far as the Addicks formation goes, it'll probably end up as 1-9-1 with all hands to the pumps to try to avoid a walloping. Some people have even tried to suggest doing a manure and putting out the reserves to ensure nobody vital gets himself injured for the following more winnable games. But that's all nonsense, we'll need the strongest team on the pitch in every one of the remaining games, at least to try to keep the score down.

But wait a minute, what's this happening up there in Dream City? It seems that Fergie has his own problems. Relegated to 4th biggest club in the world behind Madrid, Barca and Juve according to deloittes and the players are going him problems as well. Edwin van der Sar has apparently breaken his nose at White Hot Lane over the weekend and will be missing. Rooney is currently suffering with a bad back doing too much shopping and is out of the England squad against Spain last night and hopefully missing on Saturday as well. And little Ronnie, on his way to Salford Pools to practice his diving techniques, has been caught speeding and given a fine of a nice round Grand for doing 60 instead of 40. He enjoyed his 22nd birthday this week but after being given the Portuguese captain's armband in the friendly against Brazil, didn't impress manager Solari too much and was withdrawn after an hour. Maybe Fergie was on the phone asking him to be kept fresh for Saturday.

The visit of the Addicks will be undermost in Fergies mind and is obviously going to cause him a few sleepless nights as he decides whether or not to take us seriously. As they try for their ninth successive home win, he'll have a few issues with trying to convince his players not to be too casual as it would appear as certain a Home Banker as Mike Tyson up against Tiny Tim. In the game of football, to Giggs and Co it'll only a question of how many.

But Pards has other ideas and will have watched them last weekend and is keenly plotting a Double over them after winning at 1-0 Upton Park as recently as, well, last December in fact. The Hammers won the foul count that day 25 to 10 which goes some way to showing how he may be approaching this coming game.

They'll be no place for anyone just off the injury table and we would have probably seen the same 11 for the 4th game running if it wasn't for the fact that I'm sure I read somewhere that the Elk got a yellow card against Chelski and will therefore be missing. Maybe time for a Diawara start, then. Meanwhile, Thatcher will be covering little Ronnie and making sure he doesn't fall over too needlessly and on the other flank Sankofa against Giggs will be interesting - maybe we should stick Kish in there as well, just to be on the safe side.

One thing for sure is that the players will be looking forward to the game. Something to tell the grandchildren in years to come. 75,000 people from all over the country booing your every touch and standing up every time you lose the ball. But watching last nights England game can only have lifted their spirits, as it's obvious that away teams can win at Old Trafford especially when Carrick is playing. All we need is a lotta luck and a screamer from Holland. Dream on.....

Monday, February 05, 2007

Shades of '88

Nineteen years ago, on the 27th February 1988, back in the days of Lennie Lawrence, the old Division One and the sad Arthur Wait at Sainburys, we had a meagre 24 points from 28 games with just 12 games left. Next up was a visit to the Arse at Highbury and we were promptly washed away 4-0 by Merson, Adams and Rocastle. So we then had only 11 games left to save ourselves and of course, it all looked hopeless. In a 40 game season, 40 points was never enough.

But, and we don't know how Lennie did it, we turned it all around - in that 11 game run we only had 1 defeat, 0-2 away to Norwich, but with 4 victories over West Ham 3-0, Watford 1-0, Newcastle 2-0 and Southampton 1-0 and further draws against Derby, Oxford, Coventry, Everton, Spurs and a last-day 1-1 at Stamford Bridge gave us 18 points in that run and we finished on a credible 42 points. The last draw at Chelsea also meant that we avoided the Play-Offs on goal difference and pushed Chelsea themselves into the mire from which they were eventually relegated.

In that season we only had one person who could score, Garth Crooks, who got 10. OK, Alan Jones and Mark Stuart both had 6 and next up was Mark Reid with 4, all from the Penalty spot.

But back to the present. We were all getting bored and hoping for some excitement and now we have it in abundance. As everyone will know the Addicks, of late anyway, have not always enjoyed the last few months of the season. Curbs tried everything he knew but nothing worked, after March it was all downhill. Once again we're got just 12 games left so I looked at the last 12 results in all our last Premiership seasons, all 6 years.

In those 6 seasons over that 12 game spell, the most we're won is 4 games. And the most points we've earned from them was 15, both in season 2000/01. In the last 5 dire years we're tailed off once the 40 points was within reach and nothing Curbs could do could change that.

We can only hope that Pardew can galvanize the players into a different response over these last 12 games and the signs at the moment, with a daulting visit to Old Trafford on the horizon , are looking more promising than a month ago. But with the worst goal difference of any team in the Premiership and with a total of 5 visits to the North-West "Forbidden Zone" to come its vital that we get something from every game, even if its only that thing called Pride.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Charlton 0 Chelski 1

God I hate losing! I don't care who its against, it messes up the next couple of days something rotten. And here's another one, the sixteenth of the Premiership season, 0-1 to Chelski. Big frankie does his best to cheer us up, despite his worrying dislike for ex-pats, with a stirring accolade to none other than Marcus Bent.

In the papers, the independent leads with "Lampard dampens Charlton's spirit" but then goes on to tell us the complete opposite and then quoting Pards "The commitment and effort were fantastic, and if we can play with that spirit we'll have a good chance of staying in this division". And the best quote of all appears to be from Jose himself that "Mourinho was right that it was not the best time to play Charlton".

Its all a bit boring in the observer and to emphasize their indifference, with all the exotica on-hand they even give MOM to someone called Wayne.

It's far more stirring stuff from the telegraph, the Champions "were uncharacteristically wobbling when strugglers Charlton, suddenly fired by self-belief, pressed forward" although at the same time claiming we "lacked the conviction" but then rightly gave MOM to Scotty Carson.

The beeb in its usual self, while the times is obviously still recovering from a hangover.

Meanwhile, Conrad Leach over at Villa Park in the independent calls the Hammers performance wonderfully "insipid" and apparently was "as comprehensive a 1-0 thrashing as they have suffered all season long" and reminds us that their next two games are against Watford and Charlton. That second game should be a humdinger...

The Addicks: Carson, Sankofa, El Karkouri, Hreidarsson, Thatcher, Rommedahl (Hasselbaink 46), Faye, Holland (Lisbie 78), Hughes, Thomas (Diawara 88), Marcus Bent.
Subs Not Used: Randolph, Ambrose.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Todays Word - Attack!

Staring into the porcelain this morning, it appeared to me that all we could expect from todays game was a grim and hard-fought 0-0 draw. The game starts with a point, try to keep it that way by packing the midfield, denying them space, get everyone working like hell and hope that luck goes our way.

But whats this? According to the guardian, Pards plans "to draw on his experience as a Crystal Palace player to prove that victory is always possible, regardless of the opposition".

"I was brought up as a professional under Steve Coppell," said Pardew, a Palace player from 1987-91. "Steve was always the same - everything is about the next game, three points, let's get them. And that's how we'll approach Chelsea. I can understand why those managers have said that, because obviously [playing the big sides] changes the scenario and their percentage chance of winning is greater, but there is a percentage chance we can win tomorrow.

And to emphasize the point - "We're going to attack the game. I feel the stadium will be very positive for us after the last two results and the performances. We need to capitalise on that. If we stand off Chelsea and let them dictate the game, that isn't going to do much for the crowd. We're going to get as much possession and create as many scoring opportunities as possible without opening up the game, which Chelsea can exploit."

Perhaps we should not be surprised by this approach by Pardew. Whereas Curbs was a creative midfielder stroking the ball round, Pards was always an attacking midfielder in his playing days who scored 27 times for us in 116 games back in the early nineties. Curbs, although he may have been prettier to watch, could only manage 6 in 91 appearances. Pardew it was, in fact, who got Palarse into the 1990 cup final with the winner in a 4-3 win over Liverpool.

So step forward our attacking trio of Lisbie, Marcus and Hasselbaink, this is obviously your hour. An 8-0 win will get us up there with Wigan, go for it!

Friday, February 02, 2007

26 of 38 - Chelski (home)

And now for the Difficult Ones! After two away games and four points that nobody said we were going to get, its time to face the best two teams in the country. Once again nobody gives a chance, least of all Lawrenson with his usual 0-2 at thebbc.

But for those mathematicians amongst you there's a wonderful symmetry to the game as the bbc points out - "the game brings together the second bottom and second top clubs in the Premiership. It pits the south Londoners, who have conceded 44 League goals this season, against the west Londoners, who have scored 44. It matches the joint most frequent losers with the joint most infrequent losers. The Addicks have been beaten 15 times, the Blues just three.
It's parity for Pardew. The new Charlton boss has won two, drawn two and lost two of his six Premiership matches in charge. But this is the first of a double-header against the top two. Charlton are away to Manchester United next Saturday."

So game over then, what else could you possibly want to know against a team that has beaten us in 5 of our last 6 Premiership games? Well, the really bad news of course, if you ever harboured the slightist element of hope is that after 6 weeks out with injury, John Terry is due to return. If ever anyone enjoys playing against us its him. He always scores and always wins, as far as I can see.

But you need picking up, I can see that, and we only need to look at the "last six Form Guide" to do it. We're got 8 points from the last six games and Chelski after 2 away games without a win have only claimed 9. ( Bottom 3 teams are the three W's - Watford, Wigan and West Ham in no particular order).

There's also the little question of Mourinho's dissatisfaction with life at Stamford Bridge and the reported riff between him and Roman with no talking going on between them. Chelski appear to have taken their foot off the pedal and have now slipped 6 points behind manure. Perhap we'll see the Great Ones last visit to the Valley?


Remember Boxing Day 2003?

It's really only recently, after Roman arrived that we're slipped behind to Chelski. Home and away, its Charlton 22 wins, Chelsea 27, Draws 16 and at the Valley it stands at us 12 wins them 11 with 9 drawn games.

And if you want to talk symmetry, we can point to our wonderful display at Christmas 2003 when we hammered them in a truly symmetrical 4-2.

The Opponents

No wins in last three away

Forgetting their home form which has been good, Chelski's last 3 away games have been a 2-0 defeat at Anfield last time out and before that a draw at Wycombe 1-1 in the Carling thing and before that a 0-0 at Aston Villa. Their last away win was at Wigan on 23rd December by 3-2 with a last minute winner out of the blue from Robben.

There was no Terry there, of course. He always scores against us. None in the Premiership last year but he did manage their goal in our 1-1 League Cup win at Stamford Bridge. The year before that he got 2 of their 4 goals in a 0-4 defeat at the Valley. And he even got one in our 4-2 the year before.

The Addicks

Still No Darren

With nobody ready to come back from injury, ie Darren, Young and Reid, its likely to be the same eleven that has gained 4 points from the last 6, thats: Carson; Sankofa, El Karkouri, Hreidarsson, Thatcher; Rommedahl, Faye, Holland, Hughes, Thomas; M Bent.

Sat on the bench on Tuesday against Bolton were Randolph, Diawara, Ambrose, Hasselbaink and little old Kevin Lisbie and they all saw a bit of the action except for Randolph and Darren Ambrose. Will Ambrose keep his place with ZZ pressing for a game? Yes, probably. ZZ will be saved until an easier game comes along.

But its odds on that Pardew will include Jimmy F in there somewhere as he can only score against his old clubs, his two Premiership goals coming against Chelski and Middlesbrough.



Continuing the symmetry theme, its another draw 1-1, as long as we can keep Terry down to his customary goal.