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Monday, April 17, 2006

End of Season Blues

Well, completely shitty week then. You can kick the cat, take it out on the wife or indulge in some retail therapy, whatever takes your fancy, but at the end of it you´ll still be left with that shitty feeling that won´t go away. Seems we always end the season with the wish that it ends as soon as possible so that we can forget about it all during the summer months.

If you have the stomach to read about yet another defeat, you can read the official report at cafc, or you can try the observer or the telegraph.

I suppose we have to find some highlights in order to get through the day. We scored our first goal at Fulham since our win in 1986, had 11 or 12 corners (depending on who you read ) to their 2 and more shots on target than the home side so doesn´t sound like our normal away performance. Once again it seems that Perry was the star of the show and perhaps we deserved more but its all rather predictable. Even Lawrenson got the result right.

And today, instead of the comfort of being able to do something else for a few days and trying to forget about it, we´ve got the joys of all those Easter games and have the excitement of another game today.

Time for the Blue Revolution to hit town. I´m sure they´re more than grateful to the FA for being pulled out of the hat and being granted an-end-of-season party at good old generous Charlton. And while we´d rather not be there at all, the in-form Blues just can´t wait to get started, (in fact they´re probably on the pitch already ) and will be looking forward to giving us a good hiding and departing with three more valuable points to help keep them up. Well, looks like an away banker if ever I saw one.

I said a few days ago that our last season´s tally of 46 points and 42 goals scored against 58 conceded should be a benchmark to better this time around but now I´m not so sure that it can even be equalled. Can anyone see where those 2 more points are coming from. No, me neither.

We´re scored 38 and conceded 44 already. Against an improving Portsmouth, tough as old bricks Bolton, europe-chasing Blackburn and likely runners-up ManU enjoying a last day of the season we´ll be lucky to score 4 goals and with our current defending who knows how many we´ll let in.

So I think I´ll pack my bags, chuck it all in the car, declare the season over and do all my pessimistic forecasting now.

Charlton 1 Portsmouth 2
Bolton 2 Charlton 0
Charlton 1 Blackburn 3
ManU 2 Charlton 0

Position: 15th
Points 44
Goals For: 40
Goals Conceded: 53

See you next season.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Fulham v Charlton Preview

OK, the dreams´ over. Time to return to the real world, where make-believe only belongs in the Dream Factories at Anfield, Old Trafford, Highbury and Stamford Bridge and precious few other places. Over here its time to get back to business and convince ourselves that we´re professional enough to put such disappointments behind us, ( the players that is). This game that we put so much effort into is all about survival, get a grip, we´re never going to win anything unless we can prove to the world that we´re good enough. And at the moment we´re not.

To raise the spirits we can look back and see another reasonable season in the Premier, our 1000th game at the top-level and a place in the Sixth Round of the FA Cup. We´re currently the only team to leave Stamford Bridge unbeaten in the League and to prove the point we also went there and beat them in the Carling Cup so even the most pessimistic fan can argue that the season has not been a bad one.

Another plus point would be to really put an end to the old adage that the papers so much enjoy, that of Charlton turning out the lights and failing to turn up after the clocks go back (or was it forward?). Its not enough to finish the season when 40 points is reached or is even in sight.

As for the game against Fulham, the stats are not encouraging as we have apparently yet to record a Premiership victory or even score a Premiership goal down by the river. In fact the last time we won at Craven Cottage was the 3-0 success during our run to promotion on 22 April 1986. And it's nearly 56 years since the Addicks last managed a top flight victory at the Cottage, a 3-1 win on 23 August 1950.

Well, so much for the theory, history and the confidence-building, Craven Cottage will see the reality. Are we going to be satisfied with finishing the season with ours heads down? We´ll see on Saturday.

I don´t care who plays - just get the most determined out on that pitch. Perhaps its worth remembering that after such a disappointment, its odd-on that social gadabout Murphy would not be one of them.

The BBC armchair critic (lawrenson) goes for the obvious and sadly predictable 2-0 home victory as we are ´drained and crest-fallen´ after Wednesday. Rubbish, the obvious choice should be another boring 0-0 but its high time for a surprise and what better time to do it. 2-1 to the Addicks.
International News

- For those interested in boring old spanish affairs, we can bring news of another expected defeat last Sunday for the boys of Valladolid, sadly witnessed by your local correspondent.

Whilst looking the part of promotion contenders the sad truth is that Valladolid were made to look static by the busier little players of the distintly mis-titled team from Hercules Alicante.

A favorite, and ultimately decisive, tactic displayed by the home side and practised thoroughly throughout the game was that of running into players, falling over and writhing in agony on the ground. These tactics, during the early minutes, showed how the game was going to be played and from the first minute proved an adequate testing ground of the referee´s response to play-acting and after several well-practised attempts it soon brought the first goal. The away defence obviously realising the danger of approaching within 2 metres of any attacker in the penalty area, due to the frequent ability of the ref to penalize offenders, and selected instead to watch in wonder as the left-winger twisted past no-fewer than 4 defenders before gifting a lay-off to the striker who promptly buried the chance in the far corner.

All semblance of the usual laws of gravity were subseqently dispatched out of the proverbial window and even Isaac Newton would have been astonished at how easily it was for grown men to fall over. Fortunately the ambulance with its stock of blood of all types and its eager medics was not required as all players seemed to recover their ability to stand unaided after the desired free-kick and sufficient levels of crowd abuse had been directed towards the opposing player and/or the referee.

Without the same level of vocal support on which to call ( only two coach-loads of visiting fans having bothered to turn-up - it was after all probably a good 7 hours by coach and this was no Sixth Round Replay ), the players from Valladolid seemed to realise that falling over was not a useful option and took out their frustration by helping the home players to fall over in ever-more dramatic circumstances. The referee entered into the farce with gusto and proved only too eager to appease the howls of the home crowd with a generous helping of yellow cards. As a reduction in numbers tends to spoil such spectacles, the yellow cards were evenly distributed among the players.

The overall result of one and an half hours of high drama and farce more suitable to a West End theatre of the Twenties, was inevitably a 2-0 home victory, Valladolid even spawning the opportunity of a penalty to even the score at 1-1 and subsequently never looked back in claiming a famous defeat.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Cup Exit for the Addicks

All good things come to an end. And at this stage in the competition the disappointment is obviously harder to take in and just when we were allowing ourselves to dream a bit. A Sixth Round replay with the tantilising possibility of a Cup Final beckoning just 2 games away is the furthest we have progressed since our Victory in 1947, 59 years ago. A long time to have to wait for such disappointment.

We can seek to find excuses - that we should have scored when we had the early opportunities, the penalty so obvious to the studio panel that the referee failed to spot and the bad defending that finally let us down.

The higher you climb the further you fall. The fans and management want sucess, the players wanted the medals so everyone in the club will be facing the day with a heavy heart. But life carries on and the Most Important Thing for Charlton is that we, or rather the players, can raise themselves and approach the next game on Saturday against Fulham with a determination to prove that we are not just going to fell sorry for ourselves.

I was maybe the first to get home after the game last night, I had to watch from a bar just up the road. I got home in three minutes and sunk down depressed on the settee. Turning on the TV what should be on but the last few minutes of the Spanish Cup Final and there starring back at me, or rather into space, were the miserable fans of the more fancied Zaragoza losing 3-1 to little Espanol with just 5 minutes to go.

It was like looking into a mirror and just to twist the knife another turn their misery got even worst as a minute later a fourth goal went in. Zaragoza, who had knocked out Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid to reach the final and just expected to turn up to win were beaten 4-1 and had to watch as the second, and inferior, team from Barcelona lifted the Cup.

The scenes made me feel a bit better for a few minutes and today is another day. Its all part of supporting your local team and the success when it comes will......

Well, whatever. I´m off to the bar to raise my spirits a bit and hope that Curbs is better able to shrug off his disappointment than me.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Middlesbro´ v Charlton Athletic - FA Cup 6th Round Replay - Preview

A big headline for a big game. Some of our jealous non-Charlton readers would say, ´so what´ its only the FA Cup, they being more in love with Champions League football than the old national favourite. But its still our Number 1 Priority and we can only hope that the players show as much desire as they did in the goalless draw at the Valley.

Make no mistake this is important to everyone at the club and to further stress the difference between ourselves and the ´Big Teams´, we sensibly rest our key players before our Cup matches, not during them.

A point gained on Saturday and a another clean sheet earned against Everton has kept the players confidence high while Newcastle have done us the favour ( albeit by knocking us down one place in the table) of upsetting the happy ambience up at the Riverside. They too rested players so Curbs should have an inkling how they will line-up.

As for the Charlton line-up, barring no last minute injuries Darren Bent should return up front with the rested Powell ready to resume at left-back. Spector will continue at right-back with Hreidarsson and Perry back as the central pair despite Sorondo´s good showing against Everton . Hughes seems a question mark with a minor knock but Kish will be there working his socks off. Holland may be wondering where the captains band is going to be but appears to be after a new contract during the summer. Thomas will be our wide option with Rommedahl probably held in reserve on the bench. There remains what to do about a replacement for Marcus Bent. Some would say that´s not difficult, but if Middlesbro´ come out with a 5 man midfield that it will surely be up to Curbs to keep it tight ( and goalless) with maybe Euell or Ambrose in a congested midfield if Hughes is unfit.

But what can we expect from the home side, Middlesbro´. While we play to our strengths defending well and trying to find our goal-scoring machine with a cross or a through ball, they will play 5 men across the park and try to bore us in a slip-up.

So which way will it go, in the battle of the Riverside versus the Valley?. Currently I can find only one person ready to hazard a guess at tonights result with the usually reliable cynicathletic going for a 2-1 win. But unfortunately the last time we scored 2 goals away from home against Premier opposition was a long time ago, being way back in October. And history, I´m afraid, also seems to be against us with no victories recorded against Middlesbro in the FA Cup in 4 attempts. With their cup achievements in europe giving them the edge we must first ensure that we don´t concede and we in turn will draw on our experience at holding teams at Anfield, Stamford Bridge and St. James Park. The longer it goes goalless the more the game will turn our way. 0-0 at half-time is surely the first objective for Curbs.

I think 1 goal may be enough to snick it, but who is going to score it. It´ll be a close call and I wouldn´t rule out the possibility of a penalty shoot-up to decide the outcome. That´ll suit the papers, no doubt already having written up their ´most boring FA cup-tie´ of all time headline.

So another 0-0 and Hughes to once again get Charlton through on penalties? Stranger things have happened.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Charlton 0 Everton 0

So yet another sterile 0-0, but good to see Curbs taking note of various Blog advice and awarding games to Euell, Sorondo, Bothroyd and a place on the bench for Sankofa, giving some players a bit of rest in preparation for our Cup Final on Wednesday at the Riverside.

From the more informed blogs cynicathletic( as opposed to the useless papers ) the star turn would appear to be Kish due to his endless running and ´distribution´, something he´s not normally famous for. Lets hope he continues with more of the same at the Riverside.

Reports from the papers are not too complimentary of the fare offered with the Observer describing it was lifeless and witless while the bbc and the independent at least stuck to the facts.

We´re definitely become the 0-0 champions and it may be a bit boring but it´s infinitely better than being on the receiving end of the 7 (seven) 4-goal pastings that we received last season at the hands of Bolton, Man C, Arsenal, and Pompey and further similiar humiliations at home to Chelsea, WBA and Man. U.

This year a rather disastrous 5 conceded to Man. City and the 4 to Blackburn have been the only hiccups and we´re still 16 goals better in the ´Against´ column ( albeit with 5 left to play ) and back last year we finished up with a minus 16 goal difference. Strangely, despite having Darren knocking them from everywhere we´re still 5 away from last season´s total goals scored of 42.

And a final thought to Newcastle. After a poor season of ungreatness lets get behind them in their derby against Middlesbro and try to ensure that they bring them down to earth after their enjoyable game against Basil somebody. We need our old mate Snotty to bruise a few shins up there and I´m sure after the reception we gave him a few days back he´ll be thinking of nothing else...

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Charlton v Everton Preview

David Moyes brings his team to the Valley today and while his 10th position in the table is just 1 point above us, I´m sure that far from being disappointed with the season, he´s much relieved to be where he is. Last season saw them finish fourth but for whatever the reason, this season has been a return to recent years with the early months spent in the bottom 3 while elsewhere they were ´enjoying´ their European games. A tidy reminder that a season in Europe for a group of players unaccustomed to it can often result in a dismal League campaign. It happens all over Europe and should remind us that far from being the Holy Grail that we all look towards, European football can often be nothing more than a poisoned chalice.

Anyway, back to todays business. Since our loss at Everton in December we have experienced a decent spell with only 3 defeats in the 16 games in all competions since then. Despite the 22 goals scored, its been our defence that has been the reason for such a good run with only 16 goals conceded ( and 9 of them in the 3 defeats ) so if we are to continue to enjoy the reminder of the season we can only hope that our defenders can see out the remainder of the games uninjured.

We´ve had one warning with the problem with Young so perhaps its time to do what the big boys do and plan their teams with the big games in mind. Can´t see it happening with the cautious mood of our management but I think the time is right to make wholesale changes, if only to keep the visiting Middlesbro spy in a quandary.

The only players that I can see are necessary for the game today are Myhre (he´ll have something to prove against his old team), Holland (as captain) and Marcus Bent ( ditto Myhre plus he can´t play on Wednesday). As for the rest play the reserves. Get Euell, Sorondo, Ambrose, Fortune and Spencer ( and I was going to say El Tarkouri) on the pitch as starters, plus a couple of the youngsters to see what they can prove. Put either Sankofa and Youga in the defence ( at least on the bench ) and how about having Sam or Varney in, they´ll love the experience. As the boss says we have 4 games in 10 days and we need to spread the load a little.

And make no mistake, despite the promise of money for Premier placings, its Wednesday´s game that we all want to win.

As for today´s result a draw seems the favourite with the reliable cynicathletic going for a 1-1 as does Pedro45, while the odd one out sems to be Lawro who foresees a 1-2 ( maybe he´s thinking of Wedneday as well). With our usual end-of-season drifting in mind, I´ve recently said we can expect 3 draws and 3 defeats from our last 6 games. So I cannot see beyond a point gained today and if we do play the team I expect we will put out, another 0-0 looks a likely outcome.

Just noticed that frankievalley goes for a late Charlton winner 1-0

Friday, April 07, 2006

International News -

Valladolid 3 Xerez 1 ( No, the away team is not the Rank Xerox works side but the outfit from Jerez, where the sherry your mum drinks cames from - they just like their ´x´s over here)

So, for anyone pining to know the results in Spain we can bring you news of another startling home victory by the boys from Valladolid. Three goals up at half-time with a depleted side due to injury and accumulating yellows we can only marvel at the team selection by manager Merino that conjured up another 3 points. Pity is all a little too late as they are still 10 pts behind the magical 3rd place, the last of the promotion places. It all spells out another dismal season in the Second Division and dreams of promotion which were so high at Christmas.

Its rumoured that the ´crowd´, numbering a massive 7800, went home reasonably happy after the usual battle to get a thousand cars out of the one-entrance car park and sadly remembering those happy days a few years ago spent among the elite of Spanish football.

Several have been known to put the blame at the feet of the Chairman Senor Saurez who while contemplating their safe First Division Mid-table position in early 2003 dreamed of ´Greater Things´ and hired a new manager in the summer. Relegation, of course, duly followed.

Take note you dreamers.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

It's a Conspiracy

There's been a lot of hot air recently, once again, over the influence of foreign players in English football. Ex-Charlton midfielder Alan Pardew, now in charge of a local team doing quite well, says that Arsenal's home victory over Juve wasn't an English one at all and and then Chelski's Drogba falls over once again after receiving a nasty gust of air up the proverbial and consequently there's lots of talk about English players don't cheat, bloody foreigners etc ( that was even before he did his famous hand-ball trick).

But there's one thing that's thankfully missing from the English Football scene - The Conspiracy Theory. Yes, I do remember Sir Ferguson getting upset a few years ago ( maybe there is a connection) but thats nothing compared to how it is over here in Spain.

No prizes for guessing who starting the rumours, just look at the League table and its not hard to see the answer. Whenever Royal Madrid are not lording it over the provincial plebs, out comes the old line about cheating refs. The local fanzine AS, ( otherwise advertised as a sports paper, a bit like the Daily Sport pretending to be about sport ) devotes its first 10 pages to news and interviews with their stars. During the very lean past couple of years it hasn't been rare to see a double page spread complete with relevent incriminating photos supplemented with lines and arrows on how many points have been accumulated by their rivals due to dubious refereeing decisions.

So it was that after Saturdays away draw with leaders Barca that another series of theories hit the news. "Enough! wrote AS he should have stayed on strike" - "Barça play with a safety net. If they win, fine. If they don't, the ref prevents their fall". All very upset.

Even the official Royal Madrid web-page has got in on the act - "Weird things keep happening for Barça." And described ref Medina Cantalejo's display as "a disgrace". "Real Madrid played against twelve men all game long, eleven Barça players and the referee. He invented a penalty, massacred Real Madrid with free-kicks and cards, sent off Roberto Carlos and didn't give a penalty on Ronaldo..

Sadly the officials and fanzines seem to take no issue with the teams failure being due to a policy of buying whoever was the most expensive at any particular time but seem eager to push the blame elsewhere. A bit like Charlton blaming their mid-table position on those nasty people over at White Hart Lane for beating us twice this year and all those dubious goals scored by those lucky Man.City boys.

Sadly in Spain its always the poor sod in black that gets all the blame.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

West Ham 0 Charlton 0

Well, what did you expect? Looking back the game finished as we should have expected. A solid Charlton stifling a more skilful West Ham. We had moments of slick passing, with Brian Hughes usually involved, but failed to create any sort of real chance.

We have became successful at holding teams and stopping them scoring - thats the eighth League 'shut-out' in the last 15 games - a statistic that should please us especially after last season disastrous away trips to almost anywhere, conceding goals like pound notes at a Greek wedding, but as usual there's little praise from the press on that front. Its goals and 'personalities' that are wanted. Would you believe it, some old geezer even received a birthday cake at yesterdays match.

Top marks therefore must go to the defence ( we were the away team after all) with Perry and Hermann keeping Ashton and Harewood quiet. Ashton, after a clever flick in the first minute was withdrawn at half-time and the old geezer came on minus his cake but to a lot of applause. We restricted West Ham to a couple of chances, Kish heading off the line from a corner and Myhre saving well from the old geezer, both occurring late on when the Hammers were having their best spell.

The usual Charlton midfield of Kish, Holland and Hughes played to its strengths with Kish working hard cleaning up, Holland trying to forge something out of nothing and having one snatched shot that went wide and Hughes having one of his better games trying to work openings down the left with Powell's able assistence.
It was left to the wingers to try to get around the back of the Hammers defence but despite winning a series of corners in the second half Rommedahl didn't achieve very much and with 20 minutes to go Thomas came on. Was this a ploy in readiness for the Semis? We'll probably never know.

Up front for the Addicks, Darren Bent was closely marked all afternoon by somebody called Collins that the spanish commentator kept calling Phil and Marcus Bent disappointingly volleyed the only half chance we had into Row X when a deflected ball fell to him with time to control it.

So we remain in 11th place with 43 points consolidating our mid-table position, but are we happy? Well, we're not exactly setting the world on fire with our attacking style and appealing play as was adequately pointed out to me, when sat all alone in the pub watching the game a group of guys walked in and seeing who was playing immediately wrote the game off as mid-table mediocrity and started chatting up the barmaid. And I must attempt there were times when I wished I had joined in.

It would be something if we could point to the idea that we have progressed from last season where we also finished 11th. We're currently won the same number of games, 12 and with 3 points less than we managed last year because currently we're drawn 3 games less. This year 13 current defeats, last year 16. So if during the remaining 6 games we draw 3 and lose 3 we'll have exactly the same results as last year.

And with away trips to Fulham, Bolton and Man.U and home outings to the improving Portsmouth, inconsistent Everton and european chasing Blackburn, 3 draws and 3 losses doesn't seem too unlikely.

So to revive our spirits, we must be positive and look elsewhere for encouragement. We've reached the FA Cup QuarterFinals and are still in with a shout after the draw with Middlesbro'. Because of the drawn game we made the hat for the Semi-Finals for the first time in 59 years. And for the first time since the likes of Mendonca and Hunt we at last we have a striker that always looks like he knows how to score - Darren Bent.

For further excuses, we can point to another controversial mid-season departure, this time by that well-known social-climber Spud Murphy that has surely upset Curbs's well-made plans for the season. We can only hope that he spends this years cash more wisely.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

West Ham v Charlton Preview

A short trip through the 'pipe' to visit West Ham comes at a time when both teams are thinking of other things, namely the FA Cup. Despite a torrid autumn the Addicks have revived somewhat, at least at home, and are currently only 3 points adrift of the Hammers. Unfortunately our away form, despite the 3 heroic draws against Chelsea, Liverpool and Newcastle, has been pretty appalling with only these 3 points out of the last 10 away games, only 6 goals scored and no wins since our win at Portsmouth back in October.

Although the forthcoming Cup Replay still provides some interest in the season it is our away form that appears to illustrate what a disappointing season it has been. This becomes clear when we see that we have failed to win 2 games in a row since we dispatched Birmingham at home on September 10. While our improvement at home has raised the spirits its the overall lack of consistency that continues to disappoint. Having said that it is obviously encouraging that when everyone expects Charlton's usual end-of-season slump, we seem to be enjoying our best form for several months with only 2 defeats in the last 8 games to Man. City, where we scored 2 very good goals, and the all-conquering Arsenal.

The main reason for the current revival stems from the solidity of the back-four and the midfield trio of Kish, Holland and Hughes. The midfield may be unheralded and unloved by some, but somehow, ( practise makes prefect?), they have began to prove if not wonderfully creative at least solid. In fact its probably because Curbs can consistently name the same first 8 players on the teamsheet and without any injury problems that has given us some optimism that we may end the season on a high.

And as we know current league form can always be turned on its head in the frenzy of a local derby. One further source of optimism can be gained by looking at the history of games against the Hammers, where Charlton have a clear advantage over our rivals in the League games, which is a bit odd when comparing our dismal records against other local teams. While we tend to succeed in the league games, its West Ham that usually win in the cup games, a rather odd occurrence which I suppose amply demonstrates our bad cup record over the years. West Ham, remember, have won it 3 times and lost another one.

Thanks to the wonders of Murdochvision its another one of those strange Sunday games at the absurd time of 4 o'clock. However, it does mean that we can allow ourselves to dream after Everton's failure to beat Sunderland which gives us the chance to leap into the top half of table for the first time since November if we can manage a win at the Boleyn.

Curbs will probably play his best away team in his usual cautious fashion with a 4-5-1 formation with Darren up front and with probably no changes in personnel from the Newcastle game.

Interestingly nobody seems to favour an away win here. cynic athletic goes for a conservative 2-2 while lawro favours the Hammers with a 2-1. Pedro 45( I wonder why its 45, must be his age) hopes for a 2-0 home win so as to upset cup form against them. I've got no idea so because of all the optimism that I've spoken about above I'm going for a pathetic home 2-0 to continue our away dismal form and because we're Charlton.