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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

New Face Officially Unveiled

Ah! Sorry about that, must have dropped off. All the speculation in the press has been winding me up and had finally put me to sleep, all from people trying to fill their pages with whatever, when really if the truth be known, they couldn't care less who's in charge of what they see as a low-life club like ourselves.

Anyway at long last, we now can at last celebrate, if that is the right term, a New Manager. 'Unveiled' as the bbc would have it and not a great surprise. He will head a three-man team of Les Reed and former assistant academy manager Mark Robson.

In true Charlton spirit the selection process in the dirty world of football has been handled impeccably with 20 or so applicants somehow interviewed on the quiet with only 2 or 3 being identified. All business appears to have been above board and we would expect nothing less from our leaders. We are not one of your 'Big Clubs' who trample heedlessly over the plebs, we do things properly. Allardyce called us 'too nice' a few years back, well Curbs anyway, but we don't care what he thinks.

Well nice or not, they now can't accuse us of being pretty, not with Iain Dowie in charge. From now on we don't care what he looks like, the only concern is - can he do the business?

A few facts about the boy, as at only 41 he's still a youngster in my book. After a bit of a wandering playing career with Luton, Fulham, West Ham, Palace, Southampton and 59 Caps for Northern Ireland he finally finished his days at QPR. He then became assistant manager of Oldham and following the dismissal of manager Mick Wadsworth, Dowie became manager in May 2002 and the following season the club were in the Second Division play offs, although Dowie was not there to see it.

Financial trouble had hit Oldham in October 2003 and Dowie lost much of his first team, and after battling along for a few months with a severely depleted squad he moved in December 2003 to become manager of Palace, inheriting a useless team with low morale and in nineteenth place in the First Division. Obviously a man not afraid of a challange.

Under his leadership, however, the second south-east London club went on an impressive run that included 17 wins after when he took over enabling the club to finish in sixth place, just scraping into the play-off places. This feat was attributed to complete change in the atmosphere and training regime at the club, including a tougher disciplinary regime, introduced by Dowie. After beating Sunderland in the semi-final, on penalties, ( sounds familar) the club beat Dowie's former club West Ham by a single goal in the final for a place in the Premiership.

But, as we well know, the club lasted only one season there and in May 2005 got themselves relegated on the final day of the season at the Valley. How sad was that?

Dowie, however, impressed as a manager. He remained at Palace for season 2005-06 in the Championship despite rumours that he was approached by other Premiership clubs to take over. The only actual report of a club approaching Palace to speak to Dowie was when Portsmouth chairman Milan Mandaric approached Mr. Jordon to speak to Dowie, in November 2005. Jordan refused, politely I'm sure.

In 2004, when discussing Crystal Palace's start to the Premiership season, he coined the word "bouncebackability" in discussing their ability to bounce back from the adversity during their Division one season and their habit of conceding early goals. This word gained cult popularity within the footballing world and in 2005 it was included in the Collins Dictionary.

So, a man that has had an exciting time during his short managerial career, with a play-off promotion, a play-off semi-final defeat, a Premiership relegation as well as a financial crisis to deal with in his 4 years in charge. He certainly seems to make things happen. As well as inventing new words for the squad to learn, seems like we'll have a new 'tougher disciplinary regime' in store unless he's changed his methods of course.

We can only wait and see how he will work with our new set-up with Director of Football, Andrew Mills seemingly involved in the signing of new players and give him our full support no matter where he's come from. Judging from our form at the end of last season and the number of players left or reporting to be leaving he's certainly got a lot of work on.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Man U 4 Charlton 0

A not unfamilar scoreline especially when visting the north-west. One only had to look at our record this year ( and last ) to predict the outcome, three predictable first-half goals and when everyone in the home side has turned off a bit the addition of a single second half one. With our best player Darren Bent withdrawn to save him from injury ( in the hope of a World Cup slot) there was never only chance of a consolation goal.

As far as the headlines go, there's much talk about the dramatic exit from the ground by van Nistelrooy that tended to overshadow the preceedings but that is also a reminder that other clubs, apart from Charlton, have their problems with delinquent players.

The report in the independent is sympathetic, there's more stats from the guardian, while the pathetic display is graphically illustrated in the times with Kish getting 2 meagre points out of 10 and Perry, Sorondo, Sankofa and Bartlett amassing a fabulous 3 each. The remaining midfield of Holland, Hughes, Euell and Powell somehow got 4 but I cannot remember such a dismal scoring from a team. Its a timely reminder of exactly where we are and how bad we are.

How many have played their last game? Probably all of them with the exception of Anderson ( not to mention Rommedahl, Lisbie, and Bothroyd ) and we can only hope that Luke Young and Darren Bent will stay. A whole new team then, if not squad, and its a scale of how much work will need to be done by the new man. We only have about 15 weeks or so before the new season starts and with a possible month lost while we select our next manager that only leaves 11 ( ELEVEN ) weeks in which to conjure a miracle and get prepared.

The timing of the World Cup will disrupt things but with the money that we will have available perhaps that shouldn't concern us too much. I suspect it willn't be top-drawer internationals that we'll be after. And whilst the Board will be keen to find someone to fit the special, not to say unique, requirements of Charlton and someone that fully understands the financial constraints that we have maintained in our years in the Premiership, it will be essential to find a man that already has a definite idea of the team and players that he wants for there is precious little time left available to him.

As far as the team is concerned, we badly need to install some heart in the centre of the team that has gone missing since Parker left and we need someone with the creative skills that can create the chances.

But at last the season is over and that's no bad thing for most of us. We finished in 13th Place, 2 lower than last season. Unlucky number but damn better than 18th. The total of 47 points was a point better than last year and we won 1 more game. But even with Darren Bent knocking them in up front we still managed to score 1 less goal than last year.

So its Goodbye 2005-06, Curbs and probably most of his team. We'll look forward to a new season they same way as we always do - with initial hope and optimism.........

Saturday, May 06, 2006

729 All Out

The end of a season, the end of an era.

The last game of the season has come at last. Not too soon for many of us, least of all perhaps the manager. And a nice easy game to finish off with, away at Old Trafford. Predictions of 3-1 from cynicathletic, 4-0 from Pedro45 and 3-0 from Lawrenson, home wins of course, have been expressed but I don't care really. As long as its less than 10, which would be just a little embarrassing.

Just treat it for what it is - a game that we can enjoy with no worries, as fans anyway, although perhaps the players wouldn't be enjoying it quite so much. Not knowing if you've got a job next year can't be too enjoyable.

Still as fans it'll be something else. I remember a similar game in 1989, May 13th to be exact. The last game in our third successful season in the old First Division it was the only game in those three seasons that didn't mean anything. The only game that we didn't have to win to survive. It was away to Notts Forest and we lost 4-0 and in the away end nobody cared a fig. I've never seen so many happy fans at a losing match. Because it didn't matter. We were safe from relegation and the teams below us couldn't catch us. The following season we enjoyed our last season in the top flight for a few years but on that day nobody cared.

Tomorrow's game, somehow, has the same feel to it. I just hope that next season is not a repeat of the following season after that Notts Forest game. Call me Mr. Pessimistic, but I think for whoever takes over it'll be a very hard season. I can see now the vultures in the press already marking us down as relegation favourites.

So at 729 games, although not all in sole control, Curbs is saying goodbye. Perhaps Sir Ferg will send out his reserves to give our departing legend a right good sendoff. No, perhaps not.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Goodbye Curbs

Although frankievalley can always be relied upon for some interesting dialogue it seems that judging from the lack of posts from all over our select band there's obviously still a stunned feeling from everyone. I think we all knew from the way things were going that it would happen but that has not lessened the shock and trepidation of what, or rather who, will follow.

As all quiet has already pointed out we've had, even putting to one side Steve Gritts 4 years as joint manager during 1991-1995, thanks to Lennie Lawrence and Alan Curbishley only 2 men in charge in the last 23 years. For many of the Charlton fans that's the full term of their allegiance and in footballing terms its a lifetime. With all the financial and ground-sharing problems that we had to endure during those years this continuity has been something that has helped the club enormously.

So how are we going to remember Alan Curbishley? He was a part of the momentous move back to the valley in 1992, building a team with very little money and with average crowds in his first year at Upton Park of 6,700. When he took us into the Premiership for the first time in 1998 the gates had still only reached 13,000 average. We survived a relegation and returned after winning the Championship Title in 2000 (our first championship since we won the division 3 south in 1929 ) and since then have he given us 6 good solid years in the Premiership.

During that time he's built some good teams with skilful players like Jensen, Di Canio, Parker, Murphy and Smertin but seen them all depart for other clubs. Losing such riches, players that resembled the way he played back in the 80's, has obviously affected him and falling back on what he has left he had no option but to adopt survival tactics. The crowds grew unhappy with this state of affairs and he was left with the only answer possible. We should remember him not only for good management in 7 years of top-flight football but for the loyalty he has shown in the last 15 years.

So we're lost more that a manager, we're drawn a line at the end of an era. How strange in today's world of football that a manager leaving should be so emotional. I can't remember, or imagine, any other manager in English football being given the same ovation as Curbs received. The directors have significant ties to the club or else they wouldn't put their hard-earned cash into the club for little appreciation. We, the fans, have complete emotional links - you can change your job, your wife, your car but you cannot change your football club, or so it goes.

But the manager? Where exactly does he fit it to all this? Well, he's the leader I guess, the conductor, the boss and the longer he's there the more important he becomes. Make no mistake, Curbs was Charlton. In him we had something different to what has gone before. He's the one thats been responsible for our years in the premiership. The Directors provide the money but its the manager that builds the team and its Curbishley's teams that have given us our recent success. He was special and we can thank him for helping to change little Charlton into Premiership Charlton.

I'm not even thinking of who will replace him, there's no natural replacement ( as there has been for England) and I'll leave it up to the Directors to make the choice. For the time being I'll reflect on what Curbs has achieved for Charlton, thank him very much for what he has done for the club and I wish him all the best for whatever the future holds for him.