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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Omar Pouso Pulls on the Addicks Shirt

Busy until the very last, Monica has completed ( I assume) his rebuilding with the season long loan of Omar Pouso from Penarol of Uruguay. The deal will cost £337K with an option to buy after one year.

The boy is 27 and is mostly famous for the goal he scored against England in March. A strong midfielder with a distinct hard-man appearance who was Penarol's captain, his arrival doesn't bode well for the fortunes of midfield duo Holland and Hughes.

Pouso is our second Uruguayan and will give his fellow country-man Sorondo someone to chat to as he hobbles around the training ground. Judging from his mugshot on cafc he looks like someone that will get stuck in and stir things up a bit and even Monica says he is "very, very combative", and I can already hear the cries of "Omar, Omar" ringing in my ears. In fact he does seem like an ideal replacement for Hughes, really.

He becomes Monica's 9th signing during the summer marketplace and reflects Monica's desire to completely revamp Charlton into a team of his own and Monica's already got back his money by persuading Middlesbro to cough up £300K for Jason Euell.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Monica lands a "Big Fish"

Whilst Curbs tentatively tipped his toe into unknown waters with the acquisition of a Moroccan, a Uruguayan and an irratic Italian, new kid-on-the-block Monica seems determined to sail further out into the world and trawl the dark depths of foreign waters to snare previously unheard-of gems.

And while adventures into Costa Rica waters have sadly been thwarted, another journey this time into the uncharted depths of Eastern France, where for some reason several African players are currently playing, Monica has toyed with and finally landed another unheard-of jewel.

Our latest signing is the wonderfully named Souleymane Diawara, purchased yesterday for £3.712 from the team currently lying sixth in the French league, Sochaux. He was born in far-off Gabou in Africa and is a companion of our recent signing Amady Faye in the Senegal national team.

Although boatloads of illegal immigrants land in Spain every day from Senegal having paid a small fortune to the African Mafia to get them there before being sent straight back by the Spanish government, it's somewhat heartening to see that its none other than our very own Monica who is providing two Senegalese with steady work down at the Valley.

So, our new boy is 27 years old and is a right-sided central defender and although born in Senegal has dual French Nationality so therefore doesn't need any of those nasty Work Permits things. He took part in the 2006 African Cup of Nations where Senegal finished in fourth place. This season he's played in three out of the 4 games that Sochaux have played without tasting defeat and we can only hope that he brings similar good fortune to his new team.

Full details of the latest purchase are here.

Its a "No" to Bolanos

Looking forward to marvelling once again at the skills of Christian Bolanos in a Charlton shirt? Well, think again because the Home Office has deemed that he is not good enough to work in the UK and have refused him a Work Permit. Monica at cafc looks on the bright side and doesn't rule out another go in 12 months time but of course by then another club in another country will be earning the benefits of Christians skills.

As wyn grant had already forewarned us last night, its not always easy to get a Work Permit but that will not lessen our disappointment.

With Curbs reluctance to employ exotic foreigners, perhaps our knowledge of these affairs was limited but as Wyn has already pointed out in his article Charlton are not the only ones to have suffered. Even the experienced Sam Allardyce had been refused when his attempt to sign Sergei Rebrov from Spurs fell through when denied the necessary paperwork in time to finalise the deal last summer.

Given more knowledge of these murky matters, perhaps we should have been suspicious when no numbers were forecoming from Deportivo Sarprissa on the number of appearances he had made and on Liverpools' decision not to offer him a contract. Did they know he would be refused a permit?

But one wonders if we are suffering from being a "small club". How can a young player voted the 3rd best in the World Club Championships last December deemed not be good enough? He played in 2 of the 3 Costa Rica World Cup games during the summer and his country is currently ranked 47 but at 22 he's obviously not going to be used in every international game by Costa Rica. The official Home Office rules state that players are supposed to be "of the highest calibre and able to contribute significantly to the development of the game at the top level in UK”. Judging from reports at all the games that Bolanos played it does seem ludicious that this decision has been made. Perhaps we should have employed a witness in David Pleat whose opinions of Bolanos last year were very high indeed.

So we're back again to 17 full internationals in the squad and with the number 23 shirt up for grabs. Will there be any more additions before things close tomorrow?

Saturday, August 19, 2006

West Ham 3 Charlton 1

With a predicted defeat the Addicks made a disappointing start to the new season . Monica surprised us all by selecting new signing Scott Carson in goal and leaving Myhre as sub and included Andy Reid on the bench.

After an early 15th minute lead scored by Darren Bent from the penalty spot we suffered another first game dismissal. And as happened in the opening game last year away to Sunderland where Darren Ambrose was dismissed so it was a another new signing that was shown the red card.

With 2 yellows in a matter of 3 minutes left-back Djimi Traore left the field in the 26th minute for an early shower. Changes were immediately made to correct the shape of defence and ironically it was Darren Ambrose that left the field to be replaced by Gonzalo Sorondo while HH moved to left-back. A brave decision by Monica to pull off a midfielder rather than one of his strikers as would be the norm away from home.

A save by Carson from Harewood and a booking for Young but the score at half-time remained 1-0 to the Addicks.

Facing 10 man West Ham came on strong and on 51 minutes our old-boy Lee Bowyer's said thank you with a cross from the right that Zamora tapped home the equaliser at the far post.

And it got worst 20 minutes later with Zamora once again involved. His miss-hit volley deflected off Hreidarsson, hits the right hand post and goes in under the foot of El Karkouri to make it 2-1 to the Hammers.
As Charlton tired another reject Carlton Cole fired home a third in injury time to make it a miserable start for Dowie and it doesn't get any easier as that red lot from up North are due at the Valley next Wednesday.

Charlton: Carson; Young, Traore, Hreidarsson, El Karkouri; Ambrose (30mins Sorondo), Faye, Holland, Hughes, (72mins Reid); Hasselbaink (64 mins M Bent), D Bent.

Subs: Myhre, Sorondo, Reid, Rommedahl, M Bent

West Ham Preview

So its here at last, the Hammers away and the first chance to see how we are going to perform post-Curbs. Its a complete new coaching set-up on stage with Dowie, Reed and Robson on the touchline but with the stability of the all-important Richard Murray behind them. Murray and Monica at their first press conference promised more entertaining football but perhaps that's too much to expect at the start of a very difficult 4 game spell. With Man. U, Bolton and Chelski to follow, I would hope that Monica sends out a team to get a result rather than entertain.

The History

If past history is your thing, and to lift your spirits a tad, we usually do well against the Hammers, at least in the League, where the Totals to date are: P30 W13 D10 L7, while the figures at Upton Park are P 15 W6 D3 L6. Last season saw us win 2-0 at the Valley and get a goalless draw in May at Upton Park. And it seems that Monica is unbeaten here in his three games as a manager against his old-team the Hammers and in fact enjoys a 100% record with the best being on the last occasion he played them in the Championship Play-offs at Cardiff in 2004, winning his ex-employers a place in the Premier no less.

What the Experts Said

In an article in the guardian on Wednesday, Dowie looking forward to the game says "It is very important to get it right at West Ham. There will be another 10%-15% more tired bodies after the first Premiership match than there would be after any pre-season game. That is just the nature of it. If I am going into a boxing ring to spar with someone and have a headguard on, then my adrenalin is probably 15% down on when I am going in there for real. When it is for real, there is always that extra edge."

Monica added yesterday "I want us to be an ultra-competitive side that plays with honesty, integrity and no mean amount of enjoyment by getting the ball down and playing. That is our minimum requirement, that we are competitive in every game and hopefully that will get us some results. This division is very, very tough. The top six are away and clear but it's about being a match for them on any given day. Where that leaves us we'll see. I don't think you should ever limit your ambitions because you have to aim high."

And if anyone cares lawro has either got up late or has thankfully stopped his game predictions but does instead give us his blessing on the BBC site with a "They'll be finishing in the middle to lower half of the table. It's the start of a transitional phase, but if they are struggling in the first half of the season, they'll be able to address that in January, because they're a very well-run club. They'll be finishing in the middle to lower half of the table." I think that's what they call damning praise.

And talking about good reports, an added boost was noticed this week when we apparently received some good comments from last weeks opponents FC Utrecht. Utrecht Manager Booy, who had also faced Wigan Athletic during the close season, suggested that the men from The Valley offered his side a sterner test, commenting: "I got a good impression from them."

The Opposition

For the Hammers out through injury are Dean Ashton, Matthew Etherington, Jonathan Spector, Robert Green and George McCartney, and out through other reasons our old favorite Shawn Newton. But they'll probably have Konchelsky at left-back and Ian Bowyer in midfield, two players who are incidentally 2 of 4 biggest transfer deals out. And they'll probably also be a place for old-boy Carlton Cole up front although surely the old war-horse Sheringham, now 40, wouldn't be around to bug us again.

The Team

With 5 new recruits having arrived so recently and without them having a real run in the team its hard to read Monica's intentions. However, it seems fair to assume that two of them, namely Djimi Traore and Amady Faye, can be expected to start after the improvement that they gave the team in the second half against Utrecht last Friday. He's also stuck to a 4-4-2 for almost every minute of the pre-season so it should mean seeing Jimmy-Floyd and Darren together.

Its so important these days to get off to a good start, so for the first game of the season I can't see too many surprises. I don't think he'll throw Carson in at the deep end and so I expect Myhre to be in goal, with a defence of Young, El Karkouri, Hreidarsson and Traore. With a 4-4-2 the forward line is also straight-forward: Hasselbaink and Darren Bent. The only real headache for Monica is his middle. Who to play at the heart of the team? Going on the pre-season games and with Bolanos still awaiting his Work Permit and with Reid needing more time to get match fit, it looks like a familar Rommedahl, Holland, Faye and Hughes.


Can't find it now but I'm sure that frankievalley was dreaming of a 3-1 win on Thursday while pedro45 goes for a conservative 2-2. james down floyd rd also goes with a 3-1 win and cynicathletic has gone for the neutral 1-1.

So prediction via West Ham - Myrhe, Young, El Karkouri, Hreidarsson, Traore, Rommedahl, Faye, Holland, Hughes, Hasselbaink and Darren Bent.
Subs: Anderson, Ashton, Fortune, Ambrose, Marcus Bent

And the result : West Ham 2 Charlton 1

Friday, August 18, 2006

International Duty

So, you ask, how did our 18 ( sorry, forgot Cory Gibbs yesterday ) international stars do this week playing for their countries? Eager to find out I've surfed, dug and otherwise investigated to see how our wide variety of talent and nationalities got on.

Darren Bent and Luke Young were there for England but only Darren made it off the bench and played for palty a 12 minutes. You know better than I if he made any impact whatsoever or even touched the ball.

For Eire, our new recruit Andy Reid is currently injured or should it be unavailable, possibly a euphemism "for sorry I can't make it, busy getting transferred" and did not play in Dublin and of course Matt Holland has retired a couple of years back.

Their opponents in Dublin, Holland, had no need for the services of the 34 year-old Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink cruising to a 4-0 win on Wednesday. The worst home defeat for Eire, or Repubic of Ireland as they seem to be known now, for more 20 years.

On Tuesday, Kish played 73 minutes of the 0-0 with Wales in Cardiff, while Hermann Hreidarsson performed heroically in both midfield and then defence while captaining Iceland for the full 90 minutes in Reykjavik in their 0-0 against Spain.

Meanwhile, Dennis Rommedahl featured in Denmark's 2-0 win over Poland and apparently after receiving a pass from midfielder Thomas Gravesen "sewed up the match up in the 62nd minute." Of Stephan Andersen I can find no mention.

Thomas Myhre,
seemed to enjoy himself in Oslo starring in a 1-1 draw with Brazil. The sportinglife reports that the "inspired Myhre preserved Norway's lead by stopping a close-range effort from Elano and an extraordinary free-kick by Daniel Carvalho, but the CSKA Moscow playmaker soon had his revenge with the equaliser from Fred's assist. More heroics from Myhre kept out great strikes from Fred and Alex."

Costa Rica didn't appear to have had a game so new star Christian Bolanos was kept busy trying to persuade Immigration to give him his work permit so that he can play football as soon as possible, please.

Talal El Karkouri was in the Moroccan squad for the game against Burkina Faso but the report in the Morocco Times doesn't mention him and there's no team sheet given so he probably sat on the bench dreaming how to stop Marvin Harewood on Saturday.

And what about our new stars from Mali Djimi Traore and Amady Faye of Senegal? Well the dark continent is still proving hard to penetrate and short of asking them or I suppose waiting till CAFC tell us I can't find any news although both Mali and Senegal had games.

And of course, Cory Gibbs and Gonzalo Sorondo both still have their injuries so I suppose stayed at home.

No sign of Jamaica having a game so our duo of Jason Euell and Kevin Lisbie failed to get a game. No change there then.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Monica's Marvels Take Shape

So another player, Spurs Andy Reid, joins the club, are rather limps in, as the Independent yesterday reports he´s currently injured. His best position seems in doubt but notes on the web says that "he usually plays left side of midfield but can also operate down the right side or just off the striker, he's 5 feet, 7 inches tall and of chubby build". I do recall him sending some wicked curling crosses from the right wing when we beat Spurs 2-0 in March 2005 and he did look more dangerous than our Dennis down the right. He has played 22 times for Eire which can't be bad for a 24 year old.

Having said that, £3m seems a bit over the top for a player with 27 appearances in one season with only 1 goal and who is obviously surplus to Martin Jol's requirements. But at some point we´ve got to start trusting Monica's taste and the deal has some history as Curbs was also after Reid in the January of 2005 while he was at Notts Forest but the asking price was too high and he eventually went to Spurs for £4m.

After the long drawn out deals for Faye and Traore this one has rather been a bit of a surprise but not when you think about it. The only position in the team without cover was Rommedahl´s, unless you paid any attention to Curbs´s use of Marcus Bent on the wing last season. So with Dennis failing to impress in pre-season its not really surprising that Monica should swiftly pounce, apparently beating Man.City into the bargain.

Thats the 8th new player for Monica this summer, after Gibbs, Walton, Hasselbaink, Faye, Traore, Bolonas, Carson and now Andy Reid all for a total of £7.5 million handed over and with 2 loan deals. An impressive total but we´ve spend more on 3 occasions, Curbs having spent a tidy £10.8 in 2001. And with 6 internationals and an Under-21 among them I can't remember a time when we had so many internationals in a Charlton squad. I make it a total of 17.

Bloody hell, we're in danger of becoming a "big club" after all!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Fighting Talk From Monica

For all the conservatives out there and those that haven't had time to read their papers yet, there's an article in the guardian about Dowie and the boys this morning.

Some quotes from the Boss read "It is very important to get it right at West Ham. There will be another 10%-15% more tired bodies after the first Premiership match than there would be after any pre-season game. That is just the nature of it."

"If I am going into a boxing ring to spar with someone and have a headguard on, then my adrenalin is probably 15% down on when I am going in there for real. When it is for real, there is always that extra edge."

New boy Carson is also mentioned with a footnote about Stephan Anderson.

Herman Upsets Raul

We're still a small club. All this talk of moving up and challenging for Europe, its just to entice the players and make us seem progressive. Even most of the players aren't fooled - over the last few years we have had people leaving or turning us down so that they can join what they see as "bigger clubs". You know the names as well as me. Just recently goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson agreed a deal but then Man. City got involved and he was tempted away. A "bigger club", well, thats a bit debatable, they finished 15th last season.

But we the fans know who we are. We don't want no big foreign investor splashing his money about on us, making us big and important. If we wanted to support a "big" team we could have done it ourselves without anyone's help. No, we actually like being the underdog, snapping at the heels of the big boys and turning them over whenever we can.

So once again its especially pleasing to turn on the TV and watch us upset someone else and put another nose out of joint.
Iceland 0 Spain 0

I told myself that HH must be there somewhere even though Gudjohnsen was nowhere to be seen. On Spanish TV, of course, all the camera work was on their own players and nowhere in the commentary was their mention of a Hreidarsson. He wasn't anywhere in defence, where could he be. Then I spotted him - wearing Number 7 - in midfield! And wearing the captain's armband no less. His job apparently was to mark Raul, the Spanish captain and prevent him enjoying his 100th cap for his country.

During the second half he moved back into defence and marshalled his team well, getting Spain offside on many occasions, getting in clearing headers and giving the full-strength opposition very few chances. He played the full 90 minutes and was a rock. And it became obvious that the reason I'd failed to spot him was that I'd forgotten one of the peculiarities of the spanish language - the 'H' is not pronounced so the commentor was calling him Capitain Rayyson!

Anyway the game finished goalless with the home side unable to capitalize on a poor Spain side. After the game the hapless Spanish captain Raul, was interviewed. No change of shirt, dripping wet and the picture of someone who obviously had not enjoyed winning his 100th cap.

Roll on the next biggie!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

WHAT ! - Blackburn 5 New Zealand 0

We're all just dying to know what the future holds for us.

No, I don't mean how long we're going to live or how many kids we're going to have that will be ignoring us in our old age anyway - no, nothing as mundane as that. We just want to know what sort of a year its going to be. And I'm not referring to how much money our tight employers are going to give us in our pay rise or how our spuds are going to be this year.

What I'm dying to know is - what kind of a season are we going to have? Are we going to be safe? Satisfied? Depressed? Frustrated? Relieved? Miserable? Who the hell knows?

And as always any optimistic feelings that I may have gleamed from the Utrecht fight-back didn't last long and over the last couple of days have dissipated almost completely. I recalled someone saying our performance was inept against New Zealand and then I realised we're still giving bad goals away and besides how good can Utrecht be anyway.

So to try to allay my sense of growing doom I turned the Sunday papers to the results section and there under the previous day's league results I found what I was looking for; the "other results" section. With all the other teams having already started, all the results were , of course, our Premiership rivals. With fearful thumb but with a thought process carefully analysing the meaning of the result and keen, or is it desperate, to find a weakness, I scanned the lines:

Bolton 1 AZ Alkmaar 3
- thats not so bad although Alkmaar are good and finished 2nd last year in Holland and made the UEFA Semis
Everton 0 Athletic Bilbao 1
- thats better, Bilbao finished 13th and are usually crap away
Fulham 1 Boavista 1
- Boavista were 6th last year but with lots of changes during the summer - looks a reasonable result for Fulham
Man. City 0 Porto 1
- to be expected, Porto were double winners in Portugal last year
Man. U 3 Seville 0
- Who cares
Middlesbro' 0 Chievo 0
- getting better - Middlesbro still can't score; 4 goalless pre-season games
West Ham 1 Olympiakos 1
- Greek Champions, looks a good result from the Hammers
FC Groningen 2 Aston Villa 2
- Despite dire rumours from Villa Park, a result very similar to the Addicks, Groningen finished 5th last year, one above Utrecht

And then the one that I knew would be there somewhere - the one that confirms all my fears and tells us how good we really are and will doubtless add to my sleepness nights;

Blackburn 5 (FIVE) New Zealand 0

PS - Look on the bright side Mrs Nelson says - at least we're not playing them till December, they'll have peaked by then and besides Blackburn have even trashed Olympiakos 5-0 in a tournament in Germany so we're no worst than West Ham.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Pre-Season Analysis

With nothing to do but sweat profusely on a Spanish August afternoon, thought I'd do a Colin Cameron impression and see exactly what Monica' s been doing these last few weeks. In Spain every season they go into minuscule detail on every game played ( especially pre-season ) and let everyone know how many minutes a player has played so I decided to play the numbers game with Charlton's pre-season to see if I could fathom out what Monica is going to present us with on Saturday at Upton Park (ignoring any last minute additions of course).

So with 7 games played (W2 D2 L3 F12 A12 - scorers - Walker 3, Hasselbaink 3, Marcus Bent 1, Sorondo 1, Hughes 1, Ambrose 1, El Karkouri 1 and Youga 1) the details are below:


Myhre 270,
Randolph 180
Charlton had talks with Andreas Isaksson but he wanted a "bigger club" and there has been rumours about Robert Green of Norwich but at the moment the Number 1 slot is still vacant and it seems that Myhre is going to be first choice.

Young 405
Hreidarsson 405
Ashton 360
El Karkouri 328
Walton 305
Fortune 301
Youga 215
Sorondo 136
Traore 45
As can be seen from the numbers, with the exception of Traore taking over at left-back from Ashton, the preferred back-four at the moment seems clear-cut, Young, El Karkouri, Hreidarsson, Traore.

Holland 347
Rommedahl 337
Hughes 337
Sam 302
Euell 223
Ambrose 210
Kishishev 206
John 180
Farinos 180
Bolanos 173
Thomas 59
Faye 45
Midfield - there's a few surprises here. Most people assumed that the first to go under the new management would be the duo of Holland and Hughes. Well, not so. Holland has amassed more time on the pitch than any other midfielder. In fact, only Young, Hreidarsson and Ashton has played more in pre-season. While it's expected that Faye will walk into the team, it is debatable who he's going to replace. My guess is it wouldn't be Holland or Hughes, who both partnered Faye during the second half in Utrecht on friday. Our away midfield, assuming we play with only one wide player, looks like being Holland, Hughes and Faye with either Bolanos or Thomas on the left or Rommedahl on the right.

Hasselbaink 334
Walker 244
Marcus Bent 215
Darren Bent 145
Gislason 61
Lisbie 57
Fofana 45
Dja Djedje 45
Diomande 26
Carvill 19
Tanska 10
The attack will be Hasselbaink and Darren Bent in a 4-4-2 although Jimmy-Floyd's 34 years may become a factor when we hit 2 games a week mode. There's been no experiment with any other formation except for 45 minutes when Hasselbaink played up front on his own. Monica's bent is obviously to play with 2 strikers and with Hasselbaink and Darren Bent available who can blame him. of the alternatives, Walker's been hitting in the goals and has amassed more minutes played than Marcus Bent and Monica has said that he has much to offer and there's even rumours of a rejuvenanted Lisbie frightening defences (!).

So prediction via West Ham - Myrhe, Young, El Karkouri, Hreidarsson, Traore, Holland, Hughes, Faye, Rommedahl, Hasselbaink and Darren Bent.
Subs: Anderson, Ashton, Sorondo, Marcus Bent, Bolanos

Saturday, August 12, 2006

FC Utrecht 2 Charlton 2

Don't know about you but this morning I'm finding it very hard to be a pessimist. Another fighting performance against good European opposition saw our boys peg back a 2 goal deficit and after goals from Brian Hughes and Jimmy-Floyd ended with a 2-2 draw. After years trying its beginning to look like we can handle ourselves in European after all.

After giving a goal away after 9 minutes and having the deficit doubled in the 14th minute when a bad pass-back by Farinos was intercepted by the the Utrecht forward Fortune who rounded Myrhe and scored easily we made changes at half-time and finished the game more strongly than our Dutch opponents.

Although a little upset at again giving early goals away Monica continues to impress with his interpretation of the game but is at the same time still conscious of everyones role in the team: "We have been waiting on a few new bodies and Djimi and Amady made us a lot more manly, a lot more strong and lot more powerful. That's not a criticism of anyone in the team though."

And he's still on form in making-up key phases to emphasize a point : "Darren Ambrose has played a part and we've given people who haven't played games time."

Other plus points were the first games in Charlton colours for Djimi Traore and Amady Faye both coming on at the start of the second half. At predicted Bolanos took no part after his trip back home this week. Farinos was again in the starting line-up before being replaced at half-time and after 4 games with us it seems that the Boss likes what he sees. Can it be that Charlton will soon have their first-ever Spaniard on their books?

It may surprise a few people to realize that once again Brian Hughes played the entire game, scored a goal and has even earned a nickname from Monica of the rather obvious "Hughesy" while other players have to be content with a Darren or a Jimmy. In fact he's been one of the players that has started all 4 of the "important" friendlies. It appears that we will have to start looking for and appreciating his attributes to the team.

Charlton: Myhre, Young, Ashton (Traore 46), El Karkouri (Sorondo 76), Hreidarsson; Hughes, Farinos (Faye 46), Holland (Kishishev 89), Ambrose (Rommedahl 75); Hasselbaink (Lisbie 89), D Bent (M Bent 75).

Subs (not used): Andersen, Walton, Euell, Sam.

Goals: Hughes 37, Hasselbaink 81

Utrecht: Vorm; Tiendalli, van Steensek, Broerse, Somers (van Buuren83); Kopteff Douglas 75), van Dijk, Kruys, Caluwe, van der Gun (Rossini 89); Fortune (Nelisse 65).

Subs (not used): de Jong, Grandel, Braafheid.

Goals: van der Gun 9, Fortune 14

Friday, August 11, 2006

Missing Number One?

Looks as if the Addicks have lost out on the possible signing of Swedish international goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson.

Reports in the guardian this morning confirm that David James has moved to Portsmouth and as a consequence "City are expected to sign the Sweden international goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson, currently at Rennes, once James completes his move to Fratton Park. Isaksson's agent Roger Ljung told the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet yesterday: "I am on my way to a meeting to negotiate in Manchester. We would not be here if we didn't think it would be sealed."

FC Utrecht Preview

On Friday evening Charlton play their last pre-season game by travelling to Holland to face Dutch team FC Utrecht. For those of an historical bent, and lets hope we see one of those on view, Utrecht is more famous for the hosting of the conference in 1713 that produced the famous "Treaty of Utrecht" signed at the end of the Spanish War of Succesion leading to the cession by Spain of Gibraltar to Great Britain.

More recent history tells us that, like our previous Belgium opponents Germinal Beerscholt, FC Utrecht is a club formed by an amalgamation when in 1970 there was a merger of three clubs from the city of Utrecht: DOS, Elinkwijk and Velox. One of the three clubs, DOS, managed to win the league in 1958 and FC Utrecht recently won the Dutch Cup in 2004 and then beat Ajax 4-2 in their version of the Charity Shield.

They finished 6th in the Eredivisie (First Division) last season after 11th place in 2004-05. Last season they lost both games against Champions PSV but did the double over Ajax and beat 3rd placed Feyenoord at home. But like the Addicks they seem to have a few problems towards the end of the season and not only lost their last three games of the regular season but then compounded their misery by losing both Play-off games, deciding who plays in Europe, to lower-placed opposition FC Twente.

After Charlton's slightly unexpected victory on Tuesday 2-1 against Germinal Beerscholt with a combination of first-teamers, bench-warmers and triallists, we can only expect that Monica ( sorry, Addicks Head Coach Iain Dowie) has again done his homework and will field a team to get a result against a stronger Dutch side. Not that a result will be paramount in his mind. As he has demostrated in all the pre-season games his priority has been to have a good look at all his players, even the youngsters, and to arrive at West Ham with his best team fit and ready to go.

Perhaps the high proportion of away pre-season games is an indication of his willingness to sort things out without the inconvenience of trying to satisfy home fans. In any event I'm sure he arrives in Holland in a more secure frame of mind with this weeks three signings under his belt. As far as the fans are concerned, although there have been some concern voiced about the first two signings, its been obvious that everyone is very relieved that new bodies have finally arrived.

As for fridays team - its not clear if Bolanos has yet received his work permit and as he has been back to Costa Rica this week to bring his family to England it has to be doubtful that he will play. However, if travel problems can be resolved after Thursdays terrorist threat its expected that both new signings Djimi Traore and Amady Faye will feature in some part in the game.

There's been no more news on the still vacant Number 1 shirt since early this week when Andreas Isaksson was reported as saying he's reached an agreement with Charlton but is awaiting to hear what Man. City have to say although City were then rumoured to be chasing the West Brom Polish goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak who signed for Man Utd yesterday. So confusion reigns.

Apart from Tuesdays game against Germinal Beerscholt, where the team had a distinctly reserve feel to it, Myhre has started every game between the sticks and the defence will probably be the usual first-choice Young, El Karkouri, Hermann and Ashton, before Traore takes his place in the second half. Matt Holland and Hughes will be holding midfield together although Kish may feature in the first half before giving way to his obvious replacement Amady Faye. There's been no more news on spanish midfielder Farinos since he played the second half on Tuesday so its possible that with the arrival of 2 new midfielders this week he not be seen again.

Rommedahl, who returns to the country where he spent 6 successful years with PSV and will be keen to show what they are missing, seems a fixture on the right with Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink enjoying an appearance in his home country alongside Darren Bent or namesake Marcus. So an attacking 4-4-2 seems on the cards with the left wide position probably filled by Darren Ambrose in the absence of Jerome Thomas and new signing Bolanos.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Christian Bolaños Signs On

By now we all know about the midfielder cum winger from Costa Rica, Christian Bolaños, who has just become Monica's third signing of the week. The impressive Bolanos played in the friendly against Welling and again in the home game with New Zealand and according the the CAFC notes "was the architect of the Charlton goal, clipping a glorious ball over the All Whites rearguard for Marcus Bent who lashed a terrific low drive past Paston and into the bottom left corner."

Bolaños, who has 18 caps and one goal for Costa Rica, first came to prominence last December when he featured for Deportivo Saprissa at the FIFA Club World Championship in Japan. His club had qualified by being CONCACAF champions of North and Central America. In the first match he scored the only goal of the game against Australia's Sydney FC which set up a semi-final date with Liverpool, and despite the eventual 3-0 defeat to the Champions League holders in Yokohama received rave reviews.

The Deportivo Saprissa team notes at the time described him as "direct and dangerous". None other than David Pleat confirmed his skills and added "The signs are that he can also track back, a vital requirement in the Premiership. Against Liverpool and in the third-place game against Al Ittihad he looked to be a worker. Pleat then gave him marks out of 10 of : Speed 8/10, Crossing 7/10, Skill 8/10, Team responsibility 7/10, Shooting 8/10. Full report is here.

Also impressed by his performances against them were Liverpool and he subsequently spent a 10-day trial at Anfield but without getting being offered a contract and he returned to Cost Rica.

During this summer he played in the World Cup in Germany and took part in 2 of the 3 Costa Rican games.

He looks very exciting and works hard too, strange that unlike other available "stars" we didn't have to fight off any opposition for his signing. I have to wonder why Liverpool didn't offer him a contract during the winter? Maybe winter in Liverpool was not really up his street or perhaps his wage demands at the time were thought too high. Or perhaps he did not fit into Benitez plans. And whatever people think of Benitez talents as a manager nobody would call his old Valencia team "exciting".

Whatever the reason, anyone who inspires the description "exciting and dangerous" is definitely someone we need and we have to say he appears a great signing for Charlton. And the risks, if any, are kept to a minimum with a one-year loan deal with the option to buy after one year.

It only remains for Monica now to show his skills in moulding his ever increasing squad into a unit fit for the coming fray.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Djimi Traore and Amdy Faye

The much awaited, and badly needed, Charlton additions have at last arrived with the aquisition of two African players with exotic names. Its all very well having a couple of Bents, and a mixture of Young, Hughes, Holland, Thomas but in the modern game its obligatory to sign players from the dark continent with appropriately difficult names.

First to arrive then is defender Djimi Traore, the 26-year-old Mali international from Liverpool. Traore was a member of Liverpool's Champions League winning side against AC Milan in Istanbul in May 2005 after being signed by Gerard Houllier from Laval for £550,000 in February 1999. According to the Liverpool website he played a total 141 first-team games for the reds.

His career at Liverpool has had some ups and downs — he played for most of the 2002–03 season, deputising for the injured Stéphane Henchoz, having been on loan with French club Lens the previous season. He spent the 2003–2004 season, Houllier's last at the club, in the reserve team, of which he was captain, and almost left Liverpool for their Merseyside neighbours Everton on the 2004 transfer deadline day but remained at Anfield, where he has mostly been employed at left back.

Traoré career seems to have been revitalised by new manager Rafael Benítez since the summer of 2004. Rather worryingly the defender had been continually exposed for being poor positionally, and seemed reticent to attack. Now he shows more willingness to support the left winger as well as improved positional play.

Unfortunately for us, rather than his Champions League medal he's better remembered for his bizarre own-goal that gifted Burnley a 1-0 victory over Premiership giants Liverpool in the third round of the 2004–05 FA Cup. This however did solve the problem of how to pronounce his name in Scouse and has reputably earned him the nickname of "Bambi" among the Anfield faithful. He has 5 Mali caps to his name, can also play at centre-back and has reputable scored only one other goal apart but the famous one.

The long-running transfer saga, where a vital sticking point has obviously been that Traoré still has two years left on a lucrative deal at Liverpool which means that we were pushing for a loan deal rather than having to revert to that drastic last resort, and to be avoided if at all possible, the handing over of readies. Well, readies it was, £2 million. Is he worth it? We''ll have to wait and see.

Easier on the tongue is the second new player Amdy Faye a 29 year old Senegalese international from Newcastle United although the spelling of his first name seems in some doubt. Faye began his career at French Ligue One club AS Monaco FC, and then had spells with ES Frejus and AJ Auxerre where he played 80 games and gained a French cup-winners medal in 2003. He played for Senegal at the 2002 FIFA World Cup, before transferring to Portsmouth for £1.5 million in August 2003.

He made his debut for Portsmouth in a 2-1 home win over Aston Villa and soon proved to be an excellent buy for the club playing 27 games and helping Portsmouth to a mid-table position. The Senegal international made the most tackles (132) of any Portsmouth player that season and only Steve Stone attempted more passes than the central midfielder although another player who finds goals hard to come by, only scoring 3 in his 8 years of first-team football.

Faye's combative style throughout the season often brought him to the attention of the league's officials, as well as opposing clubs, who pulled him up for 54 fouls and seven yellow cards in his 27 appearances. In January 2005 after having impressed Graham Souness he was transferred to Newcastle United for about £2 million and he's played 45 games in his eighteen months at St. James Park. A change of management however has restricted his appearances as new manager Roeder seems to prefer Parker and Emre in his midfield so recent games seem to have been scarce.

As is sadly commonplace in many of our transfers deals we don't seem to have could out of it too well. Newcastle have recovered the money they paid eighteen months ago for a player unloved by the fans and currently relegated to their reserves. We can only hope that Monica has done his homework.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Amdy Faye

According to the Newcastle website, the Addicks have had an offer accepted for the 29-year-old Senegal midfielder, who now only needs to agree personal terms and pass a medical for the move to go through.

Newcastle boss Glenn Roeder told his club's official website: "Amady Faye is in a situation where we have allowed him to talk to Charlton. Now we have to wait and see if he makes the move to London."

Amdy Faye is a defensive midfielder, and in a previous report is a man blessed with bountiful physical and technical attributes although the spelling of his first name seems in some doubt. Not a creative player then, nor a goalscorer, but someone to play in front of the defence a la Kish.

But while the papers suggest that its Roeder that is preferring to keep Faye out of the team, Newcastle bloggers are suggesting otherwise. The following quote in from November last year.
"When Newcastle fans don't like or rate a player there is no convincing them, their minds are made up and can't be changed. And for poor Amdy Faye, he is one of those players. There isn't a week that goes by on our own forum where he is the topic of ridicule or the proverbial punch bag for the boo-boys out on the stands.
Souness recently confided that he has had to console Faye and deliberately leave him out on one or two occasions so his fragile confidence doesn't get shattered further by the boo-boys."

Well, thats good enough for me. Not wishing to cast dispersions, but fans from that area have never been close to my heart nor their footballing opinions. All that bare-chesty stuff doesn't impress me. How can you expect someone from the heat of Senegal to perform in the frozen wastes of the dreary North-East. Faye's obviously the boy for us, he just needs a warm family environment, just ask those Pompey fans they even sold him for a profit. From his season at Portsmouth the Senegal international made the most tackles (132) of any Portsmouth player that season and only Steve Stone attempted more passes than the central midfielder.
And what the hell, he even looks like Makelele.

Friday, August 04, 2006

New Zealand Preview

Saturday sees Charlton welcome New Zealand to the Valley for a game that will hopefully feature more first-teamers than Tuesdays runabout against Welling. Thankfully Monica has promised as much.

Ricki Herbert's All Whites 20-man New Zealand squad were there at Park View to see the "reserves" lose 1-0 after their long-haul flight from down-under and despite their obvious jet-lag I'm sure they were suitably impressed. Saturdays game will be different of course and is their European tour opener followed by a game against Blackburn Rovers on August 16.

New Zealand captain Danny Hay is one of the few players with experience playing outside New Zealand having played 4 games for Leeds several years ago and then a season at Walsall although the 31-year-old central defender rates himself just a 50-50 chance of being fit for after straining his right calf muscle during a training run in Auckland last week. Other players include Halifax Town striker Shane Smelz, midfielder Tim Brown, who plays for the US Richmond Kickers and Fulham youngster Chris James. But the star of the team will undoubtably be midfielder Ivan Vicelich who has played for Dutch club Roda for the last 5 years and has over 50 appearances for New Zealand.

One player definitely not playing for New Zealand will be Blackburn Rovers defender Ryan Nelsen who ironically has been dogged by injury problems since the end of last season, having suffered a hairline fracture of his leg during Rovers' win at Charlton on April 29th.

A scan of their recent games has seen them enjoy ( if that's the word for it ) a 4-1 defeat to Brazil in Switzerland on June 4 although in May they beat Georgia and drew in Estonia. However the aim of Saturdays game was rather put in context by captain Hay explaining "We've already shown we're capable of competing with very good European teams. There are no ranking points on the line so these are practice matches as they are for the clubs, it's all about giving players experience." They'll all set for a thumping then.

For Charlton it'll be the first home game of pre-season and therefore the first time we'll see Iain Dowie patrolling the touchline since he watched Jonathan Fortune's late header relegate his hapless team in May 2005. On this happier occasion, I assume he'll be keen to impress his home fans and therefore play a full strength side. Its even rumored that Darren Bent will at last leave his knife juggling antics in the kitchen and be available to assist Jimmy-Floyd in slicing apart the New Zealand defence. Not for the full game of course as he's not match fit but at last we will enjoy the mouth-watering prospect of at last seeing them together.

For the remainder of the side it'll be much as we left it in May. El Karkouri has returned and seems to have taken over Chris Perrys role alongside Hermann H with Sorondo as another option while Monica seems more than happy to maintain young Nathan Ashton at left-back. In front of Luke Young, Dennis Rommedahl seems set to continue on the wing. After that its guess-work time as Matt Holland, Brian Hughes, Kish, Darren Ambrose and Lloyd Sam "battle" it out for the 3 remaining places.

Nothing further has been mentioned of the four "triallists" at tuesdays game and although that doesn't usually mean much we can only hope that we have another chance to see Spanish midfielder Xavier Farinos, Costa Rican winger Christian Bolanos and young Ivory Coast striker Ismael Fofana.

Meanwhile new squad numbers have been allocated to youngsters Myles Weston, Alistair John, Michael Carvill, Jani Tanska and Rurik Gislason for the first time. Intriguingly the Number 1 is currently vacant......

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Welling 1 Charlton 0

Its quite obvious that Monica pays no attention to any advice offered, as least from any armchair fans, however dedicated. He's still trying out people, and this game against annual opponents Welling was going to be NO exception. Whilst understanding the embarrassment of London-based fans at losing to such inferior opposition, I suppose, like Monica we should look at any positives, however few, that may have come from the game.

So, with absolutely no first-teamers in action, he used the game to try out 4 complete newcomers - two of which played the whole game and the others came on in the second half. They were combined with players from the bench such as Euell, Marcus Bent, Fortune, Walton and Sam. But it was the "trialists" that were most interesting. We're all in favour of a strengthened midfield and we should be pleased the manager is still actively looking at midfielders.

According to CAFC, the two players that played the whole match were Spaniard Xavier Farinos and Costa Rican Christian Bolanos. The only Spaniard I can trace called Farinos is 28 year-old Francisco Xavier Farinos, born in Valencia and currently on the books of Inter Milan. After over a 100 games in his 4 years at Valencia, he moved to Italy and has been with Inter for the last 6 years and made 76 appearances in the League, Cup and Europe. During this time he spend a year on loan at Villareal and for the last two years he's been on loan at Spanish club Mallorca. He's played twice for Spain and is now apparently out of contract.

The second player on for 90 minutes was 21 year old left-winger from Costa Rica Christian Bolanos. He played for Saprissa in the FIFA Club championship against Liverpool last year and spent some time at Anfield on trial but without getting a contract. Report at that here. He then played in the World Cup in Germany and received some very good reviews here.

Young striker Michael Carvill and Icelandic prospect Rurik Gislason made the bench alongside two more trialists from the Ivory Coast, Ismael Fofana and Me Aboucar Diomande who are a bit more mysterious. Ismael Fofana played in the Under 17 African World Cup last year and was the leading scorer with 4 goals, and received rave reviews when playing in the World Under 17 Championships in Peru last September. An article in Ussoccer says about him, "Called the “Star of the future in African football,” the bar has been set high for Ivory Coast’s Ismael Beko Fofana. So far, he’s wooed onlookers, scoring four goals in qualifying and already one in the world championship. A product of Asec Abidjan's Mimos Sifcom academy, Fofana may not be the most powerful forward, but he’s got a knack for finding the goal."
So he is obviously "one for the future" as Monica calls them.

Charlton: Randolph; John, Youga, Fortune, Walton; Sam (Carvill 81), Euell (Gislason 64), Farinos, Bolanos, M Bent (Fofana 46), Walker (Diomande 64).

Welling: Turner (Hyde 72); Goodfellow, Guest (Moore 81), C Moore (Vines 66), Perkins; Rowland (Green 52), Boateng, Day, Holmes (Beazant 81); Kedwell (A Sam 72), Stadhart (Lovell 72).

Goals: Walton og 46

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Welling Preview

Make no mistake tonights game in Massive for both clubs. Charlton have to get back to winning ways after 2 away defeats and only 3 points to show from the opening three games of the season.

Seriously though, tonights game is important as we set to recover from conceding 6 goals away from home, a statistic that was all too frequent last season. After the awesome proportions of the Mestalla it's definitely going to be a trip down-market as we wing down to the homely Park View ground to take on Welling United.

The local Conference South lost their only home pre-season friendly to Grays 2-1 but have beaten Herne Bay 2-0, Erith 5-0 and Folkstone 1-0 on the road. Lucky we're playing them at home then.

A game that surely demands an attacking formation from Charlton with Marcus Bent partnering Jimmy-Floyd up front as Darren is still resting that injured finger. Anything less than 5 goals will be seen as a relative disaster so perhaps an attacking 4-2-4 will see us solve our mid-field problems in a stroke.

Has Monica seen enough of the youngsters by now? Nathan Ashton seems to have claimed the left-back spot, playing all 90 minutes in the heat in Valencia with Luke Young and Rommedahl set to hold the right-side positions. Everything else seems up for grabs, with no clear candidate for first-choice goalkeeper being made while the centre of defence seems between El Karkouri, Hermann and Sorondo.

And the Midfield? Dowie praised Holland for his non-stop effort in Valencia but the changes made at half-time seemed to lift Charlton. So let's see Kish and Sam together again as we did at the Mestalla in the second 45 minutes and stick Euell up-front for a decent runaround. We need goals as well as training ground barbis to lift our spirits.

Meanwhile the injury list seems to be building alarmingly. Apart from Darren B and Jerome Thomas already out, we have after Valencia, Darren Ambrose with a jarred knee, Sorondo's tightening hamstring and El Karkouri with a severe case of dizziness. We can only hope that the promised "one or two bodies" materialize rather quickly to strength the squad and that they are capable of more than hard work.