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Saturday, March 31, 2007

In-your-face Pardew

Another interesting article about Pards was in the guardian, today along with comments from Darren Bent, Richard Murray, Andrew Mills and Graeme Murty (!).

Friday, March 30, 2007

31 of 38 - Wigan (home)

So its another Cup Final for the Addicks, this time against little old Wigan, a team that has never, ever won at the Valley. OK, they've only played there once, and that was last season and we thrashed' em 1-0 with a Darren Bent header. Since then, of course, its been all downhill in every sense of the word with the Addicks playing twice at the JJB, conceding 6 goals and losing both times, 3-0 under Curbs and then 3-2 under Monica's charge.

Back to the present though and how have Wigan been doing while we're fighting back under Pards? Well, they had a rather depressing run of 8 defeats in a row during December and January which dragged them down to 17th spot in the table, but Jewells' turned 'em round up somewhat and they have now lost only 1 of the last 6 and that was against the Arse where Mr Jewell got so upset. Unbeaten now in their last four and with no goals conceded in their last three they look to be a tougher nut to crack than were Newcastle.

Wigan are currently on 33 points, 6 in front of the Addicks and will come to the Valley thinking that a win will almost certainly ensure another season in the Premiership. They have already won 4 times away from home at Bolton, Fulham, Man.City and West Ham but of special interest to us is their current away form where their last 4 games have finished most recently against Man.City 1-0, a 1-1 draw at Watford, where they were down to 10 men for most of the game, a narrow 1-2 defeat at the Arse where they were unlucky not to win and 2-3 reverse at Reading.

Not a Lot

With Wigan only having caught us up last season after getting elected to the League as recently as 1978 there ain't a lot of history to talk about as we've only meet three times with their 2 wins at their JJB stadium against our win at the Valley.

The Opponents
Only Two Defeats.......

What can you say about Wigan? There was a few jokes this week about their lack of internationals but in fact they have got a few, Camara of Senegal and the Scot McCulloch for example as well as Denny Domingoes Landzaat who apparently is a regular for the Dutch. In the Premiership their top goalscorers are Heskey and Camara with both having scored 6 goals each while Lee McCulloch comes next with 4. Captain Arjan De Zeeuw has just returned from a 2 month injury and will probably partner ex-Addick Matt Jackson in central defence.

Up front with Heskey would normally be Caleb Folan who joined Wigan in January from Chesterfield and will be remembered by Hreidarsson and Diawara who played against him in League Cup thing back in November when he played, and scored, against us. He suffered, however, an ankle injury in the last game against Fulham, thus missing his recent international call-up for the Irish such has been his current form, and if he hasn't recovered he will probably be replaced by Camara - which is obviously better as he hasn't scored since early December.

Well, overall they don't sound too threatening, do they? But before you get too carried away, it's worth remembering those 4 away wins and the fact that of the 13 games that Wigan have played against teams in the bottom half of the Premiership table they have only lost twice.....

The Addicks
Is the Team Starting to Pick Itself?

Succesful teams tend not to change too much and after our recent improvement in performances we're starting to see a settled team. There might be one change, however, from the same defence as kept a clean sheet against Newcastle due to the Herminator's knee injury which kept him out of Iceland's game against Spain on Wednesday, so it should Carson, Young, the Elk, Diawara and Thatcher back from his own injury.

Our midfield mainstay will once again be Holland with Rommerdahl or Ambrose ( another back from injury) and Jerry Thomas giving us width. Supporting Matty H in the middle of the park will hopefully be Alex Song, awaiting a late test, or Amdy Faye.

Darren Bent will be up front but has Zizi done enough to satisfy Pardew and earn another start? With Lisbie having an impressive run-out for the reserves in midweek, scoring twice, and although Marcus is another who has supposedly recovered injured, its possible that Pards will see the Chinaman as the answer, with Lisbie making the bench.


Hate to predict the same as Lawrenson, but it'll be a close game, and has a draw written all over it. But its a bit worrying that Angela Morris, our answer to Mr. Lawrenson, and the most expert of the experts on cafcpicks, was the only one that, at the beginning of the season, was forecasting a defeat .......

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Game Number 30 for the Elk

There's already been a little speculation as to who will play against Wigan on Saturday. Pardew has just told us that he expected 4 points against Newcastle and Wigan and therefore is oddly enough looking at getting a draw, but is that just meant to confuse the opposition? He's already admitted that draws are no good to us in the current situation so he's sure to continue with an attacking 4-4-2.

But will ZiZi continue where he left off and play behind Darren and is Song fit to return? Will Pards keep the same defence that kept out Newcastle? There's been no clues on who can return from injury, eg Song, Thatcher and Ambrose although it seems that Jimmy- F is definitely out and there's one report that Andy Reid is out for the rest of the season. One player who is 100% sure of playing though, bearing last minute illness and the odd suspension, is number 12 Talal El Karkouri.

The Addicks have nobody that has played every Premiership game but currently have two players that have played all but one game this season - Carson and the Elk and neither have been substitued. Carson, of course, missed the game against Liverpool because of the loan agreement while the Elk was suspended for the game at the theatre of nightmares.

The Elk has also weighted in with a couple of priceless goals, both from his legendary free-kicks, getting the last minute goal to beat Blackburn at the Valley on the historic December 5th and then another at the Reebok against Bolton in our 1-1 draw. True, he has had other less productive efforts that are too numerous to list and there were even fears that he wanted to take last weeks penalty but was out-muscled by a determined Jerry. And OK he does sometimes make the odd clumsy challenge, 6 yellows do confirm that but he's been our defensive king-pin this season with all three of our managers.

And he's one player who has definitely benefited from the change in management. After injuries last season, Curbs eventually loaned him out to Al Gharafa in Qatar in April with the idea of a permanent move in a season where he only made 4 appearances for the Addicks. The previous year, in his first season with the Addicks, 2004-05, he made 28 appearances and finished 2nd highest goal-scorer with 5 goals, just 1 behind leading scorer Shawn Bartlett.

So, love him or hate him, he'll be there again on Saturday stepping up to take the inevitable long-range free-kicks. But, a word of advice and like my teacher always used to tell me - keep your bloody knee over the ball!!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Plan B?

Just 4 days to go before another crucial game in our fight to avoid the drop. Will we do it or not? Player interviews and quotes seem to be at an all time high and all are quoted as saying that the atmosphere at the club is very optimistic, that Pards is doing a great job and hopes at avoiding the unthinkable are clearly high. As for Saturday, it'll be a tough game and it could be that games against mid-table Reading, Spurs and Blackburn may be easier than these against the likes of battling Wigan, Man. City and Sheff U, although to describe Man. City these days as "battling" is possibly an exaggeration.

But perhaps consious of the fact that there's just 8 games left and we are still in the bottom 3, still 4 points behind and not yet out of the distinctly unroaring twenties and despite Pardews positive talk there are a few signs that he has been making a Plan B, just in case.

There was much comment in the summer regarding our over-spending on new players and the fact that some of next seasons budget had been spent. So it doesn't take a genius to work out that if the worst should happen and that Wigan, Man. City and Sheff U all manage to string 3 or 4 wins together it all could get a bit sticky. Even the Hamsters have got lucky and started to win and via a no-goal into the bargain.

So whats Pards been doing? Striker Chris Dickson has been already been signed from Dulwich while on Sunday we read that Pardew will make a summer bid for Southend striker Freddy Eastwood - although with the proviso "whether the Addicks are in the Premiership or not."

The 23-year-old Eastwood has netted 16 goals in all competitions this season - but Southend are currently third-bottom in the Championship and may well need the cash come the summer. A figure of £3million is even mentioned. And back on Friday there's talk that Pards is chasing Watford striker Marlon King. What's it all about? Well, of course its all good business sense when you have an asset the size of Darren Bent to have a "back-up" just in case...

But although there's no comments from Darren, its pleasing to read that, unlike the odd Dane, the Chinaman is happy and not planning to go anywhere. Despite needing an interpretor all the time, ZiZi has obviously picked up on some rumours on possible low-summer spending by saying early on that no matter what happens he wants to stay.

So come on Pards, no more chinese on the wing, put ZiZi in the hole behind little Darren and chuck your Plan B out the window. We don't need it!!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Disastrous Nightmares

While the spirit amongst the players continues to be high, injuries are once again starting to be a bit of a problem with Darren Ambrose, Ben Thatcher, Osei Sankofa, Jimmy-F and Andy Reid out of the Newcastle game and then joined by Alex Song and Marcus Bent who both limped off during the match. At least we had able replacements with ZiZi finally getting a start but we surely need both Song and Reid back for the April games.

Fortunately we are not the only ones to be suffering because all across the country its gloom and doom. Top scorer at Sheff U with 8 goals is Rob Hulse who fractured his left leg against Chelski on March 17th and will not be playing again this season. Like ourselves they have relied on one man to score most of their goals as next up is defender Phil Jagielka with only 3. And at West Ham its also been announced that Dean Ashton will not be playing at all this season. Curbs has called the players ankle injury, sustained by Ashton at the England training ground in August, as "disastrous".

Up north, Manchester City striker Bernardo Corradi continues to be upset and has criticised manager Stuart Pearce and described his first season at Eastlands as "a nightmare". The 30-year-old Italian has not played since the FA Cup quarter-final defeat to Blackburn and is reported to be keen on a return to his homeland just one year into a three-year deal. "The manager is typically English. He expects you to go out and beat the other team without knowing how they play. There's no preparation. It has been a nightmare. Then I woke up on the morning of the FA Cup quarter-final to read that the captain (Richard Dunne) had criticised all the foreign players." Not a happy camp then, roll on Friday week.

Meanwhile the pressure is beginning to show on a couple of managers above us. Sheff U man Neil Warnock attacked his 36-year-old counterpart Gareth Southgate at Middlesbrough for resting Jonathan Woodgate and Mark Viduka for the Premiership clash with Manchester City which City won 1-0. Doesn't like being dragged into a relegation battle apparently, just when he thought he'd done enough.

And not to be outdone Wigan boss Paul Jewell has just won himself a £2,000 fine and a suspended two-game touchline ban from the FA after he admitted to improper conduct. Jewell was punished for confronting referee Phil Dowd after Wigan's defeat at Arsenal on 11 February, and has also been warned about his future conduct. He'll therefore not be seen in the dugout on Saturday. Hope he's got his mobile charged! Sorry, just noticed that the FA in their wisdom decided to make the ban "suspended" so Mr Jewell will be in fact be able to witness his teams thrashing at close quarters down on the touchline. It'll probably be very bad for his health but sorry Paul that's the way it is.

Anyway, all this upsetting news makes the positive mood in the Charlton camp all the more encouraging, doesn't it.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Rommers Enjoys a Full 90

While everyone was keen to see Luke Young remain on the bench, or better still sit in the stand, over there in "Europe", I was looking forward to other enjoyments. The good news over here was that they weren't showing England's visit to geography-defying Tel Aviv on terrestrial TV so it was with a certain anticipation that I sat down to watch Denmark run out at the Bernibow against Spain with the Addicks very own Dennis Rommedahl out there on the right wing.

When you live away from the UK, watching England labouring to produce anything is I suppose one way of reafirming ones place of birth but when it really comes to the crunch there's nothing better that watching one of Charlton's players turn out in an international shirt, even if its in the white of Denmark.

Our Dennis played the full 90, which was in serious doubt when defender Niclas Jenson got himself sent-off after 20 minutes because of course Dennis is normally one of the first to be sacrified, but he had up till then seen plenty of the ball so manager Morten Olsen decided to leave the team as it was. Dennis kept himself busy taking all the corners and most of the free-kicks and although hardly a thorn in Spains side he nevertheless provided a few dangerous crosses. There were times though when it was obvious that his mind was on other things and leaving defending to his bigger chums at the back he seemed determined to keep himself fit for more important games to come.

Early one he found a bit of space in the penalty area and managed to get a shot in on target. Fortunately, knowing Dennis there was never likely to be a repeat of 2002 when unbelievably our on-loan Portuguese star Jorge Costa scored with a header against Spain, at which point I encurred the wrath of my father-in-law who singularly failed to understand my delight at seeing a Charlton player score an international goal when it was against his own country. Sadly he is no longer with us, my father-in-law as well as Jorge Costa, and of course there was never any likeihood of a repeat performance as far as Dennis is concerned.

Perhaps we'll have better luck on Wednesday because, unlike other Bloggers who are otherwise engaged, I shall have the pleasure of enjoying the Herminator captain Iceland against the might of Spain in Barcelona, on TV that is, and maybe he'll come up with a rare goal. I'll just remember to keep my mouth shut as the locals here are even less understanding than my father-in-law ever was.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Will it be the Blues or the blues?

Its time to cross our fingers and once again watch for another teams results. This time we'll be, strangely enough, cheering on the foreigners of Chelski as they attempt to ensure that Man. City stay within the reach of the Addicks and remain on their pitiful 30 points.

With only 1 win this year in the Premiership and that back on New Years Day, Pearce's Man. City side will surely take a hammering tonight against second-placed Chelski, eager to close the gap at the other end of the table. With discontent in the City camp and the arrest yesterday of Joey Barton on suspicion of assault and criminal damage and captain Richard Dunne having his own go at the teams foreign strikers its all looking like a slow drift to relegation for Manchesters second-best. How can they hold out against the Ruskies?

And, of course, Chelski will be keen to reduce the current 9 point gap to a more manageable size in time for the visit of fergie in a months time. But wait a bit, perhaps its not such an away banker at it looks. Is there a bit of a dip in the form of west londons greatest? A lucky win over Porto in the Champions last week after going behind and then letting in 3 goals at home to Spurs in the cup on Sunday, and finally managing a draw with 4 minutes remaining. Their performance in the Carling final was not exactly electric and with only 3 goals in their last 3 league games away from Stamford Bridge - only 1 at the Valley, remember - is there something amiss?

Manager Jose seems to be willing to stoke the fire and flew over to Spain at the weekend supposedly to watch their next Champions League opponents Valencia play in Pamplona. However, a neat little television interview was arranged for Sunday evening TV where he admitted he wouldn't mind returning to Spain and coaching Real day.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

A Winning Run?

After our massively impressive run of 63 Premiership games without 2 wins on the trot we next face 2 games against teams that it's vital we beat. So what's the chance of at last beating our jinx and getting 6 points out of 6?

First we face the Magpies who are safe in mid-table but with a below average away record of 3 wins and 9 defeats in 14 games. Their last away win was in mid-January when they came to London and beat Spurs 3-2 but they've also beaten Blackburn and West Ham on the road. They've also drawn at the new Highbury and beaten Watford in the Carling so they seemed to be enjoying their trips to the capital after losing only one game at Stamford Bridge where they lost 1-0 back in December. Unfortunately, for them, they lost again last month 2-1 to Fulham so that long journey south is at last starting to effect them.

They've now lost their last 2 away games but are unbeaten at home in 4. So over the last 6 games they have the same points total as the Addicks with 8 points .

But with just nine games left, is Pards going to look at just that next game against Newcastle as they always tell us or will he be targeting the games that he has to win?

Our League record since Pards took over in December is not a bad one - Draw, Win, Lost, Lost, Win, Draw, Lost, Lost, Win, Draw - 10 games, 3 wins, 3 draws and 4 defeats. 13 goals for and 16 against, 12 points. And a run that has included games against manure, Chelski, the Arse and Bolton. A pretty good record then.

But, ignoring the fact that a certain sequence seems to be developing, we can now reveal that Pards secret plan is to improve our "Nothing-on-the-Trot" sequence to 72 games and at the same time preserve our Premiership status. With just nine games to go, he's obviously planning for a Win, Draw, Win, Draw, Win, Draw, Win, Draw, Defeat sequence that will give us 4 wins and 4 draws from the next 8 games jumping us up to 40 points. This even allows us to draw in the tough games against Wigan and SheffU and the derby against Spurs but targets the most important game of all - Man. City.

The nine games are as follows with the predicted results:
Newcastle(h) WIN, Wigan(h) DRAW, Man. City(a) WIN, Reading(h) DRAW, Everton(a) WIN, Sheff. Utd(h) DRAW, Blackburn(a) WIN, Spurs(h) DRAW, Liverpool(a) DEFEAT.

So 4 Wins and 4 Draws and a last day defeat at Anfield, by which time we'll be home and dry......

Monday, March 05, 2007

A Point Gained or Two Lost?

An example of the typical optimist's dilemma, did we gain one point or did we lost 2 on Saturday? You can understand Pardew's feelings when he said that it felt like a win with Ambrose's 89th minute equaliser after being 2 goals down. Who wouldn't have taken a draw at half-time? But a win it definitely was not.

With Man. City's defeat at home to Wigan, the gap to safety is still 6 points, and an inferior goal difference to overcome, but Wigan after 2 1-0 wins in a week have disappeared off the radar and are now in the 15th spot. And with only 9 games left, the points available are rapidly running through our fingers.

The high spot on the horizon is, of course, the form of our new creative spirit, the on-loan 19 year old from the Arse, Alexandre Song Billong. Described by one Arsenal blog as "a lemon" and Wengers' revenge on Pardew, he continues to defy his previous fans logic. Overwhelmed in the first half maybe but after ZiZi's appearance and the opening up of more space in the second half he made chances for Holland and Young and supplied the pass for Rommedahl's cross for Ambrose to score. But it was surely Pardews mistake to keep the same team as against the Hammers. Watford were always going to be a tough nut and we should have put extra men in midfield to bolster what Pardew knew was a weak defence. It's too late after the game to lament our bad injury luck.

Fortunately with only 2 remaining games in March we now have a 2 week break before we face the Magpies and then another 2 weeks before Wigan so it all gives us time to get Bougherra, Thatcher, Hreidarsson, Marcus Bent and Reid fit and Pardew may even face a difficult choice about who to play in defence as well as midfield.

Man. City's performance on Saturday in their fifth home League defeat in their past six games should also give us a lift. Although they have two games in hand their run-in is extremely difficult with games against the current top four, Chelski, Liverpool, manure and the Arse. They also travel to St. James Park and White Hot Lane. In the "current form" league they are second to bottom with only 4 points from their last 6 games while the Addicks are up there in 11th spot with 8 points.

It all makes our visit to Eastlands on Easter Saturday vital for both teams. Its now 2 months since their last win - over Everton 2-1 on New Years Day - and next up for Pearce's team are Chelski at home on March 14th. They also visit Middlesbrough and Newcastle before they play the Addicks and the way they are playing we could be level on points when we visit them.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Bit Special?

So what do we think of this boy Pardew? He's definitely got the team working again and playing with some passion. Whether passion will be enough to get us the points remains to be seen but it's obvious that things have changed at the Valley since his arrival, just look at Jimmy-F for example.

The Premiership points totals are worth comparing to show the improvement in the Addicks. With Dowie getting 8 points from the first 12 games of the season, Reid only 4 points from his 7 games in charge and Pardew now with 11 from 9 games, Pards is well ahead on points per game. Under Pardew we've also scored 11 goals, under Dowie a total of 9 and with Reid a rather sad 4 so Pardew is also the only one to get more than a goal a game even with Darren B out for 7 games.

To remind us where he's been, there's a guardian report dated May 2006 written when he was still at the Hamsters. The report spells out "Pardew's background as a tradesman, ie glazier, who played his early football as a part-time pro is the key to the man he is today. Unlike most Premiership players and managers, he has not been almost exclusively around footballing people all his working life. He learnt his banter on building sites, giving it to and getting it back from brickies and scaffolders. In this respect, it was a harder school than the enclosed one of football and helps to explain Pardew's rough-edged responses that could so upset people but have been tempered since the club provided him with a media adviser." Maybe a few reasons here why a biscuit millionaire can't see eye to eye with a glazier.

Life-long friend Lee Richardson, who played years of non-League football with Pardew and now scouts for the Addicks: "Now, he is meticulous in everything he does, and his man-management skills are second to none. He learnt a lot living in the real world and not just in the footballing wonderland.'

He's always been keen on fitness it seems. He took over at Reading in 1999 and turned the club around from being relegation fighters in Division Two ( the now Division One) to promotion candidates in Division One (now the Championship) and his régime to increase the fitness of the squad.

The only sour note in his management career, apart from the cancer growing at West Ham, was when he decided, in 2003, to break his contract at Reading to join the Hammers. He was forced to take a month's Gardening Leave before he could take over at Upton Park. The following season he took the Hamsters into the Premiership and in 2005-06 got them to the FA Cup Final and a top half finish.

His old captain at the Hammers, Nigel Reo-Coker, was also apparently impressed with Pardew. 'He runs the shop, but he's made it fun. He's made an atmosphere where youth-team players can mix with first-team players. There are no superstars."

As for his playing days, it wasn't until he was 26 that he played in League football, moving to the Palarse from non-league Yeovil. He, of course, moved on to Charlton where he became "a resolute midfielder who scored 10 goals in the 1992-93 season and 11 in the next. He was a no-nonsense box-to-box player who was good in the air, an early-days Scotty Parker,' says Keith Hollands, a Charlton watcher for 40 years".

As for now, he's been busy getting put up pictures of the players at the Training Ground with positive comments under each one. We don't know whose comments they are, obviously not Rommedahls', but they all seem to be taking note of what they say.