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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Looking Forward to Sheffield?

Yes, it was the famous Henry Ford that said 'History is more or less bunk' but after Saturdays horror show I'm not so sure. Perhaps it's the long trip north or the bracing sea air affecting the players but large figures in the goals conceded column at Bloomfield Rd is not a new phenomena.
We conceded 8 goals back in 1952 in a 12 goal nightmare, 7 back in 1964, 6 on two occasions and now 5 goals 4 times. A grand total of 74 goals hitting the back of our net in 26 games at an average of 2.85 per game.
So with only 4 wins for the Addicks in those 26 games its obviously never been a good place to go and furthermore no-one in the Big Three can hold a candle to Blackpool's home scoring record against the boys from SE7.
At the Arse its 5 wins for the Addicks out of 28 but goals conceded per game of 2.46.
At Manure its 3 wins for the Addicks out of 31 but goals per game conceded of 2.42.
At Liverpool its 6 wins for the Addicks out of 30 with goals per game conceded of 1.77.
So Mr Pardew, we've just given you another excuse, if you need one, for our performance last weekend.
But the point of this exercise is really to confirm the message that, despite everything that Henry Ford had to say, history cannot be completely ruled out. And with the next game just 3 days away I sure you don't need reminding that with only 1 win in our last 21 games at Bramall Lane and just 3 wins out of a total of 29 visits, the opposition, even forgetting their 3-0 win at the Valley in November, will be brimming with confidence, even if our goals conceded is only an average of 1.93 per game.
Perhaps its time to forget our usual 4-4-2 attacking gameplan and turn our concentration on stopping the other team scoring. Whatever the conclusions reached regarding our latest defeat, it would appear that things are due a change and a repeat of our boring 1-0 wins at Bristol and Southampton back in November are sorely needed right now. The formation back then was a 4-5-1, with Iwelumo the only striker, and scorer of both goals, and we can only regret the forced exit of our key midfielder in both games, Andy Reid.
Whatever, times change and we can only hope that Pards gets it right cum 3 o'clock Saturday afternoon and has managed to install a fighting spirit sadly missing last weekend. At least there's no sea air in Sheffield to worry about.
Oh, and something else that Henry Ford said, strangely enough regarding the Play-Offs, was 'If you think you can, you can. And if you think you can't, you're right.'

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Time For A Change?

Fresh from the anticipation we had this time last week of visiting the club against whom we enjoyed our biggest win of the season at the Valley - but with dire consequences - in complete contrast this weekend we travel to face the club against whom we have suffered our biggest home defeat. And to complete this crazy conundrum, the 3-0 Valley defeat on November 27th was also Sheffield's biggest win of the season. I bet they can't wait for the weekend to come round.
And after the abject reverse that was Saturday, Pardew must be in a desperate dilemma as to what to do with his defence for the game against Sheffield. But more of that later.
His first job this week will be to raise the morale of the team after its Blackpool mauling. Conceding five goals is bad news in anyone's book, but perhaps we should all take note that while Blackpool were buoyed by the inspirational Dickov and have a good record at home, Sheffield, now in 15th place are a team with a new manager, Kevin Blackwell, and are more used to drawing at home than winning. Moreover Blackpool, with our help admittedly, are now the 7th highest scorers in the fizzies, Sheffield, meanwhile, are outscored by 17 other teams.
And while we may lament the large number of recent drawn games, only Colchester, with 14, have drawn more games than Sheffield's 13 this season and to complete the picture the surely-to-be-relegated duo of Colchester and Scunthorpe have also managed to win more games at home. And just as Pardew will be urging his players to prove themselves after a bad defeat, its just possible that he'll be able to convince them we were on the receiving end of a similar situation in November when United came to the Valley after suffering only their second home defeat of the season against Plymouth just 3 days before.
And to raise the morale still further Pardew will point out that its been their dismal home form since then that has been key to Robsons departure. In the 7 games since the Plymouth defeat, they've only managed 2 single-goal wins over Barnsley and QPR and since the Valley result only 9 goals scored in the subsequent 15 games that also included the nail in Robsons coffin, the 2-0 defeat at Hillsborough in the middle of January. And since that defeat, 5 consequent drawn games.
So having raised the morale and instilled in the players minds that revenge for the home defeat is a necessity, Pards, after sensing the mood, must then turn to his selection. And after saying on Saturday evening that the team must sweat to see who he leaves out, he has committed himself to make changes and just about the only feasible option is to bring back Jose Semedo to tighten up the midfield. Who makes way though may well be teasing Pardew till match day.
After his experience with Dickov last weekend, Pards will know what to expect this time round. Saturday will see Blackwell's first home fizzy game as manager after the goalless draw with Middlesbrough in the FA 5th round tie. He's already demanded a higher work-rate from his players and his more 'direct' style of play won them a late equaliser last weekend at QPR. And we can only hope that a tiring cup replay tomorrow night will sap their energy levels.
An extra covering midfielder doesn't exactly punish, or correct, the defence for its collective 'off-day' but after singling out Halford for criticism and lamenting the loss of Youga it'll be no surprise to see Yassin and Kelly return as the two full-backs. It remains to be seen what Pardew will do with his central pairing of McCarthy and Fortune. Step forward Sammy Sodje to cope with the more physical nature of the United attack.
As for the Addicks forward line, we have proved previously against Bristol and Southampton that you don't need to score three times away from home to win any game. In fact scoring three got us exactly nowhere, and Pards will no doubt be wondering exactly when Andy Grays first goal for the club is coming.
Nevertheless, he'll have noticed that out of our 17 goals scored in the 12 games since the West Brom defeat on December 15th, only 4 have been scored by our forwards. In fact Gray and Big Chris have failed totally during this period and its Varney that has got all four and this will give Pardew a greater puzzle when he turns his attention to his attack.
With the inclusion of Semedo in midfield, and 4-5-1 on the cards, the decision has to be made as to who will lead the attack, Gray or Iwelumo. And perhaps more important, which one of Varney, Semedo, ZiZi, Holland, Ambrose and Cook will he leave out. Perhaps with both Varney and Ambrose scoring 4 times in those 12 games both will play with the sometimes lightweight ZiZi on the bench.
And speaking of lightweight, it's times like this that we wish we had a powerhouse in the midfield, a Parker, a Song or even a Kinsella, to put himself about and help to remove words like abject and embarrassing from any future Charlton match report.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Roller Coaster Ride, or a Plan for May....

Saturday's result finally completed a circle of fortune for Charlton that was started two and a half years ago on August 28th 2005. On that day, almost exactly 30 months ago, we demolished Middlesbrough at the Riverside 3-0, in what for me was probably the best performance I have ever seen from the Addicks.
And our fall from grace, from that epic day 30 months ago, has been confirmed in what can only be a Charlton-way. In a performance labelled in the Sporting Life yesterday as an 'embarrassing, abject humiliation' this was, of course, the first occasion since that day that we managed to score 3 goals away from home.
Any comparison with that game, in which we made our best-ever start to a top flight season, would be pointless, but suffice to say that although we can talk of circles we may not yet have reached our bottom.
But we mustn't be negative, supporting Charlton and having a pessimistic outlook is only a receipt for suicide. No, its usual on these occasions to search for some light at the end of tunnel, in the hope, and not forgetting that adage that 'its the hope that kills', that somewhere we can find a trace for some optimism.
Perhaps we should start with Blackpool, the main cause for our current nightmare. Although they were 15th in the table, and 13 points behind us, before the game, it was pointed out last week that their home record was very good and they now have as many points won at home as we have. And in 17 games, only three teams have gone to Bloomfield Rd and won this season.
And they were also part of the infamous quintet of Scunthorpe, Colchester and Norwich that, before Saturday anyway, had big problems with the Big Teams and had only won 2 games each against top half opposition. Thankfully with just 12 games left we have got these boogies out of the way, for alarmingly, when other teams seem to have little problem avoiding defeat when playing them, out of a possible 24 points against this group we only managed to get 9. And of their, now, 9 wins against the best 12 teams in the fizzies, fully a third of them have come against us...
But, as we ponder the dilemma that while we have difficulties in beating teams that are the 'easy-touches', we can, on the other hand, beat the best on our day, perhaps we should recall what the Club Handbook said about that season two and a half years ago. 'A real Roller-coaster' it turned out to be, apparently - shame they couldn't foresee what was coming because the same phrase should really have been saved for right now, for our monthly record is truly a measure of our consistent inconsistency.
Looking at the monthly results, this was our position; August 12th, September 2th, October 21st, November 1st, December 13th, January 5th and February 12th. But before your stomach complains from all the stormy battering, perhaps we should turn it around and rejoice that February will soon be over and we can look forward to fact that in March, with 21 points available in a 7 game program, we are due to raise on the crest of a wave up to our proper level and after a terrible plunge in April with three difficult away games at Plymouth, QPR and Barnsley, raise again from the ashes for a triumphant May.
Madness or a Plan for Promotion, who knows?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Blackpool 5 Charlton 3

Anyone wanting to enjoy this particular Sunday Morning will be dragging the dog for a long walk, reading a good book on anything but sport or simply turning over in bed. Whatever takes your fancy and anything to avoid the problem of picking up today's papers.
And you can't blame them really, except that most papers now don't even bother to write about us anyway as we're already been written-off as far as promotion interest is concerned.
So for those diehards still with us, you can jump straight into the sportinglife report for an explanation of a 3-5 scoreline, that looks bad whichever way round you look at it, where the text is full of those charming little objectives that we all thought had disappeared with last seasons relegation.
Yes, once again we're 'Embarrassing', 'abject', with 'defensive frailties' and if you still don't get it then there's the killer sentence putting the nails in the coffin, 'the Addicks looked anything but a side heading for an immediate return to the Barclays Premier League after an abject surrender left them utterly humiliated by Simon Grayson's men.'
And if you were expecting a response from Pardew then there it is in black and white, 'furious boss Alan Pardew launched a scathing attack on his players, "They were really bad goals on our part and the back four just did not function today. The two centre-halves and the right full-back - again - was poor. I've said that to them so I've got no problem saying it now".
The only other paper to show any interest was over at the observercumguardian where they're a little bit kinder and put the blame fair and square on the inspirational (!) form of the on-loan Paul Dickov.
More probing analysis will doubtless follow in the next few days from everyone but right now I'm going back to bed!
The Addicks: Weaver, Halford, McCarthy, Fortune, Basey; ZiZi (Semedo 71), Holland, Ambrose, Cook (Thomas 70); Gray (Iwelumo 46), Varney.
Subs Not Used: Elliot, Sodje.
Booked: Fortune.
Goals: Ambrose 29, 30, Fortune 74.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Fizzy No. 34 - Blackpool (a)

So even Pardew reckons that time is running out for the Addicks to achieve that disappearing second spot although Killer himself is clearly not convinced that tomorrow will be any different, 'cause he's gone for another stalemate, a 1-1 draw.
And you can't really blame him as its another away game against bottom half opposition which these days seems to tax us more than most. That last away win was back on December 4th, 2-0 over Cardiff and is it a coincidence that it was the last time Reidie scored for us before his departure?
Since then we're gone 6 without a win on our travels, with 4 draws - Norwich, Leicester, Watford, Wednesday - and 2 defeats, West Brom and Scunthorpe.
And what of Blackpool? In the crazy fixture list that we have, its only a month since we played them and we had our biggest win of the season, 4-1. Goals by Bougherra in the 6th minute, Varney in the 10th and two from ZiZi in the 24 and 72. So an early breakthrough, unusual for us.
But although they are 15th in the table, 13 points behind us, that's mostly down to their poor away record. For their home form is not at all bad with 25 points won at home, just 3 less than us with one less game played. And only 3 home defeats against Norwich, Cardiff and Stoke. Bristol City, Plymouth and Sheffield Uoo have all gone away with only a point while Addick-beaters QPR, Burnley and Scunthorpe were all beaten....And Blackpool are now unbeaten at home in 5 games.
But whats our record up there at Bloomfield Road? Well, pretty bad and that's probably the reason for Killer's pessimism. Only 4 wins and 5 draws in 25 games, although we did win there the last time we went, 2-0 in 1981. But there's been some almighty hammerings over the years with an 8-4, a 7-1, a 6-0 and a 6-1 and a couple of 5-0's all reminding us that Blackpool were once a Big Club.
But, of course, they're not any more and like lowly Colchester and Scunthorpe with average gates around the 6000 mark, Bloomfield Road is also a small ground and has yet to see a 5 figure crowd this season. And as we all know the Addicks like playing the current Big Clubs and the thought of going to a small ground will not be pleasing Pards, or Killer..
As for their players, they only have a trio in the ACTIM top 100 fizzies, pint-sized No. 11, the Irish winger-midfielder Wes Hoolahan and the Scottish ex-Leeds and Celtic full-back Stephen Crainey and not forgetting their star player, as far as ACTIM are concerned, the ever-present, ex-Addicks, goalkeeper Paul Rachubka...
Top goalscorers are Hoolahan and Ben Burgess with 5 each and as a team they do like to shoot a lot and are one of only 6 teams in the fizzies with over 200 shots so far but have been a bit unlucky hitting the woodwork no less than 21 times, more than anybody else.
The Addicks then. With a accumulation of yellows, Kelly Youga is out and presumably Grant Basey will take his place for his 7th game of the season.
Halford will continue at right-back and its up to Pards to see who will partner McCarthy at centre-back, Bougherra or Fortune, and will Pards consider the conceding of 2 goals in a minute to Watford after only letting two in over the previous 5 games? This may prompt Pardew to make a change and go for Sammy Sodje in place of either of them.
Lee Cook is due for a start pretty soon after 2 sub appearances but Pardew may prefer it to be a home game and will stick with what he knows tomorrow especially with Basey returning for his first game for a while. Sam and Ambrose will therefore be out wide and midfield will be ZiZi and Holland with Varney and Gray up front.
Charlton: Weaver; Halford, McCarthy, Fortune, Basey; Sam, Holland, ZiZi, Ambrose; Gray, Varney.
Subs: Elliot, Sodje, Semedo, Cook, Iwelumo
Prediction: Seven points behind now so we have to win this one if we expect to ever get back to second so its a 2-1 win for me.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Looking Forward to Watford?

As we head inexorably towards the lottery that's called the Play-Offs, there's two teams, that I for one, would like to avoid. Watford and West Brom. They're the two we seem to have most problems with and if we can't make the auto spots then its probably best that they do, just to get rid of them. So defeat on Saturday won't be the end of the world for me, it's much more important to beat Bristol City in two weeks time to get us into 3rd or 4th position to get home advantage first come May.
And defeat is possible as, with three consecutive draws, we just can't seem to beat the buggers. It was 1-1 last month with Darren Ambrose equalising 11 minutes from time, and 2-2 last season at Vicarage Road with a second half comeback after being 2-0 down at halftime with the equaliser again coming from Ambrose this time with just one minute left. The last game at the Valley on October 21st 2006, finished 0-0, and was another frustrating game as it was supposed to be the one that turned our Premiership season round. It didn't!
And after a poor three months for Watford, getting only 4 wins in 16, it's obviously not the best time to be playing them as they've started this month well with three straight victories over Wolves, Ipswich and Leicester with their last away game ending Ipswich's unbeaten home record.
And if we couldn't beat them at their place where their form is not brilliant and when they were having a bad run, what chance do we have at the moment against a team that have 10 away wins under their belt and are the best away team in the fizzies with only 3 defeats in 16 games.
But Pardew will know what to expect and will have had a rehearsal of Saturdays game two weeks ago against Stoke City, a team that are a match for Watford. For while we usually start slowly with 17 out of our 32 games being all-square at half-time (only the conservative Wolves and the strange Palarse have been drawing more times at the interval), Stoke and Watford are the two teams with most 'wins' in the first 45 minutes, 15 and 14 respectively.
So the first half performance this time is crucial to our chances and although it looks a formidable task for Pardew and the team there is a promising side to our game. For while we have continuing problems with relegation teams, we have a good record against the top ones and no team has won more games against top half teams than the Addicks, 8 in all. And it's this statistic that is the most meaningful of all. Four teams stand out as the best in the League with West Brom, Watford, the Addicks and Stoke getting most points against the very best.
Unfortunately, I shalln't be there to see this battle of the giants. My sister is celebrating one of those important, unavoidable birthdays, that end with the magic '0', at some posh Italian place, but unlike most people that choose a Saturday evening or Sunday lunchtime for such events, my unthinking sibling has decided it will be an afternoon bash starting at 2.30, in Eastbourne, on Saturday. What!
Prayers for a impending cup tie or another Friday game to cause interference to her plans to upset my life have come to nought. I could rely on the weather and heavy rain to cause a postponement but that's more likely to provide a heavy pitch that'll suit Watford more than us.
Carbonara and a large drink, please.....

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sheff. Wed 0 Charlton 0

OK, that's it for me. Plan ahead is the thing and the only remaining option now is to decide on the airline. Easyjet are the cheapest from Madrid and if we can consolidate our strong position in 5th that'll mean, if using last year dates as a guide can be relied upon, a Home first leg tie against whoever finishes in 4th on Sunday 11 May with the return on Wednesday 14th.
At the moment it'll be a game against West Brom, and we can only hope that Pards has a plan up his sleeve to solve that little problem, and if we get past them it's the Final on Monday May 26th. The biggest headache will, of course, be the queueing for the ticket for the Final, or finding someone to do it for you, which last time took no less 4 boring hours standing in the sun. Presumably this will be done the previous Sunday, May 18th.
As for last night's non-action, the man from the telegraph was there to see an 'depressing deadlock' as Nicky Weaver salvaged a point with three cracking saves.
The managers give their opinions on sportinglife1 while the best unbiased report is also around there on sporting life as well and talks of Wedneday being the more 'purposeful' and practically gives Weaver the MOM.
Pards was frank with his diagnosis, 'It was our character, really, that saw us through that game. That pitch was really poor and we struggled to pass it and struggled to get going at times.'
It was also disappointing to see Gray pulled off after 63 minutes and even more so to see get Kelly Youga wound up so much that he had to be subbed before he was sent off after getting a early yellow card. Three minutes after Gray left Sam was also removed and Lee Cook saw his first action since April.
The Owls site gives you more info on Youga's withdrawal and apart from 'Weavers three stunning reflex saves' talks of 'desperate defending' and 'credible shouts for a penalty'.
On the plus side, we've now only conceded 1 goal in the last four games but have not won away since Cardiff, 6 away games ago, also the day when Reid scored his last goal for us. And on current form, over the last 8, we've placed 9th - equal with Blackpool - having got just 12 points from the last 24. Saturdays visitors, Watford, however, although regaining top spot, are little better having accumulated 14 points in the same time, although, after winning just 4 games during November, December and January, the signs don't look good as they have now won their last three games, even being the first side to win at Ipswich this season.....
But if you're a determined masochist and want to heap even more pain, suffering and depression upon yourself, you might care to read, if you've missed it, what the posh_murdoch had to say about the debut of a certain 'ittle irish fella at the Stadium of Light over the weekend....And there's even a picture of that left leg in action, just to make it quite clear exactly what we are missing.
The Addicks: Weaver; Halford, McCarthy, Fortune, Youga (Semedo 45); Sam (Cook 66), ZiZi, Holland, Ambrose; Gray (Iwelumo 63), Varney.
Subs Not Used: Elliot, Sodje.
Booked: Youga.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Fizzy 32 - Sheff. Wed (a)

Arguably the biggest club in the fizzies, with certainly the biggest ground, Wednesday have spend a total of 66 seasons in the top flight against our meagre 26. On their results in Tier One they are listed as the 12th best club in the country and have won the League Championship no less than 4 times. The bad news is that, sadly, the last time was 78 years ago in 1930 when Ramsey MacDonald was Prime Minister and George the Fifth was on the throne.
So that's a long time in life as well as football and its been nearly 10 years since we played there in a League game, in the Premiership season 1998/99 when we lost 3-0 and of course they did the double over us beating us 1-0 at the Valley on the last day of the season to end any hope that we may have had of staying up. In fact, with them being a Big Club, our results up there in Sheffield have not been very good and you have to cast your mind back to September 1953 to find our last League win there by 2-1. Fourteen games over the last 55 years and we only have 4 draws to show for our efforts but there was that 4-2 cup win ( with goals by the now forgotten Rommedahl twice, Holland and sadly missed little Bent), just two years ago that shouldn't be forgotten.
Back in August 25th last year saw us overcome a 2 goal half-time deficit to win our first game of the season, 3-2 Big Chris scoring the winner just 3 minutes from time. And after now scoring first 19 times out of 31 games, that game against Wednesday has been the only time we have won this season after going behind.. Which nicely points to one big difference between the two sides, a table that shows us at the top and Wednesday at the bottom is the one showing who scores first the most. We've done it the highest, along with our next home opponents Watford, - which should make it a humdinger - while the Owls are really slow starters and have only scored first 9 times, the lowest score of all in the fizzies. And probably the main reason for that is that the first 15 minutes of games is their worst defending period of games, when they've conceded 14 goals.
But they have enjoyed good times this season and back in November they did something we haven't done this season and scored 5, against Southampton at home, and two games later beat Barnsley 2-0 to reach a healthly 14th in the table, their highest point this season. And this was after putting 4 past Stoke at the Britannia in October. An unbeaten November followed, and Manager Brian Laws was unfortunately awarded the dreaded Manager of the Month award. Since then, of course, things haven't gone very well and a slow, slow slide down the table began until now there's only 2 teams below them, those two boggy teams of ours, Scunthorpe and Colchester.
In the 12 games since that Barnsley win on November 27th, they've only won twice, in home victories against Preston 2-1 and in the local derby against United 2-0. Two draws and 8 defeats make up the rest.
With only 18 points won at home from 6 wins, only 2 teams have a worst home record, that's right, Scunthorpe and Colchester. And on current form they've rock bottom with 3 defeats in a row with the only recent highlight being the 2-0 derby win over United a month ago which was then ruined in the next home game by being the first club to be defeated at home by Ipswich this season..
And after pointing out that Palarse were not very good in games played against top half opposition, we can add that Wednesday aren't very good either. While the Addicks have, encouragingly, got 1.73 points per game against the top 12 - equal to the inevitable West Brom, Wednesday record of only 3 wins is only better than the underachieving quintet of Blackpool, Wolves, Colchester and Scunthorpe who have only beaten teams from the top 12 twice each.
And there, perhaps, in a single paragraph is explained exactly what has been wrong with Pardew's team this season. Four of the worst teams in the Division and we only have 1 win against them, a albeit 4-1 hammering, to show from 6 games played against them.
There's been lots of excuses for the failures against the bottom clubs; playing teams at the wrong time, cup-tie atmospheres, the ex-player factor, etc, but the fact remains that those four teams have lost a total of 31 games against other top half opposition and only once to us..... and more to the point of their 8 wins in total against the top teams, no less than 3 of them have been against us...
Well, perhaps it doesn't matter. With 3 of the teams above us winning on Saturday, we're still in 5th place and unless we win an extraordinary number of games that remain, say 12, we are heading for the Play-offs. So at the end of the season, our form against top clubs will be more important than off-days against Scunthorpe.
Top scorers for Wednesday are two players on 7. The first one is number 30 and one of the few Sodje brothers and nephews, Akpo that is, not to have played for their local club, Charlton, and the other top scorer is the ex-Rams Marcus Tudgay. Unfortunately for the Owls, Sodje is out injured as is another of our ex's, Francis Jeffers, - why on earth did we buy him ? - who has only played 10 fizzy games all season and is on 2 goals but has been out for long periods with injury and hasn't featured in the last 7 games. So we'll not see him.
Regarding the history, in League games, as mentioned its dire with only 3 wins and 4 draws for the Addicks out of 18 games played at Hillsborough. We've only spent 18 seasons together in the same League and of the 37 games played the score stands at 13-15 to them with 9 draws.
As for the Addicks line-up, there's only a slight doubt about Varney after Hudson's tackle on Friday, 'it's a bit stiff ', but apart from that it'll obviously be the same eleven especially as Jerry Thomas has been ruled out with hamstring problems and Lee Cook needs a reserve game to prove his fitness.
That will mean a return to Hillsborough for Magic Bougherra who played 29 games for them between May 2006 and January 2007 before Pardew snapped him up for 2.5 last year. And it'll also be a return for Andy Gray who played there for Burnley in a 2-0 win back in September.
The team then should be: Weaver; Halford, McCarthy, Bougherra, Youga; Sam, Holland, Zheng, Ambrose; Gray, Varney.
Subs: Elliot, Basey, Semedo, Iwelumo, McLeod
Prediction? After 6 away games without a win, and allowing Scunthorpe to get the better of us after our last home triumph, Pardew cannot demand this time anything less than a win, especially with all our fellow contenders on the same night facing games against teams at the bottom. It has to be another 2-0 win then....with Gray at last scoring his first goal.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Champions With 80 Points?

Still light-headed from the Palarse result on Saturday morning, I hadn't yet checked the table when Mrs Nelson asked me 'So where are you now in the League?'. Not wishing to spoil the moment, in any way, of course I tended to dream a bit and touch of exaggeration was in order. 'Oh, 3rd now.'
So it was with some dismay that I discovered on getting home that we were still only 5th and affairs didn't improve with the results at 5 o'clock, when we were back 4 points off auto-promotion.
But at least we've hit the 50 and it seems that with only 15 games left, its all downhill from here. Fifteen games, 7 at home and 8 away, but exactly how many points do we need? Will the favoured 80 be enough? So as a pointer I looked at the last 5 years. Last season the top 2, Sunderland and Birmingham, had 88 and 86 points, the season before Reading and Sheff U, 106 and 90, the year before Sunderland and Wigan 94 and 87, in 2003/04 West Brom and Norwich 94 and 86, and even back in 2002/03 Portsmouth and Leicester had 98 and 92.
So the lowest 2nd placed in the last 5 years is the 86 points of Birmingham and Norwich. And thats exactly what Pards was aiming for back in August; 26 wins to get us to 78 points with as many draws as possible to pull us into the 80's. But this year everybody has improved and the bottom teams are better and therefore the points total for the top teams will therefore be lower.
But what do you need this year to win the thing? Well, its been pointed out that the best way to calculate the required total is to look at the points spread top to bottom. Last season, ignoring Leeds' points deduction, the final spread top to bottom was 48 points over 46 games. At the moment in the fizzies its only 27, presumably meaning that the teams this year are better balanced. But what was it this time last year?
Well, fortunately we can ask our nerd of a brother, Hardy, and he tells us that at this point in the season in February 2007 with 15 games left, the top team had 62 and the bottom 27 so the spread top to bottom was indeed much higher, 35 points against this years 27. And with last seasons spread extending 13 points in the last 15 games, you'd expect this seasons difference to grow from its current 27 to about 40.
So work out what the bottom team will get by May 4th and you can figure out what you'll need to win the league. The bottom team back in February 2007 was Southend on 28 points - strangely enough exactly the same as Colchester have now although with a game less played - and the bottom club in May was Luton on 40. So add another 12 points to Colchesters total and you can summise that the bottom team come May 4th will also be on 40.
So with a bottom team getting 40 and the spread being 40, then all you'll need to walk away as Champions will be a total of 80 points....
Another key point to remember is that last years top 2 had accumulated 9 more points than the top 2 so far this year. In February 2007, Derby were top with a massive 62 points, and Preston were second on 56. Fifty points last season would have got you 7th place. And who was it had 50 points on this day last year? Eventual Champions, Sunderland! Doesn't look very reassuring really, because, as mentioned before, what we have to do is to emulate the feats of Sunderland, who got a remarkable 38 points from the last 45 available. But then that was an exceptional feat. In comparson, 2nd placed Birmingham only got 26 points from their last 15 and Play-Off winners, Derby, only 22, so if we even scored the required 30, it would also be remarkable.
So, forget Palarse, that was yesterday - well Friday - , from now on we probably have to win ALL seven of our home fixtures, plus another 3 away games. Eight games against teams in the bottom half, seven against teams in the top half.
Target 80, Pards, that's the cry.....

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Fizzy 31 - The Local Derby....(h)

So it's here at last, arguably the toughest home game of the season against the team that everybody seems to hate!
Going back a week, Pards was keen to told us all that Scunthorpe was a tough place to go to get a result, despite their bad results, because a small ground and high workrate from the opposition was clearly going to create a difficult cup-tie atmosphere. Well, tomorrows not a cup-tie but a passionate derby which you can guarantee will be just as stormy. And in Warnock, Palarse have a manager that does encourage his players to get stuck in and chase everything, as perhaps a total of 48 fouls in the last three games can well illustrate.
Of course, a local derby can be just as frenetic as a cup-tie and with their 'tough, hard working, direct play' that may well work in Warnocks' favour. Pardew favours technique and won't want any red mist descending and preventing coolness under pressure because thats what Palarse are all about. He'll be keen to get a repeat of the clearheaded, determined performance against Stoke to see us right.
And perhaps that's why Pards has been keen this time to remove any pre-match passion by praising the work of Mr Warnock. Anything to remove any of that spiteful nonsense that will in the end work against us and prevent us getting on with the job. Keep 'em focused, Pards.
As for the football, the previous fixture, way back in September, was a very different low-key game with Palarse, under Peter Taylor, struggling in 16th place. Todorov saved the bacon that day, scoring in the 74th minute, just after coming on for Jerry Thomas. But the hero of the game was probably Nicky Weaver with two great saves from Stowcross and Idrizaj.
As for current form Palarse lost their last away game at Leicester, thus wrecking their ridiculous 15 game unbeaten run. Although before anyone gets carried away, its worth noting that, despite that defeat, over the last 8 games they still have a better record than anyone with 5 wins, 17 points and only 4 goals conceded. Over the last 8 games, the Addicks have just 2 wins and 10 points.....
And their away record is a good one with only 4 defeats and the same figures as the Addicks with 6 wins, 5 draws and those 4 defeats at Leicester, Ipswich, Norwich and Plymouth, and all by the same score, 0-1...
But there's always a bright note and this time it concerns their form against the top teams. In 9 games, 6 of them at home, against the teams in the top current 10, they've only won once and their record against the top half of the table is bettered by no less than 12 other teams in the fizzies.....
But they are a resilient lot. Slow starters maybe, with only a total of 4 goals scored in the first 20 minutes of fizzy games - thats just 4 goals in 10 hours of football - they are like the last team we saw, Stoke City, and have a determination to fight back after going behind. Both they and Stoke have won 17 points after the opponents have scored first, more than anybody else....
We on the other hand, are completely the opposite and have scored first the most times, 18 out of 30 games, a total we share with Watford and West Brom.
The last time Palarse lost an away game before Leicester was back in October against Plymouth and that was then followed by a home 1-1 with Hull, as happened this time with a 1-1 against Southampton. After that game followed another away draw 1-1 with Blackpool. So could a 1-1 be on the cards tomorrow?

So what about the Addicks? Pardew wasn't surprised by Scunthorpe's work rate but was clearly disappointed about the number of chances that when begging. Two games in which we continued to create chances, with 11 shots on target against Stoke, whilst we kept the Iron down to just a single shot on target, which sadly proved to be enough.
A reserve game against Millwall on Tuesday saw new boys Monteiro and Halford perform well with Halford scoring from a free-kick and Monteiro at centre-half having three scoring chances. Will Pardew be so pleased with Greg that Yassin pays for his mistake against the Iron and finds himself in the stands? It's very possible and the fact that Halford was withdrawn after an hour may give the hint that he was being saved for just that.
As for the midfield we can only hope that ZiZi stayed off that dodgy food in Dubai, catches his plane back overcoming any jet-lag on the way and, finally, is capable of playing three games in 6 days. Holland, after getting praise for his work at Scunthorpe, will be alongside making sure he keeps awake while Sam will have to wait to see if he's also wanted. Removed at half-time in a swap with Thomas last time out, it could be that Jerry will start on the left with Ambrose moving to the right.
Up front, the fact that our performance last weekend improved after the introduction of Iwelumo for Varney will give Pardew a few headaches, as he prepares to choose between his three strikers, Gray, Iwelumo and Varney.
At least we know that the still unfit Lee Cook will not be taking part and will be watching from the stands and if anything can get Jerry Thomas to perform perhaps that's it.

So it could be:
Weaver; Halford, McCarthy, Bougherra, Youga; Ambrose, ZiZi, Holland, Thomas; Iwelumo and Gray.
Subs: Randolph, Fortune, Semedo, Sam andVarney.
And Finally The Prediction: As the CAFC site will tell you Palarse haven't won at the Valley since 1968 and another pointer in our favour is that of the 6 home games played on 8th February we haven't lost a single one. But tomorrows a derby and anything can happen. Will we see the Charlton that played Stoke or the one that appeared at Scunthorpe. I don't know any more than you do, so although we can dream of an easy 2-0 victory, it'll probably end the same as most derbies, a result that keeps everyone happy. 1-1....

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The New Arrivals...

So to continue his team rebuilding Pards has just signed the 23 year old Portuguese defender Paulo Montiero here. An U-21 international, he's played for Braga before somehow ending up at Farul Constanta in Romania, currently 17th in the Rumanian Tier 1. They speak a roman based language there and judging from all the Rumanians around here that have picked up the lingo its clear that the languages are very similar. However, with all the Rumanians currently hot-footing it over to Spain, the country's clearly become a desert and Paulo discovered that the footballs' not much better. Exactly how Pardew found out about the defenders unhappiness we'll probably never know but he's clearly relieved to find himself at a 'big, great club'.
He's known Semedo for the last 7 years and that may provide a key to Pardew actions. Killing two birds with one stone, Paulo will be able to help keep Jose happy while they reminisce about the wonderful Portuguese climate, while Pards can take a look at the centre-half until the end of the season. Whether or not we need yet another defender is a question that a lot of people are asking not least of all our very own Wyn.
So that's a striker, a winger, a defender and a utility player to replace our irish gem. At 1.5 M its no surprise that the striker, Andy Gray, has gone straight into the first team and did well in his first full game against Stoke but at the moment we don't know exactly what role will be played by the other arrivals.
The biggest one of them is obviously the bean-stork, play-anywhere, 6'5" Greg Halford, renowned for his long throws, who was at Colchester where he played 150 times, scoring 25 goals, and earning himself the Young Player of the Year award in 2005 before announcing that he wanted to leave. The helpful Mr Coppell from Reading then appeared and he dished out what was their record signing at 2.25M, just one year ago. Things didn't work out at Reading however, with reports that he 'didn't fit in' but fortunately for everyone Greg is obviously not short of admirers and the enthusiastic Roy Keane couldn't wait.
After just three games for Reading, he became Keane's first buy last summer for an escalating value of 3.5M. Making his debut in the second game of the season against Birmingham, his form was disappointing and after only 9 appearances, only one of which was won by Sunderland, and not helped by two red cards, he's on the move again and the play-anywhere tag appears to fit very nicely.
The other loanee is 25 year old left winger Lee Cook from Fulham. Also a success in Tier Two, this time with QPR he was another voted Young Player of the Year and also Supporters Player of the Year. A total of 132 games for QPR and 10 goals before moving to Lawrie Sanchez's Fulham last summer for 2.5M.
However, an operation late last season proved not to be a success and he's needed further surgery which has meant that he hasn't played a single game in the Premiership. Forgetting the worrying fact that the Fulham website, and Lee himself, speaks of a cruciate knee injury while our own CAFC refers to it as a hip injury, he was, at the time of his move anyway, lovingly described by the Fulham club website as 'one of the most dangerous attackers outside the Premiership'. However, either a change in management or the fact that they're running out of patience with his lack of fitness and has lead to the chance for Pards to step in to try and help.
And if all this sounds to you as if we are becoming a bit of a benevolent organisation helping out lost immigrants and failed and injured souls, I can't say I've surprised. Perhaps we should appeal for ONG status and get on one of those funding projects. But, no, all we can do is cut out the lip and put our faith in Pardew and wait and see exactly how good these people are. Then we can judge.
Meanwhile, we try to sound upbeat about the visit of Palarse on Friday. With the depressing figures of 10 wins, 10 defeats and 10 draws from all games played at home against these buggers, we just have to ignore two recent League Cup defeats in 1993 and again in 2004 and the Play-Off nightmare of 1996 and go back to December 1989 to remember the last time they beat us at home in a League game. In the 5 games since then its been 2 wins and 3 draws, although the 2-2 draw in 2005 was as good as a win, sending Palarse to their rightful place in Tier Two and will take some forgetting.
Just off a 15 game unbeaten run which contained 9 victories, they now haven't win in two games, a 1-0 defeat at Leicester and a 1-1 draw with Southampton and with 13 goal hotshot Clinton Morrison being replaced after an hour against the Saints by the ever-green Freedman and also, encouragingly, failing once again to score, we can only hope that Pards is able to put last weekends performance behind us.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Rich Gits, Thats Us.....

Charlton Athletic. That's the name of our team. And we currently play in what's known as the Fizzies. Of course, that's not its real name, its just a term of abuse, because we really don't like where we are, so we make a joke of it.
We're a bit like an entrepreneur whose bad investments have all failed and as a consequence, he's falled on hard times. Having to sell his 20 room mansion in Bishops Avenue, he's now slumming it in a poky flat in Balham. And he doesn't like it either.
He, like ourselves, knows that he just doesn't belong in Balham, and to make matters worse he thinks he's surrounded by people that are not really as good as he is.
And, of course, these feelings work both ways. The same thing happened to my brother-in-law. A big city lawyer, he bought a house in the country. And at weekends he wanted to join the village Real Madrid fan club that played cards in the village bar. But no way. They were not going to accept this big fancy townie with all his money. And he had to play their game for months, convince them they had things in common and that, at heart, he was the same as them before they finally agreed to accept him at their table.
And its the same with us. Because if the truth be known, we just don't belong in this League. Its just something thats been forced upon us. And its really just not good enough for the likes of us. And the natives in those parts, the Colchester's, the Hull's, the Scunthorpe's, they're not stupid. They know what we're thinking. That they're all not good enough to be in the same League as us. That if we could, we just won't ask them round to our house at all.
So to them Charlton Athletic has a different meaning. They know we don't belong here either and to them we're a bit of a threat and that's why, when we do have to play them, they're determined as hell that, no way, are these upstart money bags from London going to get anything from them. And, as many out there can testify, nine times out of 10, we don't.
So as a consequence, when you look at our record against the bottom teams, its pretty bad.
Pardew put it in a nutshell after the weekends game, 'it was a real cup tie atmosphere and they treated it as a cup tie. They were totally focused and committed and made it really hard for us.'
Because, whatever we may think, these aren't just League games with three points available. To these teams, its a bit personal and its therefore ninety minutes of effort, committment and determination to prove that these money bag gits ain't no better than they are.
Just like my brother-in-law really, because when the cards came out, those villagers were equally as determined to prove they were as good or better than he was.
Just what Palarse are thinking about it all, we'll have to wait till Friday to find out .....

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Scunthorpe 1 Charlton 0

S**t, Mie**a, M**de, its all the same in any language. Just when you all thought that the corner had been turned and its all downhill from now on, with the foot firmly on the peddle, its a further breakdown. A time for kicking the cat, if you've got one, a stiff drink and forgetting, for the moment anyway, about next Friday.
And you can't say I didn't warn you Pards, about our performances against the 'lowly teams'. Whilst our record against the top 6 record is pretty good and our results against the top half teams second only to West Brom, our record against the supposedly weak is, well, weak. Prior to yesterday we'd only won 9 points from our 7 games against the bottom 6, and its only been improved now thanks to QPR moving up the table and pushing Leicester into trouble.
And if there's anyone that needs reminding of our record breaking skills, here's a resume.
October 27 - QPR, 1 win in 12, bottom of the table - Result 0-1.
January 1 - Colchester, 1 win in 14 games, and bottom of the table, Result 1-2. February 2 - Scunthorpe, 1 win in 18, 2nd to bottom - Result 0-1.
Can anyone see a pattern here, apart from things seeming to get worse?
Yes, we just love playing teams on a bit of a run. And to confuse you even more, we are able to do it both ways. Stoke City, 12 games unbeaten, no problem; Bristol City, unbeaten at home since March, no sweat and we then stopped Southampton scoring for the first time in 32 games. All with 1-0 wins.
What can you make of it? Perhaps it's because we've still a new team put together in the last year and still learning but it does just serve to illustrate our inconsistency and our Jekyll and Hyde character.
As for yesterday, perhaps it's all my fault for failing to tell Pards about this Martin Paterson character. He was on 11 goals for the season, but now, of course, has 12 and in a team not only 2nd to bottom in the table and also 2nd lowest in goals scored as well.
However, as for the match, if you need to know any more after reading blackheathaddicted you must be a sucker for punishment and thankfully, at least, there's precious little about.
There's a round-up in the telegraph that won't tell you much, while in the posh_m there's more mystery and confusion as they just can't understand 'how Pardew’s men returned to London pointless is something of a mystery.' And perhaps equally we can't understand who Dean Thomas is, though it'll be no surprise to see that they gave a top mark, in our team anyway, to Matty Holland.
And if there is a best from the papers/football sites, I've saved it till last with the sportinglife providing the best report but cruelly pointing the finger at the culprits but giving both managers the chance to air their views.
The Addicks: Weaver; Moutaouakil (McLeod 87), McCarthy, Bougherra, Youga; Sam (J Thomas 46), Holland, Zheng, Ambrose; Gray, Varney (Iwelumo 62).
Subs (not used): Randolph, Semedo.
Booked: Varney 40 (dissent), Bougherra 57 (foul on Horsfield), Youga 90 (foul on Paterson).