Total Pageviews

Friday, April 25, 2008


Well, he's gone hasn't he. Sacked on Tuesday night. It had to happen really. Just 4 wins in 22 games, the team has crashed down 11 places from 4th place in October and the crowd were anything but happy with the situation.
An away defeat last weekend was the killer and occurred despite the fact that everyone knew exactly what was an stake. Surprisingly, the players underperformed, once again, and the manager's on his bike.
Who we talking about? Why Ronald Koeman, of course, handed his cards this week at Valencia. Oh, I see, you thought I was talking about Pards. Well, I suppose the numbers are remarkably similar.
But there is a difference. Valencia are a big club used to success, ie winning things, we are not. Valencia have pots of money, we do not. And Valencia have enough standing in the football world to be able to attract a top line manager, the Addicks sadly have now lost any we might have had. But with Saturdays loss finally putting Pardew's totals into the negative - 23 wins, 22 draws and 24 defeats in 69 games in charge at the Valley - is it time for a change?
The obvious answer is, of course, that no it's not. The very good article in wharf that Forever Charlton have somehow unearthed compares us, not to Valencia, but to fellow ex-Premiership Southampton. Redknapp was in charge when they were relegated in 2005 and since then George Burley and now Nigel Pearson have tried to get them back. After last seasons 6th place they are now in 21st spot, one point away from another relegation. Its their first year without any parachute money and they are clearly struggling.
So yet another change of manager for us is quite simply not on the cards. One senses that stability has always been one of Richard Murrays watchwords and perhaps Pardew should be thankful that there was a singular failure in the short terms of Dowie and Reid to make his job all the more secure. After those two failures, it was apparent that even some short-term problems would be tolerated. For how long we don't know but success next season is obviously vital before the money disappears.
On a brighter not, seems we can all sleep easily because Pardew claims he knows what the problem is and is quoted as saying "I think I know the reasons why we are not up there challenging and I need to put them right, I’m certainly planning to make three or four changes to this team to give us a bit more steel and a bit more strength. We’ve dominated games but haven’t got the goals some of our play has suggested we would. If we don’t get those goals, we’re always open to scary moments and defenders get edgy, and we’ve drawn games or lost games that we shouldn’t have."
So now its steel and strength that's needed now with apparently 3 or 4 changes to get it right and, if you believe the Wharf, apparently another 11M to spend. But Pardew's record in the market place for some reason doesn't exactly inspire does it. What's he's spend so far, you might ask? Altogether, on 14 players, it adds up to a rough total of 11.1m with Bougherra at 2.5m, Varney 2m, ZiZi 2m, Gray 1.5, McLeod 1.1m, McCarthy 650k, Thatcher 500k, Moutaouakil 400k, Racon 400k, Dickson 35k, with four others Weaver, Iwelumo, Semedo and Todorov all arriving on a free.
Obviously, it'll be very interesting to see which 3 or 4 Pards chooses to replace although it would appear that steel and strength would go some way to replace our famous superior technique which has failed to achieve very much. And not surprisingly it has to be said that after a total of eleven million spent to get us to 11th place it's not really surprising that Pards is apparently putting his faith in a couple of youngsters before the season's over. Because Murray won't want to spend another 11 million for an anonymous mid-table place.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Foreign Cup Finals....

And now for something completely different. In case you missed it, yesterday was Spanish Cup Final day. A Wednesday? Yeh, a midweek game, starting at the absurd time, for an Englishman anyway, of 10 o'clock. Well, ten past actually, this is Spain after all.
And you'd be surprised by the football as well. After watching Birmingham at the weekend on the box - what the hell are they doing in the Premier? - the contrast couldn't be more apparent.
In fact the style of football was very English with both teams, Valencia and Getafe, working hard and crowding out the player in possession forcing the team with the ball to display crowd-pleasing amounts of elaborate ball-passing skills. And then falling over, in dramatic fashion. This is Spain after all. Valencia, of course, have been the most english of Spanish teams for many years now and last night being their last chance to get into Europe next season, they were determined to take it. Not to mention that a defeat would probably have cost new manager Ronald Koeman his job, Valencia being down in 15th place in La Liga.
Getafe, meanwhile, seemed to be relying on the footballing rule that says ( as we well know) that a team appearing in its second successive final, after losing the first, is bound to win, and therefore as usual started off far too relaxed.
Perhaps two games against the dreadful Bayern Munich in the UEFA Quarter-Final over the last couple of weeks had given them too much belief in themselves. Over 3 and a half hours of football they had played the Germans off the park in both legs, in the process forcing the Germans to launch hundreds of desperate long balls into the box ala Birmingham in fact, to draw 4-4 on aggregate, only to lose on the away goal rule, to a last minute header after being 3-1 up in the return leg with 5 minutes left and that after with playing almost 2 hours with 10 men.
Well, anyway you've guessed last nights outcome. There were no dream-like endings for the small Madrid club. Little Getafe, budget around 20 million Euros, lost 3-1 to the Big Boys Valencia, budget 139 million, mainly through a poor start - where have we seen that before - conceding twice in the first 10 minutes. A spirited fightback to 2-1 at the interval, because even here, spirit is one thing the little clubs have, was in vain.
It was of course to be expected, even though Getafe had been handed the advantage of a final played in Madrid only a few miles from their humble home in the south of the city. Valencia, meanwhile, had to travel 450 KM.
But it's hard not to feel a bit sorry for Getafe, a team fighting every week in the La Liga on gates and budgets a mere fraction of the other clubs, because in reality they are not so unlike our own. They were, of course, one of the teams that tried to tempt Rommers to join them last summer. Thankfully, he was not on display last night because he would have been a bit lost as the football whirred around him.
So, once again, depressingly the Big Club wins in the end and we can only think back 6 years, in Spanish football anyway, for some consolation. That year it was decided that it would be a great idea to celebrate the holy Real Madrids centenary year by holding the Cup Final at the Berniebow. A bit like playing this year's FA Cup at Fratton Park because that year, 2002, Real made the final. What their opponents Deportivo thought about the plan nobody seemed to care.
So to the final itself and with the home stadium decked out in white to celebrate the inevitable result of a home victory over the boys from distant La Corunna and with the Cup already festooned with its white ribbons, miraculously, Deportivo scored after 6 minutes, took a deserved 2 goal first half lead and refused to play the game, ending up 2-1 winners and leaving the stadium with egg all over several important faces. Magic!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Jumping Through Hoops?

At long last in an indifferent season that is turning out to be just a little embarrassing, we come to a bit of a defining moment. A day when, if we don't get it right, it really could all be over from another year. For if we lose on Saturday at QPR and Palarse win at Watford, we'll be due the same fare, with the added attraction of Swansea away, next season.
And one half of that possibility, a defeat at Loftus Road, can by no means be ruled out.
QPR, in 14th place on 55 points, are rather better than they used to be - and even back then they beat us 1-0 - and are currently one of only 6 clubs to be unbeaten in their last 5 home games. In fact, after losing their first 3 home games without scoring, they've dragged themselves clear of the relegation zone over the last 3 months and have now had just one single home defeat - 2-4 to Burnley in the middle of February - since losing to Palarse on December 4th. That's eleven games with 7 wins and 3 draws, including two thumping 3-0 victories over both Stoke and Bristol City.
In fact, it could all be over by half-time, as, rather surprisingly, there's nobody better in the whole of the fizzies over the first 45. They've scored more goals, 33, during the first half than anyone else and have scored most "points" by half-time after being in front at the interval 18 times and drawing 18 times and there's not been a lot for manager, Luigi De Canio, to do over their half-time cuppa as they've only been behind on 7 occasions. The apprehensive Addicks, by comparsion, have only been in front at the break on a meagre 10 occasions out of 43 games, and have been losing the same number of times. A case for wondering why we need 45 minutes to get it right could be argued, except that our half-time figures are almost the same as top of the table WBA.
And whilst the Addicks can still somehow boost the most victories over top half opposition, 10, it somehow seems appropriate that, after all the problems with supposedly crap teams this season, we are finally undone at the home of a team in 14th spot.
But, for those of you out there that still cling to slender hopes of a revival you should take a look at the games history. For you'll be pleased to learn that we are unbeaten on our last 5 visits there, with 4 victories and a draw, our last defeat being in the old First Division 19 years ago in 1989. Overall at QPR we've had 8 wins and 11 defeats in 29 games.
The top goalscorer for the hoops is the Hungarian international, number 10 Ákos Buzsaky, supposed to be a midfielder, but currently on 10 goals. Catching up fast, however, is new-boy Patrick Agyemang, the ex Dons and Gills Ghanaian international from Walthamstow, brought from Preston during the January window, and now on 8 goals in 14 games.
As for the Addicks, we at last have a settled team, at least until its all over when the kids are rumoured to be appearing. Well, settled as far as Pards is concerned anyway, the fans opinion being somewhat different.
So with Randolph again being given the nod in front of Elliot, the only choice open to Pards is whether or not to include Lee Cook against his boyhood heroes and against the team he played for from 2002 to 2007. Bearing that in mind, and with the result being far more important than the style, perhaps there's a case for a starting ZiZi-Holland-Semedo-Ambrose midfield with two up front to stifle Rangers ambitions before applying the killer punch in the second half.
Prediction? With no less than 10 1-1's behind us who can resist another one. A draw would, of course, offer that just barely possible, but tantalizing prospect of being 6 points behind Palarse with 2 to play. An obvious scenario to aim for then for the Addicks.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Saints or Sinners?

So after a game to remember for those that travelled to Plymouth and after a pot-luck prediction that turned out correct, are we to believe that a corner has, at last, been turned?
Can we look forward to new fighting abilities that we didn't know we had? Or was it just a bit of lady luck at last with two generous presents from the Argyle goalkeeper? One fact that was confirmed was that we definitely play better with 10 men.
After seeing 6 red cards this season, for Semedo (Southampton 1-0), Sam (Hull 2-1), Sodje (Norwich 1-1), Mills (Hull 1-1), Fortune (Ipswich 3-1) and Weaver (Plymouth 2-1), we've managed 4 wins and 2 draws and are unbeaten. That's a truly remarkable record and can only mean that deep down there is a fighting spirit in the team that only dire circumstances can reveal.
But perhaps the most significant thing about Saturdays result was the proof that, after recent rumours, Pards does in fact read what we write. After accusing the team of "Lack of resilence after scoring first and no mental strength to overcome a deficit" here last week, the team did the exact opposite to everyone's surprise and Pardews reaction to the win said it all, "The resilience and character in the team, that's been questioned by some people, shone through, and it was great to win for our fans, because they have had to suffer frustration recently."
Well, Pards perhaps its time to make sure that the team understands that dire circumstances are indeed upon us and that we don't really need to lose a man to find the qualities required. As for Saturday, starting the month from so far behind, its pretty obvious looking at the table that unless we can beat Southampton all the hard work at Plymouth would have been in vain.
History is very even with 12 wins to us and 7 to them while another 7 have been draws. The last Saints win in London was a 4-2 at Sainburys on New Years Day 1990 in the old Division One, while their last win at the Valley was back in 1977, 31 long years ago.
The Saints are also without an away win since winning on Dec 1st last year at Leicester. They've had eleven away games since then but have been beaten only 4 times with 7 draws.
But what do three of our remaining opponents, Southampton, Barnsley and Coventry, all have in common? Well its the fact that their half-time talks have counted for nothing as they have all failed to win a game this season after being in a losing state at half-time. And after so much being said about our lack of comebackability recently you can surprisingly add Hull and Bristol City to that list of 10 clubs that cannot rowse themselves for a second half win.
But before you get too carried away you should take notice that over the last 8 games all four remaining opponents have enjoyed a better time of it than we have. QPR have managed 13 points (with only 1 defeat), Coventry and Southampton 10 each and Barnsley, preoccuped with thoughts of Wembley perhaps, have only accumulated 9. The Addicks, as I'm sure you know, have got only a meagre point a game from the last 8 games.
As for the team to play, Pards will want to retain as much of last Saturdays spirit as possible so with Weaver and Sodje out the only choice open to him is which goalkeeper to play. After Elliot's heroics at Home Park it'll be tough if Randolph takes over but that looks likely after Randolph's return from Bury.
Charlton: Randolph; Halford, McCarthy, Bougherra, Thatcher; Zheng, Semedo, Holland, Cook; Iwelumo, Lita
And we can only hope that Pards will have found a way to dispense with the Valley jitters other than by losing a player once again.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Where's Peter Shirtliff?

With just a single solitary win in the last 10 games, only 5 games left to stage a comeback, and the massive mountain of four points separating us from a Play-offs place, ( its taken us the last 7 games to accumulate 5 points ), the situation has already lead to several interesting seasonal analysis and debates on what's gone wrong. Drastic calls for Pardews head as a solution have not been infrequent while conversely the board just given him their vote of confidence. We couldn't afford anyone else anyway.
Perhaps its too early for the inquests but who can be surprised at the reaction when our expectations were obviously so high. We've all been proved far too foolish to expect so much so soon and we even believed that all we had to do was turn up to win every single game. It hasn't worked out like that at all and other teams have obviously enjoyed taking our ex-Premiership attitudes to the cleaners.
For many people the answer has been to look backwards to get some reality to what is happening to us but that does tend to fill us all with to many sentimental nostalgic dreams of what used to be.
The stark reality is that currently there's only one team below us, Colchester - with one sorry point - in the last 8 game form guide with just pathetic 5 points from the last 8 games.
But, perhaps remarkably, there's still one stat in which we lead the field. We have still scored first more times than anybody else. Twenty-three times out of 41, one more than Watford, West Brom, Hull and Stoke and there's only three teams that have scored more points than us after going ahead.
So what's gone wrong? Scoring first shows our attacking attitude and potential and with our 56 goals only 5 teams, West Brom (78), Stoke (63), Hull (59), Watford (58) and Ipswich (58), have outscored us.
But to find the reason we have to dig deeper and look at those games more carefully for although we have got 49 points from those 23 games perhaps its the points per game that is most revealing. Just 2.13 points per game after going ahead and there's 15 other teams that have got more points per game after going ahead. Is it that 15 other teams are more resilent on hanging on to a lead than the Addicks?
Perhaps to explain what's wrong with the Addicks this year we should compare ourselves with another team getting almost the same points per game after going ahead: ie Stoke City. They've scored first 22 times and got 48 points in the process so pretty equal with Pardew's lot.
But what of the other games, the occasions when we've gone behind. After taking 0-0 draws into account that's 17 in our case and 14 in the case of Stoke.
When our opposition scored first we managed a meagre 7 points from 1 win and 4 draws. Only 4 teams, Preston, Barnsley, Leicester and Scunthorpe have a worse record.
But what of second placed Stoke? Well, here is the difference between 11th and 2nd place. Fourteen times the opposition have scored before Stoke have but that doesn't seem to upset Tony Pulis's boys. They've managed 16 points in those 14 games with 4 wins and 4 draws. That's collective mental strength that only players like Peter Shirtliff would understand.
So Pards. Lack of resilence after scoring first and no mental strength to overcome a deficit. Says it all really and no amount of technical ability is going to overcome those two major liabilities.
So need we bother to turn up on Saturday? One win in our last 10 away games and 4 failures to score in the last 6 will lead to most people doing the DIY or messing about in the garden. The sorry ones will be remembering last May at Anfield and dreaming of a revival now that the pressure is, in some ways, off.
OK, call me sorry, but hope, and oncoming madness, springs ever eternal. 2-1 to the Addicks.