Wednesday, October 20, 2010

What if...

I’m going to pose a question which at the moment is hypothetical but if there are any more performances like Saturday’s debacle will soon need answering: who should be our manager if Phil Parkinson packs his bags?

This post isn’t designed to lambaste Parky (if that’s what you want, I’m sure you wouldn’t have to look very far to find one), as I think our leader should be persevered with for the time being.

But say last weekend was not a blip but a sign of things to come, say we fail at Carlisle in a few days time and against Sheffield Wednesday in our next home fixture, and Richard Murray decides the only way we can move forward is by installing a new head honcho. Then what?

I’m opening up the floor to my readers, all two of you. Who would you select if Parky was no longer around? A proven name? An up and comer? Someone with Charlton connections? Or a name completely out of left field?

And without trying to sound like an examiner, if you are going to give me your view, back it up with a reason. There’s nothing worse than an opinion without substance – expect possibly Pawel Abbott’s diet.

I suppose I shouldn’t start a debate without airing my preference – Exeter manager Paul Tisdale. He is a bright young thing who knows the lower leagues, has worked wonders at St James Park in taking the Grecians from the Blue Square Premier to League One, has had to deal with a tight budget (something he would once again face at The Valley), plays some tidy football – and has some wonderful hats.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

A look ahead to...Plymouth

Which Charlton team will turn up at Home Park, I wonder? Will it be the professional, Leyton Orient-slaying side of week two, or the meek outfit that succumbed so easily to an albeit-talented Huddersfield during week four?

Will Parky's boys showcase the attacking flair of the first half against Dagenham & Redbridge, or the nervous, lacking-in-ideas display of the second half against Dagenham & Redbridge?

Will be there be a repeat of the cumbersome opening 45 versus MK Dons in midweek or a duplicate of the second period, where intent was discovered and quality was prevalent? I'm sure even our sweater-loving manager doesn't know.

On Saturday, however, The Addicks take on a side even more inconsistent than themselves. Peter Reid's Pilgrims began the term with a battling 1-0 win at Southampton but have not yet managed to claim back-to-back victories.

Argyle edged Sheffield Wednesday and Swindon in five-goal thrillers, but have also suffered home defeats to an attackingly-powerful Peterborough, league leaders Brighton and, perhaps most disappointingly, to Jeff Stelling's favourites Hartlepool last weekend. The men in green are only three points behind Charlton but that equates to nine places and they currently sit in 17th.

They do have quality, though, and it would be surprising if they were not in the play-off hunt come May, but they could be let down by their choice of leader. Reid is a charismatic and likable man, and someone that I'm sure most players would enjoy playing for. Yet, his recent managerial record has been tepid.

The Scouser did excellently to keep a waning Leeds side in the top flight in 2003 - a feat helped no end by a 6-1 demolition of Charlton at The Valley - but once he was given the permanent job the following season, he purchased plenty of dross and was sent packing in November. An uninspiring spell at Coventry lasted just eight months, before periods as Thailand head coach and Stoke assistant manager preceded his switch to Home Park this summer.

The gig in Devon is the former Bolton midfielder's first in club management since January 2005, a five-and-a-half-year gap. That is a long time to be away from the pressure cooker of being the top man, and a boss more au fait with League One could have been a better bet when the Argyle board pondered who should replace Paul Mariner following relegation from the Championship.

As I said, though, there is talent amongst the Green Army; Craig Noone is a tricky winger who impressed during a loan spell at Exeter last term and is now getting his chance at Home Park, while Bradley Wright-Phillips, whose formative years have been blighted by alleged off-field indiscretions, appears to have finally settled down and will be the Pilgrims' premier goal threat.

Argyle have experience to boot, with ex-Crystal Palace workhorse Carl Fletcher and the cosmopolitan defensive duo of Iceland's Kari Arnason and Marcel Seip of the Netherlands.

It should be quite the battle on Saturday, one which may be better suited to Pawel Abbott than Lee Martin. Our semi-Polish frontman netted a bullet header at MK Dons and his physical presence could be pivotal up against Argyle's seasoned backline.

Technically, the crafty Martin is our best player, but he has been a tad subdued in the last few games and could be better utilised as an impact player this weekend, if we need that spark in the closing stages.

Elsewhere, I would keep faith the full-of-running Scott Wagstaff on the right and the fit-again, MK Dons match-winner Kyel Reid on the left, who if he can steer clear of niggles and last the full 90 minutes, has the potential to tear this division to shreds.

Jon Fortune also deserves a start; his half-time introduction on Tuesday evening gave our rearguard a far more solid feel and he could form a formidable partnership with Christan Dailly. Gary Doherty would be the one to make way, but then he has been suffering with flu - and a frustrating case of lossofformitis.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A look ahead to...Dagenham

I could begin this post by commenting on Charlton's fall from grace and our opponents' ascent to it, but having trod that path in my Notts County preview a couple of weeks ago, I won't rehash such banal spiel - I'll leave that to the speakers at the Liberal Democrat Party conference.

Instead, I'm going to focus on the hear and now. The previous few games have seen plenty of tweaks to the Charlton first team, some due to injury and others due to poor displays or tactical reshuffling - and it's fair to say that most of these minor adjustments haven't worked.

After collecting seven points from our initial three encounters, we have accrued just five from our last four, a situation made all the more frustrating because, Huddersfield aside, the teams we have faced are not as good as us. I blame Parky's mode of transmogrify for our relative mini-slump. I'm not opposed to change, I just don't like the way he is doing it.

In our first trio of matches, we were not carving teams apart and seducing all that watched us, we were merely efficient. Amongst that competence, however, there were some stand-out performances.

Scott Wagstaff looked lively and more mature on the right flank, Lee Martin seemed perfectly at home in that elusive position just off the main frontman, Pawel Abbott was an assured presence up top, and Chris Solly - whether starting or making encouraging appearances from the bench - was a vital cog.

But in the search for perfection - or as close as he is ever going to get to it with a League One side - Parky has opted to calibrate. The problem is in making those adaptions, he has dispensed with what was working in the first place, and left the problem areas unresolved.

Wagstaff, although he started last week, has generally reverted to "super sub", Martin has dropped back into a right-wing berth he doesn't feel as comfortable in, Solly has bizarrely disappeared from the matchday 18, and last week Abbott was benched, yet the under-performing Jose Semedo (yes, I have just come out with that bold statement) is a shoe-in to start, as is unconvincing left-back Johnnie Jackson.

I can sort of see Parky's logic; he reportedly spent a princely sum on Paul Benson, Solly's replacement Simon Francis is one of the best right-backs at this level when on his game (something he began to show against Notts County) and playing Martin wide does allow you to play two strikers rather than one - but all the vicissitudes have punctured any momentum and fluidity we had, not heightened it.

It's time for Parky to step up. If he has any idea what his best XI is he needs to select it and stick with it, and if he is still in a state of ponder, then he must make the correct alterations, and not just change for change's sake. We have more than enough to defeat the struggling Daggers at the weekend, but any more peculiar modifications and it could be a difficult afternoon.

Friday, September 17, 2010

A look ahead to...Tranmere

When Charlton ventured to Prenton Park last season, almost everything went right. We scored four times in a positive and effervescent performance, Rob Elliot’s goal was not breached and to cap it all, Jose Semedo found the net – an event that proves you’ve had a good day.

A replication of that this weekend, though, looks unlikely. Our clutch of signings towards the back-end of the summer transfer window undoubtedly boosted the strength of our squad, but the influx of numbers has also muddled Parky’s thinking.

Should Paul Benson start? If so, who should partner him? What should do we do with Lee Martin? Who should comprise the back four? At the start of the campaign, our first X1 picked itself (mainly because we had very little in reserve), but now that our ranks have been swelled, is seems as though our manager is scratching his head as how best to fit everybody in.

Despite last week’s narrow – and extremely lucky – victory over Notts County, there is scope for change this Saturday. Parky openly criticised the way Benson and Pawel Abbott played as a unit, and coupled with the way Joe Anyinsah and Akpo Sodje gave us a huge lift when they entered the fray, I would not be surprised to see some striker shuffling.

Abbot was better then Benson, and his superior hold-up and link skills should secure him a starting spot in Birkenhead, probably alongside Anyinsah, whose pace could be an even greater asset away from home. That said, I can see Parky standing his ground and playing his two cash purchases in unison once again, but if that does happen, I would like to see a lot more from Benson than just willing running.

Elsewhere, Therry Racon should replace Alan McCormack in the centre of midfield. I barely noticed the cultured Frenchman in the second half against County, so either the game passed him by, or he got on with his job without fuss.

Whichever of those statements is true, he had a better afternoon than the off-colour McCormack, and should definitely be handed a start. We might be playing an out-of-sorts Tranmere, but we are likely to have less of the ball than we do at The Valley, so Racon’s ability to pick that defence-splitting pass could be crucial.

At the back, it will probably be same again. Simon Francis had his best outing in a Charlton shirt last weekend, Johnnie Jackson is an unenthusiastic but capable left-back, and with Christian Dailly injured and Jonathan Fortune (the first name on my team sheet if we get him anywhere near match fitness) having played about as many professional games of football in the last year as I have, Gary Doherty and Matt Fry should form our central-defensive pairing once more.

Miguel Llera could return, I suppose, to try and combat the commanding presence of 6ft 5in powerhouse Enoch Showunmi, but that would be harsh on West Ham-loanee Fry, who outshone the more senior Doherty against The Magpies.

The ‘Ginger Pele’ actually had quite a poor showing in our previous fixture and under most circumstances would be sweating on retaining his place, but with the Dailly and Fortune situations, I have no doubt that he will. I just don’t see any occasion where Parky would select Llera and Fry together by choice.

The goalkeeping conundrum is a simple one to decipher – if we snap up someone temporarily he plays, if we don’t Ross Worner does, with teenager Connor Gough providing cover on the bench.

Tranmere have begun this season like the last – not very well. They have beaten the occasionally electric but occasionally poor Peterborough 1-0 at home, held hotshots Huddersfield at the Galpharm Stadium, and clawed back a two-goal deficit to draw at Dagenham. But there hasn’t been much else to cheer about with defeats to Oldham, Bournemouth and Yeovil leaving them in the embryonic bottom four.

Early-term form only matters if you let it, though. Last year, Bristol Rovers were flying high and Southampton – admittedly with the frustration of a point penalty – were struggling to pick up results. Fortunes altered as the campaign progressed and I’m sure Tranmere’s will do too.

The strike partnership of Shounmi and Ian Thomas-Moore – now happy again it seems after handing in a transfer request during the summer – could do some damage, and they do have a solid hand in charge in ex-physio Les Parry. He kept them up last season after the ill-fated John Barnes reign and I reckon he’ll lead them to a safe mid-table position in 2010/11.

4-0 last year, I’d take 1-0 this (which of course is a stupid thing to say because if you win 1-0 every week, you’re going to have a lot of success). What I’ll be looking for most, though, is some team identity and cohesion – something that should clarify Parky’s currently-cluttered mind.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

A look ahead to...Notts County

This is a game that really emphasises how far Charlton have declined.

Since I got sucked into this mad world of football, I only really remember Notts County languishing in the lower reaches of the Football League. They may have been the oldest club on the planet but that accolade was not transferring into results.

While we were pitting our wits against Arsenal and Manchester United - beating the former and drawing with the latter - English football's pioneers were battling minnows, suffering severe financial problems, and struggling to preserve their status amongst the elite 72 teams in the country.

Fast forward to now, though, and we are on an even playing field. Whereas the Addicks' band of brothers failed in their attempt to jump up a division, the Magpies', like their namesakes up in Newcastle, did not. That said, their promotion campaign involved no shortage of tumult.

June 2009 created plenty of excitement when Middle Eastern consortium Munto Finance sauntered in. They brought money, which they used to acquire players far too good for League Two, such as Kasper Schemeichel and our very own Johnnie Jackson. Mild Swede Sven-Goran Eriksson followed and was instilled in a Director of Football capacity. Elevation was expected. The Premier League in the shortest possible time frame was the goal.

But County's success was modest. They floated around the play-offs, looked capable of surging forward but couldn't quite manage to sustain their push. Then Munto Fiance were proved to be dodgy, boardroom battles ensued and I think I even recall a rumour that the Magpies could have slipped into administration.

Ultimately though, some good old English intervention saved the day. New owner Ray Trew - a salt-of-the-earth chairman if ever I've seen one - entered with realism, reminding everyone that this is Nottingham, not Madrid and that such outlandish goals should be forgotten. They were aiming for Charlton, not Chelsea.

Steve Cotterill was the manager that led them to the peak of League Two and because of that, into League One. He left for Portsmouth over the Summer, though, and ex-Blackburn defender Craig Short plonked himself into the Meadow Lane hotseat.

County have had a mixed start to life in the third tier - losing their opening two games 3-0 before narrowly defeating Dagenham & Redbridge, drawing a six-goal thriller with Bournemouth and then last weekend, tonking Yeovil 4-0.

Browsing through their squad list, one name sticks out like a sore thumb - Lee Hughes. The ginger frontman once transferred for the entertaining sum of £5,000,001, but he made headlines for all the wrong reasons years later when after driving recklessly through a Warwickshire town, he collided with another car and killed one of the passengers. For his crime he was sentenced to six years imprisonment but ended up serving just three.

Whether or not Hughes deserves a second chance after performing such a stupid and dangerous act is up for debate, but I must credit the man for seemingly turning his life around. He could quite easily have felt sorry for himself and frittered the rest of his existence away, but he hasn't done that. He has got his head down, rebuilt himself and last season played a huge part in County's promotion. Some will argue that he can never redeem himself fully and that may be partly true, but he owes it to himself - and the man whose life he prematurely ended - to try.

This piece has taken a rather sombre and moralistic turn, so I will now return to the football. Other than Hughes, who is always liable to pop up with a goal, the Magpies also have experience in the shape of ex-Chelsea left-sider Jon Harley and guile in the form of 29-year-old midfielder Ben Davies. Goalkeeper Rob Burch has also impressed me whenever I have seen him but he is playing second fiddle at the moment to Stuart Nelson.

The Addicks have played second fiddle over the last few weeks, firstly to Huddersfield and then Exexter, and could really do with their first convincing home performance of the season on Saturday.

Conuty alumnus Johnnie Jackson should replace Matt Fry at left-back, while after a distinct lack of attacking substance in our previous few games, Scott Wagstaff and Therry Racon will be especially disappointed if they do not force their way into the starting line-up. Christian Dailly is out for a month or so with a fractured eye socket and missing man Kelly Youga won't play, but is stepping up his training schedule.

I'll be at The Valley as always, hoping for a win, but not quite believing that we are playing Notts County in a league game.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Transfer thoughts

In news that has pleased me but might not go down so well with Chris Solly, Charlton have snapped up right-back Simon Francis from cash-strapped Southend. The 25-year-old follows former Roots Hall compatriot Alan McCormack to the Valley and once he is match fit, should slot in as our first choice number two.

Up the other end of the field, Sky Sports is reporting that we are closing in on the signing of Oldham striker Pawel Abbott. The gangly frontman was the Latics' top scorer last term with 13 goals, and even though he is not as prolific as he was in his Huddersfield days, the Pole's height, strength and ability to hit the target will bolster our strike force - sorry, give us a strike force.

That same article also informs us that Charlton have bid for another unnamed striker. I have heard rumours that this elusive figure is York's Richard Brodie - who scored an absolute bucketful in the Blue Square Premier last season - but it could also be on-trial Icelander Gunnar Thorvaldsson, who is still contracted to Danish club Esbjerg fB.

The Addicks' final pre-season friendly takes place this weekend, with Parky's boys visiting Vicarage Road to take on Watford. The old cliche is that friendly results don't matter - in this case, though, I'd have to disagree. The Hornets look one of the weakest Championship sides on paper, so we really should give them a stiff examination and aim to get in the groove ahead of the League One opener against Bournemouth next Saturday.

I hope Therry Racon is given a substantial time on the pitch in Hertfordshire, to reassure me that he is staying more than anything else us. I haven't heard too many rumours about the Frenchman swaggering through the exit door but he has had a quiet pre-season and I still have my suspicions he could be off.

The classy ex-Marseille man has not always bossed our games the way he should but - with the possible exception of Johnnie Jackson - he is our only central midfielder who can devise attacking openings and should he head for pastures new, it would be a substantial loss.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

A busy few days

It's been a mixed week down in SE7. There's been smiles and frowns, happiness and dejection, head scratching and hand clapping - and it's all been down to transfers.

In good news, there have been a trio of arrivals, and promises of more to come. Our first piece of business was to entice out-of-contract Norwich centre-back Gary Doherty to The Valley, though according to Parky the "Ginger Pele" didn't take much persuading.

The 30-year-old was heavily mocked back in his Tottenham days and being honest, he was probably never quite good enough for the North London outfit. At Norwich, however, he has been an extremely influential figure and enjoyed a very successful time of it last year, helping the Canaries to automatic promotion from League One.

After a tricky start under Paul Lambert, Doherty went on to become a regular in the East Anglian's back four, so probably didn't leave Carrow Road because his manager thought he was absolute tommyrot. I imagine it was just a case of having moved up a division, the Champions League-winning Scot could not guarantee our new recruit a starting berth.

Doherty is a solid and experienced pro, nowhere near as sluggish as he is perceived to be and with a lack of wise old heads in the Addicks' ranks at the moment, could be a contender for the vacant captaincy role. The deal gets a thumbs up from me.

I know less about Alan McCormack, but considering our official website labels him as an "engine-roomer", it suggests to me that he will a be a pugnacious, terrier-like presence in the centre of the park. For many years Charlton have been accused of having a soft midfield but with Jose Semedo (should we keep hold of him of course) and McCormack, there seemingly won't be a lack of snap this term.

Johnnie Jackson didn't set the world alight in his four-game loan spell with The Addicks last season, but he is a versatile bloke so I also welcome his signing. The ex-Notts County and Colchester man played at left-back during his temporary stint with us but while he may figure in that position going forward, I suspect he will be utilised in a more advanced role in 2010-11 - an area where his cultured left peg and dose of creatvity - I've seen him before and he does possess it - can make a greater impact.

That's fact dealt with, now on to possible retainees/recruits. Parky has told the South London Press that he is close to agreeing a deal with winger Scott Wagstaff, while he is also hopeful of extending veteran defender Christian Dailly's spell as a Red.

I always expected Waggy to commit - who else would want him? - but in all seriousness, the academy product has become an excellent substitute for us and if he does sign the necessary papers, it could be the season where he finally grasps a regular starting place. Lloyd Sam is all but gone after all.

Dailly would probably slot in alongside Doherty at the heart of the back four - a streetwise combination that could work well. Detractors would instantly bring up the 'pace' issue, and while I stuck up for Doherty's rapidity earlier on, it would be fair to say that he and Dailly would not form the fleetest of tandems.

Then again, the John Terry-Ricardo Carvalho partnership of a few years back was not blessed with swiftness, yet they were extremely difficult to breach, proving that speed is a bonus and not fundamental to the cause.

Released Sheffield Wednesday wide boy Etienne Esajas is on trial and the rumours of Kyel Reid returning will not abate, neither will the gossip that Warren Feeney is set to become an Addick. Maybe we will have a competitive squad after all.

The dejection and head scratching that I referred to stemmed from the departure of Frazer Richardson, who has become the latest man to join our silver-topped destroyer, Alan Pardew's, revolution at Southampton. The ex-Leeds full-back has signed for £450,000 and penned a three-year contract.

Richardson's exit comes as a shock, not least because Parky named him as a key player in a press conference last week, and I'm not going to sugarcoat it and say I am gladdened that Frazer is heading for pastures new, but we'll survive.

We've lost a right-back, an important but not the most important position on the field. However well he played last season - and he did play very well - nigh on half a million for a League One right-back with a year left on his contract, coupled with the fact that as a club we are potless, I don't blame the board for sanctioning the deal.

I'd be much more reluctant to lose Therry Racon, Kelly Youga, Rob Elliot or Semedo - although the frailty of our finances means that still might happen - and if Frazer's farewell makes it more likely that we keep some or all of that group, it will be good business.

Many believe Chris Solly is good enough to fill Richardson's boots and if he is not quite ready, I'm sure an adequate, if not spectacular, replacement will be found.

The transfer tittle tattle, as intriguing as it is, will take a back seat on Saturday when something more substantial comes along - our first pre-season match, which will be at AFC Wimbledon.

No doubt, though, that once the news, views and aftermath of that contest have been digested, we will be back scouring the papers, Internet or the minds of so-called club insiders, for information on which players we will be snapping up next.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Goodbye Dazza

Darren Randolph has left Charlton after agreeing a three-year contract with Motherwell, news which came as quite a shock to me as I thought he was one of our few out-of-contract players who actually had a future at The Valley.

It is always disappointing to lose a player of promise but with Rob Elliot set to be our number one custodian next term, Darren is a player we can probably afford to part with.

Having two excellent (relatively) goalkeepers is a bonus but The Addicks need to get their entire squad in shape before they can deal in luxury. If Randy's exit allows us to draft in a decent young stopper/experienced campaigner on minimal wages, while also helping us pay the salary of that elusive 20-goal striker or rock-solid centre-half, it's one I can deal with.

I wish Darren well at 'Well because he did play an important role for us last season. His performance against Northwich Victoria in that ill-fated FA Cup tie prevented the non-league outfit from beating us at an absolute canter, and when he re-entered the first-team fray towards the end of the year following an injury to Elliot, he made some tremendous saves.

A last-minute stop at home to Leeds left us dreaming that - for a short time at least - we could clutch that final automatic promotion place, while the catalogue of efforts he blocked in the away leg of our play-off semi-final with Swindon kept us in the tie before we returned to The Valley for match two. Alright, we lost in the end, but without Dazza's intervention our demise could have come a whole lot sooner.

Whether you have a slight preference for Elliot between the sticks, or reckon Randolph should be our undisputed number one, there is not a lot to choose between them. (For the record, though, I think Darren is a slightly superior shot-stopper, but Rob is a more complete and authoritative 'keeper.)

In the end, one of them was always destined for a transfer. I'm not devastated it's Randolph who's gone, just a little bit sad.

Friday, June 11, 2010

World Cup Watch - France 0-0 Uruguay

If the first game of the tournament was a vibrant and enjoyable one, then this evening's contest was more of a scrapfest.

It was probably to be expected. Neither outfit should be brimming with confidence, considering the great difficulty with which they qualified. One of the sides - and I can't quite remember which one - even had to resort to downright cheating in order to get to South Africa.

The French's problems don't even end at on-field indifference - there is major dissension in the ranks. Florent Malouda had a bust-up with manager Raymond Domenech, according to some media outlet, and supposedly many members of Les Bleus' squad don't see eye-to-eye with their coach. Someone should write a sitcom about it, entitled 'Everybody Hates Raymond', obviously.

So it was somewhat surprising that the Patrice Evra-captained French began the match in such vigorous fashion. West Ham-linked Sidney Govou should have put them ahead from a delicious Franck Ribery cross, Yoann Gourcuff might have from a swirling free-kick that Uruguay 'keeper Fernando Muslera palmed away well, while Nicolas Anelka also went reasonably close with a header.

But that intent from the Europeans soon dissipated and the game turned into a pretty laboured and bitty affair. Things didn't flow, there was no real quality and neither side looked capable of a moment of magic. Ribery, after a bright start, really went missing.

Forlan was pretty sharp, forcing Hugo Lloris to save smartly in the first half and slashing a powerful attempt wide in the second, and Abou Diaby and Jeremy Toulalan were France's stand outs, giving forceful performances from the middle of the park, but there wasn't a lot else to rave about.

You expected Domenech's charges to shed their meekness when Uruguay substitute Nicolas Lodeiro was sent off, the 21-year-old receiving a second booking for a nasty-looking lunge on Bacary Sagna.

But no. Malouda - more likely to give his boss a Glasgow kiss than a French one - Thierry Henry and the relatively unknown Toulouse forward Andre-Pierre Gignac made their side slightly more potent and Sagna did begin to buccaneer effectively down the right, but Muslera never appeared to be in any peril at any any stage.

These two may have been the favourites to advance from Group A at the start of the day, now though, things are a lot more open.

World Cup Watch - South Africa 1-1 Mexico

If any pundits, journalists, football know-it-alls or wandering nomads tell you that Mexico's late-ish equaliser in the opening game of the 2010 World Cup will ruin South Africa's party, break their hearts, or shatter their dreams, ignore them, because it won't. The celebrations may have been dented, but obliterated? Most definitely not.

Bafana Bafana may lack the technical astuteness of their Group A rivals but, if the first game of this infectious tournament is anything to go by, they will more than make up for that with their athleticism and commitment. Even if they exit this competition at the first hurdle, they won't do it shrouded in embarrassment, they'll do it with intent and swagger.

Carlos Alberto Parreira's side struggled to match their South-American opponents in the initial moments of Friday afternoon's game, though. Rarely-showcased Spurs winger Giovani dos Santos had a chance well blocked by Portsmouth's Aaron Mokoena within the first two or three minutes, while Arsenal's Carlos Vela and recently-released West Ham striker Guillermo Franco also fluffed chances for the Mexicans.

Franco, in particular, should have done much better with his efforts, seemingly having his noggin on back to front, or upside down like Jake Tucker from Family Guy, due to the awfulness of his two headed attempts.

El Tri played in a very similar vein to the way they did in that friendly at Wembley a couple of weeks ago - full of guile and neatness, but lacking in penetration, and despite dominating the opening half, they could have fallen behind.

Everton's Stephen Pienaar - given a bizarre "baptism" by his team mates in the the pre-match huddle - had an opportunity to christen his nation's World Cup but struck his 16th-minute free-kick over the bar, while lone frontman Katlego Mphela narrowly failed to connect with exuberant winger Siphiwe Tshabalala's inviting cross moments before the break.

After the interval, however, the net was bulged. Just past the 50-minute mark, South Africa did what their rivals had failed to - turn intricate build-up play into a goal.

Clever passing through midfield and a killer final pass allowed Tshabalala to find himself in on Mexican 'keeper Oscar Perez's goal. The dreadlocked attacker still had a lot to do from the edge of the box, but fired in an absolutely thunderous strike that swelled the net and left the partisan crowd vuvuzelaing wildly. A real Tshabalala ding dong if you will.

That corking goal instilled confidence into the hosts and sapped it out of the tourists and the men in yellow almost went two up, but Tshabalala's fellow winger Teko Modise lost balance when poised to shoot.

South Africa thought they had got away with it when effervescent goalie Itumeleng Khune smartly saved a fierce effort from dos Santos, but they were pegged back when, with 79 minutes on the clock, Barcelona stalwart Rafael Marquez took advantage of some woeful marking to slot home Mexico's leveller.

The last ten minutes weren't exactly filled with goal-mouth action, but Mphela did spurn a chance for Bafana Bafana, hitting the outside of the post when latching on to a long ball.

South Africa may feel like they missed a winning opportunity, but they did something possibly more vital - they showed that not only does the country deserve to host this prestigious tournament, but that their football team fully justifies their place in it.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

We sell Mr. Shelv to the Top Four

Signed. Sealed. Delivered. Jonjo Shelvey has swapped the Reds of SE7 for the Reds of whatever postcode Anfield comes under and will become an official Liverpool player on May 10.

There may be many Addicks crying into their Bovril over the news that such a promising talent has vacated The Valley, especially considering the £1.7million that Athletic will receive up front is strikingly less than some of the figures that were banded about during the summer. But I still think the deal could work out well for all parties.

Parky remarked earlier this season that Jonjo was every bit as good - if not better - than Fabian Delph, who left Leeds for Aston Villa in a rumoured £7-8m deal last August. But to think we were going to receive such a princely sum for our teenage marvel was preposterous.

Delph had been a regular with the Elland Road side, turning in assured performances and being nominated for the League One Player of the Year. Shelvey has not even come close to that.

He has shown flashes of guile during this campaign, a cracking volley at Leyton Orient and some handsome little cameos from the subs' bench spring to mind, but as the year has progressed, JJ's involvement has been less frequent and it's become apparent that he is not yet ready for a permanent place in our first team. £1.7m with a host of add-ons seems about right to me.

Not only have Charlton accrued a satisfactory amount of Scouse wonger, with promises of more to come, they also hope to establish a "strategic partnership" with the Anfield giants courtesy of Shelvey's switch.

While to me that sounds like: "We pinch your best players whenever we choose and to appease you we'll lob a bevy of our promising youngsters your way on loan," I may just be being cynical - a horrible trait for one so young - and it could prove to be a fruitful alliance. Liverpool, despite their troubled season and boardroom difficulties, are still a top-draw club and if they can assist us in any way, we would be foolish not to take them up on the offer.

As for Shelvey, he should thrive on Merseyside. I think Kenny Dalglish is back involved with Liverpool's youngsters and as a man who played in JJ's position, the Scot could have a huge impact on his career growth, while Steven Gerrard could also teach the Romford-born playmaker a thing or two - I'm thinking striking a football and pinpoint passes rather than how to act in a bar. (Though of course, as Stevie G was found innocent on all charges in that case, he has nothing bad to share with Jonjo).

To conclude, Charlton have a sprinkle of spondulix for a squad player, a likelihood of more coinage in the future and a possible faction with a high-brow club, Jonjo will get the prestige of joining a footballing giant and the chance to play for some terrific fans, while Liverpool pick up a young, hairless geezer with a very bright future. A simple explanation that needed nowhere near as many words as I devoted it. Oh yeah, and sorry about the title of this post, it is awful and not even factually correct.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

A look ahead to.....Stockport

"A Greater Manchester off-licence would do this." The question is one of the only cryptic crossword clues my hideously-vacant brain has ever been able to decipher, while the answer is, of course, Stockport, a town whose football team The Addicks play host to this weekend.

After our recent less-than-inspiring home performance against Brighton, we could not really ask for much better opposition than The Hatters. Gary Ablett's men are nine points from safety and look cast-iron certainties to slip into League Two at the campaign's culmination.

It would be fair to say that County are not cock-a-hoop at the moment, though the mood in the camp will surely have been lifted by some positive off-field news, provided by an ex-Addick of all people.

Jim Melrose - a striker who graced Athletic's ranks between 1985-87, and, according to that beacon of fact, Wikipedia, is blessed with the middle name Millsop - has seen his consortium's bid for Stockport accepted by the outfit's administrators. It will hopefully see the flailing Hatters secure themselves as a live-and-kicking football club, something far more important than the division in which you compete.

Anyway, that's enough of the niceties, I hope we give 'em a pasting, and I'll tell you how we can, by doing what we should have done against Brizzol Rovers, Brighton and Saaaaarfend.

Tell Sam to go roaring down the right flank, demand that Reid - our saviour last week in Essex - does the same on the left-hand side of the pitch, and implore a centrally-positioned Bailey to showcase his captaincy abilities by taking the game by the scruff of the neck.

The Roots Hall smash and grab will probably mask the fact Akpo Sodje and David Mooney were inadequate for most of the match, as with the former scoring and Deon Burton still struggling fitness-wise, our strike force is unlikely to change. Nor will there be an alteration in goal, though after Friday's howler, Rob Elliot will want to put in a fault-free display.

If every other player follows our custodian's lead, we should win. With our closest rivals facing some comfortable-looking weekend fixtures, we need to.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A look ahead to.....Brighton

Work commitments prevented me from visiting The Valley this weekend so presumably I missed scenes of jubilation as The Addicks rediscovered the winning feeling. I will wend my way to SE7 on Tuesday night though, but further celebration should not be taken for granted.

Despite their lowly league position and the fact they are winless in seven games, our midweek visitors will be a tough nut to crack. Gus Poyet's men were only denied victory at faltering Leeds on Saturday due to a 95th-minute equaliser and performed admirably at Norwich a week previous before being undone by a late double salvo.

The Seagulls have won five, drawn seven and lost just four of their 16 matches on the road and hold the sixth best away record in the division. That is in stark contrast to their form at the withered Withdean, where they have picked up nine points in 15 outings.

Striker Glenn Murray will have to be monitored closely, his penalty at Elland Road on Saturday taking his season's tally to 15, while ex-Wolves winger Elliott Bennett and on-loan Newcastle midfielder Kazenga LuaLua - brother of back-flip lover Lomana and cousin of ex-Addicks loanee Tresor Kandol - should supply the guile. Defender Adam Virgo was red carded at the weekend though, and will be suspended.

As long as Frazer Richardson and Rob Elliot shake off groin injuries, the Charlton team should not be altered, with Miguel Llera keeping Sam Sodje on the bench, David Mooney doing likewise to Sam's brother Akpo, and the stylish Therry Racon preferred to the more defensive-minded Jose Semedo.

I would, however, like to see Jonjo Shelvey reinstated to the bench. The 17-year-old is mercurial but has the necessary pizazz to enter the fray and swing a game in our favour - something that we may require against the stubborn Seagulls.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A look back at.....Bristol Rovers

In some reasonably positive news, it has been revealed that Grant Basey has damaged his ankle ligaments and not shattered his leg as first feared. Let's hope the academy graduate makes a full and speedy recovery.

There isn't much else to be pleased about following last night's defeat at Bristol Rovers and we look a shadow of the side that was so exuberant in the early stages of the campaign.

Commitment cannot be called into question but quality, invention and ideas can and if a stimulus is not found soon, our play-off hopes, never mind our automatic promotion fantasies, could be dashed.

Parky's pre-match promise that we would get at Bristol Rovers from the off didn't seem to correlate with the starting line-up he had chosen. I expected two wingers, and Nicky Bailey bombing forward from a central position, but instead we had a more rigid midfield formation and never really had the cadence or destructiveness to put our hosts in peril.

Our extremely brief moments of joy in the first period came when our ginger-haired skipper and the svelte Lloyd Sam opted to go wide and tried to whip in crosses. With that in mind, it was strange to see David Mooney enter the fray as a half-time substitute and not one of our reserve wide boys, Kyel Reid or Scott Wagstaff.

Though to be honest, a difference of personnel and/or formation may not have made an iota of difference, it just wasn't our night.

The disasters began just 12 seconds in with Rovers midfielder Dominic Blizzard's appalling lunge on Basey. I seriously doubt there was any malice on the offender's part and after seeing the incident with his own eyes, I imagine he is bitterly upset with what he has done.

But Blizzard's challenge deserved a straight red card and if - as expected - the only reason he was spared was because it was in the embryonic moments of the game, then that is shocking. I wouldn't be pardoned for running somebody over just because it was early in the morning.

Bailey's rebuked penalty appeal, Mooney's golf ball-like forehead protrusion, a relatively small allocation of second-half stoppage time compared to the shenanigans that had taken place - nothing went our way. I'm not saying they are the reasons we lost, just unneeded annoyances that did not help us.

Grievances are par for the course, however, and Charlton have to learn how to overcome them. Our rut cannot become an epidemic because the teams below us are good enough to capitalise.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A look ahead to.....Bristol Rovers

There are a lot of unanswered questions in the world - is Charlton blogger Hungry Ted always peckish? Do people really put their gold in an envelope and send it off to dodgy companies in the hope of renumeration? Why did I stay up and watch the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics on Friday night?

What I really want to get to the bottom of however, is why Charlton are so bad when their games are shown live on TV? It could be a curse, a sinister, evil one that we will never shed no matter what supposed antidote we have at our disposal. More likely though, the gogglebox has caught us on our off days.

When battling Northwich Victoria and Leyton Orient, we struggled with the expectation of success, while against Southampton in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, we did not have a first-choice side out, Pardew's posse played well and, with the greatest respect to the competition, it was far from a priority.

With those previous excuses in mind, our telly excursion at Bristol Rovers could be perfect for us. The Pirates are out of sorts at the moment so we have a great chance of winning but won't be overwhelming favourites, and we should - bar the ebullient Kelly Youga - have a full-strength squad from which to pick.

So tell your friends and family to bypass socialising, reading, cooking, working and even the excellent Channel Five series "Paul Merton in Europe," because The Addicks are going to be showcased on the small screen and they are going to be the victors. Only a curse can stop us.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

A look back at.....Swindon

Swindon must like Charlton as much as Wayne Bridge likes John Terry. After thwarting The Robins' chances of victory with a last-minute, nine-man assault on Boxing Day, The Addicks performed a similar trick on Saturday afternoon, albeit with a full quota of players still on the field.

Forced to work at the time, I was devoid of radio commentary or Sky Sports analysis and had to obtain my info from the BBC website. The Internet told me Danny Wilson's men had 63% possession to our 37, more corners, and a higher number of shots on and off target, while text updates also insinuated it was all Swindon. Yet somehow Bailey weaved his magic and salvaged us a point deep into stoppage time.

Betting is not a strong facet of mine but I am pretty sure our captain's fornicate-with-wife (this time an unintentional John Terry reference) chant was sung in full force by the travelling Addicks.

With Norwich finally losing and Leeds chucking away a lead at Hartlepool, a weekend that looked dodgy at 3:20pm and horrible at 4:30pm turned out alright at five o'clock.

The bad news is we are on telly next week. Yikes.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

A look ahead to.....Swindon

When I was at school, a girl in my class moved to Swindon. I remember her leaving party quite well. It was the day before the Easter holidays, we had Panda Pops, Party Rings, Pringles and stuff that doesn't begin with the letter P as well. As the festivities came to a close, I thought I had seen the end of my Wiltshire-bound peer.

So imagine my surprise when I strolled in after the Spring break and saw her plonked in her old seat. I shook my head, closed my eyes and then pinched myself but it made no difference, she was still there.

"Wh....why?'t you?.....Why aren't you in Swindon?" I asked, in a far less eloquent style to which I now speak. "It wasn't for us," she said, "It was a bit dull, nothing really goes on."

I bet she wouldn't be saying that now. The town hosted Radio 1's Big Weekend in 2009, has a thriving music scene and - unfortunately for us Addicks fans - the area's football team is on fire.

Danny Wilson's outfit have lost just one of their last 12 league games, nine of which have been victories, won their previous six home matches - a run that includes a three-goal tonking of Leeds - and are scoring goals for fun.

Billy Paynter and Charlie Austin are the Robins' premier net bulgers, with 24 league strikes between them this term. So prolific are they, that of Town's 22 goals since November, the deadly duo have scored 20, with defender Scott Cuthbert and on-loan Bolton striker Danny Ward the only other men to hit the target.

Swindon did show signs of weakness last weekend though, surrendering a two-goal lead to draw at cash-strapped Southend, and they may be too focused on an Addicks revenge mission on Saturday after not seeing us off on Boxing Day when they looked set for victory and we had nine men.

For those reasons, I have this sneaking suspicion that we are are going to take the three points. I'll post again some time on Sunday afternoon, explaining how hideously wrong I was.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

An extremely brief Walsall summary

I don't enjoy watching Charlton's in-game match updates on Sky Sports News. Even if you get a good reporter, it is very difficult to fully comprehend what is happening. But that task is made doubly taxing when your newshound is John Salako. How am I supposed to know what is going on when - by the sounds of it - he doesn't? I wish they'd given Scott Minto the job. I like Minto.

What I did gather from Salako's oratory - other than the amazing news we were playing Dion Dublin up front - was that we dominated the game and once we had equalised on the stroke of half time, there was no real danger of defeat.

Due to our stuttering home form, however, a solitary point on the road was not good enough, we needed all three. We also need someone to start finding the net on a more regular basis. I knew we should have kept hold of Danny Butterfield.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A look back at.....Tranmere

I cannot argue with you naysayers, that wasn't good. I'll try to stick up for the Addicks as much as possible, but sat here at my laptop, three hours and 40 minutes after the denouement of the match and with more than a few drops of amber nectar inside me, I'm struggling for positives.

Kyel Reid was a plus, I suppose. The ex-West Ham winger was pacy and direct - were you watching Lloyd Sam? - and could be the answer to our left-sided dilemma. It is just a shame many more problems have arisen.

Darren Randolph - more used to being inside a Saturday that playing one one - hardly oozed confidence after replacing the injury-stricken Rob Elliot between the sticks, and our defence, which usually has at least an ounce of resolution, appeared totally kamikaze when aiming to snuff out Tranmere's many attacks.

The amount of times our players wait for the ball to hit them on the head, rather than fight tooth and nail to smash it clear with their noggins, frightens me, a criticism I target mainly towards Grant Basey.

Nicky Weaver's golfing buddy is a talented man and he does have a gem of a left foot, but a full-back he ain't. I've always thought he was a poor man's Gareth Barry - alright, a destitute man's Gareth Barry - much better suited to a midfield role.

Our current crop in the centre of the park worked hard but they were often bypassed by long balls from 'keeper and defence, kicks that seemed to have been made my Moses, due to the regularity with which they parted our front two, the technically-sound Deon Burton and the scrawny David Mooney.

The on-loan Reading man impressed me during his earlier loan spell with the Addicks, so much so that I described his return to SE7 as - and I quote - "excellent", but the Irishman has been largely anonymous since his reintroduction, and surely it cannot be too long before Leon McKenzie is handed a start.

Eight points off Norwich with a game in hand is no crisis, just a worrying divide, and hopes of an automatic return to the Championship have not yet been obliterated. But as a feisty, long-locked bloke two rows in front of me bellows with alarming regularity, Parky needs to "sort it out."

Oh yeah, and for those of you on tenterhooks following my aubergine-inspired blog earlier this week, I added the purple delicacy to a pasta dish. It wasn't outstanding but it did a reasonable job, a food equivalent of Frazer Richardson.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

An aubergine-provoked post

I purchased an aubergine this week. Nothing sinister in it, I just fancied a change. I've become slightly bored of other vegetables, I've lost my zest for the pea and my adoration of the carrot, so I made a decision to try and spice up my meals and add some moxie to my dinner plate. I wonder if Phil Parkinson will have the same idea with regards to the Addicks' starting line-up.

I don't mean he should field an aubergine at left-back - feel free to insert your own Grant Basey criticisms - because that would be stupid, vegetables do not have feet. But after the trite performance that the Reds put on against Leyton Orient, you have to expect Parky to make some alterations to the first XI.

Leon McKenzie has made some decent contributions from the bench in the last month or so and I would like to see him begin proceedings at the Valley on Saturday. The ex-Crystal Palace man prefers to play up front but he looks to be fairly adept on the left side of midfield, Charlton's most troublesome position.

If he did start - probably in place of David Mooney - the 31-year-old could occupy a wide berth when we need him to but have the license to join Deon Burton when he can. McKenzie's presence would free up Jonjo Shelvey - or perhaps even the seldom-seen Therry Racon - to push forward and impact on the game from a central area.

The Addicks should be given a stiff examination by Tranmere, as despite the Birkenhead outfit's lowly league position, they are on the up. Les Parry - who took over from the hapless John Barnes - has galvanised the Whites and following Tuesday's victory over Yeovil, they have only lost two of their last nine league encounters, winning four. Rovers also gave a spirited account of themselves in a 1-0 FA Cup defeat to Wolves earlier this month, but they are not so industrious outside of Prenton Park.

The Merseysiders have amassed a solitary away league victory this term - and that was at second-bottom Wycombe - while John Aldridge's former club have scored in just four of their 13 games on the road and been barren in their last three. Then again, Leyton Orient had a pretty bad travelling record when they headed to the Valley.

I'm done with predicting who scores and who wins but you have to hope that our players are inspired by the spannering we gave Tranmere in August and come out full of beans. I'll be there to witness the match but until then, I need to figure out what to do with an aubergine.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Good luck Palace, genuinely

The title of this update is meant without an ounce of irony. I have no problems with the Eagles struggling because they have bad players or a dopey manager, I just don't want to see them capitulate because of off-field issues.

From the outside looking in, it would appear that Ambrose and co have pulled together brilliantly in times of financial uncertainty and their position of just outside the play-offs is a tremendous achievement. I hope that if the 10-point deduction is enforced they can regroup and remain in the Championship - just. Think about it Addickted, who knows how close we were/are to suffering the same fate.

No more telly, please

I've come to the conclusion that Charlton Athletic and live TV are a mix made in hell. First it was the debacle of Northwich Victoria, next came the misery of Southampton and now the frustration of Leyton Orient. Sure we've had our moments on the gogglebox, the 1998 play-off final - which as the "About Me" section on this blog explains is the premier reason why I started supporting the Addicks, and that magnificent Boxing Day in 2003 when we walloped Chelsea 4-2.

But when I try to think about other Charlton games that graced the small screen, I can only recall us getting slaughtered by Manchester City or a 3-0 home defeat by Liverpool in our Premier League relegation season which was the most one-sided football match I have ever seen in my life. Please media, just leave us alone.

A bounty of other excellent Addicks blogs may decide to pour scorn on Monday's dreadful performance so I shall try to refrain, as hard as that may be. The wider picture is that as Hungry Ted remarked a home defeat was coming and it would be foolish to think we would not have any Valley-based setbacks during the campaign. Norwich cannot keep up their level of lethality and Leeds' mind could be frazzled by their cornucopia of games. This promotion race has plenty of twists and turns ahead of it.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Hartlepool review, Orient preview

Are we fast becoming Jose Mourinho's Chelsea? We certainly do not have the wealth, the fame, the star players, or the much-revered manager that that team enjoyed but we are sure learning how to scrap for points and eke out victories, as proved in midweek.

Quality was significantly lacking on Tuesday night, but when push comes to shove the most showy sides often fall by the wayside and the ones with spirit and fight usually prevail. I would like us to play an intoxicating brand of football but I'd love it if we got promoted. And we are more likely to do that with grit than with grandeur.

That's not to say there were no concerns in midweek. Our defence can at times be outpaced and I still advocate that if we are going to add anybody else to the squad, it needs to be a speedy centre-half. And despite our obvious resolution, there were times against the Monkey Hangers when we looked short of incisive ideas.

But if you take a close look at our last five games, you will swiftly see that in each one of them we have recovered from a setback to garner something, whether that be going behind or being pegged back when all appeared hunky-dory. If we keep doing that, a paucity of guile will not really matter.

I don't think our recent lack of craft will continue, however. I mean, I don't expect us to be as cutthroat as Norwich in front of goal but I do believe our more visionary players will rediscover their mojo in the coming weeks; Burton because he will have more matches under his belt, Sam because of the increasing pressure on his place from Wagstaff and Shelvey because he looks set for a run in the team.

Our much-heralded bald maestro did not sparkle consistently on Tuesday night but he worked his socks off, despite some unfair criticism from the crowd, and was at the heart of our albeit rare penetrative moves. I hope he keeps his place against the O's next time out.

Orient's fans, being Laaaarndoners and all that, should bring a bit more spice and atmosphere than Hartlepool's 12 watchers did, which should bode well for the Addicks, who have played better this season when passion has exuded from all four of the Valley's stands.

O's supporters will head to SE7 in good voice then, and their players should come with an injection of confidence following their 2-0 win over Yeovil in midweek, the Reds' first victory in six and a result that lifted them out of the bottom four.

Centre-back Tamika Mkandawire - a rumoured Athletic target earlier this term - opened the scoring and could be a danger to us in both boxes, even though he did royally cock up when we visited the Matchroom Stadium in August.

Footballing antique, ex-Charlton geezer and a man my Addicks-loving friend insists should be playing for us now, Scott McGleish, sealed the O's win against the Glovers and will no doubt be a pest. Jason Demetriou and John Melligan are also far from devoid of talent.

But the main thing is that they are not better than us, so my crystal ball foretells home win number 10 - probably in true Mourinho style, but most definitely without a mankini-clad pillock.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A look ahead to.....Hartlepool

I do love night games. The chill in the air, the glistening of the lights and the added atmosphere that an evening kick-off provides. I cannot imagine that our visitors are looking forward to the match with as much vigour however, following their weekend spannering by MK Dons.

But rather than take to the field expecting the Monkey Hangers to capitulate once again, we must come out all guns blazing, stamp on them while their are down, pummel them and pummel them and pummel them and huff and puff and blow their metaphorical house down until they are weeping and begging us to stop with whatever energy they have left. But we must never stop, we most continue the onslaught until the referee puts the whistle to his lips and blows defiantly to signal the end of proceedings and then, and only then, can we go on our merry way, revelling in the fact we have closed the gap on our automatic promotion rivals. Like I said, I'm going to enjoy it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Loan ranger Mooney back with Addicks

In some excellent news, Dave Mooney has penned another loan deal with the Addicks, initially for 28 days, though it could be extended until the end of the season.

The Irishman hardly blew us away with his ability, but he proved to be a good foil for Deon Burton and I have high hopes that that partnership can flourish again. Mooney looks pretty weedy, yet he has handled the physical challenges admirably, while he also has enough pace - a necessity when playing with the crafty-but-slow Burton - and seems to have an incisive footballing brain, if you will pardon the cliche.

With Leon McKenzie getting stronger all the time and the vivacious Chris Dickson back in SE7 and eager to impress, all of a sudden we have a plethora of attacking riches. Well, maybe that it is a slight exaggeration.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A look ahead to.....Wycombe

As Wyn informed us on "Addick's Championship Diary", the steepness of the Adams Park surroundings means supporter access could be a little tricky, so despite the playing surface supposedly being in tolerable shape, the weekend's game with Wycombe is still far from certain to go ahead.

While previous postponemets may have given our ailed an oppportunity to - in the words of Dizzee Rascal - "fix up" and "look sharp", they also allowed surging Norwich to spring above us in the table, so another cancellation is not desired.

The Chairboys seem more of a threat than before having claimed a point at Elland Road last week and given our adversaries, the Canaries, a stiff examination the previous Saturday, but three "top" teams in a row could be too much for them too handle.

If the game does take place, the algific conditions should ensure that cultured passing and dainty flicks are out of the equation, so hopefully Frazer Richardson - the antithesis of subtle - is fit to make his comeback.

Elliott Omozusi has blossomed of late following a decent amount of stick during his early Valley days, and has definitely done enough to extend his time in SE7, but rugged Richardson would give us a bit more power.

Deon Burton and Christian Dailly should also reappear, the former after a stupid sending off and dead leg, and the latter having shed illness, but I have no idea if Kelly Youga is close to returning to the fold. I am, though, pretty sure that a one-legged Noel Edmonds is more likely to figure than the lesser-spotted Dean Sinclair, now back with the Addicks after the expiration of his loan deal with Barnet.

I also belive that if we do take to the field, we will record a convincing 3-1 win. Now that would kick 2010 off nicely.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Izale McLeod to Peterborough, Really?

If I ever go skydiving, I am not going to use a dodgy parachute. I will want constant reassurances that the big fabric thing attached to my back will work, and that I will not die if I use it.

By the same token, if I was the manager of a football team that was bottom of the Championship, fighting for its life to stay up, I would not purchase a player who for most of his career has done bugger all. My intention would be to acquire someone with a reputation for making a difference.

So I cannot believe that Peterborough boss Mark Cooper has signed Izale McLeod, albeit on a loan deal. The Posh need instant heroes; a creative spark, a proven goal scorer, not an undefined striker whose only asset is pace. It could be an under-the-radar masterstroke but if Izzy plays a significant role in keeping Cooper's men afloat, then the world really is a peculiar place.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

A look ahead to.....Hartlepool (sort of)

I hate writing sometimes. There are occasions when I think I'm good at it and on some bright and breezy days, I even believe I have the makings of scribing superstar and what's more, I love the experience. But a lot of my life is spent sitting in front of a computer waiting to type, either because somebody needs me to, because I need me to or because I think I should and I absolutely detest it.

My mind isn't in gear, I don't know what to say or if I do, how to say it. I am unsure about how to start the wordy exchange, what to base it on and how to wrap it up. I feel like a complete failure and a disgrace to the profession of spewing words in written format. I then look in magazines and newspapers, searching for inspiration but all I find is resentment that I will never be as good as the people whose work I am wading through. And I feel like that right now.

I tell myself to blog about Charlton every week, not of course for monetary gain or even because I want to impress, inform or entertain people but because I would loathe myself if I didn't. If I cannot write about one of the few things that I truly care about than I might as well pack it all in now.

Sometimes my frustration gets the better of me and I don't air my Addicks-based thoughts but then I feel even more of a let-down, so even though I am having one of my meltdown days, I have forced myself to switch on my laptop, perch myself in front of it and type, despite the fact I would rather be doing a whole host of other things.

It's not going to be a captivating read, mind you. When I get annoyed my entire day falls into ruin, so I am not prepared to conduct any research on Hartlepool - even though I will have to later in the week for another writing obligation that I despise. So my preview will consist of this - they are mid-table but we should win. That was worth waiting for wasn't it?

I really hope Saturday survives the country-wide big chill. Not so we can try and overhaul Norwich and re-leap back into the top two, although that would warm my cockles. No, the reason being that sitting in the west stand of the Valley is one of the few occasions I feel at ease.

It doesn't matter whether we are giving another a team a right pasting or on the receiving end of an obliteration ourselves. There's nothing I can do. Sure, I can cheer and try to gee the boys up but I cannot control what goes on between the white lines. I can watch and be happy, safe in the knowledge that I am free from pressure.

Not like in social or work situations, where the onus is on you to make your mark. I don't need witty banter, esteemed intelligence, an understanding of what it is I am supposed to be doing. I don't even need to look the part. I just sit, level with the halfway line, an overly-shouty man to the left of me, a pleasant elderly couple to the right and a flat cap-loving fellow in front. I breathe in the air, watch Bailey and co weave their magic or play abysmally and I am content. When I enter Bartram's at the denouement of the match, my anxieties and frustrations return but for those 90-odd minutes, I feel alive.

Anyway, that's enough from me. Enjoy the game.

Friday, January 01, 2010

A look ahead to.....Walsall

Happy New Year Addickted, and welcome to a brand spanking new decade. Yeah, I don't feel any different either. Parky and his merry men will begin the 2010s - or whatever crap moniker society comes up with to call the next ten years - with a trip to the West Midlands. How exciting.

Our destination is the Banks's Stadium, but Walsall's home ground will always be the Bescot to me. I just don't like the s-apostrophe-s formation in Banks's, it looks peculiar, like a semantic equivalent of Peter Beardsley.

Anyway, when we arrive at the Saddlers' (see what I've done there, added an apostrophe and bypassed the second s) hideously-named abode, we could do with a win. I will always maintain that drawing most away games is an acceptable result, but the home stalemates with Millwall and Swindon mean that a travelling triumph is needed to level things out and keep us clear of the also-in-league-action Norwich.

Opposing manager Chris Hutchings has rebuilt his reputation with the Saddlers after disastrous stints at Bradford and Wigan, when on both occasions he took over from Paul Jewell. The 52-year-old has guided his men to a solid mid-table position, but their progress has stalled following the postponement of their festive fixtures and their three-game winless run before that.

The day we start fretting about who plays for Walsall is the day we can kiss goodbye to our promotion hopes but the Saddlers’ fizzy front two of Darren Byfield and Troy Deeney should give us more to deal with than the meek strikers we encountered at Brentford. For that reason, it would be soothing to see the illness-stricken Christian Dailly back in defence, with the Millwall-hating Jose Semedo returning to his more familiar midfield-destroyer role.

If the ban-free Burton shakes off a dead leg (is it that simple?), I hope he reappears in place of Akpo Sodje and not Chris Dickson, who looks like he is ready to forge a successful Addicks career, while I would also like to see Leon McKenzie start on the left in place of Scott Wagstaff. Parky is a cautious coach though, so I say that more in hope than expectation. A Charlton win, however, I say in both.