Monday 31 October 2011

It's being so cheerful what makes me happy

Pessimism, negativity and complaining about your own team is a characteristic of football supports generally who tend to see the glass half empty rather than half full.   One suspects that it is a means of releasing other frustrations in their lives.

Charlton fans have something of a media reputation for being a particularly despairing lot, perhaps not so suprising given the club's history on the pitch, although the positive energy surrounding the Back to the Valley campaign showed another side of the coin.

However, I had been wondering how a negative narrative could be constructed around our present position.  I suppose one could argue that if we hadn't drawn at home with Tranmere and lost at Stevenage we would be six points clear.

Pessimists have come up with the argument that just because we are first now doesn't mean we will be at the end of the season.   Incontrivertibly true, of course.   They go on to argue that we can't feel confident until we are mathematically certain of promotion.

Nothing is certain in a long season and there is tough competition in the shape of Huddersfield and the two Sheffield clubs.   We tend to have difficulty coping with physical sides who play negative football, not helped by officials failing to act on blatant time wasting.

Nevertheless, here are a few reasons for optimism.   Bradley Wright-Phillips is a goal scoring machine (pessimists would point out that he could get injured or snapped up in the January transfer window).   Kermorgant has added value to the side, showing that Chris Powell can see beyond a poor penalty.  The midfield is not perfect but a lot better than it was last season.   Rhoys Wiggins is a real discovery and my player of the year so far.   Our central defence looks more solid than it has been since the days of Richard Rufus and Jorge Costa.

And it's mild for November, saving on all those heating bills.

Who put the 'x' in Halifax?

The news of a FA Cup draw to Halifax Town away is a bit underwhelming and I wonder how many Addicks will make the trek.  Lose and it's another Northwich, win and it's no big deal.   But I think we need to win to maintain our confidence.

The fans of Halifax don't have the best of reputations.    Leamington played them there in the FA Cup a few years back and were narrowly defeated, but took a lot of verbal.   In the last round of the FA Cup, Halifax were away to Lancaster and it all kicked off in one of the stands after ten minutes, leading to an ongoing correspondence in The Non-League Paper about who was to blame.

One Addick recalls, 'Personally, it reminds me of the 2-2 draw up there in the early seventies, first game of the season I think, went up on a Lewis coach which was attacked with bricks in the car park after the game.'
Possibly last week's most surprising news is a £1.5m sponsorship deal for Yeovil, but it isn't going on a cover for the away end:

However, we could well be two divisions apart at the end of this season.

Sunday 30 October 2011

Huddersfield manager Lee Clark targeted by Foxes

Having been turned down by Martin O'Neill, Leicester City are now targeting Huddersfield's Lee Clark as their next manager.   Clark has chalked up a 41-game unbeaten run and is now the bookies' favourite, although Kevin Keegan is still in the frame for one last come back.

Clark seems open to an approach.   He said, 'I want to manage at the highest level but I know nothing at the moment and (owner) Dean Hoyle will be the first person I talk to if that changes.   It will not easy to walk away from [the club].'

Although Johnnie Jackson's free kick created Charlton's third goal yesterday, it appears that Danny Hollands headed it over the line.

Mick Wadsworth commented after the game, 'Hartlepool has always been a tough town, a tough team, a tough area.'   Indeed: yesterday it was named as one of the top five towns in the country for anti-social behaviour.

Saturday 29 October 2011

Oh I do like to be by the seaside!

Charlton fielded an unchanged side at Victoria Park today on a sunny and mild but quite windy day reports Paul May with both sides lining up 4-4-2.    The early exchanges were inconclusive, although Ben Hamer had to make a couple of decent saves.   Horwood was active for Hartlepool.  A shot by Wright-Phillips from over 30 yards out sailed well over.
Wiggins kept the ball in well, put a great ball in and an unmarked Wright-Phillips calmly and clinically stroked the ball into the corner of the net.   This was the first attack of the game of any note by either side.
A shot by Kermorgant was blocked.     Hughes headed the ball out for a Hartlepool corner.   The corner was an inswinging one, but it was eventually cleared.    Hartlepool won a second corner after a throw into a congested six yard box.   The ball was hacked away by Solly to safety. 
Jackson provided some great play, Green went on a run, was brought down but didn’t get a decision.
A Hartlepool free kick was cleared and Charlton were able to handle the subsequent pressure.   Murray put in an effort that was closer to the corner flag than the goal.
A pinpoint cross by Hughes was intercepted by Kermorgant but to his disappointment he headed the ball wide.    Boyd advanced down the right but Taylor came across and intercepted well.   In follow up play, Taylor had to put the ball behind for a corner.   It was cleared well, but it was not possible to fashion a counter attack.   A shot by Nish for Hartlepool was wide.
Kermorgant was brought down by a poor challenge in the centre circle.   The free kick hung in the wind.   Kermorgant headed the ball across the penalty area, but Hartlepool cleared. 
The game entered a rather flat phase.   An effort by Boyd from the edge of the box required a good catch from Hamer diving to his right.    Green put a great ball in, but Scott Flinders in the Hartlepool goal anticipated it well.
The Addicks mounted a good attack, but Hartlepool were just about able to clear.    Kermorgant dealt with a Hartlepool attack, being fouled in the process.  
A Hartlepool free kick from Harwood was an awful waste for the home side as the ball soared over everyone.   Taylor dealt well with a Hartlepool attempt to attack.  
A great ball was chipped into the box by Wiggins and Wright-Phillips calmly volleyed the ball into the roof of the net to make it 0-2.   It was a superb goal.
Great defending by the Addicks closed Hartlepool down.   A cross came in but Solly was well positioned to deal with it.
Hartlepool put together one of their first decent moves, winning a corner after the shot was deflected.  The corner was unproductive.
Half time: Monkey Hangers 0, Addicks 2
The Addicks started with some good passing play.    Hartlepool tried to apply some pressure, but the effort was not matched by any real quality.    They did not impress in the final third.
Hollands made an effort, but couldn’t control his header as he would have wished.   Nevertheless, he was applauded by the 353 Addickted behind the goal for trying.    Hartlepool tried some high long balls, but to no effect.
Kermorgant was brought down on the right just outside the penalty area.    From the free kick Jackson headed home to make it 3-0 to the Addicks.   Hartlepool made two substitutions but stuck to 4-4-2.
Hughes made a timely interception just outside the penalty area and the Addicks turned defence into attack.   Wiggins made a great run, Jackson put in a great cross but no one was able to connect.
Wright-Phillips and Kermorgant combined well, but they were crowded out.    Taylor read a good ball from substitute Luscombe well.    Wiggins continued to play very well in attack and defence.   Morrison was excellent at the back.
Hartlepool applied some pressure, but there was no way past Morrison and Taylor.   Solly made a good move on the right, but couldn’t deliver a good enough cross.   Green went down on the deck.
Green, who had not stood out, was replaced by Wagstaff.   Murray put in a cross, but Nish was very tightly marked by Wiggins who steered the ball out for a corner which was headed away once, then twice.   Finally, Wagstaff had the ball out of the right.
Hamer punched a high centre clear and may have been slightly injured when he landed on the small of his back.   Poole tried to score but was tightly marked.    Sullivan started to warm up.   Hamer did a few exercises to check his back.
The sun went in behind the clouds and some of the home support started to drift out of the ground with nearly quarter of an hour to go.    Some thirty or forty seagulls came to see what the table toppers were made of.
Kermorgant was clattered again and Collins received a yellow card.   Paul Hayes came on in place of the Breton.
Charlton conceded a necessary corner, Hughes covered the situation well.  Hamer punched the ball decisively.   Hayes cut the ball back to Wagstaff who put it in the back of the net to make it 4-0.
Hartlepool threatened to get a consolation but Nish put the ball into the side netting.   Hollands came off to be congratulated by Chris Powell and Jason Euell came on.
Wright-Phillips put in a powerful screamer as he sought his hat trick and the ball went into the Addickted.   The seagulls returned to join in the celebrations.
Hartlepool were poor, but this was a great win nevertheless.  A clean sheet, no bookings.  Charlton were the better side in every area of the pitch.  You’ve gotta believe it: this side could win promotion.

Friday 28 October 2011

Let the train take the strain

The pictures of the Charlton squad at New Eltham station yesterday really brought home the glamour of League 1.  But it's sensible given that it would have been 6-7 hours on a coach.   Presuambly they got some sort of family or advance ticket deal, although if the latter the referee had not better add too many minutes on this afternoon.

I was uncertain whether Hartlepool had any hotels beyond a basic B & B, but apparently they are staying overnight in Darlington.

It wasn't so long ago that we were chartering plans to games, even on one occasion taking supporters to 'Boro from Gatwick, although the outcome was disappointing.   I also remember getting on a Sleazyjet from Liverpool to Luton and encountering Alan Curbishley, while Salako was giving it large in the row in front.

At one time the team would have routinely gone to away games by train.   On one famous occasion when trains still ran on Christmas Day they drank the restaurant car staff under the table.   Given that they were playing on Boxing Day, this would not be seen as good match preparation these days.

I used the £10 voucher I won on Valley Gold at the club shop last week to buy Matthew Eastley's Charlton Athletic: On This Day.   It contains history, facts and figures from every day of the year.

It may be a good omen that on this day in 1955 Charlton beat Arsenal 4-2 at Highbury.   Reporters reckoned they were unlucky not to score six.  There was some vintage left-wing triangle play between Billy Kiernan, Ron White and my hero 'Squib' Hammond.

There are now a substantial number of books about Charlton and it would be a good idea to compile a bibliography some time.

Paul May will be on his way oop North soon and will be providing your report.   COYR!

I have to decide whether to see Brakes take on the Centurions at Cirencester, Leamington's Sam Bartram style goalkeeper Tony Breeden having left during the week after a falling out with manager Paul Holleran.  Breeden liked to come out of goal and play on the wing and his goal from the halfway line was one that I particularly enjoyed.   A more orthodox keeper has now been brought in from AFC Telford, but it will be less fun.

Hartlepool manager lays down gauntlet

Never short of analogies, Hartlepool supremo Mick Wadsworth has laid down the gauntlet to his players after four defeats in five matches.  Do they just want to finish mid-table, everyone says 'little old Hartlepool have done well' and then go off on holiday to Benidorm, he asks:

One would have thought that having spent the year in Hartlepool enjoying their mushy peas (or avacado mousse) they would have chosen somewhere a bit more up market.   OK, perhaps you can't afford the Seychelles on League 1 wages, but perhaps Malaga?

In any event Wadsworth thinks they should be aiming for the play-offs as a minimum.  Nothing wrong with ambition, but some might think they were already punching above their weight.   Whether they will start on the road to recovery against the Addicks tomorrow remains to be seen.

Their fans seem remarkably pessimistic with a number forecasting a walloping by the Addicks:

I think it's going to be close, possibly even a draw, but I will go for 0-1 to Charlton.

Thursday 27 October 2011

Three defeats at home for Hartlepool

Hartlepool United have now lost three successive matches at home and, not mincing his words, supremo Mick Wadsworth admits that the monkey hangers have made 'a cow's arse of it':

It is a long journey oop north for Charlton on Saturday, but there are reasonable grounds for confidence.  One problem that the Addicks face at The Valley is the team that do not leave the team coach in the West Stand car park but park it in front of the goal.  An over confident Carlisle came to play football and opened themselves up at the back.

Hartlepool have only conceded seven goals at home but then they have only scored seven which is half the number they have scored away, perhaps suggesting a certain lack of confidence in front of their bumper 6,000 season ticket holders.

Future of the Academy

The Charlton academy has been one of the distinctive features of the club which, allowing for some fallow periods, has produced some outstanding players.   However, it is now under a threat under a controversial new scheme voted through by the Football League under some pressure from the Premiership.  More about the new arrangements here:

It is understood that Charlton is aiming for Category 2 under the new arrangements which will mean an increase in contact hours.   Inevitably some of the best players will go to Category 1 clubs.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Charlton furnish victory against Chairboys

Charlton fielded an unchanged side against Wycombe Wanderers reports Paul May from Adams Park.   Grant Basey started for the Chairboys.   The banker from Billericay, Andy D’Urso, was the popular choice for referee.

The game started at quite a pace.   Charlton took the lead within the five minutes after good work by Andy Hughes with an inch perfect ball, Wiggins put the ball across, this was deflected, an overhead kick from Kermorgant hit the post and Bradley Wright-Phillips was there to pounce and make it 1-0 to the Addicks.
A Charlton corner was headed away at the near post by Basey.   Wycombe seemed to lack a cutting edge against the Addicks defence.  Morrison had to defend as the Chairboys threatened for the first time after ten minutes.   Taylor made a poor clearance, but Wycombe were not able to take advantage.
Lewis put a shot in for the home side but it went over.   Charlton won a corner after a whipped ball from Danny Green spun on the wet surface.  The corner was unproductive.
Charlton got a free kick in a promising position 25 yards out after a handball.   Jackson’s free kick was good and curled round the four man Wycombe wall but the keeper made a good save.    The corner did not lead to anything.
Wiggins was standing firm in the face of the challenges of Harris.
An incisive counter attack from Charlton with a defence splitting ball from Hollands led to the tenth goal of the season from a confident Wright-Phillips.
Half time: Chairboys 0, Addicks 2
Wiggins put in a good defensive header to deal with a Wycombe free kick.   Danny Green drew a good save from the keeper.  Another effort from Green went over the goal.
Wycombe put a shot in and Hamer had to tip the ball over the crossbar.   Hamer punched the ball away from the corner and then dealt with the ball when it came back in.
A Wycombe corner drew a poor punch from Hamer, but he got a better one in second time around. The Addickted, around 1,500 of them in a crowd of 5,406, set up a rousing chorus of Valley, Floyd Road.
Hamer made a great double save, but he couldn’t stop the third attempt  to make it 1-2 after 63 minutes.    Charlton were denied a free kick when Hollands was felled by Basey right in front of d’Urso.
Wycombe brought on the loan striker from Reading they had signed that afternoon in place of Grant.  A Chairboys effort went about two yards wide as Hamer stayed rooted to the spot.  Wycombe were playing with more confidence and were posing a greater threat.
Hamer put out a ball to Morrison that left him with some work to do, but fortunately Charlton got the free kick.
A long range effort from Green came off a defender to give Charlton a corner and ease some of the pressure.   However, Jackson’s corner was poor.
A poor header from Hollands put Morrison under pressure and he had to put the ball behind.   Hamer caught the ball from the corner.
Solly had to put the ball behind for a corner as the Chairboys kept up the pressure.   Calm defending by Morrison allowed Charlton to claim a goal kick.
Experienced journeyman Ainsworth came on for Wycombe.   Charlton were starting to get more of a grip on the match.  Wagstaff was brought on for Wright-Phillips who was serenaded by the Addickted.   Wycombe brought on their 15-year old.  Wagstaff played in the hole behind Kermorgant. 
Good work by Wagstaff led to a Charlton corner.    The corner was taken short and led to a Wycombe free kick which they unsuccessfully tried to move forward.
Four minutes were added on.   Where did they come from?    Harris put in a wild shot.    Hamer made two attempts to control an effort from the 15-year old.   Wycombe got a throw by the corner flag.  Charlton were given a free kick.
As predicted by Wyn Grant, Charlton won 2-1.   Huddersfield could only draw at Scunthorpe, Notts County drew at Bury and Wednesday lost at Carlisle, so the Blades were the only other top six side to win, beating MK Dons 2-1.

Monday 24 October 2011

Powell not returning to Leicester

Normally reliable sources have stated that Chris Powell will not be returning to Leicester after the latest sacking of Sven Goran Eriksson following the 0-3 home defeat of the Foxes by the Spanners at the weekend.

Apart from anything else, CP is seen as being associated with what is perceived as the failed Eriksson regime.  In that sense Eriksson's endorsement of him offers protection.

Chairboys not too optimistic

Chairboys supporters do not seem to be too optimistic abour their team's chances against the Addicks tomorrow night:

Having beaten Hartlepool the week before, the Chairboys slumped to a 2-0 defeat at Oldham at the weekend.   Manager Gary Waddock's alibi was that Oldham are a 'big club', as was no doubt demonstrated by the attendance of 3,592.

The Chairboys failed to get a single shot on target in the whole game and were lucky not to lose by a bigger margin.  The 'Wadfather' admits that it was a flat performance, although he claims that 'we were defensively sound in the first half,' which raises questions about the second.  His view is that 'We need to be more consistent, some weeks we're fantastic ad then the next we look slow and unable to compete.'

Most of the furniture firms that gave the team their nickname have now disappeared and Wycombe is now largely a commuter town linked to London by the trains of Deutsche Bahn trading as Chiltern Railways.  A friend of mine who has lived in many towns in England thought it was the worst place he ever lived in, cold and unfriendly.

The core support is quite hard core though.   I remember them coming to Rushden & Diamonds, feeling aggrieved at the referee's decisions and staying in their seats chanting 'Chairboys' after the game for some time.

815 Addicks have already bought tickets which will be on sale from the ground before the match so we might expect to have over a thousand there.  It's quite a quick journey down the M40 for me, but getting out afterwards takes as long as the journey itself so I am leaving it to Paul May to cover this match.

Once again we are up against a team fighting to stay in the division.   The Chairboys have been a bit of a yo-yo team, but 11 of their 18 seasons in the Football League have been spent in League 1.   They have won only one game at home this season, drawing two and losing three.  Probably the most likely result is a draw, but I think we can outpace them and secure a narrow 2-1 win.

Saturday 22 October 2011

Chris Powell's barmy army

That was the chant that echoed round The Valley today as Charlton convincingly defeated Carlisle 4-0, the clean sheet being due to a penalty saved by Ben Hamer.   The Charlton manager accepted the plaudits of the crowd afterwards and perhaps doubters are being to accept that he has what it takes to be a manager.  Of course, we have two tricky away games coming up and our rivals for the top slot won, but for now we remain top of the league.

I had wondered if Hayes and Wagstaff ought to return to the starting line up, but Chris Powell stayed with Kermorgant and Green and his faith was rewarded, the Breton scoring two goals while Green was much improved.   Stephens was not available following the birth of his child overnight and Hughes replaced him.

Admittedly, Carlisle were let down by their porous defence, their keeper slinking away at the end of the game, while their shots on goal were often wayward, but the Addicks displayed considerable fluency and creativity in their passing, albeit helped by the visitors being reduced to ten men before the break.

The match got off to a slow start, in part because the referee blew up for three free kicks in the first few minutes.   Hughes also went down and required some treatment.  However, I thought we were a bit sluggish to start with.   Wright-Phillips laid off a good ball to Green, but he was unable to capitalise on it.   Wright-Phillips burst through, but seemed to think that he might be offside and didn't use the opportunity.

A good cross from Wiggins allowed Kermorgant to score with a header after 13 minutes.  Collin in the Carlisle goal was furious with his defence.   There had been much talk in the week from Carlisle of unsettling 'fragile' Charlton with an eary goal, but the boot was on the other foot.

Matt Robson for Carlisle was given a yellow card for a foul.   Hamer made a bit of a mess of a Carlisle corner, leading to a second, but this was easily cleared.

On 20 minutes Wright-Phillips made use of a clearance to score the second.   Great work by Wiggins played the ball along the line.  An effort by Wright-Phillips was cleared off the line, but Kermorgant was there to make use of the rebound to make the scoreline 3-0.   The Bloke Behind Me mused that we might get away with 3-3.

A cynical foul on the advancing Wright Phillips by Matt Robson saw the Cumbrian charm merchant sent off for a second bookable offence.

Half time: Addicks 3, Carlisle 0

Carlisle took off Liam Noble and brought on Lubomir Michalik after the break.   Hollands saw a scoring opportunity and advanced on goal, sending his shot through the legs of the hapless keeper to make it 4-0.

The lino then spotted a cross hit someone's hand and the referee awarded a soft penalty.   However, justice was done when James Berrett's effort was saved by Hamer.

Hughes made a good run and put in a cross that led to a Charlton corner.   However, one got the sense that Charlton were taking their foot off the gas in the second half.

A great save by a Carlisle defender using his hands produced a good case for a penalty, but the referee took no action, no doubt feeling sorry for the visitors.

Green and Hollands were withdrawn and Wagstaff and Euell came on.   Carlisle made their last two substitutions and their day was summed up when the board called for number 13 to come off and be replaced by number 13.

There was an outbreak of handbags at six paces over a Carlisle free kick and Kermorgant and Craig Curran received yellow cards.  The free kick went way over.    Zoko was given a yellow card for a two footed challenge from behind on Hayes which arguably should have been a red.

On the underground someone said to me, 'You had a good result.   We dropped two points.'   I wondered which team this was: it was Leyton Orient where Super Kevin Lisbie had got the equaliser for the O's.   Curiously enough, Charton and the O's were the only teams playing at home in London on Saturday.

606 had two calls about Charlton, one was a discussion of the phenomenon of negativity at The Valley in the context of a similar trend at Wolves.  

Match analysis

Ivy the Terrible has awarded the Silver Bone to Yann Kermorgant not just for his two goals, but for some good defensive work and some nice lay offs of the ball.  Hamer deserves full credit for the penalty save, although he did flap once or twice at crosses and his distribution needs improving.  He was not helped in the first half by having the sun in his eyes and I was surprised he did not wear a cap.  Solly justified his recall.  Wiggins was once again highly professional, defending effectively and getting forward well.   Once again Morrison and Taylor provided a solid central defence. Jackson was not outstanding, but he fully justified his place.   Called into the squad with Stephens evidently not available, Hughes did a good job, energetically involved, chasing down balls and providing a great bicycle kick at one point.  Hollands scored a great goal and generally played his part.  Green provided some good crosses and received a standing ovation from many fans when he was taken off.   The Carlisle keeper said before the game that he feared Wright-Phillips and with good reason as the striker latched on to balls well and also laid off the ball well to his fellow players.   Wagstaff was energetic when he came on, linked up well and got the ball forward, but did not have the opportunity to make a decisive difference.   Euell got involved, but not to any great effect/  Hayes was rather disappointing.

Juneau the Soccer Cat was driven to distraction by the referee's fondness for his whistle and has given him the Hiss of the Match.  Apparently he does a stint as a guard on a preserved railway now and then.

Thursday 20 October 2011

Carlisle keeper fears Wright-Phillips

Carlisle's keeper Adam Collin fears that his back-to-back clean sheets will be ruined by Bradley Wright-Phillips tomorrow, although he also thinks that the Addicks are dangerous all over the pitch:

This hardly sounds like a confident stance with Carlisle forecasting another away win earlier in the week.  However, it is evident that they have suffered from a lot of defensive chopping and changing.   It also seems to have dawned that Charlton are not Yeovil.

Things weren't going too well for Carlisle earlier in the season and there was pressure on manager Greg Abbott from the fans in which one of the directors got involved on Twitter.

Carlisle's manager gives his views on tomorrow's match here:

It's pretty clichéd stuff, although it's hard to say anything substantive in these circumstances without giving away your game plan.  In essence it is a rally the troops call but with the beginnings of a get out narrative in case there is a defeat.

Confidence is fragile among the Addickted at the moment.   We might take some comfort from the fact that the New York Addick, who writes an excellent blog but has turned into something of a nabob of negativity will not be at the match as he always seem to induce poor performances.

I think that we can win this match, but not comfortably and I am going for 2-1.

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Carlisle hoping for early goal

Carlisle United are hoping for an early goal at The Valley on Saturday so that the 'vulnerable' Addicks crack under the pressure following their Stevenage defeat.   The Addicks are not 'invincible', we are told.  Actually, we knew that already.

The report goes on to say that Charlton regularly play in front of 20,000 fans.   If only.  What they haven't cottoned on to is that the crowd is very edgy and will soon start moaning if a few errors are made.

Read more here about Carlisle's plans here:

Charlton are not invincible, but I am not sure that any one of the other teams in the division either, even Huddersfield who I think are real competition and are on a good run. 

Only a few weeks ago Preston were being touted as 'The New Invincibles'.   The Football League Paper devoted a two page spread to Phil Brown who was presented as a master of strategic and tactical judgment.  Then they lost 2-1 to Orient (although admittedly I think that Orient are better than their poor start suggested).

Carlisle may have nothing to fear, but neither do we, except possibly fear itself.

Carlisle look for top six finish

Carlisle United are looking for a top six finish.   The only thing holding them back are poor crowds at Brunton Park.  However, after their first ever away win at Yeovil, they are looking forward to another away win at The Valley on Saturday:

Monday 17 October 2011

New manager

The performance of the team on Saturday has had more drastic consequences than anticipated!

And I thought Midlands TV was dire.

Danny Green on Charlton move

When he was at Dagenham & Redbridge, Danny Green had to take his kit home and wash it.  Now it is all laid out for him when he arrives.   More about his move to Charlton here:

Curbs: Come in No.10

Alan Curbishley has been out of work for more than three years since his departure from West Ham, but he has devoted himself to studying trends in the game.  One he has noticed is the rise of the No.10.

This kind of player does not always have No.10 on his back, although Juan Mata at Chelsea does.   Such a player, according to Curbs, tends to have a low centre of gravity and is responsible for 'changing the game' with a pass that splits the defence.

Others identified by Curbs include David Silva and Cesc Fabregas whose ability to 'see the pass' is all the more conspicuous by its absence because Arsenal lack the services of Jack Wilshere through injury.

Pace and strength of themselves are not enough, although they may count for more in League 1.   They still count, of course, because as Curbs said a few years that a team newly promoted to the top flight should expect that 'Your quickest player would probably be among the slowest in the squads you will face.'   However, Curbs admires the creator's art and in particular the subtlety of No.10.

One question about our current squad is whether they are creative enough, even for League 1.  Unfortunately, the use of Kermorgant seems to have led to an outbreak of hoofing the ball forward which does nothing for creativity.

Saturday 15 October 2011

The tinkerman trap

Managers are prone to the tinkerman trap.   Why do they do it when a side is playing well?   Part of the explanation is that they think that they have to manage, i.e., to intervene.   They may think that a particular player who has progressed as a sub deserves rewarding or that a particular combination of players is needed for a game, e.g., to cope with Stevenage's physicality yesterday.

Of course, sometimes changes are forced on players by injury, but as far as I know that wasn't a consideration yesterday (except perhaps for a doubt about the fitness of Hughes who might have started at right back).  Oh yes, Ben Hamer had to have a painful injection in his backside about which he has been complaining on Twitter, quite what for is unclear.

If we look at the players that Chris Powell has brought in recently, The Football League Paper gives them the following ratings this morning:
Yann Kermorgant: 'Showed flashes of creativity, but always too far away from goal to be threatening.' (6)
Danny Green: 'Everything the wideman tried failed to come off - a poor showing' (4)
Leon Cort: 'Won plenty in the area, but looked cumbersome under pressure' (5)

The best rating went to Rhoys Wiggins, 'Always an outlet down the left for the Addicks with plenty of drive and pace.'  (8)

I think that Hayes got a raw deal by being dropped essentially because Kermorgant scored two important goals.  What Hayes offers is a good link with the midfield that makes them more effective.   Wagstaff has his limitations, particularly a tendency not to be able to play 90 minutes, but Green has disappointed.   Solly may lack height, but he gives his all and is a much improved player.   Against Carlisle we should revert to the team that served us well.

We don't, however, have a divine right to beat teams like Stevenage.   They are in League One on merit and don't look like relegation candidates to me.

We have now dropped to 5th in the form table.   It's a wake up call that we need to respond to.

Charlton remain top after defeat

Charlton remain top of League 1 after suffering a 1-0 defeat at Stevenage this afternoon.  Huddersfield are just one point behind, but Sheffield Wednesday would have to win by a massive margin in the steel city derby to overtake the Addicks.

Cort started in place of Solly after his return from international duty and Kermorgant partnered Wright-Phillips up front with Hayes only coming on in the 88th minute in the place of Taylor in a last ditch effort to provide more fire power.   Green was replaced by Wagstaff in the second half, indicating continuing uncertainty about that position.

Charlton were undone by their own former midfielder Stacy Long with a deflected shot in just the 11th minute.   Long cut in from the left to try his luck with a speculative 20-yarder, but it took a wicked deflection to completely wrongfoot Ben Hamer.

Stevenage keeper Chris Day twice denied Charlton with excellent stops from Dale Stephens and Leon Cort, while Rhoys Wiggins hammered a shot inches wide.

Long almost doubled his tally when he saw a powerful drive beaten away by Hamer, while Jon Ashton came close to doubling the home side's advantage after the break.

We just have to re-group and make sure that we beat Carlisle.

Friday 14 October 2011

Stevenage predicts away win

Valencia: It's remarkable how little media coverage there is of Stevenage and I am not referring to Spain.   I suppose this is a consequence of being a non-league club recently, but even Leamington in the third tier of the non-league get more coverage.

I could only find one fan site and I was surprised to see that forecasting an easy away win for the Addicks: I hope they are right.  More here:

Incidentally, crass remark of the day at lunch here: does Valencia have a football team?

Thursday 13 October 2011

Yann Kermorgant

Bouncing Breton Yann Kermorgant talks about his battle with leukaemia and how that has influenced his approach to the game:

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Serious stuff

Valencia: It's amazing what you can discover on a Sleazyjet flight.  Danny Green's favourite sandwich is 'Get some brown bread, spread a little butter on there and throw on salad, ham and cheese.  Perfect.'

The Charlton winger also gave his views on Manchester City to Four Four Two: 'It's good for fans to see good players coming into the league, but it widens the gap between them, United and the rest.  The title race risks becoming a non-event if it carries on like this.'

Charlton players or staff seem to appear rather often in this trivia feature.   Perhaps it is down to the energy and initiative of our press office.

BTW, it's hot here, no one speaks English, but I have been given a nice apartment to stay in - and the WiFi works!

Tuesday 11 October 2011

On to Stevenage

I am off to Valencia tomorrow for some meetings and I am not sure what internet connection I will have, so I am taking a look at the Stevenage game today.

Stevenage was one of the first and most controversial of the post-war new towns, the Labour planner minister of the time arriving at the railway station on a visit to find that the boards bore the legend 'Silkingrad'.

The football fortunes of the post-war new towns have been mixed, to say the least.  If we leave aside the special case of Milton Keynes, which received a transferred franchise from Wimbledon, Stevenage are the most successful of the new town sides.   Crawley are now in League 2, with the aid of a substantial injection of cash.   Harlow and Hemel Hempstead are quite a way down the non-league pyramid and Basildon and Bracknell are so far down as to be almost invisible.   In Scotland, Clyde followed some of its supporters to the new town of Cumbernauld.

The challenge that new town sides face is that potential supporters often retain their old allegiances in London which are often transmitted down the generations.   So I would expect that quite a few people in Harlow support either Spurs or Arsenal, while there are probably a good number of West Ham supporters in Basildon.  Kent doesn't have a new town (unless one counts the expansion of Ashford) so there is no analogy for Charlton.    New town teams can only compete on price and also by building up support among the young.

Stevenage have achieved back-to-back promotions with what Four Two Two has described as 'an uncompromising brand of football that occasionally stretches the boundaries of fair play.  As the message spreads, opponents and referees are wising up and it will be interesting to see how much natural ability they have to fall back on.'   Last season they picked up 70 yellow and 9 red cards.   Their bench and some of their players were involved in a melée at Huddersfield on Saturday.

27-year old defensive stalwart Ronnie Henry is the fans' hero and has made more than 250 appearances.  Keeper Alan Julian returned from Gillingham while defender Phil Edwards was signed from Accrington, one of a number of signings from League 2 clubs. Charm merchant manager Graham Westley is adored by the fans and is regarded as the most successful in the club's history.

The Times forecast that they would finish bottom of League 1, but Four Four Two was more confident, praising their defence and putting them 12th.  Stevenage are currently 15th, having won two, drawn two and lost two at home but scoring 12 goals in the process.

I think this is a tricky fixture, not least because of the limited away accommodation which sold out quickly.  Stevenage will be looking for a 'big club' scalp to add lustre to their season and I think this could be our first defeat in the league at 2-1.   My bigger concern is that a key Charlton player picks up a serious injury from a clogger.

Monday 10 October 2011

In praise of Chris Powell

It's the second time this season, so perhaps they have a fan on the staff, but The Independent has a report today praising Chris Powell:

Further thoughts on Tranmere

It's always a bit risky to comment on matches you haven't been to, but having read the reports over the weekend and what fans who were there had to say, here are some reflections.

It's clear that Tranmere played well.   Some of those who were there thought that they were a bit physical, but one has to expect that in League 1.  As expected, their keeper indulged in time wasting tactics and could well have deserved a second yellow.   They also unsucessfully tried to disrupt the taking of the penalty, but Johnnie Jackson kept his cool.   We musn't expect other teams to roll over because they are at The Valley, rather the contrary.

There has been some criticism of Chris Powell for doing a Phil Parkinson and not sticking with a winning team, although beforehand there were quite a few calling for Green and Kermorgant to start.   In my view Kermorgant is something of a super sub.   I also think that Paul Hayes is underrated.   What he does particularly well is to link up with the midfield and that may have contributed to their below par performance on Saturday.

As for the Green v. Wagstaff debate, that will go all season until one of them is injured or suspended.  But Green did not earn a starting place on Saturday to judge by everything I have read.

The League Paper rated Wiggins as the best player on 8 and it is encouraging to see how he has come on since the start of the season.   Bradley Wright-Phillips got a score of only 4 which wasn't really reflected in anything I read.   He can't be expected to score in every game.

Some were disappointed at the attendance of 15,038 with no Premiership or Championship games in London, but Tranmere are hardly a big draw.  They had to cancel their own supporters bus because of insufficient interest and there were only 300 in the away end.   The home crowd was up by 1,000 on Exeter which is good considering that that game was on offer.   Receipts were up by a third.   If it's any kind of benchmark, the crowd at Leamington was up by about 12 per cent on Saturday.

Les Parry claimed that that the crowd had been quietened in the second half, but someone who arrived after six minutes remarked how quiet they were then.  I am afraid that the team has to lift the crowd rather than the other way round.   Much as I admire Big Dave Lockwood, his invocations to get behind the boys are having little effect.

Overall, a point gained, perhaps a little fortunately.   Onward to Stevenage.   Oh, the glamour of League 1.

Saturday 8 October 2011

Best start to a campaign since 1927

Charlton's unbeaten run continued this afternoon with a 1-1 draw at The Valley with Tranmere Rovers.  They remain top of League 1, although Sheffield Wednesday narrowed the gap to three points after beating Chesterfield 3-1 at home.   Huddersfield beat Stevenage 2-1 in a game which ended with trouble between the benches and are just one point behind the Owls.   This is Charlton's best start to a season since 1927 and Radio 5's afternoon programming came from The Valley with the whole game carried live.

Kermorgant started in place of Hayes and Green replaced Wagstaff, although the latter came on in place of Green in the 69th minute.   These are changes many fans have called for.

The visitors went ahead in the first half on 33 minutes when Adam McGurk's strike took a deflection off Chris Solly and flew into the top corner.  The Addicks improved after the break and Dale Stephens and Danny Hollands both went close.

Yann Kermorgant was fouled in the area by Ian Goodison late on in the half and skipper John Jackson levelled from the spot on 80 minutes.

The Radio 5 commented that this result showed how difficult a division League 1 was to get out of, but thought that it would be looked back on as a useful point later in the season.

Friday 7 October 2011

Hart failure for Forest

Nottingham Forest have failed in an attempt to lure Charlton academy director Paul Hart back to the City Ground as technical director:

Not unreasonably, the Addicks wanted £500k in compensation for a key member of their team which represents real quality in terms of the backroom staff as well as the players.

Incidentally, I had forgotten that our last two home matches against Tranmere have ended in 1-1 draws.  We can probably expect them to park the team bus in front of the goal tomorrow as well as engaging in every known form of time wasting which officials tend to tolerate until the 82nd minute by which time it is often too late.

Nevertheless, I think that we have much more guile and skill than in the past two seasons and will be unable to unpick their defence.

Powell escapes curse

Chris Powell has not been awarded the League 1 Manager of the Month award which often turns out to be a poisoned chalice.  It has gone to Notts County manager Martin Allen in recognition of their 'unbeaten' run.   Presumably our two cup defeats counted against us which may turn out to be a blessing in disguise.

Tranmere are 'not intimidated'

Tranmere Rovers boss Les Parry insists that his team are 'not intimidated' by the thought of a visit to table topping Charlton at The Valley tomorrow.   He says that Charlton will be expecting a difficult game and the visitors from The Wirral will give them one:

I had a quick look at the new Museum of Liverpool when I was up there on Monday (principally to see the Magritte exhibition) and although it celebrated the three teams on Merseyside (as well as more obscure facts such as Liverpool's involvement in baseball) the focus was understandably on Liverpool and Everton.

This is Tranmere's 11th consecutive season in League One, hopefully a fate we will avoid.   Physio Les Parry took charge after the sacking of John Barnes in 2009 and he has done well on a modest budget.  A sequence of eight wins in 16 matches either side of Christmas last season was enough to save them from relegation.  However, back-to-back relegation battles have had an effect on attendances.

The Super Whites also achieved the distinction last season of being the team in the division that rescued fewer points from a losing position, suggesting the importance of an early goal at The Valley.   The fan file comments in Four Four Two are a bit underwhelming, describing them as 'OK, with a few decent players.'

Prominent among those is leading scorer last season Enoch Showunmi.    The powerfully built 29-year is hardly balletic in his execution, but he can out muscle just about anyone at this level and found the net 11 times last season which hardly makes him a Bradley Wright-Phillips.   However, the Nigerian is in the running for the League One North-West Player of the Year Award. 

Over the summer Tranmere signed Brazilian forward Vincius Dantas from Azuza Pacific, a US college side.  However, forward Dale Jennings joined Bayern Munich for a fee rising to £1.8m.

Four Four Two forecast Tranmere being relegated.   The Times put them at 17th.  Tranmere surprised everyone with a storming start to the season, but they have faltered in their last six outings.   They are currenty 12th in the table, but have won more games away than they have lost.

I regard Wednesday's defeat by Brentford as largely an irrelevance and I expect a full strength Charlton side to bounce back and take all three points.   I know we are going to lose sometime, but I don't think it will be against Tranmere tomorrow and I am going for a comfortable 2-0 win for the Addicks.

Life seems to be a round of retirement and landmark birthday celebrations at the moment and an old Burnley-supporting friend is having his 65th birthday party tomorrow, so I won't be able to make it to The Valley.

Wednesday 5 October 2011

Charlton crash out of Paint Pot

No one likes losing as Chris Powell pointed out last night following Charlton's 0-3 defeat by Brentford in the Paint Pot.  Not a lot was at stake, of course, but I was pleased that duties in Yorkshire prevented me from going to the game.

If there is a lesson to be learned, it is that our fringe players would benefit from a reserve league to maintain their sharpness.   Possibly also five changes at the back was running a risk, although an acceptable one.

What is also evident is that, despite concerns expressed about the non-involvement of some players, we have got the starting eleven more or less right, leaving aside the Green v. Wagstaff controversy.   The latter has limitations, but I have not seen enough of Green to form a view.

There must also be a concern about what might happen when injuries and suspensions occur, although we haven't been picking up a lot of cards, in part because success reduces frustration and the likelihood of committing fouls.

Doherty for Hatters?

Luton Town have made tentative enquiries about bringing local hero Gary Doherty to Kenilworth Road on a loan deal:

Tuesday 4 October 2011

And now for the Paint Pot

The bookies have Charlton as firm favourites to win tomorrow night's Johnstone's Paint Trophy clash with Brentford.   They are quoted at 10/11 whereas an away win is 3-1 against.

The Bees have been characterised by up-and-down form this season.   I asked a Bee of my acquaintance for an explanation and he said, 'Not a clue! We’re a bit Jekyll and Hyde so far. But, our away form is much better – we’ve won some very difficult fixtures away, so we may get a surprise result. I fear this will be our undoing in the long run, however, and will mean missing out on the play-offs.'

A constraint in the Paint Pot is that we have to play six out of the eleven players who were in the last first team game so we can't follow our Carling Cup strategy of putting out our second string side.   Some think we should give Kermorgant and Green a start, although the former's gift may be as a super sub (for now at least) while Green has been a bit inconsistent.

It would be an opportunity to bring in players who have little or no chance so far.   Alonso can't wait to pull on the red shirt to judge by his Facebook postings but he is not match fit yet so he will have more time for his part-time postgraduate studies in philosophy (his first degree is in economics).   Perhaps Evina could get to try out the No.3 shirt, albeit that Wigginns has been improving all the time, while Hughes could be offered 90 minutes.

My diary seems to be even fuller in semi-retirement so I will be in Yorkshire again for a dinner, otherwise I might have been tempted by this fixture.

Two great film clips

Victoria Stanyon sings Valley Floyd Road before the game against Chesterfield:

Promotional video featuring all our goals in the earlier part of the season:

Saturday 1 October 2011

Charlton five points clear

Charlton are five points clear at the top of League 1 after their 2-0 win at Sheffield United today in what would have been a Premier League fixture four years ago.   Perceived big threat Preston lost 2-1 at lowly Orient.  No wonder Chris Powell felt able to say, 'We have made a statement.'

My train took me through Sheffield at 16.20, but I didn't hear the result until 18.15.

Charlton substitute Yann Kermorgant was the hero after he came on in place of Paul Hayes.  After an uneventful 65 minutes, with the match looking as if it might be heading for a 0-0, the bouncing Breton stepped off the bench and headed home with his first touch from Johnnie Jackson's corner.   Kermorgant has now scored twice in three substitute appearances.

And two minutes later he set up Bradley Wright-Phillips, who finished at the second attempt from close range.  Blades' Ched Evans hit the post from outside the box deep into injury time.

Someone who was there has said, 'Great win. Worked hard in a tense first half and survived a couple of goalline scares, although we had a good chance at the other end which was fluffed by Morrison, I think. Solly was excellent again.'

'Second half more even, then the substitution won the game. United couldn't deal with the Frenchman in the air and BWP had another chance to score moments before he did.'

'Hamer had a great game, although he misread one first half cross. It was the sort of ground-out but ultimately convincing win that persuades you we will go up, albeit it's too early to say that really.'

'What we can say is that those looking to make a judgement after 10/11 games ought to be singing Powell's praises if they have any sense of fairness because no one could reasonably ask for any more over the 11 games.'