I don’t remember having wandered into any of the coffee shops in Amsterdam during the past few days (although just walking down some of the streets and breathing the air can be enough). But I can’t come up with any other explanation on my return to the UK that everyone is suddenly talking, well absolute bollocks.
Sarah Palin. Actually we’d better include John McCain, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden; oh, and just about every US citizen who has stood for public office in living memory. Come to think of it, as this particular piece of nonsense is usually greeting with wild cheers across the nation, it applies to most citizens of the USA. It is of course the statement that the USA is the ‘greatest nation on earth’. Sorry guys, it isn’t.
Robhino. We thought that drama queen Ronaldo (‘he dives to the left, he dives to the right ...’) had taken the biscuit with his allusion to being treated like a slave, before that Ashley Cole with his account of how stunned he was with the (seemingly miserly) weekly pay offered by Arsenal in a new contract. Now we have a Brazilian, one who has just shunned Chelsea and Champions League participation for a stint with perennial losers, defending his actions by saying “I think that only someone who suffered as I suffered at Real Madrid may have something to say on this”. You don’t even need to pose the rhetorical question of just how he suffered. The guy just doesn’t know what planet he’s on. He should fit in well at Man City.
Unfortunately the prize has to be awarded to our very own Steve Waggott. And he was doing so well when talking about our decision not to sell/inability to offload for the right price Zheng Zhi. He was honest in acknowledging that there had been the very real prospect of him being sold to West Brom (although it would have been very strange to have said anything else) and understandably focused on the upside, namely the prospect of a very good and possibly influential player staying with us (well, at least until January). According to the Charlton email, Waggott went on to say that “I think what this instance shows is that we were only prepared to let players leave if it was the right deal for the club, and the player in question ... the deal for ZiZi wasn't right, and we're delighted he's still a Charlton player”. All good stuff. Unfortunately he then added “... particularly because he loves the club so much."
Now keeping Zhi clearly does increase the chances of us being in contention in the months ahead (always assuming that the club hadn’t been about to use the money on someone else). And given that he will still be a saleable commodity come January it doesn’t look like a big financial gamble to hold onto him for now at least – assuming he is up for the fight. I’m glad he’s not been sold – and I hope he goes on to have a long and successful stay with us (ie he oversees our entry to the Champions League within five years – well, everyone apparently has to have ambitions, even West Ham). Also, I hope he has some affection for our club, feelings which could deepen over time. But please do not expect us to think that he loves the club, let alone loving it ‘so much’.
There is no danger of Zhi being booed for almost leaving. We’re not so daft as to not know the score. To the best of my knowledge he’s not openly thrown his toys out of the pram and demanded a move. The picture does change if he were to say that he doesn’t want to play for Charlton, but I think generally the supporters have appreciated his efforts, even his absences, and would have understood if he had been sold. But if there’s one thing that would incline me towards howling derision at the mention of his name it is, I’m afraid, our chief executive’s misguided attempt to talk total bollocks to us.
Maybe in today’s parlance and standards Zhi does indeed love Charlton. At the recent meeting Richard Murray talked of Andy Reid having a real affection for the club, to the extent that he would have stayed if we had matched the wages that Sunderland were offering. At least that notion only prompts a wry smile. It’s just that I thought (hoped?) we were a little above that artificial badge-kissing, ‘love the club’ garbage. Sorry Steve, we just don’t need it. If Zhi loves us it will show on the pitch.
At the same time the prize for honesty and sticking to principles in a corrupt industry goes to ... Alan Curbishley. Walking away from a job at a Premiership club, even one which bought itself out of relegation, without (I assume) any pay-off takes some doing. Anyone watching him being interviewed could tell that he wasn’t having fun (although to be fair indications that Curbs is having fun always did seem hard to discern) and he seems to have just decided that enough is enough. Compare and contrast with the way that Sven Goran Ericksson, Claudio Ranieri and others put their self-respect in their back pockets and stayed at clubs when they knew it was only a case of negotiating their pay-off. I’m not blaming them for acting that way (heaven knows I would have done), only applauding someone prepared to take the high road and not try to squeeze every penny out of every situation. It’s a good reminder that life really is too short.
So, will Alan Pardew be checking Murray’s mobile phone records today? I hope not. It is not inconceivable that Curbs will return one day, but there’s a time for everything and this isn’t it (even leaving aside the cost of such a change). Nevertheless, it is strange how the balance shifts. Not long ago our assumption would have been Pardew leaving to manage a team higher up the pecking order. His stock now is such that I can’t imagine a Premiership team having him top of their list. This is not to suggest that he won’t end up back in the Premiership, with or without us. Rather it is to say that what Pardew achieves/doesn’t achieve with us this year is just as important for his own future as for that of the club. That’s usually a happy coincidence of interest.