Friday 29 June 2007

Stop This Luvvying Now

If I see another Darren Bent tribute something's going to go through the window (that's the problem with the internet, you can't burn it/rip it up when having a good hissy fit). We paid too much for him, he was rubbish from the start, overrated, and is probably crocked. Spurs have bought a pup. If he ever plays back at The Valley I'll be out of my seat howling derision.

Is this post anything to do with an end-of-season wine and curry extravaganza with other Addicks last night, and the fact that living inside my head today is not very comfortable? Even the time-honoured cure of a toasted bacon and egg sandwich failed to work. I think half of my remaining brain cells disappeared in a fug of red wine; I'm going to give names to those that remain.

Good luck to Bryan Hughes. It wasn't his fault he wasn't good enough for the premiership. He always tried his best and there were some good moments. Obviously the Chelsea penalty shoot-out but for me it was the late, late goal against Villa. I was in Madrid for new year (my partner had some travel and accommodation vouchers) and happened to pass a pub advertising live football. Went in and there, on a very big screen, was the game, with 15 minutes left. The bar was almost deserted and those that were there looked on in amazement as an Englishman went noisily beserk as Hughes stooped to head past Kiraly.

I'm glad to see that Earnshaw has gone to Derby, ending any possibility of us being involved. There's no doubt that he's a good player, but I think he's as good as he's going to get - and believes he is better than he is. Hope the rumour about us going for Jason Roberts is true though. I always felt he was one that got away.

Now, does that sound a little more sane?

Thursday 28 June 2007

Pre-Season Tournament: Who'd Win?

Assuming that the BBC hasn't suddenly gone all tabloid and the Darren Bent sale is confirmed over the next few days, the way would seem clear for Pardew to spend a little money, although surely most will have to go on covering losses. I'd be very surprised if we paid more than £2m for a new player (then again, Liverpool have just signed a new, young goalkeeper, so if Carson was after all available ....) and would instead expect a few loan signings after 1 July.

Bent's departure does help to clarify the line-up for what would be an interesting pre-season mini-tournament between the following four teams:

Team One (the Pardew new boys/those not available last season) - the Babies XI: Randolph, Yassin, Gibbs, McCarthy, Semedo, Jensen, Reid, Christensen, Dickson, Varney, Iwelumo.

Team Two (the maybe - some hopefully - ex-CAFC boys, managed by Les Reed) - Dad's Army: Myhre, Sankofa, Thatcher, Fortune, Diawara, Holland, Hughes, Faye, Thomas, Bent(M), Lisbie.

Team Three (they don't fit but they're still around, managed by Mark Robson) - The Odds & Sods: Elliot, Ashton, Youga, Walton, Bougherra, Ambrose, Weston, John, Sam, Walker, Carvill.

Team Four (the definitely ex-CAFC boys, managed by Ian Dowie) - The Great, The Good & The Failures: Carson, Young, Traore, Hreidarsson, El Karkouri, Song, Kishishev, Zheng, Rommadahl, Hasselbaink, Bent(D).

OK, they aren't perfect fits and there's a bit of poetic license to make tolerably coherent line-ups. Young hasn't definitely gone (Team Four needed a right-back); Team One is short of a left-back, includes Reid who in theory was available for part of last season (he doesn't easily fit into a Babies XI either), and plays 4-3-3; there's no real suggestion that Sankofa will be off (basically Team Two needed a right-back), and the Odds & Sods XI is by definition a bit of a mishmash (and a little harsh on a couple who could have made Team Two).

However, there's not a bad symmetry - and could any other football club present four such line-ups based on those available since the start of last season and still have some to spare? There were no places for Sorondo, Puoso, Andersen and - being strictly accurate and going by the squad numbers in the programme for the Man Utd game - Euell and Bolanos (yes, he had number 23), plus Gislason, Stanton and Taska (that's eight, nearly Team Five).

So who'd win the tournament?

Odds on Team Three would come bottom, with Team Two (iffy defence, ageing midfield, nothing up front) not much above them. But whether the energetic and committed Team One (lack of experience, untested combinations) could overcome the mix of prima donnas, failures, and the much-lamented that makes up Team Four has to be doubtful. You have to say that with a spine of Carson, Hreidarsson/El Karkouri and DB they would start strong favourites (this is hardly surprising, we are having to cut our cloth). The defence looks suspect but good enough for the Championship; the midfield looks interesting (and something of a contrast with resources available in that area to Team One); and the forward combination was, for a brief period, one that we saw as the dream ticket. But I have given them Dowie as manager.

(As an aside, and without wishing to go all Ronnie Corbett, while checking the numbers in last season's handbook I was struck by the Hasselbaink interview. The headline quote was "I definitely have the hunger and I definitely think I have two more years in me. I feel like a little boy getting a bit of candy". Personally, JFH, I feel like some moaning, fat-ass has-been just nicked all my sweets.)

As far as our starting XI for next season is concerned, going on the basis strictly of who is at present a Charlton player (ie still including that that are expected to go, like Myhre, but not those whose exit is only awaiting formal confirmation, like Rommadahl) I would select the following team. Of course it's going to change before Scunthorpe, so it's a work in progress to be updated regularly:

First XI: Myhre, Young, McCarthy, Diawara, Thatcher, Reid, Faye, Holland, Thomas, Iwelumo, Varney.

Subs: Randolph, Yassin, Bougherra, Dickson, Ambrose

Squad Players: Elliot, Youga, Ashton, Semedo, Walton, Sankofa, Christensen, Gibbs, Hughes, Bent(M), Lisbie, Sam, Fortune, Jensen, Weston, John, Carvill, Gislason, Stanton.

Thursday 21 June 2007

Mixed Feelings About Yassin

Reaction to the news that we have signed France's U-21 captain Yassin Moutaouakil seems so far to be universally positive - but I have to say it prompts a mixed reaction from me. Not because it points to Luke Young's departure (happy with this if we get a decent price; undoubtedly a very good defender but my abiding memory of him will be as the supposed captain of the team skulking off the pitch at Brammell Lane last season leaving Matty Holland to face the fans), rather because of the domestic fall-out.

My partner is French and to make it worse she lives in Lyon (it's a real hardship going to a city that even Parisians accept as the culinary centre of France). Usually it's an entente cordial but there are the occasional Jeanne d'Arc moments (relations are bound to be somewhat strained this autumn when the rugby world cup gears up).

While she sometimes acknowledges that she is not strictly speaking an expert on football (worse still I've managed to get hooked up with the only French woman in history who can't cook), and with the usual Gallic shrug expresses disappointment over another year which sees Lyon fail to win the Champions League and only walk away with the French title, she was emphasising through last season that our problems were down to the absence of French players in the team. I had of course hoped that Kelly Youga would make the grade. Now, if we get promotion with Yassin she's going to claim all the credit and 'I told you so' may get the occasional airing. We may never know if we could have done it without French help - and I'll never be allowed to forget it.

If truth be told she took to The Valley like a duck to water (before it gets stuffed, force-fed, slaughtered, grilled, smoked etc). How could it not be love when her answer to my question after her first game, a rather undistiguished draw with Coventry (which did feature a splendid JJ goal), as to which part she most enjoyed was 'when we scored'. Either someone trained her very well or she instinctively knew the way to an Addick's heart.

By the way, it have it from the horse's mouth (before it gets slaughtered, stewed, grilled etc) that the correct pronounciation of Moutaouakil is: moo ... ta .... ooo (like rou without the r) ... a ... kill.

It might seem insensitive to post something (and something which is at least aimed at being humourous) about partners in light of the losses suffered by Confidential Rick and Charlton North Downs. I obviously hope not - and that if there is any impact it is to provide a reminder of happy memories.

Wednesday 20 June 2007

Yet More (Hopefully Last) Jordan Court Case Thoughts

If I remember correctly the judge's verdict on damages/costs in the Jordan v Dowie case is imminent. It will be interesting to say the least, although probably not the last word on the whole affair. It's reasonable to suppose that Jordan will ask the FA (or another body) to look into whether Charlton did indeed do anything untoward; he would seem to have nothing to lose (presumably such a request will cost him nothing and the burden of proof may be less than that required in a court of law) and seems intent on keeping the animosity going. He could of course surprise us all by trying to claim the moral high ground and declaring honour satisfied (yup, pigs might fly).

I'm undoubtedly biased and inclined to a positive interpretation of events when it comes to Charlton's involvement in all of this. And I have absolutely no inside knowledge of what really went on. But it seems to me that there are some salient issues that the judge will presumably be taking into account in his verdict on any damages, with the decision here the real indication of whether Jordan has won, lost or drawn his case.

Why do people/companies decide to take others to court (where the police etc are not involved and there's no blood on the knife)? It is to seek redress for a perceived wrong where material harm, financial or otherwise, has been caused (my words, they seem reasonable to me but I couldn't find an actual legally-accepted term). If there is no material or physical harm, including to reputation, there is no case (for good reason as otherwise we would all be suing each other from the playground on). So the court decides first if there has been material damage done and a case to answer (which in this case it seemingly has) and second what redress is appropriate.

As Jordan/Palace have brought the case, they are presenting themselves as the injured party. But just how have they suffered? Most people it seems believe that Jordan wanted shot of Dowie and he achieved this without having to pay him off. That is a material bonus for Palace as a direct result of the 'compromise agreement'. They only suffered material damage if the £1m compensation clause in Dowie's contract, which Jordan claims he 'waived' as a 'gesture of goodwill', might have imminently come into play as a result of a club seeking Dowie's services.

There is no evidence (I believe) that anyone, including Charlton, was about to do so while Dowie was still manager of Palace - and as soon as he was not and the compromise agreement was in place the compensation clause no longer applies (you couldn't have a compromise agreement which covered this area without defining exactly which clubs he would be free to join without compensation - and in any event such an agreement would, I believe, be invalid on the grounds of unfair restraint of trade). Again, where is the loss that Palace are supposed to have suffered and which should be corrected?

If Charlton had been ready to consider making an approach for Dowie while he was still manager of Palace presumably they would have contacted Jordan to ask permission to talk to Dowie. Indeed, they asked for permission to talk to Parkinson and were refused. By not approaching Palace while Dowie was still manager it is reasonable to suppose either that Charlton were not prepared to take Dowie if the cost was £1m compensation, or they tapped him up. And no evidence has yet been presented to support the latter (if Jordan had such evidence the case against Charlton would presumably not have been dropped).

Did Dowie benefit materially from telling a couple of porkies which Jordan was all too willing to hear/fraudulently misrepresent himself (depending on your interpretation)? Clearly he did, as the judge has ruled. He secured a better job than he could have expected otherwise - one for which he seemed to be ruled out of ahead of the compensation agreement. But did his benefit cause Palace loss? Arguably the person who lost out was the one we would have appointed manager if not Dowie. There seems to be little or no consideration being paid to whether Jordan fraudulently misrepresented his intentions with the compromise agreement, ie that rather than being an act of kindness this was his way of getting rid of Dowie at no extra cost. But I assume this is not strictly relevant as it is Jordan/Palace suing Dowie, not vice versa (should Dowie have counter-sued?).

Did Charlton benefit materially? In theory yes - and they felt so at the time - by securing the services of a manager they believed to be better than any available alternatives without having to pay any compensation. But as long as they did not interview Dowie and/or offer him the job before he was a free agent there was nothing done by Charlton to the detriment of Palace, so no case to answer.

So who stands to gain? First and foremost, as is usually the case, are two legal teams. Somebody's going to end up paying them and if it's Dowie then Jordan has 'succeeded' in transferring some money out of Dowie's pocket and into the legal profession. Congratulations. The judge will presumably be assessing whether damages are due to Palace from Dowie. I assume that these can be either purely corrective (to right the perceived wrong) or punitive (ie involve punishment for wrong-doing and to discourage others). If it is just the former, the balance that Palace saved in disposing of Dowie surely has to be taken into account. The decision presumably has to lie somewhere between £1 and £1m.

If the end result is no punitive damages, just a notional corrective damage (plus costs) to be paid by Dowie to Palace, Jordan emerges claiming victory but having in practise won very little. Indeed, if he puts any reasonable value on his time on any cost-benefit analysis he will have lost money (whether Jordan's time has any value is of course a moot point). He might say it was a point of principle and on this he has been vindicated. Well, congratulations, but it's not quite akin to saving Western civilisation is it?

The courts are meant to be a last resort, a place to go to when all else has failed. Is there any evidence that Jordan tried to contact Dowie or Charlton to try to seek an amicable solution, or did he prefer to try to make a splash at Charlton's press conference? There wasn't much time available, but it only requires a phone call to test the waters. I believe that the courts take a dim view of the litigation-happy; maybe this will be a factor in the final decision on any damages. And if Jordan subsequently involves the FA is nobody going to point out to him that the football community likes to settle its differences without going to court for fear of opening many cans of worms.

It does seem that Murray and the Charlton board made what might be considered at least one mistake in seemingly to gloat over what had happened. They seemed to find it funny (as did most of us, even if the T-shirt was too horrible to buy). Timing and perception are important. After all, if Dowie had left Palace and been unemployed for a few months then taken a job down south with Southampton there would have been no case for him to answer. Even waiting a few days might have been a better option for Charlton to avoid making Jordan look silly - since the danger of being thought to look a fool seems to be significant in Jordan-world.

Again, the courts are meant to be a last resort, not there for the idle rich to go running to at the first perceived slight. Fact is Jordan goes to court because he can afford to lose. It Jordan's self-esteem so thin that he feels the need to seek 'vindication' every time something doesn't go his way (with his crusading lawyers urging him on at every step)? I don't know, I've never met him.

I may of course be wrong in all of this. The judge may take the view that some serious wrong has been committed and penalise Dowie heavily. Judges are not infallible and bring their own baggage to court, however impartial they may try to be, and in cases such as this there are often no clear precedents, the outcome being down to perception and bias. Dowie hardly helped his case with his 'mistakes' over the phone calls. But I would suggest that if any damages to Palace err towards the £1 rather than £1m maximum it is tantamount to the judge declaring a Phyrric victory in a matter that should never have been brought to court and which is now best forgotten by all parties.

Taking Stock

With the recruitment of Yassin Moutaouakil and confirmation of the departure of Radostin Kishishev (plus Wolves picking up one of our supposed targets Matt Jarvis) there is the opportunity to take stock on whose in, whose out, where we still need to get rid of deadwood, and where we still need to strengthen. No doubt there will be more surprises along the way (the biggest would be if Darren Bent started next season in a Charlton shirt - we all 'love' and respect him but his rejection of West Ham - presumably in favour of Spurs or Liverpool - has cost us much-needed cash).

The confirmed and assumed 'outs' list currently reads: Carson, Mhyre, Hreidarsson, El Karkouri, Song, Zheng, Kishishev, Rommadahl, Hasselbaink, and Bent(D). With the exception of Mad Rad - who I agree deserves our best wishes and will be remembered with affection - that's at least eight players who would have been in or around the starting XI.

The uncertain list (basically a mix of those that look superfluous, those we would be happy to see the back of if someone else would pick up their contract, and those we would accept going if we get money for - OK this probably encompasses everyone except the new signings) would seem to be: Young (Yassin would seem to be the replacement if we get a half-decent offer), Diawara (hope he stays but what about the wages), Sankofa (had assumed he would fill in for Young but not now), Walton (defence or midfield, starlet or waster?), Faye (the forgotten man), Thomas, Bent(M), Lisbie, plus assorted reserves (Youga, Ashton, Walker).

The new boys are: Yassin, McCarthy, Iwelumo, Varney, the Danish winger whose name I forget, and effectively Dickson (as he was unavailable last season).

So what's the team/squad:

Goalkeeper: Randolph, Elliott. Clearly we need another. I still have no idea whether Pardew thinks Randolph is ready. We will only find out as and when we sign a number one or a seasoned vet to sit on the bench.

Right-back: Young, Sankofa, Yassin - seem well covered, even if Young goes.

Left-back: Thatcher/Gibbs (Youga/Ashton) - well covered if Gibbs is around and can play, otherwise weak.

Central defence: McCarthy, Bougherra, Diawara, Fortune (possible back-ups: Walton, Young, Faye, Gibbs) - two are Pardew signings so I assume he's reasonably content here.

Central midfield: Holland, Hughes, Faye, Reid(?), Walton(?), Ambrose(?). We look short on a creative influence here unless Hughes can find his feet in this division.

Wide midfield: Thomas, Ambrose, Dane, Sam (please don't try him in the middle again), Reid(?). It's not that inspiring but much depends on whether Thomas stays and is up for a season of toil.

Central forwards: Iwelumo, Varney, Dickson, Bent(M), Lisbie, Walker. As AP has signed the first two have to assume he is ready to start with them. Bent and Lisbie are surplus to requirements but may not be offloadable and could do a job. Dickson is an unknown quantity. Looks to me we may be covered, but quite frankly I've never seen Iwelumo/Varney/Dickson play.

My overall impression is that the defence should be reasonably solid by Championship standards, the midfield looks thin on quality but may have enough experience and know-how to outperform most, and the front line may prove inspired but is as yet unproven. As has been pointed out elsewhere Pardew is signing young players, so the energy and commitment levels should be up on last season (which collectively is not saying a lot). But there is an awful lot of change here (for the second season running) and a lot of work to get a team to gel in the early stages of the season. Will we need to be patient?

Tuesday 19 June 2007

Good News For Millwall - Or Palace?

The BBC website this morning seemed to be full of good news for Millwall.

First, on the football gossip page, came: 'Millwall are ready to offer a trial to former jailbird Fiston Manuella, who plays for Chelmsford (Daily Star)'. Would fit in well at the club is the obvious reaction; whether he can play football is anyone's guess.

Second, one of the main news items, namely that the government is considering early release from jail for some offenders to ease overcrowding. For Millwall this would seem to offer not only the prospect of picking up the occasional squad player but also the prospect of an early return for a number of season ticket holders.

However, on further reading it might not be such good news for Millwall - possibly better news for Palace. According to the BBC report, a Whitehall source said the justice secretary is likely to say some non-violent offenders nearing the end of sentences are to be freed early.
They were likely to be "burglars, fraudsters and drug dealers" but not "offenders convicted of violent or sex crimes". If it's only going to be small-time spivs getting out, the ranks of the Selhurst faithful are clearly the more likely to be rebuilt.

Stereotypes and our relations with Palace and Millwall have obviously been in our minds of late. And after some recent Charlton blog posts I had a look at Palace fans' 'come and have a go' site. The level of abuse on both sides is pretty high and the daft misconceptions of the Palace commentators is incredible (of course our side offers balanced, reasoned judgements).

This is all well and good as long as both parties accept it for what it is: fun. But where do you draw the line (no, don't ask Bernard Manning)? I've been reading Philip Zimbardo's The Lucifer Effect in which he revisits his Stanford prison experiment (and looks at possible parallels with the Abu Ghraib abuses). Individually Palace fans I know are fairly grounded and not obviously socially inept. But I'm quite happy to view them collectively as a bunch of sad, petty criminals from a totally undesirable part of town. (This line of argument does not of course apply to Millwall fans, who are just what they seem.) I have no doubt that if I were a prison warden put in charge of two groups, one supposedly comprising Palace fans and one Charlton fans, I would behave differently towards them irrespective of their actual behaviour.

I suppose I just hope that all the talk, the prejudice, all of Jordan's bullying and bluster, and the lingering ill-will between us and Palace does not get out of hand when it comes to the actual games next season. Maybe once the court case is done and dusted Jordan and Murray should take it on themselves to defuse the situation.

Friday 15 June 2007

Jordan Loses Court Case

Always interesting to see how an initial interpretation/reporting of an event becomes accepted fact. All the reports seem to be headlined 'Jordan wins case against Dowie', even 'Jordan wins £1m court case'. As I understand it (I am not a lawyer and have no inside track on the case) the judge has ruled that Dowie was freed from his contract on the basis of "fraudulent representations", ie that he lied about his reasons for agreeing to the termination of his contract with Crystal Palace, but also that the compromise agreement between Dowie and Palace is not scrapped - in other words that whatever was said and done that agreement remains in place.

So whether Jordan has won or lost depends on what he was trying to achieve by going to the court. If it was to have reinstated a £1m compensation clause for Dowie then Jordan has clearly lost. If it was to prove a point and (presumably) to win some damages from Dowie then it looks like he has won. Not surprisingly he is emphasising the latter.

What still seems surprising to me is how Jordan can continue to claim that he had no reason other than 'goodwill' to waive Dowie's compensation clause. He didn't waive anything. Dowie's contract with Palace was terminated by mutual agreement under the terms of the compromise agreement. With the contract terminated the compensation clause became redundant - as did any thought of Dowie being paid by Palace for the remaining term of his contract.

The compensation clause was in Dowie's original contract to cover the event that a bigger club comes knocking. It was not intended to be instrumental in a situation where Dowie was getting shown the door.

The following is pure supposition. The relationship between Jordan and Dowie breaks down and Jordan wants him out. How can he do this without sacking him and paying him off? The usual way to get rid of an employee and limiting the risk of a tribunal is to first have a talk about what we both want, the way forward, whether we can work together etc. Move Dowie towards an agreed parting of the ways. Dowie says he would like to return up north (in an ideal world, while stressing that he still needs to work), Jordan presents a 'waiving' of a now non-existant compensation clause as an act of kindness, when in reality it is the means of avoiding paying Dowie off. Both parties have their own version of events and remember different aspects of what was actually said.

Dowie falls for the ruse and Jordan believes he has pulled a stroke - well, he's such an intelligent guy how could this not be the case? At the press conference to announce that Dowie's contract with Palace has been terminated by mutual consent a journalist asks whether Dowie wants the Charlton job. 'No, no' thinks Jordan, that's not possible because if he gets that job it would make me look a muppet.

Fact is he still does.

Thursday 14 June 2007

Where Are They Now: Kim Grant

Anybody else see the Reuters report picked up by The Guardian: Singapore club sack English striker for swearing. Seems 34-year-old Kim Grant was "shown the door" by Geylang United (he has lodged a complaint with Fifa and the Singapore FA) for "indiscipline", the crime apparently that he swore in front of other players and staff.

Was this the result of some passionate disagreement over tactics or disappointment at results? Nah, seems it was about Grant's home leave entitlement. Nice to see he's grown up then. Bless.

Don't suppose we can shed a few of the remaining high-earners by sparking a row over their Christmas leave?

Tuesday 12 June 2007

New Away Kit: What Are They On?

Hopefully the powers that be will take on board what seems to be universal opposition to the rumoured new away strip and come up with something else. The combination was tried in the past and was unpopular then; times may change but not to that extent. Not our colours and no prospect of wanting to wear such a strip at any time other than an away game.

If the object is to sell more club merchandise the choice of away strip should be guided by a colour combination that could convert into items that you might conceivably wear more often. Red is our colour, but the result is that the home shirt only gets taken out every other Saturday. As a result, although the replica design and/or sponsors change, I only buy a new one when the old one is falling apart. With an away kit range there is the opportunity to make available something rather less socially compromising. If the rumours are correct they've managed to create something that I would cringe at putting on every other week.

As moaning is back in vogue (stripped of anything else to write about), am I the only person who would favour a new club badge? There is no real tradition in the one we have: it is a remnant of a failed attempt to convert us to being 'The Valiants'. It is unimaginative and when reproduced on ties etc looks like we've joined some secret neo-Nazi brotherhood.

I realise it costs money to change and this might not be the right time to be offering bucketloads to the company that came up with the 2012 Olympics logo (or some other bunch of airheads) to come up with something. But I'd like to see a process of preparation and suggestions through the coming season and to celebrate our return to the premiership with a new club emblem.