Sunday 22 July 2007

Blame It On The Crown

With the departures of Luke Young and Dennis Rommadahl, plus Pardew talking in fairly strong terms about wanting to keep Jerome Thomas and Andy Reid, it would seem that the exit door is now not far off shut, with the emphasis on the final addition(s). Diawara, Faye and Marcus Bent could still depart but I would imagine only if there are decent offers. I hope Diawara stays and would expect him to be in the starting XI (we really must be told about those gloves: he even wore them against Welling); Faye seems to have disappeared completely; and as we still seem to be chasing another striker without success and Pardew has talked about Dickson going out on loan, Bent could still be needed if he mind is right.

As comes through from the other blogs nobody is really shedding tears about the two departures. There's grudging respect for Young but no great affection. He just didn't seem to realise (or didn't care enough about) what was needed to take him to being international class. As a captain he was poor (I'm assuming it's going to be between McCarthy and Holland for the coming season) and I get the impression that Pardew is not especially sad to see him go. There does seem something of a contrast between the tough line the board took on the price for Darren Bent and the evident concession made to pave the way for Young to leave. Maybe this was down to contrasting attitudes on the part of the player.

Dennis. Oh Dennis. I'm more sympathetic towards him than most, simply on the grounds that overall he simply wasn't as good as we hoped he was. Because he was so fast we expected him to work wonders every time he got the ball. To be kind he was unable to adapt his game to what was required (and we were seldom able to get the best out of him); to be unkind he never gave the impression that he was trying to. At times he looked as though he was going to destroy the opposition (even as recently as the first half of the home game against Sheff Utd). But I've never seen a player so lacking in courage; it's safe to say that Dennis would be top of nobody's list for being in the trenches with.

Rommadahl's best moments came in The Crown, or rather I watched all three of his greatest moments in that pub: the goal against Palace of course, the winner away at Portsmouth, and for me the best: the goal away at Middlesbrough in what was a wonderful team performance based on that five-man midfield. I'm not sure whether Dennis' demise was due to the fact that the one player we had capable of playing him in and reading his game, Danny Murphy, upped sticks, or whether it was because The Crown stopped showing football. But it was never the same again.

Onwards and upwards. I took a look at the list of teams we will be competing against this season to try to make some tentative predictions - and to set these against latest betting.

My first group of teams (those likely to be there or thereabouts) conveniently numbered six: Charlton, Leicester (under the new ownership they will expect to be up there and are buying up players), Sheff Utd (despite Robson), Watford, Wolves, and West Brom.

The second group (the probable also-rans but with some that could surprise) was the largest numerically: Burnley, Cardiff, Coventry, Crystal Palace (I'm trying to be realistic, they are unlikely to be relegated), Ipswich, Norwich, Preston, Sheff Wed, Southampton, and Stoke.

The third (those assumed to be scrabbling around the bottom) are: Barnsley, Blackpool, Bristol City, Colchester, Hull, Plymouth, QPR, Scunthorpe.

My early forecast final table - with current odds on getting promoted - is:

Charlton (7/4)
Wolves (9-4)
Leicester (9-2)
Sheff Utd (13-5)
West Brom (2-1)
Watford (13-5)
Preston (11-2)
Southampton (13-5)
Stoke (13-2)
Coventry (15-2)
Cardiff (8-1)
Ipswich (9-1)
Crystal Palace (11-2)
Norwich (9-1)
Sheff Wed (13-2)
Burnley (16-1)
Colchester (16-1)
QPR (20-1)
Hull (20-1)
Plymouth (16-1)
Barnsley (28-1)
Bristol City (16-1)
Blackpool (20-1)
Scunthorpe (28-1)

Not surprisingly there aren't enormous differences between my placings and the bookies' odds. They seem to rate Southampton more than I do (maybe they are still assuming a big-money takeover) and Leicester less. Suffice to say we'd better beat Scunthorpe.

Thursday 19 July 2007

Nobody's Perfect

OK, we all know we've been scrabbling around for anything to comment on during the past week or so (aside from the welcome rumours of signings/departures). When you look for the latest BBC headline on Charlton and it says, dated 09/07, Youga Joins Scunthorpe, now replaced by the equally earth-moving news that Grant Basey has gone on loan to Brentford, you know you're not really missing anything.

The Welling/Tooting friendlies were akin to throwing the proverbial bone to a pack of hungry hounds. Did we overlook the potential significance of the timing of certain substitutions? Everything else must have been done many times over. Since then it's felt like the phoney war period (not that I have any idea what this was like): on paper hostilities have commenced but we're all sitting around waiting for the war proper to kick off.

So we have good reasons for a lull. But what is the club's excuse? I could just about live with the second Nicky Weaver interview, but then along comes a piece focused on Paddy McCarthy. "I think the manager has been clever in the way he has dealt with relegation and the signings that he has made,” said the former Foxes skipper. So let's get this straight, Paddy. The guy signs you and is maybe set to make you captain, it's not likely that you're going to come out with anything along the lines of 'well, the new guys brought in aren't really up to scratch; I think the gaffer's losing it'. Pity really, would have made me laugh.

So there you have it. The best I can come up with is some mild criticism of an official website posting. Something better bloody happen soon.

If there is one thing to say it's that even now whenever I look at the Championship teams line-up my immediate reaction is that if we can't finish above most of these tiddlers we don't deserve to get promoted (it's not tantamount to the daft idea that we somehow 'belong' in the Premiership; maybe it's not wanting to face up to the prospect that if we don't go straight back up we really will be back to where we have spent most of my life - mucking around in the second flight). It's exactly the sort of thinking that most Premiership team supporters had about us for the past seven years - and is exactly the reason why we outperformed so many of them for so long. I'm glad that all the indications are that neither Pards nor the players are thinking this way.

To my mind Curbs, for a long period of time, was a true master in exploiting the underperformance of teams around us: Newcastle, Aston Villa, Mans City, Middlesbro, Spurs - they all blew it, for many seasons. He made better use of much more limited resources than they did, by being better than them and their managers - perhaps because bettering them was a motivation. My feeling was that in the last couple of years he stopped progressing as a coach. It wasn't that he couldn't take the club to that 'next level' (I don't know what that means for us - although I think the rot set in when we had insufficient demand for season tickets to justify further expansion of the stadium); it was more that continually demonstrating that he could do it was not enough (especially when the England job was held out).

What I like about Pardew is not so much the notion that everything he does is, or is going to be, perfect. It's more that we want to get promoted back to the Premiership. Could we have a better manager to do so? I can't think of one. Could we have a better team to achieve the task? Well, of course we bloody could, but within the parameters set by our financial situation it is shaping up in a way that we would expect us to at least be fiercely competitive in this league (and with the emphasis on young players there is the possibility that the squad will develop together). The three teams at the end of next season that go up to the premiership won't be perfect (and the managers of the three teams going down won't necessarily be bad). They will just have been good enough.

Thursday 12 July 2007

Welling/Tooting: More Reading of the Runes

I think there are some pointers for next season's starting XI to be had from the teams put out last night against Welling and Tooting, especially potential combinations in the key areas. Any conclusions have to be tentative, given that there's still the potential for half a dozen to leave and a few to come in before the window closes. But here's my reading.

Broadly speaking, ignoring the goalkeeping spot the defence against Welling could be said to have comprised the likely candidates (and that at Tooting the back-up), the central midfield at Tooting was more first team than that at Welling, while up front Welling and Tooting saw a competition for the two places.

To expand, the starting back four at Welling was Yassin (so much easier to write than Moutaouakil), Powell, McCarthy and Diawara, with Gibbs coming on. Now, assuming Young is off and barring other departures, I can't help thinking that Weaver, Yassin, Gibbs, McCarthy, Diawara could be the first choice combination. At Tooting we had Fortune, Bougherra and Samedo, who may be the back-up, and full-backs I've never heard of.

A Welling midfield of Thomas, Morris, Sinclair (who I thought had just jetted in from Chelsea but seems to have come via a less glamorous route) and Christensen was a mixed bag - possibly first-choice wide men, while at Tooting Walton, Holland and Reid - all likely to be there or thereabouts - featured.

Up front it could be said that Marcus Bent and Iwelumo were put out at Tooting to see which of the two gets the 'target man' role, whether starting or on the bench, while at Welling Todorov, Varney and Dickson could be said to be competing for the role as the partner. Maybe instead Pardew was looking at Todorov and Varney (who started together at Welling) as the first-choice pairing, with Bent and Iwelumo competing for the spot on the bench.

So - with the obvious caveats (standard of opposition, training ground exercise etc) who impressed? I thought the star of the show at Welling was Chris Dickson. Coming on in the second half (replacing Thomas, with Christensen then switching from right to left) he started wide right but when switched inside provided an injection of pace that lit up the game. His goal surprised everyone as the goalkeeper ambled out to pick up a long ball only to find himself getting there second. I don't know if Dickson should get a first eleven slot, but he looked as if he doesn't know yet how to miss, or to be bothered if he does. He looked like he would be a handful for a defence at any level and great to watch.

Christensen was a clear positive, whether or not he's ready for the first eleven. He looked lively. Diawara played as he did last season and seemed unaffected by the surroundings. Yassin looked good, especially moving foward, but my concern was that he appeared a little lightweight for the physical challenges of the season ahead. It was very pleasing to see Gibbs come in as he could make the left-back slot his own. And I thought Todorov showed glimpses of class in a self-contained performance.

The negatives? I don't want to dwell on them. Others commenting seem to have been more impressed with Varney than I was. He was in the right place for his goal and he clearly wanted to do well on his first showing for the fans. But he didn't really get past his marker, was bundled off the ball a little too easily, and didn't seem to me to have pace. Maybe just needs a little sharpening with match-practise. And there were lapses of concentration from McCarthy (including his passing at the back) which might have been punished by better opposition. Oh, come on. It was a bloody friendly against Welling almost a month before hostilities commence. What do you expect?

It is worth considering who didn't get a game last night (and anyone overlooked for two teams and umpteen substitutes must have a good excuse). There may of course have been injuries/niggles involved. Young and Rommadahl are presumably off, so no issue there. But where were Sankofa, Thatcher, Faye and Ambrose?

So, as things stand, my starting XI for Scunthorpe looks like:

Weaver, Yassin, Gibbs, McCarthy, Diawara, Reid, Faye, Holland, Thomas, Todorov, Varney.
Subs: Randolph, Bougherra Walton, Iwelumo, Dickson

Wednesday 11 July 2007

1999/2000: What Lessons?

It was time to dust off the 1999/2000 promotion season video to see if, with the assistance of some red wine, there might be some lessons/reminders for the season ahead. And there were (for me at least), even though I assume that the standard of football in the second tier has improved since were were last there (good news if it hasn't as there were some really bad teams around then, including an awful bunch in stripey shirts we did the double over, helped by a goal from a certain Mr Kitson).

It's not clear to me whether it's especially useful to assess the key factors behind what went right last time around and try to consider whether they are in place/could fall into place for the season ahead. All teams have different strengths/weaknesses and what was successful in the past is not a blueprint for future success. But I've started so I'll finish ...

Three key related factors seemed to me to be behind the success of the 1999/2000 season.

First, a high level of familiarity (players and management). It was essentially the team that had been relegated plus a top keeper (Kiely). 2007/08 repeatability factor: 0/10 (just can't be helped).

Second, a solid and reliable spine through the team. This comprised Kiely (played 45 of 46 league games, Charlton record for clean sheets), Rufus (44), Kinsella (38) and Hunt (43 - and 24 goals). In fact the team all but picked itself when fit and available: Kiely, Brown/Shields, Powell, Rufus, Youds/Tiler, Robinson, Kinsella, Stuart, Newton, Mendonca/Svensson/Pringle, Hunt. 2007/08 repeatability factor: 5/10 (it's possible that Weaver, McCarthy, Holland and A.Striker will form the backbone of the team - but this isn't something that can be predicted with confidence at this stage at least).

Third, the team knew how to play, home and away. There was very little tactical change and the team played to a set pattern. Sometimes it didn't work, players had off days, but there was a basic 4-4-2 structure, with the two wide men/wingers expected to do their share of defending, and the style of play didn't alter for the away games. The statistics show 12 victories on the road (the next best team managed eight) and 42 goals in 23 games; at home there were 15 wins and 37 goals. 2007/08 repeatability factor: 9/10. I think Pardew has reasonably fixed ideas on how to succeed at this level and will apply them, with an emphasis on attack and taking risks. Does suggest that an awful lot for the season ahead depends on one of the new strikers delivering 20+ for the season.

Other things that stood out from the highlights video included the massive contribution that Robinson and Newton made. In addition to playing 43 and 41 league games respectively, they contributed 12 goals - and again did their share of defending. Of course John Robinson's contribution extended to his gob, with his eight yellow cards only topped by Brown and Rufus. But my god he cared - and tried twice as hard when things weren't going well. Last season's efforts by Thomas, Rommadahl and Ambrose provide something of a contrast. Whether the wide players we have now will do a similar job this season remains to be seen.

Collectively the 1999/2000 team was limited. It had no great pace (Newton excepted) and would probably have been relegated again if retained for the top flight (Curbs made the difference next time around by introducing the necessary quality in Claus Jensen and JJ). But it didn't have obvious weaknesses either. The defence was reliable but not outstanding (45 goals against was pretty much on a par with the other teams at the top), Andy Hunt obviously clicked big-time, but with Mendonca missing much of the season and Pringle not cementing a place there was no great partnership up front (Svensson was bought for the run-in). The powerhouse of the team was really that midfield of Kinsella, Stuart, Robinson and Newton (with Scott Parker just coming onto the scene at the death and contributions from Keith Jones).

For 2007/08? I think the defence will stand up well, even assuming Young is off (maybe Diawara too). Seems Gibbs is now available, which should be a bonus. But like everyone else I can't yet see how the midfield shapes up or say with confidence what the forward combination will be and whether it will be good enough to do the job.

By the way, full marks to the club and to Nicky Weaver himself for the timely and well-worded interview on the official site. I'm glad to see that the club still has sufficient feel to address fans' issues - and no, I don't care whether the sentiments expressed were heart-felt, it was enough for me that concerns were noted. Now it's onwards and upwards Nicky, with our full support.

Oh, in case you're there Nicky, you said in the interview you weren't sure how it all started. I'll lend you the highlights video if you want, although it only tells half the story. It does show how you pulled off some outstanding saves at The Valley to enable a poor Man City side to leave with a jammy 1-0 win (that's how I remember it so it's fact); it does not show you going to extreme lengths to waste time - and seeming to delight in the evident displeasure of the Charlton fans at these antics. All in the past now though. Honest.

Monday 9 July 2007

Charlton Telephone Sex

We're almost there. Somehow, through a combination of mutual support and various self-help tapes, we've managed to get through the close season without cracking up (or to put it another way even though a ball hasn't been kicked in anger for just on two months we've still found enough material to keep waffling). Only .. 48 hours to Welling.

My problem is that as my partner still follows the French pattern of shutting down as of the start of August. This means it's holiday time and I'll miss the Sporting Braga friendly and the Scunthorpe home game. In fact as I can't get to Swindon I'm going to have to wait until 25 August and the Sheff Wed visit before being able to see in person how our brave new world shapes up. It hasn't been a problem in recent years, but of course things are different now.

Well, maybe not so different, more like deja vu. It does mean that there will be some furious mobile calls/texting going on through the afternoon of 11 August. And it was on the way back from our first holiday together, somewhere in the Puy de Dome, that, wearing a moth-eaten Mesh Charlton shirt (at least it wasn't stripy blue) and clutching a mobile to my ear, I danced a jig to the news that we had beaten Barnsley 3-1. There are photos. I should have realised then that if a relationship can survive such moments it's for keeps. I have never asked Suzanne exactly what she thought at that moment and it's probably best left unsaid.

This is my second-best Charlton telephone sex moment (as we have bloggers from around the world there must be more - and better ones). There aren't that many of them as mobiles haven't been around that long. I'm old enough to remember waiting for the Saturday evening edition of the Standard to find out who had scored (as long as they scored in the first half, further details had to wait for the Sundays) and where we were in the league.

The one that stands out for me came a little more than a year earlier. Because of work I found myself in Tokyo on the night of the second leg of the play-offs against Ipswich. I think I've been at just about all the key moments in the past 20 years (let's face it, for the previous 20 there weren't any key moments), including Carlisle, St Andrews and Wembley. But this for me was the one that got away, not being there when The Valley erupted as Shaun Newton delivered an unstoppable drive, prompting that iconic shot of Sasha walking back, arms aloft, with a tumultuous crowd in the background.

All that came later for me. On the night in question I was preparing to make a call at some ridiculous hour from a hotel room in Japan. I assumed all friends who were there would be in the pub shedding tears one way or the other, so, after some Shinto chants (and a calling in of any markers on Jesus, Allah, Buddah, Jehovah and anyone else I could think of) I decided to call my mother.

'Hello mum, it's me'
'Oh, hello love, how's Tokyo?'
'Sod Tokyo, what was the score?'
'Score for what?'
'Charlton for crying out loud, what else?'
'I think it was 1-0'
'Yes, but who to?'
'I'm sure I heard on the radio 1-0'
'I'll just check teletext'

There followed a delay. A long delay, as my mother talked me through every index page possible. But, as they say, all's well that ends well and a small corner of Tokyo went mental.

I'd like to say that every call back from abroad to check on Charlton has been victorious. But that would be to overlook a wonderful weekend break in Paris, glorious weather and sipping wine outside a bar on the Champs-Elysees, only to be told over the phone Fulham 2 Charlton 0 (Fulham, bloody Fulham). And from Beaujolais country over Easter Man City 0 Charlton 0 (I felt then that this was a game we needed to win). So satisfaction over the phone isn't guaranteed, whatever they may say in the ads.

Still, every time that I have called home from France during an actual holiday there (rather than weekend break), while wearing a Charlton shirt, when we are playing our first game of the season at home after relegation from the top flight we have won 3-1. Good enough for me.

Friday 6 July 2007

Here We Go Again

As a relative novice to this blogging lark (good to see many others springing up too; Andy Hunt was right about the Addickted, and our version of sounding off is to write de facto protest letters - to be fair others' blogs are insightful and informative, I accept mine is usually little more than a rant) I'm finding out that you seem to end up with themes. You pick up on something early and then end up flogging it to death with each fresh development. So here we go again.

Todorov: Mixed reaction from the fans, signing could be said to smack of desparation (after failure to land Earnshaw, Roberts or Eastwood, maybe others). What does he say? "I like the way Alan Pardew's teams play. I saw his teams at Reading and at West Ham and liked their style. Charlton is a great club with great support and now I need to perform on the pitch. It won't be easy because it's a hard division and every game is important, but I'm looking forward to helping the club get back into the Premiership."

Word perfect. Welcome Svetoslav.

Weaver: Don't need to say anything about fans' immediate reaction, or my personal descent into ridicule hell that his arrival has occasioned. What does he say? "One minute we were talking about a testimonial and the next we weren't talking at all. I found that disheartening. I was told that the contract offered while Stuart Pearce was manager was no longer on the table and that I would have to basically go on trial for the new manager. I found that a bit of an insult, given that I played more than 30 games last season in the Premiership and cups. My agent Paul Stretford made it clear that I didn't want to leave City, where I had spent most of my adult life, but in the end it became clear it was time to move on. I will probably never again experience the special bond I have with City's fans and, for their sake, I hope the season is a great success. They deserve to see a winning team."

Nicky, I couldn't give a monkey's whether or not City's season is a success (actually I do, given that relegation by a record number of points for them is the only way I can regain the moral high ground in email exchanges with my City-supporting friend). And I don't want to hear about your love for another club.

At least one person has cottoned on to the need for some truth and reconciliation, with fans' director Ben Hayes saying: "Nicky is a pantomime villain and will probably end up a hero as soon as he has his first good game for us, He came back last season and had a good game. Nicky appeared to take the stick which came his way in good humour and I'm sure Charlton fans will get behind him quickly." Well said and well done.

I hope that the club picks up the reigns and posts an interview with Weaver on the official site asap. Just in case you're not up to it Nicky here's what to say: "I've had my say about the circumstances behind my leaving City. That's now done and over. Now I just want to justify the faith that Alan Pardew has shown in my and play my part in getting US promoted. My relations with Charlton fans have been interesting to say the least; we got off on the wrong foot! But that just showed how passionate they are about the club. It's up to me to win them over with my performances - and perhaps a little banter."

You don't have to mean it. For us fans it's enough to have our interests and views acknowledged. Once that's done we're more than happy to forgive and forget - and to cheer you to the rafters. So Nicky, get over it. And quick.

And in case anyone's wondering, yes there have been post-traumatic stress email exchanges. Here's what my Man City mate says about Our Nicky:

"Very mixed reaction (to the transfer) among City fans. He was as good as Isaksson last year and was unlucky to be dropped. Was thought to be close to making the England squad so on a free he's a steal. On the downside, he does like a pie and a pint, and goes on benders when things go against him. When he was dropped he went on a bender in Manchester until 3am, a night or two before a game. He'll be the best keeper in the fizzypop league next season."

Well, if Nicky's idea of a bender is staying out until 3am he's still got a lot to learn. I've no doubt Marcus Bent, if he's still around, will be willing to teach him.

More generally, I really hope Weaver proves to be what we need. But I admit I'm still confused and have doubts. If he's been brought in as number one goalkeeper (which on reflection I suppose he has been) is Randolph happy to wait? If he's been brought in as number two will he be content to sit on the bench after leaving Man City with a big chip on his shoulder? Or are they supposed to compete for the slot.

I do think that dealing with goalkeepers is different from dealing with other players. In most positions healthy competition for places is necessary. But for a keeper, when confidence is everything, I prefer having a clear number one. We have, after all, made a mess of this position before. Steve Brown's cameo at Villa Park was wonderful, but it was indicative of the fact that we didn't have a decent keeper once Sasha cracked up. Deano came in, sorted.

But Deano's demise in my view started when Anderson was clearly being groomed to take over. After his experiences for Ireland (years of being an unused back-up to Shay Given) he was not interested in being a number two - and competing for a place didn't seem to bring out the best in him. It was nobody's fault, with injuries playing a part, but we ended up cheesing off Deano, prompting Anderson to throw his toys out of the pram, and even alienating Myhre, who would have done a splending job for us this season.

My point is that having an undisputed number one goalkeeper seems best: for the keeper's confidence and for the defence in general (they get to know what the keeper does/does not like, how to compensate for problems etc). So is it Weaver or Randolph? I guess we'll have to wait to see, especially if they alternate during pre-season.

Wednesday 4 July 2007

Welcome Nicky

I should have known. Tweak god's tail and the chances are something's going to slap you in the face and it ain't going to be good. Thanks a bundle Pards. We've signed Todorov - surprising as regards where it leaves us with strikers but might be good. Thought that was the contents of the official newsflash. Seems we've also signed a goalkeeper. Nicky Weaver. How did I know this was going to happen?

Look Al, if it makes you feel good then fine. I will forward to you the fall-out I'll have to deal with and will send my shrink's bills for the next few years. And did you check with Charlton fans about how they feel about him? Well, I guess you took a chance with Ben Thatcher and we were desperate at the time. This time around you are taking chances - not with our loyalty (that's given) but with our sanity.

What else to say? First, I hope the fact we've signed a lard-arse failure who went out of his way to upset us, and who delighted us with his subsequent screw-ups, means that Randolph is the number one choice to start next season.

Second, I hope that Nicky Weaver takes a leaf out of Kevin Lisbie's book and does the opposite when it comes to comments that endear you to the fans. Come on, we're not robots, make us laugh and tell us you didn't mean it and that you've always treasured playing at The Valley - or better still tell us you were looking for a retirement home and have found it.

Third, it would appear that Pards is going to go out of his way and do the exact opposite of whatever I suggest on this blog. So don't, whatever you do, under any circumstances, sign Ronaldinho.

Faith Restored

There's already been enough written about the departure of one Kevin Lisbie and I didn't think there was anything more to say - until I saw his signing-off comments as published in the News Shopper.

You'd think that in this day and age all players would have agents capable of making sure they keep their traps shut until they had learnt the correct lines. Or that there are available templates for statements to the press - the players do seem well versed in the post-match interview techniques of saying nothing of interest and managing to sound brain-dead in the process (there are exceptions of course, usually overseas players).

When leaving a club express thanks to the fans for their support and to the former club for helping them develop, while stressing a determination to succeed at the new club. It's not rocket science - and it's reasonable to suppose that players do want the fans to be on their side (nobody goes out of their way to be unpopular - there's an exception to this rule too: Darren Pitcher). This can be achieved by saying the right things, by some gesture (I remember Emlyn Hughes getting the nickname 'Crazy Horse' for chasing and pulling down the shorts of an opponent outpacing him - instant cult status guaranteed), or by accident (having a name that fits with a song the fans like to sing).

Darren Bent should be held up as the model for how to do it. Everything he has said and done since coming into contact with Charlton has been exemplary. You can't top: "The fans were magnificent and brilliant to me, and I loved playing for the club. I will always have a special place for them in my heart. Anyone who knows me, and the people who have seen me play in the last two seasons, will know that I always fought tooth and nail for the cause. If it wasn't for Charlton, the coaching staff and everyone involved I wouldn't be able to justify such a big transfer fee. I hope it helps the club. Hopefully the manager will be able to use some of the money to strengthen and lead the club back to the Premiership where it belongs."

Even when the parting is not so sweet there are ways to improve your stock. Take Jeremie Aliadiere, who has said that leaving Arsenal after seven years was not a difficult decision to make. "I needed to play for a club where I am going to play every week and show what I can do." Sends out all the right messages to a fresh set of fans.

Now there's Super Kev. Why didn't he stay? "What I was after wasn't on offer, so I knew from then on I wouldn't be staying." What exactly wasn't on offer Kev (in addition to the prospect of many more paydays for doing sweet FA)? "Everyone I knew has already gone. If I still had a lot of friends there then I think the decision to move might have been harder to make." So let's get this right. You feel OK about moving on because you haven't got any mates left. Presumably these mates comprised the treatment room attendent, the canteen staff, and the guy you buy your magazines from each morning on the way to the reserves training session. Or maybe you mean that Pards should resign some of the players who have departed during the past 12 years so you can have some mates with whom to while away the time.

My response to hearing confirmation KL was going included disappointment that he didn't develop into a top-flight player and frustration that injuries etc in recent years had prevented any possibility of a meaningful contribution from him. All his remarks have done is shift the balance in favour of good riddance to a waster.

He is a player looking for a club (one in the Championship according to his comments). You'd think if he didn't know it himself his agent would be telling him to say something like: "The past few years have been disappointing as injuries have prevented me from playing regularly and justifying the faith that Charlton showed in me; with a new set-up at The Valley it's time for a parting of the ways and a fresh challenge. I hope Charlton go back up but my thoughts are now on showing what I can do at a new club." It's not difficult - and you don't even have to mean it.

Maybe I'm being unfair on KL. Maybe he is just being honest and expressing attitudes that just about all footballers share but have been coached not to say. I don't know, I don't think I've ever had a conversation with a Charlton player. One of my earliest memories of the club is an open evening in the '60s when a starry-eyed kid with his autograph book held out (I still have it) watched as a bunch of old lags went through the motions of pretending to be interested in between chatting to themselves and looking at their watches (one exception was Charlie Wright, but I think he just liked talking to anyone). It was an early realisation that the players who come and go can't care as much about the club as we do.

However, there are players who deserve the benefit of any such doubt and do seem as if they mean what they say. So farewell then Darren, hope to see you again soon, and welcome back Chrissie Powell. Faith restored.

Monday 2 July 2007

No, Please, Please Pards No

It was helpful of today's Gruaniad to list all the players released by premiership clubs, including our own eight. As we all know we need another goalkeeper (either the seasoned pro to sit on the bench or a number one if Pards feels Randolph is not ready). So I thought it was worth a look to see if someone suitable is available for nothing (wages aside).

First up Richard Wright (possible), Jerzy Dudek (unlikely), Pavel Srnicek (maybe), but then I froze. Blind panic and cold sweats followed. No, it couldn't happen. Pards wouldn't do this to me. But there it was in black and white. Manchester City have released Nicky Weaver.

Now I have absolutely no reason to believe that Pardew would consider Weaver as an option. But can I just put in a plea for him not to consider it for a second. All true Addicks will be against Weaver, even though revenge for his antics in their jammy 1-0 win has been delivered (air kicks and especially Jensen's 40-yard deflection). But I have other reasons.

In a previous rambling I outlined how Charlton scarred my adolescence by signing Harry Cripps (nothing against Harry, it was all to do with years of arguments with Millwall fans). In recent years there have been lively email exchanges with a friend who is a Man City fan (there are now a few of them involved). These involve me attempting to be reasonable and trying to burst their 'we're a big club' nonsense. Weaver has featured more than once as an example of how they may have a lot of fans but still have a dreadful team. If we were to sign Weaver there just isn't a hole big enough.

So farewell and best wishes to El Karkouri. We all know his best moment. And farewell and ... well, let's just leave it at farewell Kevin Lisbie. He wasn't the worst Charlton forward I've seen, but he's been one of the most frustrating. Suffice to say: Darren Bent, two seasons, hatful of great moments; Lisbie, 12 years, one good afternoon.

The loan signing of Sahar from Chelsea looks good but leaves me as confused as ever about our forward line. Are Varney and Iwelumo intended to be first choice? Is Marcus Bent staying? Are the rumours about Ellington true (saw one report saying Jason Roberts has said 'no' to us) or does Sahar rule out paying money for another forward? As things stand we have Varney, Iwelumo, Bent, Dickson, Walker and Sahar. Let's be honest about it. I've never seen five of the six play so can hardly comment on a best possible combination.

Of the non-goalkeeping premiership releases the name to stand out is of course Claus Jensen. Would he want to come back? Does he still have a little desire left? And will he be demanding a decent signing-on fee? Perhaps most important, could we accommodate Jensen and Andy Reid? The chances of both being fit at the same time are of course slim (pun intended). Other names of interest include Shaun Newton (can't see the point in trying to get him back) and Chris Powell (hope he finds somewhere if he's still looking to play).

Midfield seems to be up next. Mullins still seems to be a target, but reports that Birmingham might want Amdy Faye and that we are looking at their Neil Danns suggest a possible swap.

Decided against updating my starting XI as I'm sure there are more changes to come soon. Just remember Pards: don't touch Weaver with a barge-pole.