Monday, April 21, 2008

What You Wish For

Matt Holland, Darren Ambrose and Zheng Zhi in action on Saturday against QPR. It looks impressive but did no good.

There is an old proverb, or at least saying or belief, which runs along the lines of advising people to be careful with what they wish for, as they might end up getting it.

Obviously it is aimed at people who wish they could win untold sums of cash and leave their jobs. There are lots of true stories of people who have won the pools or whatever, left their jobs and then found they missed their routines, and their workmates, and thus came to realise that money in itself does not purchase contentment.

And now I come to think of it, I am fairly sure that as Charlton struggled away to get out of the relegation slots last season, and had even managed to do so by this time last year, I murmured to my own set of household gods that a mid-table finish would be very welcome.

And now a mid-table finish is exactly what we are getting, but of course it is one division lower down. I have still not got back into the habit of regularly blogging, but since I last put finger to key, the talk has stopped being about Charlton still possibly getting into the play-offs, something which I was never all that keen on, for after all only one side emerges from said play-offs, and the plight of Derby County this season has been quite frightening. Charlton and their loyal supporters suffered a lot last season, but it is as nothing compared to what Derby’s fans have been through this time, and while this season has, finally, turned out to be a disappointment, we can still think of the situation as one of transition. Alan Pardew did a good job at West Ham, in my opinion, and whether you agree with me on that one or no, you have to admit that he laid the foundations for Reading’s Premiership adventure. If he can do that kind of thing, then he is the man we want, and in any case do we really want to venture out on to the managerial job market once more? Who is out there who could do any better? And we also have Phil Parkinson, don’t forget.

So, transition it is, permutations have to be made, and something constructed out of what we have. People have been deriding my quondam favourite Jerome Thomas, who clearly feels he is too good for the second tier. Of course, he isn’t, but unfortunately he has convinced himself that he’d be better off on the bench at Middlesbrough or somewhere. But surely better to get Charlton back up where he thinks they all belong, and then he can carry on living in London. Of course he might be prepared to move back to West London and QPR, who seem to be on the up.

Meanwhile down at the quiz, my team have won some, and lost some, and now people are getting concerned about numbers dropping off, which they have been, a little, of late. But I am optimistic that we shall survive for some time yet. I am avoiding making wishes, though.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Fresh Starts

Is this a Dagger I see before me? A smiling but regrettably unidentified Forest Green midfielder contemplates challenging Dagenham & Redbridge's Ben Strevens in the 1-1 draw between the clubs last season.

Easter Monday yesterday, and so soon this year. I went down to the quiz, knowing that there would be a low turnout, as we were still on holiday from the Centre. People are always ambivalent about Easter Monday; on the one hand, we are on the final day of our Easter break, for we always get Holy Week plus one day, and on the other, people who have been travelling are usually back, and thus able to come along and meet up and do the quiz. Some of us also remember that Easter Monday is the day on which we moved operations, back in 2002, from our previous headquarters round the corner, where someone frying chips on Good Friday had set fire to the kitchen, causing the place to close down for a few months. Our beloved landlady gladly agreed to take us in, and we have been contentedly ensconced there ever since.

Of course, yesterday was the earliest Easter Monday for 92 years, and thus not the actual anniversary of our arrival at the pub, but as I say, despite being on holiday, I always make an effort to get to the quiz on Easter Monday. The bit about 92 years was told to me by David, one of the original members of our eternal friends and rivals, the Old Farts (a name, I remind you, which they themselves chose), who strolled in a few minutes after I did. There being no other quiz people around, we fell to debating whether there would in fact be a quiz at all. David is an old chum, and a very agreeable chap, but is given to a little light joshing about my affection for Charlton, and he also reads this blog, or did, for, as he pointed out, I haven't posted since 28 January. I got in first on the joshing stakes, pointing out that there has been little down at SE7 to write home about, and thus little to write about anywhere else, especially here. But I did add that I have been trying to find the odd hook to get back into the swing again.

The last time I posted anything, it was to deplore the demise of Frankie's blog, which had frequently sparked off whatever I might have to say about Charlton, and maybe the disappearance of Frankie had a knock-on effect on my own blogging. And also, round about the same time, two other, non-football blogs which I had read regularly also announced that they had had enough and were off to get a life, or whatever.

I did not take a specific decision to stop, and still haven't, but the weeks went by and I found that writing a new piece was getting more and more difficult, partly because I am weary of rehearsing excuses for not writing, and also because of the dismal goings-on, or lack thereof, at The Valley.

But then I discovered that Frankie is not dead after all, and makes guest appearances on the blog of New York Addick (link at right). I also found, on returning to check, that the other two bloggers had started up again, batteries recharged, after a break, and thus I feel that I can do the same.

So, quiz news is that we are chugging along with our basic three teams, with victories being fairly equally distributed among them. We are occasionally supplemented by the group of younger teachers from the Centre, plus one or two of their friends, but not on a regular basis. One thing I am quite proud of is that during a flu epidemic the other week, my team was reduced to just John and myself, Antony asking questions that night and Mush entertaining his visiting mother, and we still won, quite impressively.

Last night, our forebodings were fulfilled, as not enough people turned up to make it worth while running a quiz, so we had two or three pints and left it at that.

Elsewhere, I find myself astonished by the volatile nature of the Second Tier. The rise of Hull, and latterly Barnsley and Cardiff in the Cup, have all come as a surprise, proving that nothing in this league can be taken for granted. How we Charlton fans can have believed, as we all did at the start of the season, that we might lose once or twice to the likes of West Brom or Watford, but that teams like Burnley, Ipswich and Plymouth would be easily overcome, I cannot now imagine. Pards himself admits, now, that the team is in transition, and that the most Charlton can hope for is a play-off place. But what is the point of scraping promotion through that, if indeed it happens, to spend a whole season anchored, like the wretched Derby County, to the bottom of the Premier table?

Meanwhile I keep a watch on the BBC pages, ever a source of amusement in their relentless quest to create stories out of things people think or say, and their equally relentless determination to give nicknames to every team in the land. A reference to the 'U's' on today's page was obviously, I knew, Colchester United, but it turns out to be Oxford. A reference to Wrexham being blunted by the Daggers had me completely flummoxed, and I had to check: they were referring to Dagenham and Redbridge, of course. [And it appears they were right to do so, subsequent research has shown, ed.]

Mind you, a couple of weeks ago the main copy writer must have been ill, for I was astounded to read a headline which said "Linfield beat Newry in Cup Replay". This was neat and informative, and it made such a change. Normally it would have been "Linnets hammer Newbies in Ongoing Cup Clash", or something equally preposterous.

Another headline that caught my eye was "Striker Sam leaves Meadow Lane". Nothing to do with Charlton's Lloyd Sam, unless a distant relative, but obviously a Notts County forward has left the club. Yet there was something about the headline that reminded me of, perhaps, a chapter heading towards the end of a long J. B. Priestley novel.

Maybe Striker Sam could be turned into a kids' TV programme, like Postman Pat or Bob the Builder.

Anyway, the bloggers I regularly visited, and which then ceased, have, as I stated above, restarted and I visit them regularly. I shall keep it up, especially with my 10,000th (I do not actively seek links in other places) visitor due any time now.

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Minute's Applause for Frankie

Darren prepares to equalise against Watford

Readers, I feel as though a pit-prop of my existence has been knocked away. As I sit here with my large mug of steaming coffee, just up, having been awake reading half the night, where now is my first port of call on t' Internet, now that Frankie has backed his bags and returned his borrowed identity to the erstwhile lead singer of The Four Seasons?

For Frankie has ceased publication. I logged on as always after rising on 23 January, and discovered that Frankie has decided that for the last three years, he has had little to say that wasn't "absolute ballcocks", as he would put it in his refreshingly blunt fashion, and that hereinafter he would be desisting.


I had to go to the Centre shortly after that, and thus did not immediately find out what the reaction to this earth-shattering event was on the Charlton Blogosphere, and was subsequently somewhat surprised to find, in fact, that very few people had remarked on it at all. There were a few exchanges on a message board thread which I found through Forever Charlton, however, which did give me pause.

A couple of weeks ago, Frankie wrote criticising the growing tendency for a minute's applause at football matches to replace a minute's silence to show respect following the passing of key footballing figures like Alan Ball or Brian Miller, and was particularly scathing about a catch-all session of applause aimed at remembering all ex-Charlton players and fans who had gone over to the other side, which had been organised for just before the Blackpool game. A day or so after that, he allowed some very critical comment from someone who sounded rather menacing (in the way the Kray Twins used to sound menacing) to appear, although he usually filtered such things out. The person making the comments was saying things like he knew who Frankie really was and who he hung out with and the whole thing was quite, as I say, menacing.

And then, whether owing to all this or no, Frankie shut down. I shall miss him; he was most encouraging to me. I shall keep the link for a while, for the benefit of people reading the archives. But thanks for everything, Paul, as I gather from the Forever people you are really called, and I'll try to keep the Lawro vendetta going (though the Olympic Lawro does not usually concern himself with second tier clubs). If you don't want the applause, I'll see if I can't arrange a minute's silence, although I am inclined to think that breaking a minute's silence by making a noise is worse than not applauding when everyone else is - more noticeable, after all.

West Bromwich Albion 2 Charlton 2
Watford 1 Charlton 1

And meanwhile, Charlton keep on trucking. Though not through to the rest of the Cup, as WBA won that one on penalties, but of course, as one always says, we can now concentrate on the League, and boy do we need to. Andy Gray has joined us from my other club, Burnley, being granted a special emergency loan, or something, so that he could play at Watford, though it was Darren Ambrose, whom I have always liked, who saved the day for Charlton there. Why some Charlton supporters christened him Sharron, implying that he is some kind of big (though he doesn’t seem all that big) girl’s blouse, is beyond me. And he always gives me the impression that he really wants to play for the club, unlike, sadly, another quondam favourite of mine, Jerome Thomas, who clearly feels he is much too good to be wasting his time in the second division, so he might be going to Derby instead. But has he looked at how far adrift Derby are right now? Not a good career move, I’d say. But then apparently Middlesbrough are interested; not much more hope there though, I shouldn’t have thought. Jerome, why not try your level best for Charlton? And do you really want to live outside London?

At the quiz, our new colleagues and quiz enthusiasts Michelle and Graham last week gave their first performance as quiz masters, and most creditable it was as well. This evening, we are missing John, who belatedly (but just in time) remembered it was his girlfriend’s birthday, and Antony is asking the questions; but we expect to make a reasonable shot at things, just the same.

And tomorrow evening, Charlton play Stoke down in SE7 in a game they must win to continue being serious contenders for a return to the Prem. Oddly, as neither Stoke nor Charlton were involved in the Cup the other day, this game, unlike, say, the Burnley – Scunthorpe one, was not arranged back to Saturday. There will be reasons, I dare say. I wonder what Frankie would have had to say about that?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tangerine Dreams

Charlton 1 West Bromwich Albion 1 (FA Cup Round 3)
Charlton 4 Blackpool 1 (League)

Madjid Bougherra (he's in there somewhere) scores Charlton's first goal

About 9 years ago, I did my first-ever stint at being a guest question master at the quiz. In those days we had a different venue, an Irish pub round the corner from our present home, which was part-owned and managed by a very amiable young Northern Irishman called Simon. Simon had launched the quiz, and had insisted on being his own question master, and very charismatic he was, too. All the same, there were occasions when he couldn't be around, or when people asked if they could have a chance to be a guest quizmaster, and as I say, my Big Chance came along some time in 1997 or 1998.

I recall that I had a good month or so to get things ready, and, as new quizmasters are wont to do, I resolved to cast away some of the fuddy-duddy old topics. How boring just to have History and Geography and Cinema and Literature. So I said to myself: "how about something exciting and different?" Though of course there is absolutely nothing wrong with the old quiz standards, it having been proved that they are sufficiently all-embracing to work perfectly, in the right hands.

However, once I got down to it, I immediately realised that eight whole exciting, different rounds was a bit much to go for, and opted for just two new-style rounds. One was a general round on transport - buses and trains mostly- which I am very keen on (see last posting). The other round was a whole round about Blackpool, not just the football club, but the whole place, and I included questions about who designed Blackpool Tower (M. Eiffel); the name of the city across the Irish Sea whose name literally means "black pool" (Dublin) and the organist at the Tower Ballroom (Reginald Dixon), and which political party had resolved, in the light of there being no longer any direct trains from the capital, never (though they have since gone back on this one) to hold their conferences there again (the Tories, and whose fault was it that there were no direct trains, pray?) and what was the name of the first footballing knight, who played for the town's club (Stanley Matthews, of course). I also asked for the well-known nickname of Blackpool Football Club (the Tangerines).

My experience as quizmaster that evening taught me a number of things. One of them was that no one knew anything like as much about Blackpool as I did, the Stanley Matthews question being the only one which most people knew, and that while I might be keen on trains and buses and the like, not many other people are, and unless personally affected by this, are unlikely to know which London station you go to if you plan to travel to Cardiff (Paddington, in case you're interested).

Another thing was, indeed, that maybe the old traditional questions are the best, and the third thing was that no-one knew about Blackpool FC being called the Tangerines, even when I told the assembled company, by way of a clue, that it was based on the colour of their shirts. Alex was most put out afterwards when I refused to allow him any points for his suggestion of "The Oranges", insisting that the colour was right, even though I kept pointing out that "The Oranges" is not the nickname of the club.

Maybe, I mused afterwards, this Tangerines thing is limited to the surrounding area, for as regular readers will know, I grew up in rural North Lancs, and Blackpool was never all that far away, both as a place and in its general influence.

And yet, after this great victory, one of Charlton's best performances this season, and on a par with their apparently excellent display against the Albion in the Cup the previous week, there has been a plethora of tangerine headlines, with tangerines being squeezed, peeled, crushed and sliced up, all over the place. So I thought I'd add one of my own as today's title.

Bougherra scored after a number of minutes which varies from 2 to 6, depending on who you read, and then Luke Varney added another after 10 (or 12). Coasting 2-0 after such a short time is not always a good thing, and Blackpool's Ben Burgess hit what was apparently a fine volley to bring Charlton back to earth after about 16 minutes. China's captain (but not Charlton's) Zheng Zhi hit goal nº 3 after 22 minutes, and with Charlton leading 3-1 at half time, Blackpool returned determined to fight back, and tried hard, but ZZ hit Charlton's nº 4 after 52 minutes and that was that, with other open goals and the like being missed by Jerome Thomas among others.

The powers that organise such matters might well be Blackpool fans, for ZZ's reward for being man of the match and scoring those all-important third and fourth goals was to have to go and have tea with Gordon Brown yesterday (see Wyn Grant's blog, link at right). What can the poor boy have done to deserve that?

The picture shows the first goal, and when I first saw it I thought it was no wonder that Charlton won so comfortably, as Blackpool seemed to have no players in the goalmouth at all. But a closer look reveals that Charlton players are wearing white shorts, and Blackpool, er, tangerine ones, but I was surprised to find the shirt colours so similar. And why is what is evidently a Blackpool defender raising his arms in the time-honoured "we've just scored a goal" gesture?

Anyway, a fine performance, and it bodes well for tonight's Cup replay at West Brom, for apparently Charlton played exceedingly well in their 1-1 home draw, and were a shade unlucky. The Albion also, apparently, Wyn Grant reports, feel that they might have done better and are determined to improve their performance tonight. Might be a cracking game. Frankie, who forecast a home victory of 4-1 last Saturday, which made his readers gasp and stretch their eyes, even though he turned out to be right, has predicted a scoreline of West Brom 2 Charlton 4 for this evening. And who am I to argue? If that's what he wants, he may, if he is on a roll, get it.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Cup Fever

[Being written before full-time in the FA Cup ties]
The LMS number was 7000
Kitson's LMS saddle-tank with its British Railways number 47000

Charlton 1 Hull 1
Norwich 1 Charlton 1
Leicester 1 Charlton 1
Charlton 1 Colchester 2

Well, maybe not Cup fever, but I am feeling a bit shivery, but what is a touch of flu when it is the first Saturday in January and the Third Round of the FA Cup is once more with us?

Well actually I feel like returning to bed with a good book (and I bought half a dozen of these while in the UK earlier this week), and looking round the blogosphere, and especially those bits which concern Charlton, it would appear that I am not alone. Frankie says that if Charlton are going to play as they have been playing in these last four cheerless games (though they did manage one goal in each of them), then he'd rather not go, and many of the others are losing the will to live as well.

Mind you, the cup is not what it was. Logging on to the BBC as usual on rising this morning (yes indeed, morning, for once - I am still on a UK timetable) I spotted an arresting headline. It read "FA Cup does not matter" and was followed by a dash, and then the name, "Kitson".

Now usually statements of this sort, something daring and controversial, are attributed to leading figures to make them pack a punch; so I would have been perfectly prepared to be gobsmacked if it had been Hillary Clinton, for example, though to be sure compared to her current situation the FA Cup is a mere nothing, or Fabio Cappello, or Rafael Benítez, but Kitson? "Who is Kitson?" I asked myself. There was a guy called maybe Paul Kitson who played for Derby, among others, but he'd have retired by now and they surely wouldn't have wheeled him out for a rent-a-quote story, would they? The only other Kitson I could think of was a Leeds-based engineering company who, in 1932, built some saddle-tanks (see above) for the London Midland and Scottish Railway, and it was hardly going to be them, even if they are still in the saddle-tank business, which I doubt.

In fact Kitson turns out to be a guy who plays in the Reading forward line, and he is fed up with so much football and is demanding a winter break. Maybe he is on to something there. All this work. We could all have a long winter break. Mind you there'd be no shops or pubs open, or buses or trains running, or garages operating, but Kitson has a point: too much accumulated work. Or maybe Kitson is in the wrong job. Heaven knows, my job is not excessively demanding but I do do more than 6 or 8 hours a week, even so.

But actually Kitson is right. The Cup does not matter as much as it did. Ever since the Cup Winners' Cup was abolished it has just not commanded the same respect from players and clubs. And as for an FA Cup Winner's medal being the ultimate prize any footballer could desire, well those days are long past. Now, winning something has to allow you to compete in something else, though in the nature of things even that has to stop somewhere.

Anyway, this afternoon, Charlton's engagement with West Bromwich Albion is drawing to a close. For once we have the benefit of a Lawro forecast, but without an explanation. He says 1-1. Frankie said 4-3. With 79 minutes gone Lawro is looking good, for 1-1 it is.

Both managers have apparently said that they greatly fear a replay, as like Mr. Kitson of Reading, they are also suffering from too much football.


Sadly for the above-mentioned two managers, 1-1 it stayed. More later in the week as I strive to get the blog back on track.

The quiz returns on Monday, and I am one of the quiz masters along with Antony, so I have to leave you for the moment and finalise my questions, though I am not unaware that I have let the 50th anniversary of one of the best-ever Charlton football stories go by without a mention. Next time for sure.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

First Feet Forward

I am travelling in the UK right now, but I ought to write a line or three to mark the passing of the year, and greet my regular readers, who must be beginning to think that regular posting on this blog is a thing of the past. Well it hasn't been too assiduous recently, but this ought to change soon. Comments on the Christmas debacles (no accents on this computer) and especially this afternoon's poor start to 2008 by Charlton (not to mention Burnley and Forest Green) after I return to Madrid on 3 January. Though just because you lose your first game of the year it doesn't mean things won't improve. Does it?

Happy New Year.

Friday, December 21, 2007


Charlton 0 Sheffield United 3
Charlton 1 Burnley 3
Cardiff C. 0 Charlton 1
Charlton 3 Ipswich 1
West Bromwich A. 4 Charlton 2

Luke Varney raises his arms in celebration of one of the few high spots for Charlton this past month

Once more I have found myself in the situation of not having written anything on the blog, and I have been wondering why this might have been, and one of the reasons is fixture congestion.

In the past three years, while Charlton were in the Premiership, I was pretty well able to keep up with their games, and write something or other, albeit at times brief, in reaction to each one. But in the second tier, or course, they have to cram in 46 games, not 38, and at times it seems they come thick and fast. I last appeared in the Blogosphere 3½ weeks ago, when I made an apology for not having posted anything for... 3½ weeks!

There were happier times, though, when I would ramble on at length about such important matters as why everyone I stay with when I am in the UK seems to favour Imperial Leather soap, and of course the quiz team, but time is getting ever-more pressing, and I don't even manage to complete entries in my diary every day any more.

Anyway, this evening the Christmas term at the Centre comes to an end, and as I sit here awaiting the arrival of my final group of students, and also reflecting that all the Christmas cards have been written and dispatched, and preparations for my trip to the UK next week are well advanced, I find myself with some dead time, and also with access to a computer.

So where to take up after leaving off? As ever, tempting fate was how I ended up last time. I spent a long paragraph extolling goalkeeper Nicky Weaver, and pointing out that Charlton had gone 4 games without conceding a goal. I had the forethought to be a little nervous of the form prediction that we would beat Sheffield United, and in my heart of hearts I maybe thought it was time for Charlton to concede maybe one goal, and thus I was thinking 1-1, especially as I was under the influence of the book, Black Swan, which I am still reading. If you check the previous post, you will see that the theory behind the book is basically that sequences of events from the past are much less of a clue to what will happen in the future than we think they are; and certainly the mixed bag of scores at the top of this post would appear to reflect that perfectly.

The Sheffield United game was midweek, and I remember logging on to Livescore on the classroom computer at the end of class on the Tuesday night to see how Charlton were getting on. Before being surrounded by five Spanish boys wanting to make sure that Barcelona were losing, as they hoped (they weren't), I noted that the score was 0-0 after about 20 minutes, and then repaired to the bar to watch the Barça game over a couple of beers, assuming that Charlton's defence and goalkeeper would hold firm, and that Charlton would nick it 1-0, or maybe 2-0. So you can imagine my dismay when, arriving home, I logged on and found out what had in fact happened.

Next up, the following Saturday, was Burnley, my other team, the team that my father, uncles, cousins and friends had persuaded me to follow as it wasn't possible for me to go to London and see Charlton back in the late fifties; it was 230 miles away and might just as well have been 2,300 miles for all the chances were of getting there. The two clubs don't meet that often, and my attitude in the past has been either to hope for a draw, or that the points will go where they are most needed. So in my opinion, Charlton were quite definitely more in need of the points, as Burnley, having undergone a mysterious change of manager (I thought Steve Cotterill was, in the timeless words of Sir David Frost, "doing a grand job") and having just won at Watford, were comfortable enough in mid-table.

Of course I can hardly expect Burnley to respect my desires. They thought, and quite rightly, as it turned out, that if they could travel to Watford and turn them over, then they could do the same at Charlton, and so it proved, leaving me in a state of mild shock.

We were now into December, and although my many friends who are aware of my affections for Burnley were doubtless hoping to read my views on what had happened, I was too busy, what with Christmas cards and then the exams to mark and so the Burnley match came and went and I just kept on hoping. Things did turn round, anyway, with the victory at Cardiff securing a double (why are the fixtures arranged so that you play some teams a second time before you've met some of the others?) and then the encouraging result against Ipswich lulled me into thinking things were going to be all right.

One of my oldest chums at work is a nice lady who happens to be a diehard West Brom fan, so on the night before that fixture there was a lot of good natured joshing, with Andrea (for it is she) voting for 2-1, and me going for 1-2, though without a massive amount of conviction, it has to be admitted. And apparently West Brom were much better, and the result was a fair one.

Anyway, my students are due in about twenty minutes, and there's just time for a coffee upstairs before that, so I'll publish and be off. I have been scanning the latest news about the team, and Wyn Grant reckons that Hull supporters regard tomorrow's game as three points in the bag, apparently because of Charlton's home form. However Charlton's last home game was the 3-1 against Ipswich, and yet I am uncertain. Charlton have a lot of injuries, and there is also the business of the Yorkshire jinx. We shall see.