08 December 2012

Charlton 2 Brighton 2

When we last played Brighton in the third division, they were like a breath of fresh air with their attractive passing game contrasting delightfully with the defensive clogging most visiting teams served up. They don't stand out so much in the Championship, but it was still a pleasure to watch them today. They also brought a huge and noisy crowd, helping to create a good atmosphere. It was a bit of a love-in really, even on the packed train afterwards (thanks, Southeastern, for making the train especially short to encourage healthy male bonding) only partly caused by a shared dislike of Crystal Palace.

So, how nice that the result probably struck everybody as a fair one. All four goals had a touch of the streaky about them and better chances were missed as the two teams seemed to cancel each other out. There was lots to enjoy but it was all a bit shapeless.

It was one of those days, anyway, when we take a longer view. Twenty years since the return to the Valley was a chance to remember that even in the worst Dowie-Pardew-Parkinson days, the fact the club was still going was something that was far from guaranteed 25 years ago. Thanks again to Southeastern for delivering me to the ground too late today to see the video: fully-grown men were apparently reduced to tears by it, so I would have been an embarassing wreck.

But it was good to see and hear Richard Murray at halftime. I still think he's the most important figure in Charlton's recent history, not just in keeping club going, but the success of Alan Curbishley's management was built on the understanding the two men had. One day they ought to name a stand after him.

 Today's result meant Charlton move into the top half of the table, only four points off the playoff positions, but more importantly eleven points clear of relegation. There's still a long way to go but it's looking good so far.

03 December 2012

Yann Kermorgant - un footballeur pas comme les autres is a website for French speakers abroad. They've recently published a feature about Yann Kermorgant, which is very interesting. The original is here and I hope they won't mind that I've rushed together this translation. Please go to the original site and click on a few adverts to thank them. And if I've mistranslated anything (highly likely) please let me know. Thanks.

Yann Kermorgant's career looks like a revenge on fate. The return to the pitch of The Beast, as Charlton's supporters call him, after a fractured ankle in September, bears witness to his fighting spirit. The doctors said he'd be out for three months, but he returned to the field after two. And he didn't do things by half, scoring his team's second goal in their 2-0 win over Peterborough on 27 November.

He was one of the key architects of Charlton's rise to the second tier - scoring 12 goals in the most prolific season of his career - but Yann Kermorgant only just managed to become a professional footballer.

At 14, this child of Vannes, where he was born in 1981, joined the academy of Stade Rennais, the region's prominent club. But the club's doctors detected leukemia. With his football career apparently over, Yann clung to life. Four years later, in 1999, he was cured but the world of professional  football seemed forever closed to him.

He recalls: "I returned to football with a district-level club in the Vannes region". His friends and family encouraged him, and the reserve team trainer of Vannes OC offered to bring him into the team. "So I got back into training, so I could play at a high level".

But he was rarely a first choice, and not always in his favoured position. He decided to take his chance with Châtellerault in the fourth division, and gave himself 2-3 years to break through. But after one good season, the world of football smiled on him again. Grenoble recruited him to play in Ligue 2. But he was not a footballer like all the others.

"I was never in an academy, and I have lived enough to know that football isn't everything. When I go home after training, I forget about football. Besides, my wife wouldn't let me just watch matches and chat about nothing but football", he laughs.

His first steps into professional football in the 2005-06 season were promising. He scored 16 goals in two seasons, then joined Reims in summer 2007. After an average first season (4 goals), he played a full season in 2008/9, during which Luis Fernandez gave him the captain's armband. With 9 goals and 9 assists, he hoped one day to play in Ligue 1. But it was another country, England, that gave him his chance.

"With my physique and style of play, it's true it seemed to be my ideal destination" he says. But his time at Leicester left a taste of ashes in his mouth. Not a regular player, he was the chosen scapegoat after his team's defeat by Cardiff City in the play-off semi-finals, after he missed in the penalty shoot-out. "In fact, it was not just me who missed my shot. But the media had it in for me a bit." He left England for a year, on loan to Arles-Avignon.

Released by Leicester after the loan at Arles, he who was not yet "the Beast" tried his luck once more in Her Majesty's kingdom. "At first I wasn't too keen on returning to England. I hadn't succeeded at Leicester, but I was no worse than the others. The English didn't like a Frenchman taking their place. So as not to annoy the rest of the dressing room, the coach never really gave me a chance", the Breton explains.

At Charlton his luck would change. "Right from the start things were different. The trainer wanted me, and had faith in me." It is true that Chris Powel, the Addicks' coach, praised his "power in the air and [...] his good finishing." A declaration of love which did not displease the striker, happily for Charlton. If his journey stands out in the world of professional football, it is also what has given him the strength he has now. On top of his quality as a goalscorer, his will to win and sense of perspective in good and bad times have made him a dominant character among the Addicks. "Everyone appreciates him here. He is a key figure in the dressing room and has helped me integrate into the team" says Dorian Dervite, who joined the little French colony in Charlton last year.

After quite a bit of wandering, Yann sees himself staying some time at Charlton. "The public have a real passion for the game, and this makes you play at a high level. Last year, in the third tier, we played three times in front of a sold-out crowd of 27,000. Football in general is lived totally differently. For example, people bring their family along to the ground."

At 31, the attacker still dreams of one day making it into the Premier League. "Why not with Charlton?", he smiles. But he still knows where he comes from and keeps his feet on the ground, far from the glitz and glitter. "I don't flaunt my money with big cars or 10,000 € watches. In any case, I don't really have the wherewithal", he laughs. "I can't complain, but I have had a rather short career, and I must be careful." This prudence is already making Yann prepare for life after football. At his home, in Vannes, he is building a five-a-side centre, a way of ensuring he stays active after his retirement as a player.

But, until then, the Beast will continue to roar in the land of the Three Lions.

28 November 2012

Charlton 2 Peterborough 0

You'd think Darren Ferguson would have chosen another job. It's clear by now he'll always be in his father's shadow, never equalling his achievements. He seems to have done a decent job with Peterborough for now this time around, and they gave a performance that constantly stopped Charlton getting a grip on the game. Their tactics are fairly simple - a fairly solid defence and well-synchronised counter-attacks where they get a lot of players up the pitch quickly - but they executed them very well. It was a contrast with Charlton who were trying to play the patient game of passing the ball around, looking for an opening.

With better finishing, Peterborough could have won. The turn-around in the game came from a brilliant piece of finishing by Ricardo Fuller on 77 minutes. From 25 yards out he caught the Peterborough goalkeeper slightly out of position with a shot into the top left corner. It turned the game around, and Kermogant's goal 8 minutes later sealed the game. For once, Charlton kept their defensive heads for the last 10 minutes and the points were secured.

Once again, the game had the feel of last season to it, when Charlton managed to keep winning despite not always looking like they deserved to. The last five games have somehow brought in 13 points, which have put Charlton solidly in midtable. Peterborough, somehow, remain stuck at the bottom of the table.

26 November 2012

Charlton 1 Huddersfield 1

This report's a bit late, because I've been pondering my feelings about it. The heavy rain on Saturday night meant that my recorder didn't work, so I haven't been able to see the no-doubt detailed and extensive coverage of the game on the Football League Show, so I can't say whether the two crucial incidents - the sending-off and the penalty - were good decisions. The consensus seems to be that they were both dubious, so they, in a way, balanced out. And a draw was a fair result.

Once again, Charlton failed to take advantage of playing against ten men, yet I can't help thinking that four weeks ago, we'd have lost this game. It wasn't a great performance, and Huddersfield generally looked the more talented team. Perhaps the northern-style weather suited them better.

Through most of the second half Charlton looked like they were repeating last year's trick of doing just enough and no more to win a game but Huddersfield's late flurry caught them out, just like Cardiff's final struggles nearly did.

After the game, Chris Powell called on the team to show more killer instinct, and I'd say there's also a need to keep concentration going for the full 100 minutes. In November, Charlton have conceded four goals within 5 minutes of full time.

So it was a disappointing end to the afternoon, but spirits remain high. Just remember the last time we were playing in this division, four years ago. On 22 November 2008 Charlton seemed already doomed to relegation: a dreadful performance saw them lose 2-5 to Sheffield United, and the manager was sacked. He commented, with his usual incoherency, but with unaccustomed honesty "My record coming to this club has been good, but it's been difficult here. When I arrived they were on the slide and I haven't been able to stop that."

Today, in completely unrelated news, I've been enjoying reading about Newcastle United. The geordies are wondering what's going wrong with their team. Should we tell them?

Charlton website report by the brilliant and possibly-related-to-me Gary Haines

07 November 2012

Charlton 5 Cardiff 4

I think I'll have to renounce my title as the world's worst football pundit. Yesterday evening someone on twitter (I can't remember who, and it'd be kinder not to) predicted "a dull game. 0-0."

That prediction only lasted 4 minutes, when I can't have been the only person fearing another horrible home defeat. But even after the second goal, on 24 minutes, the North Stand crowd (my man of the match) kept on chanting, in the most astonishing display of solidarity to Chris Powell, clearly a response to the few idiots who've been questioning his position.

Did it affect the players? I honestly think it did. There was no sign of the defeatism that was evident in the second half of the Middlesbrough game. It felt as if the team felt they could, improbably, come back. And improbably enough they did.

It was absolutely fitting that it should be Johnnie Jackson who started the comeback. He's not the most skillful player in the team, but he's got a knack of being in the right place at the right time that any striker must envy. And of course he has a huge influence on morale: when he's on song, the rest of the team seems to follow. His two goals at the end of the half completely turned the game around, and an exuberant crowd was disappointed when halftime came. Could Charlton continue this way?

Well, yes. Dale Stephens got the third before 10 minutes had passed. I don't know if he meant his free kick to be a shot or if it was a misplaced cross that fooled everybody. I kinda hope it was a fluke because it would be the first piece of outrageous good luck Charlton have had this season, an omen that can inspire and encourage the team as the season goes on.

For the rest of the game, Charlton were in total control, adding two goals and causing scenes of delirium in the crowd.

But then the referee, who had a poor game, booking eight players in a perfectly clean match, found six minutes of added time from god knows where. I felt that Charlton's players were emotionally, if not physically, drained at this point, while Cardiff were given a boost by this. So just to keep it interesting they scored two late goals.

Those goals slightly spoiled the mood. At the end of the game I thought Chris Powell was torn between an urge to lay into the team for conceding them and the simple joy of beating one of the top teams in the league. And the players looked as if they knew they were in for a bit of bollocking.

It didn't matter. It was three points gained in the most amazing, palindromic, game I've seen in years. And this from a team still ravaged by injuries, where the best rightback in the Championship has to play on the left, and one of the centre backs has to play at right back. When the team is back to full strength, who knows what they will be capable of?

04 November 2012

Charlton 1 Middlesbrough 4

If you've got a recording of this match, and haven't yet seen it, do yourself a favour and watch it in reverse. The result will be the same but it will be much less depressing.

You'll find that, as expected, Middlesbrough are a very good team, and they will score with almost the first kick of the game. Perhaps less predictably, Charlton will play the first half like a bunch of strangers Chris Powell found in the local Wetherspooons. Generous strangers, though: they will hand the northerners two gift-wrapped goals before halftime, and stumble off 3-0 down.

For the second half, Powell will make a wonderful substitution, bringing on Lawrie Wilson to play at right midfield. You won't be able to decide if it's just him making the difference, but Charlton will begin to play better, making a few good chances, and you feel that with a bit of luck they could get back into the game.

But then 'Boro will score - Woodgate finding space to power in a header from a free kick, and really the game will be over. Charlton won't give up though, and will finally get the goal their fightback deserves. Even at the end, they'll still be trying, and the game will end with Bradley Pritchard heading just over. You'll feel upset, obviously, but you'll feel proud that Charlton didn't give up against a team that is deservedly on top of the table.

Sometimes you really need to be a time lord to enjoy Charlton matches.

29 September 2012

Charlton 1 Blackburn 1

I haven't blogged many games this season. I didn't want to be dishonest but at the same time I didn't want to be negative. I was unsure whether the team was actually good enough to survive in the second tier, but hoped things would get better. In particular, the midfield looked outpaced a lot of the time, and that's something you can't easily put right.

But this evening I'm feeling much better. Charlton undoubtedly deserved at least the draw against a Blackburn team that's packed with well-known players, who were mainly in the premiership last season. Their performance must have dented their fans' joy at the departure of Steve Kean last night, and maybe they will realise it wasn't all his fault. Please, football gods, let Iain Dowie get the job, so they can see what a bad manager really looks like.

Of course, you can't expect things to turn around so quickly, but I think it was generally believed that Blackburn's players always supported Kean. Certainly there was no sign that they were happy he'd gone: they didn't play with any kind of flair or creative freedom. Fundamentally, I suspect, they're not a very good squad, with some players living off their reputations. Jordan Rhodes, who cost 8 million, was once again invisible; Michael Morrison really knows how to exclude him from a game.

Danny Murphy was booed by a section of the crowd. This is disgraceful. Everybody should have joined in.

And Charlton played the best I've seen them this season. This was a shock, given the line-up. Ricardo Fuller was a late loss, with a virus, and so BWP was playing alone up-front. Not his natural role, and too much of the play seemed to assume there was a tall man in a red shirt standing near him.

But it meant there were five in midfield, and they largely dominated the game, certainly after Blackburn's goal on 15 minutes. This was the result of a very skillful passage of play, and I feared the worst. Perhaps Blackburn really did have classy players. But the goal seemed to be the limit of their ambition, and all the creative play from then on was from Charlton. Everyone was playing well but special mentions to Salim Kerkar, who got better and better as the game went on, and to Danny Hollands, playing some very intelligent balls in the centre.

An action-packed afternoon for Johnnie Jackson, too. Looking better than he has so far this season, he missed a penalty, but scored the equaliser about a minute later, and only lasted 7 minutes of the second half before an injury saw him replaced by Bradley Pritchard, who fitted in perfectly, another player raising his game.

Charlton had chances; Blackburn didn't and were obviously happier with their one point than Charlton were. Charlton should have won, probably, but with only one striker it was always going to be difficult. The only dilemma now is whether Chris Powell should play five in midfield again: is the security that formation gives worth the price of losing goal-scoring opportunities? We'll probably find out on Tuesday, a game I'm really looking forward to.

02 September 2012

Tokyo calling ...

I'm old enough to just about remember the 1964 Tokyo Olympic games. It was the first Olympics since communications satellites were invented, and so we could see live, or nearly live, coverage as Mary Rand, Ann Packer, Lynn "the leap" Davies, and Ken Matthews (who I have to say I'd completely forgotten) won a respectable-in-those-days 4 gold medals.

But the technology was pretty basic. As I remember, we saw an awful lot of people sitting and nattering in a studio far away from the action. Every so often they'd get hold of a bit of footage of a Brit winning something, and show that over and over again. Or we'd have a good laugh at the freaky ladymen sexually ambiguous shotputters from eastern Europe.

Channel 4's coverage of the London Parlympics has taken me back to those days, and it's not a good nostalgia. For most of the time, we have two presenters in a claustrophobic studio, usually with a guest, and they talk and talk about what we're not actually seeing. The games themselves might as well be on the other side of the world, there's so little engagement with them. We get occasional, context-free, clips of British athletes, but very little continuous or live coverage.This morning was an example. The rower Tom Aggar was competing in the final of the sculls, and apparently had a decent chance in it. In the event, he came fourth. C4 showed a short extract from the race about an hour after it had happened, packaged up with a short interview. Meanwhile someone on Twitter commented wryly that while a C4 commentator had described the long jump competition as thrilling, no-one watching would have known as they had only shown two jumps.

A few weeks ago, we saw that people could become enthusiastic about all kinds of sports if they were just given the time to get to know them and to follow the drama of the events. People became instant experts on synchronised diving and dancing horses because they could sit and watch and get drawn in, not because someone in a studio told them about it.

I know this is the biggest coverage the Paralympics has ever had, but in practice it's so depressing. I don't much like Channel 4 anyway - although it shows some excellent programmes, its personality is obnoxious - but these games were a chance to improve its image. Unfortunately, it's taken a fundamentally wrong direction, and I think the problem is this: it's presenting the games as a display of triumph over adversity, rather than as a top-grade sporting event. It's not trusting the sporting action to speak for itself, which is not just ruining viewers' enjoyment but is actually quite patronising to the athletes involved.

Don't ever take the BBC for granted!

21 August 2012

Charlton 2 Leicester 1

I lived in Leicester for a while between school and university, working for a firm who provided lighting for outdoor events. I would travel the country in a really clapped-out van, installing naff lanterns in marquees, and occasionally feeling the surge of 240 volts through my fingertips.Yes, mes enfants, that's what a gap year used to be like. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed my time there. It was, after all, the first flat of my own, and consequently Leicester has always had a special place in my heart. Such a special place that I've never been back.

Even before then, I remember a League Cup (in the days when it was called the League Cup) match in the 70s, when Second Division Charlton (in the days before they were plucky) beat First Division Leicester City (in the days when First Division clubs took the League Cup seriously). I've such a bad memory for fooball that I'm amazed I remember this, but it seemed like a huge victory at the time.

I think I might remember tonight's game, too. It was a terrific game, the total opposite of so many games in League One, where the visiting team had a very simple agenda of not conceding a goal. Leicester were fantastic - quick, clever and adventurous - and the legendary neutral observer would have to say they deserved at least three points. But in the first half they were wayward in their finishing - Ben Hamer didn't have a save to make - and in the second half Charlton relied on a mixture of luck and guts to keep them out.

So the first half ended with Charlton 2-0 up. I may have omitted a few details. You can get a proper match report on the badly-fonted Charlton website. The important thing is that Yann Kermorgant scored. Actually that's less important than BWP's goal, the kind of chance he'd have missed last season by thinking too much. Yann's goal mattered much more to the Leicester fans, who seem to think he has deliberately scuppered their every chance of promotion for the last 500 years. They probably think Kermorgant is an old Nottingham name.

The second half started with two Leicester substitutions, a clear sign that they weren't giving up. And mon dieu they weren't. They racked up the speed of their play even more, and at times the Charlton midfield looked like an Englishman trapped at lunchtime on the central reservation of Madrid's orbital motorway (bewildered, scared and hungry). But luck and guts were enough, and Charlton ended the evening in 3rd position with 4 points from 2 games, easily as good as anyone could have hoped.

And it was good to see Paul Konchesky back at the Valley. He's another former player who has never seemed quite so good since he left (I still agree with Curbishley that he was better as a midfielder). A small section of the crowd booed him. Shame on them! I suspect they're too young to remember what an honest, hard-working player he was, and the big ol' skinhead had a great game.

So my unlikely love affair with Leicester is rekindled - I hope they do well, and think they will. And my love affair with football - I admit I flirted with other sports recently - is back on.

Sadly, I don't think many games will match tonight's for tension and enjoyment, but it looks like this season is going to be enthralling.

11 August 2012

Something else Carol Vorderman's to blame for

There's a man (I've never caught his name) who does commentary on boxing for the BBC who has an amazing knack of talking in the worst kind of sporting jargon completely spontaneously. He says things that would look astonishingly pompous if you read them in an article ("Murgatroyd fulfills his destiny and writes a new chapter in the history of the noble art"), so they are stunningly overblown in simultaneous commentary. This is just my opinion.

Then there's Garry Herbert, who commentates on rowing. He knows his stuff, but even more than any other commentator, he gets caught up in patriotic emotion so strongly that he becomes incoherent, and you may not even notice that the British team have come a poor but plucky fifth, while someone else - who cares who else?- has produced a blistering, record-breaking performance. This is just my opinion.

And then there's Paul Dickenson, on the athletic field events. He's just got a really ugly, jarring voice, which I can't stand. This is just my opinion.

Hold on a minute, these are all men. Or are they? According to Des Lynam they must all be women. He makes it sound so definite: "I have come to the conclusion [like some kind of scientist] that the female voice is not so attractive for actual commentating [and I have the stats to prove it]."

Oh, Des, you were rubbish as a Countdown presenter but otherwise we all love you, so why do you spout such rubbish? Of course you're allowed to not like women's voices, but that's something about you, not about women's voices. So I think what you mean is "I have come to the conclusion that I find women's voices not so attractive, sometimes grating. But this is just my opinion. I worked with Carol Vorderman for a year. You try doing that without becoming a misogynist." If you'd said that, we'd find it in our hearts to pity and forgive you.

And while we're talking about commentators, I have to add - it can't be said often enough - that Mark Lawrenson shouldn't be allowed near a microphone again. This is not just my opinion, it is hard scientific fact.

29 July 2012

Bring back the ticket touts

I've never entirely understood the anger felt towards ticket touts at major sporting events, particularly when it comes from people on the right. Touts are no worse than futures traders, buying something today, in the hope that it will be worth more tomorrow. If I see Cup Final tickets on sale for £100, say, and I reckon lots of people will pay twice that, why shouldn't I make that investment? Similarly, if I were a rich but lazy man, with no forward planning skills, why shouldn't I be able to pay over the odds?

But most people seem to disagree, and all sorts of mechanisms have been put in place to stop ticket touting at sports events. Which is a pity, because otherwise all those empty seats at the Olympics might now be occupied by people who've bought them off a dodgy looking geezer outside Stratford bus station.

I spent most of my working life in the cosseted public sector, and so I know nothing about the harsh realities of corporate hospitality days and freebies, but as I understand it, companies buy up loads of tickets so they can offer a nice day out to senior staff or possible customers. They can't always use the tickets, so they don't turn up, and just write off the cost of the tickets. Finding another way to use them would proably cost more than it's worth. If Britain still had a working infrastructure of ticket toutage, those tickets could be on sale, and we wouldn't be affronted by the sight of all those empty seats. Those dodgy looking geezers - valuable entrepreneurs - would make a little money, which would trickle down into the local economy of East London, creating a real legacy, and probably improving Britain's balance of payments

So, if anything can be learnt from the Olympics, let's make sure that we rebuild the threatened ecosystem of ticket touts. Abolish absurd over-regulation. Encourage the banks to lend more to dodgy geezers. There's no problem that the operation of free markets can't fix, apparently.

26 July 2012

The curse of a literal mind (4)

There was recently a trailer for a programme on Radio 4 Extra that included the sentence: "He could only see her profile, but could see she had beautiful blue eyes".

Normal people, consider how lucky you are that you don't immediately think, like me, that at best all he could know for certain was that she had one beautiful blue eye.

And my mind is still trying to reconcile this headline from today's Guardian. Resting on a knife edge is particularly dangerous, and something only trained fakirs should attempt.

03 July 2012

San Rocky de Lepe

I've blogged earlier about the situation at San Roque de Lepe, a Spanish football club which appears to be owned by the same people who own Charlton. With the news that Charlton's friendly against Sporting Lisbon won't now take place at the San Roque stadium, I looked up what's been happening.

Here's the fullest story I could find. Using my limited Spanish and my more limited business knowledge, it seems that the club owed €150,000, mainly to players, and that if that debt wasn't paid, the club would be relegated to the 3rd division. The Town Council of Lepe has organised a deal whereby local businesses have paid the debt. In return the (former) owners of the club have transferred 51% of the shares to the Council, which is therefore the majority shareholder. It is suggested that some of the British owners didn't want to retain ownership, and that is why the owners as a whole didn't pay off the debts.

So this explains why the Charlton match isn't being played there any more. Does it shed any light on what's going on with the ownership of Charlton? We've read that one director has left, apparently unexpectedly. Perhaps this means there's a split within the owners of the Addicks. This is all I can work out for now. I expect there will be more to come, but have no idea if this is good or bad news.

If anyone understands the Spanish story better than I do, please comment!

16 June 2012

Jobs for the boy

How superior we thought ourselves when Azerbaijan hosted Eurovision and, in the words of Mark Lawson:
The host regime hardly enhanced their reputation for democracy when it turned out that the national entertainer given the chance to perform to a global audience of 120 million while the phone-voting took place was Emin Agalarov, the son-in-law of President Ilham Aliyev. Say what you like about Britain but, if Humperdinck had triumphed, we probably wouldn't have had the Cameron and Clegg kids lined up on the 02 stage as the 2013 interval act.
Imagine getting such an important job simply because you're related to someone in power! Meanwhile in the UK:
The Prince of Wales has been awarded the highest rank in all three military services by the Queen. [He] becomes a Field Marshal, Admiral of the Fleet and Marshal of the Royal Air Force.
which is, of course, entirely based on his experience and merits.

12 June 2012

Equal marriage consultation

Now that the Church of England has produced its response on the proposal to enable same-sex couples to marry, rather than just have a civil partnership, it might be time to remind any concerned readers that the deadline for consultation is only 2 days away (14 June). There have been signs that the Government is going lukewarm on the proposal, so it might be helpful if the result of the consultation shows that most people don't agree with the Church's view on this.

The consultation is at this address: It doesn't take long to fill in, unless you are particularly verbose.

The differences between a civil partnership and a marriage aren't very many or very great, but they can be important. Most people already refer to civil partnerships as weddings, and the partners as husbands/wives. The Government's proposals will close the remaining differences between the rights that the two relationships give. The proposals don't mean that the Church of England will have to offer same-sex wedding ceremonies. In fact, they intend to specifically ban any religious organisation from doing this, even if they want to. It's hard to see why the Church of England is so opposed to something that actually will have very little effect on its practices.

For me, it's a simple question of equality. Unless you believe that being gay is a sin and a perversion, surely you have to believe that gay people should have the same rights as anyone else.

But make up your own mind. Here's the Church's statement, and here's the view of the former Dean of St Paul's, who disagrees.

But remember, you've only two days left to comment.

02 June 2012

Big Ben for President!

There's a lot of these around today, but what do you call them? I bet you're thinking Union Jack, but some of you, or some part of you, is thinking No, that's wrong, it's the Union Flag, it's only the Union Jack when it's on a ship and the wind is from the west and there's an A in the name of the month.

To which I say Bollocks, it's the Union Jack. That's what we the people have decided to call it, whether it's on a ship, or in the design of boxer shorts, or tatooed on my hairy fat arse. That's how language works. It's the people who decide what words mean, not any experts. Most people - despite the whingeing of retired admirals - call this flag the Union Jack, so that, by definition, is what it's called. So, sod off with your "Union Flag" nonsense. You should be happy that we like the flag so much we give it a cute name.

The unusual amount of swears in this post may suggest that I'm not a happy boy at the moment. That's true. This weekend I'm feeling as lonely as a shy vegan in Buenos Aires, what with all the Union Jacks and red white and blue bunting around. These are hard times to be a republican. No-one wants to be seen to be attacking an elderly woman, and by the time her useless son takes over the business he too will be frail and old, and will have an excuse for his irrational and petulant ways. We'll probably have to wait for the next generation for an incompetent monarch to restore the institution to its natural state of being reviled.

But someone has to say it, this weekend of all times: having a royal family is ridiculous and wrong. It's the ultimate in social immobility, the clearest possible demonstration of the class system that means clever working class kids may, if they're lucky, become teachers or lawyers, while stupid - really stupid, too stupid to be entrusted with a real job - upper class kids end up in the Cabinet.

Meanwhile, what do you call this?

Big Ben, you probably think, unless you're a retired admiral, in which case you already penning a letter to The Times insisting that Big Ben is the name of the bell, and it's a terrible offence, worthy of hanging, to call the tower anything other than The Clock Tower.

Bollocks again, I'm afraid. If we want to call the tower Big Ben, that's what it's called. But today I've read that some lickspittle MPs want to rename it the Elizabeth Tower.

Oh, I give up. You call it that if you want to. You'll probably get your knighthood if you're the lucky MP whose name is top of the list of supporters. But I'll still call it Big Ben. So will most of the people in this country and billions of people around the world.

Grouch over. Enjoy the long weekend!

26 May 2012

Eurovision voting guide

The conventional thinking is that you have to be gay or pissed to enjoy the Eurovision Song Contest, but I've devised a way of keeping geeks like me interested. What you do, is score each entry according to the criteria below, and see who's your winner. You'll notice that musical excellence is not a factor. It's all about encouraging good practice and eliminating cheesiness. If you like cheesiness, just reverse all the rules. (I think that's what most national juries already do.)

1. Start by giving each song 10 points.

2. Add one point if the singer is female. (Or male, depending on your preference. If you're even more sexist than me, you can add points for shortness of skirt, tightness of trousers, etc.)

3. Deduct one point for use of a wind machine. (See left: the poor girl can barely stand up.)

4. Deduct one point for each key change. If the singing is so bad you can't tell if there's been a key change, deduct two points.

5. Deduct one point for each person other than the singer on stage. (The rules allow six people, which is why so many countries have five dancers. We should reward countries who are prepared to trust to the pure abilities of their singer. But what if there are two singers - twins, perhaps? See step 9.)

6. Add five points if the song is not in English. (Remember the days when songs had to be in each country's own language. Back then we only suspected the lyrics were all nonsense.)

7. Deduct three points for any song from the former Yugoslavia. (They'll all vote for each other, anyway, WHICH IS A GOOD THING: twenty years ago they were slaughtering each other. But they don't need our help now.)

8. Add up to a maximum of five points according to how much the singer and the song remind you of Kate Bush. (Again, you can tailor this to your own preference, choosing a singer you like. But I don't think you'll find many singers remind you of Nick Drake, for example.)

9. Deduct any remaining points if the singers happen to be Irish twins.

At the end of the show you should have a winner. But if it's Englebert Humperdinck, something's gone horribly wrong. So we need an emergency rule 10: deduct 10 points for any song in 3/4 time. Phew. Enjoy the show! But this does all seem a bit too much like hard work. I think I'll stick to plan A and just get pissed.

15 May 2012

Pardew, par dieu!

Alan Pardew's face is all over the football news today. This is the smallest photo I can find of him. Even so, it still makes me angry. And childish. I want to deface it, with comedy specs and a hitler moustache.
Strangely enough, these days I find Iain Dowie vaguely tolerable. Not to look at, obviously, though I can watch his lookalike, Adam Gorblimey off the Apprentice, without throwing up. Dowie was, we can now see, just a chancer. He took his limited skills and spun them into a nice little earner for himself. If it had been at any other team we'd have been cheering on his chutzpah, and waiting anxiously for the day he can wreck another decent club's finances and prospects. But we can feel satisfied because it doesn't look like anyone's ever going to put him in charge of a football team again.

And if Les Reed turned up at the Valley, I think he'd get a polite, if not effusive, welcome. He never had a chance, and although he had some decent skills (I know this, because his website said so), they weren't the ones Charlton needed. Everyone knew it, including him, and everyone was relieved when he heft.

But Pardew. Oh, the loathing I feel! It's partly, of course, because he promised so much. A former player, a hero on the pitch, he seemed to have all the credentials for the Charlton job. Now we see he was a false messiah. A very false messiah and a really naughty boy.

He managed to get his squad to underperform at every turn. Then slagged them off by getting in a string of loan players who clearly didn't care, and just collected their pay cheques. And then he tried to explain it all away by the bizarrest set of post-match comments any manager has ever uttered. They were bewildering times, and you felt he only lasted as long as he did because the cost of getting rid of him was unaffordable. But finally he did go, and no doubt his payoff added financial damage to the utter wreck he'd made of the team spirit.

And of course, what's really angering is the success he's now having at Newcastle. If it's just luck then it couldn't happen to a less deserving person. If it's skill, then where the hell was it when he was at Charlton? If he ever comes back to the Valley, we'll chant "Where were you when we were shit?" and know that the answer he should honestly give is "I was here. I was shitmaster general, thank you very much."

06 May 2012

Charlton 3 Hartlepool 2

My posts are usually quite short. It's not because I have a poet's gift for concision, the haikuist's ability to summarise a mood, a sight and a season in 17 syllables. Nope, it's because I'm lazy. But I think it might tax even the great Matsuo Bashō to summarise yesterday's sights and moods, never mind the season, in a short space. Just use the word "parachutists" and four of your syllables have gone. So, prepare for a long post. Make a cup of tea, if you like, and comfort yourself with the fact it's going to be the last for three months.

During the morning, I'd seen updates of the travelling Hartlepool smurf army. One general theme of the day was that one thing we'll miss about League One is the fans. There may not be many of them, but they have a honest dedication that you don't always find among the bigger teams. The best photo was this one, from Kings Cross station, and what's best about it is the people on the right, acting as if this is a normal sight on the Underground. Just ignore it, like the Football League Show was certain to do.

I got to the Valley over an hour before the game began. So did a lot of other people. There was a buzz in Floyd Road that hasn't been there for many years, with a huge queue outside the shop. I thought about going to the pub, but the afternoon's events were about to begin, and I didn't want to miss a thing.

The first of many of the day's delights was reading, in the excellent programme, that one of Chris Powell's musical choices would be Kate Bush. He said "People may laugh at me but I absolutely love Kate Bush. It doesn't suit me at all, but I do."  And there was me thinking I couldn't love the man any more than I already did.

The pre-match sequence got underway with some pitchside interviews, and then some operaoke from Martin Toal and Rose Jang. I'd be really interested to know how Rose Jang came to be there. She's a Korean American from Princeton and although she apparently studied at Goldsmith's for a time, she's not previously shown any Charlton affiliation. Their performances were rousing, in their way, but with a few too many truck driver's gear changes for my liking. I'd have been happier with more Victoria Stanyon, not least, I must admit, because she was looking stunning. If I were to describe in detail what was so attractive about her, people might form an unfortunately accurate opinion of me.

Then the special surprise. There'd been loads of rumours that it would involve Pixie Lott and a helicopter, but the real giveaway had been that someone had seen the Red Devils parachutists were booked for a function at Charlton on Saturday. A man in red was on the pitch earlier, apparently mending a tear in the turf with duct tape. And at about 2:50 five of his mates staged the only kind of pitch invasion you can get away with these days.

By this time, all the smurfs had arrived, and were greeted with a standing ovation from the home fans.

All this, and the football hasn't even started yet.

The first half was a bit flat, to be honest. Johnnie Jackson was subbed quite early, and with Scott Wagstaff moving to the left, Charlton didn't have the shape they needed. Hartlepool didn't threaten much but scored the only goal of the half from a corner. No-one cared that much.

At half-time a thunderous ovation for Alan Curbishley.

The football really started after half-time, particularly after Bradley Pritchard came on after 65 minutes. Let's just stop and consider him for a while. A year ago he was playing for Hayes and Yeading. Next year he'll be in the Championship, another example of Charlton's superb recruitment drive last summer. Three goals in ten minutes - the last an exquisite volley by Kermorgant - saw the game won, and no-one could have begrudged Hartlepool their second when there were about five minutes remaining.

In some ways the result didn't matter. But it meant Charlton had 101 points. We all know how good they've been this season, but now it's typographically obvious for ever, as they are one of only 8 teams to need three digits in their points total. (Actually, it looks even better in binary: 1100101).

The final whistle ushered in the only shambolic moments of the day. There was some confusion over the erection of the display stand, and the "lap of honour" was more like a disorganised stroll in a park. Understandable, really, it's not as if Charlton have much experience of organising victory celebrations. Again, nobody cared. By this stage Pixie Lott could have jetpacked naked into the stadium and no-one would have noticed.

Chris Powell made a moving speech. The North Stand sang "we've got our Charlton back" and everyone finally drifted away, dreaming of what next year might bring.

Yesterday was a wonderful climax to a wonderful season. THANK YOU, CHARLTON! THANK YOU, THE BOARD, THE STAFF, THE TEAM! THANK YOU, CHRIS POWELL!

22 April 2012

Charlton 2 Wycombe 1

I really hate Queen. The seventies pomp-rock band, I mean. Their music has always seemed a bit fascistic to me, with its insistent beat and demagogic posery. It doesn't allow any individuality and tries to force everyone into a uniform emotion, of the kind that can lead to hatred and oppression. I'd sell my worthless soul if some satan could guarantee I'd never have to hear Bohemian Rhapsody or We Will Rock You again.

If only Nick Drake, say, had written a song about how nice it is to win something for once. Then the Valley would have been singing a folk-inspired melody yesterday with an accompaniment of guitar and strings. Maybe Nick Drake would have been inspired by his own song to not kill himself.

But that's one of only two ways yesterday could have been improved. (The other would have been if the opposition had been a more hate-worthy team. Wycombe were great, like Walsall before them, and I'd much rather we'd beaten some ugly team like Oldham.)

But until someone discovers Nick Drake's lost happy album, yesterday is as good as it gets. Next season looks like being big fun! But meanwhile, next week Charlton could reach 100 points and in two weeks' time, we've got an "ignore the cup final" party to go to. The memorable days keep on coming.

16 April 2012

Sometimes I get things right

I am the world's worst football pundit, as regular readers know. But in January last year I wrote this about the possibility that Chris Powell was going to be made Charlton manager.

If he does well, if he leads the team to promotion, won't that be a much better feeling than getting there with Phil Parkinson, or some other manager who's slumming it in the third division to resurrect a faltering career?

Football, thank goodness, isn't about always doing the sensible thing. If it was, I'd be supporting a team that wins something occasionally, or Arsenal. Following a club like Charlton is foolish and romantic - it's daring to hope against expectation that some dreams come true. And there aren't many dreams bigger and better than seeing Chris Powell leading Charlton to glory.
Bugger me, I was right!

14 April 2012

Charlton 44 Third Division 0

Now that promotion is confirmed, maybe we can stop being superstitious, and start talking about how good Charlton have been this season. We can no longer jinx the team.

Top of the league since mid-September. Promotion gained with three games to spare. 94 points (and 100 a real possibility). 20 clean sheets. 15 away wins. A goal difference of +44 (the best outside the Premier League). According to 25-1 on to win the title. With that sort of performance, Charlton should have been promoted long ago. In a normal season they would have been.

Which just goes to show what a strong competition League 1 has been this year. In particular, the two Sheffield clubs have not let up in their pursuit. Now one of them, probably Wednesday, will face the torture of the play-offs. In a normal season, the league would have been a straight and thrilling contest between them, and they could probably both have got and deserved promotion.

But this wasn't a normal season. Charlton's achievement has been phenomenal. All the more so, when you look at how it started. An almost entirely new squad was assembled over the summer, and lots of established players left. We've seen similar changes before. In the years of post-Curbishley decline the turnover of players was dizzying, but the common factor always seemed to be that the incoming players were no help at all. You just need to think of Hasselbaink, Jeffers, Faye and others too appalling to mention to be reminded of those years.

The difference this time seems to be that Chris Powell was involved. He has spoken about his intention to change the mindset of the club, to get in players who shared his approach to the game. And it's worked. One of the striking things about Chris Powell, once you get past his huge charisma, is his football intelligence: he has an exquisite eye for a good player. The best example of this is Yann Kermorgant. Powell knew him from Leicester, where he was out of favour and unwanted, but obviously saw something in him that no-one else did. He's gone on to be one of the stars of the team, not just for his skill and physical presence, but for his indomitable spirit. He must be one of the most fouled players in the league, but he shrugs it all off. As he's a Breton I'd liken him to a menhir, but of course he's far more mobile. More of an Obelix, perhaps.

So the result has been that a rookie manager, in his first full season, with a squad that had never met before the season started, has achieved one of the best performances ever in an English football season. Yes, it really is as good as that. It has been a privilege and a huge pleasure to follow Charlton this season

We knew what had to happen for Charlton to be promoted today. They had to win, and Wednesday had to fail to win at Colchester. It could happen, but I didn't think it would. Be honest, you didn't think it would. That's not how it happens with Charlton. The rulebook says we don't get these breaks. But now, Charlton fans, we've got a new rulebook. I was following the game on twitter and once BWP scored, I felt secure. Charlton don't give away the lead these days. All we needed was for Colchester to hold out against Sheffield Wednesday. And that happened, and suddenly my eyes were full of salty water and I lost the ability to speak.

My only regret about today is that I wasn't there. But next week there's a similar situation. For the first and only time in my life I'll be wanting MKDons to win. This pains me, but if Charlton beat Wycombe, and Sheffield United don't win at Milton Keynes, Charlton will have won the league. And then we can celebrate properly, all of us, at the Valley.

10 April 2012

Charlton 1 Walsall 0

When the Jeremiahs behind you are talking about who Charlton'll get in over the summer to deal with the Championship, you know the mood has changed. Two wins in three days makes such a difference. If the stubborn resistance at Oldham showed the strength of character in Chris Powell's team, this win showed their ability to ration their effort, once again doing just enough to hold on to the win and keep something in reserve for the four remaining games.

Walsall were much better than anyone expected, and brought a refreshingly positive approach to the game. They deserved more than the 227 fans they brought with them. It's hard to understand why they're on the fringes of relegation, and I hope they stay up. I even liked their strip: black shirts and shorts with a white diagonal stripe on the shirts. It's obvious that Charlton's deal with Macron isn't going to be renewed and there will be a new kit manufacturer next season. Let's have a diagonal stripe, please. I love a diagonal stripe.

For once, also, we had a referee who seemed generally competent, although there were two glaringly wrong throw-in decisions that were basic errors. He was booed off the pitch, which was unfair, I thought. Booing the ref has become a habit, like smoking or Greggs pasties, that you keep doing even when you know you shouldn't.

So: well done Walsall; relatively well done the ref. All this bonhomie from me can only mean that the game wasn't memorable. If I were to open my book of football clichés I'm sure the phrases "business end of the season", "winning ugly", and "results matter more than ..." are waiting. You can assemble them into a sentence perfectly well for yourself. Any fool can do that. Even Steve Claridge. Actually, I'm even going to be nice to him and say that, as far as I know, he's never eaten anyone's pet poodle. He's not totally evil.

Here's your link to the reliably excellent offical site report.

01 April 2012

Charlton 2 Orient 0

Another step nearer: this win means Charlton are, at worst, in the play-offs and still have a 6 point lead over the rest, with just 6 games to play. It shouldn't feel precarious, but it still does, and some of the nervousness was evident on the pitch in the first half, which had started so well, with a goal within 7 minutes. But then some bizarre (I'm being kind) refereeing seemed to leave the team - especially Kermorgant - grudgeful and uncertain. Ben Hamer pulled off a couple of fine saves towards the end of the half, which in a way saved the game.

The second half felt calmer, and the referee finally realised he had to do something about the real fouls that were being committed, which resulted in five yellow cards for Orient, who weren't particularly violent, just prepared to do what was necessary as long as they could get away with it. The second goal, which I might even watch on the Football League Show, was a brilliant one, with newbies Cook and N'Guessan linking well.

Once again, the return of Kevin Lisbie prompted a couple of the blokes behind me to say how good it would have been if we could have kept him. Once again it took all my self-control not to point out that he was - statistically at least - a disaster as a Charlton striker. It was one of the mysteries of the Curbishley years why he kept getting picked for the first team, and one had to assume he was absolutely dazzling in training. But he scored fewer goals in his entire Charlton career than BWP has scored this season. To be fair to him, he still looks useful and fast, especially considering he's now 33, but as usual all that speed resulted in him leaving the Valley without scoring a goal.

If we're talking about former strikers, how about one who's available and has experience in getting promotion: Arthur Horsfield. He scored an impressive 53 goals in 139 games - some of those playing at centre back. His name's rarely mentioned these days, his fame being rather overshadowed by his contemporary, Derek Hales. His wikipedia entry is unusually chatty, and reveals something I didn't know before: there's a road named after him in Dartford. He played a huge part in Charlton's escape from the third division in 1975. I came back from University for the promotion-clinching game. For the first and only time I invaded the pitch after the match and remember the look of pleasure on Horsfield's face as he took a mighty drag on a celebratory cigarette. Let's get him back!

Other views, focussing more on the match than the above ramblings of an antient supporter:
Charlton official website
Charlton casual
Drinking during the game

21 March 2012

Charlton 3 Yeovil 0

This was what we needed. The game had Fyffes written all over it, with Yeovil currently in brilliant form and Charlton nerves still a bit shredded from that first half against Notts County.

And the team was looking different. Debutant Dany N'Guessan replaced Johnnie Jackson and Leon Cort (who actually had a brilliant game) was beside Michael Morrison in defence.

The most quoted statistic of the night was that N'Guessan makes a habit of scoring in his debut games and it only took 7 minutes this time. It was a bit fluky, to be honest: a speculative cross that somehow found its way into the net. But who cares? The one goal lead was good enough to last till halftime, despite Yeovil having more of the game. You could see why they've been doing so well, but they didn't get many chances.

Immediately before halftime they made a substitution (I don't think I've ever seen a substitution in  first half added time before) and made another at the start of the second half. Who's to say if that is what made the difference but the second half saw Charlton much more composed and in control. BWP had been impressive all evening with his running and effort and it was just reward for him to get goal no 21, which just about settled matters.

Yeovil didn't lie down, though, and that cost them the third goal, with their defence stretched and sliced apart on 90 minutes. It looked like an own goal to me, but it's been credited to Daryl Russell.

So, let's hope the blip is over. But let's also look at how bad it was. Here's the form table for the last eight league games (thanks to
You need to click it to see it full-size but basically what it shows is that Charlton, after their worst run of results all season, are in fourth place,  and have been doing better than Huddersfield and Sheff U and no worse than Sheff W. Perhaps some people over-reacted (they know who they are).

Nine points ahead with eight games to go. A trip to Huddersfield is next. It's not a "must-win" game, but if Charlton do win, I think it will be time to start celebrating.

Club website report
Kevin Nolan

15 March 2012

The curse of a literal mind (3)

Tesco's Chief Executive in the UK has resigned, after disappointing Christmas sales were not helped by the chain's Price Drop campaign, according to this BBC report.

Where did they go wrong? An independent retail analyst identifies the problem. The campaign "didn't cut the mustard". How odd that the price of a condiment should cost a man his job.

11 March 2012

Charlton 2 Notts County 4

I'll keep this brief. A totally inexplicable shambles in the first half saw what used to be the league's best defence pulled apart by Notts County, who found they could score anytime they wanted to. Game over, surely. I want to go home.

The look on Keith Peacock's face as he returned after halftime suggested that Chris Powell's comments had been something to see, and for twenty minutes, which included two quick goals, the atmosphere at the ground was the best I can remember, as fans and the team began to believe a comeback might be possible.

But it was too much. All Notts County needed to do was defend their lead, waste some time, and foul Yann Kermorgant, all of which they did with great enthusiasm and the complicity of the referee.

I won't waste time trying to figure just why the first half was so bad, and I don't think anyone else should. What the team and the fans need to remember is the spirit of that opening to the second half. When the team plays like that, and the fans are behind them, we can get back to beating anybody.

07 March 2012

Charlton 0 Colchester 2

It's hard to work out what went wrong last night, apart from the second goal, of course. If Danny Baker still made compilation videos of goalkeeper errors, this would star on the next one. It's a frequent tactic to pass the ball back to Hamer to let him change the direction of play, but it went horribly wrong and, under pressure, his clearance bounced off Colchester's no 9 into the goal, and it was really all over with twenty minutes to go.

Until then, Charlton had been pretty much doing everything right, apart from the first goal, of course. Five minutes into the game Colchester's Wordsworth found himself in a bit of space on the left and took a beautifully place shot into the top right corner of the goal. Some blamed Hamer for that, but then, so I've heard today, some blame immigrants for Britain's obesity crisis. Let's just see Wordsworth's goal as a thing of beauty and try, if we can, to avoid poetry-based puns.

Apart from that, Charlton didn't really really put a foot wrong, apart from not scoring, of course. On another day, they'd have recovered from the opening goal and been leading at halftime by a goal or two. Perhaps they are tired; it's been a busy few weeks. And apparently the win at Bournemouth was undeserved, so this result was a touch of karma.

There was a sense of equanimity around the ground after the game. These things happen. We've seen this team use defeat to grow stronger, and we know they have the spirit to do that.

Elsewhere, Sheffield Utd lost again, helpfully, so the lead remains at 13 points. And in the "what if everyone wins every game?" table, Charlton are still 10 points or more above everyone else.

No links to other reports today. You don't want to read a lot of stuff about intimations of mortality, do you?

05 March 2012

What's happening in Lepe?

Charlton's reserve team, San Roque de Lepe, unfortunately lost at the weekend by 1-0 away at Linense. Neither of Charlton's loan players were involved, and the goal was "un penalti inexistente" that not even the home supporters saw. Eight bookings in the second half provoked a bitter report on the club's website.

Bad luck, then, Lepe, but perhaps you deserve it when one of your players is this short:

(70 cm, europhobes, is 2 feet 3 inches.)

03 March 2012

Artificial sweeteners are bad for you

Sometimes I wish I were a nutritionist. Partly because then my shape would be a terrific joke (but then, hairdressers tend to have really bad haircuts themselves) but mostly because I'd like to test out my theory that artificial sweeteners are bad for you. Worse than sugar.

It's a theory that's based on common sense, which is a bad scientific method, but which comes up with a counter-intuitive conclusion, which, equally superficially, makes me think it must be right. But here goes, and if you are a nutritionist let me know what you think.

I would think it's likely that when the body detects sweetness, it expects that a load of calorie-full carbohydrates is coming its way. And so it would make adjustments to prepare for that. This is where some knowledge would help, but let's just say that for example the sugar level of the blood is reduced by storing that sugar somewhere. I need to generalise this even further. Expecting more energy, the body stores its existing free energy in an energy store, a notional organ I'll call the battery. When the energy doesn't arrive, the body reclaims energy from the battery. Normally, energy is only drawn from the battery when it is needed, in response to exercise, perhaps. So now the body is acting as if it is expanding energy, when it isn't. And this causes a sense of lack: hunger. Which you don't get with real sugar (although, admittedly, it rots your teeth).

I've found some academic support for this theory. At the end of this news release from Bristol University we find this:
Although not covered by this particular experiment Dr Hans-Peter Kubis also explains how low or zero calorie drinks with artificial sweeteners do not necessarily provide the answer either. As people drink these, our subconscious expects a sugar and calorie laden treat, but on not ingesting these calories, people are more likely to over eat at the next opportunity to make up for the calories people were expecting to consume in the low-cal drink. This is not proven in humans, in fact there is a good argument for funding far more research in this area.
He attributes the effect to the subconscious, rather than physiology, but it seems there hasn't been much research. He's right to say there's a good argument for more research, and I wish I was in a position to do it. The answer in the meantime, of course, is to adjust your palate to need less sweetness, real or fake. Drink water. 

29 February 2012

The League One Run-in

Charlton's marmalising of Chesterfield last night suggests that they're going into the final quarter of the season on top form, with a reinvigorated BWP ready to add his goals to the effort. So I thought it was time to look at the run-in. I've created a spreadsheet, which shows how many points each team in the division could get, if they won every game from now on. Once a team's total possible points is less than Charlton's current points, they can't overtake them. Here's how it looks now.
All it really proves at the moment is that Charlton can't be relegated (hurrah!) as all of the bottom four teams can't get 75 points. But as the games run out, we'll see more teams falling into that position, and I'll be updating the spreadsheet regularly. I think I'll enjoy this!

(Technical note and appeal for help. This is a google docs spreadsheet and you can open it on this link. Can any of my smart readers advise on whether it's possible to use conditional formatting so that whenever any team's max points goes below Charlton's current points, the row gets a red background. Thanks. Any other improvements also welcome, of course.)

26 February 2012

Charlton 2 Stevenage 0

I think a lot of people were expecting a difficult game today. Stevenage are one of only two teams to have beaten Charlton in the league this season, and they've generally been doing well, with a good chance of getting into the playoffs, and a decent cup run. There wasn't much sign on the pitch of how they've done that. True, for the first half they kept Charlton bottled up, but they didn't look as if they had much creative to offer. Charlton kept their game intact and didn't panic, even when a couple of good chances were missed by BWP, who was getting into some good positions. I didn't say it, or better still write it down, but I began to think this was the game when he'd get the goal everyone wants.

In the second half Charlton upped their game and Stevenage largely disappeared. The first goal, about 5 minutes after the break, was an unstoppable shot by Morrison from a loose ball following a corner. And then, 10 minutes later, BWP at last put away one of his chances, with the help of a deflection. The joy and relief around the ground was tangible. By the end of the game he could have scored 5 or 6, and while a couple of weeks ago we'd have bemoaned the wasted chances, now we were excited by the potential he's showing again. I'll be surprised if he doesn't score a few more goals in the remaining games.

Stevenage didn't ever look like coming back and so on a beautiful sunny winter afternoon a near-capacity crowd enjoyed the comfort of a comprehensive win against needlessly feared opposition.

This was another "Football for a Fiver" day, and the most successful yet. The streets around the ground were swarming before and after the game. Obviously a lot of kids (including my friend Teresa's son Burt) were seeing their first game, and you must believe they'll want to come back. The future looks better than it has for years for Charlton.

Relive the joy with these reports:

Official site report
News shopper report
The view from Chicago
Charlton Casual
Blackheath Addick
Kevin Nolan on

Some people see Chris Powell as a miracle worker. I wasn't sure, but look what he's done today: he's only gone and made the Daily Mail a must-read. (Well, OK, one article in one day's paper, but it's a start.) Maybe he can sort out Southeastern Trains next.

22 February 2012

Charlton 1 Rochdale 1

"They want it more than we do." How often do you hear that as an explanation for for a dodgy performance on the pitch. It's not only patronising to the opposition (we'll be calling them "plucky" next) it seems to me to underestimate the natural competitiveness of the players. I'm pretty sure you can't make it as a professional footballer without being fiercely competitive from the age of about 5. All footballers - probably all successful sports people - hate losing. And they hate it when they know they're not playing as well as they should.

Look, what I'm trying to say here is that they don't need to be booed. It doesn't help, and one day it might mean that a player thinks "Oh, fuck it, I'm just going to coast along for this game and for the rest of my career, I might as well."

Charlton didn't play well last night, particularly in the first half. You can identify some reasons, and I'd select the absence of Chris Solly as one. Rhoys Wiggins is a superb left-back but he looked uncomfortable on the right, particularly when going forward. And Johnnie Jackson is always missed when he's out, as much for his spirit as for his play.

But a lot of players just had a bad day. Tranmere Rochdale wouldn't have scored without an awful mix-up that gave them the ball just inside their own half with nearly all the Charlton team committed up front. Their goal, predictably, brought out the best in Charlton, and a quick reply, with Kermorgant a superb replacement for Jackson as free-kick taker. But nothing more came of the increased effort. Silly little mistakes meant the ball kept being lost. There were a few half-chances, but no spark of magic to get through Tranmere Rochdale's surprisingly competent (given their league position) defence.

Bad days happen to good teams. The man next to me was a simmering pot of annoyance, his arms folded tighter across his chest as the game went on. On a colder night, people could have gathered around him for warmth. I didn't think Charlton were as bad as he did, but even he kept his mouth shut at the final whistle. Some didn't, and Kermorgant was visibly shocked and disgusted to hear a few idiots booing in the north stand. In many ways he's my favourite player in the team at the moment for his unstinting and unselfish effort. He, above all, does not deserve that.

Charlton match report

15 February 2012

Charlton 2 Artificial team with no fans 1

Well, it was a win, but many wins like this and we'll all be crazy by May.

The first half was unusual. Charlton used to go whole seasons in the Prem without getting a single penalty. Here they got two in the last five minutes. One of them also saw Mackenzie sent off for the visitors, and both seemed to me to be as certain as Johnnie Jackson's treatment of them. Spirits were high going into half time and we settled in for a rampage. It's been too long since we've had a 4-0.

But what happened? Charlton's game plan in the second half seemed to be to take the pace out of the game completely, but it didn't work out that way. There was also a sense of complacency, of job finished, so 50-50 balls went uncontested, and passes were hit without conviction. I suppose there was a sense that there are a lot of fixtures coming up in the next few weeks. It was hard to watch at times, but as usual the defence was able to clear up any problems. Well, almost any. A goal after 87 minutes gave the shamefully scant band of visiting fans something to cheer, and finally brought a little edge into Charlton's play. The win had never seemed in doubt - you always knew that if Charlton conceded a goal they could up their game - but it hadn't been a lot of fun.

But looking at the table remains fun. With one of the Sheffs losing and the other winning, the gap is now 8 points.

Charlton website report

12 February 2012

Two sides of football

Sadly, all the football talk today is about Liverpool. I don't want to dwell on it, but it's depressing how a club with Liverpool's history can get things so wrong. Their failure to recognise and tackle racism - it's not just "banter" - is damaging the club's reputation. Millwall were like this years ago, and they still have the stigma when it's probably no longer deserved. It's not just one stupid arrogant player, it's the management that colludes with him, writing him a blank cheque for any bad behaviour. And this seems to encourage the worst kind of fan (I won't repeat some of the filth that's been spouted on twitter). We thought football had overcome racism, but it's clear there's still some way to go. The encouraging thing is the wave of media and public revulsion. Most football fans are clear in their disgust, and Liverpool's manager seems increasingly out of touch, a dinosaur.

But the other side, which won't get reported, was this. Yesterday the weather caused the games at Barnsley and Chesterfield to be called off, leaving loads of fans from Birmingham and Charlton at a loose end in South Yorkshire. So a lot of them made the short trip to Sheffield Utd, and became temporary supporters of the visitors, Wycombe Wanderers. Three sets of fans packed into one end of a football stadium: the conventional wisdom is that this will cause trouble. In the bar at halftime, for example. In fact, it seems to have been a wonderful afternoon, even though Wycombe lost 3-0. Here's a video of what happened at halftime in the bar. (You may want to turn the sound down; some of the singing is awful).

@Sam_Kimber24, who was there, said "we kinda went round the circle calling out each other to give us a song haha. Was legendary!"

Oh, Kenny. Everyone else can tell the difference. What happened at Sheffield Utd is banter. What's happening (sometimes) at Liverpool is racism. Recognise it, condemn it, kick it out.

01 February 2012

Charlton 1 Bury 1

What a disappointing game! In the first half, Charlton looked a bit shell-shocked, and there was no clear pattern to their game. But in added time, Dale Stephens scored a super goal - a scorching shot from about 25 yards out that flashed through a crowded penalty area - that restored the fans' spirits a bit. This was a game everyone expected Charlton to win and it looked like they would.

In the second half you could see that the goal had given the team confidence, and they played some of the best football we've seen for a while - passing the ball smartly and creatively. But there weren't many real chances, and those that came along tended to be blasted high and wide. You felt that the team believed that if they just kept playing like this, more goals would come. Perhaps there was a certain smugness to their play. With just three minutes left, Bury grabbed an equaliser in a swift passing move that left John-Lewis in a one-on-one partnership with Charlton's keeper, who should have saved the shot, but just grabbed two handfuls of air about this far from where the ball now was. A smallish crowd of Charlton fans grumbled away into the bitterly cold night, while the tiny band of Bury supporters, hardy northern types, celebrated jubilantly.

Actually, it wasn't like that. That's what happens when you let the ghost of J B Priestly guest-write a blog post. Him and his experiments with time. You see what he's done there? He's imagined how the game would have felt if the two halves had happened the other way round. Same result, totally different emotions.

In fact it felt like a kind of triumph to grab a point in the end, in a game that everybody expected Charlton to win. Above all, the importance of not losing was what we cherished after the match. This is a team that doesn't give up. And with MKDons and Sheffield Wednesday drawing, the position at the top of the table improved: 10 points clear now.

Why not look at those goals (bizarrely shown in the correct order)?

and here's the club website report.

31 January 2012

San Roque de Lepe: DON'T PANIC

The players themselves broke the news but now it's official: Ruben Bover and Tosan Popo are going on loan to Spanish side San Roque de Lepe. So I thought I'd look at the club's website and found this story.

To summarise as well as my Spanish can manage: the club is denying rumours that its owners intend to abandon the club at the end of the season, much less right now. Reassuringly, they say it has never been the club's intention not to pay its players or any other employees. Indeed it has paid the "gran mayoria" (great majority) of salaries due.

But financial problems have forced a number of decisions which might not be popular, but which are necessary for the future of the club.

"We are pleased to announce that we are close to agreeing a long term strategic plan, forming alliances with many businesses and other football clubs from around the world, which will ensure the stability and success of the club."

I've also found this story, which says that the club is managed by English (which might mean British) investors, who have put the whole playing squad up for sale (this is presumably the "might be unpopular" decision), and who are trying to reduce the squad cost to 200,000 euros. The investors are described as former Chelsea directors.

It doesn't sound like a happy place, but I hope our boys will be OK there.

21 January 2012

Charlton 1 Sheffield Utd 0

Let's just look at this for a moment. Huddersfield are still playing as I type this, and have just taken the lead, so they could move up to second, but they'd still be 7 points behind and still have played one more match than Charlton. We've seen several teams have a crack at challenging Charlton, and any of those top 5 could have had their moment this season, but Charlton have just been so consistent that they've established this impressive lead without anyone outside SE7 noticing.

"Charlton" and "consistent": not two words you have expected to find together for a good few years. As the season goes on, it becomes more obvious how important the role of the defence is. The two fullbacks must be the best in the division, and could easily hold their own in the Championship. In the middle, Morrison and Taylor are rock-like. Only Man City have now conceded fewer goals this season. We've seen Charlton in full flood at times this season when you believe they can beat anybody, and we've also seen edgy performances, when goals are scarce but one is all they need. The strength in defence means the team can ride out the dodgy periods, like Bradley Wright-Phillips' recent barren patch. The first few months of the season was built on his goals. I feel desperate for him to get scoring again, but look! it doesn't matter to results or position in the table if he doesn't. Or look at today, when our goalkeeper had a bit of a mad day, but the defence took care of him.

Sheffield Utd were the best team to come to the Valley this season, and they came on a good run of results. You could see the quality in the team from the start: intelligent running and passing, a good understanding between the players.

But they didn't really look sharp in attack, and after Johnnie Jackson's goal - a sweetly hit free kick from about 25 yards into the top left corner - they were less impressive in the first half.

The second half saw them throwing everything at Charlton, and it was a gripping, sometimes hard to watch match. Charlton's midfield didn't seem to be working quite as well as usual, and Utd must have had a huge majority of possession. But that defence soaked it up, and all but 2,694 of a huge crowd for this division (20,000 +) were ecstatic with the result. Like last week's 1-0 win at Sheffield Wednesday, it properly proves Charlton are where they are because they deserve to be.

I can't end this post on such a positive note. So must mention that today's referee, Mr Deadman, had a shocker. But what the heck! Even that can't spoil the fun. 

Why not read the Charlton website review?

03 January 2012

Charlton 2 Brentford 0

This game was delayed for 15 minutes after a power failure in the upper north stand. Details are in the first link below and Al Gordon's blog gives some comments on his experience. For me, in my usual seat in the old geezer section, it was good to have a drummer and some chanting for a change. But I think the breaking-up of the covered end choir contributed to an odd atmosphere around the ground, particularly in the first half.

Apparently, in his post-match press conference Brentford's manager, Uwe Rosler, said he thought his team played better and deserved to win. If that's really true, if the team deserved to win but still managed to lose 2-0, that's shocking. That's worse that admitting they weren't quite good enough, which I think was a truer summary.

In the first half Brentford really did look better than Charlton. They had a much better understanding among themselves. It reminded me of how Charlton played earlier this season when the team was unchanged for match after match, and the telepathy grew. There hasn't quite been that understanding in recent games, and the performances have been a bit disjointed as a result.

So when Michael Morrison scored one of the streakiest goals you'll ever see on the half hour, it was arguably against the run of play. But on the other hand, despite having 5 corners to Charlton's 0 in the half, Brentford had never looked like scoring. A team that doesn't score will never win, Uwe. (This is one of the basic rules of the game.)

Charlton were much better in the second half, and a very-much-welcomed-back Johnnie Jackson was unlucky not to score. But it took until the last minute for the clinching goal to come: a well-executed effort by Danny Green, which he could easily have messed up.

So not a vintage performance, but the new year is underway with Charlton 5 points clear at the top. Next week there's the welcome diversion of a trip to Fulham in the Cup, a game where, in a sense, they can't lose. Of course, in another sense, the everyday sense, they probably will. But here's my dream: we win, preferably with an own-goal or two by Danny Murphy, and draw Arsenal at home in the next round, and the best player I've ever seen live - Thierry Henry - comes back to the Valley one last time.

Other views
Details of the power failure
Club's website review
Al Gordon's blog
Kevin Nolan