For the latest reports go to Volume 12.
Charlton's 1-1 draw at The Valley with West Ham left many questions unanswered for the Addicks faithful. Will Charlton be able to improve on their still often woeful finishing? And will Curbs sign impressive Argentinian trialist Juan Cobian? We were told in the Mercury that the side that played today was likely to be the one that played in the opening Nationwide game. Will it be good enough to get the automatic promotion place we all want? This performance left many uncertainties.
Deciding to make a day of it, we stopped off for a visit at Churchill's country home at Chartwell. Some of the National Trust custodians eyed our colours with disapproval, but an even greater blow was when the man guarding one of the main rooms made himself known as a dedicated follower of Palarse.
Soon we were speeding to The Valley for my first visit since February. We passed through Mark Deveney's Falconwood and were soon walking down quiet streets to The Valley. There seemed to be a lot more graffiti around. After a visit to the club shop, we headed to the home of the Zimmer frame crowd, the Rose of Denmark. Lister Richard Sheppard was there (minus his lister's badge and baseball cap) entertaining a crowd of fellow fans from ICL (every other person on the list seems to be working for or have worked for them).
We headed back to The Valley for the announced kick off time for the vets' match only to find a large crowd gathered as the turnstiles had not opened. Four police horses stood guard in case the assembled crowd decided to riot, but the family groups waited patiently in the sunshine until half the usual number of turnstiles opened. As we queued one youngster, asked 'Who is Keith Peacock?', prompting an older Addick to respond, 'Who IS Keith Peacock. He's a legend down here.' Despite the good humour, the turnstile chaos does not create a good impression with the casual fan and it is about time Charlton grew beyond this kind of cock up..
The vets' match provided a display of football skills at about one third normal speed with Derek Hales definitely having lost the 'killer' touch. The unbeaten record of the Charlton Vets was retained by two sizzling goals from Pardew, producing shouts of 'sign him up' from the East Stand. Keith Peacock came on for a cameo appearance, seeing one shot hit the crossbar while on another occasion he failed to beat the stranded goalkeeper.
After the turnstiles chaos, the main event started late and was limited to two halves of forty minutes. Charlton appeared in their new yellow kit which is a particularly lurid shade of yellow. After only five minutes of play, Barness limped off with a hamstring injury. This was a mixed blessing as his only contribution up to then had been to concede a free kick and it gave the crowd a chance to assess trialist Juan Cobian who played in Matty Holmes's shirt. There was another blow when Steve Brown had to be assisted off, facing the Addicks with the prospect of losing yet another of their back four for the crucial opener against Barnsley (Tiler is already out). The Addicks took the game to West Ham in the first half with plenty of possession, but they rarely looked like scoring, although Hunt hit the post.
The Addicks started brightly again after the truncated half time which had seen a motley group of West Ham supporters put three penalties past Ilic. A Newton cross allowed Pringle to put in a great strike which was pushed over the bar by Forrest. In the resultant corner, as in all the others in the match, the Addicks displayed their recurrent weakness of being unable to do anything from the corner spot, the ball all too often ending up in the hands of the Irons keeper. It increasingly looked as if West Ham were going to score and the always threatening Wanchope did so convincingly when he found himself able to accelerate into a one-on-one with Kiely which left the impressive keeper with few options. As the match went on, the supposedly friendly atmosphere became increasingly frayed and after yet another confrontation between Rufus and Wanchope, the referee felt obliged to ask for both of them to be substituted. A clear handball from Lomas gave Charlton a penalty and Stuart delivered crisply to make it 1-1.
Match analyst Bob the Dog thanks his fans for their good wishes during his recent near fatal bout with peritonitis. He hopes to post his picture soon, along with one of new American recruit, Juneau the Soccer Cat. Bob the Dog has given his Man of the Match award to new keeper and Leamington lad Dean Kiely. Kiely was authoritative and commanding throughout and made one spectacular save. Few keepers could have save the goal that went in. Barness was on the pitch for a mercifully short period, but Powell was as cool and capable as ever. Eddie Youds probably made contact with the ball with his head eighty per cent of the time, but always did so to good effect, earning a chant of his name from the Covered End. Brown played his part well and it was a blow to see him injured. Newton showed plenty of pace and an ability to get the ball forward, but, as always, the problem is what happens once he gets there, although he did put in a good cross to Pringle which nearly led to a goal. Robinson started impressively, making some good penetrating runs, but seemed to fade as the game went on. And he managed to get into an argument with the admittedly poor ref. Kinsella gave 100 per cent as usual and put in two cannon ball shots, one of which might have found the net. Stuart has been the subject of some criticism on the list, but he showed that he can move the ball around well as well as put a penalty away which is a much needed skill after two disastrous failures last season. Hunt had some nice lay offs, but he is paid to get the ball in the net and this he conspicuously failed to do. Pringle was very impressive, both in winning the ball and in seeking to get it in the net. He was presumably substituted rather than Hunt so as not to tire him too much. Partnered with Mendonca or Steve Jones, he could have a great season. Cobian does not have the pace of Danny Mills, but who would? He defended well and showed great accuracy in long range shots. He also showed great skill in getting the ball forward. He did put in two poor balls, including one attempt at goal, but, particularly in the light of our injury problems, I would sign him up. Parker was a slightly puzzling substitute for Pringle and contributed less than I had hoped. Rufus nearly managed to score and was effective in his defensive role, although he will have to watch his temper. Konchesky came on too late to make any judgement about his likely contribution.
Juneau the Soccer Cat will be contributing a Hiss of the Week to this page. Juneau writes, 'This week my Hiss of the Week goes to Cat, the cat from next door. Cat's tin opener is a Coventry City supporter (and also a minimalist, hence Cat's name). This week Cat came over in his sky blue collar and ate my food.' (You haven't quite got it Juneau. Please try harder and slag off the ref next week - page editor).
A hattrick from Super Clive Mendonca gave Charlton a 3-1 victory over Barnsley that put them top of the Nationwide League Division 1. An early goal in open play from Sir Clive settled any nerves and the second two came from crisply struck penalties.
We had our worst road journey ever to Charlton, four-and-a-half hours from Leamington. After delays on the M25, including one caused by a collision, we joined other Charlton fans in a crawling hell on the A2, apparently caused by repainting of the central reservation. Hence we were not able to join the Zimmer frame crowd at the Rose of Denmark, selected by the Evening Standard as the recommended Charlton pub.
Cheered on by a crowd only eight hundred short of capacity, Charlton made a strong start and took the game to Barnsley. After only six minutes Mendonca set the Valley cheering with a superb shot from the edge of the box. A corner by Kinsella was flicked on by Hunt and an inadequate clearance gave Mendonca the chance to put the ball into the roof of the net. A mix up between Powell and Rufus nearly gave the Tykes a chance to get back into things, but the shot went past the right post. A clear foul from Barnsley keeper Bullock for which he was lucky not to receive at least a booking gave Mendonca a chance to dispatch a penalty which was clearly destined for the back of the net.
The first booking in the game came after only eight minutes and the game became increasingly bad tempered. In all there were eight yellow cards, five for Barnsley and three for the Addicks and it was a miracle that no one was sent off. Barnsley got back into the game with a fierce diagnol shot on 30 minutes from Darren Barnard. This had started when Barnsley quickly took a free kick which many of us thought should have gone the other way for handball. This was one of a number of strange decisions by the referee during the afternoon but, as someone remarked, at least he was consistently unfair. Charlton still looked in command as the break approached, winning a succession of corners, but the Bloke Behind Me was beside himself urging Charlton 'to get in front again'.
By the time the second half had started, a warmer afternoon had become even hotter, but Charlton started brightly again. One minute into the game Robinson directed an on target header at the keeper. Barnsley made the first of three substitutions on 48 minutes when Eaden came on for the goal scorer Barnard. Whoever was going to rescue the Tykes it was not Palace reject Bruce Dyer who was eventually taken off after a performance that was dire indeed. Someone suggested that he should change his name to 'Useless', but it was pointed out that he would have to spell it first. Fears that Barnsley might get back into the game eventually prompted a double substitution after 70 minutes with the fading Hunt being replaced by Pringle, while veteran Keith Jones came on in place of the disappointing Shaun Newton. Pringle managed to get an impressive shot in on goal and he was involved in the incident that led to the second penalty for handball. Once again Mendonca took the penalty with calm authority. Mendonca had a chance to make it four in the closing minutes of the game but failed to round the keeper.
Match analyst Bob the Dog had no hesitation in awarding the Silver Bone to Clive Mendonca . Apart from his hattrick, he displayed superb ball control. Kiely was commanding and authoritative in goal, making a number of good saves. No keeper could have stopped the one that went in. Powell played his part well as usual. In particular, he made one decisive intervention when a Tyke threatened to be in a one-on-one with Kiely, putting in a superb tackle which put the ball out for a corner. He also made clear to the East Stand linesman what he thought about his 'contribution' to the game. Although there has been some suggestion that he is not comfortable in the right back role, Brown looked fully on top of the game to me. Rufus made a number of decisive defensive interventions, using his head to good effect. Youds was also just what was required, seeing off the admittedly hapless Shipperley who could learn something from his father. Youds is much better with this head than with his feet. He picked up a yellow card for dissent and at one time looked at risk of going off. But that's the role he has to play. Stuart never made a mistake that I noticed and his support gives Kinsella the freedom to range effectively all over the pitch. Robinson put himself about and came close to scoring. The referee also got the benefit of his views. Newton was a disappointment. He often didn't go far forward enough, or did not do so sufficiently quickly. As usual, he had plenty of pace, but his one shot at goal sailed over. It was no surprise when he went off. Hunt had a good game, particularly in the first half. He complemented Mendonca well with some nice touches and lay offs. Finding himself with no support, he had one try at goal. Pringle when he came on showed his usual ability to win the ball and gave the Barnsley defence a lot of trouble. Keith Jones displayed his usual ball skills and did not put a foot wrong.
Juneau the Soccer Cat has stretched out a claw to the programme and chosen the Barnsley No.4, Kevin Richardson, for her Hiss of the Week. She used quite unladylike language for a pedigree puss, but what it comes to down to is that he is a nasty piece of work from Up North who was lucky not to get sent off.
With the Crewe match off, I set off for a short holiday in Iceland. I did not think that I would get any football while I was there, but as I was walking along the shore at Reykjavik, I suddenly heard the unmistakable beat of football drums, followed by the familiar 'da-da-da-da-der-da-da' chant. With roars from the crowd and the smell of burgers wafting on the strong north wind to guide us, we plunged into a maze of streets and came across the ground of KR Reykjavik, celebrating their centenary year and recent victors in the home tie of their UEFA cup draw against Kilmarnock.
Paying our eight pounds admission fee, we learnt that the opponents were Grindavik. Earlier that morning we had visited Grindavik, a town of 2,000 set among desolate lava fields. A fishing port, it is best known for its statue of a bereft fishing family staring out to sea. KR's smart modern stand was already full, mostly with supporters wearing the black and white check shirts of the home side and waving their banners. The four drummers seated in front played an insistent rhythm.
KR drummers at the heart of their stand.
But here and there could be spotted Grindavik supporters in their yellow fishermens' oilskins with the club name printed neatly in blue on the back, thus replicating their colours. The side of the ground opposite the stand was lined with supporters, while one end was filled with hoardings. We therefore chose the Uncovered End in front of the smart clubhouse where on the upper level the commentary box could be seen for the club's radio station. Television had to make do with a rather rickety gantry on the halfway line. The electronic scoreboard told us that the score was already 2-1 to KR after fifteen minutes. The Fishermen seemed a yard slower to the ball and less accurate in their passing than their opponents.
With the half time whistle many of the crowd streamed into the clubhouse where hopefully they could buy beer for less than the usual five pounds a pint. I estimated the crowd at 2,500 - 3,000, not a lot until you realise that it amounts to one per cent of the country's population. An equivalent crowd in the UK would be 60,000. A quite impressive lion mascot came on during the break. When he tried to get back into the clubhouse afterwards, he was shut out and was mobbed by youngsters.
Grindavik seemed to improve in the second half, although their finishing was poor and they rarely troubled KR's Serbian goalkeeper. Their best player, No.11 with a streaming mane of blonde hair was inexplicably substituted, possibly because his boat was about to leave harbour. The fishermen seemed very prone to falling over on the excellent pitch, perhaps because they were still responding to the roll of the sea. Grindavik's best player was their goalkeeper, a short but intelligent player who had a good partnership with his defenders. He looked after the net as if it was full of a superb catch.
KR's attacks were powered by their No.10. Here he is taking a corner.
KR's fluent style of play was not helped by the tendency of the referee, Mr Uselesson, to blow up for every minor infringement, although the linesmen actually seemed to understand the offside rule. Gradually KR started to penetrate Grindavik's defence, particularly after a Steve Jones lookalike was brought on as a sub. However, very often their attacks were powered by their No.10, an ageing but powerful bald headed player. As opportunity after opportunity came to nothing, the Blokesson beside me became increasingly agitated, yelling incomprehensible oaths in Icelandic, accompanied by a manoeuvre in which he leapt into the air and kicked the railings. As yet another ball went just over the bar, I swear I heard him shout 'Leaburnson'. For all their pace and effort, KR could not penetrate the shoals of Grindavik's defence. We thus missed all the goals. But when the final whistle came, and the KR players linked hands to run forward to the stand, the crowd went beserk with joy. They love their football in Iceland.
So we found when we went to the Westerman Islands, devastated in 1973 by a volcanic eruption, and home to under 5,000 people. But they are known as football fanatics: there is a giant football mounted on a plinth in the town, and even the street cleaner sported a huge club banner on his trolley. IBV have brought the Icelandic championship home to their five pitch ground at The Valley for the last two seasons. But in this case The Valley is formed by towering volcanic crags.
The Canaries had their wings clipped by Charlton from the start of the match at The Valley on August 21st, but it was not until the second half that the Addicks scored their winning goal. This came in the 73rd minute from a forceful header from Richard Raymond Rufus, three R's that the rueful Canaries will surely remember. They came looking for a draw, with the possibility of a goal on the break, and for much of the match they must have thought they had a chance of returning to Norwich with a share of the points. But, as Steve from Sidcup remarked, most of the Norwich players would not be fit to be on Charlton's sub bench which shows how far we have come in the last couple of years.
Charlton took the match to Norwich from the kick off. Hunt got through in the first minute, but shot over the bar. It was eleven minutes before Norwich were actually able to mount an attack on the Charlton goal. Robinson looked dangerous on the wing during the first half and shot just over the bar on seventeen minutes. However, it was difficult to find a way through the packed Norwich defence, reflected in the fact that Charlton's first corner did not come until some twenty minutes into the game. Many more were to follow, but I was more worried by the occasional Norwich corner, than I was hopeful of our efforts. Robinson was in the thick of the action with a shot at goal on 27 minutes that was turned away by Marshall for a corner, followed by a shot by Newton that was tipped over by the keeper who made his last appearance at The Valley for Norwich Reserves. The action then switched briefly to the other end, with a ball pushed in by Kiely disallowed because of a Norwich foul. It was left to Steve Brown to finish the half in impressive fashion with a fierce shot which just missed the target.
Anthony Barness did some good work on the pitch at half time when he drew the number of the writer of this page for the £500 prize in the Valley Gold draw. Charlton had been playing exhibition football in the first half, but where was a goal going to come from? The Addicks seemed to lose some of their shape in the second half. Steve Jones was brought to replace the fading Hunt, in part, as Curbs explained later, in recognition of his sparkling performance in the reserves mid-week, but his first attempt at goal was an off target header. A cross from Stuart just missed him. The Bloke Behind Me was in a great state by now, reminding Rufus that he was a centre half not a centre forward. Very true, but Rufus won the argument by promptly putting the ball in the back of the net, making effective use of a cross from Stuart. As Curbs noted in the post-match press conference of Rufus's third goal from the Addicks, 'These goals come along like the eclipse.' But 'it was a great move, a good finish.'
A rather nervous phase of the match followed. Curbs admitted later that in the 'last twenty minutes we lost some of that aggression we had in the first half.' Newton and Robinson were clearly tiring, but it was Mendonca who was taken off in the dying minutes in favour of Pringle. Curbs explained that this was because he thought Norwich's best chance of scoring was from a defensive set play and, with Hunt already off, a big player was needed to defend in such a situation. The Addicks started to make more mistakes with a short corner from Kinsella being put out for a goal kick by Robinson. There was an anxious moment when Kiely was brought down in the last few minutes of the game. But even Dermot Gallagher could not find no more time to add on and the Addicks took three well deserved points. The margin of victory did not reflect their clear superiority on the pitch. Sussex coaster Brian Cole left the ground a happy man having bet £2 on Rufus to score the first goal at 40-1.
Match analyst Bob the Dog is delighted to award the Silver Bone to the player sponsored by his master's wife, Richard Rufus. Rufus was impressive in defence apart from scoring the winning goal and surely deserves a slap up meal at one of the Japanese restaurants he favours. Kiely was again impressive despite being the subject of some unwarranted fouls by Norwich players. Powell was again one of the best players on the pitch, making one decisive intervention when a Norwich player threatened to get into a goal scoring position. Brown seemed more comfortable than in the last match and played with coolness and authority. Youds does tend to lumber around a bit, but he got his head to the ball from time to time. Stuart had a rather poor game by his standards, making some foolish errors. It may seem that I have gone barking mad given that he provided the assist to Rufus, and also put in one another cross that could have been used by Jones, but I felt that he was playing below his usual high standard. Kinsella was just brilliant, displaying outstanding skill in dispossessing Norwich players. He also put in one of his cannonball shots which just missed the post. Newton was better than against Barnsley, but is still rather error prone and often does not go forward enough to allow Steve Brown to deliver the ball to him. Robinson was very strong in the first half, but faded towards the end and should have been subbed in my view. Hunt never looks as if he is going to score. Can we have a striker who simply provides the occasional lay off? Mendonca was marked out of the game a lot of the time, but was occasionally able to show his brilliance on the ball. Steve Jones was full of bravery and commitment, but lacking in finesse. Pringle's appearance was too brief to merit comment. Juneau the Soccer Cat having finished washing Bob's ears gives her Hiss of the Week to Paul Dalglish for blatant cheating including a foul on Kiely for which he should have been sent off rather than getting a yellow card and two pieces of diving, one which brought a free kick when he hadn't been touched at all.
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Row Q, In front of the bloke behind me