Much to the annoyance of Bob the Dog, fanatical Cherry supporter and substitute match analyst Homer the Hound has insisted on having his picture at the top of this page.
Saturday saw me in Glasgow chairing and responding to an address by the Scottish Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Environment, Forestry and Social Inclusion. My cab driver turned out to be a keen amateur footballer and we had a good crack about the Premiership and the Preston v. Arsenal cup tie he had been to see. The train south was slow, and became even slower after Preston when the relief engine was trapped in a siding by another company's train. Reception on my radio was often poor, but I heard Southampton go one ahead, and then Hunt's equaliser. Well, I thought, we might come away from this with a point and that would at least be an initial platform for recovery. It was not to be. Ilic let in a shot under his body which he should have saved in the second half, and the Saints scored in injury time to make it 3-1. But let special guest match analyst, Homer the Cherry Hound, tell us the story ...
Woof, woof! Hello, Bob. Homer the Cherry Hound here. Joe the Saint has kindly allowed me to use his PC to send you a report of the Southampton match. The following will therefore be based on the views of a Saints fan as related to me by my good friend and erstwhile doggie walker, Joe.
A bright but bitterly cold day was the setting for Charlton Athletic's first visit to the Dell in almost ten years. The main talking point amongst Saints fans, however, was the last meeting between the two clubs back in August when a Clive Mendonca hat trick helped Charlton to their biggest win of the season and Southampton's most humiliating defeat since a 7-1 hammering by Everton two seasons ago. The fortunes of both clubs have changed somewhat since that hot summer day when the Addicks topped the Premiership and the sorry Saints were left rooted to the bottom. Now with only two points separating them going into today's game victory was vital for both sides, although Charlton might have been happier than Saints with a draw.
With both sides scrapping for points at the wrong end of the table, this was never going to be pretty to watch, but when the referee turned out to be the dreaded Graham Poll, I began to wonder how many players each team would finish with. Those fears were heightened on seven minutes when a crunching challenge from behind on Mark Hughes saw Youds receive the game's first yellow card. The resulting free kick proved costly for Charlton as the high ball into the area failed to be cleared by the Addicks defence and the ensuing goalmouth scramble led to Kachloul poking home from six yards.
Far from being disheartened, Charlton continued to press forward in search of an equaliser, and they only had to wait five minutes before on arrived. A corner from the left gave Redfearn the opportunity to fire a powerful drive past Jones in the Saints goal only for Colleter to clear off the line. The ball went as far as Kinsella on the left of the area whose cross was glanced in at the far post by Hunt.
Charlton were now beginning to dominate the game and Hunt almost gave them the lead after turning his marker and firing narrowly wide just two minutes later. The rest of the first half saw both sides guilty of sloppy defending and Southampton in particular were giving away the ball far too easily. Unfortunately for the Addicks they failed to capitalise and were lucky not to go in at half time a goal down after Ilic flapped at a cross from Palmer allowing Beattie to direct a header towards an empty net only for Mills to clear off the line. Charlton were even more fortunate as Mr Poll suffered one of his frequent bouts of myopia and failed to see the most blatant handball since Maradona when Richard Rufus headed the ball on to his own hand in the Charlton penalty area.
The second half began with Saints pushing forward in search of a second goal. Kachloul fired over and Mark Hughes, who was booed every time he touched the ball by the 1,500 Charlton fans, became Graham Poll's latest addition to his little black book for an offence that only the man in black saw as Saints pressed forward once again. The constant Saints pressure paid dividends on 52 minutes when Colleter's low 25 yard drive flew through a crowded penalty area and into Ilic's left hand corner to give Saints a one goal cushion once again.
Both sides continued to display lapses in concentration and chances went begging at both ends. Saints almost went further ahead when a looping overhead kick from Hughes eluded Ilic and bounced off the crossbar. At the other end Newton's powerful volley was saved by Jones. The constant wrestling match that had gone on between Ostenstad and Mills culiminated in the latter being shown the direction of the dressing room by Mr Poll should he offend again. Ex Cherry Steve Jones left the pitch with a pulled hamstring on 73 minutes to be replaced by Swedish debutant Martin Pringle who went close within two minutes of coming on. Perhaps it would have been a different story if he had been on from the start. Charlton were left to regret their missed chances in injury time when a run from Ostenstad into the Charlton area resulted in a loose ball falling kindly for Beattie to tap home from six yards. The look of despondency from the Charlton players said it all as Beattie reeled away in triumph. The scoreline hardly did justice to a Charlton side who had looked good enough for a draw at least.
One or two Charlton fans let the majority down before the game when, asked for a minute's silence for two recent deaths connected to the Southampton club, they continued to shout obscenities at Saints fans. The silver bone award goes to Andy Hunt for the goal and a constant presence in the Saints box. Hopefully, Alan Curbishley can emulate the achievements of Lenny Lawrence whose scrape with relegation the last time Charlton were in the top flight deservedly gave him the nickname Houdini. Finally, just to clear up any confusion in Bob the Dog's aged brain regarding the true allegiance of Homer, please refer to my picture in my Saturday afternoon togs reproduced above.
That was the reaction of an ecstatic Steve from Sidcup after Charlton secured a 2-2 draw against Newcastle at The Valley on Sunday evening with the last kick of the game. Steve's brother Pete, back home on an extended break from New Zealand, had not seen Charlton score since his return for the Villa game. This match more than made up for it. After going 0-2 down, breakfast television host Mark Bright came on and scored within a minute. He later scored a second which was clearly seen by the television cameras, but not by the referee who was wearing special 'Big Club' contact lenses. Charlton were also denied a penalty for a blatant handball. Debutante Martin Pringle put the ball in the net in the last minute of injury time, despite an attempt to put him out of the match earlier with a cynical clattering tackle by 'Cheat' Shearer. Newcastle manager Ruud 'sexy foootball' Gullit later expressed his puzzlement about why the England star had been given a yellow card, but before Gullit could check the time of the next flight to Amsterdam from London City airport, Pringle pointed out that the tackle had split his boot.
This Tom Morris photograph shows Mark Bright celebrating after opening the scoring against Newcastle. The veteran striker has been a popular ambassador for Charlton, including children's television among his credits, but connoisseurs of his skill and technique have largely been obliged to visit Park View Road this season. Mark's time for celebration after the match must have been limited as he had an early start on Channel Four, but he was able to soak up the congratulations on the show, according to one lister's report.
I think this is the first time I have been to a 4 p.m. kick off on a Sunday. Arriving at Charing Cross for the inevitable wait for a Connex train, we met up with lister Paul and a guy I have not seen since Wembley whom I knew as the Harrow Addick but has now moved to some twenty-five miles from us near Northampton. The train had its full quota of Geordies, my wife remarking that it was like listening to her father. He was a Magpie before he emigrated to Thornton Heath in search of work and succumbed to the bland temptations of Palarse.
Somewhat unusually, the Addicks started facing the Covered End, although that is where they often seem to score goals. As is so often the case, Charlton started well and looked well able to cope with a Newcastle side in which supposed star Shearer often looked disinterested. How long will he remain a Magpie? Pringle quickly showed his quality and made a beautiful lay off to Robinson who should have scored but sent his shot over the bar. Ketsbaia looked like the best Newcastle player throughout and without the composure and command of injured Richard Rufus, the Addicks defence sometimes looked vulnerable. On quarter of an hour, a counter attacking move by the Magpies saw a clearance by Barton headed down by Shearer. The Georgian collected the ball near the halfway line, and with three Addicks defenders backpedalling furiously in some disarray, charged forward to 25 yards from goal before firing home a shot through Youds's legs and into the left hand corner of the net, leaving 'Rolls' Royce stranded on his Premiership debut. On 36 minutes Shearer committed a cynical foul on Pringle, leaving him less effective for the rest of the match. At least Shearer picked up a yellow card from referee Jones which means that he will now have a one match suspension.
The Addicks had a number of chances before half time, but were not able to make anything of them. Keith Jones sent a rather weak shot wide, Robinson shot straight at the goalkeeper and a curling shot from Pringle did little to disturb stand in Magpie goalkeeper Harper. At half time, an Addick proposed to his girl friend on the pitch. We were informed that 'We're all in tears down here', whereupon the Bloke Behind Me, in one of his droller moods, shouted, 'Well, we're all in tears up here.'
The morale of Addick supporters slumped to its deepest low this season when on 55 minutes Solano scored a second goal for Newcastle. Ketsbaia picked up a header from Shearer and outpaced Youds. His shot was half saved by Royce and, despite a last desperate challenge by Powell, the ball found the net from three yards out. 'Touchline' Day continued to give frantic signals to the squad; Curbs was less in evidence, apparently because he feared the same fate as Sky Blues hothead Gordon Strachan (about whose behaviour at Stamford Bridge at Saturday I had words with my secretary about on Monday morning). However, on 62 minutes Curbs made an inspired double substitution: youngster Paul Konchesky on for the failing Newton, while Hunt, who had picked up a knock, was replaced by Bright. Showing that he is at home on the pitch as in the studio, a long throw in by Danny Mills was flicked on by Youds and Bright put a classic header in the back of the net just twenty seconds after coming on.
A worried referee clearly realised that Premiership instructions for the Big Club to win were in danger of not being fulfilled. Konchesky helped to revitalise Charlton, and when Scott Parker came on for Keith Jones in the 81st minute, the standard of the home side's play improved even more. Meanwhile, on 78 minutes, Dabizas had been sent off for a second bookable offence, making one of the slowest walks ever to the touchline. The referee managed to ignore a clear penalty for hand ball against Newcastle, but even more astoundingly somehow failed to see that Bright had put the ball across the line when the television cameras showed that it was, as anyone in the East Stand could see as well. The so-called assistant referee was standing in line with the face of goal so why he did not intervene is an interesting but probably foolish question. But Charlton didn't give up, and an injury time substitution of Ketsbaia by Newcastle only served to add more time on. A pass from Parker found Pringle who used his left foot to put the ball in the back of the net from around ten yards out. Even the referee could not deny the evidence this time and the Addickted went wild in the greatest explosion of joy since Sasa saved at Wembley. It was only a point, but it took Charlton to third from bottom and promised that even upcoming visitors Newton Heath could be contained.
Match analyst Bob the Dog has had to put up with Coventry supporter Hootch the Pootch throughout Monday, but is now able to offer his verdict. The Silver Bone is awarded to Martin Pringle . Although affected by Shearer's tackle, he showed that he is a player of real quality, able to do innovative things with the ball and create space. The Magpie defence didn't know what to make of him and it wasn't just novelty value. Even the Bloke Behind the Master thought that he was a class player and that's praise indeed. The only problem was that he did show up some of the other members of the Charlton squad. 'Rolls' Royce fulfillled his lifetime ambition of keeping goal in the Premiership. Compared with Ilic, who retains the non league habit of trying to score direct from a goal kick, Royce distributed the ball intelligently, making good use of throwing the ball out to defenders. He could, however, be argued to be partially at fault for the first goal. He was let down by the defence, but whether he is a shot stopper remains to be seen. Chris Powell played another classic game, but Danny Mills seems to have lost the outstanding form of the early part of the season. Although he made some foraging runs, he also gave the ball away on a number of occasions. Eddie Youds also seemed to be having something of an off day, although all credit for his flick on to Bright which got Charlton back in the match. Tiler came in for the usual routine abuse from large sections of the crowd, but I thought that he had a better game than usual, using his roof on a number of occasions to head the ball away to good effect. Newton started well, but then faded rapidly. His pace is offset by a lack of crossing ability and his confidence seems to be suffering. Kinsella was excellent again - 'you see him here, you see him there, you see him everywhere.' He must be one of the best midfielders in the Premiership. The master is about to bring a book out dedicated to Keith Jones , but, although he showed some deft touches and was thought by some Addicks to be an improvement on Redfearn, is he really Premiership quality? Robinson was again a bit of a disappointment, although better when he switched to the right. He often didn't seem to want the ball and missed a golden chance to score an early goal which could have been decisive. Hunt nearly scored with a superb bicycle kick which tested the reactions of keeper Harper, but one has to reflect what a superb combination Mendonca and Pringle might be. As noted before, Bright shows that technique and skill can compensate for age: he can be slow, but he's still very good. Konchesky made a real difference when he came on and made one of the best long passes down the line I have seen at The Valley this season. Parker also showed that he is a superb young player who has much to offer and should be seen more often. I give this match four woofs.
As I count the votes in the Addicks on Line Player of the Month Poll, I am always interested to see the presentations on the pitch and I am reproducing Tom Morris's photo of Aidan Coloe presenting the award for November and December to captain Mark Kinsella. (Aidan is the younger person; his father is with him). In a E mail to the List, Aidan commented, 'I was lucky in getting to sponsor Mark Kinsella, but maybe it was the Irish blood in me that allowed me to obtain a relative bargain price. We are very lucky to have Kinsella. On a recent trip to Dublin I met up with some friends who had been to recent internationals at Lansdowne Road. All they had was praise for him. He is held in very high regard by the Irish fans and has also received very positive press from the Irish newspapers, often being included in the team of the week and featuring in many other articles. Charlton fans who have seen him over the last three seasons will appreciate why he is held in such high esteem and come what may I hope he remains a Charlton player at the end of the season.' (Hear, hear to that!)
Nene Park - the FA Cup tie against Leeds
With Charlton out of the Cup and hence with no game on 23 January, I decided that the time had come to head east along the A14 and visit my non-league club Rushden and Diamonds. After all, with championship contenders Rushden facing lowly Doncaster Rovers, I should at least see a win by a team I support for once. I had commented on the Charlton E mail list that there would be no segregation in force at the ground, but in fact since I was last there segregation has been introduced, along with further improvements to the excellent facilities. In order to get ourselves in the mood for the game, we went into the club shop and purchased two Diamonds scarves, rather splendid items for £10 the pair. The programme informed us that the Addicks were after Diamonds keeper Ian Feuer - an old and inaccurate story.
Even before the game, the one thousand Doncaster supporters in a crowd of 4,577 were outsinging the very subdued Rushden contingent. Not that their chants were very original, the repetition of 'Yorkshire' being one of their favourites. When they started shouting 'Come on you reds' it was difficult to restrain my natural instinct not to join in. Rushden replied with some rather pallid shouts of 'Come on you Whites.' And the play was pretty pallid on the pitch for a team that had held Leeds 0-0 at Nene Park not so long ago.
Doncaster were clearly up for it and their robust defence was aided by the repeated use of the offside trap which Diamonds seemed unable to break. There was too much use of the long ball, too many wild shots into the area, and too much shooting before thinking. When I last saw Diamonds, Charlton were in Division 1 and the contrast in standards was now even more marked. When Rushden did put together a move, it was often marred by woeful finishing. However, on approximately 40 minutes, the impressive De Souza put a low shot across the box which was spectacularly put in the back of the net by the hapless Nicol from Doncaster.
Doncaster came back out determined to equalise and this was achieved by Ian Duerden on 47 minutes. This was followed by a second goal on 51 minutes . West was brought on in place of Foster by Rushden, a move that some of the fans had urged at half time, but it did little to harden the Diamonds and the increasingly miserable Feuer found himself picking the ball out of the back of the net a third time as Northamptonshire's finest rushed into position to restrain the delirious Donnymen. Rushden were not even able to make anything out of a free kick right in front of the goal. As we queued to leave the ground, the mood on Radio Diamonds was one of unrestrained gloom and some might have wished that the chairman had put a submarine on the adjacent River Nene (as suggested jokingly as a tourist attraction in the programme) so that they could make a quick and submerged getaway.
My wife pointed out that it might not be such a bad omen - a team in red third from bottom takes on a team third from the top and beats them 3-1. Could the Addicks achieve such a result against the Heathens next week? You heard it here first.
A disgruntled Bob the Dog has had a bath and has rather reluctantly awarded the silver submarine to Miquel De Souza who looked to us the one Diamonds player on the day who showed real quality, even if his enthusiasm sometimes got the better of him.
Rick Everitt informs me that De Souza is a former Addick who holds the distinction of scoring the last Charlton goal at Selhurst Park as the home club, achieved in a rearranged reserve match against Millwall. Indeed, it was the only reserve match we ever played there.
As Bob the Dog's agent, I can reveal that he has been approached by Rushden and Diamonds who would like a picture of him wearing the scarf for their photo gallery. Bob is considering the offer, but has so far preferred to conceal his identity, turning down offers to appear in the Charlton scarf.
For the report on the game with Manchester United, please go to Volume 8/
East Stand, Block E, Row Q
Remembering 1956-7 relegation