For happier news about the start to the 2000-01 season go to Premier 1.
The dismal end to Charlton's season spluttered to a conclusion with a 2-0 defeat at The Hawthorns at the hands of relegation strugglers West Bromwich Albion. This was the first away defeat for the Addicks since October and if their recent form had been replicated throughout the season, they would have been relegated. However, league position is decided by performance over the season as a whole. The recent poor performances are no guide to next season as they were by a demotivated and often tired team which clearly needs to be stengthened by four or five signings over the summer. As Curbs put it after the match, 'We finished the season four weeks ago.' Even so, some of the team might have benefitted from a visit to the Skillcentre outside the ground, except that it now lies derelict.
After the excitement of Erith born Sophia Grant's wedding the day before, it was as well that we had a short journey on the West Sussex coach to the glittering heart of the Black Country. Walking to the ground, I was able to talk to well-known lister David Todman, shortly to return home from Singapore. A number of Addicks were dressed in various party costumes, while Rick Everitt honoured the occasion by wearing colours. Usually he remains in civilian dress.
In the first minute of the match, an error by Tiler, unfortunately the first of a number, nearly played West Brom in to score, but Deano was alert to possible defensive errors and able to get the ball away. The cave dwellers of the Black Country showed their appreciation of football skill and past services rendered by booing Hunt every time he got the ball.
The opening phase of the match was played at a frenetic pace and the Baggies drew an early save from Deano. They then went on to win their first corner on seven minutes. Getting the chance of a start led to over commitment from Scott Parker and a foul by him led to a yellow card.
Good defensive work by Rufus down near the corner flag broke up a threatening West Brom attack. Hunt and Newton combined usefully, but Svensson put the ball over. Konchesky put in a cross that looked as if it had potential, but it was caught by Jenson. The useless referee looked as if he was going to book Carl Tiler, but he was simply given a good talking to. The resulant free kick from a potentially dangerous position was cleared successfully. Sanotos brought down Parker and earned a yellow card for his efforts. Just after twenty minutes, the Addicks launched one of their best build ups of the half, but it all came to nothing (how many times have I written those words in the last phase of the season?
Just before the half hour an accurate long ball allowed the Baggies to break through and put them in a one-on-one with Kiely, but the shot was dragged wide. A few minutes later Albion put in a shot that landed on the top netting, the referee ignoring a blatant push in the area. The Baggies had evidently been practising their diving skills and Robinson earned a yellow card after a classic exposition of the art of falling over to impress the ref. Albion were also displaying football skills which did not match their place in the table and just missed the goal a minute later. Konchesky was the next Addick to receive a yellow card, the referee losing control of what was becoming a bad tempered game. At that stage, it seemed inevitable that someone would get sent off. The referee was regaled with a chant of 'You're not fit to referee.' Indeed, Curbs was obliged to have a word at half time and point out the tense nature of the match and he thought that the standard of refereeing improved in the second half.
Good work by Barness created some space for himself on the right, but his shot was directed straight at the keeper. Parker put in a good ball to Newts, but his header went over. Rufus cleared a dangerous attack on the Charlton goal. 0-0 did not seem a bad reflection of the balance of the game at the end of the first half and at that stage it looked as if it might end that way.
The Baggies came out after the break fired up to preserve their Division 1 status. Deano was forced to make a great fingertip save from a cross just after the half started. Tiler then conceded a corner and Deano had to make a second good save at close range. Charlton then had one of their best chances of the match when a Robbo free kick headed on by Andy Hunt was somehow cleared from a mad scramble on the line by Santos. Scott Parker then burst through in the centre forward channel, but laid the ball off to Newts rather than having a go himself. Santos, who had been injured just before half time, was pulled off. A Tiler error let West Brom through.
A West Brom free kick led to their first goal from Sneekes on 65 minutes who has been finding the net recently after a long barren spell. The free kick was initially cleared by Kinsella, but some poor defending gave Sneekes a second bite of the cherry. Konchesky put in a good cross to Svensson, but he was not ideally placed and his header went over. Curbs decided that he had had enough and brought on Stuart instead.
Charlton looked for a moment as if they might equalise, but the move was ruled offside by the linesman on the side containing the most fervent Baggies. He had been doing the Addicks no favours all afternoon. Robbo protested vigorously to the referee, but all that happened was that the Baggies made it 2-0 on 70 minutes through Taylor. All Charlton could hope for now was a consolation goal. Robbo had a chance, but missed. A West Brom free kick near the corner flag opened up the possibility of making it 3-0 and in the resultant action Deano made another great save. Charlton fans in the lower part of the stand had great difficulty in watching the last five minutes of the game because of a line of policemen and women positioning themselves in front of them to stop the anticipated pitch invasion. This far sighted move by the West Midlands Police drew some angry comment from a normally calm member of the West Sussex branch. Soon it was all over and the opposing players were embracing warmly in the middle of the pitch.
The consensus on the West Sussex coach was that it was an embarrassing way to end the season. However, none of the points carry over to next season. As we cruised down the M40, Deano sped past, perhaps to visit his parents who live just down the road from me or to enjoy a well earned drink at the Simple Simon pub. As the Leamington Spa Courier pointed out this week, Leamington now has two local lads who are now goalkeepers in the Premiership. Bob the Dog offers a small prize for anyone who can name the other one.
Bob the Dog considers that none of the players has earned the coveted Silver Bone this week and has awarded it to Sussex coaster Brian Cole who has efficiently organised the master's transport to matches throughout the season. Deano made a number of good saves and perhaps could not have stopped the two goals. The first one ended his chance of a new Charlton clean sheet record. Richard Rufus was the player who came nearest to earning the Silver Bone for some vital defensive interventions. His disappointment was evident at the end of the match. Tiler had another 'mare of a game, despite some effective headers. His long lay off through injury seems to have led to a deterioration in his game. At times one wondered of one was going to see a repeat of our last visit to West Brom when an error by Phil Chapple gave Andy Hunt the chance to score the winning goal. Paul Konchesky put in a spirited and often skilled performance, but Chris Powell's place is safe. Barness was once again competent and created a scoring opportunity which he failed to make full use of, but it is difficult to believe that Curbs is being serious when he says he is the best player in the current team apart from Svensson. Newts had a bit of an off day, not making the most of two half chances to score. His eventual substitution was no great surprise. Kinsella was creative and committed in defence and attack, but I still feel he is a little jaded. In the early phase of the match it seemed as if the pressure of the occasion was getting to Scott Parker but he improved as he settled down. He should have put in a shot when he got through. Robbo was one player who was fully committed, but his finishing skill seemed to desert him. Hunt was rather subdued and found few opportunities to display his skill. Whatever Svensson does the view of him held by most supporters is now so negative that nothing will change it. Today didn't help. He always seemed to get beaten by a fraction of a second to fifty-fifty balls and his headers were not well directed. Substitute Stuart can look more threatening near the goal than the strikers, but has suffered a recent dip in form. Salako did not contribute anything when he came on in place of Newts, but enjoyed the post match 'celebrations' more than anyone. Presumably he is the 'England international' who is going to act as a host at the European games screened at The Valley.
Juneau the Soccer Cat has no hesitation in awarding the Hiss of the Match to match official Mr Pugh who showed that he could not control a game in which much was at stake for one side.
The first picture below shows some of the notorious Zimmerboys who meet in the Rose of Denmark for a drink before the match. The second picture shows this page's canine reporters enjoying a well earned rest as the season comes to an end. Left to right: senior match analyst Bob the Dog, guest match analyst Homer the Cherry Hound, and trainee match analyst Hooch the Pooch.
We are now reviewing the future of the page in terms of coverage of the Premiership campaign. We average 200-250 hits a match, a respectable total. A number of people have told me personally or through E mails that they enjoy reading the reports. So they will continue next season.
Does the page need refreshing in any way, or is it a case of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'? Should we have more of the ambience or more if the action, or have we got the balance right? Should Juneau the Soccer Cat's contract be renewed? Let us have your views at Wyn Grant.
The real home town of Deano