Our report of the Chelsea game will appear at Addick's Diary 2002-3
Charlton completed their pre-season tour unbeaten with a 2-2 draw against FC Porto in the John Robinson testimonial at The Valley. The sun wasn't out all of the time, indeed once it was shining while it was raining at the same time, but it was possible for fans to relax, sit in unfamiliar parts of the ground and enjoy the exhibition football provided for them. The pace was sometimes slow, but the Portuguese side displayed silky passing skills and there had could have been no complaint if they had won. It should be remembered that Porto are the nearest thing to 'ever presents' the Champions League has ever seen and Charlton's performance once again gave hope for the season.
When I got to London I found that the Jubilee Line was not running beyond Canary Wharf, so I switched to the surface line at London Bridge, only to find that services were disrupted after an 'incident' involving Millwall fans. They had felt it necessary to take out their anger on Connex's rolling stock even before their defeat by mighty Rotherham. I was thus late at the Rose of Denmark and most of the Zimmer boys were there already. The signed shirt of Richard Rufus that Maggie had donated was on view and underneath there was a picture of Pam from Sidcup wearing nothing but the Charlton shirt.
The Zimmer boys are back in town
I arrived at the ground to see Robbo's young son Luke taking the initiative to run in front of the Charlton players during their warm up. The souvenir programme was full of genuinely warm and touching tributes to the much loved player. Two enterprising young women had a cardboard placard stating 'Give us a kiss, Robbo' which could be reversed to display the slogan 'Give us a kiss, Costa.' A Welsh dragon flag was draped over the Upper North in tribute to Robbo's thirty caps for Cymru. As was noted in the programme, when he was first selected, Robbo had to ask 'How to do I get to Newport? Porto fans were much in evidence at the Jimumy Seed end of the Lower West, although one fanatic was also in evidence in the East. I shall miss the sound of Portuguese at The Valley. The word 'spectacular' is much overused, but I was really impressed by the parachute display by the Red Devils and only has to admire their skill as they land at speeds of fifty miles an hour. Inevitably, there was a slight wait before Robbo appeared on the pitch before his presentation. It was a nice touch to give a presentation to Jorge Costa as well in appreciation of everything that he did for us last season.
The game started quietly, but the crowd did not have to wait long for the first goal. Good work by Robbo won a free kick on the East Stand side. Claus Jensen put in a good, arcing ball and Portugal's international keeper Vitor Baia leapt for it but missed. It fell conveniently for Graham Stuart who put it forcefully into the net.
A Porto corner was effectively cleared with a header. JJ then made the first of a number of sweeps down the right, but he had little support. Candido took a knock off Fortune. The referee, who was giving his services free of charge, was inclined to blow up for every offence rather than play the advantage. Good work by Porto on their right created danger and Claus Jensen had to intervene at the expense of a corner. Rufus had to clear the ball off the line from a corner and the return was only just over the bar. Scott Parker had been his usual vigorous self in midfield, but apparently managed to kick himself in the ankle. Despite the repeated entreaties of a bloke behind me for the Addicks to 'get stuck in', the last thing one wants at this time of the season is an injury to a key player. Parker was wisely taken off as a precaution and it was some time before Chris Bart-Williams was brought on as a replacement.
JJ won a free kick in a promising position. The ball was played out from in front of goal, but Robbo's shot was deflected for a Charlton corner which ended with a free kick to the visitors. Chris Powell managed to put Deano in difficulty, but fortunately it led to nothing more than a Porto throw in. Gary Rowett put in an excellent cross which the keeper had to save. A Porto corner ended in an effort that again went just over the bar. A Robbo run freed up JJ who evaded an attempt to trip him. The outcome was a Charlton corner taken by Claus Jensen, but the keeper was able to collect. A foul (yes, really) by Claus Jensen gave Porto a free kick some thirty-five yards out. They showed how dangerous they could be from set pieces when the delivery went just over the crossbar.
A Jensen free kick provided a half chance, but Rufus managed to send the ball soaring into the air over the goal. Good work involving Robbo won Charlton another corner, but it was cleared. A vigorous tackle by Bart-Williams gave Porto a free kick in time added on. Nuno Valente's free kick was excellent and a nod by Derlei put the visitors on level terms.
Having made a couple of substitutions at half time, Porto really piled on the pressure in the opening phase of the second half and the game was played in Charlton's half much of the time. Once again, they were managing to find space on Charlton's right and an early effort went just over Deano's crossbar. Their neat passing was a pleasure to behold. A Porto corner was cleared and then another was punched out by Deano. The Charlton defenders were being tested and first Richard Rufus and then Gary Rowett put in good tackles. As the surprisingly unimpressive Baia hesitated in clearing the ball, Euell was able to take it off him. Unfortunately, the ball went well wide, but the effort lifted the crowd after a period in which the Addicks had been showing a lack of urgency.
Eventually Porto's pressure and skill won its reward. Substitute Cesar Pexioto found space to put in a firm shot past a diving Kiely to make it 2-1 to Porto. Chris Bart-Williams put in an excellent long ball to Jason Euell but he was unable to beat the keeper. Porto having made another three substitutions a few minutes before, the Addicks now attempted to liven things up with Graham Stuart and Richard Rufus coming off in favour of Luke Young and Kevin Lisbie. It was difficult to work out what the formation was now supposed to be, although 3-4-3 was one unusual possibility. Meanwhile, the crowd was heartened by the chant 'Millwall are losing six-nil'. Matt Svensson was brought on in place of Euell.
A Lisbie run scythed through the Porto defence and Jensen passed the ball on to JJ who dispatched it cleanly into the back of the net to make it 2-2. Robbo was pulled off to warm applause in favour of Kishishev. Jensen won the ball well with great skill, but was brought down. Lisbie won the ball well, but was brought down by two defenders. Unfortunately, CJ's free kick was well over. Matt Svensson, as energetic as over, provided some good and necessary defensive work at the expense of a Porto corner. Then, at the other end, Matt Svensson managed to get round Nuno who had replaced Baia in the Porto goal. Unfortunately, he was unable to get the ball to JJ and Porto were able to recover the situation. Lisbie won the ball again and went off a run but was brought down. The free kick led to a Charlton corner taken by Chris Bart-Williams but it was unproductive. Then the exhibition in the sun was over. Next week, against Chelsea, it gets real.
After the game Robbo came across to the East Stand and gave the girls with the placard a kiss on the cheek. As his wife Fiona noted in the programme, she can rely on Robbo when it comes to the issue of female fans. The popular player autographed programmes for youngsters and I headed back to the Rose of Denmark where Pam from Sidcup was in evidence in a red 'Hustler' shirt. When I got to Charlton Station, I saw a train drawing out and the next one was cancelled owing to staff shortages. As I feared, I saw the 19:45 to Leamington drawing out of the platform at Marylebone, and feared I would have to wait an hour, but the ever efficient Chiltern Railways had decided to increase the service frequency from 10 August to coincide with the start of the football season.
Hooch the Pooch, acting for the first time as senior match analyst, nearly threw away the benefits of a week's training by emeritus match analyst Bob the Dog when his shades slid off his nose and he then spent some time sniffing under the legs of the other reporters to find them, provoking grumbles of 'who let the dog out?' There is no Silver Bone for a testimonial match, but a special commemorative Silver Bone will be given to Robbo.
Hooch the Pooch is convinced that a dog reporter must wear shades to be taken seriously.
Deano was sometimes put under pressure by back passes from his defenders. This is always risky, because his kicking out under pressure is one of his weaker points. Chris Powell was below par, raising questions about the left back position. Porto were finding a lot of space on the right. Rufus coped very well as usual and Fortune played well alongside him. Each time I see Gary Rowett I am more convinced that he is a good purchase, a very calm and collected player who carries out his tasks with a quiet but impressive efficiency. Stuart showed that he hasn't lost his ability to score, although I thought he looked as if he was experiencing some pain towards the end of the first half. Parker was a powerhouse in midfield and Charlton missed him when he had to go off. As one would expect Robbo was even more energetic and dedicated than he usually is. Jensen showed how much we missed him when he was injured. Euell didn't contribute as much in this game as some of the other pre-season matches, but his skill was evident now and then. JJ seems to have regained his old sharpness which was evident in his well-taken goal. Bart-Williams was disappointing and is unlikely to start against Chelsea. Luke Young was not too impressive when he came on, missing one pass. Lisbie made some great runs and gave the admittedly not very impressive Porto defence some trouble. Svensson showed why he is a great player to bring on to liven things up and give some bother to the opposition. Kishishev did not make a great impact after he came on.
There is no Hiss of the Match at a testimonial, but in any case Juneau the Soccer Cat is not speaking to Hooch the Pooch as she blames him for passing on fleas to her, leading to a visit to the vet, although the real culprit may be Cat, the Coventry supporter from next door.
Our journey to Reading was prolonged by the closure of the M40. Having finally got there and shelled out twenty pounds for a ticket, four pounds to get in the car park and three pounds for a programme, I was beginning to wonder if it was worth it. However, it was my first visit to the Madeskji (OBE, DL) Stadium which is one of the more attractive and comfortable modern stadiums I have seen. And, as it turned out, a feast of goals was in store with the final scoreline 4-3 to the Addicks. Last season, Charlton were known for difficulty in scoring and tightness in defence. However, both teams decided to play open, attacking football and the result was a high quality match which suggests that the Royals should do well in Division 1.
The match started with Merv under the eagle eye of fourth official Miss Chapman who stationed herself behind him to ensure that he did not stray out of his technical area. Charlton were in control for the opening minutes, but then Graham Stuart gave the ball away near the halfway line. This allowed Reading to build up a neat attack which culminated in Forster opening the scoring for them after five minutes with Deano well beaten.
JJ won the Addicks a corner which was taken by CJ. With Reading continuing to threaten, Scott Parker put in a good challenge on Forster. Kishishev put in a shot which the keeper had to tip over the bar, but Charlton wasted the corner. With Scott Parker beaten for once, Rufus intervened and Deano was able to grab the ball to prevent a 0-2 deficit. On fifteen minutes, a shot from Euell was deflected and JJ scored. It was a case of him being in the right place (on the far post) at the right time and promises well for the season. Reading attacked again, but Gary Rowett (who looks increasingly impressive and has a particular ability to provide accurate long-range angled passes) cleared to safety. JJ put in a good cross. Kishishev was well placed right in front of goal, but somehow managed to send his shot way over the bar. With Reading awarded a free kick in a promising position, Salako managed to put his effort high and wide to inevitable shouts of 'Charlton reject'. Rufus made a good clearance, demonstrating once again what a key figure he is in defence. On 38 minutes Graham Stuart put ina great ball to Euell and his header found the back of the net. The Addicks went in for the break 2-1 ahead.
Half time provided an opportunity to scan the crowd and see whether it had been graced by His Worship the Mayor of Welling, Rick Everitt. Once again, however, it appeared that he had been unable to tear himself away from the attractions of his official residence.
The official residence of the Mayor of Welling
Chris Powell hit the angle of the post with a good attempt, but Reading looked determined and an early shot was not far over the bar. It was only eight minutes into the half when James Harper made it 2-2 for the home side. However, with only a couple of minutes gone, Charlton were ahead again. Euell made good use of a ball from Jensen with a well placed shot. Reading pressed forward again and the danger was effectively dealt with by Rufus. Reading made four substitutions. Vern from Stenying asked if I had got all their names but my response was that I hadn't and didn't care.
Nevertheless, the substitutions seemed to give the home side a further boost. By running into the back of Fortune, a Reading player managed to win a dubious free kick in a shooting position. This was very well taken by Alex Smith to make it 3-3. However, given that Graham Stuart was covering the near post, it is difficult to see why Deano was unable to save on the other side of the goal. Then Reading were awarded another free kick near the goal, but this time their effort went off the wall, to be followed by two corners in succession for the home side. A number of players seemed to be falling over on the pitch which seemed rather spongy, suggesting that it was laid on a foundation of spare copies of Auto Trader.
With the Addicks starting to look as if they were under pressure, Graham Stuart was pulled off in favour of Lisbie. Euell put in a good ball to the substitute, but his shot went over the bar. Reading made two more substitutions including the keeper. With Scott Parker fouled, a brawl broke out in the middle of the pitch. Almost immediately, Parker won the ball, but the Reading player dived and the Reading support started a chant of 'off'. Robbo hurriedly pulled on his shirt to replace the withdrawn Parker.
Lisbie won the Addicks a corner taken by Jensen. Lisbie's effort was just over the bar. With Reading pressing forward again, Deano had to make one save and then tip the ball over the bar. Charlton applied some pressure, but Reading managed to break again. Then with minutes to spare JJ made it 4-3 for the Addicks. This opportunity was really created by good running off the ball which had been a characteristic of Charlton's play all evening. Although the moaners will no doubt find much to criticise, I was heartened by this performance. It also suggests to me that our starting line up should include Euell and JJ at the front. Jase came over after the end of the game to sign autographs for supporters. His performance in all the matches I have seen has been truly excellent.
When we returned home, Hooch the Pooch was in residence, having booked in for a week's intensive training for his duties as senior match analyst from emeritus match analyst Bob the Dog. Having learned that he is to be reserve match analyst, Homer the Cherry Hound cancelled his booking and went off in a huff to Rugby. Meanwhile, we have Rushden v. Coventry to look forward to on Saturday afternoon.
Training begins for new senior match analyst, Hooch the Pooch. The new press gantry at The Valley is in fact designed for reserve match analyst, horizontally challenged Homer the Cherry Hound.
We set up our West Country base at the excellent Steam Packet Inn in Totnes where we were joined by equine magnate John Window. The proprietor, an Argyle supporter, was intrigued by the customised number plate on John's motor, 'NS Fee'.
For a ground hidden in a maze of streets in an obscure part of Torquay, Plainmoor was relatively easy to find and we were able to park up right outside the ground. We were there in time to see the team coach arrive and a galaxy of talent was paraded before our eyes. With all the team fit, it is easy to see why there are going to be no new signings (so I am reliably informed) before the transfer window ends. Curbs affably greeted pitch announcer Brian Cole (who has lost nine pounds in his sponsored slimming programme) and posed for a picture with his daughter.
Torquay may have the same ground capacity as Nene Park, the home of Rushden and Diamonds, but there is a world of difference in the facilities. Even so, the pasties on offer beat the notorious 'Diamond Burger' any day. Charlton fans, who made up a good portion of the 1,499 crowd, had a stand to sit in if they so wished. Robbo, who probably likes pre-season friendlies less than any other player, was moaning on the touchline about his chances of getting ninety minutes. Scroll down to the end of the page to see a picture of the squad warming up. The picture will also help to explain why Torquay are also known as the 'Riviera Massives'.
The Charlton line up had very much a second eleven look up about it. The Gulls are sponsored by 'Sparkworld', a discount house for domestic appliances, and it was soon clear that much of the sparking was going to come from the home side who were very much up for it. Deano had to make a diving save from a dangerous early cross.
Svensson managed to get the ball in the net, but the effort was disallowed for a foul. Torquay's 'Player No.9' (as they put it in the World Cup) made a good run which required a classic interception from Steve Brown, no doubt getting full exposure in the friendlies because he won't get much of a look in once the season gets under way. A Charlton corner gave Fortune a chance and his effort was just wide. Then, with the Addicks under pressure, Fortune had to save the day at the expense of a Torquay corner which was well cleared by Chris Powell. Charlton won two corners in succession, but although the keepr spilled the second effort, the home side were able to clear. They continued to show the threat they posed with a shot that went just over the goal.
John Fortune was called on to put another great block on Player No.9. Fortune then had to clear in front of the goalmouth. Lisbie was then able to put in a great run and turn provider for Stuart who just missed. Luke Young then put in a powerful header which left the keeper with no chance. Unfortunately the keeper was Deano. The Addickted burst into laughter amid shouts of 'Luke the other way'. With the Gulls continuing to swoop, Deano had to make a save. Lisbie was fouled in front of goal, but one doesn't get anything in friendlies. Then Kinsella, who had not been looking like a recent World Cup participant, managed to hit the crossbar. Torquay fans had started to chant 'Can you hear the Charlton sing', but when an attempt at 'Come on you reds' was made it sounded as if the record was stuck in a groove: 'Cummm Onnn Yeeww RRRReddds'.
At half time, Konchesky, who had been making a decent contribution, was withdrawn to give JJ a chance. Torquay started the half well with two corners, but then good work by Chris Bart-Williams gave Svensson a chance, but his effort was well wide. Torquay continued to pile on the pressure and Deano had to make another great save. In a goalmouth scramble, Kevin Lisbie, who had not been having a great game, managed to get the ball in the net. Luke Young was withdrawn in favour of Gary Rowett. Graham Stuart, who had not been making a noticeable contribution to the game, actually ran to win a loose ball and beat a Torquay player to it. Steve Brown, who knows how to deal with teams at this level made another great block. But then a Gull burst through, but managed to miss an open goal.
The home side were starting to tire a little and were playing a more physical game. Both JJ and Lisbie were fouled. Bart-Williams, whose contribution was disappointing, had a chance but missed. JJ played in Lisbie, but he was in 'Missbie' mode and Torquay were able to break and win a corner. Deano punched the ball out for a Torquay corner. A Lisbie run won Charlton a corner. Bart-Willaims turned provided for Lisbie who managed to win a corner. This was taken short and a Fortune effort was over. A header from a Torquay from a corner was just over and the game finished predictably with Lisbie just missing.
It would have been difficult to tell which side was from the Premiership on the basis of this performance. However, Lisbie and Svensson are unlikely to form our starting line up in attack. Svensson's work rate was tremendous, but the skill was lacking. Lisbie was his usual self, plenty of pace but no accuracy. Brown and Fortune were solid in defence and Deano at least got plenty of practice. However, the midfield often didn't seem to be there and Kinsella was particularly disappointing given his World Cup experience. It was a great performance from Torquay who are once again likely to struggle in the third division.
Home Park was less well signposted than Plainmoor and with the approach to the free car park being congested, we were four minutes late arriving. We therefore had little to admire the modern stadium which occupies three sides of the ground, offset by the old 'Grandstand' which has terracing in front and seating behind. However, it was immediately clear that this was a very different Charlton side both in its composition and its approach to the game. Robbo, getting his hoped for ninety minutes, nearly scored soon after we arrived. Charlton were displaying some fluent passing play which was both accurate and made effective use of an 'advancing diamond' formation which left the home players well and truly flummoxed, my dear.
A Plymouth free kick led to a Plymouth free corner. Ben Roberts - the first time I have seen him in the Charlton goal - managed to spill the ball twice, but it was finally cleared. The home supporters warmed to the theme of 'dodgy keeper'. The usual shouts of 'You're **** arr' sounded different in a Devon accent, with a very long 'aarrrr' which was soon being mimicked by Brian Cole.
JJ won the Addicks a corner which was taken by Scott Parker. Steve Brown opened Charlton's account with a firm drive. However, Plymouth were capable of being dangerous and Rufus was called on to make a great clearance. Konchesky turned provider for Scott Parker and the keeper had to make a good save. Then Robbo put in an effort that was just over. The second goal came from Jason Euell and was probably the best of the evening. He cut inside and beat the keeper with a ball that went just inside the post.
Great work by Kishishev, making a welcome return, won the ball and Konchesky then fed it into Svensson who just missed. There was then a quiet spell which was nevertheless characterised by Charlton keeping possession with some fluent passing that was of clear Premiership standard. In particular, there was some great work by Scott Parker. When one move didn't quite work out, he came forward to the Addickted with a smile on his face and a casual shrug that said 'You haven't seen anything yet'. Kishishev won the ball and put in a great curling shot from distance which was only just over. Indeed, John Window, from his vantage point in the directors' box, thought it was going to go in.
Eight of the Charlton players were changed at half time. The pasty was less good than at Torquay and we were able to admire the new Plymouth away kit in the programme which looked as if it had been borrowed from a construction gang on the M5. Robbo turned provider for JJ and the keeper had to put the ball round the post. JJ won a Charlton corner and Rufus put the ball in the net, providing the rare spectacle of Charlton scoring from a corner. With Rachubka now in goal, Plymouth managed to get one back, but following a Lisbie run, Charlton made it 4-1.
Paul Konchesky seemed to take a bit of a knock and took it on himself to go off. For a time Charlton were down to ten men. Curbs was in the stand and could be heard shouting 'Bartlett'. He then added, 'It might be a good idea if they warm up first, Merv.' Bartlett eventually came on. Steve Brown made a good stop. Paul Rachubka showed that he is no slouch with a great save from a fierce shot. He then made another great save and, following a Plymouth free kick, had to jump for a swirling ball. Shaun Bartlett then added his name to the scoreline to make it 5-1.
This was a completely different performance from that at Torquay but some of the reasons are obvious: Rufus, Parker, Jensen, Euell. This match saw Charlton at their best. Our host at Totnes was really downbeat about his side's hammering. John Window challenged me to name Charlton's starting eleven. Of course, this depends in part on the starting formation, although the word is that Curbs is going to make more use of three across the back. The choice is a very difficult one to make and this shows the strength of the squad.
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