August 15th, 2004: Wanderers woe

“We could have signed that Danny Murphy,” confided a Bolton fan before kick-off on Saturday. “We turned him down because he wasn’t old enough.”

He probably had in mind the arrival at the Reebok Stadium of 37-year-old Les Ferdinand.

Unfortunately, the joke was on the travelling Addicks, as the home side’s Jay-Jay Okocha made light of his own 31 years to inspire his team to a comprehensive victory.

Murphy, meanwhile, could perhaps have been forgiven for wishing that he had stayed in the North West, although he was one of the few in the visiting line-up whose performance hinted at better days to come.

What puzzled the travelling Addicks behind the goal most was the decision to name the club’s other five summer signings on the bench.

Few who saw what happened to Charlton in the closing months of last season would have welcomed such continuity, but at least it meant the new men emerged with their reputation largely unsullied by this dismal display.

Last week’s double signing had transformed the mood among the Valley faithful and, with Dennis Rommedahl waiting in the wings, there’s still plenty of room for optimism, at least until 3pm on Saturday.

It’s worth remembering that 12 months ago the Addicks started with a 3-0 home defeat by Manchester City. But it was Charlton who went on finish seventh, while Kevin Keegan’s side slipped to 16th.

There was an extra twist of the knife on the way home from Bolton as Villa fans calling into Radio Five Live enthused about Carlton Cole, who one of them dubbed “the perfect footballer”.

That seems unlikely, unless Cole has had a personality transplant over the summer, but he’s due in SE7 next Wednesday. Fate being fickle and all that, I won’t be betting against him getting on the scoresheet.

August 22nd, 2004: Anthem for the common fan

It’s not often you come out of a game savouring two goals scored by the opposition.

Alan Hansen said on Match of the Day that Patrik Berger’s stunning strike looked better every time you watched it.

Appreciation of the goal certainly went up in Charlton quarters after Pompey keeper Shaka Hislop had fumbled the ball over his own goalline to cancel it out.

Nothing that the Addicks produced on Saturday was quite as spectacular, but at least there were some positive signs after the trauma of the previous weekend.

New boys Dennis Rommedahl and Francis Jeffers both offered glimpses of their potential, but the performances of old hands like Kevin Lisbie, Jason Euell and Radostin Kishishev will have raised home hopes just as much.

Plaudits were also deserved for some of the work that has been done around The Valley in the summer and the bumper matchday programme.

Less welcome is the introduction of a Premiership anthem and fair-play handshake in a lame attempt to ape the Champions League.

According to chief executive Peter Varney, this pointless innovation was imposed without consulting the clubs, which probably helps to explain the cursory way it has been carried out so far.

It probably hasn’t occurred to the suit responsible, but English football thrives on tradition and diversity.

Just as fans didn’t want or need the divisions of the Football League renamed to allow some marketing agency to justify its fee, we don’t want the same pre-match routine wherever we go.

It’s bad enough that so many of new stadiums look alike when you get inside them.

Largely by an accident of history, The Valley has thankfully retained its own distinctive character in the modern era.

And we’ve already got an anthem, thanks.

It’s called the Red, Red Robin.


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