When Alan Pardew was sacked by West Ham three weeks ago, New Year's Day suddenly became a blank day in his diary. Not a day for football, but possibly one to nurse a hangover, if he had imbibed a little too much. Now, as the manager of a Charlton team in the relegation zone, he has a different sort of headache, even if the pain will have eased a little after his first win with his new team.
His next opponent is Arsène Wenger. In November, Pardew celebrated the Hammers' 1-0 win against Arsenal by running into Wenger's technical area. That earned him a shove from the Frenchman and a tap on the shoulder from the Football Association. Wenger has paid his fine but Pardew is up before the beak this week, ready, he said, "to defend the charges [of bringing the game into disrepute] vigorously. I'm accused of celebrating, I think."
Pardew's unexpectedly early rematch with Wenger happens tomorrow at the Emirates Stadium and he was keen not to stoke up the situation any further, in order to avoid the hot breath of almost 60,000 Arsenal fans down his neck, or prejudicing the hearing he faces on Thursday.
"I will be on the sideline, just urging my players on," he said. "I won't be sitting in the stand where I never really feel comfortable. As for my reputation, in terms of myself and Arsène, there are no problems on my side. I will shake his hand before the game and hope my team wins. I've been to the new stadium and there's a great big distance between the technical areas. I don't think there's going to be any problem whatsoever. I don't always celebrate like I did here or against Arsenal."
Pardew is certainly one of the most animated Premiership managers on the circuit and at The Valley, after seeing his team go behind to a harshly awarded penalty, he celebrated first with a disabled fan behind his dug-out and then by running to beneath the stands after Bryan Hughes' last-minute winner. "I have been accused of overexuberance in my celebrations before," he said. "I've been caught for that but I like to be close to the action. I like to get a feel for the game. I could sense the players needed a win. My celebration here was just about knowing how important that was. It's nice to celebrate last-minute wins. They don't come around too often."
After Gareth Barry was judged to have been fouled by Hermann Hreidarsson, the full-back converted the spot-kick, Aston Villa's 10th of the campaign. Charlton gathered their senses after the break when Darren Bent headed in his eighth of the season and four minutes later Barry was sent off for bringing down Dennis Rommedahl.
After going close twice, and surviving a Gabriel Agbonlahor miss, the Addicks picked up their first win in five League games with Hughes' header. This was Villa's ninth game without a win and they are rapidly descending. For their manager, Martin O'Neill, the transfer window cannot open quickly enough.
However, things look like getting worse before they get better, with a game against Chelsea tomorrow. After that, Stiliyan Petrov, the Bulgarian midfielder, knows the club must use the money of their new American owner, Randy Lerner.
"We don't have consistency in full games. We only seem to play well for one half at a time," he said. "The transfer window is coming, so I hope the manager and owner will get some players and we will get better and better."
Goals: Barry pen (40) 0-1; D Bent (57) 1-1; B Hughes (90) 2-1.
Charlton Athletic (4-4-2): Carson; Sankofa, El Karkouri, Hreidarsson, Traoré; Rommedahl (Thomas, 83), Holland, Kishishev (B Hughes, h-t), Ambrose; D Bent, M Bent (Hasselbaink, 80). Substitutes not used: Myhre (gk), Fortune.
Aston Villa (4-4-2): Kiraly; A Hughes, Cahill, Mellberg, Barry; Petrov (Osbourne, 70), McCann, Gardner, Davis; Angel (Bouma, 63), Agbonlahor. Substitutes not used: Olejnik, Baros, Ridgewell.
Referee: R Styles (Hampshire)
Booked: Charlton El Karkouri, Sankofa; Aston Villa Mellberg.
Sent off: Barry (61).
Man of the match: D Bent.
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