Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ram Rod


It's a lovely bottled beer from the Young's brewery, mixing with their Special bitter perfectly. It's also an instrument for cleaning the barrel of a firearm, a little more poignant then for Chris Powell who, if speculation is to be believed, is staring down the said barrel as a string of poor results and performances could be numbering his days. Certainly one of his biggest struggles, the art of the substitution, was at the forefront of every conversation around SE7 last night after his teams draw with the Rams.

With the frenzied activities of Christmas and it's extensive run up, it had felt like forever since i'd made a pilgrimage to The Valley. The ladies on the densely populated train towards London Bridge tried their hardest to delay my return even longer by constructing an obstacle course of pushchairs for me to negotiate, never has it taken me so long to depart from a carriage. All of this came after a slight worry that we had broken down as we sat for ten minutes rather ironically outside the monstrous Sehurst train depot. Relentlessly i battled on and made my way to the Rose of Denmark and still in time for a pre match glass of ale and the chance to meet the lads to discuss our Christmases.

The threat of torrential rain and a possible postponement remained (before kick off at least) just that. The game was on and with it the chance to put an end to an unwelcome losing streak. Derby were the visitors, their supporters came equipped with a rather large flag and their players kitted out thankfully in the traditional white shirts. You'll be more than aware of my disgust for the unnecessary use of away kits.

The term 'a great game for the neutrals' is one of those overused football cliches far more suited to Match of the Day than the pages of my blog, but i have to say, this game really was a good spectacle. Solid passing football from the visitors, a wonder goal, a dubious ref giving an equally dubious penalty decision and a subsequent sending off, a final rally and a glaring miss worthy of every football blunders dvd. We may not have had the quantity of goals flying in around the grounds of the Premier League but we certainly had the drama.

Derby were certainly quicker 'out of the blocks' (to boldly steal another MOTD cliche), although they were stunned into silence as Danny Haynes scored a screamer of a goal (possibly THE goal of the season) after some equally good solo work around the edge of the box. He would unfortunately pull up a little later clutching his hamstring. I'm guessing that's about six weeks out as a minimum which is a real shame, Haynes has been a shining light in our side this year.

Chris Powell seemed to still favour the late substitution, it felt like we played for four or so minutes waiting for Bradley Wright-Phillips to replace Haynes during which time Hamer made a superb save as a Derby shirt broke clean through. One of many great saves from our number one, you may believe we threw two points away yesterday, some may say Hamer earned us a point with his man of the match display. If Haynes goal was special, Hamer's double save in the second half was equally breathtaking.

And so we get to Michael Morrison. Should he have played the second forty five in the first place? After a booking and two separate stern words from the match official during the first half, many managers would have hauled him off. I agree you can't change a centre half every time he gets booked, but Morrison yesterday was still struggling to get on top of his game and the more than capable Dorian Dervite was on the bench fully fit and ready. Many of us felt he wouldn't make the full ninety long before the penalty incident. I cannot believe Nigel Clough didn't make our defender a prime topic during his half time team talk urging his players to wind him up and draw a rash challenge out of him.

Previous to the penalty incident Bradley Pritchard had every chance to seal the points for Charlton. We saw how much his goal meant to him against Brighton, yet he couldn't hide his face quick enough after hitting the bar from point blank range, and this was after having a moment to steady himself  and eye up the target. I would like to quash any rumours that my orange cagoule was in some way to blame, dazzling the midfielder from the upper reaches of the North stand.

Charlton's ten men rallied on the counter and dug deep for the final fifteen minutes as Derby sensed all three points were up for grabs but in all honesty we left for home feeling we threw it away, albeit with the help of the man in the yellow jersey. After three defeats in a row we've finally managed to put another point on the board although we have seen December come and go without a victory. They may not have done enough to secure that elusive victory yesterday but they may just have done enough to keep the gaffer in charge for the start of 2013.

I'm feeling strangely confident for Tuesday. Watford look good and Vicarage Road is a tough ground to get a result but i feel we are overdue a slice of luck. I do foresee regular use both home and away of the 4-5-1 formation as Rob Hulse sees his loan expire on Tuesday. This will leave only Kermorgant and the slightly fragile Fuller up front if Wright-Phillips does, as expected, move on during the transfer window.

If goals are going to be harder to come by, then we'll need the likes of Pritchard to be far more composed when the opportunity arises!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

All I want for Christmas is 3 points Boxing Day!





I can only see one down side to being a professional footballer and that's working, or more to the point training, on Christmas morning. I've never managed to ask a player their thoughts on this particular mornings work but i presume it's a monotonous task seeming all the more sluggish when on the back of two long distance away defeats.

Both Bolton Wanderers and Sheffield Wednesday have beaten us by a two nothing scoreline over the past two Saturdays, our league position slipping dramatically in the process. After just getting our noses into the top half of the table we find ourselves back down in eighteenth, eight points from safety. Many would have predicted a defeat to relegated Bolton, but the Wednesday result is a much harder pill to swallow. The Llera and Semedo factor, the rivalry from last season, the fact they also have been a club that has a glorious past yet has been in the doldrums of the third division for too long, you can find similarities everywhere. Quite simply, and I don't mean to offend, they are relegation fodder who I expect to be scrapping for their lives in a dog fight come the Spring. A point would have been a very realistic expectation here. We have a phrase for yesterday, 'typical Charlton'.

A lot has been said over the past week or so about being the better side for the majority of the game, losing out to wonder strikes, poor refereeing decisions and penalties that should have been awarded. The fact that we haven't taken chances as they've come along frankly hits the nail far more firmly on the head. We can blame the opposition, the officials or even each other until we are blue in the face, the reality of the matter is we haven't got the ball in the net (legally) at any point over those three hours of football.

I'm not stupid enough to link this to Rob Hulse being dropped to the bench for the returning Yann Kermorgant, no matter what my personal preferences, or the constant meddling with the starting eleven. I'm also not stupid enough to get on the Chris Powell isn't good enough bandwagon. I believe we have a very bright young manager that has a lot of potential. He isn't a great manager by any stretch of the imagination but he does have the ability to become one. The art of the perfect tactical substitution will come!

I doubt very much that Brian Clough ever had a softly softly approach on Christmas morning putting his players through their paces just as hard as he would any other day. I hope Chris Powell does the same. If needs be those players need to walk back to the showers on Tuesday thinking the gaffer is a complete b*****d if it means three points against Ipswich on Boxing Day.

Ipswich have started to turn things around of late with a couple of wins away from home plus a drubbing earlier this month of in form Millwall at Portman Road. Certainly no push over and with the arrival of Derby on Saturday followed by a trip to Watford New Years Day, points over this festive season are going to be hard to come by.

It's not all doom and gloom though, we are still only eight points of the last play off spot and I still firmly believe this squad, under this management is more than capable of a top half finish. I would quite happily have taken this position at the beginning of the season as would any Charlton fan with a modicum of common sense. Christmas is the half way stage and we've already shown on numerous occasions that we have the grit and the ability to carve out a future for ourselves at this level for a lot longer yet.

The January sales will begin soon, I very much doubt we'll be bringing new names in although those unsettled amongst our ranks could very well be off to pastures new leaving a more content squad to secure our safety. You forget how many footballers will pack the whole house and family up with the Christmas tree!

Have a great Christmas folks, let's round this year off with some loud vocal support at The Valley and in return Chris Powell's red and white army may well give us the one thing we all want for Christmas, a Charlton win!


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Charlton Athletic Miscellany


How much do you know about your club? A pub quiz question shouldn't cause too much of a quandary for most of us, but just consider if that Icelandic (God rest his soul) legend that was Magnus Magnusson had started but not finished a question asking where the tune for "we can see you sneaking out" came from, or even the dates for when the Addicks scored six goals in two consecutive home games. Phoning a friend (don't take offense lads) wouldn't help in my case.

If you're anything like me you'd need some first class assistance, perhaps in the form of a pocket sized book of club trivia. Good news, now there is one.

Full of answers to just about anything, including Cwm Rhondda (Bread of Heaven) and October 28th 1933 Torquay 6-0, followed two weeks later 6-1 against Newport County for those that were wondering, this book doesn't just churn out the standard facts and statistics available to anyone with a facility to Google. This has much much more, the 'heart and soul' type of indispensable historical sustenance that makes a football club what it is today.

Some call it trivia, some would call it a cornerstone. I mean, you need to know how many players with an 'X' in their name have represented the club, or for that matter the Charlton connection inspiring Linda Neighbour of Eltham to choose a name for her new born son in February 1973.

Written by Charlton season ticket holder Matt Eastley and with a foreward from the wonderful Charlton stalwart Keith Peacock, this little gem is a steal at under a tenner, the perfect stocking filler for every Addick and will certainly be an addition to that book shelf in our bathroom that contains everything you'd ever need for a comfortable ten minutes worth of easy reading.

Published by an independent sports publisher from the South coast Pitch Publishing, who can lay claim to having what can only be described as a bible of footballing romance from a bygone age, Got, Not Got the runner up in the '2012 BSBA football book of the year' in their portfolio, not to mention a rather fantastic and charming encyclopedia of Scottish football which is also well worth a quick perusal. Alongside Charlton Athletic Miscellany, they also publish, from the same author, Charlton Athletic On This Day, an intriguing piece of Addicks nostalgia to brighten your breakfast 365 days of the year.

If you fancy buying this delightful little book for a loved one, or even spending that book voucher that Grandma got you for Christmas, it's available from all retailers worth their salt or failing that you can get it from Amazon here. I guarantee you'll still be reading this long after those socks you received have developed holes and have taken residency in the very darkest corners of the underwear drawer.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Milestone


Big games come and go, yet milestones arrive with a deserved fanfare and live long in local folklore. I am old enough to remember December 5th 1992 quite clearly, many who were young children then (or even not born at all) will feel like they were there, such was the enormity of the day and the achievement.

Years of exile finally over, nomadic Charlton were back in SE7, the blood sweat and tears had paid off. Move on twenty years and the corresponding weekend of the season saw another club with a migratory history rather fittingly, Brighton and Hove Albion visit The Valley to join in with our self indulgent (and quite rightly so) party atmosphere.

Before the kick off and before my arrival, former Charlton greats were introduced on the pitch amidst a bevy of red and white balloons, the club produced another bumper edition and one day collectable(?) matchday magazine (formally known as a programme), the carnival may not have been in town in body but the significance of that day wasn't lost on a soul.
Brighton to their credit showed us some respect, also parading former greats and wearing their blue and white striped shirts which of course don't clash rather than following suit with modern football and wearing an away strip regardless.

A very fine touch, the brainchild of a good friend and fellow blogger Hungry Ted was a spontaneous round of applause at seven minutes past three, the time of the goal from twenty years before, followed by a rousing rendition (still sung far too quickly though) of Valley Floyd Road. I could see Chris Powell in his technical area happily clapping along but it was a tad harder to see if he joined the covered end choir for the anthem.

December, being not only the finale to the the year but also a rather special month in the Christian calendar is always a hectic time for me, blogging plays second fiddle to just about everything else. Hence we had played twice since my last posting, a rather uninspiring win at home to Peterborough and an electric, if slightly undeserved, point at arch rivals Millwall.
The Seagulls were in South London for the second week running and were on the back of a defeat at Selhurst Park. That would have hurt them greatly and consequently seen Charlton as fair game to both turn their fortunes around whilst raining, if not pouring on our parade.

The most noticeable absence from the starting eleven was Leon Cort. Dervite and Morrison were flanked by Solly and Wilson. Kermorgant was on the bench allowing Haynes to partner Hulse up front. My preferred pairing i'm afraid all you Yann lovers!

We survived the 3.07 applause, conceding then didn't bear thinking about,  and five minutes later the home side embraced the fairytale scenario with aplomb. Lawrie Wilson nodded home from a Dale Stephens cross sending the 16,000 Charlton fans into hysteria. This was almost too good to be true.

Brighton had packed the Jimmy Seed stand and just before the half hour mark they erupted as the dangerous Craig Mackail-Smith pounced on an awful (but thankfully rare) Michael Morrison mistake. All level at the break, even if the visitors had the luxury of an extra man in the official. I'm not normally one to get on the back of the referee, it's a job i don't envy, but Mr Sheldrake had an abysmal day at 'the office'. Far too keen to play an 'advantage' when it wasn't always just that, yet happy to blow up every time it benefited the visitors.

Charlton again got their noses in front during the second half. A sublime ball from Dale Stephens to Hulse, in turn setting Jackson up on the left hand side of the box, wrong footed the entire Brighton team. The skipper played it in to Bradley Pritchard who scuffed and stumbled his way over the ball before finding a path for it goal bound. His first goal at The Valley and you could see how much it meant to him as he hung back in front of the north stand and punched the air for all of us.

The delirium was short lived though as Morrison again was the culprit, allegedly upending Ashley Barnes right on the edge of the box. Yann Kermorgant came on before the free kick was taken, i noted to Jim next to me that it was no different a platform to that cardinal sin of making a substitution whilst defending a corner. The change of personnel, the 'dubious' (well from my view anyway) decision in the first place, this ball was going into the net. LuaLua stepped up and used the Charlton wall to his full advantage deflecting the ball past a hapless Ben Hamer. LuaLua somersaulted his way across the pitch in spectacular, if not a little dated, fashion.

Brighton sensed the win was there for the taking and although both sides had chances to snatch the victory it was a relief when the final whistle was blown. It was a good spectacle to watch and a point was a fair return.

With three thousand Brighton supporters expecting to catch the same train as us, we decided to have a post match beer at the Rose of Denmark rather than one of the usual  London Bridge haunts. The quieter train a little later was, however, nothing of the sort. A Brighton 'firm' had decided to hang around SE7 and then join me on my journey back. Not having had enough 'action' last week against Palace obviously, they wanted some more and were desperately trying to arrange another meet. I figured rather than join in with their anti Palace songs i was better off reclining in my anonymity, London Bridge station couldn't come quick enough! A very small minority of course and nothing like the Brighton fans i chatted to on my way to the game drinking their Marks and Spencer Belgian lager. A different class.

Two away days follow, no more home games until Boxing Day. I said a month or two back that we'd be top half by Christmas. We are now.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Weekender

Every now and again during the course of a season, a weekend will appear on your calendar that involves two or even three events rolling into each other. This weekend was one of those.
The visit of Huddersfield Town to The Valley was still a long way off on Friday afternoon when my weekend got under way, i had a lot of drinking to do first.

It started in Islington with fellow blogger and all round good guy, Hungry Ted. Now this is a man who knows his beer and just as importantly where to drink it. The Craft Beer Company has a wonderful selection of fine ales under it's roof, whilst providing a majestic environment to drink them in. Clean, classy and spacious, we found a corner with armchairs that invited you to settle in and get comfortable. My favourite tipple here was a beer called 'Happy Chappy', it seemed fitting for my mood as a weekend 'bender' was about to begin.

White Lion Street N1

From White Lion Street we then ventured to just the other side of the Angel tube station to Danbury Street where we found The Earl of Essex, another gem of a boozer situated in a lovely residential area, fortunately well out of my price range. How the residents manage to conduct a life outside the pub remains a mystery to me. More locally brewed masterpieces here, the names of which elude me ( i admit that in a rather embarrassing fashion), and i knew i'd had an unbelievably long overdue good old fashioned Friday afternoon booze. Now many people (my age at least) would have quite happily called it a day there and gone home to sleep it off in front of a film on the sofa, but not me. No sir, i had other plans. I was headed to Camden for an evening i'd been looking forward to for literally months. Myself and yet another fellow blogger, Marco were going to watch The Wedding Present at Koko, a venue next door to Mornington Crescent tube.

Now i thought i had some front, Marco's sister Becky had plenty more. After a quick chat and photo opportunity with David Gedge, the Weddoes frontman, we hunted for a good view for the show. After climbing some stairs Becky pointed to a shut door with the words 'directors box' on it and beckoned us to follow. High up in a box, with it's own private bar, we settled in to watch the support act, an all Japanese girl band Toquiwa. I'd seen them before a couple of years ago in Brighton at another Wedding Present show although they billed themselves under a different name then, so i had a good idea of what to expect. Infamous for their cover of Kennedy, a Gedge classic, they didn't disappoint jumping off the speakers and giving it their all. Good fun and obviously a favourite of David's as he's now released their album on his label.
And then the hours, days, weeks, and months of waiting were over, The Wedding Present took to the stage to perform their iconic Seamonsters album.

The boy Gedge doing what he does best

The album made up the middle of the set opening an opportunity for the band to 'knock out' a selection of other classics both before and after. It's hard to pick out highlights when the set is of such quality but everyone i spoke to enjoyed the rare rendition of My Favourite Dress.
A surprise for the three of us was the unexpected arrival of two fellow addicks, Flynny and Louis, both regulars from the Rose of Denmark. It would appear they had stumbled in on accident but were both suitably impressed with what they saw and heard.

As the songs came and went i looked over the edge at the dance floor below. The first six or seven rows were full of forty somethings moving around in what i believe you would call these days a 'mosh pit'. Try as i might i couldn't resist it's lure and raced down to become a part of the sweating mass. It was while i was down there swaying with the crowd wherever it chose to go that i could have sworn i heard David Gedge say he'd be back to perform another album, The Hit Parade, sometime in the future. I'm already counting the months down.

The venue turned into a club after the set, we knew beforehand we were a little old for that. Instead we met friends at the Cittie of Yorke pub in Holborn where we kept going till last orders before venturing back to Woolwich to rest the eyes a little, well there was a football match to attend just a smidgen over twelve hours away.

A nice early start in the Rose and we soon turned our attentions to the match. With three wins on the trot, many Charlton supporters were full of expectation leading up to this visit of Huddersfield, so much so that we hit the 20,000 mark for bums on seats for only the third time this season.

Emmanuel Frimpong came straight into the starting eleven, Stephens was back in the middle but there were noticeable absentees in Dan Seaborne and the in form Danny Haynes. Fuller started up front with Hulse, Kerkar filled in at left back whilst the biggest cheer of the afternoon was reserved for Yann Kermorgant returning to the match day squad after his injury enforced lay off.

The Terriers have started this season in surprising fashion having lost their talisman striker to Blackburn in the summer, many would have tipped them as relegation fodder before a ball had been kicked. Talking to a slightly tipsy away fan in the Kings Head at London Bridge after the game i was informed that they may well have used their season's luck up already, he assured me they had been second best to most they had played so far but had grasped good fortune with both hands once it came their way.

I thought Huddersfield matched us quite well, even when they went down to ten men. Does every club struggle to play against ten men in the same way we do? I really can't recall an occasion where we made numerical advantage count and truly dominate a side wearing them down.

The conditions were awful (although i fail to believe this could have had a bearing on why blue and white stripes clash with red), the rain lashed down although not quite to the standards of the Hull match earlier in the season. This could have had a bearing on the game as the first half struggled to get going, the straight red (which i've yet to see again) being the main talking point. The second period was much more eventful.
Charlton took the lead with a wonderful goal, a nice run and cross from Bradley Pritchard and a sweet clean finish from Rob Hulse raised the spirits of the very damp home fans. Now to capitalise and kill the game off.......

A very hard working and influential Frimpong went off seven minutes later, not through a bad challenge but just a tweak due to a lack of real match fitness. This highlighted a real problem with the loan market, a chance for other teams to use us to get their players match it, a similar thing happened of course to the Arsenal midfielder with Wolves last season.

Chris Powell must have felt we'd done enough, big Yann came on for a cameo, the gaffer obviously keen to please the crowd and make the popular substitution. He replaced Fuller who again showed moments of class yet frustratingly mixed this with an occasional sloppiness.  Four minutes later things were a lot different, the buoyant atmosphere silenced. Chris Solly allegedly challenged unlawfully and the away team had a last minute penalty.

Of course they scored, we really had thrown this away. Hulse twice had chances to snatch it in stoppage time, the first a mix up and lack of communication with a team mate, the second foiled by some magnificent goalkeeping.

We left feeling like we'd lost. It was a case of two points being thrown away, something that always leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. There was nothing else for it but a couple of sobering pints on the way home!
My wife had been shopping with her sister in Camden so we caught the same train out of town stopping for a curry just to round off what had been a very heavy couple of days. A true weekender.

On Tuesday Peterborough arrive in SE7, i'll be a lot more upset if we throw points away against them.


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Is Jamie Stuart dench?


As i celebrated my twenty first birthday in a manner which i've now long since forgotten, although i assume in a South London public house, a baby boy was born many miles away in Kumasi, Ghana. This lad would go on to live the dream we all had as children, to play professional football.

By my twenty first birthday i'd long since ruined any chance i had of fulfilling this dream with the help of a concoction of alcohol, nicotine and motorbikes. The complete lack of talent and five years of being forced to play rugby at grammar school also partly contributed, hindering any ambitions of an appearance on The Big Match.

Emmanuel Frimpong is the latest in a long line of young footballers to pull on a red Charlton shirt and 'live my dream'. The young midfielder was snapped up in the week on loan until the end of the calendar year from Arsenal. Graduating alongside a certain Jack Wilshere, Frimpong has represented England at youth levels, already made his bow in the Premier League for Arsene Wenger and suffered injury heartache whilst on loan at Wolves.

A young player with a big personality, Emmanuel Frimpong is likely to make some loud noises in the dressing room too, i'm certain a little 'gangsta rap' will go down a storm with the more youthful elements of our squad.

All young footballers are now taught to manage their finances responsibly, Frimpong seems to have an astute business brain already at his tender age. Alongside his rapper cousin Lethal Bizzle (one presumes a stage name), the midfielder has started the clothing brand 'Dench', the word originating from a modern teenage variant of slang. Cool became sick which became dench and one day might just become groovy again, let's hope not but you get the gist.

A pacy midfielder likened to former Arsenal prodigy Alex Song, it's certain that with continued hard work and dedication this young lad has a bright future in the game. Learning from your mistakes is important, learning from the mistakes of others is key.

I missed Charlton's trip to Burnley last Saturday completely. Another victory on the road after success at Ashton Gate, not to mention the third win in a row makes for a much more palatable league table. With two home games now in the space of  four days, starting with the visit of Huddersfield on Saturday, we have the perfect opportunity to continue this winning streak and put a really good run together. Danny Hollands has gone to Swindon on loan and we've hardly batted an eyelid, that's how different the club is in just a month.

Whilst the hardy few made the trip to Turf Moor, i made a far shorter journey to Gander Green Lane, home of the chocolate and amber Sutton United. Regular readers will know of my soft spot for the U's, having lived on their door step for the best bit of twenty years. This was a long overdue visit, my first of the season and the first since a Conference South play off defeat at the hands of Welling United last May.

Little has really changed down the Lane since then other than the form. In their first season back at this level the play offs were a staggering achievement, far more than they could have hoped for, yet this second season is proving a much sterner test. Second season syndrome hits at every level it would seem.

An always very welcoming club house meant the opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new ones whilst enjoying a pint or two of Tribute, a beer they always excel in keeping, putting many a good old fashioned boozer to shame in the process. I was keen to throw into conversation whilst enjoying this liquid refreshment the small matter of summer signing and club captain Jamie Stuart.

"You've been Frimponged."  
Stuart was of course a Charlton marvel who came through the youth ranks and made his first team debut, ironically enough, against Huddersfield Town. Rather than follow the path of many youngsters towing the line and aspiring to be the best, Stuart followed my lead and blew it. Not in quite the same way, he didn't go the whole Hells Angel route, just the cocaine and cannabis although his temperament would certainly have fitted in with the biker fraternity i knew.

Infamously sacked by Charlton he still had enough ability to grind out a professional career playing lower league football but the question always remains, how well could he have done?

Sutton fans on the whole are a little underwhelmed by his arrival from the not so popular (down the Lane at least) AFC Wimbledon. The clubs internet fans forum, like every other clubs, is full of scathing remarks and constant moaning, and it would appear that plenty of this is aimed at their aging centre half.

Watching him for myself against visitors Bath City, his ability to read the game was obvious, his ability to carry out his duty on the other hand, a little harder. Kings of the backpass, Sutton constantly played the ball around their back four during the first half with it frequently returning to Kevin Scriven in goal, much to the irritation of the five hundred odd crowd. I noticed when defending a corner Stuart used his chest (he's filled out an awful lot since leaving Charlton) to barge a player out the way. Their foreheads met like two rhino's about to lock horns before the Sutton captain moved away and found the player he was supposed to be marking. Intimidation is obviously the name of the game, he hasn't changed that much.

The second half provided slightly more determination from the home side who had gone into the break a goal down. If the finishing had been just a tad (or in hindsight a lot) better they could have justified a point from the fixture, but alas it was too little far too late and Bath pounced again at the death to make victory certain.

Despite the result it's always a pleasant experience taking in some non league football, it harks back to the 'good old days' in so many respects. Bath City looked like Newcastle United in their black and white striped shirts, complemented with black shorts and stockings (that's what we used to call them).
At no point did the referee or linesmen think their very traditional all black attire would clash and therefore make the visitors wear an away kit.
And in case you're interested, Paul Doswell, the Sutton manager's job is secure and still will be even if they fail to get through to the third round of the Surrey Senior Cup next week, unlike the circus that is Chelsea and their need to keep buying success.
There is proper football, played in the mud and then there is soap opera television football played in London SW6.

So is Jamie Stuart dench? He certainly threw away a great opportunity to fulfill his potential, although in his twilight years as a player he still lives a dream i never even came close to. That's kinda cool innit?





Sunday, November 11, 2012

A day to remember


This is the commemorative five pound coin produced by the Royal Mint for today, remembrance Sunday. One of the most important days of the year in my estimation, as we remember those who fought and fell for this great country and also those left at home that lost loved husbands, brothers and fathers.

It puts football into perspective a little doesn't it. However, the world keeps on spinning and although we all stopped for a minimum of two minutes today, there was still the small matter of a Championship fixture to fulfill.

I had a couple of reasons for choosing this picture over a more conventional poppy. First up, Bristol City blogger Paul, aka The Exiled Robin who invited me to answer some questions on his site prior to the match works for the Royal Mint, and secondly i won a fiver of someone for the subsequent  Charlton victory.

The game was on the back of Tuesday's stunning home win over Cardiff, we were relying on the players to recover from that epic in time to carry the momentum forward down at Ashton Gate.

Chris Powell had dabbled in the loan market during the week and brought in a couple of fresh faces in the shape of Dan Seaborne and Eggart Johnsson. Seaborne, a left sided full back from Southampton went straight into the starting eleven in place of Dervite, thus allowing Solly to revert to the right hand side and Morrison back to partner Cort in the heart of defence. Other than that the Addicks were unchanged. Johnsson, an Icelandic midfielder from Wolves will have to wait a little longer to get his chance under Chris Powell.

An impeccable minute's silence was observed after the sides were led out of the tunnel by members of the armed forces, City quite rightly not ignoring the importance of the occasion.

The home side lined up with Sam Baldock up front, a player we had been linked with a lot during the summer transfer market. With six defeats in a row, the natives were desperate to see a change of fortunes yet failed to get behind the side as a '12th man', a tactic we discovered works wonders in the week. In fact it was very similar to some darker days at The Valley with a chorus of boos being their most vocal moments.

Danny Haynes was returning to his old hunting ground and therefore almost guaranteed a starring role. Word perfect with the script, his pace caused the Bristol defence all sorts of problems and he got his opportunity with a rebound after Dale Stephens had hit the upright after twenty minutes.

The one thousand travelling supporters were bouncing and even let off a smoke bomb as the party atmosphere continued where it left off Tuesday. My twitter timeline entertained this 'ultra inspired' spectacle with mixed emotions, it was interspersed with praise for the balti pies on sale at the ground. I've yet to decide which topic is the more important.

A second half goal from Michael Morrison just before the hour did in all honesty seal the victory although City rallied for a period after our goal as they 'enjoyed' their best spell of the match.

Matt Taylor saw a long awaited cameo appearance towards the end, as did Ricardo Fuller - a very welcome return to the match day squad! Fuller got a ten minute run out replacing Rob Hulse who once again did his reputation no harm at all as he continues to attract prospective clubs.

How different it looks for the two managers now. Chris Powell has had his critics but with back to back wins is once again the man of the moment. Derek McInnes still has the respect of the bulk of the City fans but you have to wonder if seven straight defeats mean the writing is on the wall.

Charlton are now sixteenth in the table, seven points clear of the relegation zone below, and an identical number off the last play off spot as we look up. Things appear much brighter now, especially as players slowly start to return.

Have we got through the worst of it? I really do hope so. Come on you reds!





Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Oh What A Night!

Over the years there have been some pretty memorable evenings down at The Valley, last night was up there with the best of them. In my last post great comebacks were the topic of discussion, who'd have thought that would be followed up by another of equal magnitude!

I was fortunate enough to miss Saturday at Charlton due to work, something i don't often say, therefore missing a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Middlesbrough. The prospect of the division's top club, Cardiff City, following suit didn't fill me with hope and so i ventured to SE7 full of trepidation and fearing the worst.

Chris Powell picked a starting eleven from an injury ravaged Charlton squad that included the forgotten Danny Haynes in for Lawrie Wilson and Michael Morrison at right back with Chris Solly on the left. It looked a little disjointed at the back and this was found out to our cost after only three minutes.

Poor defending from a corner gave Cardiff the lead early on, only to be repeated twenty minutes later as the visitors doubled their lead. A brief rendition of the relegation song 'Charlton till i die' followed as the fifteen thousand home fans readied themselves for the battering to follow. Cardiff however failed to convert further chances and the covered end sensed this game wasn't all over.

'Chrissy Powell's red and white army' rang around the ground endlessly as Charlton started to mount some pressure. Fortunately for us, Cardiff's defending was as comical as our own, Johnnie Jackson capitalizing on their errors and pulling a goal back five minutes before the break. Game on.

To go in a goal behind was deserved, to go in level was a little surprising. Once again the skipper got his name on the score-sheet, this time with a powerful controlled header. We left the pitch full of momentum, Cardiff left it shell-shocked.

We started the second half much the same as we finished the first, full of confidence. Dale Stephens scored direct from a sublime free kick that left us all speechless. By this point i was getting rather good at the old fashioned goal celebration of throwing my hat in the air. By the time Haynes and Hulse had made it five only eleven minutes later i had perfected it. An unbelievable comeback was complete, 5-2 up against a side that had fallen apart, and all still with twenty five minutes left on the clock.

Charlton have never done anything the easy way though have they, we are almost famous for it. From somewhere the referee found six minutes of stoppage time, i can only presume it was from goal celebrations. Our defense used these six minutes to disastrous effect as they tried to mimic what they had seen over the past hour from the visitors. Cardiff got two and very nearly a third as the comeback story almost took a completely new twist. Charlton held on and limped over the line, Cardiff have the unfortunate tag of scoring the first two and the last two in a game and still losing.

For those of you concerned that we may have come through unscathed, may i add that my own personal man of the match, Danny Haynes, came off midway through the second half with, we believe, a possible injury.

Chris Powell's delight was obvious for all to see, as was Johnnie Jackson's. What could have been a fourth straight home defeat turned into a memorable game where not only the team showed some grit and determination, but so did the crowd. How refreshing not to be surrounded by boos and negativity. The Valley was positively electric last night, if we could only put that kind of performance in every week!

Myself and my good friend Jim McGinty headed to The Grapes at London Bridge afterwards to celebrate and try to digest the events that had unfolded before us. A couple of pints of Young's finest and a cheeky glass of port left me feeling very content and comfortable. Nothing was going to be able to put a dampener on this particular evening. Not the escalator maintenance team working at London Bridge who worked on the down one when we wanted to go down, and then the up one when we wanted to go up. Not Southern railway whose train i needed from East Croydon to home was delayed by half an hour. Not the lone Palace fan, a little elephants, who proceeded to tell all and sundry on the platform two facts, 1 his team had won five nil and 2, he was a milkman (a very badly dressed milkman at that). Not the fact that another train pulled in and the place was awash with slightly intoxicated Palace fans in full voice singing a 'top of the league' song that i thought we had, to quote reality pop show judges, made our own. Not even the fact that they then got on my train home and continued with their merriment would rain on my parade. Living deep in Palace territory is a truly awful thing.

Today i suffered a little, my head was slightly groggy and the afternoon dragged like six minutes of stoppage time.

Occupational hazards though when you're Charlton and proud. And boy am i proud.





Wednesday, October 31, 2012

comeback comeback all is forgiven

Johnny Summers
Of late there's been a sense of disillusionment brewing with the modern game. The back pages have been filled with stories of diving, racism, and overpaid attitudes as opposed to the actual game of football being played. I agree that standards have to be set, and subsequently reached, but i don't really want to concern myself too much with an analysis of a referee's performance and his drawn out trial and eventual execution. I also have no interest in who shakes who's hand before a game. I, like many others, do seem to have fallen out of love with our national sport, Rich at The Football Attic touched on the subject eloquently this week and almost had me in tears!

Football though is a beautiful game and claws you back like a heartbroken lover when it thinks you may just close the door for good. The League Cup (or COC (snigger) for short) is not necessarily the most attractive of  proposals, yet in a time of Premier League Super Sundays is probably the closet we get to seeing football how it used to be, perhaps due to the resting of the so called superstars and the chance for young lads who want to play?

Last night Arsenal beat Reading 7-5 at the Madejski Stadium, coming back from four nothing down. This is a scoreline that many of us had never witnessed and possibly the greatest comeback of all time? It certainly grabbed our attention and reminded us why we can never fully walk away from football. It was as i tweeted last night, reminiscent of 'make up sex', hence the loan of Kirk Brandon's lyrics for the title.

I say possibly the greatest comeback because there was one game in history that potentially outshines it. It occurred on the 21st December 1957 when Huddersfield Town came to The Valley.

Back in the glorious days of medicine balls and flannelette jerseys football was a much different game. It was far more attack minded with wingers, inside forwards and the traditional centre forward. Playing five up front  does give a team far more opportunity to score, and of course on the flip side concede. Football's a lot more cagey now with so many more potential high profile windfalls available to the winners and let's not forget the almost carefree abandonment with which chairmen will change managers. In the fifties you could afford to lose a few games in a row and still have the clubs full backing.

As is the way with Charlton supporters, as soon as the goals went flying in at Reading, the twitter timeline was full of boastful pride as Addicks reminded their followers that they weren't watching the greatest of all comebacks. The greatest was a lifetime before, a time when 99% of these tweeters weren't even born.

Charlton entertained Huddersfield in this league fixture and with only a quarter of an hour played they were reduced to ten men, Derek Ufton having been rushed off to hospital after dislocating his shoulder. The notion of substitutes was still a long way off, Keith Peacock was only twelve years old at this point.

Huddersfield had the run of the play and were strolling 5-1 with just half an hour to go. Jimmy Seed the Charlton boss played a masterstroke by pulling Johnny Summers off the left wing where he was getting no joy and moving him into the centre. Summers in true comic book style had changed his boots at half time, this new pair were certainly his shooting boots as he would go on to score five goals all in all. A feat made even more remarkable as this natural left footer got them all with his right peg! John 'Buck' Ryan also netted a brace as the Londoners ran out 7-6 winners, the Terriers still hold a record as the only club to score six and still lose a football league match.

So which is the greatest comeback? Not being alive in 1957, it's very hard to give a true evaluation. Certainly in times past goals were far more frequent. If you look at club records for the majority of sides their biggest win, their heaviest defeat and their highest aggregate scoring match were all long ago in the distant past which would hint towards last night's game being the greater achievement. Arsenal did it with eleven men on the field though so perhaps Charlton's was the greatest.

The only thing i can decide for certain is that their are four goalkeepers that have had a game to forget!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

It's black and white.



In a day and age when football sides have third kits, commemorative kits and even European kits, it's refreshing for me to see Charlton often run out with the wrong shorts on. My contempt for Nike aside, traditional red and white home attire complemented with an all black away number works. We have seen red shorts appear occasionally and now we have the home shorts breaking up the black. It all harks back to me of a day when football was a lot less commercial, when you made do with what you had and just for those of you watching in black and white, Charlton are in the lighter shorts.

Chris Powell surprised us with a formula at Leeds that brought home a point and should perhaps have reaped even more reward. There were no surprises that he named an unchanged side at Molineux.
The similarities didn't stop at the line up. Once again Charlton went behind and looked second best during the first half. And once again the Addicks pulled a goal back, having chances a plenty to come back to London with three more points on the board.

Lawrie Wilson started his account after Rob Hulse had been denied, the hard working striker running his heart out during the afternoon and having the greatest of opportunities at the death with a close range header which he unbelievably steered wide.

Two draws away from home in five days at Leeds and Wolves is undoubtedly a great achievement, but that hard work now depends on capitalizing with the home fixtures against Middlesbrough and Cardiff. Will Powell use this formation at The Valley or does he need to go for the throat and play two up front to utilize the home advantage?

Our home form has been very below par, not a patch on the gritty performances on our travels which is why we now languish at a lowly twentieth in the table. The away form is mid table, no-one can take that away but the home form is that of a relegation side. We can draw matches all day on the road but if we don't punish teams in SE7 we'll undo the good work achieved around the country. Three wins in the first thirteen games tells it's own story. Perfect timing for two of the top three to make their way into South East London next then, although on the plus side both these sides may have impeccable home form but can both be dissected and beaten on the road.

A long way to go of course, but if we can address the home form, that mid table security we desire will eventually follow.  November would be a lovely time to put a run together, i still deep down believe we'll go into Christmas in a far more salubrious position.

What better way to build on the week's hard work and start a run than dispatching Nicky Bailey and co! For the benefit of those reading in black and white........

Come on you darker shirts attacking the goal to your left!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

All great managers go to Elland back

Sitting high up in the stands with a panoramic view of the playing field it's easy to cast an overall opinion of how the game's panning out for both the team and the individuals. We can tell if someones performance is under par, if their link up play and distribution is missing something in its execution, or if their legs look like they're made out of lead. It's easy to tell when to bring someone off and make either that tactical switch to break down the opposition or the like for like to save somebody's afternoon from plummeting further into a personal nightmare. Isn't it?

Chris Powell has come under some criticism of late for both his tactics and his substitutions. Perhaps it's a little harder when you're stood in the technical area and fifteen to twenty thousand people are hoping you can see what they can, all few hundred different versions of it. It may even be a little harder when you're reportedly unhappy with the way your new bosses choose to run things. In knowing too many wrong decisions could ultimately cost you your job, these easy like for like decisions with twenty five minutes to play and a winger puffing like a chain smoker climbing a mountain, take a moment or two longer to debate before taking the plunge and informing the fourth official.

Once injury has wreaked havoc on your squad some options will answer themselves but how do you really know where to play someone out of position? Centre halves as emergency strikers due to an aerial prowess is a good old fashioned recipe, and nowadays more and more players are coming through with an ability to use both feet allowing the option of changing flanks, sometimes swapping back and forth during the game. Steve Brown could of course play anywhere. An old fashioned footballer that would give 110% whether in the heart of the midfield or in goal, Chris Powell would find life comfortable with eleven clones of Browny.

Since Chris assembled HIS squad last summer (his first don't forget) things have been decidedly rosy. Following on from Alan Curbishley, the last of the great Charlton managers, Powell has won silverware in the form of a league title and in doing so strengthened his claim as a Charlton legend. And this is in his first full season in charge! Tough times were always ahead of him though, it was just a matter of when. It's how he deals with those tough times that will really make or break him and consign him to being a good rather than great manager. These periods of struggle and resolve will come back time and time to taunt and tease him should he have a long and fruitful career in management, so what better place to learn your trade and be able to experiment than the comfort and relative safety of somewhere you can truly call home.

After what was a criminally poor performance at home to Barnsley we saw something different and drastic up at Leeds on Tuesday evening. Having been criticized by some for an almost pessimistic 4-5-1 at the weekend you may have expected to see a more regular 4-4-2 at Elland Road. Well i'll take my hat off to any man who predicted the 4-1-4-1 formation Powell started with.

Chris Solly went back to his usual berth on the right giving the always overlooked Cedric Evina a start at left back. Evina probably thought this day would never come around. Lawrie Wilson was able to push up on the right to a position he was always very comfortable in with Stevenage, and as his confidence grows by the game he could be tough to displace.

Again injury was to dictate as Dale Stephens pulled up with a tight hamstring during the warm up. Yet another injury headache for the gaffer who would be forgiven for starting to suspect a conspiracy. Bradley Pritchard would have to partner 'a still returning from injury' Jackson in the middle.

Rob Hulse (i had almost forgotten we'd signed him) started, back at one of his old haunts, ahead of Wright-Phillips in the lone striker role, one in which he's probably the most suited of all the strikers at the club anyway.

Behind him though, rather than a five man midfield with an attacking option playing 'in the hole', we had a flat four and defensive cover in the shape of Dorian Dervite behind them. My only view of the Frenchman had been pre season at Crawley where he played a regular centre back role and to his credit played it well. His start at Leeds was a true shock rewarded not only with commendation but also with a full debut goal.
If it wasn't for the Leeds stopper, Paddy Kenny, Charlton would have come away with all three points as time and time again he denied the Addicks who finished the game most definitely wearing their shooting boots. What a complete turn around from Saturday.

Chris Powell showed he certainly isn't going to shirk responsibility and sit back and watch the squad he has built fall apart at the seams in a lackluster attempt at survival.
On his appointment many said it a brave move to risk going back to where you have a great reputation and risk losing it should things not work out. Chris Powell rubbished that at the time, if you worry about failing you'll achieve nothing.

Tuesday was a masterstroke, who could possibly sit in the stands and doubt a man that can pull something like that out of his very stylish cap?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

I knew getting up was a mistake

It would appear yesterday that i wasn't the only one struggling to put in a match winning performance. There were times during the morning when my attendance as part of the bumper crowd was in jeopardy, for i was on the road to recovery after a nasty stomach bug that had reduced me to a shivering wreck and bed bound for thirty six hours.

A nice little Charlton win was surely the perfect medicine? In honesty, i nearly turned straight back around at London Bridge and perhaps i should have. The performance on the pitch just added to my discomfort, whilst the half time pie for the best bit of three quid did it's best to completely set me back by a day or two (what was going to line my stomach for a post match pint now?).

Sorry to upset anyone who's job involves the planning of a family day out, but i'm not one for razzmatazz. Cheerleaders, goal music, opera singers, i'm only there for the football so my arrival inside the ground was nicely planned for five to three. The club obviously tried to give all the strangers value for money for their five pounds but even if i'd felt 100% i don't think i'd have gotten too carried away with it. A bumper crowd it may have been, but a large crowd lacking in atmosphere has got to be worse for the team than a small one generating plenty of support.

We started as we did at Blackpool playing with one up front. Even with five in the middle Barnsley had the better of the early stages and at times played the ball around us like it was a demonstration match. I was waiting for the ole's from the good spirited travelling support. Stephens looked like he didn't want to be out there with wayward passes and mistimed challenges while Kerkar didn't seem to have the legs to get through an hour let alone the full ninety minutes.

Don't think i'm picking these two out, we were second best for most of the match, all eleven made a mistake or two, and if Barnsley had shown the killer instinct they did at Birmingham it could have been all over before Gemma Gibbons, the local lass who won a medal in the Olympics, was paraded on the pitch at half time. I didn't see her, i was battling a rubber pie at the time.

Two changes by Chris Powell at the interval saw us start the second forty five in a far more Charlton like 4-4-2. Still we struggled. Barnsley had a little blonde haired lad, David Perkins, who was in the middle of everything. He was playing like he wanted to win, that was the difference. They also had Stephen Dawson, their number seven, who had a solid game with a strong tackle and great ball distribution. On top of this he wore plain black boots, i had total respect for this chap, well until that is he made a meal of a challenge, took forever to go off limping and was sprinting five seconds after coming back into play. Why do all the other 91 league clubs deploy this tactic?

The Barnsley goal was well finished from a very tight angle but Danny Green's mistake let them in. It looked like a slip rather than plain clumsiness but Tomasz Cywka capitalized and finished impeccably.

We had some half chances, a good penalty shout, a six man rugby scrum on the goal line where the ball went close to crossing it but nothing that looked of any real quality. Ricardo Fuller was guilty of one or two step overs too many every time he carried the ball into the box and even when we did manage to gain some kind of forward momentum the referee did his best to stop play and resume it in the opposite direction.
Fuller would make it to the final whistle but certainly was carrying a knock by the end of it. Probably the last thing the gaffer needed.

I'm always short on patience when ill, i'm sorry if this seems negative but i certainly felt negative at the time. These promotions always seem to backfire on us, but on the plus side if there was a future generation of Addick in the crowd yesterday they'll certainly know what they're letting themselves in for, and hopefully how addictive it is!

Leeds away Tuesday, i feel a little more positive when we play away this season but home form is crucial for survival. Time to roll our sleeves up, push on, and take a leaf out of the blonde lads book. Lets at least look like we want to win.
 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pam Shriver


  
I like Barnsley. I don't think I'm being impertinent by saying they're not one of the biggest names or attractions in the Championship, they had a novelty value during their Premier League adventure but back in the second tier they exist quite contently out of the spotlight. Reminds me in some respects of a certain South London club. Spending the majority of their existence at England's second level of football, a real scare of administration and the possibility of  extinction, they even play in red and white.
If i were a northerner i might just have been a tyke. As a child my parents probably thought i was and more than likely called me one. 

Charlton have once again brought their 'football for a fiver' trick out of hibernation, as they've done frequently of late, to see bums on seats and a full Valley for a fixture that would otherwise struggle to reach the season's average. Barnsley look set to play in front of a far bigger Valley attendance than any other side this season.

It's a scheme that has received wonderful acclaim from other clubs and supporters around the country but how much of a success is it really? It generates great revenue around the ground for local eateries and public houses, not to mention the catering outlets inside The Valley plus an opportunity to sell a replica shirt or two in the Nike superstore. Let's not forget the return from the empty seats which must outweigh that lost from ticket sales from those supporters that would have come anyway and paid the full amount.
From a business point of view it's a great pitch, but how do supporters feel about it? I'm always happy to see the ground packed, but if a face I've never seen before sits next to me and starts to complain if we're not four up by half time I'm likely to get irritated.

How many faces, or more appropriately bums, will be back for the next home game? On a day when the BBC price of football survey was released, you can see how expensive top flight football in London is. If men (or women) decide Charlton is the place to bring the kids for a football day out in future then fantastic, and if it only serves to sew a seed in some young children that will go on to remember their first game and be regulars in ten or fifteen years time then that's of equal importance.
I am guilty for expecting a short term increase while in hindsight these promotions quite often aim for a long term solution, perhaps why I'm not at the forefront of cut throat business.

Someone who does have a brain for these type of initiatives is Rick Everitt. Rick had a huge part to play in the 'football for a fiver' idea, he had an immeasurable role in the now defunct fanzine 'Voice of The Valley' and spent fourteen years around the club culminating in his appointment as club development officer.
Rumors had been rife about his departure from the payroll and this week Rick confirmed on the Charlton Life forum that he had indeed been sacked.

I've always been guilty of keeping my head in the sand, hoping that through ignorance everything will turn out rosy without any need for me to worry unnecessarily. I can do this quite easily on all matters from football to finances, health to home life. It's not a good approach to take, I'm certainly not advocating it, but in the case of football Charlton make it a very easy option for us as the new owners do like to keep us in the dark.

Things are definitely chilly behind the scenes at the club, but to at what extent we are unaware. Rick said in his statement the best course of action is to keep getting behind both the team and Chris Powell. That seems like great advice to me.

We've endured an international break that contained more talking points than a women's book club meeting. Charlton youth product Jonjo Shelvey won the first of what we believe will be many England caps, the Polish comically couldn't or wouldn't shut the roof during a downpour on par to Hull's visit to SE7, and in Serbia racism raised it's ugly head during an England under 21 fixture to a level akin to 1970's Britain.

Thank goodness that's all over, lets get behind the team on Saturday as Rick suggested, all twenty odd thousand of us.



Saturday, October 6, 2012

Kiss me quick!






It's been a funny old week, both for me and my football team. I've had a poor performance with results to match whilst Charlton have played superbly with mixed fortunes.

The dreaded misery that is man flu took it's ugly grip on me at the beginning of the week, assigning me to my bed for a couple of days. It would have been longer if my attendance at work hadn't been vital to the cause on Friday.

I therefore not only missed the action at The Valley on Tuesday evening in the flesh, but i also slept through the radio commentary too!
I took from the game that Charlton bossed the majority of the match, despite the 1-2 scoreline, Watford's Italian contingent did a fair impersonation of Tom Daley, and finally, we really need to take our chances at this level.

A trip to free scoring, high flying Blackpool was just what we needed then. In some respects, there was a little less pressure on us to get a result than there was on Tuesday, but two good performances at home still count for something. We would either get the reward these showings have been promising or we'd get a hiding.
I hate to admit it but i was expecting the latter.

Chris Powell decided it was time to shake things up a little, most notably by dropping Bradley Wright-Phillips to the bench and switching to a 4-5-1 formation. New boy Abdul Razak was his replacement coming into the centre of the midfield.

Charlton's solid performance was back and on display in the first half but once again the chances came and went. Fortunately Blackpool were wasteful with theirs too. Ricardo Fuller came the closest when his header came off the underside of the bar. That was the best moment of the first forty five.

The worst moment once again involved a players personal misery. We'll have to find space in an already crowded treatment room back in the capital as Danny Green came off after only around twenty minutes becoming the latest member of the Charlton cripple club.

It was the second period when things really came to life. Only three minutes in and Charlton were in front. Leon Cort once again found the net with his head from a Stephens corner. The Charlton traveling support were, for not the first time, coming through loud and clear on the radio (were there any home fans at the game? It sounded like Craven Cottage), and twitter was already full of tweets urging us to hang on! We really don't have too much faith in holding onto a lead.

We did hang on though, Fuller giving a professional display up front warranting a man of the match accolade. Charlton wrapped it up as Chris Solly scored the second with a sweet right foot drive from around twenty yards out.
As they quite correctly mentioned on the radio, it's a goal that ,with time, will be noted as being further and further out.

The emergence of both 1998 play off final veteran  Kevin Phillips and the very talented Tom Ince off the bench failed to inspire Blackpool to a comeback and Charlton clung on (as we do) to three very welcomed points on the road lifting us to a much more respectable fifteenth in the table as we go into an international break.

After a week of Chris Powell receiving criticism from a certain portion of the Charlton support he's shown that he's quite happy to drop a 'name', quite prepared to try a different approach and quite correct to tell us all to have patience.

I believe he knows what he's doing, i never doubted him for a moment. Honest.


Monday, October 1, 2012

Two In Forty Eight


Chris Powell has dipped into the loan market twice since our match with Blackburn. He's strengthened two areas of the park, one that's come under criticism of late and one that's been plagued by injury.

It's a real mixture of youth and experience that's arrived at The Valley with an exciting young midfielder and a proven old head up front.

Abdul Razak signed just after the match on Saturday having watched the game from the stands. Very highly rated by his parent club, Manchester City, the nineteen year old has already won his first full cap for the Ivory Coast.
Having had spells on loan for both Portsmouth and Brighton on the South coast, he's now set for three months in the capital, a City he knows well after starting his footballing career at Crystal Palace.
This should prove to be some valuable match time for the young midfielder as i expect chances at the City of Manchester stadium will be few and far between.

Monday lunchtime saw the anticipated announcement of the capture of Rob Hulse from Queen's Park Rangers, again on a three month contract.
With injuries to Yann Kermorgant and Danny Haynes, and Ricardo Fuller suffering from a virus, Charlton were very short on cover in attack.
Hulse, a player with top flight experience, has spent large portions of his career at this level affirming himself with the likes of Derby, Leeds and West Bromwich Albion.

At 32 his legs may not make a full ninety minutes but he will make the perfect impact substitute. And measuring over six foot tall he'll also be perfect for the long ball tactic we practiced on Saturday!
Without a squad number at Loftus Road for this season, there's every chance his loan could either be extended or the move made permanent at a later stage. Rangers have made it clear to the player he has no future there. If ever there was an excuse to make a good impression.........

Both players will be in the squad for tomorrow's visit of Watford.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Looking Kean






Having had to work during the Hull match, yesterday saw my first Saturday 3 o'clock kick off of the season - during the last weekend of September! I've heard many people claiming global warming has confused the seasons, i blame the likes of Sky slightly more.

As is so often the case, Charlton's opponents were making all the headlines prior to the game. How often has an opposing manager lost his job prior to the game or the following day after a defeat in SE7?
Steve Kean, whom i believe is very popular in Bolton, resigned as Blackburn boss on the evening before the match. It had of course been on the cards for months but Kean politely waited until a fixture against the Addicks before announcing anything. This was guaranteed to get us an extra twenty seconds on the BBC's Football League Show.

It was a day to welcome some famous and infamous faces to The Valley. Former Addick and former European footballer of the year, Allan Simonsen was in attendance both to watch the game and meet the guys at Charlton Live for a radio interview.
Other visitors, Danny Murphy and Darren Deadman weren't invited to speak into the radio microphone. Murphy, a lovely upstanding gent, was on the receiving end of plenty of abuse from the home fans. Although harsh in content, it wasn't surprising. In a poll of least liked former players, Murphy would feature highly in many answers.
Deadman, the referee, is someone trying to carve a reputation for himself. Normally a little card happy, it would appear after yesterday that someone really needs to sit him down and explain the whole principle of playing the advantage. On at least three occasions he stopped play the second a foul was committed even though an advantage would have been more prosperous to the side.

Someone who didn't hang about for the game was Charlton striker Ricardo Fuller. Despite rumours floating around Charlton Life and the North stand about a drink driving incident, it transpires the player is suffering from some kind of virus and was sent home by the gaffer.
After the injury to Kermorgant this forced Chris Powell to change things once again with Danny Hollands returning to the starting line up in a five man midfield. Young Michael Smith offered some attacking back up on the bench.

Blackburn, a Premier League side last season don't forget, looked strong from the start and manager less or not were going to give us a stern test. We of course were on the back of our first away win and should have been high on confidence. Blackburn scored after fifteen minutes.

There was talk at half time as to this goal possibly being off side, i don't know I'm yet to see a TV replay but what is important is the manner in which Rovers got it. They passed the ball right through us, we opened up for them like a flower welcoming the approaches of a cocksure bee.

As betting slips were torn to shreds around the ground, many may have thought the floodgates would open. I for one didn't think we had it in us. At least we were winning in the vocal department. I can understand why Murphy feels so at home at Blackburn, their fans made just as much noise as he was used to at Fulham for sure! We sang truthfully when we told them of our forgetfulness about their attendance.

I always remember a particular 1-0 defeat when i think of Blackburn, my first Charlton Wembley trip in the Full Members Cup when i was a young sixteen year old. A great day out when you could stand at the twin towers, just ruined by the scoreline. I always thought the opportunity of seeing Charlton lift a trophy at Wembley had passed me by at the time. This was to be no repeat.

Charlton earned a penalty when Leon Cort (to show how old I'm getting, my failing eyesight thought it was Wright-Phillips)  was brought down in the box just ten minutes later. Jackson stepped up and was unlucky not to score as the keepers trailing leg kept the ball out. Before we'd had a chance to moan about chances lost the ball was nicely nestled in the back of the net. Hollands sent the ball back into the box where Jackson made contact and diverted it in. I've seen photos since of his celebration, this goal meant as much to him as it did to us. We erupted.

Danny Green, again impressive, hit the upright before half time whilst the full backs Solly and the always improving Lawrie Wilson both looked strong again. At half time i was feeling rather optimistic. A win could be on the cards.

As the game developed we came very close to taking the points. Leon Cort nearly put us in front early in the second half with the ball being apparently cleared of the line. We all thought it had crossed over, again though I've yet to see a replay.
Wright-Phillips nearly sealed it for us in a way Ben Hamer could only dream of. A wonderful over-head kick was tipped over the bar with just minutes remaining.

We settled for a hard earned point, we deserved nothing less. It wasn't all plain sailing though. Johnnie Jackson limped off in the early stages of the second period with a hamstring problem. Adding to Wiggins and Kermorgant on the treatment table, this deepens Powell's injury woes but does open the door of opportunity to those willing to take it. Pritchard looked fresh when he came on for the skipper. Having lost his place recently he wants to be razor sharp during this second chance.

My biggest bug bear of the day was the long ball tactic. At times against opposition of this caliber, we don't look comfortable on the ball resulting in us either struggling with a first touch, playing the thing far too quickly or pumping it forward over head height. With just four foot nothing Wright-Phillips up front you can soon see the flaw in this. Michael Smith can hold the ball up well, maybe a chance for the youngster wouldn't be a bad move when employing this tactic?

All in all though a gritty performance that showed the character needed to survive and compete at this level. Our injury depleted League One side more than held their own against Premier league wannabes.

Off the field of play now and into the stands. After my Blues Brothers escapade last weekend and the discovery of my long forgotten hat collection, i graced SE7 wearing a brown trilby number. The remarks from friends and associates were mostly positive so I've decided it will appear more and more frequently.
I always remember a TV advert where the wife could tell her husbands whereabouts by which hat was missing. He had a football one, a fishing one etc. Well i now have a football hat. If you see it in the Rose or at a the ground feel free to come over and say hello.

Watford Tuesday, or as i prefer to call it, The Italian Job. A chance to add to our points tally before the much anticipated trip up to Blackpool.
I'm feeling very positive. Come on you reds!





Sunday, September 23, 2012

We're on a mission from God!






I've been off the radar this weekend. I briefly followed the first hour of Saturday's game but then didn't know the result until around eight o'clock last night. The only football I've seen is four minutes of our highlights on the wonder that is CAFC player.
I have concluded though that i was the only Addick having a dose of the blues yesterday.

My mother in law was hosting a Blues Brothers themed party to celebrate her 50th birthday, i needed no encouragement to don the black tie and trilby hat, and being family we had to be there early to get everything set up, hence missing the end of the second half.

Needless to say, a good night was had by all. I was allowed to dance as, according to my wife, my rather bizarre efforts on the dance floor are very in keeping with those of Jake and Elwood Blues. A little beer intake also gave me the encouragement to show the younger participants a thing or two on a stage that i would never normally call myself comfortable on.

Today after church we were back there putting everything straight again, washing the blood off the floors (might have been chocolate cake actually), and turning their abode into somewhere a little more livable. Even the Sunday afternoon football has passed me by, as i said - off the radar.

The blues i was relishing in were far removed from the blues Ipswich are languishing in. Plenty of boos greeted the team and their boss at the final whistle, how easily that could have been us if we hadn't got a result yesterday. The Tractor boys remain firmly rooted in the bottom three. We now have six below us! Paul Jewell may well be worth putting a couple of quid on for the next managerial casualty.

I must congratulate the traveling supporters who made it to Portman Road. A great football ground I've only ever been to the once (for a certain play off semi final), many fans had to endure a bus replacement service for large parts of the journey. On the back of three defeats this shows wonderful dedication.

As it is, Chris Powell changed it around, albeit enforced in places, with Ricardo Fuller getting a start in place of Kermorgant, and Hollands being relegated to the bench. Jackson who has struggled on the left moved to a more central position allowing an impressive Salim Kerkar to start.

This worked to great effect at the start of the second as Kerkar crossed for Jackson to score a wonderful poachers goal, followed three minutes later as Fuller fired home after some fine solo work.

Ipswich pulled a goal back from Jason Scotland which took a huge deflection wrong footing Hamer in the Charlton goal, and it could have been a real role reversal with Charlton not all out attacking for the last twenty but instead defending in numbers.
The Addicks didn't just sit back and soak it up though as they had chances to put the game beyond reach, but 2-1 it stayed giving a rather relieved Chris Powell and his team three points and a first away win of the season.

Sometimes an enforced change can inadvertently turn things around for you. I've a decision in my own work life which I'd put off for far too long and has now been resolved for me due to a change of  circumstance. It's no good looking back and wishing it had all happened a little earlier, but rather to be thankful of good fortune, and to embrace and build on it.

Blackburn Rovers come to The Valley on Saturday. Big fish in this pond they may be, but that just gives us more to aim for.

As Donald "Duck" Dunn almost said -
"We've got a team powerful enough to turn goat piss into gasoline."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ramifications


As hard as we try to find positives from these early season encounters, our shortcomings are becoming more and more obvious, with the inexperience and inadequacy to compete at this level seemingly rammed home (sorry) once again last night.

For the final twenty minutes Charlton threw everything they had at Derby, just as they had done against Forest and Palace before them, clawing the deficit back to only one goal, but the third defeat on the bounce was, I'm afraid, deserved.

The only changes to the starting line up were Danny Green coming in for Bradley Pritchard and Lawrie Wilson starting in place of the injured Rhoys Wiggins. Green fully warranted a start after looking so bright in his cameo last time out, whilst Wilson got the nod over the unlucky Cedric Evina for the full back berth.

We could be upbeat and commemorate upon the third occasion this season when the ball ended up in the back of the net yet a goal not given, or another late header which the opposition cleared off the line. We can even take some hope from being three goals down and still having enough fight in us to turn the finale into edge of the seat excitement.

None of this will hide the fact that for the majority of the game we looked absent. Again the opposition carved not just holes but huge slices out of our midfield, we still hoof the long ball forward optimistically and last night, unusually i must add, the defence was at sixes and sevens.
Alan Hansen would have gone into full meltdown summarizing the Rams second goal.

This is the same squad, give or take, that made a habit out of winning games last season and confidence will always play it's part, however i believe some of the mistakes were still made occasionally last year. In the Championship as opposed to League One you get punished more often, as we are learning to our cost.

The fight and resolve we're finishing matches with shows we've the ability to compete amongst this company and it is as we know still early days - many people have mentioned Reading's poor start to last season as a comparison.
Chris Powell can't be afraid to drop a senior player who's finding it hard to adjust. Danny Green, a player many i know in the summer said would struggle at this level, has come in and looked fantastic scoring a gem and assisting in the second last night. How many other squad players will delight and surprise if given the chance?

I have the utmost faith in the boss to turn this around and pull us out of the bottom three. Other than Forest, none of the rest looked head and shoulders above us, just better adapted to the job in hand at this level.
It's far too early to be calling the trip to Ipswich a six pointer, even if we do both share a seat in the relegation zone, but an important encounter it certainly is. I know in my heart we're too good for a relegation dog fight, i still think a mid table finish is a more realistic prognosis, but league standings don't lie. We really need to move upwards as soon as possible before we get too rooted at the base.

Ipswich entertain Wolves tonight giving us the psychological edge of an extra day between games, although if they win they can jump to the top half of the table. As i said before, still early days.

Come on you reds!


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Ground floor perfumery, stationery and leather goods


Now i don't for one second presume i could do anything any better than those at the helm, for running a football club has got to be difficult and you're never going to keep everyone happy all the time.
Running a household is enough of a challenge financially for me, while keeping one person happy every once in a while is seen as a success.

The boardroom at The Valley sounds ferocious and the club as a whole doesn't appear the happiest place to work recently. If rumours are to be believed, Rick Everitt the club development officer could soon be visiting the labour exchange. An outspoken Charlton stalwart, Rick would be another link with our recent history that would be lost to the club, another voice saying what it really means to 'be Charlton' that would fall silent.
In real life Charlton behind the scenes could be much healthier than we know, but being kept in the dark supporters will always fear the worst.

One part of the clubs operations we do know something about is the club shop, sorry superstore. Didn't Tesco copyright that term?

With all the excitement and ultimately disappointment of Friday you would have been forgiven for missing the news of the refurbished and refitted store reopening.
Charlton fan and radio disc jockey, Dave Berry gave up some of his birthday to cut the ribbon and open the doors to the public.

I've mentioned my dislike of the Nike brand before, the financial rewards for the club aside, they will always be an American basketball brand to me famed for their sweatshops.
The club shop is now a 'Charlton Athletic Nike store', i pray we don't go the route of Bolton and Reebok although in retrospect Reebok did hail from that part of the world.

We already know the season highlights DVD was only available from the commercial centre and back issues of matchday programmes are no longer in the store. We also knew Nike were bringing in, all but for a couple of leading faces, their own staff, what we have since discovered though is the addition of the Nike boot room and the Nike casual range in this first wave of rebranding. The basketball floor i expect will come later.
A standard 'Just Do It' slogan t-shirt is already available if you can't find it on the shelf of your local JD sports.

Someone told me the other day that when Dr Martens sponsored Rushden & Diamonds, the famous air cushioned soles were available from the club shop. I still think we should be sponsored by a brewery!

It's the modern football world, club shops aren't portacabins anymore but are big business ventures. To compete on a level playing field clubs can't afford to be one step behind the rest.
It doesn't matter how much heritage you have if you can't pay the bills, look at Portsmouth still living day to day.

No doubt nearer Christmas a young family members wish of a replica shirt will force me to give Nike some of my pennies although I'll be buying on line. I don't want to have to carry matching running spikes, basketball hoops, aftershave and golf bag home on the train with me.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Smokescreen


I don't really have a problem with football 'ultras', a familiar sight all over Eastern Europe and particularly in Italy they bring a lot of noise and colour to a football match. I do rather enjoy seeing lots of coloured smoke emerging from a football crowd.
Unlike football hooligan firms, ultras do find more importance in supporting their own side rather than fighting the opponents. The need for black ninja outfits is slightly worrying though, maybe they'd feel more at home in certain religious female attire?

Crystal Palace included a small amount of ultras in their 3000 strong travelling support and in all honesty, the noise from the Jimmy Seed last night was very impressive. Dislike them i may, but i can't ignore the fact they certainly were a sight and did the whole twelfth man thing perfectly.

While the smoke was getting in the eyes of the travelling contingent, it was certainly clearing in the home areas. We may have had a scoreline at Forest that tried to cover the deficiencies in the side, but the Palace game certainly showed us all our shortcomings and raised even more questions.

The honeymoon period of the Birmingham and Leicester matches when we still carried the momentum of last season are well behind us now and we can expect a long hard slog through the coming winter months.
Crystal Palace were by no means a side on par with Forest but they were physically strong and well organized. Two factors we need to sharpen up on.

At the time i felt this was probably the easiest three points they would win all season, now having had the chance to sleep on it, i can take a couple of positives from the evening.
It seems the midfield is everybody's main concern. Dale Stephens is back and needs to continue with the performances which alerted Villa in the first place, using us as a platform to both better himself and launch what could be a fantastic career. If not and he wallows in what might of been he could take the team morale down with him.

One thing we can take from last night is the need to play with width. Jackson is struggling with fitness and doesn't look to have a full ninety minutes in him, whilst Pritchard doesn't really seem the player to attack full backs and get the crosses in. Danny Green came on for a cameo yesterday and suddenly showed a creative spark we had been lacking.
Look at the trouble we had dealing with Yannick Bolasie. A true wide man, Chris Solly was tested to the full, first on our right, then once Wiggins had gone off on our left. It's testament to young Solly that he limited Bolasie as much as he did.
Zaha also proved a handful, never short of both ideas and confidence, he was a constant thorn in our side all evening.

Palace were famed for their inability to defend set plays. Unfortunately both Jackson and Kermorgant struggled to find a strike between them that would really hit the target, let alone trouble Speroni in goal. Shots on target were in short supply throughout.

Our disallowed goal from Wright-Phillips should have stood after seeing TV replays, the referee later apologizing to Chris Powell for the error of judgement, and that goal would have had some impact on confidence and perhaps the run of play, yet we were clearly second best.

A draw would, i hate to admit, have been unfair on the visitors. The little rally late on which saw some awful shooting from Fuller and Wilson amongst others was I'm afraid too little too late. Again, similar to the Forest match it was desperation to salvage something after being outplayed for seventy minutes.

Ben Hamer had one of the best chances as he came up for a stoppage time corner. A strong header was cleared off the line and we got a comical moment to cherish as the keeper tried an overhead kick on the follow up. That little gem was especially for the Addicks that had already seen enough and headed for the pub.

Quote of the night from a chap i spoke to afterwards, "We looked like a League One side who's financial backer had pulled out."
It's back to the drawing board for the gaffer after this wake up call, bouncing back against Derby on Tuesday is vital if we don't want to get too comfortable in the bottom six.

For the first time in many years i rode to the game last night. I parked the bike at the Rose of Denmark heading back there afterwards for a quick one before setting off home. In hindsight this didn't turn out to be a bad idea. It was nice to wind down and chat about the game afterwards but it also kept me away from Charlton station.
When i returned home i saw my twitter timeline full of people saying that it had all kicked off earlier around the station. Men old enough to know much better unable to differentiate between fun harmless banter and ignorant thuggery.

What a sad way to end a hugely disappointing evening.