Tuesday, 12 May 2015

15 released, no surprises

As anticipated, Charlton Athletic parted company with 15 players today, calling time on six first-team squad players and ending the Valiant hopes of 9 others.

The announcement confirmed what we already knew about Simon Church and Tal Ben Haim. Simon Church was never the real deal but you could never fault his effort and I wish him all the best. He probably leaves with a bitter taste in his mouth after the disrespect shown to him by some home fans which wasn't deserved. Ben Haim had something more about him, almost in the Jorge Costa mould, but he had a tendency to make last-ditch tackles which cost us points although he also saved plenty. I also think he got away with at least three sending off's during the season which could have marred his copybook.

Lawrie Wilson won't be returning and neither will Oguchi Onyewu. Lawrie went off the boil this season and I think he gave up on his career with us. Wilson was a better player than I think he ever got credit for although he lacked a little professionalism in his last few performances for us which was disappointing. That stupid song about him can't have helped. We didn't really get much of an opportunity to properly judge Oguchi but I remember thinking he might be good enough.

'Relegation' Roger will be relieved he can add another survival season to his CV and he did a job when he came in although there was a notable dip in consistency towards the end. Of the first teamers, Chris Eagles is the only possible surprise and whilst he acquitted himself well enough, he probably isn't good value-for-money and we need to look elsewhere.

Other than those, Jack Mundell, Harry Osborne, Harry Gerard, Neil Etheridge, Rhys Browne, Kadell Daniel, Levander Pyke, Kieran Monlouis and Kurtis Cumberbatch will all try to follow in the footsteps of many before them, like Harry Arter, and prove us wrong.

Finally, sad to hear the death of yet another old time hero, John Hewie. Hewie played 530 times in the mighty red and is our most capped international player having turned out 19 times for his parents' homeland, Scotland. One of his Royal Blue, Lion-adorned shirts is on display in the Charlton Museum. God bless you John.

Monday, 11 May 2015

QPR circle complete.

QPR were hammered 6-0 at Manchester City yesterday and were finally relegated from the top flight. Their promotion in 2012-13 was bank-rolled by Tony Fernandez in contravention of the FFP rules and the R's face an uncomfortable time as the Football League decides what action to take now that they are seeking to re-join the Championship.

Under Football League rules, they could be fined up to £45m or refused entry to the Championship or the FL. That could mean the Conference, a delicious coincidence with namesakes Glasgow Rangers for their own financial mismanagement.

Tony Fernandez is pinning his hopes on a huge write-off of personal debt to effectively minimise losses during the promotion season. This is likely to save some of their bacon although the FL has to be seen to administer a strong enough deterrent to other clubs or else FFP will be holed below the waterline. It's already struggling badly having made a huge concession to the bigger clubs by relaxing the financial thresholds and effectively halving them. 

Irrespective, QPR will need to clear out the rotten apples and ditch at least half of their large and dysfunctional squad of players. They will also need a root and branch reform that, frankly, looks unlikely to me with Chris Ramsey still in charge. Ramsey is passionate about wanting the job on an extended basis and his playing staff have largely been supportive of him vocally, not that it's made any difference to their performances and results. 

Let's hope Ramsey stays and anything more than a decent fine will be a bonus. An additional points deduction would seem fair if they are to start in the Championship next season. I wouldn't be betting on an automatic return if I were an R's fan.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Player of the Year

Jordan Cousins was the pick of the majority for this year's Player of the Year. He certainly managed a requisite number of appearances to be on the shortlist and as a former Young Player of the Year, I guess he had the pedigree for the main award.

For my money the Disabled Supporters Association got it right by making Johan Berg Gudmundsson their Player of the Year. Cousins got recognition from me playing in over 40 matches but for nearly half of those he was stuck on the wing where he was largely ineffective. That was Bob Peeters fault but it was painful to watch. Jordan's game is based on pace and energy but he doesn't know how to use that with an out-of-bounds line limiting his left-side. For me, Jordan hasn't yet got the maturity of speed-of-thought to make him the real deal. Too often  he careers into space (left and right) but wastes possession either because he overruns the ball or because he fails to find a red shirt in space. He also doesn't carry enough goal threat. Three is a poor return from all those games.

JBG lit up the season with some absolute pearlers which made the difference between mid-table and a relegation dog-fight. JBG could walk into most Premier League sides today - not sure we can say the same thing about Jordan. With that in mind, I would also have voted Stephen Henderson above Jordan for his string of point-winning saves as he cemented his place at Number One.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Charlton Athletic 0 v AFC Bournemouth 3

Party time for the visiting supporters who knew that they would see their side promoted at the Valley come what may. All they had to do was avoid a double-digit defeat. It was obvious from the opening two minutes that there was absolutely no chance of that happening. Charlton failed to give the visitors a guard of honour at the start but we more than made up for it by making it very clear that we weren't going to hold them up for long.

Bournemouth swarmed all over us from the whistle as they found an alarming amount of space in every gap they ran into. They controlled possession and found each other with quick neat passes, always giving the man in possession two options. It was no surprise when they took the lead on ten minutes after slick passing and movement that ended with the excellent Ritchie driving a curling shot across the goal which beat Henderson's dive by inches and bumped in off the far post. That was effectively game over but we parted like the Red Sea minutes later to allow the other main tormentor-in-chief, ex-Addict Harry After to  wrap things up. He was clearly in seventh heaven as he made his point to the Charlton fans in the stands. 

Bournemouth settled down after that but continued to threaten and another goal was always on the cards. We managed a tame shot at Boruc before half-time but it was an embarrassing last effort at home. Bournemouth are a better side and had more to play for but there is no excuse in my book for handing them the match so early on. We did manage to respond for twenty minutes after the half-time dressing down but were short of a goal with Vetokele misfiring again and finally limping off. Tony Watt took sole responsibility for trying to get us a goal but he too limped off after we had used our last subs.

All that was left was for the Cherries to add a third which put me in panic as my bet was suddenly in danger of an unlikely Sheffield Wednesday leveller at Watford. We left for the Lib before the finish and, sure enough, the Massive equalised as we made our way down Harvey Gardens. I had a tense pint or two in the Lib waiting to see the table and finding that Wednesday would finish 13th on goals scored having matched us on 60 points and -6 goal difference. Old Charlton mate "Leeds" Paul was rumoured to be down for the customary last game which was why we opted for the Liberal Club but he wasn't there. I reckoned our performance had pissed him off but we bumped into him a couple of hours later as we headed home. He had thought I'd be in the Oak so had headed there straight after the match - good to see you Paul.

So, I was left reflecting on the season and it was really no more than a 5/10. After a promising early start we bored the pants off our opponents and we became depressing to watch. Injuries took a toll and we were very clearly short of quality in several key positions. Bob Peeters asked for help but got the sack instead and we got Guy Luzon. Guy was handed the players Bob wanted and after they found their feet we found a rich vein of form which proved we had the beating of most sides in this division. Having pulled clear of relegation and with no chance of catching the play-offs we took our feet off the gas and the results peetered out as we gave poor value for money at the tail-end. Compare yesterday's surrender to Sheffield Wednesday who fought Watford for a draw and denied them the Championship title. Why couldn't we do that?

I am pleased to see the end of this season and am also looking forward to a break from Charlton. I will follow the various twists and turns of player changes, which I expect to start early next week with the announcement of a long list of those who have either played their last game for us or whose efforts to made the grade with us will have failed. Beyond that I expect to see us cash in on several assets to "break-even" and who comes in will be telling in terms of ambitions for next season. The degree of first-team change may also determine a reinforcement of Roland's strategy for Charlton Athletic. We need good continuity if we are ever to build a side capable of replicating Bournemouth's achievements this season. 

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Ice the cake

Fine morning (congratulations to Steve Evans and Rotherham for staying up in their first season back in the Championship) and thoughts turn to Saturday's final game of this mixed season. My attention and that of Mexico Vic is on a decent sized wager we placed on the Addicks for a top 12 finish. Rationale was a way to pay for football next season for Me, the Missus and my step-brother's son who accompanies us. I also thought the bookies had their numbers wrong with us 7-2 for a top-half finish. 

In true Charlton style we have made a meal of it after a fine start and things couldn't be more finely balanced. The simple task is for us to finish above two of 
Birmingham, Forest, Cardiff and Sheffield Wednesday. With only a point in it, goal difference has loomed large and even that could be contentious.

Clearly, if we see promoted Bournemouth off on Saturday we are home and dry and in the money. However, if we lose there is an as likely scenario which could see us drop to 13th. Forest play Cardiff and form suggests that could finish in a draw putting both sides level on points with us. Forest would go above us and Cardiff could as well on goal difference if we lost by two or more, which isn't unrealistic given Bournemouth could strut their stuff on Saturday and our players continue not to be too bothered.

That would mean that a point for Birmingham at Bolton (Brum are on a decent run) or an unlikely Sheffield Wednesday win at Champions-elect Watford, would also scupper the bet.

So, what to do? The temptation is to lay off £200 at 11-8 on Bournemouth to win by two goals or more. That would take the cream off our cake but would ensure we got stake covered and didn't lose out. Otherwise, we hold our nerve and hope for a final Charlton Hurrah against a Bournemouth side playing for a chance of the Championship title. A draw would probably be enough but there is also the less likely scenario that Birmingham and Wednesday win and the Forest v Cardiff match doesn't finish in a draw, which would also see us finish bottom-half. 

We could also lay the bet off and win that and still finish top-half. What would you do?

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Season Ticket price challenge for 2016-17

West Ham have put an early marker down in a bid to fill their 54,000 Olympic Stadium when they trot out in August 2016. They have announced season ticket prices well over a year in advance and the worrying news for Katrien Meire and the Master of Chateau Duchatelet is that at starting prices of £289 for adults and £99 Premier League football will be on offer at similar prices to what we will pay next year for Championship football.

That won't tempt those of us with Charlton tattoos but for the floating voter it's a no-brainer. When we were filling the Valley in the top flight, affordability and Premiership football was what sold us out every home game, not the prospect of watching Charlton in the top flight.

Charlton will need a very respectable season next year and a compelling season ticket offer if we are not to see gates drop purely because of what's available cheaply three stops from North Greenwich. With hindsight, they could have done something innovative for this coming season by linking it to the following season or thereafter. There is still an opportunity to target the walk-up and neutral but the tone for the pricing policy gets sets by the cost of season tickets. 

One to watch...

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

"Breaking even."

I may be para-phrasing but that was the gist of one of the key elements of Roland Duchatelet's strategy when he explained his ambitions for our club a little over a year ago when he became Lord and Master. To be fair, I think the comment was more like "moving towards break even" which implied it might take some time to get there. The other key tenets were that he would invest in youth and look to take advantage of anticipated FFP regulations as value was realised from moves within the network and sales outside it.

Having sold Yann Kermorgant and Dale Stephens very shortly after arriving (we were in desperate need of a new pitch), there has been limited opportunity to sell players since. Bob Peeters spent the Summer assembling a squad and going into the January transfer window  we were short of quality in several positions. Our dip in form hardly had prospective buyers dodging potholes in the car park. Igor Vetokele was injured and his early season scoring form had dried-up.

Following the arrival of Watt, Bulot and Diarra, our late Winter rally has since seen us shoot clear of danger and has brought out the best in some other performers such as Johan Berg Gudmundsson, Morgan Fox and Joe Gomez.

In the ongoing absence of any further word from the Organ Grinder, we are left facing an uncertain end-of-season in terms of who will still be here in August. Contracts of a number of players run out and there is no guarantee they will be renewed, either because we might not want to retain them, because they may want to return to their host clubs or they may want away. On top of that and of more immediate concern is the rumour mill which suggests a few of the Big Boys are circling for the likes of Fox and Gomez.

The hottest gossip is that not-yet-18 Joe Gomez could be subject of a large bid which would effectively balance the books and allow us to break even. A fee of around £8m is the sort of money even Charlton fans can't argue with and if it comes to pass then we can only hope that strengthens our resolve around any other possible sales.

Money will speak, of course, but young Joe needs to think about his route to playing top flight football and considering whether another year in SE7 or even a move to a lesser side (Man City and Arsenal are linked) might see him more quickly established than the likes of Diego Poyet has managed thus far at 'lesser' club West Ham.

When I started this post Millwall were 0-0 at Ewood Park and had created twice as many opportunities as the hosts. Pleased to report that Rovers netted two late goals to kill the Lions off and nudge them a step nearer the trap-door. They will do well to get more than another point from promotion chasing Derby and Wolves, although the game might be up for the Old Gold before Millwall's last day visit. Let us hope not.