Sunday, 13 May 2018

Shrewsbury Town 1 v Charlton Athletic 0

Shrewsbury Town duly closed the door on our season this afternoon with another one-nil victory to win the tie 2-0 on aggregate. The defeat consigns us to another season in League One. Under the unambitious and disinterested Roland Duchatelet that would seem unbearable and actual home gates would tank even further. At least we have the promise of new ownership and some hope for next season.

It was a better showing from Charlton than on Thursday night and we had plenty of first-half possession as the home side were content to sit back and defend. We played some neat passing football down the flanks and across the pitch but we were again desperately short of any serious goalmouth action. Crosses, when they came, were inevitably knocked in hoping Magennis could out jump a pair of centre-halves and a goalkeeper in close attendance. We should have had a penalty before half-time for a pretty blatant handball which clearly changed the direction of the ball and which the referee must have seen and somehow decided it was ball-to-hand four yards from goal.

The Shrews scored after the restart and that effectively killed the tie. We huffed and puffed and managed a number of corners but every dropping ball was hacked clear and every attempted Charlton shot on target was blocked. Kaikai had several half-chances but failed to strike any of them cleanly which seems par for his course. He and Doodoo have typified what has been wrong with this season. Two 'strikers' clearly not up to this standard of football and both brought in as cheap offerings to try and appease the masses after having let Novak and them Holmes leave. Magennis was left to forge alone for much of the season and we even brought back 'no goals' Ajose when we had no other options. 

For me personally I shared something in common with Roland Duchatelet this season - neither of us saw a game in person. For Duchatelet that's nothing new but for me it was a first since I started going as a boy. I am praying that the Aussie takeover will see the end of Duchatelet's malign influence. Rumours that he will retain a landlord interest or that he will have a percentage of player sale values going forward until he gets his price would be sickening and might yet make me feel too uncomfortable to return but I guess that all depends on what the deal is. I could live with it if he's taking the massive multi-pound loss he deserves and I have to believe the Aussies are too shrewd to pay him more than the club is worth, whether that's all upfront or over a period of time. 

I enjoyed my visits to Park View Road this season and non-league football is more reminiscent of the game I used to watch before money came to really dominate it. The football was honest and competitive and I saw some superb goals and real camaraderie between the players and the supporters, even if there are only 400 of them. It was great to stand on the terraces again with a beer when warm enough and not to have to deal with any visiting arseholes or to be filmed by police officers as I arrive or leave the ground (I see that the Shropshire Constabulary used pepper-spray indiscriminately on a crowd of Charlton supporters in the stand today as they sought to arrest someone). Good, too, not to be harassed by jobsworth Stewards following orders and refreshing for the Chairman to say 'hello' when he recognised a few of his club's supporters at an away game and ask what we thought of our chances.

New ownership will, hopefully, fire my burners once again but Roland Duchatelet (and Katrien Meire) have definitely broken the emotional bond that has had me following the club loyally home and away since 1977. Perhaps it will never be the same again even after I return. Along with hundreds and probably thousands of others that will be Duchatelet's legacy. That and the record books which will show the club dropped out of the Championship and established itself as a third division side for the first time since we climbed out of Division Three South.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Charlton Athletic 0 v Shrewsbury Town 1

A fairly evenly contested first leg at The Valley this evening but Shrewsbury showed a tad more quality and deserved their one-nil lead. We aren't out of it yet by any means but the odds will have swung strongly in the Shrews favour and they will have the confidence and the momentum required to see us off on Sunday.

In many ways the game was a microcosm of our season. Largely competitive but we have been ham-strung by our failure to adequately balance our capabilities upfront at the start of the season. The decision to allow Novak to leave on deadline day and the failure to have at least a decent replacement lined-up meant we started short of striking goals and that has continued throughout the season. We have scored fewer than any side above us and our top scorer (Magennis) is only on 10. That and the subsequent mistake by not investing in a goal-scorer in January sits very squarely with Roland Duchatelet, for whom the last couple of season at least have all been about damage limitation in terms of his finances and footballing losses. The fact that we actually sold Ricky Holmes, our rival top scorer, in January without replacement in January underlines the folly.

The gate last night was also a disappointing 14,367. Yes, it was live (I was one watching) but many were saying they thought the actual attendance was much higher. This is a consequence of the ridiculously over-called and fiddled attendances under Duchatelet's regime. What we saw last night was an actual 14,000 gate when most of our season ticket holders actually bothered to come to a home match and when the club did not overstate the attendance with several thousand comps that they either didn't give out or which weren't used.

A Tweet from Rick Everitt this evening suggests the Aussies will conclude a deal tomorrow and that the takeover is very near. They were at the match this evening and were being shown around by Paul Elliott. That is the best news of today and it promises some hope in the coming weeks assuming our season ends on Sunday. If we are to miss out, I shall take some small comfort from the fact that Duchatelet's poor judgement, ultimate lack of ambition and parsimony has cost him in the long run. He won't get the price he has been holding out for and the record will show that in four years under the richest owner in our history, the club dropped a division, became a laughing stock and had real, long-term damage done to it's reputation and it's fanbase by his personal failure to engage in it's proper running or to reign Katrien Meire in when she was blatantly mis-managing the club on a disastrous scale.

I really hope I can return next season to a new ship, a new crew and some genuine hope and honest ambition. That's all I have ever asked for supporting this club - anything else would be a bonus.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Rochdale 1 v Charlton Athletic 0

Another Charlton horror show on TV. Anyone, none-the-wiser, would have been forgiven for thinking it was a relegation dogfight with us going down. Not only was it a drab affair with hardly any quality anywhere on the pitch but after Rochdale took a second-half lead we failed to even try to get an equaliser. The players knew by then our play-off place was assured (courtesy of the Gills) but they had a duty to the end, if not to Oldham Athletic, to the travelling fans to have made a visible effort.

I don't think it would have affected the scoreline in any event because Zyro and Kaikai were woeful. We will need to be far better than we showed yesterday across the pitch if we are to beat Shrewsbury Town on Thursday.

Our supporters were magnificent throughout the game and there appears to be a real revival amongst the faithful in terms of numbers and vocal support. It's great to see the stirring after the these last five grim seasons and you have to hope it's a real sign of encouragement for prospective new owners. Still no firm takeover news but it does seem inconceivable that the Aussie consortium won't end up in control of the club if Duchatelet can see sense and draw a line under his ownership. The trouble, I suspect, is that he has a dilemma over the price he is being offered because it may represent a clear and visible failure in terms of a loss of money, something the locals in St. Truiden told us time and again he wouldn't take. Personally, I can't believe the figures being bandied about for the club given what he paid for us and the fact that the club has been relegated and run, commercially, into the ground under his tenure. He deserves a massive haircut so let's hoping we also get to laugh at that once new ownership finally arrives. 

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Steel yourselves, it's the Play-Offs!

After an heroic backs-to-the-wall, battling victory over blackburn Rovers, won with our only effort on target which took a huge deflection, we finally found ourselves with our play-off fortunes firmly in our own hands. I will duly admit to haven been proven wrong on this as my firm opinion, prior to Lee Bowyer's arrival was that we had zero chance. Whilst Bowyer has certainly turned things around, our flat and disinterested performances in the defeats to Wimbledon and Scunthorpe suggested that missing out was still an evens money bet.

Not only did we take control of the situation on Saturday but this evening's play-off duel between Scunny and Argyle has gone to the home side which leaves Argyle clutching at straws in their attempt to catch us. They now need to make up three points and overcome a six goal difference to overhaul us. Given what's at stake, I can't see it in a month-of-Sundays, even if they are at woeful Gillingham on the last day.

So, it looks like Saturday will be a day of Addick celebrations. With the EFL reputedly going through the fit-and-proper-person motions, this could a glittering end to the season in many ways. It's long, long overdue and, if I am honest, I don't think our football this season has deserved it but I guess the table doesn't lie and if Millwall can sneak-up in sixth, I don't see why we should apologise to anyone.

Speaking of Plymouth, I also can't help mentioning my good fortune on Saturday as I walked into the Anchor for a post home-season drink with a few old faces. I was following two accumulators on my mobile. One four team selection was winning and the second had three up and one drawing with minutes to go (two sections the same). I cashed out on the first one as three of the sides were only winning by the odd goal and one of them was Charlton who had just seen their own bar struck. The other had Palace (3 or 4 up), QPR (2-1), Bristol Rovers (1-0) and Argyle who were 1-1 with Rotherham. I then saw a goal announced at Home Park but it went to Rotherham so I put my phone in my pocket, entered the pub and bought a round of drinks. When I opened my phone to show a mate what had happened, Argyle were winning 2-1! I assumed there had been a mistake in announcing Rotherham but cashed out nonetheless. Minutes later it was all over and I was £1100 after off. I later noticed the Gills had notched a late, late leveller which would have killed my second bet and the actual sequence of events at Plymouth had been that Rotherham had scored a second goal but it was disallowed and Plymouth tore down to the other end of the field and scored the winner!

Friday, 27 April 2018

Blackburn Rovers deja vu

Tomorrow's home game against Blackburn Rovers brings to mind what was probably the biggest lost opportunity in the history of our club.

I am reminded by the last time we played Rovers at The Valley in a similar position. It was the last game of the 1957-58 season and all we needed was a point for automatic promotion back to the First Division having been relegated the previous season. We had been in the top flight since Jimmy Seed steered us there 23 years earlier. We had been heavyweights in the English game during that time, finishing 3rd and 4th prior to the War and had won the F A Cup and been finalists after it. Blackburn were a point behind us and needed to beat us to grab second spot.

(Courtesy of the late, great, Colin Cameron) -  A crowd twice the size of the season's average poured into SE7 that day - 56,435 which remains our record gate for a second division fixture and will never be broken.Charlton took the lead after only four minutes but Rovers hit back through National Serviceman, Peter Dobing, who scored twice. Vernon added a third for Rovers before half-time to put them in command.

After the break, Duff conceded a penalty and Rovers took command but in typical Addick-fashion we fought back to 3-4 after Eddie Firmani netted and John Hewie notched an 83rd minute penalty. Those last seven minutes must have been agonising.

Saturday's fixture won't be so binary in terms of the outcome; Rovers are already promoted and we would still need a win at Rochdale just to reach the play-offs. Plymouth and Scunthorpe can both still catch us with games in hand but they have to play each other and a draw won't be enough for both of them. The prize, of course, isn't a return to the top flight but given our recent status, it would probably be as significant.

So, I hope the players are reminded of the consequences of that missed opportunity 60 years ago and how it changed the fortunes of the club so badly for the next thirty years. It was the end of our halcyon mid-twentieth century days and we would have to wait until the start of the twenty-first century to revel in them once again at the Valley.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Portsmouth 0 v Charlton Athletic 1

"It's a funny old game Saint." One of the TV catchphrases I grew up with when Jimmy Greaves and Ian St. John dominated football chit-chat. It certainly is a funny old game at times and this week has really underlined it. A dismal second 1-0 defeat at home to play-off rivals Scunthorpe and our play-off hopes lay in tatters.

We bounced back in midweek with a solid 1-0 win ourselves at Shrewsbury and they only went and did it again yesterday at Fratton Park, effectively ending Pompey's own play-off ambitions.What to make of it? Really not sure but with only two games left we will be reliant on the performances of others, in particular Plymouth and Scunthorpe, who also have to play one another. I haven't done the permutations because first we need to beat Blackburn Rovers at the Valley next Saturday which will be a significant task before going to Rochdale who may still be fighting for their League One status. 

Whatever happens, Lee Bowyer has emerged with real credit and must have a good shout for being appointed on a longer term although an announcement of a takeover would likely throw that into doubt. There were rumouring yesterday of a takeover announcement at the Blackburn game but given the long line of false hope, we just need to believe it when it actually happens.

I was at Park View Road yesterday, back seeing the Wings after a few months absence and my attendance continued the lucky omen with Welling winning comfortably, 3-1 over Weston-Super-Mare. It was a cracking day and over 500 turned up to see Welling take an early lead and consolidate it with a powerful Jack Parkinson header before half-time. Bradley Goldberg hit the post with a brilliantly improvised overhead kick which no-one saw coming and it was Wings all the way.

After the break the visitors pulled a fine goal back before Jack Jebb scored the third having used an arm to control the ball which only the linesman and referee failed to see. Goldberg smacked the bar before the finish but Welling took the points regardless and still have an outside hope of a play-off finish.

Personally, I think Charlton have too much to do but I would have laid heavy odds against us winning at Shrewsbury and Portsmouth this week, so who knows? I have said before that we won't make the play-offs and it doesn't feel like we deserve to be there but I guess the table doesn't lie at the end of the season. Millwall crept into the play-offs last year and made it up and look what has happened to them this season....

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Charlton Athletic 0 v Scunthorpe United 1

In my last post I mentioned "win your homes games and draw away" as a part justification for the disappointing point at Bristol Rovers. Since then we lost at Wimbledon in a lack-lustre, half-hearted performance in which we didn't muster an effort on target. The players were hurting and all that jazz and they were determined to atone for it today at home to Scunthorpe. Instead we got another lack-lustre, half-hearted performance and another defeat. 

We now sit in eighth place and have used our games in hand. Plymouth, above us in sixth, actually have a match on us now. The Bowyer bounce is clearly over and the difference in performances from his first three and the last three is alarming and would suggest that something in the camp has changed. Bowyer has tonight blamed "tiredness" which sounds very weak to me. If it is tiredness, then it doesn't bode well for Tuesday's match at Shrewsbury or the crunch at Fratton Park next Saturday. Maybe it's just because it's April and it's traditional for us to pack up early?

Now is the time to be realistic and acknowledge that we won't make the play-offs because we aren't good enough and there is a massive amount of work to be done on the first team front which will require supervision and money. Specifically, our squad in August was clearly short of striking options to get the goals so there should be no surprise whatsoever that our short-comings have all been about our lack of goals. Add the sale of our best goalscoring midfielder and, hey presto, we have lots of 'nils' which have cost us any realistic chance of promotion.  Currently, under Duchatelet, we have neither the supervision or the money. The senior management team in SE7 appears to be Addams-family wannabe, Tony Keohane, and a very part-time Richard Murray who clearly isn't going to get his hands dirty. Duchatelet hasn't put a bean into the club but he has trousered a fair bit in transfer fees and it would seem that he isn't yet prepared to face paying off a large chunk of the £70m debt pile he has accumulated in his mismanagement of the club and all it's main revenue streams. That would explain the continued lack of any actual takeover and the strong suspicion is that his determination not to accept a very public defeat means he continues to 'nickel and dime' the would-be investors, with the very obvious risk that they decide enough-is-enough and conclude that an acceptable deal can't be done with a man desperate to save face.

The latest season ticket offer is the most ill-conceived and naively put together offer in our history. How on earth do you think you can get away with blaming price rises on the fact that you have had to comply with the law and pay minimum wage? Zero sympathy from me when the stench of the colossal waste of the last few years is so over-powering. Still no-one prepared to accept responsibility for the negligence and gross mis-management. They even thought they could throw in "higher security and counter-terrorism" as additional costs and maintain a straight-face! The best one though, was their claim that we are still competitive in terms of price with many other EFL clubs and also cheaper than 15 non-league clubs! Yep, they are now setting their sights firmly on our real opposition. As someone who has seen a decent number of Welling matches this season, I should point out that their season ticket was cheaper than Charlton with the early bird offer and is again this coming season. However, price is only one component of the deal. Quality of football is the other, and here we are nowhere near close to most of the clubs in the Third Division and, I would suggest, most of those in Division Four, Five or Six. Welling will likely miss out on their play-offs because they have been too inconsistent and churned too many players. However, the entertainment watching the Wings has been far superior to following Duchatelet's House-of-Horrors over the last three seasons. The jokers also think they can twist arms to buy early by leaving the door open for 'Phase 2' (post early-bird) and 'Phase 3' (promotion, ha ha ha) price increases! Anyone who falls for this or the fear of losing their seat deserves to watch another season of dross in my humble opinion.

So, what will come next? Announcement of a takeover or the appointment of the individuals required to enable the club to function going forward, which would mean the end of any takeover for another season? Personally, I won't be back until Duchatelet has gone and has zero further interest in Charlton Athletic Football Club. If there's no positive news this month, I will be acquiring a season ticket at Park View Road and ending this blog because supporting Charlton Athletic under Roland Duchatelet has become Groundhog Day and I no longer have the same level of interest.