Saturday, 21 January 2017

Charlton unprepared for the cold

I was still in two minds about whether or not to bother with the game today but the decision has been made for me. The Yann Kermorgant Memorial pitch is frozen and has failed it's inspection.

This surprised me, and quite a few others by the looks of it, as I thought from the much-heralded news after Roly's arrival that we now had under-soil heating. Speculation now as to whether or not we ever installed a boiler. It looks like Duchatelet paid for pipes to be laid but might not have run to the expense of a boiler to heat them! Apparently, the decision was always to do that if and when we ever got back into the Premier League and the expedient was that we could bring in temporary heating sources if necessary. Communication from someone at the club in the week suggested the decision was taken not to spend the money on temporary heating and the game is off as a result.

A postponement costs the club money as they will have made commitments today which will need to be honoured - staff, food etc. A night-game replay will also bring in less revenue but the total loss will now be much smaller given the shrinkage in home attendances and level of boycotting of club facilities.

The obvious question now is what precautions did we take to ensure the match could be played? Did we cover the pitch or do anything at all? Ebbsfleet have managed to get their match on which begs questions. That brings into question how much of an effort was made, given we have an-injury hit side? The good people of Scunthorpe may rightly be asking some questions.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017


High-flying Scunthorpe come to the Valley for the second time this season on Saturday. They should be buoyed by a repeat of the decent following they brought in the F A Cup, although they will be expecting a better result. The Scunthorpe following could be important to Katrien Meire's management of the published gate as she is likely to have to be at her creative best. 

Many protesting fans broke their boycott to attend the Millwall derby in the vain hope of being able to say they had witnessed a Charlton victory over our nearest and dearest. What they saw wasn't nearly as woeful as the MK Dons or Peterborough home games under Karl Robinson but it wasn't nearly enough to have many venturing back again so soon. We were much better in the second-half of the Bristol Rovers game under Robinson but the first half-an-hour was also dire.  

Indeed, de cloob are advertising hospitality meal packages starting at £20 which looks pretty desperate good value, although being designated a 'silver' game, the match ticket doesn't promise the same sort of value. I hope I am wrong but I suspect we may not be able to emulate the 3-1 Cup win. 

The loss of Josh Magennis for a month suddenly exposes our relative striking weaknesses. The timing of veiled comments by Karl Robinson about letting Ajose go, was, with hindsight, unfortunate. Ajose has struggled to impose himself in games and our formations haven't suited him. He has actually notched seven goals but if you had watched his games without the goals, you might be forgiven for thinking he might have only scored a couple. 

Lee Novak should be fit to resume action but he looks short of what's needed to lead the line and is probably best played alongside an out-and-out striker. Then we are looking at Ahearne-Grant and Hanlan, two more youth products. Karlan was sent off in a reserve game this week so may be ineligible anyway and he has yet to find any real first team form - only one goal I think. Brandon Hanlan is even less experienced than Aherne-Grant and has yet to score for the first team in a dozen or so appearances, albeit mainly from the bench. I am left wondering if Robinson is pushing the case to bring someone else in, or has he already been told he's got to operate with what he has? Making-do might also suit Roland Duchatelet who may have the added bonus of seeing another youth product get more time in the shop window.

If we are to get any sort of result, Ricky Holmes will have to feature strongly and play much better than he did when he came on against the Lions. We need a couple of results if we are to stay in touch with would-be play-off contenders. I will see how I feel nearer the time but I'm not motivated at the moment to bother with this one.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Charlton Athletic 0 v Millwall 0

First thing, this was a much better performance than the pre-Christmas effort. No visible signs of bottling it or wilting. However, we lacked any cutting edge whatsoever once Magennis was stretchered-off early in the first half and were fortunate, as a consequence, not to lose one-nil as Millwall missed three glorious chances before the finish.

Robinson started with a better looking balance to his squad. Rudd was back in goal, with Texeira and Bauer in front of him. Lewis Page debuted at left-back and Chris Solly got the opportunity at right-back for a man-of-the-match performance. Unfortunately, Page pulled-up in  the first-half not long after Magennis had left the field. At first it looked like a severe case of embarrassment having been beaten on the run but clearly he is injured.

The midfield was anchored by Crofts who I thought had his best game for us. He played slightly deeper and appeared to have a lot more space than normal which allowed him to spread play from one side to another which we did for much of the game. Konsa and Aribo both put in tidy shifts playing triangles and feeding the wingers (Byrne, Chicksen and sub Dasilva), and all of them looked for Magennis and Tony Watt when he made a surprise entrance. It had to be said that Watt wasn't fit. You could hear and see him gasping for air after his first run and there was no realistic prospect of him fashioning a clear chance.

Magennis jumped into a tackle early on and didn't get up. It looked bad but he appeared later and made his way to the bench, so hopefully nowhere near as serious as it at first looked.

Millwall had the best chance in a limited first-half when Lee Gregory collected a ball over the top and had time to angle his lob but he drew it too far right and it cleared the back post. The best we could manage was a few low scudders from distance straight at Archer.

The appearance of Dasilva for Page meant a reshuffle but why wasn't Holmes brought on? The Chelsea youngster had a very difficult debut. He was stripped of possession regularly and when he did get a chance to cross he was high, wide and handsome. Only to be expected but why introduce him in a derby match we were desperate to win? As it was he suffered the ignominy of an early bath before the end so Holmes could have a go. We did manage to get the ball in the net following a spill from Archer but it was disallowed for something, although it looked fine to me. Bauer managed a solid header from distance before the end which was our best effort but that was it.

Keith Stroud was his busy-self with the yellow cards and managed to get in the way and stop a couple of Charlton breaks. He also red-carded Texiera after the whistle and Steve Morrison in the tunnel. He does at least know his reputation as he called the other officials over to escort him from the pitch at the end because he probably feared a right-hander from someone.The visiting fans were strangely subdued and saved their only 'you'll never beat Millwall' chant for the last minute of added time, as if they were seriously worried we might have managed the win if they had sung it any earlier.

I was in the North Upper which looked pretty full but the West and East were still sparse. The official attendance of 15,300 looks optimistic once again but it was clearly a gate of over 10,000, so one of the best of the season.

I will look forward to what Karl Robinson has to say. After his comments this week that the new training ground will stand the test of time for 50 years, it's pretty clear passionate Karl is clearly prone to a bit of exaggeration. He was beating the badge on his shirt at the end as he milked the Covered End applause. I hope he's realistic enough to acknowledge we never looked likely winners despite it being a much improved performance. He also needs to address the striking options. If Big Josh is out for any length of time we look in trouble. Ajose is not fancied and didn't make the squad today, nor did Lee Novak. Tony Watt looks like he won't be fit until April. When is our Academy going to produce an out-and-out striker we can sell? Paul Walsh and Jermaine Defoe were the last ones - nearly as long as our last victory over Millwall.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

The south-east London Derby

On Saturday we host our closest neighbours in what will be the 74th first -team encounter against Millwall (includes two Anglo-Italian Cup matches). I dislike Palace more than Millwall but make no mistake, this is the only real south-east London derby. Millwall fans know that as well as us, which is why they snap the tickets up faster than for any other match. That and the fact that history tells them they can expect to beat us and put us back in our boxes.

I think we all know that our record against them is woeful, especially since the war, but you have to read through the list before it sinks in just how poor it is. This is across the decades, with completely different Managers, squads of players, club owners and irrespective of form. I mention the war because we had a period of 31 years when we didn't play them courtesy of our traditionally superior league status (and the war) between 1935 and 1966.

As it stands, we have only managed six League wins against them since Stanley Baldwin was Prime Minister and they have taken 23 of the last 27 points on offer just to rub home their current derby-superiority. So can we expect to get anything on Saturday? Millwall are on a run of form, started ironically, when they rolled us over at the New Den before Christmas. They come off the back of a deserved 3-0 F A Cup win over Premier League Bournemouth and will be backed, as always, by 3100 bellowing and gloating fans. Optimistic Charlton fans are already reading miracles into the second-half beating of Bristol Rovers and believing that we have signed several match-winners since the exit of £12m worth of talent in Lookman and Fox.

A stopped watch is right twice a day and probability decrees that we will beat them sooner rather than later on the basis we continue to meet them in League matches. Personally, I can't see it this week. We were exceptionally poor in the first four or five matches under Robinson and have nicked a few points including that win at MK Dons which was fortunate. Yes, we did walk all over Bristol Rovers in the end but for the opening 30 minutes we were second-best again.

On Saturday we will also see a couple of debuts and I am not sure that will help our cause. We need to score early and get our fans involved if we are going to get anything. I am reminded by that rip-roaring 4-4 Valley draw in 2009 when we played them at home for the first time since we never thought we'd play them again. That was a rare game where we didn't look over-whelmed and when we got at it, although we still contrived not to win. I reckon it will be back to earth with a bump and Karl Robinson will be struggling with Scunthorpe and Bolton next.

I have just seen the weather forecast for Saturday and they are talking about strong, cold north-westerly winds which could mean the game is played in the snow. Now that could be a sign.....

Monday, 9 January 2017

Nathan Byrne in, Samir Carruthers chooses Chris Wilder and table-topping Sheffield United

We have signed the 24 year-old winger-cum-full-back from Wigan Athletic. Like Lewis Page before him, I know nothing about him so will have to wait to pronounce judgement. However, his Wiki page tells me he has made appearances for eight other clubs so far. If you take Swindon out of the equation (83 appearances), he has averaged a dozen for the others, so the chances are he won't make next season. Sorry Nathan but those is the odds.

Elsewhere, Karl Robinson is bemoaning missing out on former MK Dons employee, Samir Carruthers who has moved to table-topping Sheffield United. Big Karl even professes he would have paid more for Samir but also confuses this by saying he was quoted more than the Blades, presumably because Charlton are seen to be able to afford it, now that we are flush with the Lookman loot. Whatever's happened, Samir has made his move and it's not to Captain Pugwash and the Titantic.

Friday, 6 January 2017

Fox out, Page in

Following hard on-the-heels of the sale of Ademola Lookman to Premier League Everton, Morgan Fox has today joined Championship Sheffield Wednesday. His move was expected and I believe the undisclosed fee to be in the region of £700k. Personally sorry to see this Charlton youth product sold for such a relatively small fee when he has so much promise but the boo-boys have been scapegoating him for awhile so no great surprise the club have decided to take the money this time around and Morgan to take a fresh opportunity. A shrewd move by Sheffield Wednesday in my opinion.

Anyhow, just as Morgan walks out, de cloob have been busy in the background and today announce and photographed an effective replacement signing of 20 year-old full-back Lewis Page from West Ham. Page has failed to break into the Hammers first team squad although did make three appearances in qualifying UEFA cup matches. It would appear he's been ruled out of making the Premier League grade but he should do well enough in League One given the chance and hopefully has more improvement to come.

In summary, of course, this is another move which recoups cash for Duchatelet and, presumably, helps with lowering the wage bill further. My totting would suggest he has now raked in £16m in transfer fees since the end of last season, a couple of million more than he paid for the club. Including the Gomez, Poyet, Kermorgant and Stephens fees, that's getting on for £25m in three years - significantly more than any there years in the history of the club and some people still won't accept it's a Player Farm model.

There may yet be another body or even two joining the ranks with wages funded from the loose change in the Lookman deal, but whatever happens, the pressure is now firmly on Karl Robinson to deliver a play-off place. 

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Lookman out, Caskey-Forster in

Confirmation today that Everton have parted with £7.5m upfront with another £3.5m to follow based upon possible add-ons to sign Ademola Lookman. Ordinarily that is good business and I blogged recently, aligns Lookman's Charlton contribution closely to that of former midfielder, Lee Bowyer in terms of performances and goals prior to departure. The trouble is, with Duchatelet at the helm, this is not necessarily just good business but the club strategy and modus operandi all the time he is running the shop.

Like many others, I am pleased that Lookman is at Everton, a club where he will get a chance in the first team sooner rather than later and a club which has a strong tradition of trying to play the game the right way, irrespective of how successful or otherwise they might be in doing it.

The Standard Liege fans had a good cartoon for what Duchatelet did as he left their club so perhaps we can look on this as a good omen.

On the other hand, will he now be greedily viewing Esra Konsa as £3m in the Summer and Joe Aribo as another few mill come next January? If so, it might encourage him to stay on longer as he attempts to recover his loses and make a profit on the sale.

Katrien Meire explained to the Hastings & Bexhill Supporters Club at the pre-match fans meeting on Saturday that FFP rules prevented Charlton from spending too much of the Lookman proceeds on replacements, although I don't understand that and it looks like another convenient line from Meire which will quickly lose the 'n.'

Whatever, we have moved today to sign Brighton's fifth choice midfielder, Jake Caskey-Forster. The 22 year-old will be reunited with Adam Chicksen and should be comfortable at this level. The other window talk is of a signing or two of Karl Robinson's ex-players from MK Dons. If that's it, we may, arguably have been seen to strengthen the squad, although the jury will largely be out. 

The background talk, and Meire mentioned it in her commentary on the news of today's transfers, is that we are looking for a play-off berth. Personally I believe we failed in the Summer to recruit fully or big enough to get out of League One and that we are some way short of realistic promotion ambitions.

What we need is managerial stability through until next season and we need to hold our squad together with a couple of ambitious adjustments for next season if we are to mount a serious promotion challenge. Most Charlton fans would acknowledge that, although the odds are probably against Duchatelet supporting it. Either Robinson will go or we will do another clearout in the Summer as Meire attempts to cut costs once again.