Friday, 31 July 2009

The hanging baskets are back

It's been three long years of gradual decline. Bad management, poor personnel, declining attendances and falling revenues lead to the loss of Sky television and subsequent cost-cutting measures saw the removal of the hanging baskets and the inconsistent supply of beer.

Finally though, it looks like the Royal Oak may have turned the corner. There have been a lot of comings and goings today in preparation for Monday's rumoured re-opening. The pub was being cleaned out this morning and after the "to let" sign appeared, so have the hanging baskets and this evening I watched all aglow as a new large screen was being reinstalled. I will be in for a pint or two on Monday and hopefully a fresh beginning. As I have said before, the fortunes of the Oak and our Club have mirrored one another for as long as I can remember. I will also be back on matchdays.

The Cherries it is...

After a potential set-back earlier this week, when my better-half finally confirmed this Saturday as the one for a Hen night ahead of a September wedding, I am going to Bournemouth tomorrow. I had fallen on my sword after an understandable rant and said I would baby-sit, but she has since decided that she will not be going as her twin sister can't make it and she feels that Hen nights are behind her now. "As long as you are sure" I said. Yes!

So Bournemouth it is then and my decision was further supported by the fact that South West Trains appear to be running weekend returns anywhere on their network for a tenner! Only challenge right now is to find a mate who's going. There were at least half-a-dozen definites when the fixture was announced but they are thin on the ground as of yesterday. The weather is being used as a bit of an excuse as it looks like consistent rain through the afternoon (since when has that been a good enough reason not to follow the Addicks?).

So, Phil Parkinson, I am expecting a similar line-up to Tuesday evening's and an equally committed performance to give me a crumb of further comfort before we face the might of Wycombe Wanderers, a game I believe we should win in spite of our weakened squad and suspect morale.

On another note, I wandered by the Club Shop yesterday and noticed the new kit in the window. I had to look twice because it is not the "burgundy" red we saw when part-revealed on the Official Site or what I believe I saw us play in at Welling. No sir, it is the bright red of recent seasons. Was there a change of heart or are my eyes failing me? I have to say that it also looks far less busy than I remebered and it would look very good if we lost the white stripe which is not bold enough to quite be nostalgic.

C'mon you Reds!

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Back on Terra Firma

Just home from a week in Norfolk. It's good to see full mobile strength again and boy have I missed my miserly 2-meg broadband....

We had a decent week in Norfolk. The local Village Fayre on Saturday was good fun - six decent real ales and local cider, Jonty's Early Night, meant we all had one. A day-out at the seaside at Southwold was like stepping back in time and we also managed a day at the zoo and a day's shopping in Norwich as well as exploring half-a-dozen local towns and villages.

A number of things struck me about the week; I didn't hear one local accent! I was listening for it, but not one yokel. Maybe things have changed really quickly but even in Norwich everyone we came across spoke with London Estuary accents. I certainly remember many more Farmer Giles accents when I spent a weekend up there ten or so years ago.

I also now know that practically every house in Norfolk that isn't red brick, is rendered in either a peach or a lemon colour. Not sure if it's just the done thing or if the local bye-laws insist upon it, but peach render probably edges out the lemon which would appear to be preserved for the older, more traditional e.g. thatched buildings.

Other than that, I noticed a far larger percentage of Free Houses than I have come across anywhere else in the country. Again, I don't know why this should be but suspect it has something to do with the last main change in licensing laws which restricted the percentages of tied houses that any brewer/holding company could control. As a result of that, the big freeholders gave up the least profitable pubs of their estates, and maybe there was a concentration of these in East Anglia? That or by off-loading them all in a particular area, they managed to restrict the effect of competition on their remaining pubs?

I am still catching up on some of the other Charlton comings and goings but can't say I am any more impressed with the latest transfer rumours. I am hoping to get to Bournemouth on Saturday for a tenner return, coutesy of South West Trains.....

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Parkinson here to stay

After a Summer of Boardroom inactivity and supporter speculation, Charlton Athletic have moved to confirm the managerial team for the immediate future. Surprisingly, they have backed Parkinson's request for an additional member and Tim Breacker has joined as Assistant Manager. Contrary to rumours, Mark Kinsella has also been retained as First Team Coach and Damian Matthews and Phil Chappple remain as part of the back-room team. I think this means that Parkinson is running the show although I've seen nothing to confirm that yet. I can't open the OS again but that might be as much to my rural location this week as another outage for the Club's precarious website.

Breacker's appointment is a curious one bearing in mind the wage bill imperative. You have to assume that his appointment has been prioritised above any new playing staff and with that in mind, you are left wondering whether that indicates that we may be poised to hold on to Bailey and Shelvey in the hope that they will fire the goals to stop the rot of the last three years. Not the worst outcome if that's the case. My West Ham mate who attended the game last night wondered what Breacker was doing on the touchline. Breacker is his favourite all-time Hammers player (other than those who won the World Cup), more than I can say about his view of Christian Dailly, which was as I suspected in this morning's post, not favourable.

These pronoucements might also suggest that the takeover might be closer than ever before. The status of the management team was one of the big takeover questions as well as the futures of Bailey and Shelvey. Of course it could be viewed that the Board have simply run out of time and have had to take a decision to try and stabilise the ship ahead of 8th August irrespective of the takeover. If it's the latter then Bailey and Shelvey could yet be unloaded in order to keep the club going. I can't wait until the football's underway and we all have something more obvious to focus on.

Charlton Athletic 2 v Ipswich Town 1

A good result in the circumstances and a decent performance according to Blackheath Addicted. We were at full strength (sic) perhaps with the exception of Richardson at right-back. It also meant another 4-5-1 formation and my suspicion is that we will have to get used to this for the rest of the season in the absence of any better strikers than we have currently.

Elliot returned in goal and nearly saved the penalty from which Town pulled one back. He also made a fine late save to hand Charlton the victory. Basey was preferred at the start at left-back and that would be my preference this season as I see him as a stronger and more straightforward option to Youga. Youga did get on in the second half however, and was apparently much better going forward. Llera was paired with latest triallist Christian Dailly in the centre with Solly at right-back. I will assume for now that Dailly won't be a realistic option as even at his age he will want more than Holland and Fortune. I certainly hope so because I am not one of his fans. I have watched him play for Scotland too often and don't want to see an older version playing for Charlton. A West-Ham supporting mate of mine is staying in my house whilst I am away and I left him a ticket for the game. He isn't a Dailly fan either, so will share my concerns.

The midfield was strengthened with Bailey, Semedo, Racon Shelvey and Sam, which was what won us the match. I see this as a flicker of positive news. If these players were risked, perhaps there are no firm plans to sell any of them pre-season? Sam provided the cross for the first-half penalty that Burton converted and a second right-wing cross (Sam again) lead to a knock-back and second Burton goal which presuambly gave the Addicks an unfamiliar feeling. Semedo and Racon received knocks and Semedo was withdrawn. Reminders, if any were needed, that these players have poor injury records of late and the fragility of our first team squad.

Nonetheless, it was a home win and the best of the pre-season coming against higher league opposition who were, presumably, out to put on a performance for new boss Roy Keane.

I didn't get to Carrow Road last night as I was informed by a reader that the match against Palace was actually at Selhurst Park! I hope there weren't too many City fans who read the misprint on the Norwich website and turned up disappointed. City did at least manage an impressive 1-0 win at Palace!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Latest desperation

The plight of our club has reached new lows this week. So desperate are we for revenue that the Club is trying to incentivise attendance at this evening's Ipswich friendly with the barely disguised conceit of an ability to get a limited number of first release new home shirts. They have stopped short of saying you must produce a match ticket in order to purchase the new shirt but the launch of the new kit is at 5pm, clearly targeting fan attendance.

Ordinarily, there would be nothing wrong with launching the new home strip on the day of a match in my mind. In fact, it would be good business. Unfortunately the Marketing folks are spinning the yarn that production of our kit has been delayed due to the late KRBS sponsorship deal and that 500 shirts have been specially rushed out for this evening's match. Sorry but I don't buy this. If the manufacturers can produce 500 for this evening, then they can produce 500 for next week and the week after etc. If you do the maths, all this is likely to generate is 500 x £40 = £20,000 plus a maximum of an additional £10,000 in ticket sales if you assume everyone buying a shirt came with someone else and bought two match tickets. However, when you consider that those likely to rush out and purchase new shirts will, in all probability, but them anyway, so this is really all about getting some cash in earlier.

It really puts the wage-bill slashing opertion into context. Chris Dickson could be next to be sacrificed and perhaps for a paltry £50,000 to Gillingham. We are apparently holding out for twice that but Paul Scally will know the score and I suspect he will be let go for an undisclosed fee (of £50,000 or very close to it) as wages are the real issue.

If there is going to be a successful takeover from Varney's consortium, then realistically it has to happen this week or next. If it doesn't then they are clearly short of funds which would question whether or not it would be necessarily good for the Club's long-term future. Again, if it doesn't happen the vultures will be allowed to pick at our carcass and it's very hard to see anything other than another dire season in prospect on the pitch. Without a major change we look like we could run the risk of doing a Bradford City.

Monday, 27 July 2009

The power of democracy

Up here in Norfolk, the electorate of part of Norwich got it's chance to exercise it's power of selection over their nominated representative in the House of Commons at the end of last week. Their previous MP had decided it was time to run after being caught maximising his expense returns. In an act of vengeance, the Labour party replacement lost the seat to the Tories with a massive swing of 16%. I was pleased to see it, and we will see much more of this in 2010 when the next general election is upon us.

Yesterday, our holidaying party had a very pleasant day out on the beach in Southwold, where I was visibly reminded by the strength of the Norwich support. Southwold is actually in Suffolk, home county of Ipswich Town but not a Tractor Boy in sight. This got me thinking about our home match tomorrow evening and the likely number of visitors from Ipswich versus how many more we might have had from League One Canaries. Maybe a moot point as the numbers from both might not be great as it is a freindly after all, although my money would have been on a reasonably impressive Norwich following in spite of having filled our their end twice at the Valley last season. There will certainly be a far larger attendance at Carrow Road for the visit of our neighbours than at the Valley.

Back to the point and tomorrow evening our fans get the opportunity to deliver a telling blow to the current Board on precisely how they feel about the ongoing mis-management of our club. Like the electorate of Norwich North, I suspect they will vote with their feet like Labour supporters did and stay at home. I obviously won't be breaking my holiday to return and I can't see more than a couple of hundred Town fans travelling down from these parts either. Big game, my arse! I hope I am wrong (of course) but my guess is that our recent 10,000 home attendance for friendlies will be wiped away and we will be looking at south of half of that. A damning indictment.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Barnet 2 v Charlton Athletic 0

Much as predicted, the youthful and unfamiliar side put out at Barnet yesterday were beaten. Randolph, Youga, Clark, Mambo, Solly, Small, Semedo, Stavrinou, Wagstaff, Fleetwood and McLeod started the game with Spring, Davisson, and Tuna evntually coming on for Solly Semedo and Fleetwood respectively.

Hard to know what to make of this but we didn't play particularly well from the couple of reports posted and Phil Parkinson was elsewhere on the day "scouting." The facts though are that we have wasted another opportunity to get a near-to first eleven playing together and a second successive Saturday defeat to lower league opposition will not help confidence or morale. Surely we will see our first team run-out on Tuesday? With only two senior matches left before the visit of Wycombe Wanderers the signs are not good. Any late signings, let alone the five Parky thinks he needs, won't have time to settle and it's hard not to conclude that our preparation for League One has been

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Internet at 3.2kbps

Firmly ensconced in a Tudor farm house in the countryside outside Norwich. Apart from having scabs on the top of my head I have been surprised, when I really shouldn't have been, to find that we appear to be in a mobile blackspot. I can just about get a signal at the window at the top of the house but the connection is as slow as I remember it in 1997 when I first opened the Charlton Athletic website on a dial-up modem from a hotel in New York and was amazed to see the familiar red homepage revealed horizonal line by horizontal line.

No news of course, other than Phil Parkinson is promising to give youth a chance today. Strange decision if you ask me unless he seriously intends on players more youth players more often this season. Experience tells us Parky will be far more conservative when there are points at stake and if that's the case, then we really should be getting our first team act together. Yes we have another match on Tuesday but the squad is still big enough to play stronger sides now and cope. Perhaps including a flush of youth gives you some excuses in the event we get beaten.

One old hand who is unlikely to feature in Jon Fortune who appears to have accepted Championship wages at Sheffield United rather than what he's been offered. If he decides to go I think that will be a significant step, bearing in mind the fact that he's probably turning down a testimonial season in doing so.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

First League opposition for Addicks

Phil Parkinson takes his squad to Underhill on Saturday when they will face the challenge of League Two opponents Barnet. The Bees finished 12th last year but that belies a poor start and a strong finish after Ian Hendon was appointed manager on Boxing Day. It's a step up from the warm-up games we have played so far and I would expect us to be playing a close-to-strongest side with only two or three substitutes being used. If we can get something from the game it will set us up for Tuesday's home encounter with Roy Keane's Ipswich Town.

Nicky Bailey could be a notable absence if negotiations on a possible transfer are as advanced as the press are suggesting. Reading and Derby are said to be very keen although Middlesbrough are supposedly interested and watching events. Either way we should be looking at a fee of £1.5m or more. Whether Bailey goes or not may prove a pointer to the state of the takeover negotiations. If the buy-out has stalled on the numbers, you have to think that a deal of sorts was ironed out and that the futures of key saleable assets like Shelvey and Bailey was understood as part of that deal. Assuming that's the case, a sale might suggest a bigger gap between the parties and a further complication over the value of the club as a result of the loss of an asset. On the other hand, if the club needs the sale irrespective of the owners, then I am sure the takeover consortium would prefer it to be done on Murray/Chapple's watch so that their hands are clean.

Phil Parkinson's widley reported comments on needing five players before the season starts was intriguing. Usually a statement like that is made on the understanding that the Board have agreed the position and that targets and funding have been lined-up. It's hard to see that we are in a position to do that, especially if you believe Parky was talking about five better players than some of those we have (although I accept that's not hard to identify five weak links). Instead, I wonder whether he's decided to speak his mind on the strength of the squad in the absence of a decision on his future and to put a bit of pressure on the Board. If he has, then I for one couldn't blame him. I believe he should have gone at Christmas but he's been royally messed around since the end of the season and deserves to have his position sorted out one way or another within the next week.

Summer hols..

Last day before a week away in a thatched cottage in Norfolk. Country "fayre" on Saturday, childrens' zoo on Sunday and hopefully a few days out at the seaside enjoying some warmer weather. Plenty of outdoor activities and evening's spent by the inglenook fireplace toasting marshmallows or whatever it is you do. We are going with my sister-in-law's family, so the children should largely occupy themselves (wishful thinking) and my eldest should be distracted sufficiently to stop fretting about her chicken-pox.

It may only be a week but I need a break. In amongst my working commitments, I began a project to renovate my bathroom a few weeks back and have so far spent 12 man-days (6 with a mate) cutting rafters out in my ceilings, removing the old water-tank and installing a couple of Velux windows. Lighting, insulation and boarding will be done early week after next, before I return to the day job. After that I can actually start in the bathroom where everything's got to come out for some tanking, a walk-in shower and complete re-tile. Like all good building programmes, I suspect I'll be lucky to get it all completed before Christmas although October is my target!

I'm not helped by the start of the new season as I plan to attend most of the opening games and will be out for four consecutive Saturdays (Bournemouth, Wycombe, Hartlepool and Walsall). This will exhaust all of my Brownie points, so I am also working on replenishing these - a trip to see Walking with Dinosaurs has been floated and well received. Throw in a couple of weeks of Jury Service and August will be gone. Perhaps the new-season-new-division enthusiasm will have been well and truly beaten out of me by then and I will revert to mostly attending just home games with just the odd away-day excursion so the renovation can resume at pace?

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Crawley Town 1 v Charlton Athletic 2

After the embarrassing defeat at Forest Green on Saturday, Phil Parkinson put out a strong starting eleven at Crawley Town this evening. Elliot, Basey, Llera, Fortune, Richardson, Bailey, Semedo, Racon, Shelvey and Burton is close to our best starting eleven, although no-one will convince me that Burton is good enough to play up front let alone on his own. I should add at this point that with Gray going, I can't see any of McLeod, Fleetwood or Dickson getting double figures this season. Shelvey or Bailey are more likely to finish top scorer if they aren't sold.

In any event, this team appears to have coped much better with Crawley Town than the side put out on Saturday. Jonjo Shelvey headed a first-half goal from a high Lloyd Sam cross. Deon Burton could have repeated the Shelvey goal from another Sam cross in the second-half but his header hit the bar. Crawley drew levels minutes later from the penalty spot after Rob Elliot brought someone down.

Mambo came on for Fortune and Spring replaced Semedo before Wagstaff got on for Richardson. Burton missed a gilt-edged chance from another Sam pull back before being replaced by Dickson as McLeod came on for Shelvey. McLeod missed a couple of decent chances before netting the winner and Wade Small got another eight minutes before the end.

I would like to think that the starting eleven for Barnet on Saturday will be close to the side that started this evening, so that we can begin to build some understanding ahead of the Wycombe game.

Royal Oak to re-open ahead of the Wycombe match

As predicted, the Royal Oak will be re-opening on Monday 3rd August in time to capitalise on the returning hordes of thirsty Addicks fans. As I understand it, the pub will be run by a publican who has over 30 pub leases, including the Rose of Denmark. A new manager will be installed although I wouldn't expect anything dramatic in the way of changes to the decor or layout of the pub just yet. I believe he is taking the pub on to see what the potential is prior to the freeholder re-letting the lease.

What I do know is that there will be a professional landlord on the premises again, the beer will be well stocked and the staff will once again be well managed, if not well motivated. I really do hope this is a turning point for the Royal Oak and that it leads to some long overdue stability and possibly some cosmetic changes in time to address the mistakes of the last development. In a strange way there are parallels between the fortunes of the Oak and our beloved football club. This could be an omen for changing fortunes all 'round. Fingers-crossed.

Monday, 20 July 2009

9024 season tickets so far

It might not impress Norwich City fans but the Addicks season ticket sales clicked over 9000 this afternoon with every prospect of closing in on the five figure mark for the Wycombe Wanderers match. This means that we are likely to average over 10,000 this season. If the takeover succeeds before the start of the season and the new owners have the profile and backing to raise prospects of a this being a turning point, we could get a "bounce" and walk-up sales could be boosted as the club's more loyal supporters return to the club. One or two decent signings would make a huge difference, as would the hanging on to Shelvey and Bailey. A winning start would boost this further and a prolonged challenge might see the average climb closer to 15,000.

If the takeover doesn't materialise or they arrive with limited funds, then the bounce will obviously be smaller. If we struggle at home, then match-by-match sales will suffer, especially if the club stick to their stated position on matchday prices in order to "guarantee"season ticket savings.

At least we have been given the latest figure and it builds on Friday's much needed comment on the takeover and begins to make-up for the Club's recent abysmal communication record.

The week ahead

After the embarrassment of the first team defeat at Forest Green Rovers on Saturday and a 6-0 home spanking for the U18's by, ahem, Millwall, the Club gets the chance to atone this week at Crawley Town tomorrow evening and then at Barnet on Saturday. We should never read too much into friendlies , of course, but as fans you want to go into the first league match of the season on the back of some comfident pre-season games and results.

Whilst Phil Parkinson scratches his head over the selections for this week, Andy Gray will not be a name on his starting list. The ill-fated Scot looks likely to be signed by Barnsley this week in a deal where Charlton will give him away and may end up paying part of his wages just to get him off our books. We may have got the better of Cardiff with the Hudson fee, but giving away a player we paid £2m for 18 months ago is bad business but, once again, we should remind ourselves of the imperatives as our club continues to haemorrage cash. The players we continue to be linked with are likely to be on a fraction of the wages of Gray and most now appear to be out of contract with their former clubs and, presumably, pretty desperate. Chris McCready, who played and scored in the Bray match, is expected to be made an offer this week. If he joins as a utility defender, I would expect the next interest to be in a midfielder so that Shelvey or Bailey can be sold on to keep the wolves from the door.

Meanwhile, the takeover is presumably edging forward after the brief statement from the Board late on Friday. They suggest that a deal will be done before the season starts. Assuming they are being as conservative with that statement as they have with their communication since we were relegated, then we may well get some serious news this week. I won't be wasting any of the Earth's precious resources by travelling to Gatwick tomorrow as I am saving them for a week in Norfolk where we head for our Summer holiday on Friday. So no Barnet for me either, although I am hoping to get to Carrow Road next Tuesday to cheer the Canaries on against Crystal Palace. I'm not a big one for football shirts on holiday (or at all for that reason), but I may make an exception next week.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Forest Green Rovers 3 Charlton Athletic 1

Charlton were beaten for the first time this season when they went down 3-1 at Forest Green Rovers. Rovers coasted to a two-nil half-time lead against a strong Charlton line-up of Randolph, Wagstaff, Basey, Aaron Brown (triallist from Lincoln), Fortune, Semedo, Stavrinou, Spring, Fleetwood, McLeod and Dickson.

Brown had to be withdrawn within the opening 30 minutes as he was suffering from a virus, which begs the question why he was played in the first place. Yado Mambo replaced him and Wade Small also got a showing as Alex Stavrinou had to limp off. The rumours around Charlton's interest in Small were obviously well founded. Teenager Jack Clark came on for Jon Fortune for the second half and youngsters Ben Davisson and Liam Bellamy got run-outs for Mcleod and Small, who therefore had the distinction of being subbed as a sub. Charlton did at least get a goal back through Chris Dickson but a late third for Rovers left more than a few red faces as the Addicks left Gloucestershire.

A modest crowd of 700 was barely swelled by only a 100 or so travelling Addicks. You shouldn't read too much into friendlies of course but it's hard to see this as anything other than a poor day out. We appear to be trying to fashion a side from the bottom of other clubs barrels. Roll on the takeover.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Club confirms approaches!

Finally. Posted late yesterday, the Official Site now carries confirmation of takeover talks. It doesn't say much other than that the Board of Directors continue to act in the best interests of Charlton Athletic and that over the last few months their have been approaches from interested parties. Note the emphasis on the plural here.

The other key words would appear to be "through an acquisition of some of the assets and liabilities of Charlton Athletic plc" and that they will "work towards ensuring that Charlton are prepard for the new season both on and off the pitch." I don't think we should read too much into the "some" word on the basis that it probably takes into account the fact that Richard Murray would retain ownership of Sparrows Lane in any deal, although the more paranoid amongst us might suspect that other assets are potentially being witheld from any deal in order to make the sale more affordable/likely? The final sentence stops short of saying it will be completed within the next few weeks but that's my take here.

It might be too little, too late but I take this as a positive sign that negotiations are continuing and the Board remain set on ensuring the Club moves on to a better financial footing.

Charlton forever!

Friday, 17 July 2009

The tide is turning....

After the turmoil of the Selhurst years and the struggle to return to the Valley, militancy amongst Charlton fans died off as Roger Alwen and then Richard Murray proved themselves trustworthy leaders of the Club as Chairmen. They were quick to embrace the idea of the fan on the Board and were pioneers in Community schemes, one of the first clubs to properly embrace it and prove it could work. All of that is a virtuous circle when your club is on the up and you enjoy seven unbroken seasons in the Premier League. Peter Varney's role here, too, should not be overlooked. He was probably the driving the force behind the transparency of the Club's management as well as it's development away from pure footballing matters.

Things have taken a massive turn for the worse this year as we all know and we can point to the subtle changes that have played their parts to a greater or lesser extent. It's almost impossible not to see Derek Chapple's arrival as PLC Chairman as a huge negative, even if there's little direct evidence in the public domain to support it. Peter Varney's resignation clearly had an impact and that decision now looks more contentious than has ever been credited before. The decision to drop the fan on the Board can't have helped although there were, arguably, justifiable reasons for this due to the tightening of Company Law and the new personal responsibilities for Directors, although I have never subscribed to the idea that there wasn't a way around that.

Finally, the last three months have seen the Club's fans completely ignored as communication from the Board has collapsed. Yes there may have been delicate negotiations going on in the background but there is so much more the Board and Club's management could have done to keep Supporters briefed on the parlous state of the business. Indeed, Richard Murray's explanation when cancelling the 9th July Q & A was all that was needed much earlier but it had to be forced out of them. Why no direct contact on other matters? Presumably they will tell us downstream that everything was takeover related i.e. decisions about the manager, player transfers etc. We haven't even had an update on season ticket numbers. It's not as if the fans aren't kicking up a fuss - the Club's own Website carries the hue and cry in the form of Fans Views, even if the ratio of complaint is carefully managed.

Finally then, there are now the stirrings of a Supporter's Trust. Ironically, former-fan-on-the-Board, Ben Hayes has mooted the idea on Charlton Life. I think this may prove to be a case of "light the blue touchpaper and stand-back." Fans will now meet in the Conservative Club in Charlton Church Lane on 4th August at 7pm to discuss taking the idea further.

I will go along to learn more but I believe the main idea is to pool the tiny shareholdings that fans have in order to carry more weight and try to influence decisions in the Boardroom. Other Supporter's Trusts have successfully increased the stake in their respective Clubs and, whilst unlikely to ever be able to control affairs, at least they don't feel like they are being completely ignored.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Bray Wanderers 0 v Charlton Athletic 2

The opposition may not have been great this week but the Addicks wrapped up their second win in Ireland which was certainly better than the mixed bag of results achieved when last there in 1997. A routine sounding 2-0 win which may have matched the Wexford score had Inale/Irale/Izale Mcleod not missed a penalty after Scott Wagstaff was brought down in the box. Lloyd Sam scored one and it would appear that the latest secret triallist got the other (Sammy Nelson has ben mentioned!).

Looks like just about everyone got a run out. I have just caught up on the game courtesy of a Charlton Life match thread which made entertaining reading as it was heavily reliant on updates from Addicks fans, most of whom appear to have enjoyed a late lunch. Forest Green Rovers on Saturday where I suspect we might get the hardest game so far.

Meanwhile, still no response from the Board to the Mail on Sunday article about Administration despite claims of a considered response. Steve Waggott's credibility is taking another pasting here. If he didn't know that a response would be forthcoming he should have said nothing when questioned. Us long-suffering supporters deserve much better than this and some answers quickly. The silent treatment is causing widespread anger and doing the Club a lot of damage. At this rate, the Mail on Sunday will be running a more detailed follow-up article this week.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Season Tickets arrive early?

My season ticket has arrived. It doesn't normally land until a week before the season starts. Maybe they have been able to process these quicker now that demand has halved? I hope the choice of cover doesn't prove to hugely ironic in the days and weeks ahead.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Next up Bray Wanderers

Phil Parkinson and Mark Kinsella lead the squad out at Bray Wanderers tomorrow evening for the third warm-up match of the Summer. Bray is a seaside town at the end of the Dart trainline from Dublin and I was there in 1997 for the last friendlies played in Ireland (University College Dublin, St. Patricks and Bray Wanderers). It is also the home town for Darren Randolph, so I expect him to play and feature heavily in the team building activities after the match, which, in the circumstances, might be more important than football or fitness.

I suspect the wider squad will be utilised further tomorrow as those players who didn't feature at Wexford get a game tomorrow. It will be interesting to see if either of the two triallists used in the Wexford game feature again, or indeed of we play any others. Apparently, Club officials were asking fans not to report the names of the triallists, both of whom we were lead to believe were ex top-flight pros. You can imagine my disappointment then when the names were reported on an Irish website. I'd tell you who they were but I had never heard of them and have already forgotten their names. One is an out-of-contract 28-year old from Dublin who has played for nine clubs and has most recently been released by St Johnstone, so presumably that was as much convenient as serious. The other is a 32-year old Swansea player who doesn't appear to have featured much in the last three years. Our need for fresh faces and dressing room characters is probably as acute our our need for genuine quality, so perhaps I shouldn't be too dimissive.

The players will presumably come home tomorrow and get a day at home with their families before the trek to Forest Green Rovers on Saturday. Stuart Fleetwood would have been looking forward to that one, although I expect a tactical resting, if Exeter City haven't managed to secure him for the £100,000 we are believed to want for him before then.

In the meantime, the Fans Forum have demanded a response from the club to the Mail on Sunday snippet about us heading for the Big A. Steve Waggott has confirmed that they are working on one and it will be released when it's ready. Three days would seem more than sufficient to craft a few sentences, and get a lawyer to look them over for potential loopholes and er, put them on your website. Gaining agreement from all of the other Directors to the wording might not be so easy in the circumstances. The response it may draw will be fascinating. Personally, I will be looking for what it doesn't say just as much as what they are prepared to tell us. Roll on tomorrow.

Time to concentrate on the team and the manager

The countdown on this blogsite tells me we have just over 25 days to the kick-off at home to Wycombe Wanderers. If the last 48 hours are anything to go by, that could feel like an eternity. I did no work yesterday and was instead surrounded by a battery of phones and computers, waiting like a 100 metre athlete for the gun. Nothing but a matter-of-fact update on the big friendly against Wexford Youths.

I know I am not alone here. This site had a hefty increase in hits on Sunday and a record daily total yesterday. As Charlton fans, we have been treated appalling by the club since our relegation. "Appalling" was the word used by Mick Collins over the weekend in terms of the lack of communication, and him a former boss when the club had a communications department. I'm not expecting anyone to spill the beans or tell us the ins and outs of what's not been going on, but we all know something is happening and it wouldn't be hard to provide regular updates of next to nothing. It's called managing expectations and it's what customer centric businesses do all the time to manage the "emotional" side of their businesses.

What's very hard to comprehend, is just how poorly the Board are behaving when they were once hailed as the leaders in this area. Having said that, it's always much easier to dispense good news and it takes bottle and conviction to do it when it's not so good. Richard Murray is beginning to catch a lot of the stick for the current situation both in terms of the mis-management of the communication as well as the impasse on the takeover. This could be completely unfair (and from what we all know of him, it probably is), however, without doing something about it, this is only going to intensify. Derek Chapple, of course, remains a shady character in the background because apart from a blurt once on Charlton Life and an appearance at a supporters meeting in Bromley (if I recall correctly), we've never heard from him. You have to ask what he paid his way onto the PLC Board for? As Chairman of that he has overseen a spectacular crash in the clubs fortunes and appears to have done nothing as it's happened around him, other than perhaps lead on cost-cutting measures. Perhaps there's been nothing else anyone could do?

No, there's nothing much that us ordinary season ticket holders can do but fret, complain, worry and generally suffer. Not, that is, until 8th August when we will all be turning up on the Board's doorstep and when they will feel the heat of the collective anger about the way we've been ignored whilst our club has become a laughing stock. They have 25 days then in which to sort something out.

In the meantime, we need to channel our energies towards the players and management team however unpalatable that might be for most of us bearing in mind it's largely the same personnel who walked into League One. We need to engender the spirit of the Lennie Lawrence days after we were shunted to Selhurst and get some backs-against-the-wall mentality going. Morale can't be good amongst the players and we will need the best possible start, so we all need to get behind the team and Phil Parkinson from the off.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Real disappointment in Greenwich

The long-awaited Greenwich Beer & Jazz fesival turned out to be a major disappointment on Saturday. We arrived at 4pm to join one of the two 100-people long queues in the drizzle. After fifteen minutes we had shuffled forward approximately six feet, and decided to have a couple of pints of Flowers in the Admiral Hardy to let the queue go down. Whilst we were downing those we were joined by other would-be festival goers equally thristy and disconsolate looking about the slow moving queue. We decided to have a pint of Spitfire in the Spanish Galleon as the queue was not shortening or moving any quicker. From there it was a pint of Adnams in the Coach & Horses and another in the Mitre before wandering back to the Naval College.

Unfortunately, there was no improvement on the queue and we found out that one of the queues was for ticket holders and the other for pay-on-the-day. This appeared to make no difference as both queues were equally long and slow moving. By now we had moved from the £7 pre-5pm entrance fee to the £12 charge but no impact on queuing. The trouble, it appears, was a strict security policy around bag searches. What a shame that they couldn't organise this without inconveniencing the drinkers amongst us who were clearly not carrying bags and could have been frisked and relieved of our entrance money in minutes.

As it was, we refused to wait in the rain and moved The Trafalgar, The Yacht, The Cutty Sark, The Pelton Arms, The Royal Standard, The William 4th and back to the Rose of Denmark.
The pubs around Greenwich town centre were busy and lively, due in part to a mix of tourists, festival goers and a good number of people back from the Thames Barge Race. I think it would be fair to say that a lot of people were well on their way to drunkeness and we suspected things might get livelier still as the evening wore on. The pubs in east Greenwich were understandably quieter but most of them were only entertaining a handful of Customers. The halcyon days of the public house look long gone and like my dear old Charlton Athletic, I suspect we may never see them again.

I'm feeling very old and tired all of a sudden. I need a break to freshen the spirit and invigorate the soul.

Is today the day?

Is today the day when we learn a good deal more about the club's future than we have been told for the last three months?

Mick Collins, a former head of the Charlton Communications department (now defunct), told Charlton Life readers yesterday that it was him who leaked the piece to the Mail about Administration now looking a preferred route for the takeover consortium. Mick's piece was fuller and clearer on the thinking but the Mail chose just to cut to the Administration piece. If I read him correctly yesterday, we might be facing a tactical Administration as the lesser of two evils, the takeover crowd preferring to take the ten point penalty instead of a large chunk of debt. On that basis, it's probably fair to assume that one or more of the existing Directors are digging their heels in over their loans and the threat is now that they will be left to continue to accrue debt until their position becomes untenable and we are forced into Administration. As I said yesterday, what a mess.

The good news from this, if there is any, is that there are still people with backing out there who are interested in running the club. The bad news is that they don't look seriously flush and we are likely to have to rely on Burton, Mcleod and Dickson to fire the goals they couldn't manage last year. We are also likely to continue to be a selling club and, depending on timing, the existing Board might feel compelled to off-load anyone they can get a fee for in order to continue to service the club, or dare I say it, recoup some of their loan positions.

Elsewhere, the Addicks beat Wexford Youths 3-0. I don't think that meant they beat a youth side, but presumably the standard was short of the football league. Burton slotted a penalty and Chris Dickson added two more.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Charlton face Administration?

I don't get hangovers but I am sitting at my keyboard before 8am on a Sunday morning feeling very tired. Yesterday was a long day (more about that later) but I managed to come home and go to bed unware of the story circulating on the net about Charlton's worse-than-suspected financial position and it being an insurmountable barrier to the proposed takeover. The Mail on Sunday leads with the story today and tells us that Administration is the most likely outcome.

This sounds like very bad news and I suspect it may turn out to be true. The Mail has a good track record of breaking Charlton news e.g. the Zabeel non-deal and I believe is the Board's preferred route to the press. Bottom-line is that they are saying we have total debts of c £40m and that the takeover consortium don't have sufficient funds. This would explain the inordinate delay in completing the takeover and the twice postponed Q& A with Murray and Chapple.

The Board have previously confirmed debts of c £20m but have always been quick to point out that all bar£6m of that was friendly debt, i.e. Director loans which would never be enforced in terms of pushing the club into Administration. More recently, Murray has said he would be prepared to waive his loan to the club in order to sell it on. This was a significant step when less than a year ago he stood to recoup the millions he has "invested" in the club if the Zabeel deal had gone through. The alarm bells should have been ringing at this point, especially considering the length of time the takeover negotiations have taken.

If our true debt position is closer to £40m, then it looks like the club would cost in excess of £26m to acquire assuming the current Board waived all of their loans. That might simply be too much and there is the added suspicion that some of them might not be willing or able to forego their money. Derek Chappell is a relatively recent and heavy investor. You have to wonder how he feels about suddenly taking a hefty loss after such an short and dismal involvement. We have to question, too, whether a takeover now would simply install a new Board with no money to develop the club and effectively leave us no better off than we are today.

This news may put the current Board under more pressure to conclude a deal now or even alert some angel investor like Marcus Liebherr. In the meantime it looks like our preparations for League One will be seriously disrupted and we look likely to start the season still in turmoil. Morale amongst the playing staff and management team can't be anything other than bad and I really fear we could face another nightmarish season on the pitch, particularly if the club actually goes into Administration. What a fucking mess.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Greenwich Beer & Jazz

Beer and jazz? More chalk and cheese than bread and honey if you ask me. Nonetheless the lure of the beer is sufficient to overcome my natural instinct to avoid the jazz. I will try and approach the music with an open mind and maybe I will be pleasantly surprised. The flyer I saw a few weeks backs decribed the jazz as "Traditional, Latin and Funk." I think I can manage the Trad jazz but Latin and Funk sound like I might be driven to a far corner of the venue.

The weather is much cooler today and the beer may be better for it. Drinking real ale on a hot Summer day is fantastic but the heat can rapidly age and spoil the beer. As fine as a good pint of ale is, an off one can ruin a session completely for me. So I will go nose first and probably follow the advice of a mate of mine who was there last night and will have sampled 20 or so already.

I am meeting up with a few Charlton lads I haven't seen since the season finished, so the main topic of conversation is a foregone conclusion. The crowd will be interesting in terms of the beer/jazz blend and I am looking forward to seeing how this festival works at the Naval College. I missed it last year as I was in Scotland although I attended most of the previous years when it was held in the old Town Hall in Royal Hill. More recently I have enjoyed the Dartford Beer festival although, sadly, that has been stopped for some weak excuse about behaviour and mess etc in the park. I was usually there from early afternoon until early evening and it always looked very well behaved and managed to me. It certainly attracted a decent crowd and there was something for everyone, including the kids.

More tomorrow, beer permitting.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Frazer Richardson signed

Sky News are reporting that out-of-contract Frazer Richardson has been signed following his release by Leeds United. Phil Parkinson is quoted as saying "he's exactly the type of character we're looking for." I know nothing of Richardson but he is 26 years old and has played only 167 league games which looks light. Having said that, he has captained Leeds which might qualify Parky's comment.

Richardson is a right-back and it's high time someone at the club apologised to Yassin Moutaouakil and paid him up so he can move on and try to resurrect his career elsewhere. I can't remember a more able player who has been repeatedly over-looked and who has had to watch a succession of journeymen drafted in to play in his place. Moots took a huge amount of stick for his substitute performance at Bristol City last season when he didn't look to be trying and there were faces pulled between him and Parkinson. Silly boy maybe, but after the way he's been treated since Parkinson came in, who can blame him?

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Welling United 1 v Charlton Athletic 1

First of the pre-season friendlies this evening at Welling and it showed. I drove over and had a couple of pre-match pints in the Rose and Crown before queuing, yes queuing, to pay my tenner. We were in quickly enough and in time to see kick-off. The clouds and rain from earlier in the day had lifted and the first half was played in pleasant conditions. The Welling pitch looked in tip-top condition, but I guess if it didn't look good now then it never would.

The first thing to report was that Phil Parkinson didn't appear to be at the match. Mark Kinsella, he who apparently cleared his desk at Sparrows Lane in May, was running things from the touchline. It will be interesting to see if any mention of this is made on the Official Site.

The second obvious thing was that our new shirts, were bearing the letter "krbs" (lower case), which Google informed us could be the Kent Reliance Building Society. The OS has since confirmed it this evening - a three year shirt sponsorship deal worth "a six figure sum," which I think is marketing speak for closer to £100,000 than £999,000 (beggars can't be choosers). I like the new red but can't say that the white strip adds anything. It just makes the shirt look unnecessarily busy and a bit tacky.

The first-half side was Elliott, Youga, Llera, Mambo, Solly (I think), Tuna, Spring, Stavrinou, Sam, Dickson and Burton. Elliot has indeed shed a few pounds (let's hope he can do what most dieters can't and keep them off) and Kelly Youga takes a bit of getting used to without his dreads. New boy Llera looks positively statuesque, although he didn't have the debut 45 minutes he would have hoped for. I'll be kind and say it's all too early yet to draw any conclusions.

The first half was easy enough for Charlton and we retained possession well and restricted Welling's forward play. Yado Mambo scored after 20 minutes after heading home a decent cross from Solly after some good work on the right by Lloyd Sam. Unfortunately, the goal was disallowed but not for a full minute or so after Mambo had milked the applause of the 2500 crowd. Charlton created a couple of other scoring chances in the first half but both were saved and we appeared to be lacking a cutting edge. Chris Dickson hit the keeper from a few feet out when he really should have finished and Deon Burton did very little.

At half-time it was all-change and we introduced another team; Randolph, Clark (I think), Basey, Semedo, Not Sure, Fleetwood, Bailey, Shelvey, Wagstaff, Mcleod and a short triallist forward called Torres according to a mate of mine. We scored a peach of a goal shortly after the restart and I thought this midfield might dominate proceedings. Scott Wagstaff did very well out on the right wing to catch a ball at full pelt and cut inside the full-back, he took another touch in towards goal before hammering his shot high and past the helpless Welling keeper. It was a corker and didn't he know it!

Unfortunately, we didn't up the ante after that and the game remained at a tempo Welling could compete with. Shelvey tried in the middle but Nicky Bailey was ambling around alongside him. Our attacking strategy was to play balls over the top for Mcleod and Torres but both looked short of pace and touch. Mcleod should have scored when a ball was cut-back to him in the box by Wagstaff but his first touch was terrible and the keeper collected. Torres looked out of his depth and he was lucky not to be subbed towards the end after a poor tackle and dissent towards the referree who was clearly trying not to book him. Welling had equalised by this time and there could be few complaints with the final scoreline.

I won't be in Ireland for Bray or Wexford and I can't see trips to Forest Green or Crawley Town getting me out of SE7. I will be on holiday for the Barnet and Ipswich games (sunny Norfolk Suze!) but will be back for the Bournemouth bender. By then I expect the excitement of the takeover to have reached fever pitch as the fans rally to the new standard in their thousands!

Up the Addicks!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Legal ruling halts Dick and Dek show

Legal Advisors have caused Richard Murray and and Derek Chappell to once again postpone their stand-up session at the Valley which had been rescheduled for this Thursday. This is particularly frustrating for long-suffering Addicks who have been left pretty much all Summer to make it up for themselves. The silence from SE7 has impacted season ticket sales, stymied much needed change and has further reduced the clubs' stock at a time we can least afford it.

On a more positive note, the decision to cancel and the reason given can only be as a direct result of takeover talks and the criticality of the stage at which they have reached. No reason was given for the previous cancellation but a delay to accommodate an announcement was suspected and this latest cancellation bears that out. Richard Murray's own words confirm the current takeover talk - "It might sound strange, but I hope fans take this as a positive thing, and of course we will rearrange this the event the moment we are able to speak freely." Those who still doubt that there is any takeover talk would do well to think back to the Zabeel deal and the painful lesson in "keeping mum" that the Directors learnt from that.

Personally, I only want to listen to the Club's owners when they have something to say and clearly that won't be on Thursday. We have to believe that news of a takeover will break soon and that it will be positive in terms of the decision and the scale of the investment and ambition of the new owners. It may have come far later than anticipated but if it enables us to clean up our act and start afresh, then maybe, just maybe, we have reached the bottom of our rollercoaster ride and can begin the climb back towards where we belong.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Wright to Scunthorpe whilst Holland trains with Colchester

Josh Wright has found someone willing to pay him the £1200 a week he believes his Gillingham promotion cameo deserves. I hope he finds living/travelling/playing for Scunthorpe is worth the extra few hundred quid he's presumably getting. Meanwhile, Matt Holland is obviously as unimpressed with his League One wages offer, as he is saving money on travelling to Sparrows Lane by training with his local side, Colchester, whilst he waits to see if there is a better deal in the offing. Presumably a matching offer to Wright's at Scunthorpe won't beat what we have offered Holland?

It's sad to see one of our star youth products departing the club under such circumstances but needs must when the devil drives etc. We can't complain too much if we live to regret this. Matt Holland's situation is also disappointing but presumably the differential in wages from what he was on to the new offer is too great for him to accept and he has to look around and see if there's a better offer. It would be easy to take the view that Matt has been earning a good screw for a number of years and that he owes us some loyalty, but the bottom line is the offer available might be derisory given affordability and League One football.

More questions and potential bile for Richard Murray and Derek Chappell to deal with then on Thursday. I suspect they will want to hang on to Shelvey, Bailey and Racon until next week at least!

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Welling on Wednesday

Tickets for the Welling friendly on Wednesday evening have not been selling well according to Wings owner Barry Hobbins. These are the coveted seats which usually sell out quickly due to their limited numbers. Hobbins is blaming the credit crunch and Charlton's recent relegation. I would also add to that the fact that the game is being staged in early July rather than early August.

Pre-season friendlies tend to get more competitive towards the start of the season and the early ones are often just fitness games and a bit of experimentation with formations and tactics. I will be going along to see who is running the show, what the spirit looks like and, hopefully, a first look at Miguel Angel Llera. I will be surprised if we start with more than half-a-dozen first teamers from last season and the absentees may be more telling than those selected. Zheng Zhi, Bailey and Shelvey might be conspicuous by their absence.

I had a quick look at the well-designed Welling United website on the grounds that I expected to see several ex-Addicks amongst their ranks, only to be disappointed - none that I recognise anyway. More late on Wednesday....

Friday, 3 July 2009

Power beats athleticism

Andy Murray was beaten in four sets today by a thundering service and dominant net game as Andy Roddick grasped his big chance of another Grand Slam final. Roddick took the first set when he broke at 4-4 and although he lost the second set 6-4 following an early break, he went on to win a tie-break in the third and another in the fourth. Murray has a decent tie-break record but Roddick had won over 80% of his in the last year.

Murray is only 22 and will have another day at Wimbledon but this was a great opportunity for him. He has had the upper hand on both Roddick and Federer in recent encounters and might have been thinking that this was his year. In spite of Roddick's performance today, it's hard now to see beyond Roger Federer and a record breaking Wimbledon win on Sunday. Murray might have had the game to beat Roger but you have to beat all-comers first and he failed at the penultimate hurdle.

Still, I can go to Gatwick on Sunday to pick up friends without fretting about what I might be missing.

McGinty to Manchester United?

Curious one this. Manchester United News is reporting that Sir Alex is keen to sign U17 Charlton youngster Sean McGinty. I have never seen McGinty play. However, if Sir Alex is interested in him, then so should we be. Trouble is, of course, that money talks and it positively dictates things at the Valley right now.

Perhaps because of our precarious financial position more clubs are interested in picking the meat off the bone? Maybe it's just that we have to sell to avoid a "Southampton" or simply just sell before we can buy? Whatever it is, it's hard not to feel like we are going to start this season with a much smaller and less able squad of players. Dare I say it, like a regular League One side with precious little League One experience. If that is the case, then we need to wake up to the fact that we are likely to struggle next season and should be resetting expectations...

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Hudson gone for a million+

The OS has finally confirmed the sale of Mark Hudson to Cardiff City for £1,075,000 with a possible £250,000 additional payment if Cardiff reach the PL with him in the side. There is also a sell-on clause which will be well received by Addicks fans with longer memories than most.

This represents good business in my view and an acceptable price for a 27 year old centre half of Mark's experience and ability. Some will be surprised by the valuation but I am not. Hudson had a jittery start on his arrival from Palace and he will not look back on his season with the Addicks with over-fondness. He struggled as part of the defence to find any consistency until it was too late but, for me, he was one of the better performers in the side last year and I would like to have seen us hold on to him had we still been competing in the Championship.

The OS also began a strip tease yesterday, revealing part of the new home shirt. Someone with a Marketing qualification will have told them to use this ploy to excite interest and increase desire amongst Addicks fans to want to purchase the new shirt. Deary me, it's a red football shirt at the end of the day and we are all grown up enough to make our own minds up once we've seen the bloody thing. From the snapshot yesterday it looks a deeper red than is traditional, although more to my liking that some of the more garish reds of recent years.

In SW19, the Great Scot strolled into the semi-finals and must seriously be considering a final appearance against Federer, a man he has beaten four times in-a-row. My bet's looking home and dry....

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Hudson to go for £700,000?

Latest internet drums say we have accepted Cardiff's bid for Mark Hudson and that he is settling his personal terms this week.The fee is thought to be in the region of £700,000 which represents a reasonable return in my view for a player we got in exchange for Paddy McCarthy plus £500,000. The Boardwill, no doubt, be more relieved not to be paying his wages. When Hudson joined, Neil Warnock bemoaned the fact that he had joined us but said that Palace simply couldn't compete in terms of salary. Clearly times have changed.

The fee, if £700,000, looks a bit of an added bonus as I am not sure our Board could have withstood a lower offer as their prime motivator would have been the wage bill.Having said that, I don't think we got the best from Hudson (or many of his contemporaries for that matter), and he may prove very good value for Cardiff. He is 27 and they can expect the best five or six years from him assuming he stays with them.