Monday, 31 August 2009

August Bank Holiday

An overcast day in SE7 and we have no plans. The Bank Holiday crept up on us so we have nothing organised. The work on my bathroom was finished over the weekend with me flooding the floor twice whilst trying to get the toilet reconnected without leaks. I am waiting on a mate to drop off three sheets of plasterboard to finish off the hallway so I can get the ceilings in the hall and bathroom re-done. Wrong way around, I know, but the bathroom tiling had to start on time....

So I've watched the goals from Prenton Park several times this morning. Lloyd Sam's towering first header was an excellent finish, one that Andy Gray would have been proud of as he opened his account for Barnsley on Saturday with an equally powerful header. Jose Semedo's strike showed that he too is playing with renewed confidence and he used his strength on the ball brilliantly well to keep three jostling players off him before rifling past Daniels to make the game safe. Lloyd Sam's second looked more like a "header" you expect to see from a winger. He went up at the far post with a defender and turned in the air, so the ball went in off his back. That left Bailey's 40 yard cross that no-one could get a touch on and the bounce deceived Daniels as it looped over him and into the top corner. It was a goal that you only seem to get when it's all going your way.

Addicks fans will be holding their collective breath today and tomorrow as the transfer window counts down. Despite our financial predicament, I can't believe the Board would mess our perfect start up by disrupting the team and selling anyone. It doesn't look like there is time for a late takeover and sudden splurge of cash, so we have to think that it looks less likely to happen now. There will be the view that those eyeing the club are not so concerned about the timing of their rescue or the need to strengthen the squad in light of our start. However, if the wrangle is the price (with one or two Directors holding out - Mr Chapple?), Charlton's form is working in the Board's favour. Perhaps the Posse will have to sit tight and hope the Board get starved out.

Elsewhere there is news that Robin Michael Lawrence will publish his autobiography on 28th September. We can expect to feature large in a third of it if he allots his time proportionately although events of twenty-plus years ago might be shortened in favour of more recently memorable appointments. I shall be buying an early copy irrespective as Lennie was the man who broke the near thirty year wait for top-flight football although we were all cheated by the fact that it wasn't at the Valley.

As I finish this, the sun is out and I am feeling more inclined to "do something." It might help take my mind off the transfer window.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Tranmere Rovers 0 v Charlton Athletic 4

I had to make-do with updates on 5 Live yesterday as my timing went to pot and I hurtled back from a family visit in Kent. It wasn't so bad, however, as there were plenty of updates as the chances racked up and the goals flew in.

An unchanged side took the grip on the game we all hoped for in midfield and once we had opened the scoring it sounds like there was only one side in it. Lloyd Sam had his best game in a blue and black shirt as he was given space and ball by the midfield fulcrum of Semedo and Racon. The fact that Sam scored twice and that both were headers tells you all you need to know. Jose Semedo and Nicky Bailey again added the goals that have given us goal advantage over Leeds United who managed an impressive away with at Colchester in spite of a Kevin Lisbie equaliser.

It's a shame that Phil Parkinson's perfect start to the season has been matched by Simon Grayson at Leeds because there is a risk that Parky will lose the Manager of the Month award due to the fact that Leeds also beat Championship Watford in the League Cup. I hope Parky will get the recognition he deserves in view of our turnaround from last season but suspect he may have to wait. Perhaps the curse that traditionally goes with it will work to our advantage if Grayson is honoured. Maybe they will get an offer for Beckford they can't resist before the transfer window closes?

The win means that us and Dirty Leeds have opened a four point gap on the field and we will go into the Brentford game oozing confidence. The gate for the visit of the sixth-placed Bees should break 17,000 and give us our toughest match yet. Before that though, we need to come through the transfer deadline in no worse shape than we are today. If the takeover is ever going to happen or to be beneficial for the club, it needs to happen now. If not, then they need to save their money for an Administration Day (God forbid).

We've waited a long time for this but doesn't it feel good?

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Added incentive

As the Addicks go for a record start to a league campaign today at Tranny, there was an added incentive after the Millwall v Brighton match at the New Den last night. I fully expect Millwall to finish in the top 6 this season after a strong showing under Kenny Jacket last year and for me they are the benchmark side for us to stay above if we are to be in with a chance of promotion (as well as the obvious satisfaction of finishing above them for the millionth season in succession).

The incentive then, is to be a whole 8 points clear of them after only five games, a lead which would enable us to have a wobble and remain in the frame. They will be disappointed with a 1-1 draw against lowly Brighton in a game which they should have won.

With second-placed Leeds travelling to third-placed Colchester and fourth-placed Bristol Rovers at Wycombe Wanderers, the coast is clear for us to breakaway at the top and establish a lead over our early rivals if we can get a grip on the game at Prenton Park and take the points.


Friday, 28 August 2009

Takeover edges closer...

I think the takeover may be about to be concluded and I suspect they would like to announce it today in order to give Parky a chance to recruit the missing pieces for the jigsaw that would sustain us into the New Year. That's my view following yesterday's article on the Official Site which looked like wanton gossip in relation to the tight-lipped, ultra-conservative, enforced commentary of the Summer.

Either way, we head to Prenton park tomorrow in the knowledge that a fifth successive league win would, amazingly, represent our best ever start to a league campaign. Blimey, that has surprised me! The resurrection of Phil Parkinson's fledgling managerial career at the Valley would be well and truly underway and it might even afford him a duff performance or dropped points without boos echoing around the ground or calls for him to go.

I've never seen John Barnes as managerial potential and his record so far has been less than average. Tranmere probably represents a swansong unless he can make a go of it and the signs so far are not encouraging. They have some undoubted experience amongst their ranks but have not made a great start are expectations are that they will finish in the bottom-half of the table. On that basis, we must be confident of a result. Over the years they have been strong at home and tend not to draw too many matches. They had a tough game at home to Bolton in the week and have lost three on the spin. For those reasons (and the fact that we are striving to maintain top slot) I am going for a 1-0 Addicks victory and we might need some good fortune to ensure we get it.

Bring on Brentford.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Tranmere away

I won't be there on Saturday. A party at friends will be too good to miss and the road looks like the only way to get there. I got a match ticket for a friend who is back from Mexico for a couple of weeks but even he, in his desperate state to see us play, is having second thoughts because of the transport situation. That will be why we are likely to have as few as 400 fans at the game.

I first went to Prenton Park in the late 80's to see them play Wrexham. Charlton had a spare Saturday, which means it was probably fourth round F A Cup day, so a mate and I decided to visit a new ground. We met at Euston and picked Tranmere out from that day's fixture list in the Saturday paper. A drink on the train and we were in Liverpool. We walked into The Vines at 12.30 to be greeted by a quizzical-looking barman. He remembered us from a visit to Everton a few weeks before-hand and was obviously aware that Charlton weren't due in the City that day. Having explained, he still wore a quizzical look.

He gave us directions and we left after 2pm and took the metro under the Mersey and a bus to the ground. We arrived several minutes after kick-off and the ground was very quiet. The turnstiles were shut so we ran quickly around the ground. The main stand was open and there were signs of life so we ran into the bar lounge and asked for help to get into the game. The barman looked up and it seemed to go very quiet as those around us gave us a strange look. "Have you come far?" he muttered matter-of-factly, "the game's over." Having told him London, he at least had the decency to look a bit embarrassed and explained that kick-off had been brought forward to 1pm because the floodlights failed a few weeks before and hadn't been fixed.

So back to Liverpool on the ferry after a brief look around Tranmere - you know, a laugh at the estate agents window (terraced houses for £5,000)- and back to The Vines. By this time, the bar staff at the Vines had found out that the Tranmere game had already been played and were waiting for us on our return. Oh how we laughed.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Spot the idiots

Football fans of a certain age will remember the weekly violence of the 70's and 80's. It was a time when it was difficult to attend football matches without encountering it personally, especially if you travelled to away games. It was a dark time when football fans with no interest in trouble were seen as fair game simply because they supported another team or came from another town or city. It drove crowds down over the years and depressed the game. I should also say that there was an added element of excitement and fear about going to games as a youth in those days because of it and that the trouble was largely minor in the sense of the consequences (arrests and injuries etc). I'm not condoning it but trying to put it into perspective and recognising what I experienced at the time.

As we know, it largely died off in the 90's as a result of improved policing and stewarding at games, police intelligence and the fear of early morning wake-up calls that would follow if you became known to the authorities. Jail sentences also helped. The trouble that did occur in the 90's was small scale and largely organised away from the stadiums by those who wanted to fight. Not a big problem as far as I was concerned. Most of those involved were banned from matches anyway and were tempting fate for a jail sentence.

In the last ten years we have seen the emergence of "youths" who have been mimicking their fathers and posturing at football. They looked hopelessly out-of-date and unmatched for the policing and technology of the 21st century. To be fair to them, they have largely, pciked up the mantle of seeking other youth firms and so the trouble has tended not to bother Joe Normal. However, the police and technology have slowly been decimating the youth as they have been jailed in high profile cases across the country.

In the circumstances, why on earth would you want to get involved in trouble in such a public way nowadays? Why would you run onto the field of play (an instant ban) just to jump around like a 12 year old? When you are a fat 40 plus who should know better like too many of those on the pitch at Upton park last night, you really are a sad case. So they will only be barred, but why would you do it? They were never going to get at Millwall fans, enclosed at the other end of the ground and surrounded by stewards and police. It was just showing off and the only people impressed were themselves.

As for the trouble outside the stadium last night, I suspect it was largely a throw-back to yesteryear and that it was the 40 plus brigade (and men in their 50's!) who still have a hatred for old rivals. The streets around all football grounds nowadays have extensive cameras and the police should have been prepared with their Hoolivans, the helicopters were certainly out. The fact that the trouble appears to have been so widespread and yet there were so few arrests, tells you that they were largely unprepared and did not have the manpower for arrests as they struggled to keep rival fans apart.

The police will now begin an extensive exercise to identify as many of those involved as possible and arrest them in dawn raids over the next 12 months. Any Millwall fans arrested as a result who can be shown to have arranged to travel without match tickets and who met fellow fans before going to West Ham will have little defence against conspiracy charges and disproportionately long sentences. The police will access mobile phone and text records and the hooligans will be bang to rights. Hopefully the first swoops will be before 19th December which might deter some of the even more stupid Millwall "fans" from venturing ticketless to the Valley.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

League Cup Round 2

Who needs it? Like everyone, I was a little disappointed at losing our unbeaten start to the season at Hereford in the first round but it was the manner of the defeat rather than losing itself. To miss a penalty and a number of other scoring opportunities and then to tumble out ot the only goal in extra time was frustrating. Having said that, we put out a weakened side and (once again) they came very close.

We're out now though and when I look at the fixture list for this evening, I am pleased. Our opponents on Saturday, Tranmere Rovers, have a tough home game against Premier League Bolton and that can only really work in our favour. They have lost the last two league games a third defeat here might lower their confidence further.

Leeds United are also at home against Watford, although that game might work in their favour. Norwich were scapled last night by a Sunderland side without Darren Bent but which included two-goal Andy Reid.

Other than that, all eyes and ears will be on the Boleyn ground where the Irons take on the Lions. A tough match for Millwall with no quarter given which won't leave them in best fettle for their televised home game against lowly Brighton on Friday night. London's constabulary will also be at full stretch to keep rival supporters apart. Millwall only have 1500 tickets but as many more trouble-makers are threatening to turn-up nonetheless as this is another great opportunity to reinforce their national unpopularity. No-one likes you, we don't care.

Monday, 24 August 2009

The first eleven

It's a fine feeling to be sitting unbeaten at the top of the table after only four matches. We have a weekly Monday morning call at work where we talk football and then let each other know what we're doing for the rest of the week. It's been painful for the three Charlton fans amongst us for far too long.

Looking ahead, I will miss my first game of the season at Tranmere due to a prior commitment with friends in the evening. Instead I will have to rely upon CAFC Radio to follow the game. It's another match that I believe we can avoid defeat in. Tranmere have had a poor start under John Barnes and with one win and three defeats are lurking third from bottom in the table. Their only win was a 4-2 deafeat of Gillingham but that was closer than the scoreline suggesst according to reports. They managed a 4-0 drubbing of Grimsby Town in the League Cup but we shouldn't read too much into that. Around those two wins they lost 2-0 at Yeovil on the opening day of the season and have gone down 1-0 at home to MK Dons last Tuesday and 3-0 at Elland Road at the weekend. Traditionally very strong at Prenton Park, it looks like we might be playing them at just the right time.

After that we have the incentive of winning our second London derby of the season when Brentford come to the Valley when we might break the 17,000 crowd barrier. Alan Pardew and lowly Southampton come next in another home game which be more popular still and one in which we will all be desperate to win. If we can manage that then we should travel to Norwich top of the table for match which promises to be a cracker. I booked my advance cheapie train tickets yesterday - first class returns for £24? - can't beat it.

Looking further ahead, we have another very winnable home fixture against Exeter before two away games against our nearest current challengers, Colchester and Leeds. That represents the first eleven games and if we can still occupy top slot after returning from Elland Road, then we can really believe we can "do another Leicester" and follow them back to the Championship at the first time of asking.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Charlton Athletic 2 v Walsall 0

As predicted, we now find ourselves sitting at the top of the table. Numero Uno. Top of the pile. King of the Hill. Ok, so we've only played four games, but let's enjoy it for what it's worth. Credit to Parky and the boys. As I have said before, he must be a favourite for Manager of the Month, which I am guessing would feel unusually sweet for Phil Parkinson in the circumstances, and who could deny him his moment in the sun? Not me.

As expected, we lined up unchanged again today to face Walsall. There was a distinct lack of atmosphere at kick-off. A home attendance visibly down on the Wycombe game and a measly visiting support of c 250. It was a bright opening without creating any clear-cut chances before Walsall showed that they weren't here just for the money. We had threatened on a couple of occasions before taking the lead but were impeded by a flag-happy linesman. The opener came on the half-hour and was well-deserved. Christian Dailly played a deep free-kick forward and Semedo knocked it out to Bailey on the left. Bailey cut inside and floated a teasing ball to the back post where Semedo joined Miguel Llera to beat Ince and bundle the ball in.

Lloyd Sam fluffed a shooting opportunity minutes later and Nicky Bailey blasted wide after working a fine move into the box, although his effort would have been disallowed had it beaten Ince which it probably should have.

One-nil at the break and with Charlton kicking towards the Covered End, I always expect the best. We were nearly rewarded early on when a ball from Sam was instinctively headed on by Racon and Bailey headed across goal from six yards when anything else would probably have flown in. We huffed and puffed after that and Walsall came back into the game for ten minutes and had a goal disallowed for off-side before Sam was reluctantly replaced by Scott Wagstaff.

The substitution proved inspired because four minutes later the game was won. A swift Charlton break was rewarded when the ball was played up to Deon Burton who instinctively spun it out to his left and into the path of Wagstaff who had half the field to himself. He collected quickly and galloped in on goal. He shaped for a second like he was going to panic and lash wildly a la Lloyd Sam but steadied himself and rolled a perfect shot passed the stranded Ince for the winner. It was an easy finish but he made it himself and converted in style. Lloyd Sam beware!!

Walsall nearly got a consolation on 78 minutes but Sam Parkin's header came off Elliot's right-hand post and Llera did enough to see that the rebound was headed over the bar. It was a wake-up call but one which was largely ignored because Walsall weren't at the races in spite of a spell of pressure. In the end a straightforward 2-0 home win that puts us top of the table. We have much tougher games to come but you can only beat the sides you play.

All-in-all it was a competent performance although Richardson had his poorest game in a red shirt for me and I thought we lacked pace in midfield which could have created more goal-scoring opportunities and kept Walsall on the backfoot. Deon Burton deserves a special mention for making the most of the scraps he was fed throughout and for the brilliant lay-off to Wagstaff that created the second.

Our attendance was down at 15, 706 which will disappoint some after the opening day crowd of 16,552 and the two away wins in the meantime but the Walsall turn-out was c 750 down on Wycombe's and we must recognise that our matchday pricing policy (£25 per adult ticket outside the Upper North) is hefty for this division. That and the height of the holiday season etc.

The next four matches should provide a real contrast to the first four; Tranmere away should be a test although they have struggled so far under John Barnes; Brentford will arrive in fifth or thereabouts before Alan Pardew blushes his way into the Valley and we then get to visit Norwich again. I am confident about all of these games on the evidence so far, although it will take some going to maintain our 100% record.

Times they are a-changing; five of the old boys committed to Norwich away during our post-match valley pint. A real sign of the times.

New striker in the week?

That's the prospect following the sale of Andy Gray to Barnsley late yesterday. I won't dwell on Gray's transfer (unlike the club) as I think it's all been said about him before, suffice to say his goals cost us £100,000 a pop on the basis of £1.5m laid out (he was never in any danger of triggering add on clauses) and c £600,000 recouped from the Tykes.

The club might prefer to up the contract offer to retain Jon Fortune instead of acquiring a striker, unless we could do both with the money available. That might be feasible on the basis that there's a glut of players out of contract. Strengthening of the side at a time when we might hope to be top of the league would be a major boost for all Addick fans.

It also begs the question once again, if the longest rumoured takeover in footballing history might be upon us. Some of the larger footballing sites are already suggesting the "takeover-imposed transfer embargo has been lifted." I am obviously seeing this as a potential positive. No doubt we should also fear that the current Board have decided that they can wait no longer and need to act in order to continue to manage their financial exposure. If that's the case, then the transfer fee will likely be retained to help pay the bills and keep the club from the dreaded Administration. Time will tell.

In the meantime, we need to get our football heads on and get down to the Valley to urge the boys on for another three points to maintain our 100% start.

Red Ar-my, Red Ar-my!

Friday, 21 August 2009

Walsall tomorrow

The Saddlers travel to the Smoke tomorrow and will try to avoid their second defeat in a week. They are sitting in 10th place after a 1-0 opening day win at Brighton and a last-gasp 2-2 draw at home to Southend. Having lost at home to Leeds in the week 2-1, Saturday's visit to theValley will balance their home and aways and perhaps give a more accurate reflection of their early season table position.

I had a quick look at the Walall playing staff and, er, I have to say I am none the wiser. They are a club that it's fair to say, have done very little since we last played them in this division in the 80-81 season when we beat them at the Valley 2-0 and took a point at Fellows Park in a 2-2, both matches being night games.

According to Up the Saddlers, they have not been creating chances despite dominating possession and they went down to ten men in the Southend game. This augers well for the Valley because I can't see us not scoring. Our five man midfield should be unchanged and we should play with plenty of confidence and be looking to attack from the off for the opening goal. Deon Burton will also have a spring in his step and might be extra keen to net at the Valley having scored two on the road. Another goal tomorrow might make him top scorer and give him the lift I think he needs to focus on goal-scoring as opposed to leading the line and enabling the midfield to get further forward which has been his forte since joining us. It might also, finally put some intense pressure on his striking colleagues who have all struggled to get goals at Charlton.

I expect us to play an unchanged side and to score first. That would make the Saddlers open up. If that happens then I see no reason why a confident and capable Charlton side shouldn't get a second to allow us to settle down and play the game in their half. If we get a two goal lead, Deon Burton could be rested and Andy Gray given another chance. Wade Small could also be given another go to show us what Parky has seen in him. Heaven forbid, if we could get a third, then perhaps one of the youngsters, like Tamer Tuna could get on and we could play 4-4-2.

As you can see, I am expecting a win by a couple of goals at least. Leeds have a very winnable home game against Tranmere but Colchester have a tricky trip to MK Dons. We will need the win to stay at the top but we could be sitting level with Leeds points clear of the field, which would represent the near-perfect start.

Phil Parkinson must be feeling more sure of himself after three wins in-a-row which begins to address his dismal record since taking over the reins. He's felt confident enough to tell the Newsshopper that he needs to strengthen but that his hands are tied until something breaks with the takeover. Speaking of which, Peter Varney and Alan Curbishley were spotted at Orient in the week which has fuelled that particular line of rumour (The Curbishley's with PV back in the harness).

The attendance on Saturday should be interesting. There is an expectation that we should see a healthy increase in the 16,552 for the Wycombe game but I am guessing Walsall will be 500 down on the Chairboy turnout and that we will do well to attract another 6,000 pay-on-the-day ticket purchases at what is largely £25 per seat. The holiday season is still in full flow, so my guess is that we will do very well to break 17,000.

Come on you Reds!

Thursday, 20 August 2009

The goals at Orient

Just watched our goals at Orient again and have to say that they are much better than I remembered watching the game live, although the O's goal was actually softer than I thought! I was in the back row of the Charlton stand and was at the other end from where all the goals went in, so perhaps I didn't have the best view, although I saw them clearly enough.

The Orient goal was simple and I can see that it was Youga again who was left to defend the near post and who was outjumped by Mkandawire, very similarly to the first goal Wycombe scored at the Valley. He is a full-back and shouldn't be expected to win high balls into the box against taller strikers or centre-halves. I can't help feeling Grant Basey would be better at this as well as more effective clearing his lines and supporting the left-winger (even if it's Nicky Bailey who's actually playing inside the line).

Jonjo's strike was as I remember it but I don't recall him having to do it with so little space or the close attention of O's players. It really is a much better goal on second inspection. Deon's too, looks much better and he had far less time than I recall between skipping clear and having to place his lob.

Having won all three games by the odd goal, it would be great to cement the perfect start with a two or three goal margin on Saturday. If we saw the benefits of a more relaxed second-half performance against the O's, and Dailly and Elliot have both commented to that fact, perhaps we will start very comfortably against Walsall on Saturday and take control of the game during the opening 45 minutes. Expectations again and all that, but it should be much easier than coming from behind to win at Leyton Orient.

Isn't it great to have that yearning back to see the next game?

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Leyton Orient 1 v Charlton Athletic 2

The Addicks snatched victory from the jaws of a draw last night in front of over 3000 delirious travelling fans to maintain our 100% start to the season and keep us top of the table with Colchester and Leeds United.

After a struggle to find a pre-match watering hole in Leyton High Road - there's only one left and the blast of heat coming from the front door told you it was a waste of time - we eventually settled down in the old Main Stand at the O's re-developed stadium that now looks out on three very modest stands with four or five flats stuffed into each corner. We had the entire stand, so our fans were spread the length of the pitch and I believe the vocal support we had made all the difference in a tight match that was short on goal-scoring opportunities.

We lined-up unchanged and played 4-5-1 again with Deon Burton upfront and Miguel Llera was sensibly sporting a Petr Cech style skull cap. We got off to a decent start but found it hard to break down an organised and hard-working Orient side. They gave us a much better game than either Wycombe or Hartlepool have done. They were aided by a niggling referree who stopped the game frequently for any sort of challenge. The first real goal-scoring chance fell to the O's when a free-kick awarded against a feisty Racon challenge on our left flank was glanced on by last season's player of the year, Mkandawire.

Jonjo Shelvey was putting himself about a bit as if determined to atone for his first two performances of the season. It earned him an 18th minute booking but it didn't slow him down and he continued to battle for everything. It was a surprise, therefore, when he lined up with Llera to take a free-kick from 25 yards early in the second-half, that it was the Spaniard who whistled a shot in that Jones did very well in the Orient goal to tip over the bar. It was a signal that we were upping the ante and the equaliser came after 67 minutes, much to the relief of the nosiy Charlton following. A long free-kick from the Charlton half was headed on by Deon Burton and Lloyd Sam played the ball across the goal for Shelvey to volley home with a scissors-kick from the edge of the area.

Despite the Charlton cries of "4-4-2, 4-4-2" I think most of us were relieved to be back on level terms and would have settled for the point. Without any serious striking options, switching to 4-4-2 would only have weakened our midfield as witnessed in the Wycombe game. It would also have been a tough call to pick anyone from a hard-grafting midfield to come off. So I was pleased Parky ignored the call and that he stuck to his game plan.

With six minutes left, we got just the sort of break I was referring to in yesterday's post. A poor back pass from Mkandawire let Deon Burton in on goal from 30 yards. He ran on and lobbed Jones. The ground hushed as the ball stopped and for a split-second it looked like he'd missed the goal but his wheeling celebration told us it was in and the Charlton fans erupted on the touchline.

It was a great result and a fighting performance that augers well for Saturday's visit of tenth -placed Walsall who went down 2-1 at home to Leeds last night. I can't wait.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Great expectations

Paul, aka Kings Hill Addick summarises my hopes, fears and excitement about tonight's Orient derby very well here. Expectations about the game have built quickly and we have a long history of disappointing our fans whenever they congregate in relatively large numbers with high expectations.

Only in the promotion seasons of 80-81, 84-85, 99-00 and to a lesser extent 97-98 have we really managed these situations well. This evening will be another test after coming through against Hartlepool. I fancy our chances although we should remember that this is a derby game and that they are usually closer affairs than form might suggest. I said before the Hartlepool game that we needed a draw and a win from the next two in order to build a head of steam for Walsall. Having got the win on Saturday, I will settle for a draw this evening. One apiece may be favourite, especially after the O's unexpected home defeat against Oldham but I can't help feeling that our players are in the mood and Jonjo Shelvey owes us something after two stuttering performances. Nicky Bailey has rolled his sleeves up already and Therry Racon and Jose Semedo look to be playing together with a new found confidence. I will go for us to get an extra goal and win 2-1, especially if Phil Parkinson can named an unchanged side.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Top of the League

I should be at the funeral of a Royal Oak and Valley regular today but Jury Service prevents me from attending, so Mrs Peeps will go in my stead. It won't prevent me from making the short trip to Leytonstone tomorrow to watch Charlton look to preserve their 100% start to the League One campaign.

What a difference it makes to be winning and sitting at the top end of the table. I scoured the fixtures calculating the 'what-ifs' yesterday and can see no reason why we can't hope to be sitting top a point or two clear come 5pm on Saturday. Just imagine, Phil Parkinson might hope to be lifting the Manager of the Month award and then I will be able to say "told you so." OK, so I'll have to eat my words and acknowledge the good luck of not being able to afford to sack him. Yes, it is ridiculously early in the season to be getting too excited and we do have a limited squad, particularly at centre-half and up front. However, Parky has acknowledged this and we have to live in hope that a couple of decent acquisitions here might give us the resilience we need to deal with the inevitable injuries.

There is every reason to believe we can get a third result at Leyton Orient tomorrow. They may have started with two away wins (including the League Cup), but they slipped to a home defeat to Oldham on Saturday and it was their home form that let them down last season when they lost an amazing 12 times.

With a loud and bouyant support of 3000, we will have half of the crowd and should be able to turn it into more of a home game. The players were desperate to impress at Victoria Park and I can see more of the same tomorrow night. Scott McGleish lurks as a potential nemesis, but we should go there with enough of a buzz to get a result. If we can do that, then Walsall at home looks like the perfect opportunity to cement our bright start and establish ourselves firmly at the top of League One.

Confidence should be sky-high at that point and we may get to see some of the things that go with it - players trying things they wouldn't ordinarily, long-range goals, referring decisions going in your favour and other sides showing you respect. All things I've nearly forgotten. In mentioning referrees, I ought to add that Mr Boyeson had a first-class game on Saturday. I can barely remember a referree who played advantage as well as he did and he got just about every decision correct. Who says they are all rubbish in the lower leagues?

The rapidly-becoming-farcical takeover could yet give us a shot in the arm although I suspect our bright start to the season isn't helping the deal go through as expectations on valuation may be shifting again. If it doesn't happen, we have to pray that the financial pressures on the existing Board don't lead to a forced sale of a key asset at New Year. It's not hard to envisage an offer we couldn't refuse for Nicky Bailey from a bigger club come the next transfer window.

In the meantime, let's enjoy the feel-good factor and hope we can wallow for a lot longer.

RIP Linda.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Hartlepool United 0 v Charlton Athletic 2

It's been 20 long months since we won back-to-back league matches in the same campaign, so it was a strange feeling to watch Charlton Athletic breeze past Hartlepool on a sunny day in the north-east yesterday to make it six points from six.

It really was a perfect day. A fairly straightforward run up the M1 got us to the ground shortly after 1pm and it was just a case of finding the other expectant Addicks who were drinking in a variety of working men's clubs that dot Victoria Park. A quick one in the quaint Corner Pin bar and then around the ground to Raglan Quoit Club where we met up with a dozen or so of the first train brigade who had arrived 11.15am. Beer at less than £2 a pint in the company of real football fans who made us welcome in their club which doubles as a snooker hall. No sign that the ancient game of quoits survives (a north-east favourite) other than some sepia photographs of a lost generation of members.

Into the ground then and there was a real atmosphere of a 30 year school reunion. I shan't name names here, but there were at least a dozen faces I used to see week-in week-out. The six hundred visiting fans spread out across the long low Rink End and awaited the action. The pitch was perfect and an unchanged league side of Elliot, Youga, Llera, Dailly, Richardson, Bailey, Semedo, Racon, Sam, Shelvey and Burton started the game.

Hartlepool had the first chance when Elliot was tested from 25 yards with a routine shot that he parried way. After that we settled quickly an began to take the game to the hosts. As hoped for, our midfield got a grip of the game and Semedo and Racon paired superbly in the middle. Lloyd Sam was playing inside offering a lot of support as Semedo held the centre allowing Racon to slide gracefully back and forth dictating the play. It really was good to see and our early pressure was rewarded after 24 minutes when the strong breeze held up a lofty goal-kick and put the Pools back-line under pressure. A fluffed back-header let Deon Burton in on goal and he produced an excellent lob from inside the box which beat ex-Palace keeper Flinders and took a big bounce before entering the goal behind which we were standing/sitting.

It was a perfect start and it got better several minutes later when a superb touch and go movement saw the Addicks work their way into the box and Therry Racon skipped to the line before clipping a delicious cross. The ball beat Flinders and all eyes moved to the far post where Nicholas Francis Bailey was arriving at speed. The roar of "goal" went up almost before he nodded firmly past the helpless Flinders. Unbridled joy and a real sense that the game had been won. Therry Racon had a shot cleared off the line before half-time as if to emphasise our control of the game.

Charlton went down a gear in the second half and Llera and Dailly saw more of the ball but it just served to show that we can defend as well as attack. Hartlepool huffed and puffed but it wasn't until late on that they had a real goal-scoring opportunity when Sweeney got on the end of decent move into the box but his snapshot from ten yards was brilliantly saved by Rob Elliot at the near post. Jon-Andre Freidriksen caught the eye for the home side but the result was beyond doubt and the home fans knew it. Time for a few fickle chants of "Parky, Parky give us a wave" before the final whistle and the happy trek back to the Smoke. One of the locals told me on the way back to the car that "you'll have no problem this season" adding that we'd come second - I should have asked him would come first, but I was pleased enough with the thought of second place.

Miguel Llera played the match with a bandaged head and his wound was clearly re-opened before the end which will be a concern with our lack of experienced cover. We managed to run the game from midfield without Jonjo Shelvey having a productive match and that's two on the spin for him. Hopefully this is just one of those things rather than any hangover to the big-money transfer rumours that have followed him all pre-season.

What we really need now is to take 3,000 supporters to a London derby and underline our intentions for this season by making it three wins in-a-row and installing ourselves at the top of the table. It is looking increasingly like we are getting off to the start we all prayed for and the all-important confidence is building. If we can beat the O's on Tuesday, we should get another decent crowd for the Walsall home game and might even establish a lead at the top of the table.

Up the Addicks!

Friday, 14 August 2009

Hartlepool away

Turning in soon so I am up fresh and ready for the four hour drive to the north-east. The Bismarck is full of diesel and I have removed the kids seats and swept it out for my three passengers. The prospect of eight hours (520 miles) on the road is not appealing and I am now doubting the wisdom of this trip.

Last minute nerves maybe after the confidence of last Saturday. Trying to rationalise this, we should have a full side out with Richardson, Llera, Dailly, Bailey, Sam, Racon back in a 4-5-1 which should also feature Jonjo Shelvey and either Semedo or Spring. My money would be on Deon Burton getting the lone striker role. Hartlepool were no great shakes last season but they have recruited six new players and have certainly started strongly with clean sheets in the league and the cup. I fancy they will be really up for this, their first home game. However, I have to believe we will get something although I'm going with a 1-1 draw. I'll take Charlton to equalise from midfield in the second-half.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Ritchie Humphreys

Remember him? A one time starlet at Sheffield Wednesday, he has been plying his trade at Hartlepool under Chris Turner since 2001. We are unlikely to face him on Saturday as the 32 year has been injured.

By coincidence, I was at Victoria Park when he made his debut against Mansfield Town. It was a one-off trip I thought at the time in order to do my 92nd league ground. Humphreys was the only player I knew playing for the Pools and I have to say he remains just that. I never envisaged making a trip for a league game less than ten years later.

The interesting thing about Humphreys is that he was dropped shortly after his debut to make way for a certain Gordon Watson, a former Sheffield Wednesday team-mate and, of course, Charlton hero and Charlton fan. Humphreys fought his way back into the side that season and ended up with a successful partnership with our Gordon. Shame we won't see him in a way.

Parky is rightfully acknowledging that we need a proven goalscorer and more strength in defence. Burton, Gray, Dickson, Fleetwood and McLeod - did you hear that? Your boss believes we need a proven goalscorer, although let us all hope we don't recruit Tresor Kandol as he is already a proven miss in the class of those we already employ. This lot need to deliver in the next three games. We can't afford misses like those at Hereford.

There is also talk of Zander Diamond being targetted from Aberdeen. As a long time Dons fan, yes please! He is very experienced for 24 and was once talked of in terms of the English Premier League. Aberdeen are desperate to slash their wage bill and Diamond would be affordable. He would also give us something we don't get with Christian Dailly - more than 12 or 18 months before he will be hanging up his boots.

Charlton til I die!

Promotion test in the next week

Hartlepool's impressive 1-0 win at Coventry last night and the O's 2-1 win at Colchester on Tuesday means that we will face two in-form sides away from home in the next week. The O's have won two away games in-a-row and Hartlepool have drawn at highly rated MK Dons as well as winning at Championship Coventry, keeping two clean sheets in the process.

Methinks we are going to need to get a stranglehold on midfield in both games if we are to avoid our first league defeat of the season. We also can't afford any profligacy in front of goal, certainly nothing like the chances spurned at Hereford.

At least we look like having 500 fans behind us on the long trip to Hartlepool and the largest away following in London for some time at Orient on Tuesday. Tickets sold for that one moved up to over 2200 with 750 being bought yesterday alone. With that level of interest we should sell the 3,000 we've been allocated and have a third of the crowd. It would be a perfect match to win if we can avoid defeat in the north-east on Saturday. Time for some of our players to remember that they are supposed to be better than this league and impose themselves in both games.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Candle in the wind

Scotland were thrashed four-nothing in Oslo tonight, a game I would have gone to if it wasn't for a commitment to Jury Service I could not defer again. Praise be for Jury Service. Our chances of joining England fans in 2010 as we re-enact battles against the Voortrekker's and the Zulu's of the last two hundred years now look extremely remore.

I have been following my home nation around Europe since the early 90's and after the highs of Euro 96 and France 98, not in my darkest nightmares did I ever think I would be limited in future to qualifiers for at least another 14 years. What makes matters worse is that the cycle of failure looks unbreakable from where we stand. Scottish league football is simply not competitive enough and the English Premier League (PL) is too competitive. Scots playing in Scotland aren't tested sufficiently week-in-week-out to develop into the best players and Scots playing in the PL are few in number and are usually bit-part players. I cannot see where the change will come from - there isn't the money in Scotland. We need to do something radical with our league structure to give our national side some advantage. Maybe we need to invest heavily in the nations best youngsters and promote a semi-permanent national squad with players spending much more time together than other international side? What I do know, is that if we continue like we are, I will see 60 before I get to spend another fortnight following Scotland in some finals.

I won't dwell on the match this evening because most of you won't be interested but Scotland's chances of getting a crucial result were blown away before half-time when the referree made a huge mistake and sent Gary Caudwell off for a second yellow in less than 60 seconds; it really was an innocuous challenge for the second booking. I can take a beating but ours invariably come with extra bad taste in the mouth (Charlton fans might understand this more than most.

I will be at Hampden next month to see us play the Dutch in the return but we now look like having to beat them for a chance of a play-off match for a chance of qualification. Like I say, candle in the wind.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Hereford United 1 v Charlton Athletic 0

A Charlton XI stepped out at Edgar Street this evening on a perfect Summer's evening showing eight changes from Saturday's starting eleven. Only Elliot, Semedo and Youga started both matches although Semedo and Youga were both played in different positions as they were paired in the centre of defence in the absence of the recovering Llera and Dailly. Chris Solly made his full first team debut at right back and Grant Basey slotted in on the left. Wagstaff, Stavrinou, Spring and Small made a new midfield with Saturday subs McLeod and Gray getting the starting berths up front.

The first half sounded an even enough contest with two good chances apiece. McLeod was well supported by Wagstaff, Gray and an over-lapping Basey and he managed a header straight at the keeper from a Basey cross and a shot on the run which was also straight at the Hereford stopper. In between these chances, the Bulls managed to hit the Charlton bar and a post through Marc Pugh and James McQuillan. Nothing much was heard of Wade Small although Basey appeared to be delivering most of the ammunition from the left which begged a few questions.

Not sure what's happening with the commentary but after rave reviews of improvements, it seemed just the same to me. Radio London (Digital) were doing it with Bradley Allan as guest commentator and I had the same odd buffering gaps as I have always had. That may be down to the inadequate Broadband speed on the edges of copper technology from the Greenwich exchange (I should reveal an interest here and tell you that Greenwich exchange will be upgraded to provide up to 20mbps speeds in March 2010 which may mean us on the limits in Charlton getting a perfectly acceptable 4 or 5mbps). Irrespective, commentary was lost at half-time after trying to go to Exeter for a QPR update. Instead I got a prolonged silence. My browser showed I was still connected but obviously I wasn't as I had to sign-out and re sign-in to belatedly pick-up the second-half commentary.

Hereford came out brightly but it was the Addicks who got the first break after 55 minutes. Andy Gray was adjudged to have been pulled down and got up to see his spot-kick saved to the keeper's right. Unacceptable for me and after McLeod's spot-kick miss at Bray, you really wonder if when and if things will ever improve for this two. Hereford picked up the mantle and began to take the match to us without really threatening to score until the last minute of normal time.

Nicky Bailey came on for the quiet Wade Small after 75 minutes. Not the debut he would have wanted but perhaps he's short of match fitness? Hereford's attacks began to dry-up as news of Palace, Millwall and QPR leads were fed into us. Stavrinou was booked for kicking the ball away. Stuart Fleetwood came on for McLeod with eight minutes left and he got put in on goal before the end of the 90 but fluffed his chance to win the game and he remains in the Duffer's Club with our other strikers.

A mistake from Solly let Hereford break in the last minute of normal time but Elliot pulled out a late save (a la Wycombe) to send the game into extra time and give the 300 Spartans who made the trip an even later bed-time.

The boredom of extra-time was broken as Hereford stole the ball from Gray, burst through and Jonny Godsmark converted the cross to take the lead at ten-to-ten. With tired legs and sagging heads, Deon Burton was thrown on for Wagstaff. A minute later he beat the keeper from a Bailey cross but his volley came off the post. Elliot had to pull off another good save to keep Charlton in with a sniff as the first period of extra-time finished. The last period was uneventful as tired bodies failed to string more than two passes together. Andy Gray completed another miserable appearance by missing another late header and Burton spurned a last gasp chance.

I said before today that I wouldn't have been at all concerned if we limped out of this competition tonight and we have done just that. The irony of the evening I suppose was a youngish team let down by an experienced front-line. It was a Charlton XI and we shouldn't beat ourselves up about it. However, Hereford were relegated last season from League One and had lost all of their previous seven competitive home games (stretching back to last season).

Saturday promises to be a real test at Hartlepool. Let's hope they field a strong side at Coventry tomorrow night and get their legs run off and well-beaten.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Small signing ahead of League Cup tie

One of the longest transfers in recent history was completed today when former Sheffield Wednesday left winger, Wade Small, finally signed on the dotted line and will go straight into contention for tomorrow's 1st round League Cup encounter at Hereford United.

Small is a free agent, so his signing only adds to the wage bill but the significance of his signing should not be underestimated. He's likely to have commanded decent League One wages at very least and he had sniffs from Leeds, Norwich and Palace during the last 12 months. I'm not sure he's someone we desperately need, particularly as Nicky Bailey and Jonjo Shelvey are still here, although Bailey is no out and out left winger. It also brings into prospect a more balanced 4-4-2 formation when we play it and that could suit Deon Burton and Andy Gray.

On the back of Llera, Richardson and Dailly this brings the new faces to four and Phil Parkinson has talked about more, which makes you wonder if funding at Board level is now clearer, with or without a takeover. Speaking of which, the latest rumours, fuelled by more Mail on Sunday "in-the-know" speculation this week is that there may be an announcement tomorrow that it's a done-deal.

I started Jury Service this week so won't be able to attend the game at Edgar Street, although I should be honest and say that wild Bulls couldn't drag me to a 1st round away League Cup tie. I will be testing the all new CAFC TV though....

Historic Valley Photo for sale

Anyone who drank in the now shut Valley Pub in Elliscombe Road can't fail to have noticed the impressive pieces of Charlton Athletic memorabilia. The pub sign was a classic to start with although it's rotting away out-of-reach (for now). The toilets also had glass portholes sporting engraved footballs and then there was that blown-up photograph taken in a bulging Valley as a Charlton player side-steps the visiting goalkeeper and looks about to score. You know, the one above.

The picture hung in an appropriate frame on the right-hand side wall in the main bar and measured c 6 x 4. That's feet, not inches. I always looked admiringly and sub-conciously checked the fixtures that secured it to the wall. It's a grainy image close-up but it's a striking picture from ten feet and not in bad condition for it's age although I have had to trim six inches off the bottom as it had been damaged since being out of it's frame (already excluded from this shot). My photograph of the picture shown here was taken from ten feet with the picture lying on the decking in my garden, hence the slight brown edging at the top and right of the shot! The picture is actually about four inches larger at the left-hand side which puts the action more in perspective, but I couldn't quite get the whole shot in frame despite attempts at cropping it. I have tried, but I still can't spot anyone in the crowd without a flat cap or a trilby.

Anyway, I have been asked to see what interest there might be as the current owner is keen to sell and would like to think that the picture might be bought by someone who could put it back on public display, although will sell for an appropriate price irrespective. Any offers gratefully received (if you drop me an email address, I will respond without notifying the world via the comments box at the bottom of this message).

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Charlton Athletic 3 v Wycombe Wanderers 2

First thing first, we got off to the winning start we desperately needed yesterday and there was a very impresive 16,552 fans there to see it - seven thousand of whom were prepared to pay on the day and the majority, who opted to sit outside the £17 Upper North, paid £25 for the privilege. Someone at the club who took the gamble on the season ticket and matchday pricing will be feeling rather smug today, although it will take winning football to keep those numbers returning at these prices.

The match itself was thoroughly entertaining even if we made it far harder for ourselves than it should have been and squandered a good opportunity to have increased our goal difference. As well as the five goals, there were at least a dozen other good scoring chances, a key injury, tactical managerial errors as well as a refereeing substition. Both sets of fans were in good voice and the 1000 strong Wycombe contingent made the game more reminiscent of the Championship.

To the action then and Charlton's starting eleven presented no surprises; Elliot, Youga, Llera, Dailly, Richardson, Bailey, Semedo, Racon, Shelvey, Sam and Burton. It took Charlton 15 minutes to get going during which time Wycombe had plenty of possession without making anything. Charlton's first real foray forward was a move in which Bailey fed the over-lapping Youga who cut into the box and past the first defender as he hared in on goal but his decision to shoot rather than cut the ball back was a poor one because he fluffed his shot embarrassing wide from six yards. Scott Shearer in the Chairboys goal then had his defence to thank for charging down several Charlton efforts before he too was called into action to tip a fierce Bailey 25 yarder low around his left upright.

On 21 minutes Charlton broke the deadlock when the mis-firing Jonjo Shelvey hit a long corner to the back of the box and Christian Dailly appeared highest and planted a downward header into the Wanderers net. The relief was palpable and a minute later Sam ran at Wycombe again on the right and put Richardson in onto the goal-line from where he picked out Nicky Bailey arriving in space and last season's top scorer opened his account with a flourish smashing the ball high into the net. Two-nil and it should have been game over. Lloyd Sam saw a dipping shot narrowly miss the post before he wasted a superb chance to kill the game by ballooning a shot from where Bailey had scored.

Wycombe looked dead and buried after 35 minutes but then Llera got a head injury that required stitches and we were forced play the half out with ten men. Semedo went to centre-back and Charlton played keep-ball. Wycombe were unable to up the ante and at this point and they looked a poor side. However, in typical Charlton fashion and on the stroke of half-time, Wycombe finally got a cross into the box to test the make-shift centre pairing and Zebroski rose unchallenged to head over Elliot for an undeserved goal that left the half-time scoreline flattering Peter Taylor's men.

Within five minutes of the re-start Charlton scored the third and my 3-1 match prediction looked safe. Lloyd Sam was upended after another dangerous run and Jonjo whipped in another cross from the free-kick. The Wycombe defence failed to clear as the ball came across the face of goal and Nicky Bailey and Miguel Angel Llera were waiting to pounce at the back-post. Both went for it but it was the leggy Llera who got the touch and didn't he look pleased with himself. The two-goal lead restored, surely now we would go on and finish the match?

After 75 minutes, Phil Parkinson decided it was time for fresh legs and the hard-working Burton and the dangerous Lloyd Sam were spared in favour of a shift of formation to 4-4-2 which was nearly our undoing. It didn't look like a risk to be honest. Wycombe hadn't threatened and looked beaten. In fact we nearly scored straight after the double change when substitutes McLeod and Gray combined to force a save from Shearer. After that however, Wycombe seemed to find the key to our midfield and with Semedo and Racon tiring, they took the game to us and a Zebroski scored a second goal after beating the off-side and slipping the ball under the despairing Elliot.

Suddenly it was panic stations and Wycombe seemed to create a goal-scoring chance every thirty seconds for the last ten minutes. The back four were all over the place lunging in for last-dicth tackles and blocking shots. There were three goal-line clearances and Elliot pulled off a wonder save when he somehow blocked a pile-driver from eight yards. Andy Gray should have scored in between times after a Racon lead breakout saw him round the keeper but his shot wasn't strong enough and a covering defender cleared under the bar. McLeod also saw a fierce drive tipped over by Shearer but Wycombe forced a succession of corners well into the four minutes of added time. Pitman and Oliver both missed clear heading chances before the fourth official called time having come on for the original ref before the finish.

As the Valley crowd left the stadium, the talk was of a thrilling match but how Charlton always make it difficult for themselves and how we will need to learn quickly if we are to make a fist of it this year. We were all reminded of just how bad it could have been with news that fellow new-boys Norwich City had been spanked 7-1 at home by little Colchester - ouch.

We are at Hereford on Tuesday where I expect we will play a largely second-string side to ensure key members of the team are rested and protected ahead of the important seond game at Hartlepool. The monkey-hangers got a creditable 0-0 at MK Dons yesterday, so it looks like we will be tested up there on Saturday. I have a ticket and just need to sort out some transport.

Charlton forever!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Unknown Pleasures

I'm playing with the kids this morning whilst Mrs Peeps takes a thoroughly deserved lie-in. Ok, so I'm tapping away and playing with the kids. We're all happy. Last night, with the children soundly asleep, we watched Control, the expectedly depressing film about the short life of Ian Curtis. It was worth it just to be reminded of how often I listened to Joy Division's first album during the season we were relegated last from the second tier and again when we returned in 1981.

I have dark Joy Division riffs running through my head and they will likely continue all day. They won't depress me, not today, for it is the first day of a brand new season. Probably not a new dawn, but certainly a new day. I will be heading to the Bookmakers at Midday to have a small wager before I saunter back to the Royal Oak to watch the appetizer, Southampton v Millwall. There was a thread on Charlton Life yesterday about who we wanted to win - you know, Pardew v Millwall. The answer for me is the result that benefits my club most - a draw. Millwall should be the benchmark for a top ten finish and Southampton will have money to spend and be benefitting from new owner syndrome, something we would all love to be feeling at the Valley. Both sides will probably want to avoid defeat as mcuh as anything, so I suspect the game will be drawn.

Then on to the main event and I am hoping 15,000+ will enter the Valley and roar the Addicks on to a winning start, played with some panache and determination and hopefully a few goals. A quick post match pint in the Oak and maybe a saunter down to the Anchor if it looks bright enough to sit outside. Home early evening for a curry with Mrs Peeps and a sound night's sleep in the knowledge that it's my turn for the lie-in tomorrow.

Bury me in red and white!

Friday, 7 August 2009

Nearly there

The slowest pre-season in history comes to an end tomorrow. Newly promoted Wycombe Wanderers will make the journey across the Smoke to the Valley tomorrow for what promises to be an intriguing first third tier match for the Addicks in 28 years.

I was anticipating a crowd of between 10,000 and 11,000 based upon 9,500 season tickets sales, 5-700 vistiing fans and matchday ticket sales of up to only a thousand based upon the relatively high prices of £25/£17 and the lack of changes anticipated at the end of last season. However, a thread on Charlton Life including those close to the ticket office believe the gate will be much closer to 15,000 which would be a significant boost to all involved and probably only bettered by Leeds, Norwich and Southampton in our division who are all at home tomorrow.

In a surprise move yesterday, Nicky Bailey was named as captain which would reinforce the view that the Board do not anticipate him being sold anytime soon. The players shirt numbers also throw up some surprises, with Andy Gray starting at 9 and Jon Fortune's previous number left blank for now - come on Jon, sign that contract and help us in what should be your testimonial season.

I am expecting a decent game of football tomorrow with Charlton attacking from the off. I believe it will be one of those games where the timing of the first goal will be decisive, especially if we get it. Wycombe's success last season was built on a sound defence but that was in League Two and we should expect to score tomorrow in our opening match of the campaign. If we go in at half-time with the lead I think we can win this game comfortably. It would be great to get a clean sheet for the new back four line-up which I fully expect will be Youga, Llera, Dailly and Richardson (Basey can expect to get on after 75 minutes if we are comfortble).

In spite of the 4-4-2 played at Bournemouth last week, I think Parky will go with a a more cautious 4-5-1 and play Jonjo in behind Burton or Gray, although expect both to feature at some point. That leaves a midfield that will largely pick itself, with Bailey, Racon, Sam and Semedo/Spring. We could move to 4-4-2 later in the game if we get a two goal lead or, indeed, if we end up chasing the game.

I'll go with 3-1, with Racon, Bailey and Shelvey all scoring to underline the potency of our engine-room this year.

As we all know, the win is vital to securing the all important good start and I only hope that it doesn't bring too much pressure for the players. I expect the crowd to be supportive although that could turn very quickly with a less than convincing display and don't be surprised if the wags get something going about the lack of a takeover.

Varney, where are you?

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Pathe News - Charlton Athletic

Fascinating article from our own Inspector Sands on the best local blog "853" this week. Pathe News clips from the last century showing events across the Borough of Greenwich. The link to the Pathe News site is just a search away from flickering images of Charlton's past...

Giants not Babes - Charlton's 1923 Valley home tie against West Bromwich Albion. The old West Stand was actually only a year old in this clip.

Charlton v Newcastle - 4-0 semi-final rout of the Geordie Nation at neutral Elland Road. Look at those rattles going!

Birmingham v Charlton - a 1934 league encounter at St Andrews captured by Match of the Day which set the tone for coverage of the Addick forever after - no more than 1 minute 30 seconds to be shown at the end of the programme.

Charlton Football Ground 1969 - Amazing first foray into community work to beat hooliganism! I love the fact that the football obviously wasn't enough of an attraction for the kids or mum's because they were provided with cartoons and bingo! The only ever camel and elephant at the Valley? (We've had plenty of donkeys).

Charlton v Leeds - 1937 - 40,000+ pack the Valley

Charlton v Arsenal - 1956 Cup tie - 70,000+ at the Valley and surging on the south terrace.

Millwall v Charlton - a 1938 local derby where Charlton have clearly taken the Halfway-Line. Just a shame we can't see the 500 visiting supporters caged in the Ilderton Road end!

Plenty more there and apologies if you have seen these before...

Robins forever!

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Bad Karma

Bad Karma - n. (Buddhism & Hinduism). sum of person's negative actions in one of his successive states of existence, viewed as deciding his fate for the the next destiny.

For me this best sums up the collective Palace view of Charlton Athletic and it's supporters following their unfortunate relegation from the Premier League on that magical Saturday at the Valley on 15th May 2005. Our braying that afternoon and demonic chanting to the tune of Amarillo was viewed in their mind as extremely bad karma and for that they promised us they would have the last laugh as fate took revenge on us. Simon Jordan summed it up with "what goes around comes around" as he left the Valley Boardroom red-faced with embarrassment and anger.

Absolute rubbish as far I am concerned. Simply a natural human fear about tempting fate. Life doesn't work like that or we would live in a world completely moderated by good and bad karma e.g. how could Joseph Stalin get away with killing 20m of his own people and why are we still stuck with Kelvin McKenzie as a "supporter?"

However, the Palace faithful were adamant; low and behold we were relegated two years later and not content with that, our bad karma in persisting with the Amarillo taunt has overseen the downward spiral into League One. So what was the reaction of Palace fans? Why they arrived at the Valley in January in fancy dress to celebrate our impending relegation and sang "who's laughing now?" They planned to fly an aeroplane over the Valley on the final day dragging a mocking banner. Some would say that this behaviour was itself likely to induce bad karma. Not me of course, because I don't believe in it.

Having said that, Eagles fans clearly do believe in bad karma and as a consequence they must now fear the gathering storm clouds knowing that their largest ego has had no option but to very grudgingly fork out £5m in order to pay the wage bill and keep the dreaded Administrator from the door. He had tried the British Airways cheap trick of trying to get key players to defer wage and bonus payments but was forced to shell out after they refused. Palace were a tip of mine for a relegation struggle this season and I see plenty more reasons to believe. Home defeats in pre-season to League One's Norwich and Gillingham was encouraging and knowing the players won't be enamoured about their payment prospects this year fill me with hope.

Palace have been losing money for several seasons since we sent them down and Jordan has been borrowing against the value of the club whilst trying to find another ego with more money than sense. His latest forced move would indicate the club is now worth nothing and is just building debt (even if it is "friendly" debt). By his own admission, he made the loan because the banks won't help them. My hunch would be that this might have been a final contribution from Simes, whose personal fortune has taken a pasting in the recession, and who is long-tired of his plaything. I would hazard a guess that £5m might shore Palace up until the New Year when he might need the real threat of the Administrator to force someone else out into the open to takeover the ongoing debt. At best he might flog a couple of their young prospects but the future looks grim for Jordan and Palace.

In the meantime, I shall wallow in their misfortune and celebrate every set-back safe in the knowledge that their fans fully expect it. If we can turn the corner this season there is every prospect of the natural order of things being restored, something I fully believe in.

3 days to go...

And still no news takeover news. The initial Supporters Trust meeting went ahead last night and although the notes won't be out until later today, it looks like there is the expected enthusiasm to proceed and a date for Round 2 has been agreed for 15th or 17th September (to be confirmed). As long as there are people willing to take on the roles required, this can only fail if there is a lack of support from the massed ranks and that looks unlikely with things as they are.

Wyn Grant seized on a piece in The London Paper yesterday which alluded to the fact that Parky has still not been confirmed in his position and is still working to his contract "which expires at the end of the Summer." The announcement last week of Tim Breacker's appointment and confirmation of extensions and roles for Mark Kinsella, Damian Matthews and Phil Chapple seemed to have secured the management team, especially with Parkinson being quoted as having championed the cause for Breacker's appointment. Strange then that Parky's own position was not clarified at the same time. Maybe it's just timing and negotiations on his contract are scheduled? Parkinson himself referred to it as a "delicate situation" which raises eyebrows bearing in mind the widely-held view that he is being tolerated on financial grounds. He has also been brave and realistic enough to acknowledge that the squad is light in places and that more players are required which sounds a little like getting your retaliation in first to me. Pardew refused to do that last pre-season when it was obviosu that the squad had been weakened during the close season. In fact he was bold enough (or stupid) to claim that he still had the resources to get the club promoted.

I was firmly in the "out" camp at Christmas after his trial failure, but I feel he has been treated extremely poorly since May and would not hold it against him now if he was given another go. If this happens, I hope the Board (whichever one it turns out to be) have the balls to make it a season-long deal and not mess about with deadlines and conditions which they might not have the funds to enforce.

In any event, Parky must feel enormously undermined having been left in Limbo all Summer, especially so if he has watched those around him re-confirmed in their jobs without assurances about his own role. Richard Murray is too big a man to have frozen him out like this, so you'd have to expect that Parky has been reassured privately and that his contract will be extended in due course. If not, it's hard to see how the side could be expected to function optimally with a damaged and insecure manager.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Tuesday 4th August 2009

With the new season upon us and some optimism on the playing front at last, this week represents the best remaining opportunity for any takeover to be announced. It would almost certainly lead to a desperately needed surge in ticket and merchandising sales and a statement of clear new broom intent would go a long way to giving the playing squad a much needed fillip. It would also give the long-sufferng supporters something to cheer and some cause to believe we might finally have turned the corner.

The comments from the Board about the unhelpful timing of any possible supporter protests indicated that a possible resolution could be close. I also thought that the decision to play Andy Gray on Saturday was not insignificant; a fee of £600,000 and terms have apparently been agreed, so it would appear that we have had a change of heart. A statement from Barnsley's Simon Davey yesterday alluded to the fact that the deal was slipping away and that they were "frustrated to be on other people's timescales."That sort of money is not something we could reject lightly in the present circumstances and dependent takeover negotiations are the only reason I can see why this deal would not have gone through. I'm not saying that I think Gray himself is necessarily key to anyone's plans at the moment but his actual transfer could be part of a bigger deal hence the comment about timings.

I know there have been too many false dawns already on this takeover but there must be pressure to conclude it ahead of the first game of the season. If it doesn't happen, the Board will be under pressure to update us ahead of the programme notes on Saturday.

One certain bit of good news yesterday was the announcement that we are one of the sides given a bye into the second round of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy. This is the cup competition for League One and Two sides that gives you a realistic chance of appearing at Wembley. Obviously I have dismissed this cup competitionin the past but now believe it's a splendid idea and much more relevant that the micky mouse League Cup or a third round appearance in the F A Cup. Four games from Wembley?

Finally, for the Royal Oak matchday regulars, I have good news. The pub duly re-opened as planned yesterday. It has been given a much needed spring clean and some obvious improvements. Three televisions have been put up, working on independent Sky boxes; pot plants (albeit plastic ones) and fresh flowers abound; all of the beer is available, including two real ales; a range of snacks are on sale and there is the promise of sandwiches and then hot food. The new landlady is young and has plans. She has plenty of experience in the business and is looking forward to a long stint in charge, which I think means that they have an option on the lease.

Charlton 'til I die!

Monday, 3 August 2009

6 Days to go - the season ahead

I don't know about you, but I am beginning to get very excited about the new season and can't wait until Saturday. The performance and spirit shown at Bournemouth has given me a confidence boost, a view shared by the web's best-travelled blogger, whom I had the pleasure of watching the game with. For whatever reason, our midfield has remained intact during the desperate financial struggle of the Summer and it looks like we will kick off with an engine-room that can dominate League One.

It would appear that the possible takeover might be responsible for us hanging on to our most valuable players (Shelvey, Bailey, Racon and Sam), so we have to hope and pray that the club moves into new hands or else we might yet have the disappointment of losing key players during the season which would be as potentially disastrous as when Rob Lee, Scott Parker and Colin Powell moved on in years gone by.

The Times carried a brief piece yesterday saying that Jonjo Shelvey had turned down a £3.25m move to Chelsea because he doesn't believe it would be good for his development. That initial sentence filled me with hope, but it then went on to say he would like a move to West Ham instead but that they didn't have the money. This sounds like a definite case of when rather than if. That sort of fee, of course, could be crucial to our survival in the months ahead.

To the big day then, and I am as confident as I can be that we will collect three points from Wycombe Wanderers and should score a few goals in the process. The Chairboys have a mounting injury list if boss Peter Taylor is to be believed and they went down 3-1 at Bristol City at the weekend. A similar scoreline on Saturday for would do very nicely. We owe Wycombe for the embarrassing cup defeat inflicted on us at the Valley in recent seasons and it would also be good to remind Peter Taylor that Charlton are a much better club than he obviously thought when he turned us down prior to the appointment of the Rocket Scientist.

At this point, I would normally make a lot of inaccurate predictions about the season ahead but I am afraid I know very little about the teams we will play, so think it best I reserve judgement until we get into it. My earlier view was that we would struggle and this was based upon assumptions that Bailey and Shelvey would be gone by now and the damage that would inevitably have done to fragile morale to boot. The fact that they look like featuring on the opening day has instilled more confidence for the season. Much will depend on how long they remain with us and whether or not we can build confidence with a strong start. Completion of the takeover would be an enormous boost and might mean we can hang on to them for longer and perhaps, bring in proven goal-scorer.

In the circumstances, therefore, I am going to go with a decent start. I believe we can win our first two home games against Wycombe and Walsall and remain unbeaten at Hartlepool and Orient. It would be good to avoid defeat at Hereford too, but losing there and exiting the League Cup early wouldn't be the end of the world, especially if we put out a young side.

I have family down from Scotland visiting tomorrow so will have to do my duty but hope to be free to attend the Supporters Trust meeting at the Conservative Club in the evening. Whilst we have had some communication from the club in the intervening weeks since the idea of a ST was first mooted, I think we need to press ahead with this idea, if only for our own piece of mind. The road ahead still looks dark and potentially dangerous for our Club and it would be as well for the supporters to be prepared for the worst as that's where we have been heading for quite some time.

Up the Addicks!

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Bouremouth 1 v Charlton Athletic 2

A day of disappointing drizzle on the south coast yesterday but it couldn't dampen an impressive pre-season display by a close-to-full-strength Charlton side. Rob Elliot played in goal with Youga, Llera, Dailly and Richardson in front of him. The four man midfield of Bailey, Racon, Spring and Sam supported the surprise two-man attack in the shape of Izale McLeod and Andy Gray, both of whom were expected to move on to pastures new last week.

The first half was played pretty much in the Bouremouth half with the back four able to play a high line and were rarely troubled by Bournemouth break-outs. It really was a solid midfield display as Charlton played around Bournemouth for large periods probing for openings. Lloyd Sam continued his fine recent form on the right and created the first goal-scoring opportunity when presenting Matthew Spring with a chance which he pushed wide. Bailey then smacked the crossbar before the inevitable goal came after 20 minutes. A Racon shot from a blocked free-kick took a big deflection to beat the Cherries keeper Jalal.

Charlton should have added to their half-time tally and did have a McLeod goal ruled out for offside, but it was the home team who surprisingly drew level having been awarded a very generous penalty on the stroke of half-time. Racon appeared to cover his face from a close range shot but his instinctive act was judged deliberate and Bournemouth coverted the spot-kick.

The Addicks responded strongly after the break and Racon, Gray and Shelvey (on for Spring) all had chances before Therry Racon scored from close range after excellent work by Shelvey and McLeod. The game should have been wrapped up as the Addicks continued to dominate play but a succession of chances were missed; Racon hit the bar, Lloyd Sam had a good shot well saved. Deon Burton had replaced Andy Gray and Basey got on for Nicky Bailey. Bournemouth managed a couple of headers from their towering centre-forward but both were dealt with by Rob Elliot. The old-stager, Sammy Igoe, also had the audacity to thunder a shot off the underside of Elliot's bar before the end as the Cherries posted another warning that the scoreline wasn't as decisive as the domination of possession had been.

Chris Solly came on before the end for McLeod but was cut down in his first tackle by a knee-high challenge, the only dirty piece of play in the 90 minutes. Solly was stretchered off but he was sitting up and I'd like to think that it was a precautionary step and that he will be fit to play again shortly. Yado Mambo got a minute before the end in a move which confirms to me that he will be played this season in the absence of signing another centre-half.

There were 400 or so Addicts at the game in a crowd of1845. Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe decribed the Charlton performance as "excellent" and went on to say we had given them their toughest match of the pre-season.

At the moment, it's our lack of a first-choice striker or even striking combination that is the biggest concern for the season ahead. The choice of Gray and McLeod was a puzzle yesterday. You have to assume that perhaps Gray's transfer to Barnsley is off for him to have been played and that he is now back in contention for the Wycombe game. McLeod too was supposed to be on his way to Hearts but was also risked yesterday. The fact that both started doesn't say a lot for Burton, Dickson or Fleetwood. Burton did at least get most of the second -half but Dickson and Fleetwood were nowhere to be seen.

My bet is that Dickson will be sold this week to Gillingham. He hasn't really been fancied by Pardew or Parkinson and despite being a favourite of the fans, he hasn't scored the goals that he has managed away from the Valley on loan. He also needs to be playing regular first team football if he is to fulfil his ambition of playing in the African Nations Cup in January, and I suspect Gillingham will give him that opportunity.

Bring on the Chairboys!