Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Rumour Mill right

The latest signings are confirmation of weeks and months of speculation surrounding Dale Stephens and Danny Green. Both in their early twenties and both midfielders. The evidence from our Summer signings so far is that we may be building for the future as much as putting together a side that is expected to win promotion this season. If that proves to be the case, then the back-room acquisition of Paul Hart assumes more significance.

The other thing to say about these signings, is that we appear to be paying going-rate fees for promising League One players of c £300-400,000. On that basis alone, I am expecting Hollands, Stephens and Green to see a lot of action this season.

Welling is looking like a must for me now (if it wasn't anyway) so I that I can get my first glimpse of the emerging team. 

Monday, 27 June 2011

Nevis conquered

I have just managed to negotiate the stairs from my bedroom - tin-legged. My quads are aching but the pain from them is masked by that in my calf muscles which feel like they have each been beaten a dozen times with a large stick. I suppose that is to be expected if I am honest. In spite of the regular long distance cycling I manage, Ben Nevis hammers both the "up" and the "down" muscles. 

It was a successful trip. We drove up in eight hours on Friday and arrived in Fort William in sunshine and established base camp in our caravans at the foot of The Ben. After a walk around Fort William for last minute provisions, we managed a few pints and an early dinner in the Ben Nevis Inn (thanks Ray H). 

The seven of us started early on Saturday in pleasant sunshine, although our start was unexpectedly difficult. Our camp site was a little further up Glen Nevis than the official start (by the YHA) and it had it's own steep half-a-mile path to join the main route. That strung us out a little and we quickly found our places amongst the surprisingly large number of walkers. I was expecting hundreds but there were thousands. The first half of the walk snakes around an unpronounceable mountain next to Ben Nevis and takes you to a flat area with a mountain tarn before you reverse your direction and zig-zag up Ben Nevis itself. You lose the grass and greenery half-way up Ben Nevis and the walking on grey rock and scree becomes harder as the temperature drops, the wind picks-up and you enter the cloud. At this point it was necessary to don the waterproofs and zip-up as the moisture in the atmosphere lashed you. 

After about thirty minutes of this I was amazed to see a brilliant whiteness looming out of the grey with the odd name picked out in black stones. It took me a few seconds to realise that this was snow and ice. Just after the longest day and snow and ice still on 25th June! The top wasn't far off and Mrs peeps and I were both pleased to see it. The walk up certainly wasn't the "country ramble" a work colleague had told me to expect and the walk down was, well, painful.

We were first down amongst our party and the pain gave way to relief and elation. A hot shower and cold champagne cheered the mood and we enjoyed a surprisingly good meal in the Cafe Beag on our site. 

Yesterday morning saw the Glen shrouded in mist and Ben Nevis wasn't visible. We thanked our good fortune not to be walking up in this and set-off for home. It was slow run back through Scotland due to the rain and conditions and it took us ten hours (via Cambridge). The temperature climbed fifteen and half degrees celsius from Fort William to London! I am pleased I have done it and would recommend it - a great weekend, especially if shared with friends.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Mikel Alonso joins

Xabi's 31 year old brother has joined us from Tenerfie. He goes into a currently congested midfield which will presumably be unburdened of Jose Semedo before much longer. Alonso may bring a bring of glamour to the current squad but he has managed less than 200 league appearances during his career and appears to have struggled to stay in favour anywhere.

He is another signing that I am not familiar with and another that looks short of expectations. I get the distinct impression that there may be short-termism about many of the signings being made and that we are again trying to throw a double-six to get out of this division on the fly. I guess we should look to the example Brighton set last season but I would feel a lot happier and be more confident if we were spending appropriate sums of money in securing players with proven track records. Having said that, I don't want us spending money we don't have and perhaps the truth of it.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Farewell Racon, hello Hayes and Evina

The long anticipated departure of Thierry Racon came to pass today, several hours after a text from a mate who knew he was at the Toolbox earlier today to complete the deal. I wish him well but suspect the fans he lauded today may soon be expressing their disappointment unless he can show much more consistency than he managed at the Valley. Describing Millwall as "a big club," may just be a footballers cliche but won't escape the notice of Addicks who know better.

On a more positive note, we have completed the signing of Paul Hayes and Cedric Evina today. Hayes was supposedly a late target of Millwall but his track record isn't exactly awe-inspiring. Still, I respect the managers viewpoint and will judge him based on what I see. Ex-Arsenal youngster, Evina, has signed for two years from Oldham. He describes himself as a left-back which makes you wonder if Kelly Youga is to be written off. In terms of judging these signings on the basis of improving our squad and being players evidently capable of playing at Championship level, I have to say they are short of the Hollands standard on face value and certainly not in the "exciting" category we have been lead to believe were in the pipeline. Maybe they will be next up?

Ben Nevis

A conversation with several friends last year lead to the acknowledgement that none of us had scaled the heights of Ben Nevis (I was up there as a kid but we drove half-way up and that doesn't count). As Scots this seemed something that needed addressing and this weekend we are planning on tackling that. 

Four of us Scots, three friends from Bexleyheath and Mrs Peeps will make our way up to Glen Nevis on Friday to establish base camp and the assault, irrespective of the weather, will begin on Saturday morning. None of us are serious walkers so we have been having amateur conversations about what we should take and what we should wear. I have a pair of modern walking shoes which I bought because they were a bargain, but am leaning towards a pair of trusty Timberlands. Jeans are a no-no for the regular walker but I don't have anything better or anything from Rohan or Blacks. A Charlton shirt is out so I will have to think of another way to weave the Addicks into the walk. I am busy making a list so we aren't hopelessly unprepared and possible candidates for an episode of next year's Highland Rescue. 

Glen Nevis skirts the mountain at sea-level and is a short distance from Fort William. It's largely a camp site, so my other big challenge is finding somewhere decent to eat after the event when Mrs Peeps estimates that we will have 3-4000 calories to replace. Fort Williams is a bit of a one-horse town and I have stayed there a couple of times before and had two memorably forgettable meals. It is also chronically short of decent pubs. Beer, of course, is the perfect isotonic drink to combat physical exhaustion and that heavy refreshment invariably leads to a curry. The best and worst British curry houses I have ever been in are both in Scotland. Unfortunately, the best is in Aberdeen and  the worst in Fort William, so I have a challenge on my hands to find somewhere else that will be acceptable to everyone. Any suggestions for our table of eight would be most welcome.

Now where is that emergency blanket and those distress flares....

Friday, 17 June 2011

Even the fixtures look boring...

Earlier this week I got a bit of a buzz about the new fixtures coming out today. After the drudge of last season, maybe this would be the start of some prolonged good news? Then they were out and what a let-down.

Largely a repeat of last year. Not a single stand-out fixture for me and it was even hard trying to remember which sides had come down from the Championship. Oh yes, Preston, Sheffield United and Scunthorpe. The blood's hardly pumping. In fact, the fixtures make the League Cup home draw against Reading look like a much better match than it is.

July is in sight and apart from the decent signing of Danny Hollands and links to a host of average journeymen, there hasn't been a whole lot of shaking going on. I have made my point concerning Paul Hart known and my view hasn't changed one iota since reading New York Addick's thoughtful piece about how the club might be being run. I am guessing the mysterious "funder" NYA refers to is likely to be less of a surprise should we ever find out and, as he tells us, it probably doesn't matter anyway providing he's putting in some cash. The concern is, that if he's in this for a profit, we are likely to be up Shit Creek without a paddle if we can't break the downward spiral pretty soon.

My season ticket purchases can wait for now.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Jenkinson looking cheap

Most Charlton fans were surprised to learn that mighty Arsenal were making moves for Carl Jenkinson. They were also pleasantly pleased to learn that they were prepared to pay "£1m" for him. After all, this was a 19 year-old who was being kept out of the side by an erratic Simon Francis and who was quickly dropped by Phil Parkinson after an impressive Brentford debut. He only made eight appearances but would have retained his place under Powell had it not been for the Arsenal contact.

Transfer news in recent weeks concerning English players (Jenkinson qualifies for Finland) moving to the top clubs has been dominated by relatively obscure players moving for huge sums of money. It started before the end of the season with Andy Carroll's eye-watering £35m move to Liverpool. Carroll may have made 80 appearances for the Toon and netted 30 goals but he is only two years older than Jenkinson and my view was Liverpool paid way over the odds simply because they were awash with £50m from the Torres deal and were desperate to appease their disgruntled supporters. 

If it's a tad harsh describing Carroll as relatively obscure, perhaps Jordan Henderson fits the bill better? In recent weeks, Jordan Henderson has moved to Liverpool for £20m. This a 21 year-old with 71 appearances and four goals for Sunderland. 

Eighteen year-old Connor Wickham is also being lined-up for a "£12m" move from Ipswich with Norwich and Liverpool reportedly interested. As a striker, Connor has netted 13 goals in 65 appearances in the Championship.

Oh yes and this week it's Phil Jones. Phil is a 19 year old defender with Blackburn who has managed 35 appearances. He's being touted for Man United for a bargain £16m. 

Smaller clubs like us need to look and learn. We need to be prepared to tie our youngsters in better and to hold onto them for a bit longer so they can make the requisite number of appearances to ratchet up the interest and the price. This has long been the case but the silly money being thrown around now makes that even more relevant today.

I noticed too whilst checking the facts here that a number of these players are being justified as the next someone or other e.g. Connor Wickham is apparently the "next Alan Shearer" and Jordan Henderson the "best young footballer in Britain." Perhaps that was the justification for their inflated transfer fees? Only I then read that Carl Jenkinson is "the next Tony Adams." 

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Passionate Paul

Paul Hart as been speaking about his youth coaching role at Sparrows Lane and he was nearly word perfect in terms of the importance of his role and his need to work closely with the manager. He was keen to point out that he has worked successfully as a number two previously with Harry Redknapp, Dave Bassett and Howard Wilkinson and that is a matter of record, as is his track record of developing successful youth sides. 

However, I think Paul is being a little disingenuous when he spoke about having got into management in 2007 at Portsmouth "as a quirk of fate." Paul is obviously playing down his managerial record as he managed four clubs prior to taking on the back room role at Pompey.

My money is firmly on Paul Hart becoming our manager during the coming season I'm not saying that will be a good or a bad thing necessarily but it looks inevitable unless Chris Powell gets us off to a flyer.

Loyal Martinez

Alone in the car yesterday returning from Cambridge, I found myself loudly cheering the news that Roberto Martinez has turned down the opportunity to manage Aston Villa in preference to honouring his contract at Wigan. So, Aston Villa may not be one of the Big Six and unlikely to be threatening any time soon, but they may as well when considered to tiny Wigan. 

Martinez's decision comes at a time when it is fast becoming the norm for managers to resign their posts the minute a better job becomes vacant and they are "linked." These people are all well-off and many are multi-millionaires already from their playing days but greed and an overwhelming inability to delay personal gratification is shaming the game. If you look at the connection between success and managerial tenure, it's amazing that so many of these blokes are so fickle, but then all they want is more now. Mark Hughes, I am thinking of you. You are fast becoming the younger Steve Bruce or Mark McGhee when they swallowed all the publicity about how good they were and reneged on contract after contract as they attempted to shun the greasy pole.

So, three cheers for Martinez and what a great example to set for Hughes who left Fulham in the lurch so that he would be easily available for the massive Villa. I am sure Martinez will get his big chance and when it comes he will have earned it and will likely do a better job of it. Good on you Roberto.  

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Paul Hart - Academy Director?

Very strange appointment in the last 24 hours of Paul Hart as Academy Director. Paul Hart has a long and varied managerial career behind him and and I could never have imagined him at the Valley and certainly not in a back room role. I'm guessing he wouldn't be a cheap appointment and with Jeff Vetere also taking a rake-off as Director of Football, our new Board aren't shy at employing backroom staff. Chris Powell will be relieved to know we have an experienced manager on the firm if things get sticky before Christmas.

Rumour has it we have also bid £300,000 for Cherries left back Rhoys Wiggins. Maybe there is more cash available to Messrs Slater and Jiminez than we have given credit for of late.

The World passes Charlton by...

Yes, shortly after 2pm today The World slid past SE7 en route to her four day berth at Greenwich.
The World is the largest privately owned ship on Earth and contains 165 permanent residences. She is 644 feet long and has 12 decks. Studio apartments were going for £400,000 last year and the running cost is a mere £14,000 per month.

Apparently, every apartment comes with internet access. What, for just £14,000 a month? There must be some very strange people aboard this ship, although it looked like there were only half a dozen people home as it slid up the Thames.