Saturday, 30 June 2012

Greenwich Peninsula Cable Car

Thought I had better get off my backside and "do" something before I wallow on the sofa and exchange texts with my pal in Cyprus as Andy Murray sees off the challenge of Marcos Baghdatis. Only one thing for it then - a trip down to the newly opened Greenwich Peninsula Cable Car.
There and back in a couple of hours, the shortest part of course, was the crossing. It takes between 10 and 15 minutes outside of rush hour, although you do have to wonder who they think they are kidding if they will need to run the system faster before 10am and after 3pm.

The whole thing looks very impressive from the river-walk down from the Barrier. The structure is elegant and the cars are perfectly spaced and move at a very comfortable speed for watching. 

The whole site is completed, which was good to see with freshly laid grass and everything tidy and sparkling. The cars look like they could take ten, although most had four, six or eight loaded in. There was a lone passenger from the "other side" in ours when we got in and he happily told us he was on his fourth go around but had seen enough and was "off to the Fox."

I have to say it's a good ride and you can see everything you would expect to, although nothing was as close as I thought, if that makes sense. The Dome is near-by as you exit from Greenwich but it's still a way off and whilst you can see the new walkway and viewing platform over the roof, it's not close enough to be able to take a good picture with a camera-phone. Likewise the Olympic Stadium, the Anish Kapoor structure etc. Even the Valley isn't done any real justice although the white and red-spotted building on Woolwich Common for the shooting stands out.

Friday, 29 June 2012

All Med final

I missed the match last night due to a work commitment, so am not going to comment beyond the fact that I hope we get a much better game on Sunday evening than Spain and Italy managed in the group stage.

Germany's exit will have punctured a load of bets as well as their own burgeoning egos. I am praying that Bad-Boy Ballotelli won't be ramming a European winners medal in our faces come Sunday evening. Time for one more supreme passing display from Iniesta and company.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Euro's petering out

First semi last night and what a disappointment! The world's best side looked unusually nervous against neighbours Portugal and the passing fluency we have become accustomed to took an hour to reveal itself. 

Nani, Ronaldo and co had a number of opportunities to have broken the deadlock after a succession of quick breaks but all were wasted as they shots flashed from distance over the Spanish bar. In fact, I think there was only one effort on target in the entire 90 minutes.

In added time Spain upped the ante and Iniesta was denied by a superb one handed diving save from Rui Patricio who had an excellent match in the Portugese goal.In fact, Rui Patricio saved the first Spanish penalty after added time to put Portugal in the driving seat but Casillas matched his feat and after Bruno Alves struck the bar, it was left to Cesc Fabregas to squeeze one in off the post for 4-2.

Germany v Italy this evening and we can hope for a better game. We certainly need it if these championships aren't to fizzle out at the sharp end.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Rangers to pay the penalty

Football fans in Britain have grown accustomed to clubs pleading poverty and going to the wire in terms of liquidation before being rescued by the local sausage factory owner or an consortium of dubious characters. In recent years, "administration" has been the game whereby clubs have been able to write-down huge debts invariably acquired through living beyond their means to compete. All the while, us fans have wondered when a big club would finally fall so foul of these processes that it was beyond redemption and would, effectively, disappear.

We can all reel them off, especially those who have entered administration and survived relatively intact. There had been the satisfaction of a ten point penalty and some have suffered the fate more than once. Luton lost their place in the league and most suffer relegation but there are those, like Palace, who cling on by the skin of their teeth and the uncomfortable example of Southampton who have positively thrived and are now back in the top flight and throwing money around once again.

Finally, we now have Glasgow Rangers who look set to break the mould. Their insolvency has been truly astonishing. David Murray bank-rolled the club for what seemed like ever but somehow managed to "sell" it on to a Craig Whyte, a bloke who appears to have been nothing more than a confidence trickster. Whyte looks like he managed to buy Rangers by leveraging the future income from season-ticket holders to "buy" the club for £27m without actually putting his hand in his pocket. The Serious Fraud Squad have been called in this week and if this turns out to be the case, Mr Whyte will end up in Barlinnie prison where he will find it much harder to avoid raging Rangers fans than hiding out in Monaco.

Worse news too for would be re-starters of the Rangers Football Club. The other SPL clubs look very likely to vote against allowing a resurrected RFC to continued in the SPL. It looks like a question of integrity for most and they will forego revenues from Rangers matches in order for them to begin where newly formed clubs should - at the bottom. 

"Club 12" have other problems too. It's not at all clear where they will play their matches. The liquidator affectively owns their Ibrox stadium and whilst Rangers look like the best-fit to lease the ground, who is to say that redevelopment wouldn't be a more attractive proposition? 

We should all look forward to the rules of club ownership being tightened as well as the consequences for living beyond your means and knocking creditors. Never will "the fit and proper persons" ruling be called in question more closely than in the case of Craig Whyte.  David Murray tried to sell the club on for a long time before finding Whyte and you have to wonder if he did proper due diligence on his buyer? 

Their are parallels, of course, with Richard Murray's sale of Charlton to the Mysterons. Richard was confident of his decision and I still have confidence in his judgement in spite of the ongoing intrigue surrounding Jiminez and Slater. Latest unfounded gossip and rumour suggests there is no money and our immediate future may once again be in jeopardy. Conspiracy theorists and the more desperate amongst us point at the fact that we haven't made any Championship signings yet. Blimey! The European Championships are still on, it's June, the players haven't even returned to their clubs yet and the transfer window doesn't open until 1st July. 

The early transfer activity in SE7 should settle the nerves, unless of course, we cash in on some of our assets.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Germany v Southern Europe

That's the semi-final line-up after Italy won through on penalties against battling England.

The Italians should have been spared the lottery of penalties after dominating the second-half but they couldn't quite manage a decent strike on goal. They fluffed chance after chance as Terry, Lescott, Johnson and Cole fought with every inch of their being to remain on level terms and Joe Hart stood tall in goal.

Hart looked very confident for the penalties but he pretty much guessed wrong every time. Why is it in shoot-outs that the side who misses first so often go on to win? Pirlo, who ran the game, scored with an Di Canio-esque penalty which was amazing to witness. I have to ask why goalkeepers always seem to go left or right. Standing upright would pay dividends more often than either side. Hart could have caught Pirlo's last night if he wasn't still moving towards his right-hand post and even a fiercely struck shot has more chance of being saved if it's straight at the keeper. 

Roy Hodgson's dream is over but he has won over a sceptical public and, for now at least, can walk tall. The FA Mandarins will be breathing more easily.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Spanish step forward

Disappointingly easy game for Spain last night as they walked through to the semi-finals without really breaking sweat. They swarmed all over the French in the opening twenty minutes before scoring the first goal of the game courtesy of  good break down the left, a deep back-post cross to the advancing Alonso who headed home. 

After that, Ribery-apart, the homesick French could only manage two efforts on target that I can remember. Laurent Blanc stood impassively on the touchline fingering that ridiculous little bottom lip beard, presumably wondering what excuses he would be making to the national press. He was let down by a team that really didn't look interested. Perhaps that only reflected interest in France about the fixture? There were pitifully few French fans present at the game - the Beeb quoted 800 officially - and there were plenty of empty seats, so presumably the tickets were available at next to face value?

The Spanish pretty much killed the game after that but continued to break and should have had a second goal long before the final minutes when Alonso smashed home from the spot following a tame penalty decision.

Six thousand England fans will be present this evening in Kiev and I expect at least double that for the semi-final in Warsaw if England can make it past Italy.With Wimbledon starting on Monday and the Olympics looming, all we are missing is some sunshine. It poured again all night in SE7 and I again wake to leaden skies and a garden full of bloody snails. I have launched another twenty into orbit this morning but, like the Red Army, I know they will be replaced tomorrow.

Finally, it was depressing to learn yesterday of the premature death of Alan McDonald, a man born in the same year as me (1963). The former QPR and Northern Ireland captain collapsed and died playing a round of golf at home in Belfast. McDonald made his league debut for the Addicks whilst waiting to break into the QPR side and, for nine games at least, we saw the promise of a formidable centre-half who duly fulfilled that in course due. 

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Germany in the semi's

We had company last night and were so engrossed in conversation that it took a call from Cyprus to remind us that the big game was well underway and that Greece had equalised; the locals were ecstatic. The Bravia was fired up just in time to see the Germans netting a second and within minutes it was all over as the lead was extended. 

Germany and Portugal are through to the semis and this evening it's the Spanish versus their northern neighbours from over the Pyrenees. The Spanish are the best side in the world for me and I expect them to step up like the Germans and play their way through to the last four and an all-Iberian encounter with the Portugeezers.

Absenteeism could be a nice problem on Monday morning, especially if England can find their way past Italy tomorrow evening. I will not be going out but the drinking plans of many are worryingly early and their could be some monster hangovers, come what may.

Like the rest of you, I suspect, the story that Sir Peter Varney is stepping down from the Board a year earlier than he intended does not sound like good news to me. The rationale that he has made this choice following promotion a year earlier than possibly envisaged seems odd too. There has been no comment from Peter which you might have expected in order to qualify this decision if he was entirely happy with it. That could just be timing but it could be because he is being deliberately tight-lipped. 

Bottom line here, as everything with  the current Board, is that the proof will be in the eating. Actions in the coming two months should tell us whether we have substantial and secure backing or, as many believe, that Mssrs Slater and Jimenez are flying by the seat of their pants and plate-spinning. 

No doubt SPV will tell us all in due course with his book if he feels his Boardroom career in SE7 has finally come to a end.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Ronaldo fires Portugal

Yesterday was a long and dark day for me. I was pleased to have the distraction last night of a long-standing dinner arrangement in the evening with a former Chief of General Staff, the head of the British Army. More of that another time.

Anyhow, I was listening to his gravelly tones as Cristiano Ronaldo scored the only goal to lift his national side into the semi-finals, dispatching Che-ky in the process. At the same time my phone throbbed a number of times telling me that there was strong word in Aberdeen that Sone Aluko would be plying his trade in the Championship this coming season in Charlton red. Those boys from the Granite City know Aluko well and I was heartened.

There's no confirmation of that this morning, however, and the ever-reliable Wynn was also aware yesterday that Aluko was talking to other clubs. Our record last year in securing the players we were linked with was flawless and this is one I would love to see come off. Aluko is a proper winger and I could see him providing an improved supply of balls into the box 

Thursday, 21 June 2012

A couple of new experiences for Matchdays...

No, I don't mean a packed Jimmy Seed Stand most weeks or not necessarily having it all our way. I am referring to a couple of new visitor attractions in the locality.
UP at the O2 - Those imaginative people at AEG have come up with the idea of putting a walkway over the O2 dome roof. If you have ever seen the thin line of roped-on walkers against the skyline as they cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge, this is that on a smaller scale. It costs £22, takes 90 minutes, including security briefing and getting rigged out. You need to be relatively fit and over ten years of age. Oh, and you will need to book in advance. Slots are currently going backwards, so it would be a good idea to get in early if you would like to take advantage during the early season good weather (sic). I believe they take you up in wet weather (they provide rain-gear), so you need to be prepared to take a chance when booking. I am booked later in July...

Also by the O2 on the riverbank, is the "station" for the new Emirates-sponsored Thames cable-car crossing. The cable gondolas are enclosed and anyone can do this. Prices are much more reasonable too, starting, I believe at c £3.20 with an Oyster card and up to £4.20 cash. The first "flights" start a week today and I believe the crossing takes around ten minutes to complete. There may be little to see on the other side (Excel Centre?) but surely the novelty will be the return trip and views over the Valley? I will be an early user and will report back in due course...

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

England, my England!

Shock, horror! Not only have England made it out of the group stages but they finished top of Group D and will now face the Italians on Sunday evening for a place in the semi-finals. Fair play to Roy Hodgson who seems to be masterminding England's progress. The goals that have seen them through have all come from the obvious chess pieces he has moved for each game - Carroll, Walcott, Wellbeck and Rooney. Maybe just coincidence but a manager can ask for little more.

Di Natale and Company should present a different proposition altogether but England are already in credit and can have a go. France escorted England out of the group but took a humbling defeat to the Swedes in the process and now have to beat the best footballing side in the world if they are to progress.

Germany and Portugal made their way through on Monday evening although my mind wasn't really on either game. Every now and then we get a reminder that our lives are so relatively brief and that the clock ticks for all of us. The best we can hope for is that we have few regrets and that we have shone as brightly as we can.

RIP Rod.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Brum first up away

Predictably, given the Olympics, we are away on the first day of the season to Birmingham which should provide an immediate Chanpionship test. We follow that with two winnable home games against Leceister on the Tuesday and Hull City the following Saturday. Palace have to come the Valley on 15th September, by which time we should have a reasonable view of which direction our season is likely headed.

Both matches against Leicster, Cardiff and Peterborough are midweek fixtures. Blackpool away is 6th October (too cold) and we go to Millwall on Saturday 1st December. Ipswich come to the Valley on Boxing Day and we go to Derby before New Year and Watford on New Years Day.

I suspect I will miss the Selhurst Park clash on 2nd February as England play Scotland that day at Twickenham (Shit). I may also miss Millwall at home as it clashed with France v Scotland in the 6 Nations (Merde).

Only other high spot for me is Brighton away on Easter Monday.

We finish the season away at Middlesboro and home to Bristol City.

Holland out

A disjointed Dutch showing was completed last night as they surrounded a Van der Vart lead to two Ronaldo goals and were fortunate not to concede more. It always seems to be all or nothing with the Dutch and quite clearly we it was the latter this time around. Portugal haven't really been fancied in this tournament but they were a force relatively recently and with Ronaldo and Nani up front they carry a goal-threat.

The German's maintained top billing with a 2-1 victory over neighbours Denmark. The Danes can be genuinely satisfied with their competition, even if they are heading home.

This evening Group C concludes and Italy will surely see off the final Irish challenge. If they score early, another trouncing could be on the cards but I'll go for them closing out a 2-0 win. The Italians will probably be getting a running update on the scoreline from the Spain v Croatia as they will, presumably, be looking for a big Spanish win to help them overcome the Croatian's goal difference.

There were large queues at the Club Shop on Saturday signalling the arrival of the first jumble of Nike gear. I understand it's the usual case of half the planned merchandise in half the sizes. Multiple visits and all that for the early birds. I will have a serious look in late July when there's a chance it may have stopped raining and I might be able to get what I want in the sizes I need.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

History repeats itself

Fans of history will be familiar with the motto, but it's appropriate for this evening following a double surprise in the Euros. I watched Poland fail to carry the fight to the Czechs in the second half and concede to the impressive Jiracek (sp). With hosts heading out we had a further surprise with Greece beating Russia. A Red Army will again slink back from Poland and, again, a meagre Greek side has progressed further than they deserve in European battle.

I would like to thank Mick McCarthy for his Yorkshire/Irish honesty in recalling Resek's "cheating dive" to put The Czech Republic through against Scotland.

Bottom-line for me has to be that neither Greece nor Czech Republic will make the semi's. At this rate the Greek national side will remain in Europe longer than their country.

England fight back

Late and hectic day so far, but great to see England come back from 2-1 to beat the Swedes last night. As I had a house full of women, my brother-in-law and I crept down to the Rose of Denmark for the first half. Sorry to learn that Kath and Dermot both finish their last session on Sunday. Kath is leaving to spend more time with her family and Dermot has decided to take a year off after 23 non-stop behind the counter. They have been exemplar professionals and will be sorely missed.

Anyhow, the half-full Denmark celebrated a classic striker's header from Carroll who powered home an excellent cross to take the lead. We decided on seeing what it was like in the Anti for the second-half. Slightly busier but still nothing like previous championships. This was a Friday evening after all. All of a sudden England were losing and I am not sure what happened. Milner was having a stinker and Young wasn't much better. With a tiring centre, England looked doomed but Theo Walcott entered the fray and a speculative shot caught the Swedish keeper flat-footed. He then set-up Danny Welbeck for an unlikely looking winner. All to play for against Ukraine and England must be hopeful they can go one better than most predicted and qualify. That will be an achievement in the circumstances.

This evening concludes Group A and both matches will kick-off similtaneously to prevent any draws of convenience. It won't matter in this group though as the only game that matters will be Poland v Czech Repulic, as the winners will join Russia in the quarter-finals. It could be a tasty affair and I will plump for home advantage. In the other game, I expect the Russians to send the Greeks back to their domestic chaos.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Spanish pass-masters

We were treated last night to a footballing lesson by Spain as they dumped Ireland out of the European Championship. The Irish had made it via the play-off back-door and it showed last night as Artisans met Artists. It was a game of deja vu for me having witnessed an almost repeat performance in Alicante in October

As in Scotland's qualifier, Spain took control of the match within the opening five minutes. A stretching through ball from the exquisite Iniesta carved Ireland open and Dunne was caught in possession as he intercepted by Fernando Torres. The maligned Chelsea striker robbed him and surged around Ward before blasting a shot high into the net above Given's head. We had to wait until shortly after the re-start for the killer second but Spain made the game look so simple with getting on for 900 passes as the mesmerised their opponents.

The Irish managed only a hopeful punt at goal from a frustrated Robbie Keane. Keith Andrews again stood out for me and if he ends up playing for us at the Valley next season I will be delighted. The irish fans deserved more; they were there in their thousands, intermingled with their Catholic cousins. They play for pride in their last match and I really hope they avoid another beating although the Italians will need to give them one if they are to qualify for the finals. Croatia fought back in the earlier game to draw with 1-1 with Italy and give themselves every chance of joining Spain in the quarters.

Today is my youngest's fourth birthday and after a mini party at tea-time, my brother-in-law will stay on for the England game with me. We need an attacking display and we will need a couple of goals because I can see Ibramhimovic scoring. C'mon England, now's the hour!

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Redknapp shown the door

Who'd a thought it eh? Spurs fans finished the season in a torment wondering if they were to lose the most successful manager they have had for decades to the England job. After the appointment of Roy they breathed a collective sigh of relief only to find that the Spurs board (Daniel Levy) have decided to relief him of his duties with a season left on his contract. 

There were rumours that Levy had fallen out with 'Arry over his outspoken comments about what was needed in terms of spending etc to move Spurs on and enable them to truly compete with the Big Four (the new big four). Levy may also have been unhappy at the demise in Spurs' season once 'Arry was linked with the England post and how smug he looked for a month or two. Hard, in my book, to blame Redknapp. He certainly said the right things throughout and has appeared genuinely magnanimous towards Roy Hodgson and said having been offered the England job would have given him a real dilemma because his love of club football and the set-up at Spurs. 

Still, Harry will presumably have another lump to add to his offshore bank accounts and will be in a new job before August. Squeaky bum time for a host of Premier League managers now. Somehow I pity the new Spurs appointment as he will have a  nigh on impossible task to follow of winning Champions League football and finishing higher than Redknapp's fourth. One thing's for sure, it won't be Roberto Di Matteo who was finally given a two year contract at Chelsea. Timing eh 'Arry?

Meanwhile, in Eastern Europe, the Portugese finally found their attacking impetus and beat Denmark (a game work prevented me from seeing) and Germany saw off the Dutch with surprising ease. Mario Gomez notched two routine goals during the first half-hour and Holland looked beaten. They managed a twenty minute burst in the second-half as RVP finally scored but they couldn't equalise. 

Again, worth commenting that these Euro championships are shaping up to be the best in memory. There has been plenty of goals, ambitious football and plenty of evenly contested games. 

Tonight it looks like mission impossible for Ireland against the World Champions and then we have Italy v Croatia which might not be straightforward for the Azzuri.

Finally, very interesting for me to hear from our CEO yesterday that BT had won three year rights to the non-Sky Premier League games. It will cost BT c £800m and after having sold on a fair chunk of that, we will need to sell a lot of Broadband and Vision packages to make a return. It's a tough business here but after years of having a disadvantage, we have at least taken the gamble. The good news is that we should arrive in the Premier League in time for me to take advantage of corporate freebies and insist on standing on the gantry or sitting in the BT box at the Valley. 

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Goal of the tournament so far

Late working yesterday meant I missed the Czech's 2-1 victory over the Greeks and only managed to catch the second-half of the Poland v Russia match.

The news was dominated by unfamiliar scenes of other nations supporters swinging wildly at one another as local Poles attacked the insensitive Russian fans march to celebrate Russia Day. As a Scot who has "marched" en masse with fellow supporters to games on many occasions, I had a little empathy with the Russians but it was lost when I heard that they were carrying a banner that said "this is still Russia" or words to that effect bragging former 100 year mastery over the Poles. For now at least, we may reflect in a little holier-than-thou glory as our well-behaved fans continue to enjoy the hospitality in the Ukraine.

What I did see of the Poland v Russia match was pretty decent with both sides committed to winning and a stunning goal from Jakob unpronounceable after cutting inside his man and bending a powerful shot past the Russian keeper. The importance of the goal was evident on the faces of the celebrating Poles. Things in Group A looked delicately poised for the final matches and the authorities will be hoping a rematch between Poland and Russia is avoided in the later stages of the tournament.

Tonight we get the mouth-watering Netherlands v Germany tie after the Denmark v Portugal appetiser. I may miss the first one but should be on the sofa for the big one.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

France held

England took a deserved draw in my book last night in a terrific looking stadium in Donetsk. I can't see why this French side are being quite so revered. Samir Nasry and Franck Ribery are both decent players but they are not Zidane and Henry in their prime. 

I thought England were misfiring slightly in midfield and looked marginally more threatening from set-pieces as a result. Scott Parker looked tired from the start but gave his all nonetheless. The England lead came from a high and swirling Gerrard cross from a free-kick and if Milner had managed a tad more composure when rounding the keeper that might have been too much for the French. As it was, the French shot at every opportunity and it was Nasry who beat his unsighted club-mate Hart from distance to equalise. Wayne Rooney was missed and it's a shame he will have to sit out the next one too.

In the other game, Andriy Shevchenko rolled back the years with two superb headers to win the game for the hosts after Ibrahimovic had flicked in for a Sweden lead. Ukraine just about deserved the victory and these sides will both give England a game but neither looked much better in my opinion. 

We have now seen every side and the Russians and the Crotians have been first to catch the eye with big wins from ambitious performances. Things should be much clearer come the weekend when everyone will know what they have to do in their final qualifying game. Tonight Russia play co-hosts Poland in which should be the pick after Czech Republic entertain the Greeks.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Ireland hobbling

More drama in the European Championships yesterday. I only caught the second-half of the Spain v Italy match but the quality of the passing was impressive. It was no surprise when Cesc Fabregas stole in to level and Spain should have won it had Fernando Torres converted either of the gilt-edged chances he got into good positions for after cpoming on as a second-half sub.

The second game pitted the Irish against the Croatians and Ireland were blown away in the end. They lacked the firepower to match their attacking opponents and with games now against Spain and Italy to come, qualification for the knockout stages looks beyond them. The Irish fans did their team proud and there was a stirring rendition of the Fields of Athenry at the finish. Addick watchers couldn't have failed to have noticed the industrious Keith Andrews who is a signing rumour. I thought he held his own against a better Croatian midfield which includes Luca Modic - no mean feat. What did Slaven Bilic look like - unshaven, tie hanging around his neck and a beanie hat with his suit?

The country needs a big lift and the England team could do it this evening if they can overcome the French in their opener later this afternoon. I plan to be home for kick-off - C'mon England!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Germany and Denmark steal a march

I knew there would be more goals last night! Pity we were only served one per game in two matches which were pretty similar albeit with different outcomes. 

The Dutch outplayed their Danish opponents but lacked the finishing power necessary and when they fell behind to sucker-punch goal, all of a sudden the Danes looked imperial in defence. I heard Jan Molby on the radio earlier in the day confidently assessing the game and saying that his countrymen would get a result and that they had identified the weaknesses in the Dutch side. I smiled at this but he was proven right. The Dutch, for all their attacking flair and total football looked ordinary at the back every time the Danes got forward. They didn't deserve a second but they nearly got one. Will the Dutch now splinter as they have done so many times at finals?

In the other game, a strangely negative Portugal got what they deserved. Beaten by the only goal. After the Germans finally unlocked the door with a superb header from Mario Gomez, the Portugese came out-of-their-shell and launched attack after attack which begged the question "why not earlier?"

If you watched the game, two things caught my eye. What was going on with Cristiano Ronaldo in the first half? He played like he was in final audition for the Masons. He appeared to have the left leg of his shorts taped and up was sporting a choirboy hairstyle. After the break he had let his trousers down and gelled his hair up?

Was I the only one who also couldn't look at close-ups of Mario Gomez without being reminded by Tommy Cooper?

Finally, if you caught the South Africa v England bruiser in the rugby, spare a thought this morning for the Boks captain Jean De Villiers. I reckon he will be feeling particularly poorly as a consequence of two massive running tackles he put in on Manu Tuilagi. Tuilagi needs to be stopped from gaining any speed once he receives the ball and on both occasions yesterday he had made four or five strides when De Villiers went for him. The results were comprehensive as De Villiers was put into crushing reverse and laid out on the turf. He was already sporting a cut above his right eye and crunched side of his face from the first attempt but, credit the man, he was equally fearless second time around.

C'mon Ire-land!

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Seven goal start

Well that was a pleasant change. The opening game was, predictably, drawn, however it was a thoroughly entertaining affair as it had two sending off's, a penalty save and plenty of controversy as the Greeks fought back from a ridiculous sending off and a being one down to level the match and the player count.

The two first-half bookings handed out to Sokratis Papastathopoulos were criminal. Neither challenge was even a foul and the ridiculousness of the bookings immediately had me calling "fix." It was only when referee Carlos Carballo didn't find a reason to deny the Greek equaliser after the break that the sending off looked like just an atrocious decision. He also evened things up by dismissing Szczesny.

The Russia v Czech match was a much better footballing contest and the Ruski's laid down an early marker. They played some really good, quick passing football and they were looking to get forward as a team at every opportunity. Alan Dzagoez scored twice and missed a better opportunity as he staked an early claim for the Golden Boot. Andrey Arshavin was a thorn in the Czech side and Roman Pavlyuchenko scored an impressive goal from the bench after turning the Czech defence inside out.

This evening we get a western European double as the Netherlands face Denmark and Germany play Portugal. The Dutch should make short work of Denmark and Germany will start favourites against the unpredictable Portugese. Both of these games threaten plenty of goals and if we get them this tournament will really be off and running.

Interesting to see England fans arriving at their campsite in the Ukraine on this morning's news. I never thought I would live to hear the words "they are obviously concerned about the threat of racism and hooliganism." Sign of the times I guess - banning orders and the relative cost of following the national side since Japan has dramatically curtailed the number of idiots travelling and that should encourage more genuine fans to support their side without the embarrassment of being viewed by the locals as some kind of moronic mouth-breather. Best behaved fans of the tournament award?

Friday, 8 June 2012

Euro kick-off this evening

Right, after next to no interest in this tournament I am, all of a sudden, really looking forward to it. The first two matches are played this evening and then we have two a day for the next sixteen days as the first round of group matches are completed and we slim down to the last eight for the quarters. All the matches are on BBC or ITV and let's hope for an uplifting competition, some sparkling football and some new names thrust into the consciousness. Us Addicks should get a chance to see new signing Keith Andrews in action. It should help fill the void until the Olympics.

I will be following England and the Republic of Ireland, although I don't expect either to progress. Spain and Germany look favourites but this is a competition that often throws up surprises - Denmark and Greece immediately spring to mind.

Given the current Euro-gloom and the ongoing negativity about the venues, especially the Ukraine, you do have to wonder if the tournament will be spoilt off-the-field and remembered for all the wrong reasons. Scots fans had an unusual (for us) and unpleasant experience in Kiev several years back when they were attacked en masse and many were beaten badly by several hundred hooligans whilst the local constabulary shrank back into the corners of the square. I am sure the policing will be markedly better this time but the Ukraine is still in something of a time-warp in terms of global attitudes and there will undoubtedly be bad news to report as our journos search for it. Even this morning the Dutch are complaining of racist chants and comments as they trained. 

With relatively few England fans making the trip, I wonder whether the Germans might enter the hooligan spotlight. Their bark has always been louder than their bite but their economy is relatively strong and Poland and the Ukraine are emotional locations for these fans. Perhaps it's better that the Germans are in Poland for the Group stages but I expect them to progress where they could make the trek across the Steppes in their Mercedes and BMW's.

Anyway, we should be focused on the football and this evening co-hosts Poland open up against a stingy Greece side and should edge it. Russia then face the Czech Republic which might be a livelier affair. Russia could be dark horses this time. Come on you Reds!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Red-Hot Bluebirds, Cool-Blue Addicks?

I have been following the heated debate in south Wales in recent weeks as Cardiff City have raised the prospect of changing their club colour from blue to red. My immediate reaction was "April Fool" but apparently not. The Malaysian owners are keen on the switch to red as it is considered a "lucky" colour in Asia and they want to introduce a Dragon to the club Bluebird badge.

There is a logic to making this change that says mirroring the national colour and emblem should have it's supporters but meddling with a club's heritage and traditions is never easy. Today on Radio 5, City's Chief Exec made a weak defence for the move and claimed it was worth £100m to the club. He then had to justify this and struggled badly saying that the takeover, investment and other planned funding would come to "nearly £100m," sounding disingenuous. They appear to be going for it come what may and you have to question whatever element of their sponsorship for the new strip will outweigh the thousands who will refuse to buy it. I have now seen the new badge and retaining the Bluebird looks to me like a hard-fought and possibly short-lived concession. What do you think?

News today (received by email four times it was so exciting) that we have concluded a one year shirt sponsorship with Andrews Air Conditioning, part of the Andrew Sykes Group. Once again there is no value mentioned but presumably it's closer to £100,000 than £100,000,000. I suppose we should be grateful they aren't insisting we switch to "Sykes" blue and have a large pump above the sword on our badge! Andrews Air Conditioning reminds of when Preston were sponsored by Baxi Boliers, not exactly blue-chip corporate but I suppose beggars can't be choosers and they do have SE7 heritage. If, like me, you would support anyone who supports our club, you could always let them know it at by leaving them an appropriate comment.

Having Nike as a shirt manufacturer must make shirt sponsorship more attractive. Co-branding with Nike has to be a major step up from Macron? I hope the curse of being Charlton shirt sponsors has been broken by KRBS (they are still in business) and that this deal doesn't mean another washout Summer!

Monday, 4 June 2012

Bad Apples

Rio Ferdinand has never been a favourite of mine. He has been a quality player in his day but prone to to more than his fair share of clangers, particularly for an international player. However, I have to say that I have some sympathy for him in being dropped from the European Championships. He has reacted predictably strongly to missing out and is clearly narked that he hasn't been called up to replace the injured Gary Cahill.

Personally, I've never heard of Martin Kelly. Apparently he plays for Liverpool. Shows you how much notice I take of the Premier League when we have been living in the lower leagues. Kelly joins several others I don't really know and plenty more who simply aren't in the class of their predecessors of years gone by. Expect to be underwhelmed.

Back to Ferdie and my sympathy with him is because I believe the decision to exclude him has been made to accommodate John Fucking Terry. I will assume the Old Farts have had a hand but if it is purely Roy Hodgson's decision then I think it may come to haunt him sooner rather than later. Terry may be a consummate centre-half but he is a liability in a team environment as well as being a deeply unpleasant person. This is the man whose cheating nearly cost Chelsea their Champions League final place in being sent off inthe semi and yet got changed in Munich so he could appear in the photos as if he had played in the wining side - pathetic. We had the lesson with Wayne Bridge and his arrogance at losing the Captaincy. He appears in court next month accused of racially abusing the brother of his long-term England defensive partner, Rio Ferdinand. Obviously, the Jury is still effectively out on that one but it's pretty clear that Anton is determined there is a case to answer.

If Terry is found guilty, then surely his England career will be over and his selection and the problems it has already caused in the camp for these championships will look deeply flawed. Still, we can look forward to him getting a smack on the back of the head or even that big hooter of his outside a nightclub at some point in the future.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Street Party

Lyvedon Road street party yesterday in the "Big E" off Charlton Road (Couthurst, Hassendean, Furzefield and Lyvedon) . I wasn't expecting too much but have to say that that it was about as good as you could have wished for. There are not too many young children in the Big E so invites were extended to wider families and grandchildren, hence our presence. My Mum has lived there for nearly 30 years, so I know many of the residents, including all of the Addicks of course. Proof that the kids enjoyed it is the fact that it's ten to eight on Sunday morning and they are still asleep in bed! 

They started off with a rendition of God Save the Queen then got on with the sit-down and drinking. There was a children's entertainer who told stories, sang songs and played games with the younger children before the mini Olympics. Sixty years on from the Queen's Coronation and the Sack Race and the Egg-and-Spoon are just as competitive and enjoyable as they have ever been. My four year old dashed for glory in the Egg-and-Spoon and collected the Gold in spite of holding the egg with her other hand throughout. They had a fancy dress competition properly won by a family who had put a lot of effort into dressing their kids in war-time evacuee clothing complete with identity cards and gas masks! Pirates and Superhero costumes just weren't going to cut it...

Towards the end of the afternoon the main event took place. A hotly contested Tug-of-War between Lyvedon and the rival Couthurst parties. Before the first pull it looked like it might be a bit one-sided as the Lyvedon side looked much larger than Couthurst, but it was their rope and  they looked quietly confident. The best-of-three were very close affairs and we nicked it 2-1. Amazing how much my calves and forearms are hurting this morning!

Pity about the weather today but the Flotilla of 1,000 ships will look impressive nonetheless as it winds it's way down the greatest city-river on earth. Two successive public holidays and the European Championships kick-off on Friday. Wimbledon and the Olympics to come and this should be a memorable Summer in London, especially if the sun shines.