Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy New Year Posters

Another year over and plenty to reflect on. Probably more than to look forward to. Noises last night that the deal with Duchatelet has come off the rails and we can probably guess what's gone on there if that's the case. We've taken a step backwards as a club and the next one we take will be important, so let's all hope it's in the right direction.

I would like to thank all of you who have taken time to comment on this blog during the year. Writing about the club helps me settle things in my own mind and it can be cathartic at times, but I would have given-up before now if I got no feedback. 

So thanks to all of you who have left a comment; Chicago Addick, Geoff, Tony P, Daggs, Wyn Grant, Pembury Addick, Tony R, Pete, Devlinpowell. the Exile, Bob Miller, Kings Hill Addick, Iain Ambler, Simon, Nick Gray, Joanathan Ackworth, Blucher, Marco, Kable1879, Phil, Iain, Simon, Cafca, Aitchy, BFD, DPN, JN and WattO.

Finally, great to learn that our very own Jason Morgan has been recognised for 20 years of industry-leading Community work in the New Years Honours list with an MBE. Just what these honours should be about, not just lauding millionaire sports personalities. Well done Jason, you are the toast of the club and all of it's supporters.

Happy New Year!

Monday, 30 December 2013

Mud and Parrish

Sheffield Wednesday's stand-in manager, Stuart Gray, made a good point after seeing his side take one on the Valley quagmire. He said that if we had seen a minute's rain then the game would have been called off. That might be an exaggeration but the pitch wouldn't have withstood a twenty minute downpour. As it was there were obvious signs that Paddy Powell and his ground-staff had spent a lot of time trying to improve the drainage prior to the match - there were lines running back and forth scarring the pitch and there was less grass than ever.

I have been out with my dog in the pouring rain this morning and the forecast is for plenty more before Saturday. My bet at this point is that our F A Cup 3rd Round tie against Oxford United will be postponed to a night game.

Back to Sunday's disappointing draw and as I stood, pint in hand, outside the Rose of Denmark waiting on my step-brother's boy to be dropped off, I could hardly miss the yellow Ferrari that roared passed in the direction of Woolwich. I spotted the number plate "CEO 4 TAG" and guessed it was the previous CEO of Tag, Steve Parrish, co-owner of Crystal Palace. Bit of a coincidence seeing him headed our way on a match day and I was sure he wasn't returning a coat he bought in Woolwich's Covered Market prior to Christmas.

It has subsequently been confirmed that it was indeed Parrish and that he watched the match along with his manager, Tony Pulis. It's good to support local football (I am thinking of getting over the hill to Welling v Dartford on New Year's Day - 12.30) but I fear the visitors may have been on a scouting trip. I will hope it was to watch Connor Wickham but perhaps they were looking at Jordan Cousins and hoping to see Wiggins or Solly? If that's the case, then I feel slightly better about Solly having been rested and Wiggins getting the day off to be with his expectant Missus.

Raiding your local rivals for their best players is a good move when you have the money and they don't. You can pick up a bargain with minimal disruption and help build the case that you are a better and bigger club. Palace have a had a good record of getting value from the few players they have poached from us over the years (Ambrose and McCarthy more recently) but I really hope we don't lose anyone to them at this point in time as it could have catastrophic consequences given our fragile league standing. 

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Charlton Athletic 1 v Sheffield Wednesday 1

Well, first thing's first, Roland Duchatelet wasn't introduced saviour-like on the pitch prior to the match today and it looks like negotiations concerning our sale are ongoing. If he was present today then he probably left as disappointed as the rest of us. 

The feel-good factor seemed to disappear with the team line-up. The best-choice back four was broken again after only a few matches together. Solly and Wiggins were out and raider Wilson was back at right back and Cedric Evina back down the flank at left bank. If that wasn't enough disruption, space was found to accommodate the returning Jackson in central midfield but why was Stephens put on the wing? Cammie Stewart retained the left wing and it was Church and Kermogant up front. It didn't work. 

It was a generally poor game in which we struggled to create goalscoring opportunities throughout. Wednesday showed more adventure, especially after the lurch Nuhiu came on to provide a towering partnership with Connor Wickham in the second-half. 

The first-half was pretty uneventful and I can't remember us making Kirkland save anything. He had to shepherd a deflected cross over the bar but that was it. Yann Kermorgant tried but too often he went down looking for free-kicks and Frederick Graham was having none of it. He made Kermorgant get up at one point and told him he wasn't going to conned. Simon Church was less involved than of late and seemed to prefer picking the ball up on the grassy flanks rather than plough a furrow in the sticking middle.

We saw little of Jackson first-half and I only really noticed him colliding with our players in the second. Wood and Morrison were kept busy clearing balls in and keeping tabs on Connor Wickham who was a handful. Evina and Wilson were tidy enough but presented very little across the half-way line and the link-up play was well short of what we managed against Brighton with Solly and Wiggins at the back.

After the break we managed to score within two minutes. Wilson took a throw-in deep in the Wednesday half and found Stephens unmarked and in space. Dale seized the ball and ran on into the box. There was still no challenge and it was only as he shaped to shoot that Wednesday player came flying in. Stephens anticipated it and side-stepped the slider which brought him squarer on goal and left him an easy finish one-on-one against Kirkland. 

Suddenly there was hope of a prolonged rally and a second goal but it didn't come and Wednesday began to press forward in search of an equaliser. They were winning corners and were first to most of the 50/50's. Atdhe Nuhiu was launched on 55 minutes and from then on we were defending our lead and it didn't last long. Nuhui won a header outside the box on their right and took two Charlton challengers out as he flicked on. The ball was picked up by an advancing Wednesday player and there was panic in our defence as we threw men at it and I think Alnwick parried one as well but it eventually quirked out to Wickham in the six yard box and he had a tap-in to level.

We survived a good penalty shout after that and as the pressure continued, Chris Powell decided it was time to hang on to the point. He may argue that more height was needed against Wickham and Nuhiu but bringing Dervite on for an outfield player is what he has done in the last two games to secure points and he did it again today on 73 minutes. I wasn't impressed but it might have got us something we may have lost otherwise. Green also came on at the same time for the ineffective Jackson and whilst he provided a welcome outlet, there wasn't much to aim at in front of him. With four minutes of added time, Wednesday flashed a ball through a crowded Charlton six yard area but no-one could get a touch on it. At the end we had a chance to win it on the break when the ball fell to Simon Church in space and Kirkland scrambling to cover his left-side. All that was needed was a firm shot on target but Church lashed at the shot and it cleared the bar. It would have been hard on Wednesday and we had already taken a point we barely deserved. 

CP will no doubt tell us we are unbeaten in three and he is looking for an unbroken run but this was an opportunity to pick up three points against one of the division's strugglers and we missed it. Ipswich on New Year's Day will be tough and then I expect most of our first-teamers to be rested for Oxford at the Valley in the F A Cup on Saturday along with the East Stand and whoever else won't be making an appearance because of our decision in recent seasons not to prioritise Cup matches.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Fresh takeover rumour but not yet on the OS

The Daily Mail Online is reporting that we have been taken over "on Friday night" by Belgian millionaire, Roland Duchatelet. Duchatelet is the 67 year old owner of Standard Liege who top the Belgian league. He is also the leader of Vivant, a Liberal political party in Belgium.

Hard to know what to think about this, especially as the price being touted is £14m. First question would be why did Josh Harris back out? Perhaps Jiminez has paid the price for gambling with a poor hand? Anyway, I will be happy if this is true as it should give us the security we need. My second thought is to wonder whether the manager and players were aware of this on Boxing Day and it reflected in their play, although I will quickly discount that on the basis that they are professionals and there would be no reason for them to have been aware any earlier than anyone else (Twitter also a huge risk at that stage in negotiations).

If you want to look for a negative, Duchatelet's tactics when taking over at Liege was to sell all the best players and start from scratch which provoked a very strong reaction from the fans. That's not to say he would do the same here and I am guessing he will need to be far more cautious not being as familiar with Championship football.

If it gets confirmed on the Official Site, then Sunday should be interesting. 

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Charlton Athletic 3 v Brighton & Hove Albion 2

Sometimes, supporting Charlton is a bit like being a 28 handicapper at golf. Every now and again you par a hole and you realise that it is a simple game and convince yourself you have cracked it. Today was one of those memorable days.

Brighton and Hove Albion arrived as a form side with a healthy 3000 backing and from the off they looked like they were out for the win. They passed around us for 20 minutes before the impressive Ulloa broke the deadlock after collecting a ball on the edge of the box, moving it from right to left before shooting early and sending the ball back across the adjusting Ben Alnwick. It was a well taken strike and it looked like we were in for a long afternoon.

However, we had stood up well to Brighton's passing and there was a sense of quiet determination about the Addicks and some unexpected confidence. We stuck at it and ten minutes later we silenced the visiting hordes when Lawrie Wilson rattled in an equaliser after a fine break down the left and a centre from Cameron Stewart which Kermogant controlled before finding Wilson in space on his right. We went in even at the break but there was much more to come in the second-half from the Reds.

Brighton started the second-half without the impressive Bruno although Inigo Calderon is an able replacement. Charlton picked up where we left off and got at the visitors. Stephens and Cousins were doing much better against Andrews and Bridcutt and we were finding space for Stewart and Wilson. Kermogant and Church were lively upfront against Upson and El-Abd who were solid. It was going to take something special to take the lead and on 52 minutes we got it. A lightning fast raid down the left flank with Wiggins and Stewart combining saw Brighton stretched and the ball in find it's way, once again, to Wilson at the back post. This time he had an opponent within three feet and he was presented with a half-chance. Sensing the opportunity and, perhaps buoyed by the presence of watching family members (he saluted the Upper West on both occasions he scored), he rifled a shot home high into the top right-hand corner beating Brezovan by inches in the Brighton goal.

Two-one up and there was a swagger to our play. Suddenly everything was going right for us and we were sweeping forward from the left and the right. Wiggins and Solly were joining the attack and Brighton were in danger of being swept aside. It took us another 17 minutes to settle the result but it was worth the wait. A poorly conceded free-kick by a tiring and increasingly cynical Albion saw Yann  Kermorgant facing goal 25 yards out. Much was made by the wall but Yann moved the ball back a crucial yard or two before Brighton's line settled. Brezovan looked too far set to the left of his goal so it was hardly a surprise when a Kermorgant Special sizzled over the wall and beat him easily to his right. 

After than we should have managed a fourth but the erratic Mike Russell was attempting to get every single decision wrong and, ably supported by the Lino in the Brighton half, we were halted from getting a fourth that could even have lead to a fifth the way we were going.

As it was we had to suffer the customary late scare. Brighton hit both posts from one attack before substitute Augustien made a late equaliser for Ulloa. We saw out the added minutes relatively comfortably for a memorable Boxing Day win.

Ben Alnwick was again steadfast between the sticks and deserves to retain pole position on merit. The back four were again outstanding and were unfortunate to concede twice. Richard Wood was excellent once again and he enables Michael Morrison to venture forward as he likes to be able to do. Wiggins and Solly were superb and won the match by enabling Stewart and Wilson to attack with such freedom.

Stephens and Cousins did very well in a congested midfield, especially in the second-half when Brighton noticeably lost their grip. Simon Church ran the channels looking for the ball and he made a few fine runs with one notably deep cross on the gallop which was headed clear at the back post to prevent a flying Kermorgant from notching again. Referee Russell somehow managed to award a goal-kick from that particular effort and if I were Matt Upson I would have been keen to let him know I had headed out.

Once again Chris Powell needs special recognition today for managing to keep the squad focused and to get them up for this performance despite the off-the-field shenanigans and uncertainties for most of the players. The fickle minority should take heed.

Elsewhere, Millwall were hammered 4-0 at Watford in which may be Steve Lomas' last match in charge (although we hope not). Palace tarnished the perfect ending with another 1-0 win, this time at Useless Villa courtesy of a last minute winner. Having said that, it should be all about what we do and we have a chance on Sunday for a rare back-to-back double against stumbling Wednesday who find themselves four points adrift of us. A seven point margin going into New Year would be marvellous.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Bolton Wanderers 1 v Charlton Athletic 1

All the pre-match chat email with Mexico City Addick was whether or not he would get to see a goal on his annual return to the UK. He was to be disappointed but we took a precious point home from another  away performance that was better than we seem capable of dishing up at home.

We took the 9.40 from Euston which appeared to have more of Manchester United's international following on board than either West Ham or Charlton supporters. In fact I only saw four other Addicks and a couple of West Ham. Not much different on the return leg either, only more Asians and Africans (South) sporting fake replica kits. You'd think they would make the effort to get a real shirt if they can afford to to fly half-way around the world for their lifetime visit to the Theatre of Disappointment this season. Anyway, enough of Glory Boys, this was a day for the Old School Die-Hards.

We managed to talk our way through our routed change at Stockport but a platform switch at Manchester Piccadilly didn't delay our progress and we were walking through the unremarkable Bolton High Street by 12.20. We found the Blue Boar, an old man's pub (I know, I know), just off it and settled in for a mini session as we continued to catch-up on a year's news and reflected, inevitably, on the state of the country, the plight of our beloved Reds and what has happened to the ten others who we travelled with every other week in the 80's and 90's.

The landlord told us we were 15 minutes from the Reebok in a taxi and that he could whistle us one up at a moments notice. When push came to shove we waited outside the pub for 15 minutes before high-jacking one and missed kick-off. Predictably, the driver was obviously not familiar with the layout of the stadium and managed to drop us of at the opposite end of the impressive Reebok from Entrance E where the sub-300 visitors were huddled. As we scampered somewhere passed J, I heard the unmistakeable roar, muted admittedly, but unmistakable nonetheless, of a goal celebration and the muffledness told me one thing - we had scored and we had missed it!

As we made our way into the visiting section we looked for friendly faces and were quickly jeered but half-a-dozen smiling Addicks who recognised us and knew our predicament. Yann Kermorgant had turned and beaten the keeper. It was apparent that Wood and Solly were back in defence and we looked better for it (Wood was my man-of-the-match once again). Lawrie Wilson and Cameron Stewart had the wide places and it was two up front as Church and Kermy fought for chances. 

The match with lively with the ball moving quickly from one end to the other. Chris Eagles was impressive in the first half as Bolton strove for parity and he and Jay Spearing were giving us problems. Lawrie Wilson had a decent half-chance at the back stick but fired over. Alnwick made a fine reflex stop before half-time from a great Wanderers attack where Eagles charged in on our left and his pass was flicked goal ward between the legs of their striker. Alnwick can't have known much about it but moved to stop the effort and he managed to keep it out. 

Bolton weren't to be denied though and before the cup of tea, Aberdeen old boy, Kevin McNaughton was advanced enough to collect a pass of the edge of the box and he flicked home a pin-point shot which Alnwick could only watch nestle in the top corner. Even-Dale Stephens at the break then and I was expecting a second-half defeat. Bolton didn't do enough to deserve a winner and, honestly, neither did we. Chris Solly lashed a shot high and wide early into the second-period and Ben Alnwick made another decent save but the longer the match went on the more both sides seem comfortable with the point. Church was sacrificed for Evina with ten to go as Chris Powell sought to secure the point and Dervite came on for Stewart in the 90th minute just to be sure.

The Addick contingent dispersed in all directions at the final whistle as our Northern Division made their way home to their bigger houses and friendlier neighbours. Mick behind us was off to Preston (the result of a northern Stag Do ten years ago) and on the train back to Bolton station the Bury contingent and others were changing trains. As we walked back to the station we asked a "local" for directions and in broad Ecky Thump he informed us and said he was headed that way. As we walked up we asked him if he thought they deserved anymore, "thought the draw were fair" he said. So we asked who they had next and he replied "Brighton at home." "No, I mean who do you have on Boxing Day" I helpfully asked. At that point he unzipped his jacket to reveal a glistening red football shirt. As we chuckled, he explained that he was a Preston local born and bred and only ever watched us in the north when travel was affordable. I asked the inevitable question and he said "isn't it always the Father's fault." Victor from Preston, I salute you!

A fallen tree delayed the return journey in Staffordshire for an hour but that didn't remove the glow from a better than anticipated Charlton performance. Four points from the next two homes please Chris and maybe we can breathe easier in January.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Charlton Athletic 0 v Derby County 2

Ten games now played at home and the return is worse than from last year's dismal start. Last year we had managed 12 points at home from a 3-3-4 record and today's defeat means it's 9 points from 2-3-5. With no prospect of strengthening the side and with so many players working the last few months of their contracts, I am afraid we are headed back to League One and a further withering of the club. Tony Jiminez may yet earn my eternal emnity if we rue the day we lost Josh Harris.

Derby arrived warm favourites for the points today having won five in-a-row and climbed to fifth. They duly left with the points but they hardly looked world-beaters and we should have taken something from this game.

I know Chris Powell is looking to turn our fortunes and needs to keep looking for a winning formula, but why start the game with Bradley Pritchard as a nominal second striker alongside Yann Kermogant in a home match? Kermy's hardly been on fire since returning from injury and I'd say he's carrying a bit of beef again. Danny Green was once again handed a starting return to flank with Cameron Stewart on the other side. Sorry, but Green is a proven failure for me and his is a position we do have better options in. Stephens and Cousins were again the centre pairing and the back four were as-is in front of Ben Alnwick.

We bossed the first-half possession without really looking like scoring. Derby were content to settle and worked their way into the match before taking an undeserved lead after 30 minutes when the diminutive Jamie Ward saw his free-kick deflect off the wall leaving Ben Alnwick stranded. Alnwick was called on again before the break to push out a long range effort from Richard Keogh who was also unfortunate to have been carded minutes before for his first foul of the match. The ref (Andy Davies according to the programme) was certainly no homer and he and his assistants managed, infuriatingly, to get too many decisions wrong, particularly throw-ins and free kicks. They were at least fairly consistent with this for both sides although we suffered a bit more.

In the second-half and kicking towards the Covered End, we did improve but we simply made too many mistakes and there was a shortage of any real quality to create the opening and of any striking threat. Lawrie Wilson began to get further forward and we got a couple of his trademark surging runs to the by-line with good deep crosses from acute angles but there was no-one there to finish.

On 62 minutes Derby should have gone two-up. They played their way to the by-line on the right and the cut-back picked out Ward but he could only slam his shot against the underside of the bar. That was the signal for Powell to act and he sent on Harriott and Church for Pritchard and Green. All of a sudden there was far more urgency to our play and Derby were back-pedalling. We had them penned in for ten to fifteen minutes and sent in a series of crosses from both sides but we struggled to win the first ball cleanly or get a man on the end of anything coming back out of the box. 

Derby weathered the storm and then struck through Bryson who was put in one-on-one and slotted the ball underneath the desperate Alnwick and that was that. Time for thousands to depart prematurely.

Goal-scoring is still a very obvious problem and without the personnel upfront, we need to create more from midfield. That has been a problem for us for a long time now and I think we need to try something different in centre-midfield. Stephens was up against it from Jeff Hendrick today and he jumped into three tackles which could have earned him bookings if he had been a fraction later. He was already on a yellow for dissent so might easily have seen red. Jordan Cousins has an effortless loping running style box-to-box and can pass so you can see why he is being coveted by some of the big boys. However, he has still only played around ten first team games and he is too naive to really be playing in a struggling Championship side. His first touch is expensive and too often he looks like a youth playing with the men when he looks for the sympathy card when battled off the ball or after he has lost possession by going to ground and looking for the ref. Maybe it's time to bring Hughes or Gower back in for a spell, although I can't vouch for either of them threading too many killer balls for Kermogant or Church to latch onto.

I have agreed to head up to the frozen wastes next Saturday with Mexico Vic who is returning for Christmas and is desperate to see his beloved Addicks. It's not a match I really want to see, although I expect the locals will be chortling to see Marvin Sordell back and they will be itching for three easy points. The home matches during the holidays against Brighton and Sheffield Wednesday could be pivotal. 

Unless Tony Jiminez has an ace up his sleeve, I suspect he could be a man under big pressure with no money to spend and his asset sliding down the toilet come January. He might decide he has only one card left and that might involve a change of manager, which would rubber-stamp our relegation in my view. I hate to say this, but Administration might be our best hope of getting shot of the Jiminez and Slater. We need a cash investment they can't provide and they are racking up debt all the time they hold out for a pay-off. 

Finally, to end on a more positive note, a word of thanks and respect to the Derby County fans who applauded even more enthusiastically than our own supporters in appreciation of the Upbeats at half-time. Decent supporters.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Harris pulls out over the price

Worrying news this evening that the sale of the club to US billionaire, Joshua Harris, has fallen through. The South London Press, who have been fed the story so far, are confirming the deal is off - http://www.southlondonpress.co.uk/Sport.cfm?id=42216&headline=Sports%20mogul%20Harris%20pulls%20out%20of%20Charlton%20takeover%20talks

If it is simply a case of being unable to agree a price, you have to wonder why and how due diligence has been completed, unless the current owners have been playing brag with a nine-high and had their bluff called. Let's face it, they have form for driving a hard bargain and failing to sell (Dale Stephens). Perhaps they have another party to turn to but if you can't do a deal with an American billionaire, I struggle to see how you are going to get better from someone else.

Hardly a morale booster for the side ahead of Saturday and we risk missing the opportunity to strengthen in the January window. At least Mr Slater can claim the high ground and say he was right when he said there was no takeover under way when he spoke at a supporter's get together last week. Not sure he can claim the same legitimacy about "the five year plan." A relegation fight in year three and a return to Year One certainly wasn't part of the plan.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Slow week

It's only Tuesday but it feels like Thursday - slow week. 

No news on the saviour front as we recover from dropping two points on Saturday down in Somerset and brace ourselves for the arrival of the Championship's in-form side in Derby County. I'm a bit disillusioned with the Addicks at the moment and suspect it will be a case of a Huge High or Massive Low during the course of the next month or so when it should become clear if we are to get new owners who increase our prospects or do not and get further embroiled in a deadly relegation battle.

I am trying to be positive because of the undoubted interest of third parties and  the fact that we remain a relative catch. However, if it doesn't happen in time to take advantage of the January window, you have to assume any prospective buyers will bide their time and without urgent investment we will run relegation close. A return to League One would likely see us lose our best out-of-contract players and that could, literally, rip the spine out of the side. I also think we would start next season with a new manager in League One and risk the pain again of another managerial merry-go-round. Administration would also rear it's head again without new money and the prospect of starting next season with a points deduction.

As if to top the mood off, we have been drawn at home in the F A Cup to League Two, Oxford United. I don't suppose their fans are exactly shouting from the rooftops either but if they do a bit of research, they should see they have won a golden giant killing ticket in the raffle. By rights they should start favourites in a game that will probably feel nothing like an F A Cup tie. I am guessing it will be the lowest home F A Cup gate for decades and our club can have few complaints having firmly established a "League-First" approach to cup football in recent years. It could be the first F A Cup home match I don't bother with since I started going to homes matches regularly 40 years ago. Bah Humbug!

On a more positive front, I am completely hooked on crystal meth Breaking Bad. I took advantage of Netflix's free-for-a-month offer and have managed 20-odd hours in the last fortnight and will finish all 61 episodes before month-end at this rate. It really is compulsive viewing. The storyline is brilliantly conceived, the acting top notch and the filming superbly done. I just hope the Addicks manage a recovery before I've finished the series to lift the mood!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Yeovil Town 2 v Charlton Athletic 2

I did a treble of home wins yesterday before heading off to see Frozen in 3D with the kids (it is Christmas). I was home, however, in time to follow events at Huish Park as well as my two other homes, Ipswich and Leeds.

My bet was based on Leeds and Ipswich showing form and us not showing any. I have no compunction betting against us and use the old win-win scenario in terms of my bet or Charlton picking something up. At half-time I would have torn my ticket up but it was upstairs with my wallet. Watford and Charlton were two-up and Huddersfield were one-up at Ipswich. My bet was, in effect 5-0 down. 

During the course of the second-half, Leeds and Ipswich both rallied to recover the lead and we let Yeovil get back to 2-2. An unsatisfactory afternoon then, but at least Watford had the decency to level again with Leeds at the end so it wasn't just a poor draw for us which let my coupon down. 

From Charlton Life, 5-Live and Sky's Soccer Saturday, I managed to glean that we took the lead against the run of play and that Cameron Stewart enjoyed something of a field-day on his return to Yeovil where he was on loan last season. He scored the first and laid on the ball for Jackson's free far post header minutes later which gave us control of the match.

After the break Yeovil continued to come at us and two equally quick goals mid-way through the half saw the Glovers level. A deflected own-goal and a penalty make it look even more disappointing but they all count. Johnnie Jackson also managed a red card for a violent tackle and we had to hang on with ten men for ten minutes.

It's high-flying Derby up next at the Valley and it's obvious we are scrapping for points in a relegation dogfight. I have said it many times before but we have to be bolder and be prepared to gamble for three points. Keeping things very tight is much more likely to get us a point but that's not good enough at home and what sends sides down.

All quiet on the takeover front which has many suggesting any deal is once again off. Slater has also said there's nothing going on but I'm not buying that. I suspect he's trying to play things down after someone let the cat out of the bag deliberately which may have back-fired as a negotiating ploy. You have to think things will become clearer before New Year because any prospective new buyer would want to strengthen their sides chances in the transfer window, especially with us looking like flirting with relegation. If it doesn't get done by then they may decide that they can afford to wait another few months to ensure they are not buying a League One outfit.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Reading 1 v Charlton Athletic 0

A thoroughly predictable result away from home again. "Charlton 0" being the given and the score against being positive but by how many? One-nil tells you that we ran our socks off and made Reading work for 90 minutes. 

I didn't fancy this for obvious reasons and Rubbish Player couldn't tempt me to even try when the Palace v West Ham game was live on BT Sport. I managed to depress myself watching the Nigels win their third match of the season, again by a 1-0 margin. I had Sky on in the background so was taken to Reading periodically by a bored-stiff looking commentator who couldn't muster much enthusiasm for the game he was watching. We were shown the Simon Church no-penalty incident and I have to say my initial reaction was "no penalty." He was heading away from goal and the challenge looked honest to me, although I may need another viewing given the conviction of fellow Charlton Lifers. We appeared to have a better second half but by then we were chasing the game and Simon Church was unable to beat the keeper with his best chance having been played in one-on-one by Yann Kermorgant. 

Elsewhere it was Nightus Horriblus as those below us picked up points and the gap was narrowed. Yeovil's home win will have them fired-up for a repeat on Saturday which would see them clamber over us and leave us in relegation mire. One-nil to the Yeovil anyone?

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Charlton Athletic 0 v Ipswich Town 1

Same old, same old I'm afraid. We simply aren't good enough at home and can't string two wins together. 

Ipswich look like a team of Mick McCarthy's and they caught us cold today. Ben Alnwick made several fine stops in the opening couple of minutes as Town went for the jugular. We didn't get a grip and from a corner they headed the winner. 

The rest of the match was pretty huff and puff and they stood up to us across the pitch and limited our chances to a couple in each half. We were again left to play everything from the back four. Dorian Dervite did his best impression of Miguel Llera as he launched diagonal after diagonal looking to free Cameron Stewart down the right. It got us nowhere and with Lawrie Wilson having another bad day at the office behind Stewart, there was nothing coming from that side. Jackson wasn't cutting it on the left and Stephens was left shouldering the midfield as Cousins posed around him playing safe passes. Church an Kermorgant chased lost causes but neither had the beating of the back four. 

I'm not sure what the answer is. Perhaps it's simply a case of better players who have the ability to dominate opponents at home. Our current squad is decent on the break and if our defence are having a good day we are always in with a shout away from home. At the Valley we need another game plan but pressing isn't our forte and far too often we end up chasing games and looking rather desperate in the process. Today was another example against a side who, frankly, will be beaten but the better sides this season when they play them at home. We don't appear to have anything much from the bench either and you unable to change a game. Danny Green came on today and tried his best but he isn't Championship quality and Joe Pigott was also thrown in against Christophe Berra who put him in his pocket. Marvin Sordell also got a late chance and did nothing once agin. We have to get a striker in the January window and I would want two if I were Chris Powell.

I'm glad I'm not going to Reading or Yeovil. I suspect we will be under pressure for points by the time we run out at the Valley again. I only hope we have new wealthy owners by then and everyone will be playing for their futures.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Money and football

Money has increasingly been ruining football for forty years now. My Old Man was a died-in-the-wool Chelsea fan with a hatred of Tottenham Hotspur. It was because of what he saw as "cheque-book football." He despised them for always throwing money around buying players Chelsea couldn't or wouldn't pay for.

You didn't hear much of that in the 70's and even in the 80's a club like Charlton Athletic could afford to attract a former European Footballer of the Year. So what if we didn't actually give Barcelona any money for him, the fact is we could afford to buy him at the time (£300k) and pay his wages (even if we sometimes had to pay him in cash to get him on the coach to a game).

Things began to change in the 90's and the amount of money in football has multiplied astronomically. Local-boys-done-good can no longer cut it in the ownership stakes. At the top-end of the English game, not even leading UK businesses can compete. It's all Oligarchs, Multi-Nationals, Arabs and overseas Family dynasties. The telly money swilling around the game has also sky-rocketed as global demand to watch our best football has exploded.

And what's more, all this money has changed our game. No longer the traditional stadiums our ancestors were happy to stand in to watch games. Queues for inadequate urination facilities and snacks that included peanuts no-one else would buy (Percy Daltons) and horse chestnuts which smelt pleasant but tasted like a form of poison and were something readily available in the park free-of-charge and which you wouldn't consider eating under normal circumstances.

No, it's gone all seater and we can pee against a ceramic wall instead of a brick one and not be rained on as we do it. We can wash our hands in warm water and we join a small queue for hot food and cold lager. The players of yester-year are now the spectators of today. They are no longer good enough and have to watch the technical cream of the rest of the world don our ad-laden wicking fabrics which now sport our club colours. Indeed, some clubs are even abandoning their traditional colours in favour of those more closely identified with the nationality of their new owners. 

And they call this progress? I am glad that in some small corner of Britain's capital city, some things haven't changed that much. No sir. The Addicks remain  as unfashionable as ever. We may have flirted with the English elite and had a takeover brush with billionaire Arabs but if you ask me, we are better off with dodgy businessmen robbing Peter to pay Paul and playing Russian Roulette with the Tax Man. 

The Old Man would be turning in his grave, but Joshua Harris, please be real!

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Charlton Athletic 2 v Doncaster Rovers 0

As predicted we ran out winners in this replayed league match, although few would have foreseen just how easy it was. The scoreline flattered Doncaster who could have conceded seven.

The only real surprise to the starting line-up was  a debut for Ben Alnwick, presumably because of late sickness or injury to Ben Hamer. Alnwick could hardly have hoped for a quieter match and he must feel great to return a clean sheet.

Simon Church should have opened the scoring as early as the third minute when he collected a ball dropped onto his foot by Jordan Cousins eight yards out. Church controlled it first time but snatched at the shot and whilst it beat Turnbull in the Rovers goal, it also skidded wide of the far post. It was a sign of what was to come.

There were so many attempts it's hard to remember precisely what order they came it but Yann Kermogant steered an effort onto the inside of the post and Johnnie Jackson forced a superb reaction save from Ross Turnbull. Simon Church then got on the end of a neat move to run in and again beat Turnbull but drag his shot agonisingly wide of the far post. Just as we were all beginning to think it was one of those days, Dale Stephen entered the fray and despatched a pearler of a volley from 25 yards. The venom and arc of the shot had goal written all over it from the moment it left his peg and there was no stopping this one. 

After the break we pushed on and more chances came and went. Simon Church missed another before Dale Stephens split the Rovers back line with a raking pass that freed Church from his marker. Simon ran in on goal, feigned a shot to drop Turnbull before angling his shot for the near post. It wiped it's feet on the inside as it went in but he had his reward for his persistence and we were home and hosed.

Cameron Stewart had the next two best chances on the run. The first stung Turnbull's fingers as he was forced to tip over and the second rattled the bar. We also managed a comedy of errors as several players miss-hit efforts in the Rovers box before it fell to Church in space and with the goal at his mercy. Unfortunately, his feet got stuck in the turf and he fell flat on his face. He was subbed minutes later, more to save his embarrassment than anything else, but he got a deserved round of applause for his non-stop running and the crucial second goal. 

Hard to pinpoint why we were so strong this evening. We were at them from the off. First to the ball, quicker with our passing and we closed them down across the pitch. Tempting to say Doncaster aren't very good but they looked world-beaters in August in the wet.

If we play anything approaching this on Saturday we should get back-to-back home wins. Easier to call out the under-performers today. Lawrie Wilson looked sluggish and made a few mistakes early on which marked his card and he struggled to get forward until late in the game. Jordan Cousins played well although there were a couple of signs in the second-half that he might be believing his own hype when he stood arms out complaining that he hadn't had a return ball or been played when running into position. That might have been the case, but I think you need a good deal more than ten or so appearances before you start criticising your team mates.

Marvin Sordell got on for the last ten minutes but didn't show again although we were largely playing for time. Hughesy and Danny Green also got added time but the match was over by then.

I didn't see or hear the gate being announced but the turnout was predictably poor and don't think there were more than 10,000 there. Should be much better on Saturday. Bring on the Carrot Crunchers!

Two homes, two aways

That's what we face now and it's a crucial set of fixtures that could determine our season. Doncaster and Ipswich at the Valley followed by Reading and Yeovil away. 

It's a long time since we took six points from two successive home wins and given our difficulty in scoring, our relatively poor home form and the fact that we face a Doncaster side thirsting to put the record straight and an Ipswich Town team unbeaten in four aways (but spluttering at home), 3 or 4 points is probably a more realistic wish.

We need to see Yann Kermorgant back to full strength and more urgency from midfield to support him and whoever gets the other berth up front. I am assuming Chris Powell will still be putting a pairing out in spite of of failure to find one that's truly working this season. Simon Church gives his all although his limitations are clear. I still can't see what Marvin Sordell brings and I scratch my head to see how he ever got an U21 England cap. I really don't think he has much time left to show us what he can do before he joins a long line of flops we have tried up front in recent seasons. 

What is pretty clear is that anyone we might bring in on loan to get goals should walk into the starting eleven. The likes of Smith, Pigott and Azeez don't look like they will get another chance this season all the time we are desperate for points. The risk is too big for us and for them and I expect their loans or reserve status to continue until later in the season.

Funding is obviously the other issue and that brings me back to the ongoing takeover speculation. Desperation for information now has some of our more vocal internet supporters pretending to be in the know or speculating wildly about who the prospective buyer(s) are. We are even now at the stage where we are envisaging a battle between huge corporations to own us as part of a fantasy stadium development on the Greenwich Peninsula which will catapult us back into the PL and beyond.

I am not going to encourage the speculation here. However, what I am clear about is that ownership of any club likely to be able to fulfil any of that needs to be from someone willing to pour large sums of money into the venture for a prolonged period of time and that almost decrees that you need a wealthy investor with money to burn and probably an individual who can make decisions themselves. 

I am struggling to think of any large corporations who do this or who could do this (no doubt someone will tell me). Typically they are in public or at least wider ownership and their management Boards and Operating Committees are answerable to others ultimately for the decisions they take. The people at the top tend to be refreshed every few years and the strategic outlook is subject to change as a result. Most of this precludes any excessive or prolonged "gambling" with their funds, so investment in a risky venture like a Championship football club would need to be very well defined within their business case and that would almost certainly be limited in terms of funding and timelines. Unless they had the Midas touch, we would risk another bout of short-term ownership and the cycle that brings. That's not to say that they couldn't set aside a large enough sum to secure our immediate future and see us on our way.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

QPR 1 v Charlton Athletic 0

Busy non-footballing weekend for me. I decided long ago that I wasn't going to bother with that crappy set-up in West London. Ridiculously undermanned turnstiles, poor inadequate view and a home banker to boot. I made other plans and didn't even try Rubbish Player. 

I plumped for 1-0 before kick-off on the basis that the R's had managed five of them so far this season and we were unlikely to trouble their net. Once Charlie Austin opened the scoring towards half-time, I took the dog out for a walk confident that was it. On reflection we appear to have made a decent fist of it if we were again short on goal threat. 

The focus this weekend has again been the ongoing takeover talk. I walked into the Rose of Denmark on Saturday for a pint before picking up a card for Mrs Peeps birthday. Almost immediately I was informed that we had been taken over and that there had been a delegation at the ground at 7am. I laughed this off but several at the bar were also aware and I then asked who had taken us on. "HSBC" was the answer which caused me to break into laughter. I did do a sneaky check on the OS though just in case.

No more real news on that since the latest placed piece including an £18m price in Friday's SLP. The fever on Charlton Life (and Into the Valley) would suggest that just about everyone is linking a takeover with a move away from the Valley. The Greenwich Peninsula story and the plans including a space for sports arena (albeit a nominal 10k open air effort) are causing many to join the dots, but I will believe it when I see it. What's bleeding obvious is that we need the shot in the arm we should get from new ownership. The manger and key players should get their futures sorted fairly quickly and we might even get a couple of quality strikers we need in January. 

Having failed to re-enter the rearranged Doncaster match in my calendar, I had forgotten I will be there on Tuesday evening. Donny should come with a purpose having been leading by two goals when the first game was abandoned. However,  I said at the time that Sod's Law almost decrees that we will beat them in the replay. We need the points or we will be well and truly back in a relegation battle. What we really do not need is new ownership and League One football.

Friday, 22 November 2013

Powell speaks out about *uncertainty*

If there are any doubters remaining about the ludicrous contractual situation at the Valley, then Chris Powell has said it in a piece to the BBC. The current situation is causing uncertainty within the squad.

Chris goes on to say that it won't affect performances. He is the manager and works with a professional squad of players so I wouldn't expect him to say otherwise. Bottom-line is, imagine how you would feel if your contract of employment had a stop date and you were outside the normal renegotiation period? Players know that if they are not going to be retained, then clubs don't negotiate new deals early. They also know, and more importantly, so do their Agents, that their value as a transfer asset depreciates rapidly towards the end of their contract and whilst this represents a risk for their clubs, it is an opportunity for them to negotiate better terms with a new club.

Due Diligence with a new prospective owners may have forced Jiminez's hand since the Summer and that may continue to be an obstacle right now given this weeks' rumour. However, he needs to act in the best interests of the Club at some point and that includes prospective new owners.New deals invariably come with improved terms and most of those awaiting new deals will be on League One contracts and will expect to be paid fully as Championship players.

To quote the bloke behind me, "sort it out Jiminez!"

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

"British Property"/"Investment Company" takeover rumour

Those Millwall-loving hacks at the South London Press are today reporting online that Charlton Athletic are about to be taken over by a "British property" business who they are also calling an "investment company." 

I am hoping the "investment" piece of this is just attempting to cover the fact that the "property" business will obviously be investing in the club in order to take control as opposed to see us as development opportunity. There will be obvious concerns in terms of Mr Fox taking control of the chickens, but we must remind ourselves at this point that the club is desperate for new ownership, even with the risks involved. 

It could prove to be the latest in a line of false dawns but you have to believe someone will come in for us and that a deal can be done as long as the current owners get realistic on the price. Little point in any further speculation at this point but I am hoping there's something in this and we can soon move on from the current situation where we are effectively on a slow starvation diet.

Monday, 18 November 2013

"I like managing here…"

The words of Chris Powell as picked up by Richard Cawley of the South London Press.  Powell goes on to speak of his interest in getting his contractual situation sorted out soon and speaks of the importance of that so that key members of the squad and management team whose contracts also expire in June know where they stand with their manager and, presumably, would be more ready to commit themselves.

After the speculation amongst fans during the Summer that we risked losing key members of our squad given so many of them are out-of-contract next June, this looks very much like a prompt from the gaffer to the Board. He says "of course I'd like to stay," which immediately opens the prospect that he is even considering the possibility of not being here. It's natural that he would do that but this is the first time he has raised the subject and our manager is usually very careful with what he says and knows that he needs to choose his words carefully.

Powell speaks of loyalty too, and having acknowledged the management opportunity he has been given at the Valley, he says he would be keen to repay that loyalty. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say something Mr Protheroe. Go on, get it done. With key players to follow, we might just find a little bounce before we enter the second-half of the campaign.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Mistakes of the past

There are a couple of old adages about history that I find myself using from time to time. One is that history repeats itself and the other is that we should learn from mistakes of the past. Both have been in my mind in the last few days with news about two increasingly hapless looking characters in Iain Dowie and Tony Jiminez.

First, let's consider the Rocket Scientist with the wooden head. The hitherto astute looking Steve Parish at Crystal Palace has apparently interviewed him in consideration for the 'black spot' job at Selhurst Park. I rather thought he was enemy number one down there given the way he left them for a job ten miles closer to his family home in Bolton. Even if I allow for Parish's relative desperation given the fact that his vacancy has already been turned down by out-of-work soothsayers like Tony Pulis and used by the likes of Chris Coleman to get his feet well and truly under the table in his existing position, even the idea of interviewing Dowie looks like an admission of defeat. It may well prove to be that Dowie is being used as bait to attract a better fish or perhaps to set the bottom bar, but his track record is hardly inspiring, although Richard Murray does say he interviews well. Fingers-crossed on that one.

Secondly then, the expectant news that our majority shareholder is booked in again at court to hear the latest case of unfair dismissal and to defend a claim this time of £300,000. I should point out here that the claim will be against the football club and not Mr Jiminez personally. My money was on another disgruntled investor in his Les Bordes golf course coming forward to reclaim their vague investment but Steve Kavanagh has obviously been planning his revenge since before the Wise verdict. The odds are that Kav will have to wait until minutes before his March hearing before he gets the satisfaction he seeks albeit from an out-of-court settlement but the irony here, if that happens, is that damage to the reputation of Charlton Athletic Football Club is not really being avoided now that legal action is becoming the norm following departures of key members of the 'team.' Maybe the club will contest this one and fight their corner. Whilst out-of-court settlements don't come with an admission of guilt, the accused clearly wants to avoid the risk of losing the case and the attendant bad press and Joe Public can take the view that there is no smoke without fire.

I am also reminded by the advice usually given to juries before trials begin and that is to forget everything they may have heard or thought about high profile defendants and not to go trawling on the internet for information about the accused in their spare time. You understand the sentiment but the fact is people will have views about people and businesses that they may already have heard about and we don't yet have the ability to forcibly wipe the memories of jurors, although my personal experience is that would be unnecessary in practice for at least half of them. My guess is that the first thing they do when they get home is a spot of surfing having been jogged by my learned friend. Kav won't be in front of a jury and probably won't get the hearing he might fancy but Judges are only human and they are obviously more likely to take a closer interest in what happens across the wider court so the appearance of Charlton Athletic Football Club on the Court Circular once again may well resonate. That's not to suggest, of course, that Charlton Athletic Football Club are in the wrong here, that would be to pre-judge the outcome. 

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Charlton Athletic 2 v Leeds United 4

An eventful but ultimately disappointing game at the Valley yesterday. It had nearly everything except a just outcome but it has cemented something more fundamental for me.

At 2pm the White Swan was a-buzz with news that kick-off had been delayed until 3.30pm. In fact, the message I got was that there was to be an inspection at 3,30pm which didn't make a lot of sense because that implied the pitch was currently unplayable. It had been raining on and off for 24 hours but nothing like the abandoned Doncaster match. With the real ale in the White Swan running out (there had been no staff a few weeks ago) we moved into "the newly refurbished Bugle." I had been told that the Bugle had been transformed and was unrecognisable from it's old self. It looked exactly the same although they now have a large pull-down screen which was showing the England v Argentina Autumn friendly. At least the regulars in there confirmed a 3.30pm kick-off and the place emptied at quarter-past.

My step-brother and his wife made a rare appearance and it was good to see their daughter being lead on to the turf as one of the mascots by her favourite player, Michael Morrison. They don't really get football but thoroughly enjoyed the game and he was hugely impressed at the finish with what he had seen and thought we should have won. That we didn't was down to a squirt of a referee (Keith Stroud), our inability to remain on level terms, some poor decision-making by Ben Hamer and inspired solo performances by Scottish forward Ross McCormack and goalkeeper Paddy Kenny .

Yann Kermogant was only fit enough for the bench so Chris Powell went again with a similar line-up to that of the past few weeks with Jackson in behind Church upfront and only one change with Callum Harriott being preferred to Bradley Pritchard. In theory that meant two wingers providing ammunition for a  lone striker whose forte is not his aerial ability.

On a pudding of a pitch, Charlton started brightly enough and looked up for it but Leeds were worryingly combative in midfield and Michael Brown and Rodolph Austin stood out early on. We fashioned an early chance which Harriott blazed over (our shooting really is poor) but it was cynical Leeds who opened the scoring when Ross McCormack got between Wilson and Morrison and ran on to a fine ball from Dexter Blackstock to beat Hamer in front of the Leeds fans. 

It took us until the stroke of half-time to equalise but you felt it was coming and  the wonder of the venomous volley from Cameron Stewart was too good for Paddy Kenny. It needed to be good to beat Kenny because the thorn-in-our-side had already pulled off a superb reflex save to deny Simon Church who had steered a driven Stewart cross goal-ward from close range header. As if to present himself as a microcosm of the Leeds United Football Club, Kenny had already been booked after only half an hour for time-wasting, something the rest of his team-mates were also keen to do after taking the lead as they fell down and held limbs one after another to break any Charlton momentum up. Ref Stroud had also played his part by turning down a half-decent penalty appeal after Stephens went tumbling in the box and then what looked like a stone-bonker to me when Church was prevented from running on to his own touch ten yards from goal. 

One-one at half-time and there was a confident feeling around the ground that we would up the ante in the second-half and see them off. That lasted barely two minutes after the oranges, when Stroud awarded Leeds a penalty for what looked like a 50-50 shoulder challenge in the box. For a moment I thought Stroud had decided to award the penalty in light of the two he had failed to give earlier and only then realised it was for the wrong team. McCormack stepped up and fired high into the middle of the goal to re-awake the former Champions of Europe (1960's Fairs Cup but don't let that prevent you from shouting it from the rooftops for forty years).

Leeds began time-wasting again, a very obvious and deliberate tactic that infuriated the home support. We stuck to the task but there was again no pattern to our play and it was all effort and haste not control and patience. On 67 minutes, Kermogant was introduced for Harriott in what looked like a good move. However, we slowed after that and you were left with the distinct impression that Kermy is still carrying a knock. Irrespective, we equalised again three minutes later. Simon Church's persistence carried him into the box and past two challenges before he picked out Johnnie Jackson in the six yard area and we were level again. A sense of justice once again swirled around the ground and again you felt we would go on and win the match. Unfortunately, we hadn't featured on Hamer or Ross McCormack. Within three minutes again Leeds were in front. A deep cross dropped at the back post. Hamer had watched it across his six yard area and followed the trajectory to Dervite and McCormack beyond the back post. To be fair to Wilson he was very close but the ball fell a yard beyond McCormack and stuck out his boot and directed the ball back and up into the stranded Hamer's net. Sorry Ben but you are costing us as many points as you win us at the moment.

There was still the best part of 20 minutes left but we looked beaten and Kermogant saw little of the ball after that. Kenny was tested when a long shot was deflected after his dive and the extra height the shot gained looked for a moment like it might beat him but he found an extra stretch and pushed it over the bar. That was pretty much it until we conceded an iffy free-kick on the edge of the box on 90 minutes. From my seat our wall looked two men short and Hamer looked very small in the goal. When I saw McCormack step up to strike it, I said "four" in my head and watched it follow the line I had mapped out. 

Ultimately, no shame in losing to the Champions of Europe but this was a game against moderate opposition we should have beaten at home and it leads me back to the point at the start of this post. Our home form simply isn't good enough and Chris Powell has to find a way of changing it. We were rarely as impressive as we should have been when winning League One and last year was very poor at the Valley, especially before Christmas. We are repeating that form with only one win, three draws and now three defeats although it feels like four having been three-down to Doncaster so early on in the abandoned match.

We seem unable to take home games by the scruff of the neck and exert sustained pressure. I think our midfield is too weak and to compensate we retain possession in the back four and launch our attacks from there instead of the centre of the park. That invariably means longer balls or much more build-up play down the wings which gives the opposition more chances to defend. If we were holding possession in midfield more often, we would be looking to provide angles for over-lapping wingers or to thread through-balls for strikers to run onto. If you can do that then your opponents have to drop deep and defend and it means you can exert pressure and dominate games. It gets your own fans going too and that can inspire the home team as we have seen on a couple of notably exceptions in the last two seasons. It also means that the opposition have to play on the break which should be meat and drink to a back four like ours. 

Not an easy problem to resolve when you don't have the personnel but it would be worthwhile trying a different centre-mid at home or we have to use our loans better.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Peacocks next

The Addicks return to the Valley on Saturday hoping to build on two wins and two draws in the last four. Our visitors will be from Yorkshire's largest city (Leeds. pop 761,000) and will fill the Jimmy Seed with 3,200 of their finest.

No-one outside Leeds likes them, of course, for reason-a-plenty but you have to hand it to their fans for travelling in numbers and getting behind their team whom have, over the years, tended to let them down. Similar in many ways to Yorkshire's other massive club, Sheffield Wednesday. Wednesdayites would remind us at this point that Sheffield has a population of only 551,000 which splits behind two sides whereas Leeds have their city all to themselves.

Anyway, enough about York-shire. Mighty Leeds haven't beaten us in 10 (ten) years and we should maintain that record on Saturday. The Whites have been doing alright this season but have lost their last four away matches and there's no reason to expect them to do any better in SE7.

No doubt their gobby fans will pack the Anti and the overspill will head for the Rose where they have been making themselves at home in recent seasons and getting increasingly lairy in the process. Personally, I will be elsewhere as my step-brother's daughter will be mascot and her parents will be attending in addition to her brother who sits next to me on match days.

I won't dwell on the opposition suffice to say that they have some injury concerns. What really matters is how we play because we can win this game if we show the same determination and backbone as we did at Birmingham. It looks like Johnnie Jackson will again start and I am guessing we could play him in the hole again behind Siii-mon Church, in an unchanged eleven. Kermorgant should feature if fit but we must avoid rushing him back again and I suspect we may have to wait until Loftus Road to see him in action once more.

The odds on us keeping another clean sheet will be shortening but I can't see us conceding more than one. That means we will need two to win it, so I will take 2-1 and go for Church and Jackson to do the damage. Come on you Reeeddddsss!

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Birmingham City 0 v Charlton Athletic 1

Christmas may be a couple of months off but oh what fun to see Charlton win away. Yesterday's performance was a joy to watch. A still weakened side playing to it's maximum and grinding out a thoroughly deserved win in front of what must have been 900 buoyant Addicks. I am really pleased I accepted Chicago Addick's encouragement to go.

It was a drab day in the Midlands yesterday (isn't it always) but we made the most of a disappointing pre-match. Having got a taxi out to Ladypool Road and walked it's length, it was fairly obvious that Midday was too early for a number of the balti houses so we had to make do with a large cafe-style north Indian restaurant named after Pakistan's capital. It wasn't licenced and they didn't welcome bring-your-own, but the kebabs, lamb chops, tandoori chicken, fried cod and naan breads were good enough. Sated, we walked up to the ground through the scruffy suburbs of south Birmingham and managed to find the Cricketers. A small back-street pub with little to recommend it. The sad Pubmaster chain offering an uninspiring list of beer - Carling Black Label, Ansell's Mild, Tetley sodasteram or whatever it is. Wife Beater encouraged us to stay for a couple but then it was time to get into the ground and a pint with live football! Just enough time to put on a 1-0 Charlton win with greed getting the better of me and I doubled it with Simon Church to score the goal.

Chris Powell's all reds lined up largely as expected. Hamer, Wiggins, Dervite, Morrison, Wilson, Stewart, Stephens, Cousins and Pritchard, with Johnnie Jackson in the hole behind workaholic Simon Church. My bet was on.

It was evident from the off that we were going to compete and also that Birmingham is not a happy camp at the moment. After several unsuccessful attempts by Chris Burke to get a cross in past Rhiys Wiggins, he did manage a couple looking for the giant Zigic but Morrison and Dervite had him sussed.Birmingham's game-plan dried up after that and we took increasing control. 

Dale Stephens and Jordan Cousins began to dictate play and pick holes in the Blues back-line. Lawrie Wilson swarmed over them down the right flank and Simon Church was everywhere looking for an opening. We had a couple of decent chances to open the scoring before half-time as we passed our way into their box but Brum survived and had Darren Randolph to thank for scrambling a good stop from Jackson inside the area. All Birmingham managed in response was a break and shot from Lee Novak which Hamer saved smartly low down his right-hand post.

Nil-nil and the Addicks were in good voice, in total contrast to the silent and disappointing home support. I have to say that St. Andrews in barely recognisable from my last visit (which was years ago to be fair). The large terracing and Archibald Leitch stands have given way, predictably, to new concrete, blue and white bucket seating and sheet-clad roofing. All reminiscent of the New Den but without the fervent support.

After the break and playing towards the red horde packed to the left of the goal, we upped the ante, retained and passed the ball even better than in the opening period and ran for absolutely everything. Simon Church epitomised that and his refusal to give anything up won a couple of balls we had no right to and kept Birmingham firmly on the back-foot. Kyle Bartley and Dan Burn were all over the shop trying to contain us but they couldn't stop the inevitable after 56 minutes when Cameron Stewart attacked the near post and his shot was scrambled again by Randolph. I think it was Jackson who tried again from close range but that was blocked and with Charlton fans all on their feet by now, the ball squirted across the goal where the finishing touch was applied. I looked desperately for the scorer and for a fleeting moment picked out Simon Church but my eyes confirmed Dale Stephens. No matter, we were in front and very confident. 

Lee Clark threw on two substitutes in response but Birmingham's poor control, miscued passes and visible lack of conviction meant we kept going at them and a second on the break was always more likely than an equaliser. Wilson was also brought down in the box after bursting clear but ref Scott Mathieson obviously felt pity for the home side because he waved it away. Once again we should have made substitutions earlier than we did. Johnnie Jackson was out on his feet and Cameron Stewart limping but Powell stuck with his eleven until much later on and then only to break any final rhythm Birmingham were trying to create. Peter Lovenkrands had a chance before the whistle for an undeserved equaliser but there was to be no repeat of last year's injustice and his shot blazed over.

A long walk back to New Street in the sleeting rain for several hundred Charlton fans but nothing was going to dampen the spirit or the bonhomie on the train home with the glum and silent Palace fans making their return from a record-breaking seventh successive Premier defat by two goals or more. May seems such a long time ago. Finally some good banter with a few Millwall fans who joined me on the train at London Bridge and were delighted to  be in the company of a fellow racist (sic).

Thursday, 31 October 2013

St. Andrews

I first went to St. Andrews in 1981. Charlton can't have been playing that day as I saw the Blues take on Nottingham Forest. It was a time when I was keen to cross more grounds off my 92 list. I've been back since to watch us play, most notably in the Play-Off Final against dirty Leeds and I will be going on Saturday so am trying to get myself in the mood for a city I don't love and a club I don't like.

Back in the late 90's I worked with Alan Khan, a fiercely loyal Blues fan who was a good guy and who did his best to sell me his city and his club but I had already made my mind up. My experience of City was a club living in a not-so glorious past with a set of intimidating home supporters who would bully away fans, even families and children. The same set of fans did not travel in anything like the numbers their home support might suggest and the bullies invariably stayed at home for fear of reprisal.

I remember the televised clash from the the Premiership days (I think) when we thrashed them. The even-smaller-than-normal visiting support had been encouraged by Millwall fans to dial 999 before the end of the match and report a disturbance as the only way of ensuring a police presence at the final whistle. As it was, the bullies had seen enough of their losers way before the end and were at the gates waiting to pick on the unfortunate Addicks as they left the stadium.

I will travel with an open mind on Saturday and optimistically assume that this problem has been sorted out by now. The plan is to visit the Balti Triangle pre-match as part of the cultural visit and to exit the city in one piece with three points at tea-time. Come on you Reddddss!

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Charlton Athletic 0 v Wigan Athletic 0

A reasonable game for the 23,600 gate on the eve of the arrival of hurricane St. Jude. A third successive clean sheet was encouraging but our difficulty in scoring was evident once more and to make matters worse, Yann Kermorgant limped off in the first half. We have the joint lowest goals tally in the division, along with Yeovil Town, both of us having managed only nine goals.

Wigan are a big and strong side and they clearly came with a plan to win the match. Emerson Boyce was outstanding at the back for them and much of what they did started from him winning the ball. We edged the first-half but Wigan won the second-half and came closest to scoring when they rattled the underside of our bar. It was a match of few clear cut chances with both sides guilty of blazing over having fashioned opportunities. Pritchard missed from 15 yards towards the end of the first half and McArthur did similar for Wigan in the second. Yann Kermogant picked up a knock early on which he tried to run off but had to make way for Marvin Sordell. Our chances of scoring were cut at that point and try as Sordell and Church did, neither really came close. 

We played some good stuff down the flanks. Wiggins was particularly busy in the first-half and Wilson contributed well after the break. Cameron Stewart enjoyed a better first-half as a consequence and Pritchard in the second but both full-backs put in as many crosses as the wingers. 

Stephens was my man-of-the-match with some excellent long passing and a much more defensive display than we normally get from him. Jordan Cousins had another solid game although he is still very raw and at times naive. 

Richard Wood was a second substitute to injury having fallen badly in the first-half. Dorian Dervite was brought on to replace him and slotted in nicely. Michael  Morrison shored things up against the combative Holt and Powell.

Overall, it was a committed performance with good energy levels and relatively few mistakes. It's such a pity we can't seem to win one of these games when we run a promotion and fill the ground. 

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

All going wrong at Selhurst

After an entirely predictable poor start to the season, Crystal Palace have moved to fire Ian Holloway.  Both Holloway and Eagles Chairman Steve Parish, are being professional and philosophical about it but it's a mini disaster less than six months after their joint orgasm.

Steve Parish has got to look himself in the mirror and ask himself why he let Holloway bring in 15 new players on top of their promotion squad. Not only were they adding fatally to the wage bill and contractual liabilities but they were only really bringing in like-minded players. No tangible improvement in quality and absolutely no surprise they have used so many players and failed to find any form.

I also can't understand why Holloway did it. It's not as if he hasn't been here before and managed reasonably successfully on no money. Perhaps his experience at Blackpool was too painful and the urge to gamble to avoid an 
immediate return was too strong?

In any event, Parish will hope to find someone who can identify the best side and have the courage to stick with it. Somehow I can't quite see it and they remain doomed to me. Fulham have suddenly become the new Charlton. Not only are they sporting Scottie Parker and Darren Bent but losing to them warrants the sack! Sit back and enjoy.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Aberdeen 1 v Dundee United 0

A second successive victory for me watching the Dons yesterday as they squeaked past an impressive Dundee United outfit at Pittodrie yesterday. There was a decent atmosphere from the 12,654 gate with an unusually large following up from the Tay of 1700 or so. Expectation s were high for both sets of supporters.

The Terrors played particularly well in the first half but were contained by a strong Aberdeen defence lead by Russell Anderson. I thought an away win was on the cards at the break but Aberdeen are pretty resilient and they stuck to their task. There wasn't much for McGinn and Zola to feed on and what there was was usually in the form of a high ball. The logic was understandable given the towering presence of the Congolese forward, but he is one of those big men who can't make the most of their height and who are invariably out-jumped. However, after 54 minutes Aberdeen hit the winner. A slick passing move into the box unhinged the United defence and Calvin Zola was finally left a couple of yards of space which gave him the chance to sweep in the final pass.

After that Dundee should have equalised when they managed to split the home defence for the only time in the match but the impressive Turk, Ciftci, couldn't beat the advancing Jamie Langfield who managed to get something on the shot to send it wide of the goal. Dundee were beaten from that point and the noise from the visiting fans dropped audibly as Aberdeen finished in control. Willo Flood was the deserving man-of-the-match after a tireless display which prevented Aberdeen from being over-run in midfield.

I was very impressed overall with the pace of the match and the quality of the football. There were very few mistakes and I was left contrasting what I had seen with what I have been watching so far this season. One-nil to the SPL on that form.

Great too to see the Addicks winning as well. Richard Wood played another blinder by all accounts and looks to have firmly established himself in central defence. Ben Hamer has had questions being asked of him again of late but yesterday was another day when he kept us in it and we shouldn't forget days like those. After two draws we now look like we have a chance to get a run going and move ourselves clear of the mire. Johnnie Jackson and Yann Kermorgant also made returns from the bench, so things should be looking up. Bring on Wigan!