Saturday, 31 August 2013

Charlton Athletic 2 v Leicester City 1

I must start today's post with an admission. I bet against us and was quietly confident when I did my accumulator that we would be swept aside by the Foxes. So I am pleased to be able to report that I got it wrong and maybe, just maybe, our season is finally underway.

It was a cracking day today with clear blue skies and late Summer sun. Great to meet with up with a few mates in the White Swan pre-match and stroll down for a Valley victory. Good to see Chris Powell prepared to stick with the 3-5-2 formation that we fielded against Huddersfield. Morrison, Dervite and Cort held the back-line with Wiggins, Jackson, Stephens, Pritchard and Wilson fighting in the midfield and Kermorgant and Church leading the line.  The pitch was gloriously green and we even had the irony of the sprinklers on before kick-off.

We started positively and our defence looked assured as Leicester tested us. The five man midfield quickly got to grips with the opposition and we were soon taking the game to the Foxes. Yann Kermorgant was evidently up for the match and he set the tone by fighting tooth and nail for every ball. Simon Church ran his socks off alongside Kermorgant and the pair were a handful for Leicester all afternoon. 

It was another former Leicester player, Michael Morrison who opened the scoring with a firm header from a Charlton corner at the visitors end. Morgan was outstanding in  the Leicester defence but they were vulnerable all afternoon to the aerial ball. Our second came on the hour from another corner kick which was hit deep and Yann Kermorgant steered it home from three yards beyond the back post. Two-nil and we looked comfortable and things got even better when James collected his second yellow card for his over-zealous attention to Yann Kermorgant.

Leicester tried to hit back but Vardy was thwarted one-on-one after an impressive burst of speed had carried him through our rearguard. Hamer saved again after that but was finally beaten when Leicester drove down our right side and pulled a ball back for Drinkwater to slam past him.. 

Charlton then slowed the game and played some impressive possession football fully utilising the extra man. Wilson, Pritchard and Stephens made pretty patterns for ten minutes as Leicester threw on sub after sub trying to change their fortunes. Schmeichel made a fine save down to his right-hand post to deny Yann from a free-kick but he had saved the best to last. A brilliant one handed diving stop to deny Kermorgant a deserved second from a colossal back post header. We had other chances towards the end and we had the telling introductions of Jordan Cousins and Joe Pigott before the finish. 

Things may be far from perfect behind the scenes at the Valley but Chris Powell has again managed to stir his troops and get a response. Once again it's a pity that we have to go into an international break when we have our tails up. Watford in a fortnight may represent a step-backwards but at least we are off and running and the aggressive salute from Lawrie Wilson at the whistle spoke volumes.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Foxes in the Valley

I was cleaning my old car yesterday and a Charlton-supporting mate of 30+ years pulled up in his work vehicle. After the usual pleasantries he told me he was heading to the ground where I know his firm has a contract for pest control. Having set some traps, he was returning to remove three foxes which have a habit of making a mess of the pitch.

As he drove off I recognised this coincidence "as a sign." He told me he will hope to see me on Saturday but as I drove off I wondered what he would make of the visit of big numbers of Foxes on Saturday and just what did the sign mean?

Leicester City will arrive in fine fettle following the ultimate disappointment of the play-offs last season. They have started brightly with three wins and a draw and are up in third place. Boss Nigel Pearson has a settled squad and they will arrive on the back of five League Cup goals against Carlisle which has earned them a plum home Derby derby tie.

I haven't seen a football coupon this week but will assume Leicester will start as warm favourites in this one. We are capable of upsetting the odds (we did the double over them last season) but I do worry that our team is unsettled and that we will crack if we go a goal down. The defence is showing massive gaps in concentration and I can see Leicester scoring two at least. Wood, Schlup and Nugent should give us plenty of problems at the back.

The key to our chances may rely upon possession and taking the game aggressively to the visitors. Again, I have concerns over that. Chris Powell always sends his teams out at the Valley with a conservative first-half mindset. We are going to have to take any chances that come our way and hope to establish a lead to build on and put Leicester on watch. Relying on the Kermogant-factor alone may be too much to wish for.

More than the result, I will be watching the performance closely. Chris Powell made a comment about wanting his players to be happy this week which could be interpreted that they are unhappy right now. Lack of contractual security for most is the likeliest explanation and lack of funds will be driving this. If that is the case, then I suspect we will be overwhelmed on Saturday and beaten with something to spare. 

Following the alarming sinking against Doncaster and the final capitulation at Huddersfield in the week, another home defeat may lift frustration levels to breaking point, and Slater and Jiminez could be on the receiving end, even if they are likely to be doing something else with their Saturday.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Huddersfield Town 3 v Charlton Athletic 2

No surprise to see eight changes to the starting line-up for this League Cup tie at the John Smiths stadium. I was about to open a can of the same beer to help me through this post but have instead opted for a glass of Spain's finest. No surprise either with the result. However, if you didn't follow the match on the internet or radio, then you might be a little surprised to learn that we lead twice and that there were many positives to take from the game.

Chris Powell opted for a 3-5-2 formation to match Huddersfield's own (they were unchanged from their five goal win in Saturday) and it appears to have stood up very well. Certainly in the first half where our five man midfield were comfortable and where we took the lead only to be pegged back just before half-time from a long range shot which squirmed under Ben Hamer (Hamer this week's scape-goat).

Morrison and Dervite were joined by Richard Wood in the back three, with Wilson, Jackson, Stephens, Pritchard and Evina finding passes for Sordell and Pigott. Stephens fired home a low from a free-kick after 32 minutes but we deserved to have carried the lead into the second half. Evina played very well in a competitive midfield and Joe Pigott was lively upfront. 

After the break we managed to get our noses in front again after an Evina cross was unselfishly headed back across goal for Marvin Sordell to finish from close range. Sordell had been booked earlier and was getting abuse from the home fans for his heavy tackle that they thought merited the red card. He was probably frustrated too about another indifferent display in red but the goal will have helped his confidence. 

Huddersfield then brought on fresh legs in Sean Scannell and the former Palace live-wire turned the match as Hogg equalised after 77 minutes. Jon Stead was then introduced to his old club in his home town and he made a further difference combining with Scannell to set the winner up for the excellent Adam Hammil.

This was a better performance and, frankly, a closer result than I expected. Johnnie Jackson lasted 85 minutes, Cedric Evina put in a shift, Stephens, Pritchard and Wilson were all busy and Joe Pigott played like a striker with far more experience than he is entitled to. We also showed again that we can play with 3/5 at the back when it suits us and Richard Wood got some play time with his peer group. 

Hopefully this give Chris Powell a few headaches for Saturday and he can at least arm his bench if he doesn't stray too far from last Saturday's starting eleven against Leicester. 

Elsewhere, Scott Wagstaff warmed the hearts with the second goal as Bristol City allowed Palace to concentrate on looking for their first point of the season. Fulham needed extra-time to beat Burton and Reading took a 5-0 hammering at League One Peterborough.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Powell ripe for a move?

After 23 minutes on Saturday I was sitting shell-shocked in my seat. Three down to a newly promoted side with only a quarter of the match played. The action was all down our end, in spite of several threatening Charlton counter attacks. We looked content to defend and hadn't responded properly to any of the three goals. Our players were also blaming each other. It didn't look good and with only a quarter of the match played I feared a 5+ goal humiliation.

The next thought was "this could be Powell's last game." It was so reminiscent of Pardew's 1-5 trouncing by Sheffield United that marked his sacking and also of Parkinson's 2-4 denouement at the hands of mighty Swindon Town. I then thought what rationale could be applied to his sacking four games in after finishing 9th and having had to trim his squad and cut his budget. That allowed me to quickly forget the idea and concentrate once more on unfolding events. 

Since  Saturday, I have been reflecting on the state of our club and what must be going through Chris Powell's mind. He loves the club and he is trying desperately to establish himself as a thrusting new manager. He has a playing pedigree in the domestic game and has represented England. He speaks intelligently to the media and is clearly well respected by his players. He is adored by the Valley faithful and is happy in south-east London. 

However, the behind the scenes is a worsening mess. Whilst Powell has been too diplomatic to come out and be openly critical, the body language hasn't been right for some time and there has very much been an air of "we'll do it in spite of what's going on." After winning League One, Powell has seen the funding levels drop off whilst the running of the football club has gone downhill at an alarming rate as the promised investment dried up. This was after the expected decimations of staff numbers and widespread cost-cutting following successive relegations. Individuals with Charlton hearts and precious experience in running our club through it's rise to the Premiership and establishment there as we developed our stadium and built our reputation have been forced out. Either resigning unexpectedly without comment or being sacked unconvincingly. Those individuals may have largely kept it zipped since out of respect for the club or fear of prosecution but a number have been compelled to take legal action against the club for wrongful dismissal or to recover unpaid earnings. 

The latest unrest amongst supporters is the growing concern that an unusually large number of the established playing staff have contracts that terminate next Summer. There is no word of any extensions and the immediate conclusion to draw from that is that we are in no position financially to negotiate as this would inevitably lead to an unaffordable increase in the wage bill or likely player unrest. However, what it also means is that the value of players remaining contracts is becoming seriously diminished. Who would pay top dollar if you know the player is likely to become a free transfer in the Summer? Players too know that there is a tipping point at which a free transfer becomes lucrative because they can negotiate a slice of what might have been a fee previously, even if it's not to a bigger or better club. In that position we run the risk that players heads get turned. When you have the nucleus of the side in that position, as we do, then it's a recipe for disaster (let's face it, the playing evidence thus far supports this argument).

There is a school of thought that says we have probably been trying to offload one or two of the better players for reasonable fees in order to help finance the club but haven't had any real interest. Financial Fair Play has curtailed the spending of clubs, especially those outside the Premier League. It's hard to see too many of our players walking into any PL side, so interest may genuinely not be there. That argument may favour the "do nothing" rationale but it won't make for a contented playing staff and that directly affects the Manager.

We also have the ongoing rumours of takeover bids and it may be that a lack of contractual commitment to a new bidder (with big pockets) could be attractive. The desperate and, frankly, naive touting of the club in the recent VOTV expose won't have helped either. Chris Powell, too, could be grinning and bearing it and playing the long game but there is no guarantee he would not be a casualty of an ownership change, although he's more likely to survive than most managers in similar positions given his achievements to date and his reputation with the supporters. He may also be coming to the conclusion that the current owners are incapable of selling the club as they are caught in a debt position they can't recover and that we are on a starvation diet to Administration.

So then, back to the point of this post. I am wondering whether Chris Powell has an escape plan and just what would trigger it? He looks to have ready made explanations to justify a decision to walk away or to join another club. He has been around (seven clubs and well over 600 appearances), he has a track record in management and will be confident of getting another management position. I don't buy into the rumours that Palace will sack Ian Holloway any time soon but that is the sort of job offer that Powell couldn't resist. A former club with some money and better prospects than us currently. In fact, any club with some money and better prospects than us. 

Crucially, Powell knows he could walk and even a brief justification for his decision would absolve him from any guilt in the eyes of Charlton fans and without having burnt any bridges from SE7. If he feels the majority of his players heads have been affected by personal contractual uncertainty, there may be a limit to what he can do to change it and at that point he may well be considering when would be the best time to think of his own career and family.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Charlton Athletic 1 v Doncaster Rovers 3 (match abandoned)

I don't really know where to begin. This must rank as the most bizarre match I have ever witnessed. 

As predicted it was raining all day. The pitch looked in perfect nick when we arrived but it was evident when the match kicked off that it was evenly sodden and it began to deteriorate as the rain intensified in the opening 20 minutes. During that time, we were exposed on three occasions as Rovers scored with each meaningful attack. We we were behind in two minutes when Rhoys Wiggins was beaten on the left and a deep cross was headed home by the unmarked Keegan in acres of space at the back post. I don't know where Leon Cort was but he clearly wasn't following the ball. Doncaster made it two with their next serious attack as player after player in a red shirt was beaten before the ball was knocked home from close range.

With twenty-odd minutes gone it was three-nil. In between times, Pritchard and Harriott had seen fine efforts beaten out by Turnbull and the Rovers keeper had also denied a Yann header with a smart save. The pitch was getting worse but it was a little surprising after 30 minutes when the referee appear to be flagged by a lino on the West Stand side and raced over. I thought Powell was going to be booked or sent off but then Paul Dickov was called in and I thought maybe there had been an altercation. It was then that it appeared the pitch was being considered unplayable. It wasn't hard to guess the views of the respective managers. 

The match was then suspended as the Charlton ground-staff ambled on to fork the pitch. This had a touch of farce as the heavens continued to open. Paddy's Field was well and truly soaked and he pushed the water soaker at a snail's pace down the touchline. After about twenty minutes of unreality, the Doncaster players emerged and it looked like the match would restart. However, they went over to collect forks and brooms in a mock attempt to do the work of Paddy's boys. 

The match finally got underway again at about 4.15pm and the referee was obviously still a little bamboozled because he managed to book completely the wrong player after Yann was felled by their large black centre-half. The unfortunate Keegan was then booked again for pulling Yann back minutes later and was shown the red, this after scoring Donny's opener. A match he will never forget.

We then pulled a goal back through Simon Church who poked home after being put clear one-on-one with Turnbull from what looked like an offside position. No matter, with the arrears having been cut and Rovers down to ten men, you could sense both clubs deciding to settle for the abandonment. Rovers did score again but an offside flag ruled it out. Half-time duly arrive but after a 20 minute interval and more rain it was left to the Doncaster players to signal the end by running on and throwing their shirts to the visiting supporters.

The post-match reaction will inevitably focus on the state of the pitch but Chris Powell has had a massive escape as far as I am concerned. We were outplayed and were ball-watching in defence for the opening twenty minutes. If it had stopped raining at ten past three we could have been on the end of an absolute hiding.

Bring your waterproofs

I am really excited about attending my first match of the season. I was discharged early from hospital yesterday after a Discectomy operation on my lower back late on Thursday. The Sciatic nerve pain I have been suffering with for 9 months has gone and been replaced by the wound pain. A happy swap and I have stopped months of painkillers. 

A pity then that it's been raining softly all night in SE7 and the forecast is for it to get much heavier later today and not to stop until this evening. So dress appropriately if you are coming.

I am going to pop my head in the two-door Royal Oak for a pre-match pint and then scurry down to the Rose of Denmark where a few fellow bloggers may be lurking. It's a pity they aren't meeting next week when Chicago Addick is over and when he will be as excited as I am this morning.

The weather may affect the match and it looks like it will definitely give Colin Powell a few headaches (if not Chris Powell also). I gave a view of how the match may go in my previous post so I will stick with another home disappointment. Doncaster may settle for another point unless we are as inept as we were against Boro. I'll go for 1-1 and hope I am pleasantly surprised. 

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Got to win your home games

It's an old cliche but it's what we have to do on Saturday. Home form cost us a play-off or better finish last season. Considering how relatively good we were away from home it can readily be argued that our home form was relegation quality, certainly up until well into the New Year. 

Home form is critical to the health of a club. It drives gates and associated revenues and is largely how the majority perceive their club. Back in the 70's when I started going regularly, Charlton were a joy to watch at the Valley. Our ordinary squad of players were completely at home on the Valley turf. They got at visiting sides and invariably made life very difficult for them. We had a handful of quality players who positively shone but the whole side upped their game in front of the home fans. Charlton may have been hugely unfashionable ("sleeping giant") but we knew they were a fine club who played for us. We had a track record of scoring plenty of goals at home a a result. 

Away from home, things were very different. We were hopeless. More often than not it was damage limitations and you could rely upon one spanking (6 or 7) a season at least. Players who excelled in front of their home fans went into their shells away and did nothing.

So, to Saturday then. We mustn't under-estimate Doncaster but they are a side we should be capable of beating at home. They have just come up. They are largely journeymen players, like us. However, we have a valuable seasons learning ahead of them and we are at home. They are still adjusting to the Championship and whilst they will likely play with less pressure than us, we should be looking to secure three points and avoid an early season relegation scrap.

I believe Ben Hamer may be struggling to start due to a finger injury and I expect to see a starting change in central defence given the nature of the goals conceded at Bournemouth and Barnsley. Beyond Harriott on the left, midfield is anyones guess. It's remains the Achilles' Heel and I wouldn't be surprised if Chris Powell changes formation to ensure we hold our own. Personally I want to see two up top and Charlton be far more ambitious but we need assured and energetic performances from midfield and we haven't managed to get a combination to do that so far. 

Yann Kermorgant has been taking some stick for lacklustre and un-Yann like performances of late. The sharper eyed are saying he is simply carrying too much weight. Players weight is monitored, so I would be disappointed if that's genuinely the case. If he is carrying too much beef and playing poorly he should be dropped. Simon Church has started well and is quoted today saying how happy he is with the move. Having netted three times already, he must start.

The final piece for me is that Chris must get the players to press for the first goal during the first-half. The pattern to our opening forty-fives is far too often an attempt to keep things even. We are too defensive and negative. If we get in at 0-0 we often start the second-half a different side, but why do we do this? Effectively reducing the match to 45 minutes at home actually suits visiting teams who often come with that game plan anyway.

Unfortunately, it would appear that Chris Powell hasn't learnt from last season and I can see us settling for a goaless first-half again. If that's the case then I will take Rovers to get something from the game and cement our poor start.  

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Club not given up on employing fans

Given the "goings" at Charlton Athletic over the past year or so, one could be forgiven for assuming that there was a form of ethnic cleansing underway as all of the longer term Charlton-supporting employees were rooted out one by one. A good number have not been sacked but have chosen to leave of their own own accord without any other immediate job to go which has given succour to the view that all is not well within the Club.

I am pleased to report, therefore, that there is growing evidence to suggest that the Club is indeed happy to employ Charlton fans. The Official Site (OS) has been advertising an increasing number of interesting open positions of late which are, presumably, not directed at the wider public for now. Indeed, I noticed one this very morning for a Porter. The money on offer isn't great (£15k pa) but that probably reflects the basic skills required like counting, being able to grate cheese and buttering bread. Given historic market research into the respective demographics concerning Charlton and neighbouring Millwall supporters, I will suggest the club might find more success placing some of these ads on Millwall's website.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Barnsley 2 v Charlton Athletic 2

A game of two thirds-one third from the CAFC Player commentary. We continued our abysmal start to the season for the first hour going one behind during the opening half and then two-down on the hour. I could smell the vitriol and was preparing to go on suicide watch amongst the Addick faithful. 

Hard to believe that four away league trips ago we thrashed Barnsley 6-0. I don't think very much has changed in terms of respective playing squad strengths and the majority of both sides taking the field today will have played in that last one. With an hour gone I was contemplating what has actually happened to our team in recent weeks and it was hard to avoid drawing a conclusion between our dire loss of form and the appalling mis-management of the club by it's current owners and their desperation to pass the baton on to someone else whilst unrealistically expecting to make a fast buck. Perhaps the mass contract expiry in ten months had got through to the players with many contemplating their non-Charlton futures?

Then we went and nicked a goal back. Substitute Jordan Cousins mishit effort bumbled in and suddenly we were on the ball. Ten minutes later and Simon Church got on the end of a Yann Kermorgant knock on and his effort trickled over the line for 2-2 and the sniff of our first point of the season. There were a few more chances for both sides and we might have lost it before the finish but held on.

I will be there for my first game of the season next week when I expect to see a lot more from Yann Kermorgant and a change in central defence. Yann may have made the second today but he was lacklustre by all accounts, the same as last week. O-Grady exposed us in the air in central defence and Leon Cort came on for Dervite during the game. Chris Powell's post-match comments will be interesting but I am guessing he has the turnaround to talk about and will not be left looking for excuses whilst feeling tongue-tied professionally for what he can't say about lack of funds or anything else that he feels may be affecting collective performances.Tonight, at least, he will be pleased he's not Steve Lomas.

We will need a solid performance and three points against promoted Donny to begin to salvage the start to this season. If we get anything less I sense the mood amongst our fans turning and Mister Jiminez may shortly be about to find himself on the receiving end of some vocal aggro. He may be a Mute and a figurehead for the Mysterons but he's the obvious target as largest visible shareholder. Not the sort of thing you want your home fans to be doing as you attempt to sell you club on for far more than it's worth. I genuinely hope the current owners don't make a bean in moving on - they don't deserve it.

I have had Secret Affair's 'Time for Action' going around in my head all afternoon. Can't think why I thought of them or that track.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Dale Stephens to be sold?

Interesting quotes from Chris Powell re Dale Stephens being reported by Sky this afternoon.

Apparently he's "a little bit" homesick and was disappointed not to get a move to Villa last season. Sounds to me like we are touting him - "we've had no real interest" and "it takes a club to pick up the phone." My bet is Spanish Tone would gobble up a whole 'Umble Pie and Villa's arm to be able to sell him for close to what they offered last time. More realistically, £500k to anyone who will pay and I wouldn't bet on it being a club any nearer his home town which I assume is his birthplace, Bolton.

England 3 v Scotland 2

A day out in London yesterday and a rare visit to Wembley. I was fully expecting to lose so no big surprise for me but I was pleased to see Scotland play well and make a match of it. 

This is not a fixture I really enjoy, unlike my countrymen. I can't do the English-hating bit with any conviction when I have grown up down here and am a proud Londoner and have an English wife! I do wish our fans would learn to respect the National Anthem. The booing shows a lack of class and makes us look like the Welsh as well as stoking the inferiority complex. 

Nonetheless, it was a good day out for the 80,000 crowd who made the effort. I believe we had close to 20,000 there although coming and leaving the stadium, it looked like half the gate at least were Scots. I am pleased to say I didn't see any trouble and in spite of all the alcohol consumed there was no evident intimidation or abuse. Perhaps any other Charlton fans who went last night can comment? I put this down to the fact that the English hooligan no longer bothers in any great numbers with the national side and they have been marginalised by the FA and the police. That and the fact that Scotland's fans made a conscious effort to change their travelling reputation a generation ago. The fixture will benefit from not having those present who live in the past - from both sides.

Scotland's early opener was a gift as Joe Hart failed to stop a shot from Morrison. England's reply was probably too quick to allow Scotland to adjust to holding the lead and pretty much the same thing happened in the second half after Kenny Miller rolled back the years and embarrassed Gary Cahill by making room and slotting a Scottish second. Danny Welbeck's quick header to equalise again had an inevitability about it and it was only then a case of who would get England's winner for me. Scotland's aerial vulnerability in the centre was ruthlessly exposed by Rickie Lambert for the third. 

My mate Pete took a spare and had the pleasure of watching the match from the visiting end and he applauded each England goal with as much enthusiasm as he felt was appropriate. I noticed those behind me shaking their heads in collective disgust that we had a "guffy" with us.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Historic English Football Club for Sale

Script for personal sales presentation by Kenny Craig to be available in Russian, Turkish, Arabic, Chinese as well as English. Mood lighting, unusually strong alcohol, hard tobacco, spitoons and attractive serving personnel (to be hired in).

Real drum role to precede delivery. Spotlight on Kenny as he takes the stage. 

"I am delighted to be able to bring you the essential high-level detail approximanus of a unique opportunity to acquire outright ownership of one of England's most famous football clubs, if indeed, not the most famous of them all. My clients have entrusted exclusive selling rights to me personally for a limited period only but which comes with a series of never-to-be-repeated once-in-a-lifetime purchase-now options during this golden moment.

When I say "my clients," I am referring, of course, to my immediate contacts whose names appear on the paperwork etc. Discretion is an essential part in funding this football club and the ultimate owners wish to remain anonymous throughout to avoid any unnecessarily unfair or negative PR or indeed, any unfortunate public incidents post-sale, as well as maintaining an air of mystique. Look into my eyes, into my eyes, into my eyes, not around my eyes, not around my eyes but into my eyes.

I trust you will appreciate the need for me to choose my words very carefully as I continue in order to maintain the absolute anonymity of my ultimate patrons as well, of course, as the famous club in question. Upon satisfactory completion of your Buyer Credentials and formal Intention to Purchase (English Law), the club in question will be confirmed, if indeed, any doubt can remain. In the meantime, I will tempt you with the following mouth-watering cluations as you look into my eyes, into my yes, not around my eyes, but into my eyes.

- a Premier League Club in everything but the top flight itself (currently enjoying a break from TV exposure).

- a one hundred plus year heritage in the top echelons of the British game.

- post-second-World-War F A Cup Winners.

- a proud history, indeed, dare I say it au contraire, a tradition of concentrating almost exclusively on League football ("soddo la cup" is the early Latin motto from our public school beginnings). 

- full ownership of a state-of-the-art football stadium in one of the most sought-after locations in a capital city with enviable training facilities to match.

- record home attendance of over 75,000. 

- over 10,000 00 current season ticket holders, most of whom attend on occasion when the weather's fair and it's not too dark. 

- three different full-price strips available on a strict contracted replacement, available from the suppliers onsite Superstore  - Kerching! (no seasons highlights DVD though). 

- a highly contentious money-spinning global Internet commentary service which brings a lot of amusement to its' legions of dedicated followers not to mention a uniformly intuitive-clumso Club website which racks up the page hits as users career aimlessly looking for the merest snippet of vital information. 

- personal freedom to fuck about with the clubs colours, nicknames, traditions etc as is vogue e.g. Red is said to be lucky in the Far East Stand. 

- preluditory agreement with the maleable local authorities for public funding for an even newer state-of-the-arter football stadium to be built somewhere less convenient maybe to enable full cash-in value of the current plot for housing for the poor (even more supporters), ney as a continuation of our award winning community initiative thingy. 

- new stadium naming rights worth millions £££ to be negotiated exclusively by you. 

- development options on providing branded infrastructure such as transport links (roads, drainage, Eco buses, solar powered trains etc), multi-functional hotels, inclusive restaurants and seedy bars at the new location which will effectively be a blank canvass for mind-limitless revenue generating opportunities for your grand children to dream about. 

- current squad playing assets of c £50m minus depreciation post realisation judicio but with co-terminus playing contracts (less than 1 year). So, minimal contractual exposure if you decide just to cash in on property development and naming rights of the community centre. 

- current operating costs exceeding incoming fundation although all debt leveragitation to date and full consideration given in the asking price of £50m (no time wasters or hagglers). 

- first buyer wins, no questions asked. 

- look into my eyes, into my eyes, into my eyes. - not around my eyes, not around my eyes, but into my eyes. 

Thank you for listening. Let us retire now for appropriate refreshments and the order forms."

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Charlton Athletic 0 v Middlesbrough 1

CAFC Player failed to work on Lanzarote WiFi yesterday which meant I had to be contented with match updates from the more reliable Redmidland & Company on Charlton Life. Early on during the match, someone asked where everyone was linked in from and the response was fairly impressive although due, no doubt in part,  to the peak holiday season. Apart from the ex-pats like Stu of Kunming, China there were a plethora of others in likely holiday destinations of Spain and Turkey but also regulars, I suspect from the US, Australia, Canada and South Africa. Some habits die hard.

Anyway, I didn't gain a great impression of the match and having caught up now with all of the news and views (having awoken tired from a 3am return to SE7), it seems the performance was actually worse than described on Charlton Life.

Zip from two opening fixtures isn't pretty and already the hawks are up. We all know football fans are notoriously fickle but ours most be close to top of the league when it comes to it. The trough of despair at not signing anyone for most of the close season was quickly replaced with a flourish after the ordinary signings, in my book, of Simon Church and Marvin Sordell. We then muffed the first match by being outfought by new-boys Bournemouth and suddenly a dip to be erased out with a 4-0 wiping of the Valley decks of League 2 opposition in the League Reserves Cup. Oh, and then the surprising news that 10,000 had renewed their season tickets.

So to yesterday then and the manics were on a pre-match high. Boro are at rock bottom and Tony Mowbray headed for a long holiday. Match there for the taking and wild speculation about how many goals we were going to score. Sorry, but it isn't quite that simple. This is the competitive Championship league where differences between all of the sides are smaller than any other professional league in this country. Boro still have a quality squad and resources - they splashed a £1m on Adomah this week as if to prove a point. They also thrashed us at the Valley less than a year ago, so yesterday was never going to be straightforward. After all, it wasn't Tuesday evening's side who were playing, simply the closest looking side Chris Powell could muster to that which faced AFCB, allowing for Johnnie Jackson's return as Captain.

So, what to make of yesterday? Well by the sounds of it we played poorly pretty much across the side save from Calum Harriott's (apostrophe for the BBC) solo effort. On that basis alone you are not looking at anything more than a draw in this league. As it was we got tipped by the only goal late on. What seems to have deflated the balloon so quickly was, I think, the lack of spark or evident composure across the side. This is more worrying at the macro level but too early to say after only two games. You can start to jump to conclusions about what else isn't right at the club and I am in the camp that says there's more than is healthy, but the fact is the team showed plenty of spirit and quality in the pre-season games with the obvious exception of the Valley performance.

On reflection therefore, I think we need to be much more patient, painful though it is. I am actually more concerned about our Valley form than anything else. We recovered towards the end of last season having apparently found the confidence or having been directed to be far more adventurous and attacking in our style of play which saw us winning games and building momentum. What I can't yet forget is the appalling first half season home form typified by the first team showings so far against ICT and Middlesbrough.

Fellow blogger, Valley Talk, drew four interesting conclusions from yesterday; 1) Stephens must start, 2) 6 days is insufficient for new players to gel, 3) Danny Green has had it and 4) SCP is guilty of reactive tactics too often. 

2) I don't think there are many who would disagree with number two but that's a fact of life when living on a shoestring. 

3) I found myself moved this week to urge we gave Green another chance in the out and out right winger's role. My rationale was driven by Pritchard's absence but also because it's becoming abundantly clear that Pritchard is not a winger and it's not best use of him when he is played. Unfortunately, Green goes and has another stinker. He also persists with wasting corners by trying to score directly. Are our attacking options that poor that he needs to try for a Hollywood goal every time just because he has managed it in the past? Danny Green's Charlton career is headed in the same way as Scott Wagstaffs.

1) Our midfield continues to be the headache. I am not sure Stephens is the answer. He has had more chances than Danny Green and whilst he made have made a difference when he came on yesterday it changed nothing and we lost the match. I still think we need a young Nicky Bailey or Andy Reid type player but we are unlikely to get one. We are going to have to find the best pairing we can and try to get some consistency because changing the faces and the formation every week isn't the answer.

4) I am 100% behind Chris Powell as the manager but he isn't the finished article and has lots to learn from experience. He is naturally conservative - he was an international-quality defender. He played most of his best football under conservative Curbs and our relative success throughout that time was built on an ultra-cautious platform, so we shouldn't be surprised that our game plan is always not to concede first. I think it's why we had so many flat opening first halves at home last season. It is also why away from home we have prospered on the break. What we need to do is find a style of play at home that works - it isn't sitting back and tiring out the opposition Rumble-in-the-Jungle style. That brings me on to the point Valley Talk made, and that is that Powell is too often reactive. He invariably only acts when forced to, when we concede the lead. He needs to more decisive with the playing staff. When someone's having a mare they have to come off, even if it's at half-time. If you don't do that, there is no acceptable standard of performance for the team. If they don't show it in successive matches with no obvious explanation ie up against far better players, then he should look at utilising more of his squad. Also, if it isn't working, change something. If you are 0-0 at home and looking unlikely to score, we need to be doing something and not hoping we can eke out a point. 

Now that I have that off my chest, I am going to try and forget about Charlton for a few days....

Friday, 9 August 2013

Heading home

After two sun-drenched weeks in Playa Blanca, we are heading home tomorrow. Unfortunately not in time for the Boro game but I will be back and desperate for news of the result and how we performed etc. 

For thirty odd years I have made sure I was not on holiday for the opening fixtures and have usually planned my trips around away games to ensure I didn't miss any Valley action. However, I couldn't be bothered to wait for the fixtures last season and booked in advance, thereby missing the opening day. This year I took a chance on missing the first game that I thought would be away but didn't realise the FA were going to bring the season start forward a week, so it will be Leicester if not Barnsley for me first. I will be itching to see the Addicks in action next week and if they can collect three points tomorrow and put on a performance, then I may make the effort for Oakwell. Having smashed them for six only a matter of months ago, surely we will go looking very confidently for three points? The all important fledgling league table will be out on Sunday and we need three points to be sitting comfortably and eyeing the what-ifs at Barnsley. 

First though, we need to see off the Smog Monsters. We are probably playing them at just the right time as they remain a club in turmoil with only three league wins in 2013. Their line-up always looks reasonably impressive and they have added thorn-in-our-side Albert Adomah for a cool million from Bristol City. I think the first goal tomorrow may be decisive and to that end I am again praying we be bold tomorrow and gamble. Chris Powell has the perfect opportunity to pressure his first team to be on the ball and perform from the off tomorrow. He has ten outfield players at his disposal who did the business on Tuesday night. I think at least two of those should start if not three or four. However, I suspect he will only tinker to cover Pritchard and possibly Jackson. The bench should be interesting though.

Tony Mowbray returns for what could be his last match in charge if Boro fail miserably. It would be particularly pleasing to add him to our list of managerial scalps who should be getting sacked for not beating clubs like ours every time they play us.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Charlton Athletic 4 v Oxford United 0

The signs weren't great were they? Us at home against League 2 opposition who put four past Pompey at Fratton Park on Saturday. Us coming off an opening day defeat and playing in the League Cup in which we must now be close to the worst record of any club. Oh and us again playing the B side. Frankly, I expected a loss.

As it was we looked like we romped it 4-0. Simon Church opened the scoring on his full debut to settle the nerves and we took a 1-0 lead in at half-time. Danny Green then made the best of his chance, as I had hoped, and scored from a free-kick to settle any nerves. Churchy then weighed in with another with fully 30 minutes to go and the prospect of more. Unfortunately, we had to wait until a 90th minute penalty for the fourth and by then the unfortunate Church had made way, which meant a first goal for Piggott .

I am going to have a moan though. I know they are trying to sell seats but why are we always mislead about what sort of side we will play in these matches. If it's Squad Time, then have the Cajonas to tell us. Last year we got an apology after yet another weakened side was beaten and we were told that we wouldn't be doing it again. This time around it was "I might have to change one or two," when the plan was clearly to change ten. I'm not sure who they think they are kidding. Certainly not the majority who can't be bothered and you would hope not the 4200 Charlton fans who made the effort. They can probably live with the honesty of a B team and won't be complaining this evening anyway. I would have been prepared to pay B team prices (it was only £10) for League 2 opposition but only if I didn't feel I was being deceived. Some will ask "why does it matter?" The answer is because if you play poorly and get beaten as has more often been the case the not in his competition, then you know what you were letting yourself in for. Far too often we have expected much more and we have been deceived.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

AFC Bournemouth 2 v Charlton Athletic 1

WiFi has been down in my Lanzarote villa all day, so I have been stewing on yesterday's result. A double by ex Millwall and Palace striker, Lewis Grabban, did the damage yesterday on the south coast although we did manage a superb sounding equaliser through Yann Kermorgant after 49 minutes. I was having a drink with Robbo-on-the-wing yesterday and we had to watch the updates on Sky. We left the bar with a couple of minutes remaining in the vain hope that we would wake this morning to news of a dramatic late point.

 Anyhow, it sounds like we played the wrong team at the wrong time. The Cherries were certainly up for it and cashed in on first-dayitis. We need to nurse this defeat and ensure we respond by beating Boro on Saturday and inflicting a double defeat on them rather than risk a losing double ourselves. I am confident the boys will be gutted enough to ensure we get a response and we might even see it on Tuesday night against Oxford although I expect us to follow form and play a B team for the League Cup. Frankly, I couldn't care less about the League Cup and as far as I am concerned, the sooner we are out of it the better. I will still be in Lanzarote but wouldn't be attending even if I were at home. Our club has made it perfectly clear in recent years that it has no interest in this competition and I have given up as a consequence. I think the gate on Tuesday will reflect a similar view.

 Andy Hughes will have been bitterly disappointed yesterday to have played on his first ever losing Charlton side. I have to admit being slightly surprised by his starting pairing with Mark Gower. Johnnie Jackson is apparently injured but I thought Stephens or Hollands might have started, if not Pritchard in he middle. I support the view that Pritch is not a wide player and I don't understand why he's preferred to Green who is a natural on the wing. His untimely sending off yesterday will mean that Green gets an early chance and he needs to take it or will return to the stiffs. Rubbish article in the Super Soaraway Sunday Sun today quoting Charlton for sale at £40m and saying that the entire squad is up for sale. Not quite sure of the logic here when we are only weeks away from the transfer deadline and have only last week reshuffled the deck to strengthen the squad where needed. The figure of £40m is plainly ludicrous bearing in mind the fact that the club was bought for £1 two years ago and all we have managed since then is to move from League 1 to the Championship. The clubs assets probably don't cover the debts, so any material purchase price is highly unlikely. Mr Jiminez and Mr Slater may fancy themselves as wide boy chancers but no-one is going to fork out £40m when the club faces the real prospect of Administration if they bide their time. The pricing looks desperate and if there is any grain of truth in it, it's reminiscent of the over-valuation of Dale Stephens which lost us an unexpected windfall a year ago that might have improved our fortunes in the meantime. The article also says that there are believed to be five separate interested purchasers. We should be so lucky..

Friday, 2 August 2013

Eyes down for a full house

The famous Charlton Athletic head to the south coast tomorrow for an intriguing clash with Championship newcomers, AFC Bournemouth. After the pre-season player sweating, we will all be relived that Chris Powell will have a fullish squad to choose from and some fresh blood to include in the starting eleven and on the bench.

Interesting to read on the AFCB website that they believe team-work and camaraderie will be their biggest assets this year. That's often a line to divert attention from a lack of quality or cover and one we have used ourselves. A promoted team is always going to have a good work ethic and confidence but tomorrow they will face a side whose strength is the same and arguably stronger having flourished towards the end of our first season back in the Championship.

We should be buoyed too by the double signing of Sordell and Church, both of whom I expect to feature tomorrow. The formation we use tomorrow will be interesting having seen us experiment in pre-season with 3-5-2 as well as the more familiar 4-4-2 and 4-5-1. My guess is we won't take any chances tomorrow and will look to match-up with a 4-4-2.

Ben Hamer will start in goal. My take on the back four is that it should be Wiggins, Cort, Morrison and Solly but we have the added dimension of Richard Wood's signing and the rumours surrounding a possible sale of Roy's Wiggins. Cort never seems to get the recognition he deserves from Chris Powell and I wonder whether Wood will start as preferred first choice? If Evina does start in place of Wiggins, then I give the rumour full backing. Chris Powell was particularly praiseworthy and positive about Evina's future  when he re-signed which I found surprising at the time giving Wiggins command at left-back. The midfield is far less certain. Harriott is probably the clearest starter but who else? Pritchard's work-rate may well see him start wide right before Green gets a second-half run out. In the middle Jackson will expect to start as captain but alongside whom - Stephens? Upfront I am taking Yann Kermorgant and Marvin Sordell with Church to make his debut ten minutes from the end.

I think it is going to be a very close affair in front of a five figure gate. It might not surpass the Real Madrid takings but it should be a healthy start for the Cherries coffers and we would settle for a fraction of the Real Madrid score line. My money is on the old 1-0 away from home. I am meeting up with fellow Charlton Lifer, Robbo-on-the-Wing, in a bar somewhere in Playa Blanca where we will make do with following events on a Sky broadcast.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Striker Watch - 2 days to go and Sordell joins

As widely anticipated, we signed a striker to support Yann Kermorgant late yesterday.  
Finances meant we had to move reserve keeper David Button off the books first and he went yesterday in a surprise move to Brentford. Buttons transfer fee to Spurs was due at the end of June so I am guessing we had little option but to sell him to help settle that debt and to make space on the wage bill for Sordell. Button was supposed to be a shining star but I guess Spurs didn't see it that way and he didn't exactly cover himself in glory when he made the odd appearance last season. He should get more first team experience at the Bees.

Marin Sordell is not a bad punt in my opinion, although he joins on a season long loan and will presumably be club-tied when we play Bolton this season. He made a name for himself at Watford before Bolton paid money for him but he has struggled to establish himself in the ex-Premier League sides starting eleven. His goals per game ratio isn't at all shabby for a 22 year old (if you remove a large number of substitute appearance for Wanderers) and if he can settle quickly back in the Smoke (he's a west London boy), then he could do a job for us. 

The  big question now is, will we manage to land Obika before the end of the deadline? We need three first team strikers and even that will likely give a frequent sub berth for Joe Piggott on the basis that one of them is likely to be carrying a knock at any time. Seems like everyone would be happy in that case. We have shrunken our squad but that is not necessarily a bad thing as Jose Mourinho will tell you. The nucleus and spine of the team remains and with Obika I would be confident of another top ten finish barring too many injuries etc. He will also add some spice to the Millwall derby (as if we need any at the moment) as he has managed to upset the Spanners in the past.