Saturday, 31 May 2014

Carl Froch

I used to be a huge boxing fan. My Dad used to go to cinemas in Deptford and Lewisham in the dark of the night to watch the big heavyweight fights of the 1960's and 70's. I grew up on them all including listening to radio commentaries with the Old Man.

In my late teens we had the sensation of Mike Tyson and a vibrant middleweight division that shook the world (Hagler, Hearns, Duran and Leonard). Sadly, the heavyweight division went down the tubes and boxing followed it in the 90's. Has-beens regained titles and the authorities split left, right and centre which devalued the whole thing.

We have had glorious blips since. Ricjky Hatton was admirable and Joe Calzaghe was definitely a worthy world champion but where was the world class? Arguably it's little better today but British boxing has enjoyed Carl Froch's domination of the 12 stone category. My wife's uncle Colin used to chip in every week in their local (in Nottingham) for Froch's meat when I first met her (14 years ago) and I have followed Froch ever since. He has been a worthy champion and tonight he put Groves in his place in what was a landmark fight in British boxing - 80,000 fans at Wembley. Groves never got to grips with Froch this evening and I think he got the game-plan all wrong, focusing on staying strong for the later rounds. It,left him open to a devasting right hook in the eighth. I'm not convinced Groves would have managed it later in the fight either, despite his youth. Uncle Colin will sleep well tonight. Froch has proved himself a near-equal of Joe Calzaghe which is the biggest compliment I can pay him in recent years.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Board belatedly thank Riga

Katrien Meire issued a statement today on the Official Site ( thanking Jose Riga for his efforts over the last few months in helping us remain a Championship club.

We were promised better communications from the Club when Roland Duchatelet took over and, let's face it, any communication is an improvement over Dumb and Dumber. However, the words haven't exactly been flowing and what we have had has looked reactive at best and not entirely convincing. They promised to answer questions about the new ownership posed by the 'Royal Oak Group' at the end of the season - (that reminds me that the lease for the Royal Oak is back on the market). What they need is a really good Comms Manager...

Anyway, Jose Riga was thanked for what he has done but although "we were very happy with him, just as the fans were" it wasn't enough to prevent them looking around for someone else. "He was a very serious candidate to get the job because he was so successful but, in the meantime, we looked at other alternatives." I guess we won't get any more detail on this and the owner has made his decision. I will support Bob Peeters but the poor bloke starts the job with a spectre hanging over him and this could and should have been handled much more sensitively and with greater clarity.

The final sentence was probably unnecessary and I give Katrien the benefit of the doubt that she was trying to finish on a positive note, but I don't think it helps matters - "there will be a lot of unknowns going into the new season but we are very ambitious and will do our best to have the best possible team to take us forward.” Doesn't sound hugely convincing does it?

There is plenty of negative supporter reaction to this statement but the simple facts are that we are still in May, we have reportedly spent £500,000 on a Championship striker who scored 15 goals in a relegated side last year and a further £500,000 is being ploughed into a state of the art pitch with undersoil heating. There is no longer the prospect of a 15 point deduction for Administration and 8,500 season tickets have been sold, most at lower prices than last season. The Club Badge on the Covered End has been re-painted and it looked like maintenance going on around the turnstiles as I passed the ground today.

We are going to have to wait and see (like most other close seasons) what our squad looks like come August and, more importantly, what impact Bob Peeters has on them. Realistically we won't be in any position to begin to pass early judgement until the end of September. Maybe Roland has had second thoughts on the extent to which he will use his network model (at least where we are concerned)? I hang on to the logic that says he has to make a success of our club given the size of his investment and the financial muscle at his disposal (even if I don't buy-in to his vision of the network).

Finally, sad to hear former Charlton youth keeper George Howard is critically ill with head injuries in a Cape Town hospital after a car crash in which Joe Pigott and Morgan Fox escaped relatively unharmed. One to add to our thoughts along with Malcolm the East Stander who suffered a heart attack during the final home match against Watford and who continues to make slow progress towards recovery.

Scotland 2 v Nigeria 2

Good match this was and Scotland were denied a deserved victory against a Nigeria side preparing for the World Cup courtesy of a last minute equaliser.

Gordon Strachan has settled in nicely as national boss and he has got his squad well organised and playing to their strengths. Craig Brown managed much the same during his tenure and that's not a bad yardstick. Charlie Mulgrew's opener looked a fluke from where I was sitting but those around me said it was a brilliant flick with his back to goal. Ikechi Anya had already grazed a post from close range and Scotland looked comfortable but Nigeria equalised before half-time when a shot from outside the box took a big deflection and left McGregor heading in the wrong direction. 

In the second-half Scotland regained the lead after good work down the right side and a square ball was driven in off a covering defender. Chris Martin had a chance to put Scotland two-up but his low shot was well saved. With the door ajar, the Nigerians punished Scotland at the death. 

I haven't seen the gate yet but am guessing maybe 15-17,000. Not as many Nigerian fans as I anticipated but they made plenty of noise. My Aberdeen-supporting mates were very unimpressed with Craven Cottage. Perhaps I have always seen it through rose-tinted glasses and I think they were expecting Premier League standards. I guess we couldn't have hosted it at the Valley what with our pitch being relaid. Fulham have done well to get this match and on Saturday they follow-up with Italy v Ireland, which is a decent fixture for the neutral.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Peeters In

Official confirmation last night that Bob Peeters is the new manager (first team Coach) of Charlton Athletic Football Club. I will support him whole-heartedly from the off and give him his chance. My only hope is that Roland Duchatelet has not found the 'yes man' he hoped he had in Chris Powell and Jose Riga. 

We need to continue to find the best players available to us from the market and that any Network joiners are appropriate in number and treated on merit in terms of team selection. On that front at least, news of Chris O'Grady's signing for a fee yesterday from Barnsley bodes well. Wyn Grant has also picked up on the possible arrival of a Belgian international keeper, Koen Casteels.

Casteels is another player for the future. At 21, I believe he is second-choice at Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga but has represented Belgium at all levels short of the first team but will travel with the squad to Brazil. We need cover, at least, for Nicky Pope but the idea of a rival keeper would be no bad thing for either of them. I do question this though. Hoffenheim have big money backing and unless they have their eye on another keeper that might make Casteels surplus to requirements  I can't see why they would let him go. There is even a suggestion that Mark Schwarzer could arrive to end his career in London, give us a back-up and bring Nicky Pope on. Either of these developments would cost money and would hit my "ambitious" mark. 

I have a day off today and will be spending it in south-west London in the company of my fellow Scots. I have mates travelling down from Scotland and a couple from Norway to see us play World Cup finalists, Nigeria at Craven Cottage. I am planning on visiting Dermot Mulvin, former Barman-extraordinaire from the Rose of Denmark, who has been running The Crown in Richmond for the last couple couple of years. I am hoping there may be some truth in the Nigeria match-fixing rumour. It would be good to see Scotland winning 5-0 in London. Whatever happens, it promises to be a colourful day.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

"Bumbling along" - 12 hours later

A day can be a long time in the world of the Blogger. 

This morning I commented that Rich Cawley appeared to get all the scoops these days for the South London Press. Well he did it again today with the low-down from now redundant Alex Dyer -a scanned copy can be read here courtesy of Chicago Addick. I also said that I thought it a bit odd that Jose Riga hadn't been given another network job and that Bob Peeters was instead being lined-up in a move that looked high risk when a low risk alternative was obvious and which would have gone down reasonably well with the fans and the remaining players. What Alex had to say in defence of Chris Powell was predictable but he's said it nonetheless - Duchatelet pressured him to play to play the network loanees. However, what he said about Jose Riga was far less predictable. Jose was also pressured by the owner but also stood his ground. 

Roland Duchatelet doesn't emerge with too much credit from this tale although Jose Riga goes up another notch in my estimation. Rich Cawley might find his Charlton scoops harder to come-by but good on him for giving Alex Dyer the chance to have his say.

News this evening too, that we have made our first signing of the close season. Chris O'Grady, a 28 year old striker from Barnsley has apparently been signed for a reported £500,000 and might just fill one of the gaps I mentioned. His track record suggests he's a gamble for that fee but with 15 goals for the Tykes last season, he could just prove the make-weight if we can find a bigger hitter to partner him upfront. Just who, I wonder, has identified O'Grady? Presumably not Bob Peeters or the 'keyboard scouts' lambasted by Dyer in the same article. O'Grady isn't a network soft option and his signing must be recorded on Duchatelet's log book on the ambitious side of the line.

Finally, I spotted the following mountains of sand and earth in the Valley car park today. The sand is obviously new and will aid drainage and the earth will, presumably, be re-used once they have shifted the hardcore from it!

Bumbling along

After several weeks of speculation, still no confirmation as yet that Jose Riga won't be given a chance to continue the promising work he started after Powell's sacking. He doesn't appear to have a job lined-up under RD either and has been linked, surprisingly in my opinion, with managerial positions at Fulham and Blackpool.  Given his career thus far you would imagine a shot at Fulham would be too good to resist. His replacement by Bob Peeters hasn't been confirmed yet either, although it looks odds-on following the leak to Rich Cawley in the SLP who seems to get the scoop on everything these days. Peeters has at least resigned from his current job, so presumably that's just a matter of time. The anonymous Karel Fraye has also moved on to a lower league Belgian side without fanfare, although he has had a very low-key role supporting Jose Riga.

After the anticipated player clear out, two key questions remain about the futures of Michael Morrison and Diego Poyet. Neither were mentioned in the cull so it would look like offers are out there. Poyet's decision will probably be more about development of his career although it's no foregone conclusion that he wouldn't get an offer from a bigger club who would commit to giving him first-team playing time. Perhaps not one of the biggest clubs but he might expect to play for a club like Sunderland where he could also be making significantly more money than he will be paid at the Valley. Michael Morrison, on the other hand, needs a decent extension and a pay rise. He will have seen Stephens, Kermogant, Dervite and Hamer all achieve that and should be confident he can get the same. That might price him out of RD's bracket. Frankly, he's been treated poorly and if I were him, I would only consider staying if Charlton's offer was the best I could get.

That said, we look like we will need to search for the following first team positions;

Defence; a first choice pairing of centre-halves. Our defence saved us from relegation last season and we will need to hit the ground running in August with the new pairing. We need two experienced and competent signings, one of whom needs to be a leader and a talker. Harry Lennon isn't sufficient back-up and we will need the likes of Wood or Cort to bolster the first choice signings.

Midfield; we can string a four together as things stand but I am not convinced Jackson can play in the middle week-in week-out without us being exposed. We need a better first choice with pace to support Cousins. Harriott and Wilson can both do jobs but we will need back-up.

Attack; we are left with four twenty-minuters in my opinion and we need two goal-scorers if we are to avoid a repeat of last season. By goal-scorers I mean a pair capable of netting 30 between them. I would like to seen some genuine aerial threat and some pace, both of which might galvanise our attacking play from midfield. Given our current wage structure, Duchatelet's stated plan and the quality we have seen thus far from the Network, this looks the biggest challenge of all. 

It is still only May but I am hoping we see a series of signings and intent during June. If they do that, then there will be little need to reassure supporters that their model is designed to take the club forward. No-one wants simply to exist to develop youth that can be cashed-in as soon as possible, particularly if we aren't seeing the full benefit of the money they generate. As a supporter and a Valley Gold member, I want to see our best home-grown players breaking into the first team and contributing for a season or two at least before moving upwards if they are good enough. It's also good business sense to hold on and build bigger transfer fees with your best players. RD might want the club to break-even but he does at least have the funds not to have to sell early.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

C'mon Derby!

Nothing much went right for Charlton fans this season. Yes, we maintained our Championship status but that was the bones of it. It was another miserable season as a regular - ten home defeats and only three more points garnered at the Valley than on our travels. Invariably falling behind in games, rarely managing to play in both halves of the match and having to watch a squad of triers competing against what were, by and large, better opposition. We also had to suffer the ridicule of the state of our pitch which also managed to ruin several match-days on it's own.

The Con Club closed and, whilst it was hardly a great drinking venue, it further diluted matchday options for a pint. If you add the opening-closing-opening White Swan, the matchday experience was also poorer this season. The 'best hot-dogs in the world' on the concourse behind the East wasn't quite enough to retrieve the situation.

Beyond our own shortcomings, we had to suffer a miraculous Palace turnaround under Pulis and watch Millwall scramble to safety too. There was little comfort for Addick fans and today we have the last throw of the dice. QPR, that little club from West London whom we once aspired to be like, have the Championship Play-Off final and are within 90 minutes of justifying the ridiculous sum of money that has been poured into them over the last few season. Tony Fernandes and his board have made a mockery of Financial Fair Play and Harry Redknapp has squandered tens of millions on a type of player I can't abide - nearly men mercenaries. They let their fans down big time last year when failing to compete in the PL and this year they have only done enough to make the play-offs. 

Sorry Rangers-fans but as Kevin Keegan would say, I would love to see you blow it today. Whatever happens, Derby were a better side than you this year and they deserve promotion.

On a lighter note, we may have reduced our playing squad to five-a-side proportions in the last week and let the best development coach we may have ever had leave, but I am pleased to tell you than money has been spent on red paint and the club crest on the back of the Covered End has been restored to vibrant red. 

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

All change!

After the relative euphoria three weeks back when we secured our Championship status for another year, it's pretty much been a case of sit back and wait to see what Roland does next.

Well, things are beginning to take shape and the glass half-full brigade may be beginning to feel more uncomfortable than they have done for awhile (cue the comments!).

The short-sightedness of letting contracts of some of our better players run out may be coming home to roost. Whilst this was a Slater & Cash faux pas, Duchatelet had the time and the funds to have tackled this fully but chose not to. Dorian Dervite has exercised his right to negotiate a much improved deal and has effectively moved to Bolton on a free. Ben Hamer looks like doing the same with Leicester in the frame and no-one will be able to blame Michael Morrison if he follows suit.

Alex Dyer has been shown the door following a host of other out-of-contract players (Hughes, Evita, Cort etc) and it looks like Paul Hart's purple patch developing the current cream of the crop is also coming to end. If he moves to Man City you have to assume it was an offer he couldn't refuse but being asked to effectively re-apply for his own job probably didn't improve our chances of persuading him to stay on. If Diego Poyet moves on, he could yet haunt us horribly in terms of lost opportunity.

Jose Riga expressed an interest in having another go at managing the club and would have presented the least risk option for next season. For whatever reason, it would appear he has been over-looked and instead we will be getting another Belgian and former Millwall lunk, Bob Peeters. I will give Peeters a chance but he looks a decided risk, albeit in the same way Jose Riga did. He has had four years managing lower league clubs in Belgium and my immediate concern is he might be perfect for Duchatelet in terms of knowing the sort of players we will be recruiting to fill the gaps left in the depleted squad.

There is plenty of time left for Duchatelet to show real ambition for next season but his plan and modus operandi thus far would suggest otherwise. Season ticket pricing was innovative and has arguably been a success already in terms of ensuring average gates remain above five figures but at a reduced overall revenue. I remain open-minded, if doubtful.

Elsewhere, I was delighted to see Wycombe Wanderers stay up on the last day in dramatic circumstances by beating Torquay away and seeing Northampton lose at home. A work colleague made the trip down there with his two sons and I feared the worst for them. Chuffed too for Cambridge United re-joining the football league. A good mate of mine's two sons have been representing their younger sides for a few seasons now and I know how much the U's deserve their promotion. Richard Money has been doing an outstanding job there and they are a club on the up.

Hopefully Derby will get their just deserts at the weekend by winning promotion at the expense of the unconvincing QPR who have spent like drunken sailors in a desperate bid to regain their Premier League status that they squandered so easily last season. Please let us get to see Financial Fair Play Regulations in action and Rangers penalised for trying to buy their place in heaven.

Finally, whatever unfolds from here on towards the kick-off on 9th August, we shouldn't have the pitch to blame for any bad results.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Dervite to Bolton? D'Oh!

Can't make any sense of the news that Dorian Dervite could be heading up north to Bolton.

Dervite has had his best season with us yet, finishing as first choice alongside Morro in the heart of the defence. He is only 25 and has his best years yet to come. It's not hard to see him making the top grade. He's not on the big old wages and the prospect of moving can't be a big draw?

To add to that, last time I looked Bolton were still being milked by Premier-League has-beens and were in debt to the tune of £160m+. Yes, over ten times the price Roland spent on acquiring the Capital's best-value football club. Can they really afford much bigger wages than us and what would it say for our ambitions? A player as good and with as much potential as Dervite would, er, cost us and presumably the wages would match? If the plan is to bring in another "free" transfer/low wage replacement, it won't look like were are serious about about building on the spirit within our existing squad and retaining tried and tested players who we know can do the job.

If you add the failure to re-sign Morrison thus far and the rumoured exit of the competent Wood and Cort, we could find ourselves starting next season with a completely new central defence. That's a big risk in my humble opinion.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Diego Poyet

Surprising and yet unsurprising news that Diego Poyet has been voted Player of the Year. Surprising because he is younger than the Young Player of the Year - Jordan Cousins - and because he only played 20 games. Unsurprising because he slotted in like an old pro and because he has been sensational.

We have seen some superb young midfielders break into the Red shirt over the years but Diego tops the lot for me. His ability to read the game is amazing and his first touch and passing is of the highest quality. Lee Bowyer lit up his first season as an attacking midfielder because he scored goals. Scott Parker took some time to come to the boil as did Jonjo Shelvey. Poyet, however, has contributed heftily in every match he has played. He has given brilliant cover to the back four, typified by his performance in the Watford win at the Valley. His body block of a Watford effort in the second-half was as good to see as Harriott's third.

He has complete balance left and right and always knows where he has space to move into for his second touch. I have said before that his style is very reminiscent of Luka Modric and if he can develop that attacking edge to his game, he will become a very special player. 

The big question is "how long can we keep him?" The good news is that his father knows the ropes and should know that his profile and development will be  best served giving us another season. The family aren't short of money, so you have to hope that a deal can be done and that the big money move can wait. Charlton really need that because Poyet could easily become our record transfer fee. 

My vote went to Lawrie Wilson and my second would have been Michael Morrison who were second and third respectively. Wilson was used in several positions during he season and overlooked too often for the attacking right side when Chris Solly was fit but he gave his all and is good enough to play in a promotion winning Championship side. 

Michael Morrison plays like the Captain, even if he isn't. He manages the back four and plays with as much passion as the most ardent supporter. Occasionally he gets caught out and has a poor match but he more than makes up for that in between times and show me a defender who never makes mistakes? It's embarrassing that Morrison's contract has yet to be renewed and runs out in June (he's still only 26). Asked about it at the Sponsor's Dinner he replied "put it in front of me and I'll sign." If we lose him to another side, I fear we will be left watching his performances on TV and wishing he was still playing for us. The other players out-of-contract can have fewer complaints but I can't help feeling Morro has been treated shabbily.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Blackpool 0 v Charlton Athletic 3

A surprising end to the season. With B'pool desperate for a point and our boys in holiday mood, my money was on a home win or a draw at best. A poor first-half reduced it effectively to a forty-five minute contest and Callum Harriott finished a hat-trick of opportunities presented by fellow strikers, Sordell, Obika and then Pigott to give the 1500 party-going Addicks the perfect last-match tonic.

Seeing the pictures and the posts from those on it gave me a slight moment of regret for not having made the effort. Some had gone with partners and others in fancy dress (the two Jose Riga's were the winners). All seem to have had at least one night on the town and many both Friday and Saturday given the early kick-off.

The bonhomie extended to singing Jose Riga's name and he must have been touched by the two fans wearing matching silver suits and grey wigs who greeted him off the coach. I've no doubt he also enjoyed the "he's only got one suit" chant. I get the impression Jose would very much like the job on a full-time basis but that his agreement with Roland thus far doesn't extend to that. Rumours suggest he will step down and coach the youth. If that was the agreement and he has changed his mind, then perhaps staying on as first-team coach isn't out-of-the-question. 

Riga has been completely professional with what he has said since taking the job on. He was very relaxed, in a typical Dutch way, about his contractual arrangement and he has deflected longer-term questions at the expense of the immediacy and importance of the task in hand. It was interesting to hear him say he was enjoying living in England and that the club has a bright future. Maybe I am reading too much into that but he deserves a go if he fancies it. 

We all deserve a break after this season but I am hoping for a busy Summer and the action that shows Roland Duchatelet's commitment to making us a truly competitive side next season. 

Friday, 2 May 2014

Sponsors Dinner 2014

Another predictably good evening in the Millennium Suite last night was enhanced by the feel-good factor of knowing we have secured our Championship status for next season. I attended as a guest of my fellow blogger, Chicago Addick, who for understandable reasons couldn't quite justify the transatlantic flight from his Bermudan hideaway - thanks mate. It was a reminder that I must prioritise signing up early myself for next season when Ravi comes a calling for sponsorship.

Chris and I were there for Simon Church's away shirt and Simon was the model of understated gentleman that I have become accustomed to from our players at these events. The players really are a credit to the club. They mix very well, nothing's too much trouble and they suffer the bleeding obvious questions that mere mortals feel compelled to ask with good grace. We also had the pleasure of Jordan Cousins and Cedric Evina on our table and both were good company. When a player tells you he's off to Aya Napa on his holidays with unbridled enthusiasm, you have to remind yourself that he's 19 years old.

All of the players were present and mixed very well after the meal as usual. Jose Riga and Katrien Meire were also at a table and there was very good atmosphere. Apart from the conversation, the meal and the signed shirt (and the season-long sponsorship if that's worth anything to you), we had the bonus of Etienne Pradier performing table magic throughout the evening. It's very good value.

Ravi tells me Etienne has been working for the club on match days for six years. I am sorry I haven't seen him before because he was fantastic. Seeing is believing as they say and watching him push a wine bottle through the table and bring it up from below was very very impressive.

The players I spoke with were openly complimentary about Jose Riga's methods and his attention to detail whilst still being confident we would have escaped the drop had Chris Powell stayed. Perhaps that was the perfect answer but I felt it was honest when spoken.

It was also interesting to hear that they believe considerably more players would have left had we gone down than the seven who are still out-of-contract in June. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised by that. These guys have ambitions too and League One (again for some) might not be part of their plans. As fans we invariably assume that re-signing for Charlton Athletic FC is the be-all-and-end-all.

It's been a good week to finish the season. Let's hope for some icing on the cake tomorrow...