Monday, 30 June 2014

Home is where the heart is

Living by the ground it's been hard to miss the amount of ground improvement that has been going on this Summer. However, a fantastic photo taken from the back of The Heights (by a Charlton Lifer) has given a glimpse of some impressive decorating also underway in the stadium.

It would appear that everything that can be painted brilliant red, has been and they have had Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen in advising on touches to break up the red and add some much needed yellow contrast. The brilliance of the new green grass is great to see and I particularly like the photo-shopped addition of the new wording on the Covered and East stands. Only fair that the Cheap Seats are called out!

I am reminded that I have yet to renew my three season tickets and I am praying every night that they have not been snapped up by some eager punter desperate to get their hands on the most expensive seats in the ground. 

The fixture list computer has been unkind to me this year and I will miss the first three home games of the season. Given I will also miss a few for the 6 Nations, the season ticket is still a bit touch and go. I want to see the squad strengthened so we can compete and as we enter July it's only a matter of a few weeks. Looks like Bob Peeters is going to have to try the youth for the upcoming friendlies given the current size of the squad. 

Friday, 27 June 2014

Minimum requirements in July

We enter the final month of the close season next week. Players begin to regain their fitness and pre-season games start. As we stand we can field a side but it's still far too short to start a Championship season. I reckon we need a minimum of five new first team players and ideally six.

Nicky Pope is good enough to start but with only Dillon Phillips as back-up we need a third keeper, one with experience.

With two left-backs and two right-backs, our central defence remains the most obvious gap and Michael Morrison needs two accomplished partners who would allow Harry Lennon the odd game allowing for injury and possible suspensions. 

We have two right sided wingers in Wilson and Kumberbatch but only Calum Harriott on the left. Another left-sider is a priority.

Cousins, Buyens and Jackson have experience in midfield but I am not convinced we are strong enough having to pick one from Gerard, Munns, Holmes-Dennis or Daniel to start. Another pacy ball-player is required.

Up front we have an apparent abundance in numbers but not a good enough partner for Ventokele to cause sufficient Championship damage. Neither Church or Reza are strong enough or, frankly, tall enough. Pigott, Piotr the Pole and Sho-Silva still have to develop further, which only leaves Zak Ansah. I can't comment on him but even if he comes good quickly, we could still do with a big hitter to maximise the anticipated return from Ventokele.

Pull your finger out Bob.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Adios Diego

Confirmation today that Diego Poyet has refused a contract extension. After 20 games for Charlton Athletic which won him the Player of the Year accolade, he has decided his future lies elsewhere. I am very disappointed by this but not at all surprised. His father is very well qualified to give career advice and they have obviously decided his progression in the game will be better served at a bigger club. 

I am guessing they have a deal with a Premier League side in the offing and that it will be one who might expect to accommodate him in their first team. Hate to even think about it but Palace would be the sort of move which would give him the opportunity, the money and minimum personal disruption. 

When will we see his likes again?

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The Igor has landed

Roland Duchatelet managed to attend a press conference on Friday with Bob Peeters and Richard Murray and say nothing. That was probably understandable in the sense that Bob was the centre of attention and he had Richard Murray riding shotgun. However, it is beginning to look like Roly is going to let his actions do the talking.

Confirmation today that Igor Vitokele has signed a five year contract following a week of speculation speaks volumes. The Trust is saying we have paid £2.4m to Copenhagen for Igor, a player deemed to be taking a step down by the the Danish press in joining us. That will do for me and it should give all of the existing players a big fillip. Given the collective suspicion of "the network model," it's only fair to say that spending such a relatively large sum shows ambition and goes against what many have expected (myself included) to happen. Having received Yoni Buyens from Standard Liege last week, Vitokele is further evidence that Duchatelet may be prepared to invest in Charlton and support us on a par with Standard, if not, indeed, promoting us to pole position.

Another couple of ambitious signings and I will be down to renew my season tickets.

Elsewhere, I was sorry to hear that Jan Martin joins the long list of Charlton stalwarts made redundant from the club after long and loyal service. Jan is a local girl and has been a face at the Valley for 20 years. Her husband has been a regular for as long as I have and I have seen their children grow up following the Addicks with their Old Man and his Old Man. I don't believe she was on a big salary by any stretch of the imagination and the club will end up paying someone else to carry out most of her previous duties. I suppose there will be a bottom-line efficiency from employing someone nearer minimum wage but there will be a hidden cost to loss of the likes of Jan Martin. The price of aiming to break even I guess, the principle of which none of us can really complain about. I might have fought harder to pay £100,000 less for Vitokele but then again it's not my money.

Monday, 23 June 2014

One in, one out

Back from an exhausting but thoroughly enjoyable weekend down in darkest Kent doing old fashioned camping with the family and my sister-in-law's family. Cracking weather and I now have my Summer base coat.

Pleased to learn we have signed a first-teamer in Yoni Buyens. A back-stop central midfielder and, of course, a Belgian. He come from what Wyn Grant calls the mother-ship which begs the question whether we might be closer to the top of Duchatelet's pyramid than we might think? Yet to be confirmed but it looks like a year-long loan. Bit of a pattern emerging if that proves to be correct. Buyens has been a Standard Liege regular and at 26 he appears a cut above what has arrived previously. The only downer is that he looks like the replacement for Diego Poyet whose contract expires this week and who will, presumably, announce his next move which will be onwards from the Valley. Oh how we may regret not having secured a contract extension from him earlier last season when we look back in years to come.

Michael Morrison has apparently turned down offers from Ipswich, Wigan and Rotherham, so I am hopeful he has avoided the temptation to stick two fingers up to the Board and will instead be pragmatic if he gets offered a deal that he deserves and can accept. That should give us a centre-back pairing with the inexperienced Lennon to go into the pre-season with although we another two experienced big men as an absolute minimum.

Bob Peeters has also had his back room staffing strengthened. Guy Kiala, his number two from his previous club has now joined him and he has also brought in his brother-in-law, ex KV Mechelen coach Patrick van Houdt. In addition to the existing coaching staff, we look like our bench could be bigger than the eleven on the field. 

Another six decent signings and we could be ready to start the season.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Spring clean continues...

We may have a relatively unknown coach on a 12 month contract and barely a first team side to put out, but Roland Duchatelet has not closed the purse when it comes to the Club infrastructure.

Our new pitch with undersoil heating is well underway and work should soon be starting to expand and upgrade facilities at Sparrows Lane. The spruce-up at the ground has seen the big Charlton crest freshened up (see right)  as well as other maintenance work going on around the stadium e.g. the turnstiles. 

On my way past this evening I was pleased to see a pile of the sun-bleached pink chairs being stacked up outside the Covered End. We may look like a newly relegated Premier League club again even if many of our team-sheet baffles visiting fans.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Summer blurr

My feet haven't touched the ground in the last week. I had a hectic working week as I caught a flight to Murcia last Thursday and was trying to put a work fire out at Stansted. I managed to catch the World Cup opener at the impressive Roda Club House but then couldn't shake off what might be happening at work on Friday as I tried to chill-out with Aberdeen's finest. A day of traipsing the bars along the Mar Menor and a late tapas lunch helped.

I felt slightly embarrassed for the Spanish families around me as they were royally humped by the Dutch and they look in big trouble this evening as I write this. I spent Saturday soaking up some more sunshine and beer before an early flight on Sunday to join the birthday celebrations of my six year.

A long day in the office on Monday clearing up after Friday and preparing for two days away with my Boss' team covering pretty much the same ground we did in March. The accommodation at Seckford Hall was better though and the evening meal was excellent. Home this evening and back in the office for a long day tomorrow before a weekend camping. It's all go.....

So, not a lot of news of the Charlton front. The fixtures are out though and they look strangely familiar. An opening day fixture against League One promotees, Brentford, to start followed Wigan and Derby at home. Tough start and I will miss both of the home games as I will be in Cyprus for my Summer holiday. I am back in Cyprus for a second wedding of the year on 13th September, so will miss the first three home games - great! The Six Nations also collide with one more I will miss and possibly two. At this rate A season ticket not looking value-for-money. 

We continue to be linked with players we've never heard of but have still to acquire anyone we can be confident will feature regularly in the first team. Things better liven up by early July or I will be considering lumping on us to go down as Champions. A seasonas horriblus looks like it could extend through the close season. Still no real communication from the Board with regard to the plan for this season and no explanation of how the network model is going to avoid the failings of last year. 

Monday, 9 June 2014

Ayii Anargyri

No not the latest player we are rumoured to be making an offer for. Ayii Anargyri was the fantastic venue for an English wedding in the Cypriot hills above Paphos this weekend. Four fantastic days in Cyprus amongst 48 Brits who travelled out to support the wedding. Most were Millwall fans who were delighted to tell me that they couldn't understand our decision to bring in Bob Peeters who was affectionately known as "sick note" whilst earning a reputed £13,000 a week ten years ago. Apart from the obvious "Agent Peeters" line, they were genuinely bemused and half-expected me to know the reason why?

First, I have been itching to comment on Sir Colin Powell's decision to accept redundancy from the club after 40 odd years loyal service. Colin Powell played a large part in my falling hook, line and sinker in love with Charlton Athletic Football Club. I had grown up on a diet of Chelsea courtesy of the Old Man and when I started going to the Valley regularly as a 13 year old, it was to watch an unlikely looking team sporting a mixture of largely unheard of journeymen footballers. I was comparing them to the relegated Chelsea squad and the comparison was favourable. The Addicks liked to attack and whilst they may concede two or three they were always looking for three or four. 'Killer' Hales was the star of the show but 'Flash Flanagan' weighed in regularly and they were both heavily supported by the ageing 'Peawee' Peacock and a leggy right winger who was a throw-back to a previous generation of tumbling wide-men who were full-backs nightmares and who could float a cross like no-one I have seen since. That man was Colin Powell and for the next few years I delighted in watching him cut superior sides to pieces as he teed up his front men to score a hatful of goals. No-one has given me as much enjoyment in the red shirt since although Clive Mendonca comes a close second with Killer himself.

Colin used to live in Begbie Road when I was in Wricklemarsh and he was on good terms with my step-father. So much so that I received a signed and mounted black and white team photo on a block print one Christmas from Colin which was typical of the man away from the club.

I feared for Colin this season in that some of the blame for the pitch problems would stick with him (rather than lack of investment to fix a known drainage problem). When we decided to invest in a state-of-the-art pitch with undersoil heating in the close season I wondered if a full-time Groundsman might be a luxury when presumably what they need going forward is someone to cut the grass.

Colin has long-since lost touch with my step-father but I know he would remember him well and wish him all the best for a speedy recovery from a heavy fall earlier today. My only hope is that Colin has gone on his own terms and is ready for retirement. He deserves that and I hope we continue to see him down at the Valley in the coming seasons.

Elsewhere we continue to be linked with unheard of players, most of whom appear to have little pedigree or evidence that they might cut the mustard in the Championship. Perversely, the good news is we haven't actually signed any of them. Even if we are going to attempt to compete again in this league with half-a-side bolstered by unknowns, we really need to get the unknowns in over the next three weeks so we have a chance for the players to settle into the side and get to know each. We can't afford a slow start but that is the real threat given we are into June and have only signed two development players.

After four long days this week in the office, I am heading out to Murcia on Thursday evening in time to join up with six Aberdeen fans to take the opening eight matches of the World Cup in the warmth of the Spanish sunshine. Sixteen years since Scotland last qualified for the World Cup and a fortnight I took for granted in southern France. Still, got to love the World Cup. 

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Peeters, O'Grady and Sponsorship

The Official Site has caught up with new boss, Bob Peeters and quotes him today. Clearly he had a lot to say as they are releasing the interview in two parts. First, it was good to learn that he will be arriving to begin work next week and not at the end of June as Facebooked by the wife of the Club Secretary. Secondly I am surprised he quit his existing job for a one year deal overseas with us, although I guess it's a big step up and he may be prepared to take his chances with the half-billionaire, Roland Duchalet.

The rest of the 'interview' was uninformative although he acknowledged that we were a traditional club, mentioned his experienced in bringing youth on and name-checked Damian Matthew. The choice of photo accompanying the article was also eye-catching. I am going with the "shows passion" view but am reminded very strongly by someone I once came to blows with whilst minding my own business. I will look forward to Part Two.

Still no sign, or more accurately, no signing of Chris O'Grady. His agent is reported as saying the fee has been agreed but they are a long way out on personal terms and Chris wants to stay in the Championship, so any of the other 22 clubs who have yet to show any interest could yet come in for a meagre half-a-mill and cut a better deal. That puts me in the "not bothered now" camp as far as Mr. O'Grady is concerned. Greed is such an unwelcome trait.

Finally, some news on shirt sponsorship. I was pleased to see us do an unusual deal yesterday to sport University of Greenwich across the front of our shirts for next season. I couldn't quite work out how we would be making significantly out of the deal but strengthening local ties in the community can only be good and the association with Greenwich roots us firmly in the borough. In future, I thought, I might meet someone on holiday who actually knows where Charlton is. I also pondered on the financial sense of this and thought for a moment that old RD might have foregone pound coins for a nobler cause, or that maybe this was a back-handed way of the Council pumping more taxpayers hard-earned into the Club. My confidence in mankind has been restored today to learn that Andrew Sykes will be still be forking for to be on the backs of our shirts and we have also managed to squeeze Mitsubishi Electric onto our shorts. What would Sam Bartram have made of it? Probably room on his shorts for several more.