Saturday, 31 January 2015

Charlton Athletic 1 v Rotherham United 1

Well we managed to score a goal but also managed our 15th draw of the season and, frankly, it was no less than the visitors deserved.

Guy Luzon sent his team out pretty much as I expected, although I was disappointed Tony Watt didn't start and once again we had to suffer Calum Harriott playing as a striker alongside Igor Vetokele. Dmitrovic started in goal and I was immediately disappointed that he "doesn't look like a goalie." He's smaller than half the side in front of him, but he had a decent game and made a superb reflex save to maintain our lead before finally being beaten. He has a decent goal-kick but needs to learn not to launch it straight to his opposite number which he did on several occasions.

The back four, were as expected, with Wiggins, Bikey, Ben Haim and Solly. Veljkovic and Buyens anchored central midfield with Cousins on the left and Gudmundsson on the right. We started well enough and there was plenty of endeavour but Rotherham matched us and the defences dominated. In fact, there were only two clear-cut chances in the first-half with right wingers from both sides managing to shoot across goal beating the keeper and both seeing their efforts come off the inside of the post. Conor Newton managed it for the Millers after six minutes and Gudmundsson did the same mid-way through the half. 

After the break we upped the ante but were struggling to get anything to stick with Harriott or Vetokele. The Covered End were calling for Tony Watt before he was brought on but Luzon managed to upset them and many more by taking Igor off and leaving Harriott on. Gudmundsson was having a fine match and seemed to want it more than anyone else. He was eager to shoot and desperate to win the ball when not in possession. It was a move involving him which saw Tony Watt played in and he produced a sublime piece of skill to lose two markers and make a yard for himself but he fell at the last moment. 

Rotherham were beginning to attack and when Andy Hammill was brought on by Steve Evans I feared they might nick it. I was delighted then when we finally managed to break the deadlock. It was another fast attack with good support from Watt and Lepoint. An effort from Gudmundsson was blocked and fell for Jordan Cousin who couldn't miss from six yards. The relief was palpable but Rotherham stormed forward and an equaliser looked on the cards. 

Rotherham had, had a good penalty appeal for handball turned down and a goal disallowed for offside before Green saw Dmitrovic make that goal-line reflex save from his thumping header. Hammill had fizzed a curling shot inched wide before pumping a ball deep into the box that Danny Ward was first to and fired home from close range.

Guy Luzon will probably be satisfied with another point and some heart shown throughout the side. Solly was peerless as usual and Bikey and Ben Haim largely back on song. I thought Veljkovic was very economical although he played very much as a sweeper. Tony Watt must start games and I though Christophe Lepoint looked useful when he came on, even if it will take him a bit of time to get accustomed to the pace of the Championship. Three points would have taken us back to 12th but we didn't get them and there were lots of points picked up below us, most notably by the Lions who won 1-0 at Nottingham Forest. It's promising to get very messy.

On a final note, it was the lowest home gate for a Saturday game (14,447) and the second lowest all season.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The signs don't look good

It's been bleedin' obvious to any Valley regular this season that our squad is too thin and lacks quality in key areas - midfield and attack - to prosper in the Championship. The supporters have all been saying the same and Bob Peeters is on record for having made the asks although he was turned down by the Master of Chateau Duchatelet. 

Yes, we did get Tony Watt  and we have brought in a loan youngster from Spurs in the shape of Veljkovic but that is short of what's required. Another inexperienced young loanee has also turned up in the shape of central-defender Muohamaduo-Naby Sarr. The trouble is, we need an experienced target man and potent width. Oh, and we needed them three weeks ago.

Guy Luzon's command of English isn't great but he was clear on "two or three" coming in, and we have four working days around the weekend in which to do it. It does look like Roly is going to roll the dice this time and take a chance.

With attention turning to Saturday, opponents Rotherham United warmed up for the six pointer last night by doing what we have failed to do all season and scored four goals in a game by beating Bolton Wanderers 4-2. Four different scorers got on the sheet, three of whom were subbed before the end, presumably to milk the applause of a thumping performance which saw the Millers go four-up.

It promises to be a dramatic debut for the animated composer Luzon on Saturday.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Mouhamadou-Naby Sarr

News that we have signed Sporting Lisbon youngster, Mouhamadou-Naby Sarr on loan. The 6 foot 5 inch 19 year old is a highly rated French youth international, although I am struggling to see the obvious logic here.

Sarr has played a grand total of six league matches over the last couple of years, two for Lyon and four for Sporting. He cost Sporting a million euros but has a 45m euro release clause, according to Dr Kish, which puts him comfortably out of our budget. Is he really going to come straight into our side as a central defender? Perhaps Tal Ben Haim is getting his wish to leave sooner rather than later?

Monday, 26 January 2015

Remembering Rotherham United

I am looking forward to Saturday's match a little bit more than form would suggest I should be. Apart from this being a relegation six pointer and the Valley faithful's first chance to see Guy Luzon's touchline histrionics, I have some fond memories of the Millers.

When I say fond memories, of course, I am not talking about famous victories but rather of a couple I met on holiday thirty-five years ago and a couple of visits to Millmoor (and the Sheffield clubs) at that time in particular when they hosted us royally at the miner's working man's social club which they ran. In fact, our record against Rotherham in my viewing lifetime is, erm, poor. Considering they have traditionally performed in leagues below us, they have punched their weight whenever we have met them. Since the early seventies, it currently reads won 1, drawn 1 and lost 5.

I recall one showing in particular when they came to the Valley back in 1982 when we were under the stewardship of the hapless Ken Craggs. We had been promoted with Rotherham two seasons before and they were still holding on in the old second division (Championship). We had a tidy side at the time - Nicky Johns in goal, Elliott and Aizlewood in the back four, Harris, Mehmet, Bullivant and Robinson in the middle and Killer and Steve White up front. The trouble was, Rotherham had Ronnie Moore and Tony Towner.

We took the lead early on but the Millers equalised quickly through Moore and had gone two-one up before Steve White was sent off for two hot-headed yellows in quick succession. After that Rotherham sensed blood and poured forward for the whole of the second-half. Ronnie Moore caught all Addick eyes netting a hat-trick and created an impression that would result in the fans raising part of his transfer fee the following season. 

Tony Towner, an irresistible tumbling winger with a cracking shot, also scored that day as we went down 5-1. He was a former Millwall thorn-in-our-side who wasn't quite past it. Ken Craggs will also remember that game more than most - it was his last ever match in charge of a professional football team.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Wolverhampton Wanderers 0 v Charlton Athletic 0

Well, that was a pleasant and very unexpected surprise. Either the players were truly embarrassed by the "worst performance in recent history" last week at Watford and were determined to atone, or perhaps Guy Luzon has managed to instil a touch of New Boss syndrome. I sincerely hope it's the latter because there is an outside chance we might manage our first win in 13 next Saturday when lowly Rotherham visit the Valley.

Surprised to see network rookie Dmitrovic start in goal although he kept a clean sheet so I will keep my cynicism to myself (RD's network player policy). Etheridge might have conceded five at Watford but according to those who went, he kept five out as well. Morgan Fox was brought in at left-back, which plays to RD's "youth" theme and Johnnie Jackson made way for new loanee Veljkovic, who had a decent match alongside Buyens by all accounts. Upfront Harriott was preferred to Tony Watt, although Watt did replace him on seventy minutes. 

Scoring remains our real big issue. Six goals in the last twelve games tells it's own story. The fact that we have only managed to go two-up in a game for eight minutes all season might be as reflective of our hitherto defensive mindset but it goes hand-in-hand with low scoring. We have only managed to score more than two in a game once - the 3-2 defeat of Derby, the same match we managed to get a two goal cushion for eight minutes.

Apparently we defended well for the first-half with two banks of four and were a little more adventurous after the break with Hariott and Watt both testing Carl Ikeme in the home goal. The Valley crowd has been stoked a little by this Mr Luzon, so please do whatever you can try and that elusive win. I will wager that scoring three against the side fourth from bottom would guarantee it.

I can finish without commenting that I am very surprised to see Millwall end the contract of Scott McDonald. According to those I know who follow the Lions, he's the only forward they have capable of playing Championship football. Perhaps HMP Holloway is already preparing for next season. 

Wednesday, 21 January 2015


Tomorrow is the 22nd January and we have signed Tony Watt from the Mothership and taken a 19 year old rookie from Spurs in the shape of Milos Veljkovic. Still no news on Guy Luzon's work permit and you really have to wonder what on earth is going on? I assume Guy Luzon has been instructed to stay away from the training ground to avoid compromising his visa application.

Internet rumours about comings and goings have become fairly reliable as testified by Watt and Veljkovic and pretty much everyone else for quite some time now. If rumours are to be believed, you have to wonder if we will end the January window with a smaller and weaker squad than when we went into it - hardly believable and reckless if that proves to be the case. Marc Antoine Fortune certainly won't move the needle much if he joins.

Bulot, Tucudean, Ben Haim and Buyens are all said to want away and Mr Luzon appears to be the motivation for at least two of them if nor more. If that comes to pass Luzon's appointment will look very much like one of least cost and convenience, especially given the haste with which he was given the job.

Monday, 19 January 2015

The plot thickens

Bob Peeters spoke about his sacking to a Belgian football website today. He was clearly surprised and disappointed having been given reassurances about his position just last week.

He acknowledged that recent results had been poor but tried to put some context around it by saying we were pretty much where we were expected to be by year-end and were in-step with his agreed pre-season targets with the Master of Chateau Duchatelet. The plan, apparently, was for a quiet season and a mid-table finish, having brought some younger players on. Probably realistic and not out-of-line with Roland's own initial statements about breaking even and developing youth players, although it's hardly a ticket-selling policy or the ambition you might expect from someone worth half-a-billion sovs.

Big Bob also appears to have said (it was in Flemish) that Duchatelet thought he was exaggerating about the need to strengthen the squad and that his relationship with Katrien Meire had deteriorated. That was pretty much my view as posted yesterday and I assume Katrien's changing relationship simply reflected what she was told by her boss. My guess is Guy Luzon won't get the funds required to ensure Championship safety in the window and we are going to have to soldier on.

The final nugget was that Bob blames an English back-room assistant for putting the knife in. That is probably the most revealing claim. Peeters is indignant that he was sacked because of something said by someone less senior, although he isn't out all guns blazing denying whatever he was supposedly accused of. I take this to be just the smoking gun from whatever dressing room shenanigans have gone on.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

The trouble with Roland Duchatelet

It has been a a very difficult last couple of months for Charlton Athletic fans. Since our last win away at Reading on 8th November, our record reads, drawn, lost, drawn, drawn, lost, drawn, lost, lost, lost, lost. That sequence has seen us go from play-off contenders to relegation worriers and seen us wimp out of the F A Cup once again.

Something had clearly gone wrong with Bob Peeters and his management of the squad. We were disjointed, lack-lustre and some players were very visibly half-hearted. The squad were carrying injuries and Peeters was having to make-do. He was flat and was not speaking hopefully about the transfer window. In fact,  he was even unenthusiastic about the imminent arrival of Tony Watt, a striker Standard Liege had paid Celtic £1.3m for in the Summer. "If he must come" was what Peeters actually said. He was also making relatively lame excuses for our results and didn't seem too bothered in how he conveyed them.

It should not have been a great surprise then, that Bob Peeters was sacked last Saturday night after losing at home to lowly Brighton after the latest half-hearted showing. However, the news did come as a surprise to most of us when it broke on Sunday evening. Peeters had only been given a one year deal in the first place and he wasn't expected to lead us to promotion. Everyone seemed content on a season of consolidation and scraping a top-half finish. We were all surprised and delighted by our early season form although it built some unrealistic expectations amongst supporters which exacerbated the angst caused by our poor form from October. The style of football, it has to be said, wasn't great, trying to win matches from the back four, but we were enjoying being hard to beat and the points had us at the right end of the table. More significantly, the Board appeared to back their man. Roland Duchatelet hasn't been particularly vocal since acquiring us and he has said practically nothing since the back-lash from the sale of Yann Kermorgant and Dale Stephens and the sacking of Chris Powell. Instead we have heard from Katrien Meire, his appointed lead and the club's Chief Executive Officer. She has given us programmes notes and we have heard plenty from her on the Official Site, although most of what she has been involved in has been peripheral to the playing and management side of things. However, she was firmly supportive of Peeters in the Brighton programme and was clear that the Board (Roland) was supporting him. 

News of the sacking on Sunday night was brief and we were told more would follow. Unfortunately, Katrien then screwed the communications up on the Monday and compounded the problem in the days that followed. The trouble for Katrien was that the supporters had already jumped to Network conclusions and found internet rumours supporting the annointment of Guy Luzon. She first made the pretence that we would be carrying out an exhaustive search for the best candidate available but was very quickly calling a press conference to tell us what we already suspected, that the best candidate for the job was actually the under-employed Network manger, Guy Luzon. The press conference was embarrassing because a few lukewarm questions from the assembled journos exposed the paper thin and patently laughable cover story.

The over-whelming reaction from supporters was hostile; we don't like being lied to or having our intelligence insulted. Indeed, the normally on-side CA Supporter Trust (CAST) felt moved enough to write an open letter  complaining about the mis-leading of supporters and calling for an open dialogue and engagement with fans. The under-current to this letter was the fact that the Board have failed to communicate with supporters about the strategic direction and plans since the Summer, in spite of promising to do so once the season had finished and Championship survival had been secured. So they were, quite rightly in my view, prompting Duchatelet and Meire on this point. 

The notion that you can't inform supporters about your longer term plans because you are struggling is a pretty poor excuse but the real threat of relegation was probably why they chose to be wise after the event. The investment in the new pitch (the Yann Kermorgant Memorial Playing Surface?), plans for redevelopment of the training ground and the acquisition of a relatively expensive, non-Network striker served to calm the supporters and defer anymore awkward questions.

The response to the CAST letter, it would appear, was an article in the Evening Standard from Miss Meire under the title of "fans must accept how we run the club." The article attempted an apology but was still patronising and we were told that we "need to accept" that the owner "does it his way." She also said that it was up to the club to prove that Mr Duchatelet's business model could be successful which I think got things around the wrong way and actually introduced a huge doubt because the club patently aren't proving the success of the model.

Due to a coincidence of timing, the Fan's Forum, were due to meet Katrien this week, so they had a chance to hear her explanation first-hand and her response to the CAST letter. The Fan's Forum was a sop to bridge the gap between the supporters and the Board. It's made up of a number of volunteers who sit in each of the home areas and they take supporter complaints, predominantly about the hygiene factors of attending matches at the Valley (food, toilets and smoking etc) to the Board. I believe this includes CAST members, so I was very interested in what Katrien might have to say given the obvious opportunity to address the mountain of criticism.

Unfortunately, the update from CAST was a little hard to follow. It looks like the terms of their right to speak with the CEO means they can't really say what was said. However, it would appear that Katrien gave "a sincere speech" at the start of the Fans Forum (sounds like feedback in the official programme notes of the 1940's) and referenced her article in the Evening Standard and blamed Roly for having taken the decision and her looking like she didn't know what was going on. Amazingly, the CAST article said it welcomed her response and then contradictorily stated that "there were several key points in the Evening Standard article which we assume is (sp) inaccurate."

The CAST article then gets a bit lost by reiterating supporters concerns and calling for more engagement between the Board and other Supporter Groups without given us a view of her reaction. I assume she either refused, was non-committal or she wasn't actually pressed on the point. It finishes by trying to sound a positive note that we should all put the weeks events behind us, get behind the team and the progress (sp) of returning to winning ways (again, very 1940's programme notes). All a bit of a cop-out for me. I hope all present made the trip to Vicarage Road yesterday and noted some progress/process. Katrien was daft or bold enough to make the journey on the train and was subject to some verbals on the way home. I don't condone that but she can hardly be surprised if she really understands the strength of supporter opinion over this matter. Perception is reality and simply following orders and ignoring it is guaranteed to make  the situation worse.

On reflection, I think Bob Peeters was disappointed by Roland Duchatelet's reluctance to help him strengthen his squad in the January window and, as he has now said, was looking over his shoulder at Guy Luzon since his sacking in October at Liege. That's not to excuse our results under him but I think it would explain his demeanour and behaviour in recent weeks.

So, we remain in a right old mess. The Board still don't get it and there is no sign of any indication or willingness to communicate openly with the supporters. The CEO's lack of experience and naivety has been ruthlessly exposed and, all-of-a-sudden, she is just a puppet, not a CEO operating with autonomy, albeit to an agreed mandate. The short-sightedness of this policy is glaringly obvious to all of us who have lived through the Gliksten and Murray eras which makes it all the more frustrating. We grew up being treated like mushrooms under the Glikstens and were then welcomed into a room of bewildering white light by Mr. Murray which we basked in and reflected that light in our view of the Club. It also coincided with the best period in living memory for Charlton supporters but I am willing to accept that's all it might have been, coincidence. We had a professional CEO who was trusted to run the club and who communicated as openly as possible and who also travelled proudly on public transport with the supporters. Some rail at Murray for not speaking out but we should remember that he is now a minority shareholder with no big say and he lost the right to that when he sold his stake. 

Roland Duchatelet is a very rich man and he has been for a long time. He will be accustomed to doing what he wants, hearing what he wants and, frankly, not really having to listen too carefully to what anyone says. He is a man with a  conviction of a Network of Clubs model and he has the personal wealth to indulge his ideas. It also means he doesn't have to spend any time listening to mere supporters of these clubs, let alone answering any impertinent questions from them. I am sure he is convinced of his model and is only being patronising in the way he deals with us in the same way I am when my children nag me about things I know better of. The trouble is, his Network model was highly reliant on the successful implementation of FFP and that isn't happening anytime soon, if ever. Also, we are not children but paying Customers. If it all goes wrong for Roly at Charlton (and any of his other clubs), he will lose a bit of his fortune but will move on. As paying customers, we too can decide to move on and find something else to do on matchdays. The diehards (like me) won't, of course, we will still go and suffer it. But our club could be left in a far worse state that when Roland rode to the rescue a year ago. I was there when home gates were regularly below 5,000 and we were a very small club no-one wanted to watch. I really don't want to see us end up there once more - at my age and with no prospect of redemption in my lifetime I could really contemplate packing it in if that were to happen again. My guess is that this season is going to continue on it's downward trajectory and we will finish just out of the Millwall zone. However, that will take us backwards six years in playing terms and we will start next season a smaller club in the Championship with home gates closer to 10,000 - step back twenty years although I can't lay all that Duchatelet's door. A subsequent relegation might complete the downward spiral.

Beyond that, it's hard to see where we break the cycle unless Roland has a change of conviction or he sells us on. Even if he is converted on the road to Damascus, he doesn't need to tell us or Katrien he has changed his mind or seen the error of his ways. The only option open to us in the meantime is to mobilise and press for change. It sure as hell isn't coming from the Fans Forum or the Supporters Trust. There are probably still too many Charlton fans who are simply satisfied that we aren't the financial basket case we were under Dumb and Dumber for any storming of the barriers, but that's perhaps not as far off us it may appear, particularly if we continue at the current rate of decline. The supporters at Standard have had enough of Duchatelet and are fighting for new ownership. I wonder how long before we join them?

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Watford 5 v Charlton Athletic 0

After the farcical events away from the playing side of things this week, our side took the field at Vicarage Road, ostensibly under the management of Guy Luzon but actually being directed from the sidelines by Damian Matthew and Ben Roberts due to the latest cock-up, this time because Luzon doesn't have a work permit.

There were 2024 Addicks there to witness the new-manager bounce affect and we can debate whether or not Luzon's hands were on this side (he took training this week), but what was fairly emphatic was the pasting we took. I should say now that after we robbed Watford at the Valley earlier in the season, I had marked this down for a defeat as the Hornets took revenge. I will also say that I am confident Watford would have won this had Bob Peeters been in charge, although I suspect his looming presence on the touchline might have made the players try a fraction harder and we may have managed to keep the scoreline respectful.

As it is, this was our heaviest defeat of the season and it could not have come at a more worrying time. The response from the players is very clear and they aren't impressed. There was talk about dressing room discontent under Peeters and the Evening Standard reported that a players delegation had asked for an English Manager after his sacking. Today's performance does not bode well for Mr Luzon. His only experience so far this season was a string of defeats which cost him his job so he is really going to earn his corn if he can turn this around. 

We have dropped to 16th and face the prospect of another tough game at Wolverhampton next Saturday. The Valley will not be a happy place come 31st January when we return, presumably under Guy Luzon. The crowd threatens to be the smallest of the season so far and there won't be a lot of patience or goodwill. 

I am going to write more about the state we are in tomorrow. It's all very well that we have a rich owner and have no fear of Administration but the Network isn't working and I can't see how it can. Unless our owner is prepared to invest more money in the right players, the best available manager, an experienced CEO and the qualified back-room staff, things are going to get worse, not better. 

Thursday, 15 January 2015

What a mess

The fibs continued to tumble from the CEO's lips yesterday. At the press conference to introduce Guy Luzon, Katrien 'Dozy' Meire told us that the club had twenty applications for Bob Peeters' position within an hour of announcing his sacking on Sunday evening. Twenty, presumably credible approaches at 7pm on a Sunday evening? At that rate and, if they had waited until Tuesday, presumably we could have taken our pick from Pep Guardiola and Co? I'm not sure what this adds to the story but presumably it's to big-up Luzon's non-competitive appointment.

A journo asked if their were any English managers amongst the applicants and she tried to be clever by saying that none of those who applied would want her sharing any information, although I can't see why acknowledging that there was an Englishman amongst the twenty imaginary applicants would have betrayed anyone's confidence. When pressed again, she was forced to say "no." Twenty non-English applicants eh? Embarrassing, naive and highly transparent for a change.

Luzon himself has been questioned about his relationship with Tony Watt and Yoni Buyens. The question clearly hints at less-than-happy bunnies and, perhaps I am reading too much into it, but Luzon's answers gave the game away for me. On Watt he made the rather bold leap of imagination to say that Watt had improved "a lot" since he played under him a few months ago but added that "he has a lot of places to improve." Improving a lot when you haven't played is pushing it and suggests Guy is waffling (it's catching) or he is hoping Watt won't blank him tomorrow morning. Buyers '"played well, when he did play" but they had a "very strong team at Standard last year." An acknowledgement that Luzon recognises Buyens wasn't happy.

There is also a rumour that Tal Ben Haim may be heading to Israel. If that happens there will be a very obvious question asked.

After winning the majority of us around, Roland Duchatlet's plans have floundered inside a week and he and his CEO have somehow managed to alienate a large majority. Luzon will be given a chance by the fans but he has a very difficult job, especially if the Sub-Standard's report last night that a delegation of players had gone to the powers that be to complain about Luzon's appointment and express an opinion that we need an English or Championship-experienced manager. That might also suggest that TBH, BUyens, Watt and others who know the score from Standard Liege have been vocal on Luzon.

If I was Roland, I would be planning on splashing some cash to show intent. By cash, I mean investing in the side and not simply bringing in more warm bodies already on his payroll. I also think he needs to consider replacing the unfortunate Katrien Meire who has been cruelly exposed for a lack of experience in this whole process. It would only be fair to her and might allow him to come clean with the supporters who can see clearly what's happened here and won't be  mis-lead any further on the subject. Oh, and Roland, invest in a capable Communications Manager who can help build bridges with your disillusioned Customer base. They would appreciate the mere act of appointing one even if you are too arrogant to consider telling us what your plans for our football club are, assuming you are just making it up as we go along.

Rick Everitt has commented that the club are suffering from a lack of experience  in handling the relationship with the media and the supporters since clearing out all of those with history and tenure, largely under Slater and Jimenez it must be said. It looks like he has hit the nail on the head. Short of bringing some experienced operators back, they should, at least, invest in some PR professionals who would have helped them avoid the naive story-telling around Peeter's sacking which has insulted the fans intelligence and done more damage than I think they realise. Fans are fickle but ours are older, more discerning and more curmudgeonly than almost any others and are likely to vote with their feet come renewal time which is around the corner.

I hope Guy Luzon hasn't jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire because it will be our club that gets burnt. As Jennifer Lange says to Jack Nicholson in The Postman Always Rings Twice, "I'm tired of this...."

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Peeters for Millwall?

It's not all bad....

Just seen that Millwall's players have responded to Holloway's rallying cry in the Sub-Standard this evening. They have raced to three-down against League One Bradford City inside 38 minutes. Some going, even by their dismal recent performances.

That is probably enough to seal Hopeless Holloway's fate but a couple more would almost guarantee it. Millwall's Nutty Turnout will not be happy as the useless ***** have muffed their chance to cause another major disturbance amongst the middle classes in SW10. I reckon Big Bob might be lighting his birthday cigar this evening.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Guy Luzon in waiting

Guy Luzon is in the building and that can only mean one thing. As we await confirmation that he has replaced Bob Peeters, there is a lot of gnashing of teeth. It's pretty clear the fans don't want another Network Manager and especially one who was chased out of Standard Liege. Luzon's appointment will also make Katrien Meire look stupid for the second time inside a week. Her comments on the Official Site yesterday that we were beginning a thorough recruitment process and all that twaddle show that she doesn't really know what's going on. 

Luzon has a decent record on the face of it in terms of his win ratio in games, at 45%, but the vast majority of those matches have come in Israeli football. I am no expert on Hapoel Tel Aviv, Maccabi Petah Tikva or Bnei Yehuda but they are nowhere near the competitiveness of the Championship. 

His record at Standard is also impressive, having won 35 and drawn16 of his 72 games in charge. However, you have to ask yourself just why the Standard fans felt compelled to riot in his last match in charge and clamber across seats en mass to try and attack him. The internet is full of their bile towards him, and whilst I am no position to judge, you have to wonder.

Given the growing Network-resentment over what many are seeing as continuing mis-management of our club, Luzon's appointment rides rough-shod over any of that. The Board have failed to communicate openly with the supporters over the plans for the future, despite promising to do so in the Summer. We did see pre-season investment and food and drink options have improved although that's about all given where we find ourselves. 

The squad Luzon inherits is too small and lacking second-choice quality in most positions. I hope Duchatelet is going to back his new manager this month with better players or his honeymoon period could actually be shorter than a honeymoon holiday. I fear the natives could be revolting by the time we run out at the Valley on 31st January.

Monday, 12 January 2015

What will the Master of Chateau Duchatelet do next?

The Rumour Mill is in overdrive today. A thinly veiled club statement today tells us that the decision was sudden and came on the back of Saturday's disappointing result. I say thinly veiled because Katrein Meir is looking a trifle foolish following Saturday's programme notes in which she was supportive of Big Bob. All that would suggest she isn't quite as close to the Organ Grinder as you might expect. What she has said today is that the search for a new Head Coach will begin. So, what does Roly do next?

Guy Luzon is the obvious choice given his close relations with M. Duchatelet. He is currently out of meaningful employment and could be appointed quickly. However, given the furore over Peeters' sacking and the fact that Roland will want to steady the ship and avoid another short-lived appointment that would anger Charlton fans even more, he may be prepared to wait a decent amount of time before appointing Luzon, if indeed, he still has enough faith in him. Personally, I would be concerned if Luzon is the man. His record is lightweight and he failed spectacularly in the biggest job he has had at Standard Liege where the fans were so incensed they rioted to try and get at him.

Karel Fraye, Jose Riga's assistant for a few months a year ago is another name being touted. He knows where the training ground is and can probably remember most of the player's names. The trouble is, Riga wasn't deemed good enough to be given the job in the Summer having kept us up and, well, Fraye was his number two. He also doesn't have a track record to suggest he could walk into the job. Having seen how Riga was treated he might also not be too keen.

Jose Riga would get a sympathetic ear from the fans and has been out-of-work since his sacking by the Son-of-a-Rapist at Blackpool. I get the impression Jose is a big enough man to return and take his chances for a second time but he was definitely sore about the way he was treated after keeping us up and it might be a step too far for him, even if Roland is prepared to acknowledge a previous mistake in firing him.

The appointment of a British manager would allow Roland to divert some of the inevitable criticism he will get if we get another Network Manager. However, it would likely mean a couple of weeks at least to interview properly and complete a selection process. Time is of the essence, especially if any money is to be spent in the window strengthening the thread-bare squad. None of the current crop of recently unemployed managers would excite me and many might want assurances about budgets and working relationships which the Master of Chateau Duchatelet might not be prepared to grant.

Alan Curbishley is probably the unique choice and could be a masterstroke if Roland is prepared to take someone who barely speaks English, let alone any European languages. Curbs has said on Sky today that he was prepared for a "a chat" if asked and my guess is he would be gagging to take the position if offered as his stock has probably fallen as far as ours now. He would be instantly popular with the majority (I'm not his greatest fan but there are plenty worse including Luzon), he knows the club and the league. It would raise our profile with the press for a time to come irrespective of performances and results. The trouble with Curbs, of course, is he is a millionaire and very much his own man. He would definitely want some assurances from the clubs owner.

As I said a week ago on Sunday, it promises to be another very interesting seven days in SE7.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Bye-bye Big Bob

The reign of Bob Peeters ended this evening with a short statement on the Official Site which promises more of an explanation tomorrow. Whoever replaces Peeters will be the fourth Charlton Athletic manager inside twelve months. That's the antithesis of what we have grown up with at the Valley but things change.

I thought Duchatelet was wrong to sack Chris Powell although we were struggling and in a relegation battle. Jose Riga did a sterling job and I wasn't happy when he was not offered an extension, although he didn't sign a contract, so I suppose he couldn't really complain. Given Bob Peeters was appointed in the close season when Roland was busy investing in the Valley and making plans for the training ground, it was easy to be more optimistic about his appointment. The new signings and the money spent on Igor Vetekole, in particular, demonstrated commitment and we started the season on song.

Unfortunately, once the heat of Summer had faded we suffered a debilitating series of draws built on the back of out-and-out defensive displays where we were content to try and win every match 1-0 if we took the lead and irrespective of whether we were home or away, or whomever the opposition were. It wasn't good to watch.

Once the colder weather arrived, a few injuries exposed the frailty of our squad and we have begun to lose more games than we have drawn. No wins in the last nine and three successive draws has threatened to bring the house down. Our fans have been fairly patient. The final assessment from me is that in 25 league matches, Bob's side only once managed to take a two goal lead and that only lasted 8 minutes.

No doubt we will hear more about rumoured dressing room discontent in the coming days and perhaps Bob himself will have something to say. He certainly hasn't been supported during the January window but Duchatelet now has time to bring someone else in and back them with a signing or two.

Unfortunately, the immediate favourites will be Duchatelet cronies and Luzon and Fraye will top the list. There are other English managers around who are kicking their heels but please not Neil Warnock. I can't end without mentioning Curbs. I was one of those who was tired of watching us struggle in the Premiership and mistakenly thought we were established enough to risk the gamble of a new broom. Oh how wrong I was. Curbs would want things on his terms but his return would capture the imagination of the majority and promise better times.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Charlton Athletic 0 v Brighton & Hove Albion 1

I described today's match as a crunch game and elsewhere the consensus was that it could be pivotal. On that basis and given yet another unsatisfactory collective team performance, and another defeat, we are now officially in deep trouble. We may be 14th in the table and still five points better than today's visitors, but we are in free-fall and there is an alarming lack of apparent cohesion and concern amongst our players.

It was Bob Peeters birthday today and he won't be out necking champagne this evening. He has been struggling to give any satisfactory explanations for our loss of form in recent weeks and there has been a hint of defeatism about what he has had to say. I am of the view that it would be wrong to sack him now but he could have few complaints if Duchatelet decided it was time for someone else to try and motivate these players to win a football match.

As we left the stadium today, I commented (once again) that I have only seen two wins this season. Some fans get to see two or three in a week. My step-brother's twelve year old remarked that he had only seen one this year and only two last year (he can't attend night games where we had more success last season). My wife has also only seen one win this season and we are all season ticket holders. Some Charlton fans might think that's not unusual but I can assure you it is.

I was boosted pre-match by news that Wiggins was back and that Wilson was starting right-side of midfield. Gudmundson was left-side with George and Igor up-top. I felt we would have a good go today and was semi-confident of seeing a goal. Unfortunately, Brighton started a yard faster than us for the opening twenty-five minutes and we were abysmal. Solly and Wilson both let balls run under their feet and into touch. Bikey and Wilson both put terrible passes into touch and Cousins and Jackson had both gone into hiding. Brighton were doing all the pressing but were short of end product save a defensive mix-up involving Etheridge which we managed to scramble away.

After that opening spell we came more into the game and managed to get some balls up to Igor and George but nothing was sticking and we were still struggling in midfield. Nil-nil at half-time was the only plausible scoreline and there was some hope that we would pick up after the break attacking the Covered End. 

When our players trotted out, Gomez had come on at right-back with Chris Solly pushed into central defence for the injured Jackson. It's a sign of our small squad that any enforced changes of players usually results in others having to play out of position. We were better after the break but not really enough to seriously threaten Stockdale's goal. Chris Solly managed to hit a shot from nowhere which beat Stockdale but came down off the bar and was cleared. That was our best chance and in spite of plenty more balls into the box we created very few clearcut chances. 

George Tucudean was injured on 50 minutes and Tony Watt came on for his debut. He nearly scored with his first passage of play when he dropped a shoulder, burst clear of his man and fired near-post but Stockdale kept it out.

Joe Gomez did very little wrong and he brought some urgency to our play in the second period but he did not keep his shape when Brighton attacked. It could be he was following orders and Wilson was supposed to fall-back and defend our right corner but Brighton attacked down our left several times and there was a man free in acres of space on our right every time. Just after the hour a cross from the left to the back post was our undoing. It looked like Ben Haim was beaten in the air by Rohan Ince but Etheridge added to the problem by careering off his line and missing the ball altogether which left Ince to head into an unguarded goal.

Our response wasn't good enough. Tony Watt looked busy and was promising and was joined, rather ironically, by Simon Church after Brighton had scored with the anonymous Wilson rightly being subbed. I have long been a fan of Wilson but he hasn't done enough when he has been given a chance in recent months and today's performance doesn't warrant a start next week.

All-in-all it's another depressing Saturday evening and I am only pleased I don't have to see us play again until the end of the month. By then things could look even worse. I don't envy any of you going to Watford next week.

Can't finish today without wishing Kevin Nolan a full and speedy recovery from his recent stroke. Hopefully we will be firing on more cylinders by the time Kevin is doing the same and takes his seat watching the Addicks again.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Crunch game Saturday

The Tony Watt formalities were completed yesterday. The only surprise was that he has signed on a permanent three year deal for an undisclosed sum. Given Standard Liege paid £1.3m in the Summer that would sound impressive, however, given the nature of the network it means very little in practice because there's only "funny" money involved and he could be moved elsewhere (or sold) at a moment's notice. That might indicate that SL have seen enough and won't be asking for him back.

Watt will be expected to score on his debut on Saturday as part of a winning performance. I guess the added striking threat and a rested Igor will mean we expect two score twice in the process!

Brighton are feeling rejuvenated under Chris Hughton and will come looking for their third successive away London win having beaten Fulham and Brentford in their last two, both by 2-0 scorelines. Their fans are obviously feeling similarly enthusiastic and they are ion course to bring their full 3,000 allocation. That should see the gate double the paltry 8,000 who came for the Blackburn F A Cup Debacle.

It proves to be a pivotal match if there is a decisive result one way or the other what with growing disenchantment about our league form, squad weaknesses and style of play. I am immediately minded to opt for yet another fucking draw.

News too yesterday that we have signed another network player. This time a young Hungarian who can't make it into Upjest's side. My guess is we will never see him play for us. I am still very surprised that none of our players have headed out to the network and the in-count must be in double figures, even if not in terms of Championship quality. I wonder whether any supporters of the other clubs are complaining about this are are we only receiving those they are largely glad to see move on?

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Peeters blames tiredness and thin squad

Bob Peeters was on the defensive after our third defeat in four matches yesterday. "The boys were a bit tired and we had the young on the bench because we missed a lot of players."

It's fair to say that Blackburn last played on Sunday whereas we were beaten on Tuesday at Portman Road but "the boys were a bit tired" sounds pretty lame. What they were was second-best and less motivated. Cheeky too to blame 'missing' players when we chose to rest Solly and Vetokele. Ouch Onyewu has only played one match from the bench but was also listed as one of the missing players. 

When asked what positives he took from the match as he looked forward to Brighton at the Valley he said that "it's going to be a different game" because it's not the F A Cup. Statement of the bleedin' obvious Bob but not quite sure how that counts as a positive. He then said "hopefully we will sign a striker this week" which must surely have been tongue-in-cheek or else a master of understatement given that Tony Watt was in Charlton kit and kicking the ball about with his new team-mates before the match. I note that there was no other comment re new players but he added "we will see what's available for the next couple of weeks" which i took to be reference to the players he expects to be returning from injury as opposed to other signings. 

Not sure I buy the injuries list excuses either. From memory it's Wiggins, Henderson and Moussa who are the injuries and arguably only Wiggins has been missed in recent games. Neil Etheridge has settled in quickly and had his best match so far yesterday. Morgan Fox was harshly subbed at Blackburn where I thought he was made something of a scape-goat for the overall performance and it was interesting to see Bob picking him yesterday to face Blackburn again after being dropped for the previous two matches. Frankly, I wouldn't be picking Moussa even if he was fit.

All-of-a-sudden we look like a busted flush and Tony Watt will start with an even greater expectation on his shoulders next week. If he doesn't make an immediate impact and we fail to start winning again, things could become very uncomfortable for all concerned. The Charlton Bloggers were all of largely the same opinion yesterday as captured very neatly by Chicago Addick. Daggs was also forthright and outspoken in his condemnation on Doctor Kish but I knew exactly where he was coming from.

I haven't had time to look at Charlton Life yet but I am expecting more of the same. It promises to be a very interesting next seven days in SE7.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Charlton Athletic 1 v Blackburn Rovers 2

An entirely predictable and depressing F A Cup exit at home to fellow Championship side Blackburn Rovers who strolled to their second victory over us in a matter of weeks.

As expected Chris Solly and Igor Vetokele were both rested. Lawrie Wilson finally came back into the starting line-up although why play him at right-back? Joe Gomez was fit and is a better first choice. I would have preferred to see Wilson on the right wing. We were also treated to a rare outing for Simon Church who is clearly beyond this level of football. However, I won't criticise Church this evening because once again he gave his all even if it wasn't good enough to threaten the Rovers back four. 

All-in-all we simply didn't want it as much as Rovers. We were second best all over the park for most of the match. Falling behind after only three minutes set the scene with Taylor heading in unmarked at the back post after we were pulled all over the pitch. There simply wasn't enough Charlton fight to get close to parity and Rovers were first to all the loose balls and played around us for most of the game. Neil Etheridge deserves praise for keeping the scoreline down but my ire was focused on our midfield failings. Jordan Cousins needs an electric shock a stiff talking too. He has the pace and the technique to be winning matches for us. Instead we have to see him content to look competitive in most games, which I am afraid isn't good enough. 

Johnnie Jackson looked laboured today and alongside Buyens we were sluggish in the middle. I didn't realise that Buyens had already been booked but his second yellow card was completely unnecessary and he therefore deserved to be sent off. Again, simply not good enough. 

If you are aiming for Tucudean and Church in front of you, you can see the problem. Johan Berg Gudmundsson did manage to fire us level from a 25 yard free-kick after 56 minutes but Rovers promptly pressed forward and re-took the lead minutes later. 

It might have been better if the floodlights had failed to come back on after going out at 0-1. Having said that who would want to suffer that all over again? The crowd was poor (8,000?) and deserving of the club deciding to close half the ground and half the facilities. I have decided that I won't be bothering with the F A Cup next season unless things look significantly better than recent history. Sorry Charlton but we have been signposting this level of disinterest in the Cup for years and we continue to get what we deserve - sod all.

I want to see Bob Peeters speak frankly after the latest shambles and I want to see him kick some arses before we run out against fellow-strugglers Brighton next week. If we can't beat them then there will be alarm bells going off all over the place. I am not going to wait until self-preservation sets in amongst this squad in April.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Our Cup match

Tomorrow marks our annual entry into the world's oldest knockout football competition. The opposition for our third round tie in the F A Cup will be Blackburn Rovers who I assume will be fairly confident of leaving SE7 with a result having rolled us over with something to spare only a few weeks ago at Ewood.

The Valley won't hold many fears for Rovers tomorrow. The crowd will be well down on league matches and, I suspect, very subdued. We are also carrying injuries and it's very possible that Bob Peeters will take the opportunity to rest a few and we may well even tinker again with formations. 

The most obvious question for me is "will Tony Watt play?" The answer to that would appear to be "no" on the basis that I don't believe the transfer window opens until tomorrow. Not sure how this is working and why we needed to wait until January on the basis that we could have taken him on loan last week? All that suggests that stumbling George will get another home game. He certainly deserves one after his efforts against Cardiff. I suspect Igor Vetokele could be rested if he is still carrying his calf strain. That would allow Joe Piggott a start in an unusual partnership of two bigger men.

Johnnie Jackson is warmly rumoured to be heading north to link up with Chris Powell and there will be knowing nods around the ground if he is omitted from the starting eleven. It should be an opportunity for Lawrie Wilson but Bob Peeters appears unconvinced by our Lawrie and instead perseveres with Gudmundson on the wrong side. I like Johan but he isn't and out-and-out winger and tends to drift inside. With no natural width from Cousins on the other side, we end up playing a narrower midfield which is easier to defend against and results in less crosses from wide - think Vetokele's last goal at Reading.

The back four should pick themselves but we could see a back three again if Peeters wants to persevere to find a winning formation. It worked well enough in the second-half against Cardiff but they were sitting back defending against ten men. I am not so sure it's as good an idea when our opponents have two lurking forwards in the shape of Rhodes and Gestede, and when they can gamble in a cup game. It would, however, allow Solly to be rested having played in the week.

We really need a confidence booster before we face a Brighton side who may be revitalised under Chris Hughton. With tough road trips this month to Watford and Wolves, it could be a hard start to 2015 unless we get off on the right foot tomorrow.