Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Ba makes two

Twenty-two year old rookie El-Hadji Ba has joined us on a three year deal from the Black Cats. His first team record is relatively light having only managed to get on three times for Sunderland and having broken his leg on loan at Bastia. If he lacks experience , perhaps he makes up for that in pedigree. A six foot central midfielder of Senegalese origin who has been capped at U18, U19 and U20 for France he clearly had enough promise for the Makems to take him on.

He would appear to have something to prove if he can settle in our side and ordinarily he ticks a number of my transfer boxes. The rub here, of course, is I suspect he is not coming into our side to strengthen it but to replace either Joni Buyens who is off or Jordan Cousins who is strongly rumoured to be off. News of Aston Villa's interest in youth product Cousins may well have affected the way he spent his Summer holidays. He has obviously avoided the temptation to chillout and put on a few pounds as is customary. He returned to first day training and shattered the club's 1500m record by 15 seconds. Perhaps his agent told him he needed to get to Birmingham as quickly as possible?

Friday, 26 June 2015

Scotland Forever

Off to Scotland this weekend for a catch-up with half-a-dozen mates from Aberdeen. We have hired a fantastic private house on a cliff overlooking the river Tay a few miles outside Perth (have stayed there before). There will be plenty of football banter and genuine interest in the plight of the Addicks and I will need to show an interest in developments at Pittodrie and the emerging dream of the Dons once again challenging the elite of Scottish football to regain their rightful place at the top of the tree. 

They begin their Europa quest in Macedonia in a couple of weeks and they are all going. One or two of them have been to Welling with me for our annual curtain-raiser and I will be asked if we are playing there again. Isn't quite the same but there you go.

We have a day of activities tomorrow before an annual meal in a restaurant that only has ten covers. Not sure Segways are going to be my kind of thing but Tank driving is right up my street. Hand me a shell please.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Roland sells the Mothership

News this morning that Roland Duchatelet has sold Standard Liege, the flagship of his football club network. He was undoubtedly unpopular with the Liege fans who have campaigned to get rid of him but I am reminded that he has been very adept thus far at not giving two hoots what supporters think.

There is also a question of him clearing up any possible contravention of Belgian club ownership rules following St Truiden's promotion, although I suspect he has acted primarily out of a desire to get out of Liege. I am left wondering again whether the effective failure of FFP has broken his plan to beat the system?


If it has, then you would want to sell your biggest assets first before the market tumbles you are heading out. Perhaps a big of a leap of imagination, but lo' and behold there are also rumours of a wealthy Nigerian Oil tycoon have expressed an interest in acquiring a non-Premier League London club. Duchatelet is also quoted as having said he may be getting out of SL but he's not getting out of football. Again, you don't signal your intention to the market or your prospective buyers lower their offers in the hope of securing a bargain.

The next few weeks could be interesting......

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Patrick Bauer

Confirmation that our first Summer signing is 22 year-old German centre-half, Patrick Bauer from Portuguese side Maritimo. His transfer announcement coincided with the finality of Joe Gomez's move to Liverpool reserves for £3.5m. The undisclosed fee will be around £3m more than we will have possibly paid Maritime and will effectively settle half of our last year losses. just another £4m to recoup and Katrien will have balanced the books.

I have no problem with us selling players when we have to - everyone does it and it's part of the game. The fee for Gomez isn't bad and if there was a buyout clause in his contract, then that might not have helped us but if we had been able to hang onto him for another season he may have flourished and that fee doubled. We would have seen more of our investment in him and the club's youth policy better supported.

Many will be reconsidering their subscription to Valley Gold on the back of Joe Gomez's departure - I am. Joe managed 21 appearances for the Addicks, one more than last year's loss of Diego Poyet. Joe will be aiming to improve on Diego's three appearances for West Ham in his first season there. 

With our best players from last season being auctioned off, I am reminded again about how Bournemouth managed to get promoted. They didn't break-even in their last few seasons but they didn't spend a huge fortune either. They achieved it through squad stability and strengthening with several better players each season. There is the dichotomy of having a wealthy owner with limited ambition and one who is prepared to invest in his club. The other, much more obvious difference is the quality of the football that supporters of the Investor get to watch. That, for me, is what really hurts.

Expect more burying of bad news in the coming weeks as we cash-in on who we can. The Bookies have us amongst the warm favourites for relegation. It would be great to see us prove them wrong but I am not minded to repeat my top-half season gamble of last year. 

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

QPR on the first day

The new season will open on Saturday 8th August with QPR visiting SE7. We follow that with three tough aways (Derby, Forest and Wolves) and a visit of also-relegated Hull City before Wolves away. The pessimistics are predicting an immediate relegation battle whilst the optimists think it will be good to play these games early on and that it could fire us up for a good start.

What will determine that, of course, is what shape our team is likely to be in and the signs here are not good. The squad that finished last year has already been depleted numerically without any significant loss, from my perspective, but   it's looking increasingly likely that some of our best players will be sold on to balance the books. Gomez already looks a goner and Vetokele, Gudmundson and now Cousins are being linked with other clubs. 

Probably best to assess things in early August but the pessimistics hold sway at the moment. It is hard looking down the fixture list for me to get too excited. The matches all look 'samey' and equally difficult. My love affair with Charlton Athletic Football Club is on the wane and I feel sad about that.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Republic of Ireland 1 v Scotland 1

Scotland are still in the mix for Euro '16 after a point in Dublin from what was a pretty poor quality game. Irish confidence looked low and Scotland played for the draw. This cheeky Paddy Power advertisement set the tone for for the match and the draw.

The two nights in Dublin were spent with good mates who had travelled from Aberdeen and Oslo as we enjoyed the 'Irish Temple Bar' and my favourite Doheny & Nesbitts. I have been to Dublin six times over the last twenty-five years and am used to seeing hardship, from drug-embattled housing estates with 'father vigilantes' patrolling to stop dealers throwing drugs to their children, to the more run-of-the-mill down-and-out. Perhaps it's a reflection on how much better London has become but the numbers of people begging on the Dublin streets was alarming. Most looked like young immigrants and the form is to clutch a sleeping bag around your body and shake a paper cup. Ireland's benefits were very good a few years back but that has been cut as the economy has suffered. Perhaps that's the explanation?

Anyway, Scotland now stand looking at three possible victories from qualification. Georgia away, Poland at Hampden and Gibraltar in Faro. No doubt it won't be that easy but we have edged ahead of Ireland in the race to France.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Dublin's Fair City

After what will have been a long working week, I will be heading out to Dublin late on Friday evening in order to get acclimatised ahead of Scotland's first real crunch match in the Euro 16 qualifiers.

Tickets for the visitors are at a premium and I was well-short of the points required to qualify for one of the 3000 available but I have managed, with a mate, to get one courtesy of an Irish fan he knows who has hospitality tickets. It seems begging, stealing and borrowing has become my way of getting into away games since I stopped qualifying on merit. It's a vicious circle, of course, because I don't get points nowadays for the games I do get to overseas.

Anyway, I am pleased I will be at the game and equally delighted to get a weekend in Dublin with half-a-dozen of Aberdeen's finest. The plan is to be in Doheny & Nesbitt's at 8pm on Friday and have a great laugh until kick-off.

The reverse match in Glasgow was a very close affair and I am expecting the same. The head says Ireland's home advantage will tell and I suspect Gordon Strachan would take a draw but my heart says the current band might just nick it. Stephen Naismith is due a goal or perhaps a repeat from Sean Maloney in a one-nil smash and grab?

Scotland forever!

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Fixtures due as well as player movement

The fixtures for the forthcoming season should be out next Thursday with a few leaked on Wednesday. That is traditionally the signal for supporters to start to get interested again in what might be happening next season. Who will we play on the first day? Is it the regular mishmash of predictable dull London derbies over Christmas and where will we be celebrating promotion at the other end of the season? Unfortunately, it won't be Carlisle again.

We should also see the first confirmed transfer activity. Most players will be returning from their second or third holidays and those ready to depart will sign the contracts that see them move on. JBG will be the test for me but I am assuming he will go to Wolves for an undisclosed £3m. Vetokele similarly for an undisclosed £4m to FFFP QPR. I also expect Wiggins, Harriott and Bikey to pick up other clubs along with Joe Piggott who Phil Brown wants at Southend. 

If most or all of that comes to pass, we are going to need to be active in the transfer market and will need to recruit two playable centre-halves, covering left and right-backs, a creative central midfielder, two playable wingers and two goalscorers. Given the Duchatelet plan, I would expect us to pick up all bar one or two of those for free and we might hope to start the season with similar strength to how we finished it. Much would then depend on how the players fit together and how much motivation Guy Luzon can instil.

In the meantime, just how many season tickets have we sold? Still no word although I did receive an email reminding me that I will get 9 free games if I renew. Only, of course, if I am available and willing to attend every match and if they don't discount too many games to fill empty seats. I am expecting gates to drop by a couple of thousand this season on the back of last and the whole general lack of ambition and strategic communication from the club.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

The Love Tattoo

Tattoos in youth are a risky thing. Immaturity can lead to spur-of-the-moment decisions and tattoos should never be that. A decent percentage of the Tattoo Artists work is "cover-ups" where they have to use their imagination in order to alter a tattoo that now causes painful embarrassment. 

Many years ago in my youth, a number of us visiting an old-fashioned (and crap) Tattoo parlour in Southend after an afternoon's drinking on an early-80's Beano. One of our mates wanted "Millwall" tattooed on his upper arm but even with half-a-dozen pints on board he was dithering, much to the annoyance of the Tattooist. In the end, he had it done but the tattooist somehow managed to leave a visible gap between 'Mill' and 'wall.' There was no excuse other than he might have been a West Ham fan. We never laughed so much. The gap was big enough for him to have a daisy put between it and it was referred to for years afterwards as the Mill Wall tattoo.

The other classic cover-up, of course, is girls names although with the number of girls now smothered in tattoos, then I guess I ought to be a modern man and refer simply to ex-flame names. Always a mistake eh?

For me, love for someone else must endure to make the ultimate commitment and it's why this tattoo, thirty years on is such a belter - nice one Kev.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Four contracted players not wanted

News today that Joe Piggott, Andre Bikey-A, Callum Harriott and Rhoys Wiggins have all been told they can leave the club. With Yoni Buyens heading to join Bob Peeters at Lokeren and Johan Berg Gudmundsson and Igor Vetekole the subject of money moves away, a clear-out is well underway.

Joe Piggott might have been too young to establish himself when thrown into the fray at the Valley but the consensus is he will only make a career for himself in Leagues One or Two. Southend looks the right place for him and Phil Brown is keen. Good luck Joe.

I am sorry to see Andre Bikey being sidelined and touted. He was a solid and competent defender when he first joined and he was unfortunate, in my view, to be dropped this year and very unlucky not to get another go. His face clearly doesn't fit with Guy Luzon or he earns too much, although as a Duchatelet signing I would be concerned if he is now deemed to be unaffordable. Thanks Andre for your swashbuckling performances and that beautiful volleyed goal from a corner earlier last season. For the most part you were a joy to watch.

Callum Harriott has time and pace to find a berth elsewhere but where did it all go wrong. At the end of the 2013-14 season under Jose Riga he hit a purple patch and looked like he had finally cracked it and could really threaten in the Championship as a goal-scorer. Unfortunately, this season he reverted to headless chicken in possession and was once again incredibly frustrating to watch. Harriott is one of those classically athletic young men who aren't really naturally footballers. All that pace and not a footballing brain or the right level of technique to fit. He could tread a well-worn footpath and prove himself elsewhere but that's no reason to hang onto him when he has proven an inability to do the business for us.

Finally, very disappointed to see Rolls-Rhoys Wiggins thrown on the scrap-heap. At his best and pre-injury he was near peerless for us. Consummate at the back he raided well and created plenty. He struggled to regain form after injury but he did get back towards his best under Riga. Unfortunately, he had further injuries this season and increasing competition from Morgan Fox who is a better long term bet. What disappoints me most is I hear Wiggins' salary has gone against him and we are keen to trim his wages.

If JBG and Vetekole are sold to Championship opposition for profit, then I am afraid it will look very much like the Duchatelet plan remains as is i.e. we are being run to break even and survive. On that basis, I expect a tranche of short-term replacements to arrive and Guy Luzon to hope for the best when we kick-off. If that's what happens, then my decision not to renew my season ticket won't change and I will go week-to-week. The 38 year cycle will be broken and I will be prepared not to commit to being at every home match irrespective of how we are playing. Sad to say but I can't support an owner who has very deep pockets and shallow ambition. His network model is built on Financial Fair Play and that has been laughed at by the big clubs and ridiculed by QP-Fucking Ha. The threat of Administration might have gone but with a wealthy owner real ambition should be part of building a better future together.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Blatter's Epiphany

After his defiant press conference following his re-election as head of FIFA at the weekend, Sepp Blatter stood down today after a short and much more humbling statement when he was honest enough to say he might have the support of his FIFA cronies but he doesn't have the support of the world's football leagues, it's players or it's supporters. It was astonishing to hear him change his tune so completely, especially after all these years of arrogance and defiant bluster.

The FBI hounds are closing in on those arrested so far for bribes supporting the award of the World Cup to South Africa and with the smell around Quatar's award intensifying, Blatter looks very much like he is jumping before he is pushed. There looks like a lot more to come.