Thursday, 31 August 2017

Desperation stakes

A couple of weeks praying for an additional experienced striker and on the last night of the window we move Novak out and bring in Joe Dodoo!

A 22 year old who played 20 times for Rangers last year scoring, er, three times (not a hat-trick). On Saturday we go to bottom-placed Oldham without an experienced striker. It's Dodoo or a youngster. Three goals between them.

Proof, if any needed, that Duchatelet won't invest a penny more and the club is being run on a fixed budget and is simply not geared for a promotion challenge. Time for Robinson to wake up and get real. His hands are tied and nothing is going to change whilst Duchatelet calls the shots.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Robinson gives up on new striker

Karl Robinson may have sounded like he's been playing spoof in the media with other clubs over the last few weeks in terms of his efforts to strengthen Charlton's striking options. You could argue he is still doing it with this week's latest pronouncement in the SLP, but it sounds very much to me that he's finally putting a brave face on a constricted budget.

He might also be leveraging his current position publicly to help build expectation and pressure on the owner to put his hand in his pocket come January, IF we are challenging for promotion. Sounds to me very much like the previous Duchatelet/Meire position when the aim was to be "competitive in the Championship with ambitions for the Premier League." They said at that time that they might spend in January, IF we were challenging for promotion. As we know that never happened. Instead they sacked Bob Peeters when we had the best of their first half-seasons rather than back him.

Once again Robinson's words are frustrating. He says it might be the time "press the button" on a signing, implying thats all he has to do. He goes on to say that if we are competing in January "they will be knocking on the door...saying go and get the best striker you can buy." Clearly they (Duchatelet and Meire) haven't been saying that in this window or knocking on the door. What does "get the best striker you can buy" mean? Surely he means 'get the best striker you can within the budget.' He's been trying to do that in this window but the likes of Wigan and Bristol City have been able to laugh off our offers for their squad strikers and demand unrealistically high fees because we are the mighty Charlton.

I am no fan of Robinson but he appears he could be turning a corner as things stand and if the owner and CEO agree, now is the time to help him, not hope we can compete with only two proven strikers and youngsters. Why would Duchatelet spend in January rather than say let's see if we can do it without spending? Maybe they will give him the money needed but perhaps it would come from a Lookman-type exit. If there isn't more money, why would the likes of Wigan or Bristol City do a deal with us in January unless we are paying more than offered in the close season? Robinson seems to think prices fall in January when demand is greater!

I find myself feeling sorry for Robinson this evening and perhaps affording him the credit of doing his best in difficult circumstances and treading what might be a difficult line between his budget and managing supporter expectations.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Rotherham United 0 v Charlton Athletic 2

A good away win this against a side who were relegated from the Championship last year. Rotherham missed a sitter after ten minutes and six minutes later Patrick Bauer scored a trademark header from a corner to give the Addicks a lead. 

Semi Ajayi headed wide from six yards out before Josh Magennis netted after 66 minutes. The home crowd were not happy as Proctor was felled in the run up to our goal and he was stretchered off after it. Karl Robinson won't care too much, he has his third win out of four and the Reds are up to fourth in the table. 

It's difficult not to look at your early season wins and reflect that the sides you have beaten aren't doing well in the table but that's as much a result of you denying them any points when they aren't many on the board. Bristol Rovers looked lame when they couldn't beat us with ten men but they have now just won two in-a-row. Northampton look like potential Division whipping boys having lost all four and yet Plymouth, who beat us at Home Park, have managed only a draw and two defeats. If these are signs, then we go to Oldham next week and they sit rock-bottom with Northampton having also lost all four.

However you look at it, it's a four point improvement on last year when we started with that 2-0 loss at promoted Bury, a 1-1 home draw with Northampton before winning at Walsall and drawing with Bolton at the Valley.

If we can strengthen our forward options before the window closes this week, we might just have a chance of being properly competitive this season. If we don't and it bites our bum again this year, there should be no excuses from anywhere about where the responsibility resides. 

Friday, 25 August 2017

Robinson - "Squad strong enough now for automatic promotion"

The club's website has today confirmed that two bids have been made for a striker but both turned down and the suggestion is that the price being asked is too high. Given the word on the street is that Robinson was telling fans last weekend we have had an offer of £1.2m turned down for Will Grigg, you have to assume that there is some truth in this but that Grigg won't be leaving mighty Wigan unless they can bring a better option in their opinion for that money in the meantime.

Robinson has also told KentLive this week that he believes the squad is strong enough today to make automatic promotion with or without any additional striker. He also says we made a bid for David Ball from Rotherham during the Summer but were turned down on that also (what price he scores againot us tomorrow). Sounds very much like Karl knows we are short upfront but is either putting a brave face on it or is continuing to manage expectations in the hope he gets someone in before the window closes next week. The Lee Novak situation will also be interesting in that Novak wants away and it's hard to keep a anyone focused and committed if their heart is not in it. Maybe we will see one in and one out that might not improve the situation?

Karl's tendency to prattle on and waffle is also evident when he talks about having to keep everyone fit (in order to sustain a promotion challenge). He says it as if we can somehow guarantee that by working hard at it. The reality in today's game is players will succumb to pulls and tears and no-one can legislate for bad tackles. We have already lost Magennis to injury this season, so the writing is on the wall.

It really is looking like we are again left trying to throw a double-six in order to get back to where we were when Duchatlet bought us.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Charlton Athletic 4 v Northampton Town 1

I was away camping this weekend but crept into the car to tune in at 4pm to catch-up on the Addicks. Radio 5 were covering Liverpool v Palace but flitting around the grounds. It was fully 25 minutes before I heard we were two-up and then shortly after that the Cobblers had pulled one back. I could imagine the mass nail-biting in SE7 and decided to switch off.  I then got a couple of texts confirming a surprise 4-1 victory.

It sounds like we played well but Northampton probably aren't this seasons yardstick. Two mates included the word 'flattered' in their updates but the post-match views on Charlton Life are very positive.

It was good to see Holmes firing another peach against his old side and that Forster-Caskey scored a late double. That probably won't help Robinson's case for another goal-scorer and I can hear Duchatelet saying "let's see where we are at Christmas." Josh Magennis' header after two minutes put us at ease and playing with one up front, this is the sort of scoreline and performance Robinson believes we can trot out week in, week out. 

Two away games in-a-row at Rotherham and then Oldham, neither of whom have started particularly well. Rotherham have lost twice whereas Oldham are bottom of the table and are still looking for their first point. 

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Managing expectations....

Before last Christmas, Karl Robinson decided that he was going to travel to Belgium to make his plea in person to Roland Duchatelet for more funds to strengthen the side in the January transfer window. To bolster his case, he took Katrien Meire and captain, Johnnie Jackson. On his return he told us that they had a frank exchange of views and we would need to see what happened. Nothing did happen and we continued to struggle until the last few weeks of the season.

During the Summer we have had the usual clear-out to cut the wage bill and have finally managed to offload big earners in Texeira, Vetokele and Watt amongst others. Most fans, myself included, were surprised we managed to hang onto Ricky Holmes, not because the fee being talked about was massive (£700k?) but because Holmes resisted the lure of Championship football. His new deal was a boost and it looks very much like we didn't push any deal for Esra Konsa, despite what appeared in the press as a lot of big club interest. The Ademola Lookman deal may well have emboldened Duchatelet to play the longer game here to optimise the transfer fee when it eventually comes. 

Robinson has tunnel-vision on playing a fluid midfield with only one striker and this might not be helping his argument for another striker. The signings of Mark Marshall, Billy Clarke and Ben Reeves gave some cause for optimism. However, we still looked short of realistic striking options, certainly for a promotion campaign. Magennis is injury prone and Lee Novak looks beyond scoring double-figures over a season nowadays. That leaves us with inexperienced options in Ahearne-Grant, Umerah or Hackett-Fairchild. So, we really do need another proven scorer and probably two to support any realistic promotion effort and the need to be able to play 4-4-2 when needed. 

Most Charlton fans can see this very clearly and Karl Robinson has been forced to comment in the Newshopper this week to help manage expectations. It looks very much like Duchatelet won't support Karl here and he is being told he can have limited funds which would only support bringing in the sorts of players who won't make any real improvement on what we have. This fits very much with Duchatelet's strategy of cutting and maintaining smaller operating losses so he can maximise profits when selling our most promising players. What happened to the £12-15m raked in last season for Lookman, Gudmundson & Co? Duchatelet's trousered it all arguing it offsets historical operating losses and the purchase of the club.

Given the pilgrimage to Belgium last year, how long will it be before Karl Robinson realises his career aspirations are at stake as well as the reputation of Charlton Athletic and is openly critical instead of telling us it's "not my fault?"

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Plymouth Argyle 2 v Charlton Athletic 0

Disappointing to lose our first game of the season in only our second match but it looked a struggle from the off given we were forced to play Josh Magennis who was either still carrying a knock or, at best, just over one.

We seemed to start brightly in front of 990 travelling Addicts but after failing to take any early chances, Argyle came more strongly into the match and didn't look back after taking an early second-half lead. Their late second on the break finished us off.

Karl Robinson has been very upbeat of late and has said how pleased he is with our squad. This is a team who will fight to the death and run through brick walls etc. We continue to be linked with any available lower league strikers and it's pretty obvious we are in desperate need. The embarrassing Tony Watt situation finally played out earlier today with him moving to Belgian club Leuven. Final proof, if anyone was left in any doubt, that he hasn't been wanted at this club for a very long time. Robinson wasn't overly keen when he came back from his latst underwhelming loan at Blackburn and promised to make him cry or some other nonsense by working him so hard. The fact that he featured last week, albeit as a second-half sub, and once again angered the Valley faithful with another lazy, couldn't-care-less showing, showed just how thin we are upfront. The fact Robinson had to call on him showed we were scraping the barrel again. We have to hope Watt will stay at Leuven until his contract at the Valley is finished and we are spared anymore of his 'I am ready this time' nonsense.

Lee Novak isn't the answer and I haven't seen Billy Clarke but he's hardly prolific and at the other end of his career from Karlan Ahearne-Grant. KAG is apparently looking more like the hungry youngster who broke onto the scene with pace and confidence. However, it's asking too much to expect him to contribute the sort if number of goals you need from a second striker to sustain a promotion challenge. If Robinson is serious about this season he needs one but probably two strikers to provide the support and cover we need upfront.  He has been linked this week with Matt Godden but Stevenage are obviously leveraging their position asking for £1.5m which looks way beyond what Duchatelet will support. We probably need to find someone who will play for all or at least part of Watt's wages.

Northampton come to the Valley next week where we need a Josh Magennis firing on all cylinders. Better still, Robinson needs some support in the market. Otherwise we risk doing what we have done in each of the last three years under Duchatelet and calling out glaring squad weaknesses until it's too late and another season is squandered.

Friday, 11 August 2017

What a load of rubbish!

So much has been said and written about Charlton Athletic's disastrous run under Roland Duchatelet that we shouldn't have to continue to suffer people getting the basic facts wrong. The latest poor Vital Charlton piece by Michael Tucker is typical.

Apart from his dream of promotion, which we all share, Michael is entitled to his opinion that the current situation mirrors that of the lows in the 70's. I would agree that they are both post-war historical lows but for completely different reasons and circumstances.

However, what really annoys me is that, once again, someone is somehow attempting to blame CARD for the current mess. Tucker says "without realising what they are doing, their actions have turned the club and the Valley back to the seventies when we suffered many stay away supporters who felt the club and team was lacking the woe (sic) factor and the attendances dropped down in figures." What a load of cobblers. CARD don't run the club and they have never organised a boycott of matches - they don't have the support for it amongst themselves, let alone the fan base.

Michael - I am not sure if you were around in the 70's but the reason gates fell away was because the club was being badly mismanaged with a lack of investment and we ended the decade by being relegated to the third tier for the second time in six years. To your point, Charlton were woeful, not it's supporters. They simply didn't want to pay to watch the drivel that was being served up.

The current mess started fairly shortly after Roland Duchatelet bought the club. It was nearly two years before CARD was formed and even later before we saw fans protesting. I think even CARD get the fact that some supporters are tired of the protests and others are happy for them to stop because the owner hasn't been persuaded to sell - CARD haven't organised a mass protest at the Valley for many months - the last was in Belgium lead by the Belgium 20 and supported by CARD.

The reason we are where we are is because of Duchatelet's failed strategy of network players, numerous consecutive naive management appointments and a completely ridiculously hopeless Chief Executive who has insulted the supporters' intelligent repeatedly to the point of no forgiveness. Performances and results haven't been good enough for three seasons and we have again suffered a humiliating relegation. CARD are not responsible for any of that. 

Everyone wants to move on this season and we are all hoping for something much better so let's stop finger-pointing and making ridiculous accusations to try and stir it. It remains to be seen whether we can make any significant improvement on the pitch this season but that's what it will take to start repairing the damage of lost supporters. Better still, if Duchatelet sells up and takes Meire with him, this club can finally move on and hundreds, if not thousands, will quickly return, even if the football isn't materially better.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Forever Charlton App

Ever since it was launched, the Forever Charlton website, which aggregates all things Charlton, has been my first-thing go-to site everyday. 

I am pleased, therefore, to see that those responsible have now launched a Forever Charlton Android App which enhances their offering and gives us much easier and direct access to pretty much everything a Charlton fan would be interested in. It's £2.99 via Google Play - great value. I hope everyone with an Android mobile or tablet downloads the App to help make it the success it deserves to be.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Air Canada - you have to laugh!

Air Canada lost my case on an overnight flight from Canada on Friday. I filled in the appropriate form with Global Baggage Solutions at Gatwick on arrival and have been waiting since to hear what's happened. 

I tried Global Baggage Solutions several times today and eventually got someone who told me that "it can take up to a maximum of 48 hours to get a baggage location." When I told the lady that it had now been longer than forty-eight hours she replied "it can take longer than 48 hours." So there's no maximum of 48 hours? "No, 48 hours is the maximum."

I tried Air Canada direct by email and received this reply...

"Thank you for contacting us regarding your travels with Air Canada. We appreciate your feedback and you can rest assured that an Air Canada representative will get back to you within 30 business days. Thank you for your patience as you wait to hear from us.

Pleas note that this automated message confirmed that we have received your correspondence and there is no need to resubmit your information. We are on it!

Best Regards

Customer Relations
Air Canada"

Six weeks to respond to an email! Katrien Meire will be impressed. I hope she doesn't get any ideas.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Charlton Athletic 1 v Bristol Rovers 0

I flew in from Toronto this morning after two superb weeks in Canada on holiday with the family. We were delayed a couple of hours and Air Canada managed to lose my case so we were well late as I pulled into Charlton after 3pm. That meant parking miles away and it was strange to walk around the ground whilst the match was in progress but we scored as I did so.

Whatsapp had informed me we had already lost Novak to a straight red early on so I was expecting the worse. One-nil is a decent result then, in the circumstances, but we drubbed the Pirates home and away last season and I suspect they may be one of the division's whipping boys this year. Still, you can only beat what's in front of you and we have done that.

I haven't blogged during the close season as I wanted a break and have been pleased not to spend so much time following not very much which has been a welcome relief. 

The club have got some things right during the close season; they persuaded Player-of-the-Year Ricky Holmes to stay and have resisted efforts thus far to cash in on Konsa. Robson has been officially flanked by Bowyer and Jackson and even Katrien Meire has managed to avoid any further major PR disasters by keeping quiet.

Karl Robinson has been keen to tell us about the new attitude amongst the players and his overall satisfaction with the squad he now has and expects us to challenge for promotion. The glass-half-full brigade have lapped it up and that has lead to the best feel-good factor since Meire was deployed.

However, I remain absolutely convinced that we cannot prosper under Duchatelet unless he has a Road-to-Damascus type conversion in terms of his game-plan and ambition for Charlton Athletic Football Club. It's still very much a damage limitation exercise for him and the last thing he wants is to be promoted to the Championship where his operating losses would gear-up to where they were two and three years ago. He will still cash in on Konsa in the near future because that will help balance the books this year, just as Lookman did last year. There are those who say promotion will make the club more saleable and attract a higher price but wouldn't we be in exactly the same position where Duchatelet's expectations would again outstrip reality?

Somewhere along the line he will sell because his heart's not in it and his network plan has failed. However, all the time he can 'wash his face' financially and keep Meire in relatively high-profile (and well paid) work, he can afford to remain in Sint Truiden and let her get on with following his current exit strategy, even if that takes longer than he would like.

I will continue to follow the club I have loved for 40 years but have steadfastly, if a little reluctantly, joined the 'not another penny' mutiny. If you are still going, then good luck to you but for me it's come to this.