Sunday, 18 February 2018

Ten days on....

Just back from a glorious week on the Moray Firth. Land of my Fathers and place of my birth. I am always moved when I am back there, as I was again, returning for the first time in ten years. Blimey, has it been that long? Well yes it has as my tenant reminded me - she has moved out. I have made fleeting visits (funeral etc) but my first week with the family since my kids were very young. 

Anyway, to football and we have managed a couple of draws and a win since I last posted. The draws against Rochdale and Bradford can be considered opportunities lost but if we were unlucky to concede against Dale, we probably rode our luck against City. Whatever, there can be little doubt that yesterday's 2-1 win at nemesis MK Dons should help us focus on maintaining a play-off push, especially if we can take something from our two matches in hand. Ahmed Kashi scored from distance with a rasping low shot that the MK keeper won't want to see again. Much criticised Josh Magennis made it three from three with another header as he continues to find his goal-scoring form after a barren spell.

It hasn't felt anything like a promotion season or even a play-off season so far this year and maybe that's because it won't be, but the mere fact that we are handily placed at this stage means we are in with a shout. Perhaps it's because I haven't been going to see them? In any event, the next three games could define it for us; Shrewsbury at the Valley on Saturday should be a proper test and that is followed by the tricky visit to party-poopers AFC Wimbledon before form side Plymouth Argyle come to the Valley looking for an unlikely double. 

Newly appointed Scotland supremo, Alex McGleish, has commented on his work with a consortium interested in buying Charlton Athletic and has said that Roland wanted too much money. That sounds very much like it should all be done now. What chances an announcement tomorrow?

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Hold your breath....

A rare moment in the history of the Fans Forum. Actual news from the donkey's mouth so-to-speak that, for once, gives us a real forward-looking update on Duchatelet's exit plans. Broken by CAST, the news is good;

- The takeover is still on and Richard Murray is still saying it will be concluded this month.
- There are two parties as long rumoured, with one closer to a deal.
- He believes it's a 'lock, stock and barrel' deal that will mean no risk of Duchatelet still having an interest over the Valley or Sparrows Lane.
- No mention, to his knowledge, of any proposed plans to leave the Valley.

This reinforces what the most well-informed Charlton Athletic supporter (Airman Brown) has been telling us, which is doubly encouraging. 

The price and any key terms of the deal will be the next thing everyone will want to know. Hopefully, Duchatelet's inept ownership and mismanagement of the club will now crystallise into a heavy loss which might teach him a lesson, although I suspect he's beyond learning given his often deluded ramblings on topical Charlton matters. 

It's important for the future of the club that whoever the buyers are - and the Aussies are still favourite - that they have sufficient funds left with which to operate the club successfully and carry out their plan over the next few years to bring promotion to the team, recover the fan-base and make a commercial success of of running the club which will safeguard the future.

Hold your breath!



Monday, 5 February 2018

Charlton Athletic 2 v Oxford United 3

I was so absorbed with the pain of watching Scotland flunk in Cardiff that I forgot to comment yesterday on Charlton's own disappointing result against Oxford.

In years gone by I would have been using my battery life up refreshing my screen to keep an eye on the Addicks progress but I didn't bother at all on Saturday and only picked up the result when I awoke on Sunday. Another sign-of-the-times. Clearly this was a game we expected to win but the nature of the defeat (two goals in the last few minutes) asks more questions than simply losing. 

Karl Robinson's tactical nous is woeful and his ability to affect games very poor. We have suffered under his 4-X-X-1 system since he has been here, first because we didn't have the personnel to really play it and then because we didn't have the personnel to change it when we fall behind in games. We played well enough from what I have read and heard but Oxford wouldn't lie down and when we were crying out for a defensive sub at the end, he brought on Aribo and within minutes they had scored twice. It wasn't as if we didn't have fresh attacking legs on the pitch as the previous two subs were Zyro and Kaikai, both of whom had been on for less than twenty minutes. Surely putting Bauer on in  front of Konsa and the shaky Lennon would have got us something from the game, if not all three points?

I have been supportive of Robinson over the last few weeks as he has finally realised that he was never going to be supported properly in the transfer window by the billionaire Duchatelet and most fans have shown sympathy with him over that and his determination to carry on fighting for a play-off position. However, his waffling to the media is a constant annoyance when he speaks in riddles and plays to the gallery. The bottom-line is we should have a first-team coach who has a better footballing brain and who can communicate clearly and articulately. It's really not too much to ask when you are paying good money and there are always more of them than jobs available. 

When Duchatelet finally sells up, we really need to make a clean break and find a first-team boss who can affect games and communicate clearly. How novel it would be if we could also get one who gave us a 'bounce' for a change? That Chris Powell bloke has started with two wins for the Shrimpers since joining. 

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Wales 34 v Scotland 7

In the pantheon of "enormously disappointing Scotland performances in sport," this one will get a chapter all to itself. I was in Cardiff in 2014 when Wales ran up a record 50 points against us. It was a painful day to be supporting Scotland but it wasn't a surprise on a day when Wales were expected to win by a good margin.

Yesterday Scotland rolled into Cardiff with an exuberant and expectant following coming on the back of several great performances two months ago when we beat the Aussies twice and came within a whisker of beating New Zealand. I always say that Scotland save their best performances for the Autumn Tests and their worst for the 6 Nations. However, even I was lured into a false sense of optimism yesterday in spite of my better judgement. I spent twenty minutes on the train yesterday morning considering a big bet on Scotland this year. Not to win it at 9-1 you understand but maybe a top-two finish? I kept looking at the current squad and wondering how good some of these new players actually are? I also struggled to see past a scrummaging front row bereft of Ross Ford and AP Nell. Pleased to say I decided not to wager on the rugby.

Having checked into our hotel (we were shifted from the Exchange to the Radisson Blu last week, having booked it last May) we met my Uncle in the Prince of Wales pub where the bouncers were under strict orders to avoid the human jam that this pub has always been in the past when we have visited. The good news was that we were early enough to avoid queuing and able to enjoy a few pints without long waits at the bar. Our seats were in the very last row at the top of the stand and we settled down with a spectacular view of the action. That was the end of the best part of the day.

Scotland started brightly and pegged Wales back into their own half. It all looked good for five or ten minutes and then Wales scored a simple try as Ali Price's feed from the scrum was intercepted following a telegram and it was 7-0. When Wales ran in a second try to open up a 14-0 lead it looked like we would have to deliver a fightback, the likes of which I have never seen. 

Sure enough, after the break Wales kicked two penalties which ended any realistic Scottish hopes and it really was then a case of damage limitation. Scotland were poor from front-to-back and side-to-side. I don't recall us even winning a penalty and every time we got into a scoring position, Wales turned us over. We made our way out before the end so we didn't even see Scotland's try which I am sure was a consolation as Wales finally eased off the gas. 

Gregor Townsend has spoken of his "shock" at the performance and has said it wasn't good enough. That's what everyone present felt and said yesterday but he is the Coach and he needs to be explaining what went wrong what is going to change. From where I sat, we were leaderless. Stuart Hogg was prompting from the back but he was covering so desperately that we were all at sixes and sevens upfront and everyone looked content to concentrate on defending to earn their cap instead of trying to take the game to Wales. 

I am going to Edinburgh, Dublin and Rome in the coming weeks and already my first thoughts are on food and drink. Based on yesterday's performance, Scotland must now be a good bet for the Wooden Spoon as they may not have enough in the tank to avoid a last-match defeat in Rome if we are humped by France, England and Ireland in the meantime, which looks highly possible.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Well, well, no buyer for Konsa

The January transfer window closed yesterday with Ezri Konsa remaining at the Valley. That was the big surprise given every expectation in the run-up to January. It shouldn't be a huge surprise given that Ademola Lookman wasn't sold in the Summer of 2016 when I believe an offer was made. Instead, it was considered too small and we held our nerve which resulted in a significantly bigger deal in January.

However, the circumstances around the proposed sale of Konsa have different; Duchatelet is clearly on an exit strategy, Konsa has the first-team experience Lookman lacked in the Summer of 2016 and big Karl Robinson has been telling us for several months about the inevitably of Lookman going with Everton strongly linked as repeat purchasers. 

The simple view that Duchatelet would sell and pocket an extra chunk of cash is a tad naive in a sale situation where clearly he is a major asset on the balance sheet, although with a big gap in expectations on club value, selling him to cut that gap was a consideration.

Konsa has established himself in the side and was part of the same England U20 side as Ademola Lookman that won the World Cup last year. Being a defender and not a striker, his value was always going to be less but a £5m estimation has been bandied about as part of a done deal for a long time. 

That leaves us with Karl's touting of him, which could be just Robinson's natural over-speak when he always wants to look like he is ahead of the pack as well as always seeking to provide a bit of controversy. More disappointingly is the prospect that Robinson was encouraged to talk-up a move for Konsa by Duchatelet because he wanted the money. Maybe there was no directive from the absentee owner - after all he seemed unaware we had few options to the tired Magennis upfront when approached for a short-term loan of Leon Best. Robinson might have seen that as the way to a percentage of the fee to bring in several more players which might have strengthen his options. Time will, no doubt, tell.

Not to break with history and tradition, there were two outgoing players yesterday. Aaron Barnes, a youth stalwart who has played well at every level up to his 20 years has been released on a free transfer to Colchester United. Always a tough decision and one that Aaron should be boosted to know that we often get wrong! I have watched several excellent Colchester players on loan at Welling this season, so it says something that they rate one of ours so highly to take him. The other news was the loan of Ahearne-Grant to Crawley Town. I have been harsh on KAG here in the past and said he's not good enough for us, although I should have been generous and said that too much has been expected of him at his age. A classic case of playing him too early, too often but a consequence of only having one experienced striker on the club's books. Robinson is saying it's a good move and that KAG is the future of the club. I'll stick my neck out and say he isn't and that he will move on in short order.

Oxford United shouldn't present too big an obstacle at the Valley on Saturday when we should get a glimpse of Kaikai and Zyro. My advice is to temper your expectations on both of those and hope to be pleasantly surprised. I will be following updates from Cardiff where Scotland kick-off their latest 6 Nations campaign in what should be a very close affair (cue Wales by 20 points).

Finally, a 'get well' wish to fellow-Blogger Wyn Grant whose latest post tells us he is "seriously ill in hospital." That obviously doesn't sound good but hopefully is getting the treatment he needs in good time and will be back with his regularly punchy updates soon as well as his observations of his very varied life and travels.


Saturday, 27 January 2018

Welling United United 3 v Braintree 0

I have a pretty good record watching Welling this season. From memory I have only seen one defeat, in the cup against Haringay Borough, and a couple of draws at home and away. Apart from that it's all been sweetness and light. I was reminded of this as I took my first pint in the Rose before the match.

Braintree arrived riding high and I feared a home defeat before the game. The first half was unusually short of chances for either side and at nil-nil at half-time, we did wonder whether Braintree would come out in the second-half and open up. They didn't and Welling deserved the lead they took from a free-kick at the Park View Road end. It gave me the perfect opportunity to predict a top corner finish that Calum Driver duly applied. Acheampong was on hand minutes later to finish a loose ball in the Braintree box as the Wings pressed home their advantage. Two-nil and Braintree were finished. They rarely threatened and their heads dropped when substitute, Jack Jebb, cut in from the left and unleashed a swerving drive from 25 yards which beat the visitors keeper all ends up. That killed the game for the 500 gate and it leaves the Wings pushing for a play-off place. 

Meanwhile, Charlton's match 270 miles north at Blackpool was called off unprofessionally late after 1pm on grounds of a waterlogged pitch. Jimmy Armfield, who died this week and who was due to be honoured at the match, would have laughed his socks off at the cancellation. Sullay Kaikai, signed on loan from Crystal Palace on Friday, may have made his debut alongside Michal Zyro although probably late on. Both will have to wait to etch their names in Charlton history. In the meantime I will continue to watch the Wings and urge them on to an unlikely play-off which somehow looks a better bet than the Addicks.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

Half-a-chance

I can't believe I am saying this, but, if Charlton Athletic don't sell anyone else in the remaining days of the transfer window, then there is half-a-chance that we might make the play-offs. I fully expected Konsa to have gone weeks ago but the word is that Liverpool and Everton are baulking at the £5m fee. The Kaikai deal looks off too but he looks less of a need now that 'winger' Michal 'paa-rty' Zyro is on board.

Konsa staying for the run-in would be a big boost and he will have something to prove in the shop window. With Pearce and Bauer closer to being fit again and Chris Solly back in the side, we can expect to tighten-up defensively. 

The midfield has never been short of options although a returning Forster-Caskey would be helpful. We will need Fosu to make up for Ricky Holmes' early season goalscoring and supply form. If we can manage that then it's just a case of can Josh Magennis find his scoring touch again and can Micahl Zyro weigh in with seven or eight goals that should give us a fighting chance of holding on to sixth and maybe challenging strongly in the play-offs.

The thought of Old Yellow Teeth enjoying the rewards of a Wembley visit is hard to take but if it saves him some face on the loss he takes on the club, then I could bear it. We would all know that an appearance there would be in spite of him, not because of him. Millwall finished in an unlikely sixth-place last year and managed to get-up, so there's no reason why we can't do it, if we can hold our nerve.