Friday, 22 February 2019

Pivotal game tomorrow

Tomorrow's trip to AFC Wimbledon could prove a defining moment in Charlton's promotion push. After a poor run of recent results post-Karlan Grant's sale and with question-marks about the state of player's expiring contracts, Lee Bowyer is desperate for three points that may allow us to turn a corner.

Failure to win tomorrow and the next two away at Doncaster Rovers and at home to Portsmouth begin to look very tricky indeed. Doncaster are in form and know that they can push us into sixth by beating us and Portsmouth, who have been struggling of late too, will also come to the Valley looking for 'six points' and given our record in live Sky games and against sides with a noisy following  they are probably favourites to get them. Peterborough are our other main rivals for a play-off place and after a stuttering couple of months, they now have Darren Ferguson back in charge and I suspect will now find some form, some goals and points.

So tomorrow then and what should be a comfortable away win on paper given league placings. However, the Wombles won away in the week with Joe Piggott notching a hat-trick. He and Scott Wagstaffe won't need any more motivation and we need to see the best from Lyle Taylor as he returns to his old stomping ground. It's very difficult to see where are goals are going to come from aside from Taylor. Midfielders do chip in every now and again but we have no-one in the Ricky Holmes sort of form that promises more than the odd goal. Igor Vetokele and Josh Parker will inevitably get the odd goal but the pair of them won't fill the Grant gap and neither look like play-off contender strikers.

So, I think it's hard to see us scoring more than one or two goals and I'd probably take one goal now if offered which means we need to keep a clean sheet. The other elephant-in-the-room tomorrow is Taylor's need to avoid another booking which would draw another suspension. Not easy to play down your natural aggressiveness, especially when up against former team-mates who will be out to goad him.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Three cheers for Blackpool FC

The Seasiders roll into the Valley on Saturday for a proper play-off six-pointer. It's a fiver game so the gate will be larger than usual and, no doubt, swelled again by news from yesterday that the 'Orrible Oystens have finally lost control of the club they have been destroying for years.

The courts finally got around to hearing Valeri Belokon's claim for money he was already awarded in a previous ruling against the Oystens. The outcome was righteous and the Oysters will be forced to pay Belokon £25m and Blackpool FC is now in the hands of the Receiver for re-sale. It's unclear what that will mean for Blackpool and there may well be a significant points deduction to come which would effectively remove them as a play-off challenger for us, but nothing will take the shine off the fans victory. 

The behaviour of Owen Oyston and his odious son Karl has been sickening to follow for years as they have used the courts and their wealth to pursue individual supporters for anything they can prove that has been said on social media that could be deemed damaging in anyway to their reputation - arrogant and bullying against their own supporters. Some of the outbursts from Karl in particular showed him up for the sort of person he is and in the end he has alienated the people of Blackpool in the process not to mention muddying the Oyster even further in the country at large.

No doubt the Oystens still have millions squirrelled away and can continue to live the millionaire lifestyle but they can't escape the final defeat over their disastrous ownership of Blackpool. Three cheers for the supporters of BFC who have fought such a long and dignified battle to out the Oystens. The club will have a bumpy road ahead but the rebuilding can begin now and the feel-good factor will flood back.

Good always wins out in the end and the same will happen for us one day. 

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Time for action

After another disappointing 'post-Karlan' result yesterday - a 1-1 draw against ten man Southend - it really is time that rank and file Charlton fans united to send Duchatelet another simple message.

Poor Lee Bowyer has made it very clear that he has been shafted by Duchatelet in the January window and left with very few attacking options. Shorne of Lyle Taylor through suspension, he was left to try and fashion something from the leftovers yesterday. Igor Vetekole started another quiet game and he really does look like he is past his previous best following successive injuries. Fosu and Mark Marshall also failed to ignite the blue touchpaper, with Fosu again lambasted by fans for his disinterested showing. Indeed, Bowyer himself was publicly critical of the pair in a rare move which shows his growing frustration and perhaps a last chance warning for the duo. 

Josh Parker did at least get a run out and looked ok by comparison with his colleagues but it's looking very difficult to see how we have any realistic chance of promotion from here. The automatics are effectively beyond us now and we look locked in for a fight to gain the last play-off place. Thankfully, we are not being pressed yet by any of those immediately around us - Peterborough lost again yesterday. Blackpool are the other side closest to us and whilst we have a nine point advantage, they do have a couple of games in hand and a six-pointer at the Valley looming large.

Bowyer is also talking publicly of his desperation to bring in a free-agent striker but options for anyone capable of making a difference look limited and he is also making it clear that he would need "the owner's agreement" which sounds like he has no mandate.

To make matters worse, we are all well aware that the majority of our squad effectively have no deal come June and that should be a very loud alarm bell ringing for Bowyer and Jackson. Dillon Phillips was renewed this week but the main problem remains and it includes Bowyer and Jackson. 

Irrespective of where De Turck might be with any fabled takeover - another entertaining update from the next Fans forum eagerly awaited - Roland Duchatelet needs to get his head out of his arse and sort this situation out before Bowyer and Jackson are made offers from elsewhere. 

My plea to season ticket holders is to refuse to renew until Bowyer and Jackson's future is secured. We may end up with half a team come June but with the right management set-up you have half-a-chance. Without it, we are in deep, deep trouble next season.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Duchatelet doesn't disappoint the doubters

We entered this January transfer window in the Meire-fabled position of a side competing well in the division with ambitions for promotion. This was always her mantra that she used to explain Roland Duchatelet's approach to ambition, investment and promotion in particular. It was also intended to be a trigger moment to invest or even speculate in the window in an attempt to get promoted.

Five successive January windows have failed to see any net improvement in the squad and most have been articulated by cashing in of the most saleable assets and replacement with free transfers or loanees who typically haven't filled the void left.

So, as we entered into January there appeared to be a split in the fanbase over what would happen between the cynical anti-Duchatelet supporters of the club who knew what to expect and those who thought that Duchatelet had now seen some light with a possible sale and perhaps a possible window of investment in the hope of being able to sell a Championship side at an improved price etc.

Indeed, the early moves to replace the keeper we needed (Maxwell to replace Steer), the injury-hit left-back situation (Purrington) and the surprise signing of Williams to bolster the also injury-hit midfield looked promising. We all knew that an additional goal-scorer was needed to provide cover for Taylor and Grant and the decision to offload Ajose set the pulses racing that we were going to strengthen here too. 

Sadly, Taylor's dismissal during the Accrington match meant we were in additional short-term need, not only for his three match ban but also because another booking before the end of March would see him face an additional two game suspension for having accumulated ten yellow cards. As if to compound matters interest in Karlan Grant intensified. Bowyer told us he was confident the kid would stay but with only six months left on his contract before he became a free agent, there was a clear risk that Duchatelet would once again cash-in. Brentford has reputedly offered a £1m which was clearly a tempter and then the desperate Huddersfield Town emerged with more money.

In the last week of the window Bowyer was forced to tell us that Grant might indeed leave but that he and Steve Gallen had four possible replacements in the wings and that hoped to bring two in. Grant went for £2m in a deal confirmed on Wednesday but acknowledged done at the weekend, which lead to the eventual last-day nonsense for us, yet again. At this point the cynics knew the game was up. For all that I sat up watching the updates of Luton and Sunderland signing everyone they could and waited for the token Duchatelet contribution.

With 90 minutes to go we got it - Josh Parker from Gillingham - another desperately late looking Joe Dudoo signing. Apparently their current third choice striker (plays as a winger?) and they had earlier signed Ricky Holmes, our last year £1m asset sale in January on a loan deal. The irony was rich. I can't recall Josh Parker but one look at the 28 year old Wiki entry told me why. I also said to myself, "I bet he scored against us last season." That's usually how it works - and so he did.

According to the official site, Bowyer was pleased with the deadline day signing of Parker but he was 'disappointed we couldn't manage to bring another body into the building." Apparently we had it lined up but "the other club stopped it last minute because they couldn't get what they wanted." Reading between the lines it looks very much like we may have been relying on getting a last minute deal within our budget which didn't wash but if it was Mo Eisa from bristol City then they chose to hold on as they couldn't get their man in. That would fit with Duchatelet's approach to January and why they have all seen us come out weaker, not stronger. The £2m for Grant was good money ordinarily and hard not take in the circumstances but why not cut Bowyer some slack? Simple really because it's all about the money with Roland which some of our supporters still don't get because they think it's all small beer to him.

So, fingers-crossed our match at Fleetwood is off tomorrow to give us a bit longer towards getting Igor ready again for a handful of matches and perhaps settling Josh Parker in so he can give us his best. Worth remembering Lyle Taylor's call out earlier this month that now was the time for Roland to back his manager. Hard to see how he can't be left personally disappointed that he will start his next game without Grant or even Ajose for the last twenty minutes if needed. 

Perhaps the failure to land someone else may leave a bit more money in the kitty to improve a few deals to get some key contract extensions agreed? If not, the club could see events out-of-their hands come June where we may lose some players we will struggle to replace in terms of quality. Bauer has been clear he will be off and I would now add Lyle Taylor although Duchatelet is always likely to cash in on him anyway given he will attract a decent fee. You wonder who else will have made their minds up yesterday and just what affect this will have on team morale. I would say "in Bowyer we trust" but maybe Lee is also now eyeing his own options up come his contract expiry in June and deciding that he's never going to get the support his abilities have deserved so far under Duchatelet and that he may have already done enough here given the impossible circumstances to merit a better offer elsewhere.