Wednesday 30 April 2008

Kit Sponsors Dinner

Last night Mrs Peeps and I attended the Kit Sponsors Dinner at the Valley. In a moment of weakness or perhaps it was headiness with the November run, I can't remember which, I decided to sponsor a player's kit last year. I have often thought about this but never proceeded beyond that point. Anyway, for £500 you get your name in the programme throughout the season and an invitation to a dinner with the player you sponsored, as well as a signed shirt. However you look at it, it's about sponsorship and revenue generation, so you aren't looking to get your money's worth. I picked Therry Racon largely because he's young, new to the club and was one of the few players with no other sponsors.

Prior to the dinner, I was in two minds whether or not to go. I suspected this might be a half-hearted affair as far as the Club are concerned. I am a firm believer in the maxim about not meeting your heroes as they invariably disappoint and, finally, I was fearful of being stuck amongst pompous sponsors or player groupies. If I am honest, I also suspected that Therry Racon might actually be missing on account of him playing for Brighton for most of the year.

Well I am pleased to report that my fears were unfounded and we had a thoroughly enjoyable evening. The event was well constructed, well managed and sincere it what they attempted to do. The other sponsors were ordinary fans, many of whom I knew or recognised from over the years. Therry was also there and, like all of the other players, looked quite happy to be taking part. We had the added benefit of Chrissy Powell at our table - "he's my big brother" was how Therry explained it. The meal was fine, we had our pictures taken and have Racon's shirt as a souvenir. If Therry is still with us next season I will sponsor him again - you get a fair return for your money and I would recommend it if you have considered it previously and never taken the plunge.

I also now know where most of the signed memorabilia in circulation comes from. There was a signing frenzy as the meals come to an end, with shirts, balls, autograph books etc appearing from all angles.

Monday 28 April 2008

Steve Waggott to replace Peter Varney as CEO

Something of a pleasant surprise this announcement from the Valley. I'm a bit annoyed for not putting two and two together previously. I had never seriously considered Steve Waggott in the same breath as Sir Peter, although succession planning would probably have put him in with a shout.

I have known Steve Waggott to say hello to in the street or nod at in the pub for over ten years. Everyone who knows him seems to have only good things to report and he has a track record of success already at the Valley. This will be a big challenge for Steve but at least he knows the territory and will start with strong support from most of those around him on the Board. He takes over at a difficult time and has an incredibly hard act to follow, so we will need to be patient and give him a chance.

Looking ahead to the final games on Sunday, it's sqeuaky bum-time as Mr Ferguson likes to say. Not for us, of course, we did that weeks ago - we simply have to win to secure a top half of the table finish. Meanwhile, a massive area of low pressure is building just north of the M25 and I fear the visit of Aidy Boothroyds's Hornets to Blackpool might provoke a downpour. If Watford lose on Sunday they are likely to be overtaken by Palace, Wolves, Ipswich and/or Sheffield United and miss out on the play-offs. A draw might be enough but Palace and Watford could catch them on goal difference. Aidy Boothroyd might find a shoulder from Alan Pardew to cry on.

At the bottom-end, things look equally grim for Leicester City and Ian Holloway. Southampton have ground out an impressive 1-1 away point at West Brom (who are effectively promoted) this evening and moved level on points with the Foxes and have a home game to finish against Sheffield United. Not a foregone conclusion by any means but one I'd expect them to get something from. Goal difference is keeping Leicester off the trap-door but they will need something from their last game away at Stoke City, a side who will now be playing for the title! I have said it before, but if Leicester drop, it will be a salutary lesson for Milan Mandaric and Ian Holloway; Mandaric for his impatience and arrogance, and Holloway for his greed and haste is leaving Plymouth. I might be being a tad harsh on Holloway but Pilgrim fans won't disagree!

Royal Oak up for sale....

The landlord of the Royal Oak for the last two years is selling up and moving to Norfolk. I understand the pub will be on the market officially this week and he hopes to be out before the start of the new season. Good news for Charlton regulars and an opportunity for the club.

A small something to look forward to next season. Whoever takes it on can't make as much of a pig's ear of it as the current management. Hopefully we can get some professional bar-staff, a landlord who actually works in his own pub to oversee how things are being done, and maybe a second entrance, so Customers can actually get into and out of the pub. We may even be able to purchase the drink of our choice next year, rather than the limited range he sells on matchdays, presumably in the belief that this will be faster or more profitable?

That said, I will give it a miss this week for the last home game. I am still of a mind to stay in the pub on Sunday and give the game a miss by way of a minor personal protest. Curiosity, however, about how we might play and the potential supporter reaction might get the better of me. Coventry are virtually safe and I suspect will have little motivation for the win. This is the current squad's last chance to leave an impression on the Manager before they disappear to exotic locations around the world. You would expect a convincing home win, but I am not so sure. If Coventry are up for it in any way, I suspect we will typify the season with another scrappy home display without a win. We need three points to match the previous last ten game points total of eight that we have managed in each of the previous six seasons. I suspect we will fall short of that pathetic figure this year.

Saturday 26 April 2008

Barnsley 3 v Charlton Athletic 0

If the alarm bells have been ringing in recent weeks, the sirens are wailing now. I have just listened to a summary of the match and the words were all too familiar, "woeful", "pathetic", "lack-lustre" and "outclassed." The one positive thing for Charlton was the youngest debutant in our history as Jon-jo Shelvey made his introduction to professional (sic) football. The Club website at least credits him with a decent debut and the best Charlton scoring chance from a first-half volley.

Five wins in the last 26 matches is staggeringly poor given the size and supposed quality of the squad Alan Pardew has assembled. If we had started with five wins from the first 26 matches, Pardew's position would have been untenable. So what has gone wrong? He simply doesn't seem able to get anywhere near the level of performances we were seeing every other week at least during the first 20 games. Our early season problem was inconsistency, our latest is consistenly poor displays lacking passion, cohesive, drive, etc etc. I am not big on rumours but they have been circulating in terms of player/manager unrest and this might at least explain what we have been witnessing. In any event, we have struggled all season to win games that we have not taken the lead in. The Sheffield Wednesday home game is the only win I can remember all season where we went a goal down and we managed to concede twice in that one.

Something has to change before August or we could be in a relegation fight. I think we all know our engine room needs an overhaul. There won't be pots of money about and I can't see us attracting big sums for any of the current squad. There will surely be pressure on to reduce the squad by half-a-dozen, so I can't see more than 3 or 4 newcomers or else you are looking at shipping out nearly ten. Maybe that's what we need to clean the blood if there is any bad feeling. It is going to be an interesting close season and one in which Alan Pardew needs to demonstrate all of his mangerial strengths..

If I renew my season ticket, I will do so at the last minute on the back of decisive and positive managerial action and because I whole-heartedly support the Board's decision to extend the freebie offer. It should be said that the risk to the Club of having to fork out for our season ticket rewenals in 09-10 is looking fairly small right now. At least it will all be over next weekend. Oh, and Campbell-Ryce had to open the scoring today didn't he?

Friday 25 April 2008

Two more jailed!

More good news this week as two more of the Sydenham Cowards get jail. What's particularly nice about this story is that one of them works with my sister-in-law at HSBC. There was a rumour circulating that Adam Henry (he's the Bank Manger, not the other one) had been involved in the cowardly attack but he has remained tight-lipped. When the initially story broke of the arrests, his was name was not amongst them so I am pleased to see that justice has caught up with him. Vacancy for a Bank Manager in Dartford anyone?

Thursday 24 April 2008

Weekend Championship Preview

Penultimate weekend of the season and nothing to play for. Time to catch-up with jobs and start planning for a long-awaited break from the trials and tribulations of being a diehard Charlton fan. For the benefit of those who are mildly interested (that's you Leicester and Coventry fans), here is my two pennorth....

Barnsley v Charlton Athletic

Barnsley are crap at the moment. Beaten at home by Leicester last weekend and now perilously close to the drop-zone after making the F A Cup semi-finals. Luckily for them they play a Chartlton team lacking any motivation. This is a nailed-on home win. Almost so much so, that we could probably do what we normally do in these situations...

Prediction; 2-0

Burnley v Cardiff City

I'd rather stick pins my eyes than watch this one. Going through the motions, literally.

Prediction; 0-0

Colchester United v Stoke City

Bye, bye Col U - I'll happily wait another 20 years to see you again. Stoke are within an ace of the unbelievable. As we know, the table doesn't lie at this end of the season and they look to be seizing automatic promotion.Sour grapes I know, but next year they will have Derby's target of one Premier League victory to beat.

Prediction; 0-3

Coventry City v Wolverhampton Wanderers

Comfortable 5-1 away win at Colchester last week for relegation threatened Coventry. They need something against Wolves but Wanderers might want it more on the basis that they have to win to have a chance of catching Palace. Sounds like a stalemate to me.

Prediction; 1-1

Hull City v Crystal Palace

Go Tiger, go Tigers! Match of the weekend in prospect here. Palace are on another good run and will fancy this one. Hull might find them too hard to breakdown.

Prediction; 0-0

Leicester City v Sheffield Wednesday

Ooh er. Winner stays-up and Leicester will be favourites after last weeks win Barnsley. I don't think Wednesday deserve to be relegated but it's looking ominous.

Prediction; 1-0

Norwich City v QPR

Ther Canaries have been poor in the last couple of months following the Glen Roeder honeymoon period. They need another point for safety and I can see them getting it here.

Prediction; 1-1

Plymouth Argyle v Blackpool

Routine home win.

Prediction; 2-0

Preston NE v Ipswich Town

It's still possible for Ipswich to make 6th and that might be enough incentive to beat a poor Preston side.

Prediction; 0-2

Sheffield United v Bristol City

City will be thinking about the play-offs and United are on a good run. I expect the Blades to challenge next season and Kevin Blackwell will be insisting on a strong finish.

Prediction; 2-0

Watford v Scunthorpe United

I think we should organise commiseration drinks with Watford fans during the close season. Their misery mirrors our own and possibly trumps it. Top for most of the season and horribly inconsistent at home. They have fallen at the final hurdle but at least have the compensation of the play-offs, although I wouldn't exactly back them to get through.

Prediction; 2-1

West Brom v Southampton

West Brom could be promoted before this game takes place on Monday night. Either way, it should be a celebration for them. If Wednesday get anything at Leicester, then Southampton will have their heads in the noose.

Prediction; 2-0

Tuesday 22 April 2008

Free Season Ticket Offer Extended Next Year!

First, credit where credit's due. The Board deserve full acknowledgement for the announcement they have made today about their intention to extend the "free Season Ticket" offer, should we be successful in gaining promotion during next season, 2008-09. Our financial position is obviously worse than 12 months ago and whilst last year's gamble has (unfortunately) not cost the club a penny, the potential cost in a year's time could again be c £6m.

Prices look to be have been largely maintained at 2006-07 Premiership prices (£265 family corner/£290 lower north and £475 prime east/west), which in real terms represents a small discount. I am sure this bold move by the club will lift the spirits and should help alleviate an inevitable decline in season ticket sales ahead of the next campaign, based purely on the inconsistent home form and genuinely disappointing standard of football we have been served. The key question will be just much of a decline this avoids? This is the important point for me, because almost all of those who are tempted to move to pay-per-game repesent some loss in a full season irrespective of how well we might be doing, and, at worst, a lost supporter if we don't do well and they find other things to do with their Saturdays in the meantime.

I will never forget growing up in various addresses across the Greenwich Borough and being surrounded by ex-Charlton fans whose support had been slowly extinguished during the 60's and, particularly the first half of the 70's. I went to a school in New Cross where I was a rare Charlton fan but where the Dad's of a quarter of the school had been Addicks.

Time for Youth

The Reserves won their final game of the season last night to go two points clear at the top of the table but will likely be overtaken by Southampton for the title, as they have two games left in which to secure victory. Nonetheless, it's a fine achievement and reflects well on our current youth crop as well as our inflated first team squad.

Alan Pardew has struggled to get a playing reaction from the first team squad on far too many occasions this season. It's really hard to see why, as most of the players are his and they have all taken their turn to come out with the line re the belief in their ability and the manager to turn things around etc. Despite the current apathy and/or anger amongst fans, I believe the majority think we do have a good enough squad to be challenging as that's the reason our shortfall has become so frustrating. So what to do about it?

Well, we must bring in several new faces during the close season and we need a couple of winners/talkers/leaders. However, as I have said, I really don't believe we will have the funds to do more than two or three decent signings and we still need to change it up for August to ensure we get off to a fresh start which will be all important in restoring fragile confidence and personal belief. To that end, it's time we introduced another couple of youngsters and they need to come in for the last two games where they can make their entrances without the burning expectation of the new season. They will likely get support from the Charlton crowd and we know we will get 100% effort and focus which we clearly haven't been getting from the all of the current first team squad. Another insipid display on the last day and the Valley crowd will vent their anger loud and early.

I am a firm believer that you do need to protect your young players and manage their introduction. However, some players are exceptions to the rule and if they look good enough, persevering with them can pay dividends. Lee Bowyer springs to mind. I'm no expert on our youngsters but Grant Basey has done very well since coming in and injury, followed by pressure to go with experience has limited his chances this year. Jonjo Shelvey has been earning rave reviews and he looks strong enough to cope physically with a spell of first team games. Pardew mustn't shy away from giving a couple of others debuts to see how they cope and to up the ante with the established squad. Rob Elliot and darren Randolph also deserve another go.

Trying to finish on a positive note, Cory Gibbs played again last night and there's every chance he could finally be fit to start a season and show us what he's capable of. Todorov and Chris Dickson should also be back in contention and that should increase Pardew's options. If he can get the right midfielders to hold the middle and prompt the forwards, we might have a chance of getting off to a decent start and giving ourselves something to build on.

The Board can also help if they get the season ticket policy right, although the lack of comminuication and delay in announcement to the last match of the season look like expectation management which will not be good news if it is. I suspect their policy will likely be a marginally drop in most prices to reflect Championship football with no new "promise".

Monday 21 April 2008

End it now.

Yesterday I drove back from a couple of nights stay with a dozen friends in Aviemore. It was a long drive home punctuated with the carnage on the opposite carriageway of the M6 where a horse box had over-turned. There amidst the emergency vehicles and debris was the horse - it was still alive and actually on all fours which I hope was a positive sign. Sad analogy, I know, but I was immediately reminded of our own current predicament. This season needs a bullet in the head but we are going to have to troop out twice more and don't look capable of scraping a win.

It really is a concern because the new season will be here in a flash and we need a radical change to lift this squad of players or we will nosedive next season. The repeated failure to get this team to play is alarming. Obviously I wasn't at Loftus Road on Saturday and don't think I would have gone anyway but the match reports look like another capitulation. Alan Pardew now needs to act and demonstrate in the last two games that there will now be changes. Frankly, it doesn't matter who comes in or who goes out, just as long he makes at least three or four.

Matt Holland predictably won the Player of the Year award on what I'll wager was the lowest turnout ever. It really says something when the teams most obvious "tryer" gets the vote.

The announcement on season ticket pricing will be the last surprise of the season and may dictate the mood over the Summer, but before that we have to finish at home and the Coventry match will surely see the lowest home attendence in real terms for several seasons. It really has been a miserable season and Alan Pardew will need to be decisive with any funds he is given during the Summer. A plea from me is that he moves quickly for what business he does and that we get a few extra weeks for the new players to get to know each other before the kick-off. There should be more leavers than joiners but that might be no bad thing. We have lacked responsibility across the side this season and I believe that was due in part to the size of the squad. The loan signings didn't help us either, but I guess Pardew did at least gamble and they all looked like they might have made the difference before they actually got on the field. Two holding midfielders are a must, but they would likely take the whole transfer budget, so we will need to bring some funds in as well - tricky with the season our squad have had. Maybe Burnley will give us our £2m back for Andy Gray.

Thursday 17 April 2008

Weekend Championhip Preview

Three games to go as the promotion, play-off and relegation issues begin to get settled. At the top, West Brom could take a giant step closer promotion this weekend if results go their way. Hull, Stoke, Bristol City and Watford contest the remaining automatic place and the fixtures this weekend could make that position a lot clearer. Realistically it's Palace, Ipswich or Wolves to join the losers for second automatic place in the play-offs.

At the other end, Colchester and Scunthorpe have gone but the fight to avoid joining them takes in Leicester, Coventry, Sheffield Wednesday, Southampton and Blackpool. For once we can at least breathe easy this week and watch the others suffer.

Barnsley v Leicester City

This is a critical game for Leicester as a win would probably lift them out of the bottom three and they would drag themselves within a point of Barnsley. Lose and their match at home to Sheffield Wednesday will gain relegation status with a final away game at Stoke to come. Barnsley are suffering post-cup blues but I can see them getting the win they need for safety and the Leicester nightmare continuing.

Prediction: 1-0

Blackpool v Sheffield Wednesday

Another relegation six-pointer in prospect here. This could be Blackpool's best opportunity for a further three points which could mean safety as they face Plymouth away and Watford at home in the last two. Wednesday have Leicester away and Norwich to come at home, so this is game is key for them too; they will fancy beating Norwich on the last day, although history has not been kind to them on the last day of the season previously. I'll go for the draw but favour Blackpool otherwise.

Prediction: 1-1

Colchester United v Coventry City

Coventry have Wolves at home and Charlton away in the last two, so this represents their best chance of three points. Unfortunately, relegated teams invariably play relaxed and free-flowing football which I think might be too much for Coventry.

Prediction: 2-0 - Lisbie to score again to rub salt into our wounds.

Norwich City v West Bromwich Albion

West Brom are nearly there after all these weeks of contriving to fluff it. Free from the distraction of the cup, they have buckled down to winning games and I fully expect them to do so again at Carrow Road tomorrow.

Prediction: 1-2

Plymouth Argyle v Preston North End

Like ourselves, Plymouth look to have missed the boat. At least they have two winnable home games against Preston and Blackpool before they go to Wolves on the last day. I think they will beat Preston comfortably and prolong their interest.

Prediction: 2-0

QPR v Charlton Athletic

With a tad more at stake, I could believe we are capable of getting the three points to roll on for another week. However, I believe our players saw the last real hope disappearing during the second half against Southampton and were unable to do anything about it. I can see the entire 90 minutes at Loftus Road going the same way and a QPR goal will kill us off.

Prediction: 2-0

Scunthorpe United v Cardiff City

Cardiff still have a game in hand at Wolves on Tuesday which they will believe is their opportunity to catch the play-off train. With Burnley and Barnsley after that, they should have enough incentive to beat Scunthorpe on Saturday. I think the Cup has distracted them too much to make it this year, but Dave Jones deserves a medal for the nonsense he has had to put up with down there. They don't deserve him as a manager,and I hope he gets a better offer and leaves them in the lurch next year.


Sheffield United v Hull City

Hull need something from this game to remain in second place with Stoke and Bristol facing each other just behind them. They have a lot yet to do with Palace at home and Ipswich away but they have momentum and Phil Brown has shown how good a manager he is by motivating them to where they are. Watford probably don't deserve promotion this year, so I hope Hull can do it but they will need something here to maintain their their lead and I think they might find a re-focused Blades too sharp.

Prediction: 2-0

Southampton v Burnley

Southampton battled well last week and I will be keen to recreate the feel-good factor from beating Bristol City in their last home outing. Burnley have nothing to play for. Three points and relative saftey for the Saints.

Prediction 3-0

Stoke City v Bristol City

First of three table-topping six pointers this weekend. With Colchester away and Leicester at home to come, Stoke will be fired-up for 9 points to secure automatic promotion. They won't get a better chance than this. I think Bristol City will make it tough but I have to go for Stoke to land a knock-out blow.

Prediction: 2-1

Watford v Crystal Palace

With Scunny at home and Blackpool away, this is Watford's hardest game left and they know that they must win. That means they will need to play against themsleves as well as a confident Palace. Watford beat Palace 2-0 in the third round of the cup at Vicarage Road but I can't see them repeating that feat. A draw might be the best both sides can hope for.

Prediction: 1-1

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Ipswich Town

Alan Pardew will be praying for the draw here. I have been rooting for Ipswich in recent weeks in order to prevent Palace from making the play-offs, but I am switching my allegiance to Wolves this weekend as they have the best chance of making the last play-off place. After today they have Cardiff and Plymouth at home and Scunthorpe away. Ipswich haven't travelled well all season and Wolves might be ready for one last push. In Sylvain Ebanks-Blake they have a player who looks dtermined to take his chance of Premiership football. Town's last home game aginst Hull City at Portman Road is also looking like a potential party-pooper for them.

Prediction: 1-0

For me, it looks like it could be West Brom and Stoke straight up with Hull City missing out. Hull to be joined by Bristol City, Watford and Wolves in the play-offs. Joining Colchester and Scunthorpe on League Two next year is still wide open but Coventry, Leicester and Sheffield Wednesday have a bit more to do than the those above them and one of them looks likely to fail. How the mighty have fallen and a warning for all relegated Premier big-shots.

Tuesday 15 April 2008

West Brom go top

As if to bring some sort of order to this ridiculous Championship division this year, West Brom finally went two points clear at the top of the tbale tonight with an impressive 1-0 victory away at deadly rivals Wolves. Hull City manintained their impressive late surge with an equally good 3-1 away win at Barnsley and find themselves with a nosebleed in second -place.

With Watford trying desperatley to emulate us, the door was opened for someone like Hull and I am pleased to see them come through, as I could never see Stoke or Bristol City doing it. No, it's not over yet and none of them will make a positive impact on the Premier League but Hull are in the driving seat now and have current form to do it.

Wolves' loss prolongs Charlton interest yet again but I defeat at loftus Road should be the nail in the coffin if eitherPalace or Ipswich win their games at Watford and Wolves respectively. Yes, I know they are both tough games and, amazingly, it could roll on another week. In many ways, a relegation battle could have been a more inspiring season.

Where to drink on match-days?

During the current gloom the importance of a good pre and/or post-match drink has been heightened. Only trouble is that our drinking options have continued to dwindle and we are now fast approaching something of a crisis.

For me, the basic requirement is a proper pub, one where you might spend several hours on any other day quite happily. I am prepared to put up with Legends or Crossbars (or whatever) once or twice a season for a change or an occasion. It's actually quite refreshing but I couldn't do it every week. I have never been a fan of Working Mens Clubs either. Those metal chairs, too many kids and too many rules for the uninitiated.

So, what that has meant for me over the years, has been the White Swan, very occasionally the Bugle, more often the Rose of Denmark, once upon-a-time the Victoria, the Horse & Groom of yesteryear and the Royal Oak for the best part of the last 15 years. Even the Anchor makes a pleasant change on an early Summer afternoon. Invariably I'll visit several of these on a Saturday.

I tried the Lads from the Village/Thanes Barrier when it was open and have ventured down the Woolwich Road on occasion to the White Swan and whatever they call the other couple nowadays. The Valley was a regular haunt in the days of Phil Marron but long since went down the pan. The Anti and the Watermans were invariably full of away fans although that's never stopped me completely.

So, why are we in the current predicament? Well, we all know that the Watermans, the Vic, The Thames Barrier and now the Horse and Groom have all shut. The White Horse has very strange women running it last time I was in and Clancys/Dockers/Westminster etc is pyschologically too far (not great either). The White Swan has gone downhill badly - it is in desperate need of a makeover and attracts old men and old soaks. The Bugle accommodates a non-Addick crowd from the flats up the top and is not particularly welcoming. The Valley died a death in the 90's. That pretty much leaves the Rose of Denmark, the Oak and the Anchor.

The Anchor is just too far for me to contemplate using regularly, so it's the Denmark or the Oak. The Denmark remains a good pub with proper bar staff and is well run. The glass doors at the front have made a significant improvement and you can get served reasonably quickly on all but the days when away fans pack the pub (like on Saturday). In fact, away fans can be the only draw-back here. At least they are barred after the game when you can only get in around the back on production of your season ticket.

That leaves the Royal Oak, my staple. Unfortunately, it has gone downhill since Ray departed. the new landlord is very rarely in the bar, even on matchdays. He has changed out all the "proper" bar-staff and we now have four or five Arsenal fans who laugh when they hear we've just been beaten again. They work at a pace akin to the employees in the ground's burger outlets i.e. slow and have no idea about managing the expectations of the waiting customers. It is now possible to stand there for half an hour and be missed repeatedly. The pub has been extended to the right as you look and this should be a major benefit, but it doesn't work. They still only have the one door on the left and the bar has grown to squeeze the passageway around to the right. What's more, the landlord has now taken to only serving several lines on matchdays - the rest are all covered -up, as are the optics. You can't even get salt n vinegar crisps! This doesn't work and the punters have been voting with their feet. You can actually get served much easier now, if you want one of the three drinks on offer.

You have to wonder why Charlton didn't buy the Royal Oak when Ray left. It has a rich Charlton history and would take very little to turn it into a Club Pub without the sterility of the bars in the ground.

I have taken to to the Rose of Denmark instead in recent months but the away fans can be a drawback. I think I'll try the Anchor again for the last home game because I am tempted to stay in there all afternoon in any event.

Sunday 13 April 2008

Pathetic Finishes Part 6

I'm still angry about yesterday and, more importantly, the confirmation of a wasted opportunity of a season. I met with a couple of good West Ham mates earlier today who made me feel marginally better by putting our disappointment into context.

Alan Curbishley spent over £20m this Summer and that follows a similar figure spent when he was first appointed as they fluked their way to Premier League safety. West Ham fans have higher expectations than us but they were confident of a serious challenge for UEFA and their half season up until Christmas looked very promising. West Ham have had a bad injury list for most of the year but it's been improving and their fans have still expected far more than they have delivered. Indeed, I am assured the mood over at Upton Park is black and threatening to turn ugly. They have lost six and drawn one of the last eight games and are 13 points off 6th position. The latest unrest appears to be a piece by AC along the lines of 10th is a respectable finish and they should all be grateful - sounds familiar.

So, back to our own miserable finish and I had to check the last five seasons. Well we have averaged exactly 8 points from the last 10 games in each of the last five seasons. Interestingly enough, last years 11 points during the run-in was actually the best points total in five years and it was , of course , a relegation season. With three to play we are sitting on 5 points from the last 7 games, so have every chance of maintaining our 8 point average.

On another subject, I am informed via the programme that news on season ticket pricing will be published in the Coventry programme. If you are an occasionally reader of this blog you will know that it's a subject dear to my heart. We have been British champions at getting this just right in recent years but I am concerned at the silence this year and fear we might be about to get it badly wrong. Peter Varney leaving does not inspire me with confidence on this topic.

Apart from the disappointing standard of our football at the Valley this year (only 4 clubs have won less games than us at home), the club has actually been discounting match tickets in an attempt to put bums on seats and the net-out has been that it would have been cheaper to pay-per-game than get a season ticket. Whilst this wouldn't personally motivate me (I like the convenience of a season ticket), I believe it might be a good enough reason for several thousand existing season ticket holders to switch to pay-per-game, especially as we all believe there will be plenty more spare seats next season. Without a stimulating new offer, I really fear that we could be about to take a 10-year step backwards.

There was another piece in the programme which caught my eye - from Steve Sutherland -about our plans to replace the defunct Llanera as club sponsors. Steve seems pretty upbeat and alludes to plenty of interest but his piece would indicate that the club might be as interested in a genuinely motivated "community" sponsor as opposed to one who simple piles in a load of cash. Call me a cynic if you like, but this sounds like preparing the ground for a sponsor who has a community interest but who's sponsorship might look cheap. I sincerely hope I am wrong on this account too because we really have enough problems on the field without matching it behind the scenes as well.

Here's to some good news and more positive blogging.

Saturday 12 April 2008

Charlton Athletic 1 v Southampton 1

God! How predictable and depressing was this game. With the opportunity to capitalise at home on a rare away win against relegation strugglers, and thereby prolong our interest in this abysmal season, we managed a scrappy draw. Our sixth successive home game without a victory.

I have been loathe to criticise Alan Pardew directly this season but he has to carry the can for this performance. Questions have to be asked when you can't motivate yourselves yet again for the first half and need the bollicking at the interval in order to make an impression against poor opponents.

I have expressed my suspicions before about just how realistic our second and third choice keepers are, especially when Nicky Weaver is hardly the future. The club have never seemed comfortable with either in my mind and the decision today confirmed that. Rob Elliott got a rare shot last week and did all that could have been asked of him in the 87 minutes of time remaining. He made a point-blank last minute stop to keep us in it and secure the three points. During this week there was speculation that Darren Randolph would be recalled from Bury and be in contention for the No 1 jersey. Yes for substitute, but surely Elliot deserved another go? When I saw Randolph starting I feared the worst. Not because I have seen much of him or because I think he's a poor keeper, but because the decision was so obviously wrong. And so it proved. Southampton didn't muster a real threat at goal for 90 minutes but he contrived to concede a farcical goal after 11 minutes which set the scene for the rest of the game. It really needs another look to see how bad it was. Under no Southampton threat at all, he managed to catch the ball under the bar and somehow throw it into the goal after colliding with Paddy McCarthy who was under in on the line. He looked uncertain for the rest of the game, but that's hardly surprising.

Our opening 45 minutes were as poor as the previous six successive home games which we have failed to win. This really isn't acceptable and it's hard to fathom why after the euphoria of the win at Home Park last week. All the guff about making 6th and the we got this.

The back four were largely competent although Halford provided more ammunition to his distractors with several more 70-yard balls forward when only 50 yards from goal. Thatcher battled for the 90 minutes and at least played like he knew what was at stake.

The game was again lost in midfield. A clueless first half performance from Semedo warranted both a booking for one of a number of ill-timed challenges and a half-time substitution. Matt Holland put in his usual honest shift but is not good enough with these players around him. Zheng Zhi was positioned on the wing where he is least effective and Lee Cook had a reasonable first half.

Iwelumo and Lita started up-front and both fought hard for the scraps they were fed.

Ambrose came on for Semedo at half-time when Gray was a surprising replacement for Iwelumo. Again we had a better second half although the limit of Southampton's ambition after the half-time team-talk was plain for all to see. Referree Hall had an indifferent first-half but a nightmare second where he failed to give any of a number of big decisions;two good penalty appeals when Lita was flattened in the box and a Southampton free-kick on the edge of the area when Bougherra knocked Wright-Phillips off the ball.

In between times Cook flighted a corner onto the head of Andy Gray who glanced home from six yards to finally open his account for the Addicks. Darren Ambrose should have given Charlton the lead minutes later when Lita headed down in the box but he shot at Wright when the goal was easier to hit.

The game petered out predictably and with it any last lingering hopes of promotion. Alan Pardew will come under some intense pressure in the remaining weeks as our failure to compete with the Top 6 becomes more apparent. I can't see any knee-jerk reaction from our Board because it's not really our style, we can't afford it and it didn't do any good last year. However, the die is cast and Pardew has to deliver in the next 12 months or his position will be untenable.

Personally, this season has been a major disappointment and thoroughly depressing. I have been following Charlton home and away for 31 years. I have been to all 92 league grounds and have been a season ticket holder for all bar the Palace years when I refused on principle to buy one and yet went to every game. I am seriously considering my options next season. It's not the money or the distraction of something else to do on a Saturday afternoon. It's just that I might not feel so depressed so frequently or so strongly. It's been uncomfortable to watch and I am tired of it.

Relegation last season was bad, coming on the back of five spectacularly poor finishes, but this year tops it all and yet we will probably finish in the Top 10. We can console ourselves knowing that we are not good enough for the Premier League and would come hurtling back down with the other two promotees. However, that's scant consolation when you know that next year has to be significantly harder than this to get promoted and that the year after will be harder still.

Coventry? I don't think I can be bothered.

Thursday 10 April 2008

Weekend Championship Preview

First things first, Cardiff managed the draw we needed at Portman Road last night to keep us in touch with Town and Cardiff at arms length. Watford were crushed 3-0 at home by Barnsley and missed their chance to go top, handing Hull City a golden opportunity to steal into the automatic positions.

Down where it really matters things are tightening up and with only four games to go for most, this weekend (it's another elongated one with a game on Monday and another on Tuesday) should sort the men from the boys. Here's how I see things shaping up....

6. Crystal Palace P42 +8 62Pts
7. Ipswich Town P42 +7 61Pts
8. Wolves W P40 +2 61Pts
9. Charlton Ath P42 +6 60Pts
10 Plymouth A P42 +8 59Pts
11 Burnley P42 -2 58Pts
12 Cardiff City P41 +3 57Pts

Saturday, 12 April
Bristol City v Wolverhampton Wanderers

A must-win game for City if they are to stay in automatic contention. We need Wolves to drop their two games in hand, so I'm backing City here to take the points, although I think Wolves will provide a threat.

Prediction; 2-1

Burnley v Sheffield United

Fast-improving Sheffield United look to have left it too late to catch the play-off train and this could be Burnley's last chance. Neither side can afford to lose and I can see a draw, which would suit us.

Prediction; 1-1

Cardiff City v Blackpool

City can catch us with their game in hand but you have to believe that the F A Cup final will be too big a distraction for them to do so. Blackpool aren't out of Relegation Woods either and despite a decent point at Palace last week, they capitulated to West Brom in the last ten minutes in midweek. They need a point and I think they are capable of getting it.

Prediction; 0-0

Charlton Athletic v Southampton

You know the score here. We should waltz this but I really fear the draw, which would be typical of us this season. If we are going to win it, we could do with +2 or +3 for the goal difference because that is very close amongst the play-off contenders and could prove decisive at the end. Assuming we are going to need four wins, we will move to +10 but really need to be looking for +12 to give ourselves the advantage.

Prediction; 1-1 - prove me wrong.

Coventry City v Stoke City

Having messed the bed at home to Palace, Stoke face a tricky trip to fighting Coventry. They won't get it all their own way here and I'm going for the Sky Blues to spring a surprise.

Prediction; 1-0

Crystal Palace v Scunthorpe United

The Iron will be relegated if they lose and will still need a minor miracle if they don't. Confidence will be low and hope lower. This is a slam-dunk for Palace after their win at Stoke. I am relying upon Watford and Hull to stall their play-off campaign....

Prediction; 2-0

Hull City v QPR

Heady times for the Tigers and great timing to be playing mid-table QPR at home. Their desire should be too much for Rangers.

Prediction; 2-0

Leicester City v Colchester United

Leicester are on the brink of the drop and I will laugh my socks off if Milan Moneybags is in the third division next year. It's just what he deserves after the impatience and arrogance he has displayed this season. Nice bloke though Ian Hollway is, he was too quick in my book to jump ship from Plymouth. He painted an unmissable opportunity with a "big" club which was spin for filthy lucre. Colchester played relaxed relegated football last week and can do so again at the Walker Stadium.

Prediction; 0-2

Preston NE v Barnsley

War of t'Roses match here. Barnsley are a better footballing side than Preston and will have more desire. They would be top half if they hadn't had the distractions of the F A Cup this year.

Prediction; 1-2

West Bromwich Albion v Watford

West Brom can choke the life out of Watford here and I expect them to do just that in the live game. Cue Kevin Phillips to continue his renaissance season with a goal or two.

Prediction; 3-1

Sunday, 13 April
Ipswich Town v Norwich City

Ipswich should be too good for Norwich here but it's a derby and anything's possible. I have to plump for Town to sneak it though.

Prediction; 2-1

Monday, 14 April
Sheffield Wednesday v Plymouth Argyle

This could be Argyle's last chance. Wednesday know that they are within touching distance of safety and that should be all the incentive they need to beat Plymouth.

Prediction; 2-0

So, if I am right it could be Palace and Ipswich who steal the march on Wolves, Plymouth, Burnley, Cardiff and ourselves. If we can get three points, then our match at QPR would take on an added significance next week and tickets for that one should fly off the shelf like they have at Southampton for this weeks Valley clash. Barnsley also have two home games to come before we play them, so could be mathematically safe from the drop before we kick-off (possibly desperate for the points). If we need the points at home in the last game I am very confident we could get them.

Get behind the team on Saturday - Come on you Reds!

Tuesday 8 April 2008

Saints fans show their loyalty

The club report today that Southampton have sold their 3000 allocation for Saturday's key battle at the Valley. Interest in the fixtures took off after Southampton's win over Bristol City on Saturday. That means we could have a bumper crowd, especially if the feel-good factor has extended to our own fans after our dramatic win at Home Park.

I am looking forward to this game because it's all or bust and we have the added incentive of watching Southampton squirm if we beat them. Sheffield Wednesday are winning 2-1 in the Sheffield derby tonight and Southampton will drop a place closer to the drop if it stays that way. A defeat at the Valley on saturday and they could be in real trouble, potentially third bottom, although they are far from one of the poorest three sides in the division.

We will have to do it without Sam Sodje, who looks like he might have played his last game for us following a toe and ligament injury at Plymouth. Yassin Moutouakil will be eligible despite his sending off in the Reserves on Monday because suspensions from the stiffs take 14 days to come into effect.

Elsewhere, Amdy Faye has been accused of rape, although it's hard to see a case sticking when the "victim" alleges he did it four times on different dates and at different places, one of which was his home. Either way, I sincerely hope we never see him again in a Charlton shirt.

Monday 7 April 2008

Palace go sixth

As if in response to our win at Plymouth, Palace arguably went one better this evening by winning 2-1 at Stoke City. They may have done it with 11 men but they looked good value for the win and will fancy their chances of hanging on to 6th spot at the weekend if they can beat Scunthorpe at Selhurst. Predictably, Scott Sinclair made the Palace opener with a cross for Tom Soares to head home and he showed plenty of appetite when bursting forward on mazy runs, especially in the first half.

Ipswich could topple Palace on Wednesday evening when they entertain Cardiff at Portman Road but they are not in action again after that until Monday when they are at home again to Norwich in the Farmers' derby.

Plymouth don't play again until next Tuesday when they go to Hillsborough for what looks like a potential banana skin. Wolves face a tough game at Bristol City on Saturday and then have West Brom in a midlands derby next Tuesday.

We need another set of results to go for us before I get my hopes up and Saturday's encounter has a Charlton 1-1 written all over it. In the meantime we need to face facts that we haven't been good enough and don't deserve a play-off berth.

Saturday 5 April 2008

Plymouth Argyle 1 v Charlton Athletic 2

Well that was a turn-up for the books! Nicky Weaver off after 3 minutes for handling outside the area. Lee Cook was sacrificed to allow debutant Elliot to go between the posts - Rob Elliot senior is a proud Charlton fan who followed the club home and away in his day - he will be having a few celebratory beers tonight, especially as his boy saved us in the final minute with a superb reflex save. It looked like we had hung on until Easter scored for Argyle on the hour. With the candle of hope looking to have been snuffed out, the Addicks did what they have only done once this season and they bounced back with two Leroy Lita goals.

With Ipswich losing at Colchester, Charlton move up to joint 7th, and are only a point behind Wolves, although the Old Gold have two games in hand. A scan of the remaining fixtures look very kind to us in that all of our rivals have formidable opposition yet to play and several have key games against each other. Our players should be feeling some relief having finally dug out a performance full of character and having won again. If they can steel themselves to make it a double next Saturday at home to Southampton, then we might at least have something to play for in the remaining three games.

I'm feeling slightly envious for those brave souls who made the trip and for the Blackheath Ramblers and West Country Addicks who are making a weekend of it. I will have a beer in the Royal Oak in honour of all of you this evening.

Charlton Forever!

Friday 4 April 2008

The Pilgrims

Surely another mistake in Matt Wright's daily email? He tells us that 940 (nine hundred and forty) seats have been sold for the away game at Home Park tomorrow. I assume this should read 94 and put it down to a typo or rampant PR.

All of those travelling down just for this game, deserve to have a medal struck in recognition of their loyalty to the cause. Additionally, mental health professionals should also be on hand to check out the well-being of those present.

I say "those travelling down just for the game," because I am aware that the Blackheath Ramblers have chosen this match as their annual away-game-weekend. This intrepid group of between 8 and 20 have been making an annual pilgrimmage to an away game for over 15 years. Most are from the Charlton area and just over half are actually Addicks. There is the stray Chelsea and Millwall fan (yes, Millwall), all of whom become Charlton fans for the weekend in recognition of the community in which they live.

Theirs is a professional weekend with travelling reserved for early Friday and often late Monday to increase the options to explore pastures new. There is, of course, much walking but it is broken by frequent refuelling stops. Having spent numerous weekends in their company, I should recall that the name hails from the days when trying to get accommodation for up to 20 blokes on a matchday was nigh on impossible, especially when they rumbled the London accents. So, the Blackheath Ramblers were born and there was never a problem again!

Wednesday 2 April 2008

Weekend Championship Preview

Well, not long now. Tickets for the last game at the Valley this season went on sale today, although I can't see who the buyers are. There will be thousands of spare season tickets slushing around for the last two games, although both Southampton and Covenry are battling for their Championship status (imagine that?), so there might be some added interest.

This weekend's fixtures run onto Monday and Tuesday - here's my take...


Colchester United v Ipswich Town

Town fans will be relishing this one. They get the delightful opportunity of closing in on the play-offs whilst relegating their Essex neighbours. Hopefully Kevin Lisbie will commit himself to United's cause so that we don't run the risk of facing him again next season at another Championship club.

Prediction; 0-2

Norwich City v Burnley

Burnley have left themselves too much to do and Norwich still need another win to ensure they remain clear of danger. Home win.

Prediction; 2-1

Plymouth Argyle v Charlton Athletic

It will be interesting to see if the team respond to the loss of pressure. I fear not and that Argyle will want it (considerably) more. (Boo-boys get ready).

Prediction; 3-0

QPR v Preston NE

Nothing at stake here. Rangers' squad have increasing ambitions and those playing will be keen to impress for next season as more signings are anticipated.

Prediction; 3-0

Scunthorpe United v Sheffield Wednesday

A must win for Wednesday against a doomed Scunthorpe but there might be a few vital signs left in the Iron.

Prediction; 1-1

Sheffield United v Leicester City

Leicester have more to play for but I suspect all is not well within their camp. United will want to set the tone for next season.

Prediction; 2-0

Southampton v Bristol City

Come on Southampton! You don't deserve to go down and City will embarrass the Championship if they get promoted.

Prediction; 1-1

Watford v Coventry City

The Hornets need to beat Coventry and Barnsley at Vicarage Road on Wednesday if they are to remain in the chase for automatic promotion. I believe they will do it and they would have run away win the title if they hadn't had such miserable home form. How ironic too, if City end up going down after the season they have had, having been saved once already by Ray Ransome and his Consortium. You never know, Iain Dowie might put in an appearance at the last game.

Prediction; 2-0


Stoke City v Crystal Palace

Palace have yet to go to Watford and Hull City, so they have the proverbial mountain to climb. Like us, they have not been nearly good enough to merit a play-off spot and I belieev it will be denied them, Stoke will be cock-a-hoop and should be too good here.

Prediction 1-0


Blackpool v West Bromwich Albion

West Brom's game in hand could put them top, but it's at deadly rivals Wolves. Beyond that they still need several wins to hold onto an automatic place. I'd rather they went up as they would remain a formidable obstacle next season if still in the Championship. Blackpool have a proud home record of only three defeats and I can see them maintaining this, although they might have to settle for a share of the points.

Prediction; 1-1

I have a D-I-Y list as long as your arm and plan to get stuck in for 10 uninterrupted hours on Saturday.