Friday 27 February 2009

Rejoice! Shelvey commits to Addicks

Great news! Jonjo Shelvey has wasted no time in signing his first professional contract with Charlton today on his 17th birthday. This is a huge boost for the club for next season, especially when the vultures were circulating and it ties him to the club potentially until the 2011-12 season.

Credit to Jonjo too, he's obviously had a tough decision to make in delaying the satisfaction of potentially more money now, but I believe his decision will be vindicated and he will see him playing top flight football sooner rather than later.

Revival of the Supporters Club?

You may have noticed a smattering of posts from the Charlton Athletic Supporters Club website this week after a very long silence. The first one to appear was an "open letter to all supporter groups" which appealed for unity and came with the backing of Steve Waggott. 

The article acknowledged the demise of the CASC in recent years having lost their office at the ground and some of their raison d'etre as other supporter mediums and groups have blossomed independently, particularly via the internet. As a supporter of the club, I have always been ready to join the CASC (and I still am) and have willingly paid my £4 or whatever it used to be for a piece of cardboard with a number on it. It might have become slightly more sophisticated in recent years but I wouldn't know because it's some time since I have been approached, pressed or invited to join - maybe they've scrapped the idea as outdated? The CASC has always struggled to maintain momentum, and like the Unions, interest and membership only rises when times look hard and we feel the need to band together for a common sense of purpose. 

The CASC has, of course, been the focal point for previous notable supporter successes in terms of the original fanzines, the Back to the Valley campaign as well as the Target 10,000-40,000 initiatives. It brought those willing to "do something" together, but we shouldn't forget that they were invariably falling out with each other and I always found it disheartening that so many people with a collective aim couldn't rise above party politics and squabbling. Perhaps I am being unrealistic here in my hopes but the fact is that this is what usually prevented the CASC from pushing on or maintaining any volume momentum. 

The development of the club website, the daily club email, the advent of the Blogger and the highly successful Charlton Life Forum have all combined to serve a need for information and debate far more successfully than the CASC ever managed via the programme or ad hoc meetings. So, it is good , therefore, to see that the supporter's club are picking up on this. 

Supporters groups are being invited to a meeting with Steve Waggott on 12th March with the purpose of fostering unity and I can't see that this can do any harm, although I am not convinced there is any particular disunity between respective groups. What there is, is a fairly unanimous dissatisfaction with the management of the club and the team this season but those issues are very well known. Indeed, the Club's new "Fans Forum" was set-up to take the temperature of supporters in the ground and provide feedback, although it looks like the thermometer might have broken at the first reading on this!
What would really help is better communication from the Chief Exec. Steve Waggott has been largely anonymous since he took over. Admittedly most of this season's news has been mostly negative but if you don't provide a commentary, then the void gets filled for you. Steve Waggott may believe that he does this via the programme but I am convinced that this should be supplemented by email and the club website. The programme is sporadic in appearance, doesn't reach as many fans as the interent and many of those who do buy it don't read it like a book.

I will watch developments with interest!

Wednesday 25 February 2009

Weekend Championship Preview, Game 34

Our immediate fate in terms of the division we play in next season should become much clearer during the next ten days as we face Swansea, Doncaster and Watford. The home matches against Doncaster and Watford promise to deliver the lifeblood of points but I think much will depend on the perfromance and result in Swansea on Saturday. If the tail really is to wag, then we need an encouraging performance and three points to set us up for the home games. Lose comfortably and we may play with more fear against Doncaster and Watford, both of whom can afford to either shut up shop or go for it.

Barnsley v QPR
QPR are in danger of dropping out of the play-off race despite a good point at Cardiff in the week. Barnsley will be under pressure to put in a better shift than they did against us. I can see another unhappy draw.
Prediction; 1-1

Bristol City v Blackpool
After the season they have had, it's hard to believe City are back in a play-off position. Can you imagine them in the Premier League? No, neither can I. Having said that, another three points here against Blackpool would keep them nicely in contention and could just give Blackpool some relegation jitters.
Prediction; 2-0

Burnley v Sheffield Wednesday
Wednesday steadied the ship by beating palace last week and they are now safely midtable. The Clarets meanwhile need the points for a play-off place they deserve this year and I am confident they will win this encounter.
Prediction; 3-0

Norwich City v Coventry City
After an impressive winning start, Bryan Gunn has not seen Norwich win in the last six games and they have hit poor form at just the wrong time. they have a tough run-in and could well be facing relegation when they play their last game of the season at the Valley. Coventry at home is a must win game and if they can't do it, they are looking very vulnerable.
Prediction; 1-0

Preston NE v Ipswich Town
Like Bristol City, Preston don't deserve a play-off place in my mind and I think Sheffield United will overhaul them. Ipswich have been good on the road this season and I'll be brave and tip the Town here.
Prediction; 1-2

Reading v Nottingham Forest
Not a good time for leaky Forest to be going to Reading. I can see Forest coming home with a dented goal difference.
Prediction; 4-0

Southampton v Cardiff City
Great win for the Saints last week and they will be hoping Cardiff might tire early having played on Wednesday evening. These sides are at opposite ends of the table for a reason and I'm putting the Southampton result last week down to a flash-in-the-pan.
Prediction; 0-2

Swansea City v Charlton Athletic
I was at the last Swansea v Charlton game 25 years ago but can't bring myself to make the journey on Saturday because I have so little confidence that we can get a result. We have the worst away record in the division and I think it will worsen on Saturday as the Swans atone for their misfortune at the Valley earlier in the season.
Prediction; 3-0

Watford v Crystal Palace
Big game for the Hornets. A win should give them breathing space to play better football. I don't think they'll go down and this might be easier for them than they think.
Prediction; 2-0

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Plymouth Argyle
Home banker here. Argyle are struggling badly but should be kept out of the bottom three this weekend by Norwich or Forest.
Prediction; 3-0

Sheffield United v Birmingham City
A chance here for Sheffield to make their mark this year. The win would lift them into the play-off zone with a game in hand on a couple of their rivals. Birmingham are hanging onto second but Reading now have two games in hand and will surely leap-frog them when the time comes.
Prediction; 2-0


Better the devil you know

Home from a different footballing evening at Arsenal. First thing's first, an injury hit Gunners team got the victory they needed but will be disappointed they won't be taking at least a two goal lead back to Rome. They will have to hope they have a stronger side for the return with a few more options as their bench was weak this evening. Personally, I can see them going out in Rome.

Nicklas Bentner was head and shoulders the poorest player on the pitch. He has the first touch of a baby elephant and his second touch is more often than not a tackle. It was good to see Alexandre Song get on in the second half, although he looks just like the player who left us - too much sideways play and a tad clumsy in the tackle. Also, it was strange to see John Arne Rise again as I hadn't realised he was playing in Italy!

Enough of that, what I really want to tell you about is the Emirates hospitality experience. Their "Club" level is the small tier of seating around the stadium above the lower tier and immediately below the boxes. I would guess it holds 5000 people. I was behind the goal at the South end of the ground and was in one of a number of massive lounges under the terracing above that were pretty smart but what you would expect from a PL club today; bars, flat-screen TV's and poorly paid staff with little customer service experience. So, not a million miles from what you get at the Valley today.

My "experience" included the match ticket which I am guessing would have cost c £60 for this Champions League game (behind the goal)? On top of that we had a buffet which was pretty impressive and included soup, cold meats/seafood, several hot dishes/fruit/deserts/cheese as well as tea and coffee if you had room for all that. Alcoholic drinks pre-match were down to you and it was £3.50 a pint, so again, on a par with the Valley. You also got a programme (£3) thrown in and a pre-match team-sheet.

At half-time you got free drinks and I managed two swift pints here. After the match the lounge was open but it was a paying bar. So, in summary, it was very similar to what I enjoyed at the Valley for the Norwich City F A Cup game, although there two big differences apart from the quality of the football.

The first, was the type of people there. Unsurprisingly, there were a good number of Italians (Suze - unlike the Spurs fans, they clearly hadn't been told to keep schtumm) but I also heard Germans, French, Russians and Scandinavians. Additionally, there were a healthy number of Asians and all of these people looked like tourists rather than residents. So, Arsenal are a global club, what do you expect? Well, on top of that were hundreds of suits (just like me) who there for reasons other than being die-hard Arsenal fans. The consequence of this was that there was absolutely no atmosphere what-so-ever on our tier in the ground. To be fair, apart from the first-half noise of the Roma fans below us, the Library is alive and kicking. If you can't get motivated for a knock-out stage Champions League game, what does get you going?

The second big difference was the cost. At the Valley last month I believe we paid £70 a head. I say "we" because a mate paid and I think that's what he told me it was. Well, the price of Champions League (and other category A matches) football hospitality at the Emirates is a staggering £325! (£60 + £40 + £3 + £7 = £110). A mark-up therefore of £215 or getting on for 200%. I know it's all good revenue for Arsenal and it subsidises what the home fans have to pay (to some extent anyway), but I also know that they pay significantly more than we ever did in the PL for our season tickets. And yes, I know it's not Charlton for God's sake but I couldn't help thinking that I might be more dilliusioned with football today had I grown up an Arsenal fan than I do as an Addick, even one heading for Division Three.

Monday 23 February 2009

From Championship to Champions League

I'm off to the Emirates stadium tomorrow night to see Arsenal play Roma. I was invited a few weeks back by one of my works' suppliers. I normally turn these down as Charlton are rarely one of the two teams playing and, I am at that stage in life, where I am a bit more discerning about who I spend my free with - not that the guy who invited me is anything other than a thoroughly decent chap you understand.

The thing is, they caught me at a low point and I reacted to the taunt in the invite about seeing a winning team. So, I will be going and I will do a good impression of cheering on Roma on the basis that I have been to the Olympic Stadium in Rome (albeit to see Lazio) and that will serve them right. I have been told to be there for 6pm as there is a buffet and we have "Club" seats. This should be interesting and will hopefully give me plenty of ammunition to throw at the prawn sandwich brigade. 

On a more serious note, it will be interesting to watch live Premier League-quality football again after a two year absence. I will, of course, want to see the Arse win to increase the chances of a British side winning it again. They haven't been too hot of late and the 0-0 draw with Sunderland on Saturday was hardly awe-inspiring.

Saturday 21 February 2009

Barnsley 0 v Charlton Athletic 0

Ultimately a frustrating afternoon for the Addicks who lost ground on some of the sides above us at the bottom. A point and a clean sheet at Oakwell would usually be considered a decent result but we have a lot of ground to make up on our rivals and this sounded like a match there for the taking.

In a dull first half not helped for CAFCTV listeners by an equally dull and inept radio commentator (yet another one), there was a chance apiece for an unchanged Charlton side (Elliot- Youga, Ward, Hudson, Murty - Soares, Spring, Racon, Bailey - Dickson and Kandol). Mifsud shot wide after 15 minutes and Hudson saw a good shot saved by Muller.

Things picked up in the second half and Charlton had several chances to take the lead but Racon, Bailey and Dickson were all foiled by Muller. Racon and Dickson in particular were prominent as Charlton pushed forward in the second-half but there was little mention of Bailey and Kandol. Soares didn't do a great deal either so it was frustrating that we didn't use any of our substitutes as the game drew to a conclusion. No doubt Parky will say he didn't want to disturb the side as they were doing well and improving towards the finish. For me it was the wrong decision; Lloyd Sam's pace is always worth a chance against tiring legs and Jonjo Shelvey may have given us the bit more quality we needed. At the back, Elliot made a couple of good saves, notably from Moore and Macken, but Ward and Hudson won everything in the air and Murty and Youga held the line.

Unfortunately, Southampton beat Preston 3-1, Watford won 2-0 at Blackpool as Plymouth and Norwich both got home draws. Next week we go to Swansea and whilst none of our rivals have easy games either, it looks like we'll be down to a dozen matches in which to pull off a recovery of Lazarus proportions.

It was inevitable

"What's gone wrong at Charlton?" It would appear that the media, or the BBC at least, has woken up to the fact that we are heading for our second relegation in three seasons. The subject of Paul Fletcher's blog yesterday, we had Mark Bright covering the same piece on London Tonight or whatever it's called, after the six o'clock news last night and Football Focus is apparently giving us 4 minutes shortly after Midday today.

Old news for us of course but it's interesting to hear their take. All very predictable but four managers since the 15 years of stability and progress is at the root of it. They don't appear to offer much else. Dowie gets the blame for spending the cash as the Board attempted to take us "to the next level." The Board get blamed too for hasty managerial changes that season and this year there is mention of the winless streak and the over-reliance on loan players.

Mark Bright resisted the temptation to say his old club could do it and said he thinks we'll go down. Phil Parkinson is also interviewed and, predictably, says we can still do it because 14 games left is "nearly a third of the season" to go.

Given the natural tendency to clutch at straws, I wonder how long we have to go before we hear Parky begin to caveat his optimism? You know, like taking the line that we are obviously favourites to go down but it can still be done, or that it's been an uphill task since he took over etc.

I understand our away following at Oakwell today is likely to be as small as that we took there in 1982. We had played them the previous year for the first time in decades, so the turn-out was pretty healthy, which was just as well given the number of locals looking to thump flash Cockney gits. However, the following season we played them in April and we were down to the bares bones, one Lewis's coach and one from the club. For those who travel today, I really do take my proverbial hat-off.

C'mon Charlton!

Friday 20 February 2009

Big Foot found and free CAFCTV!

Relief in Ramsgate as Charlton fan "Big Foot" has been found alive and well. This gentle soul described as "six foot seven and heavily built," was reported missing earlier in the week. Michael Phelan was reported last seen in his Charlton home shirt but has now been found in London. Maybe he was up getting tickets for the Doncaster game?

More good news is that the club site is advertising free trial access for a month to all Addicks of the recently launched CAFCTV. After my piece about this earlier in the week, the club should be commended for taking this bold move although I can already hear the clamour  for an extra free month for existing subscribers! 

An eye on Barnsley

It has been a while since my last guest-post on Drinking During the Game and you've gone and won again at home. That win over Plymouth might just set  you up for the long-awaited successive wins.

With that in mind I thought I’d do a preview of the Barnsley game at the weekend.  They beat local rivals Sheffield Wednesday to end a four match losing run last week but I’m still fairly confident Charlton could get something out of this one.  The Tykes have got a few decent players in their line up it has to be said.  Michael Mifsud is a quality player and I was quite surprised when Coventry loaned him out to the Oakwell side, he put in a decent display against Wednesday and I expect him to be the main danger man.

Andranik Teymourian is a fairly decent midfielder.  I never thought he was quite good enough for the Premier League when he played for Bolton and then Fulham but the Championship is about his level and he also put in a good effort against Wednesday.  In defence they’ve got Darren Moore who is a fairly solid defender, Moore was useless at Derby last year (who wasn’t though) but he seems to have rediscovered some form for the South Yorkshire side and is a good player when it comes to dealing with crosses and set pieces.

I think Barnsley will probably try and take the game to Charlton in this encounter.  They’re also in the relegation scrap so they need to beat the teams around them at home.  If the Addicks can ride out the initial pressure they will stand a decent chance of getting a draw or nicking a win in this game.  I won’t hazard a score prediction though, there’s no need to jinx anything!

 I’ll end with a few Championship betting picks I think.  Sheffield United away at Plymouth and Preston’s visit Southampton look like two fairly safe away picks in my opinion.  I’m also a bit tempted by Palace away at Wednesday, Neil Warnock would love to get a win at Hillsborough I’m sure and they managed to end a losing run by seeing off Plymouth last week.  My final piece of football betting advice is for Everton to beat Newcastle at St James’ Park on Sunday, after watching Everton recently they look tight and organised where as Newcastle still look very shaky at the back.



Thursday 19 February 2009

Weekend Championship Preview, Game 33

With Derby's comprehensive win over Blackpool last night following Barnsley's result at Hillsborough on Tuesday, it now looks increasingly like any three from six at the bottom; Southampton, Norwich, Watford, Forest, Plymouth and our goodselves. Forest burnt a game in hand last night when they went down 2-1 at Ipswich. As we face a critical game at Oakwell on Saturday, here's what the rest are doing.

Barnsley v Charlton Athletic
Whilst we are a number of matches away from mathematical relegation, I see this game as pivotal. We simply have to win if we are to get the momentum we need to put the run of results we have to have if there is any hope of survival. If we get beaten (or draw) we will likely lose   further ground on some of our rivals but more importantly, we are now running out of games.
This is definately one I believe our players can win but Barnsley halted their losing run on Tuesday and they will know that three points at home here will give them sight of Championship security. I said a few weeks ago that relegation in March looked on the cards and I am afraid that's still the most likely prognosis.
Prediction; 2-0

Blackpool v Watford
My money would be on Watford avoiding the drop but this looks like a very hard game for them at a Blackpool side spanked at Derby in the week. 
Prediction; 2-0

Coventry City v Birmingham City
Birmingham are back in the automatic position but Reading can regain that position if they win their game in hand. Pressure on then and Birmingham face proud Coventry neighbours who will be able to play pressure-free football. I suspect there could be an upset here but Coventry might have to settle for a point.
Prediction; 1-1

Norwich City v Burnley
Tough times for Norwich who have dropped onto the trap-door. Not a good time to play Burnley either who are now focused solely on the play-offs. 
Prediction; 1-2

Nottingham Forest v Derby County
A quick replay of their recent 2-2 draw at Pride Park. Earnshaw and Tyson scored the goals then and I fancy Forest to go one better here to send Cloughie home empty handed.
Prediction; 2-1

Plymouth Argyle v Sheffield United
Another fixture that goes for us - Plymouth are in turmoil and this is a must-win for the Blades. 
Prediction; 0-1 

QPR v Ipswich Town
Rangers are drinking in the Last Chance saloon here and face an Ipswich side also on 47 points and with play-off ambitions. A hard-fought draw would probably suit neither side.
Prediction; 0-0

Reading v Bristol City
Reading can move to 13 home wins here and possibly leap-frog Birmingham City in the process. They have kept faith with their squad and manager and have quietly gone about their business. I hope they get promoted again even if their ultimate destiny looks like playing outside the Premier League in future without more financial backing.
Prediction; 3-0

Sheffield Wednesday v Crystal Palace
Wednesday could kill off any lingering Palace hopes of the play-offs. Trouble is they look like they've gone on holiday already. I'll stick my neck out here and go for two Palace away wins in four days.
Prediction; 1-2

Southampton v Preston NE
The Grim Reaper stalks the Saints as Rupert Lowe edges closer to an administration and relegation double. Preston need the points and I think they'll get them.
Prediction; 0-2

Swansea City v Doncaster Rovers
Doncaster are on an impressive winning streak but they look safe now and face a Swansea side hungry for the points to maintain their play-off hopes. 
Prediction; 3-0

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Cardiff City
This is the Sunday Sky match and it promises to be a cracker. Wolves aren't home yet but they are counting the games down. Wanderers too strong here.
Prediction; 3-1

Wednesday 18 February 2009

The task becomes clearer

Watford and Doncaster both won good home matches last night against Swansea and Bristol City respectively. Doncaster are an amazing 15 points clear of us now and are up to the giddy heights of 15th. Watford are now 8 points clear of us and have lifted themselves out of the drop zone to 21st with a game in hand on Forest (a point behind)  and two games on Plymouth (two points behind) who were beaten again last night, this time 3-1 at home to Palace.

Whilst the task for Charlton remains the same - to win an unfeasibly large number of points from a diminishing number of matches -  it's looks like our target might be narrowing to finishing above Southampton, Norwich and either Plymouth or Forest. Interestingly, the next side in our sights is Barnsley who are on 35 points but have two games in hand on us. Saturday really could be the day things slip from our grasp if we lose. With Swansea away to follow, we have to get something from both games if we are to set ourselves up for the sort of finish survival in this division demands. If we can do that, the winnable home games against Doncaster and Watford might give us some breathing space for the tough games at Reading and Wolves. If we fail in the next two games, Doncaster and Watford will gain the real incentive of knowing that a result at the Valley would almost certainly condemn us.

Derby are at home to Blackpool this evening and I guess we would like to see the Seasiders take the points to keep Derby involved. Having said that, Derby look too bouyant at the moment to get caught and the positivity from their F A Cup run and Nigel Clough's arrival will likley be enough to see them secure the points they need this year. Forest go to Ipswich this evening and obviously we will want to see them beaten. Town have been dropping points willy-nilly at home in recent games, turning wins into draws, so we have to hope they correct that.

Tuesday 17 February 2009

Jonjo Shelvey 17 next week

It's been all quiet on the Jonjo front in recent weeks after a flurry of speculation linking him with one club or another. Maybe things have died down because he's been out of the first team following a handful of promising appearances last month or maybe it was all largely conjecture? Either way, he will be expected to sign a relatively lucrative contract on Friday of next week (or very soon afterwards) when he reaches the grand old age of seventeen.

In a season of unrelenting disappointment and crashing financial fortunes there must be a real concern that we will be seen as ripe for the plucking and that Jonjo may be snatched away as soon as he is able to sign pro terms. The immediate rewards for him personally would presumably be greater elsewhere, even if his first-team opportunities would very likely be more limited. We would then be left to the mercies of a tribunal to decide what scant compensation we would be entitled to for nurturing Shelvey's talent.

Let's hope that we all get the boost of him committing himself to the Addick cause for the next couple of seasons where he can gain valuable first team experience and show us all why he is considered one of the brightest prospects in the game. At worst, perhaps we will agree a decent fee and get him loaned back for a year or two?

Monday 16 February 2009

Therry Racon's advert for CAFCTV

CAFCTV has been proving poor value for money this season. The scarcity of winning performances, general lack of quality football as well as the technical teething problems have all combined to cause widespread disgruntlement amongst subscribers. I haven't really been bothering with it other than for the live away match commentaries. 

This weekend, though, it received it's biggest possible advertising boost courtesy of a pearler of a goal from Therry Racon and a decent second from Nicky Bailey. The Official Site leads with the picture here of Racon as he's about to pull the trigger. How much better it would have been to stick the clip on the homepage instead to show those yet to commit the potential value from this service.

Thoughts of two consecutive league wins for the first time in 14 months again enter the consciousness as we go to faltering Barnsley on Saturday. Like Plymouth they haven't won in 2009. In fact, they have lost all five they have played, scoring just once and conceding 12! Demand for the live commentary from CAFCTV is another reason to be pushing the CAFCTV service this week.

Sunday 15 February 2009

View from the other side

I thought our fans were about the biggest moaners and pessimists in the game. We've had a massive amount of heartache and failure to deal with in the last three years, so much of this season's out-pouring is understandable and justified. Yesterday, however, it was all smiles and laughter at the Valley as we outplayed Plymouth to close the gap to survival to seven points and we wake this morning with the feel-good factor.

Contrast this then with the reaction of Argyle's fans to yesterday's Valley defeat  They are still five points clear of the drop zone but you'd think we had overhauled the ten point deficit between our respective clubs. I thought Paul Sturrock was a bit of a hero down there, but clearly I am mistaken. Perhaps this is a mark of how bad it now is to be beaten by Charlton Athletic nowadays? Either way, it's not a great time to be calling for your manager to get the boot. One of the yokels on this thread is demanding Iain Dowie be appointed - just about sums it up.

I  hope Barnsley fans are as negative about the prospect of us beating them at Oakwell next Saturday. Somehow I doubt it.

Saturday 14 February 2009

Charlton Athletic 2 v Plymouth Argyle 0

The first comfortable win of the season. Plymouth arrived at the Valley low in confidence and on the back of a poor run of results and it showed. They struggled all afternoon to match the Addicks and should have been killed off well before they were after 68 minutes.

Charlton started with Elliot in goal, Youga, Hudson, Ward and Murty across the back. Spring and Racon were paired in the middle with Soares and Bailey taking the flanks. This meant we were played much narrower than in recent weeks and most of the ammunition for Dickson and Kandol came through the middle.

The first half was short on chances but Charlton dominated possession and took the lead from the best quality piece of football we've seen for months. From a short corner, Matt Spring rolled the ball to Therry Racon in space 25 yards out. He took a touch, settled himself and then struck a superb shot which curled over the advancing Plymouth defence and beat the outstretched Larrieu to nestle in the top left-hand corner. I think it would be fair to say that Racon was pleased with himself. He was lucky not to get booked for the length of his celebrations.  Plymouth did force Elliot into a smart save and they also hit the bar from a free-kick but we were good value for 1-0 at half-time.

Within ten minutes of the re-start we should have been three up. Dickson had two shots saved, Kandol one and Nicky Bailey saw a penalty saved as Larrieu kept Argyle in touch. A minute after the penalty save, Bailey found himself clear in the box as the ball dropped to him but he skied his finish. There was no mistake however after 68 minutes when Tresor Kandol flighted a probing ball over the Argyle back line. Nicky Bailey drifted in to meet the cross, brought it down, pushed it on before slipping it beyond Larrieu for the second. 

There was plenty of time for more goals but they wouldn't come. Nonetheless, the Valley faithful were treated to some inspired forward play but Chris Dickson. On one burst he beat two Argyle players in the middle before flying down the right flank, skipping passed another, cutting into the box and firing a shot at Larrieu from an acute angle. He was thoughtfully substituted seven minutes from the end, so he could milk the applause of the standing ovation he was given. Deon Burton replaced him but by then the game was over. 

The defence should be applauded for keeping a clean sheet although Plymouth could argue that they had enough opportunities to have scored at least one.  I haven't seen Darren Ward before but he was solid enough and talked non-stop to his colleagues in defence. Therry Racon won the midfield battle which freed Nicky Bailey up to play a much more attacking role than normal. It's a pity we didn't get more from Tom Soares today because there were more goals available. Tresor Kandol left all the threat to Chris Dickson but he challenges in the air which Gray doesn't do and he supplied the killer pass for Bailey's goal.

Man of the match would have to be a toss-up between Racon, Dickson and Bailey. Racon edges it for me with his first half performance and goal which illuminated the game. 

To cap it all, Charlton stalwart, Betty Hutchins has just won £17,500 on Dale Winton's quiz show whilst I've been typing this. Good on you Betty!

Thursday 12 February 2009

Weekend Championship Preview, Game 32

So, 15 games left to the end of this nightmarish season. Eight at home and seven away. Six winnable at home (Plymouth, Doncaster, Watford, Preston, Blackpool and Norwich) three possible aways (Barnsley, Southampton and Derby). If you assume we won't get all of those points but might balance up some from the other games, it's conceivable that we could get to 49 points which would give us half-a-chance. Thing is, we have to win the next three home games all of which are against opposition within seven places of us.

I think we are playing Plymouth at the right time and, if we can score first , as in recent weeks, then I believe we will see them off. Neither side scores that many, so I can't see a repeat of the four goals shared at Home Park earlier in the season. One-nill could be enough.

Due to the F A Cup there are only seven Championship games being played on Saturday, although there are another seven in midweek as teams catch-up with postponements (not us this time around).

Birmingham City v Nottingham Forest
Two points behind Reading and City play twice before Reading have another league game. This is their chance and I expect them to take it for now.
Prediction; 2-0

Bristol City v Southampton
Looks like mission impossible for the Saints. They are in the same sinking boat us as.
Prediction; 2-0

Burnley v Wolverhampton Wanderers
Fireworks in prospect here. Burnley have managed to raise their game all season against better opposition and I can see them doing it again. The Clarets arguably need the points more than Wanderers who have a four point lead at the top. 
Prediction; 2-1

Charlton Athletic v Plymouth Argyle
We won't get an easier home match than this one. If we put out an attacking formation and maintain a good tempo, then we should have too much for floundering Argyle.
Prediction; 1-0

Doncaster Rovers v Sheffield Wednesday
Fresh from the jubilation of having completed their first Sheffield derby double in 95 years (I thought our record against Millwall was bad), Wednesday have a glorious opportunity to repeat it by doubling Doncaster Rovers whom they overcame 1-0 earlier in the season. Rovers might be wagging at the moment but I'll take Wednesday to see them off here as they push for their last shot at the play-offs.
Prediction; 0-1

Ipswich Town v Blackpool
I have to go with Ipswich here, although both of these sides have tripped me up all season - Town by failing to win at home and Blackpool by nicking results away. 
Prediction; 2-0

Preston NE v Norwich City
Despite a recovery under Bryan Gunn in recent weeks, Norwich are still only two points from the drop zone. Much will depend on their fixtures between now and the end of the season, especially at Carrow Road. Preston have been strong at home all season and should romp this one.
Prediction; 2-0


Wednesday 11 February 2009

Charlton favourites on Saturday

It looks like our long-awaited next home match following the win over Palace will go ahead on Saturday. Not only that, but we could well make it two consecutive home victories as Plymouth Argyle arrive in poor spirits and on the back of some Charlton-esque form.

Plymouth have won just one match from their last 14. They have taken just two points from the last 21 and have been beaten by Forest (away) and Derby (home) in recent weeks. Having battled for a 2-2 draw at Home Park earlier in the season, the Charlton players will be looking to go one better and notch another win that would at least add some respectability to our gap at the bottom. We also owe them for their 2-1 win at Valley last season (no Sylvain Ebanks-Blake or Barry Hayles this year), when they took our unbeaten home record. With Doncaster and Watford to come in the next Valley matches, we finally have a realistic opportunity of salvaging some home form and closing the gap on some of our fellow strugglers. 

Accepting that relegation is now ten games or so away, it's time for our players to start to play with some freedom and get a few surprise results to extend our interest into April. If we can go down fighting it might have a positive impact on season-ticket renewals, especially if the club come up with an imaginative renewal scheme. If we go down without a whimper, it is very hard to see how Phil Parkinson could be allowed to retain his position, irrespective of how skint we are; that could be a recipe for further managerial disaster.

We need to do everything to ensure we get at least 10,000 bums-on-seats for August. Away support will be significantly lower than this year, even if we will be one of the grounds visiting supporters will be keenest to visit. Match-to-match numbers could vary dramatically depending upon how well we do. Charlton fans will always come back to watch a winning side, irrespective of the division we are playing in. However, if we are struggling in League One, the floating support will be next to nothing.

If we are accompanied down this year by the likes of Southampton and Watford it might soften the blow and deflect some of the acrimony that will go with us. It also means we have two immediate competitors for any chance of promotion next year. Maybe  Barnsley and Doncaster would be better relegation mates?

Monday 9 February 2009

No credit for Charlton

Sky News is reporting that HSBC have withdrawn Charlton's overdraft facility. They then quote Richard Murray again denying that the club will go into Administration. He acknowledges that we have £21m of debt, £15m of which is owed to the Directors. In other words, we are carrying £6m of due debt and Richard Murray believes that is in line with many other professional clubs but many have not yet gone public in terms of their current plight.

Hard to know what to make of this, but it's a story that won't go away. Richard Murray is an honourable man and I do not believe he would mislead anyone intentionally. However, if we owe £6m and are unable to borrow more, then cash-flow becomes a major problem and you have to stay one step ahead which may mean realising assets to keep the club afloat. If we are unable to do this in a timely manner or our outgoings continue to outstrip revenues, then Administration becomes unavoidable. 

News of a hardening attitude from Charlton's bankers is not new, so why are we worrying? The answer might be because we have revealed that we need to cut £10m-£13m from next year's expenses to breakeven. When you are struggling with £6m of debt, then it's hard to see how we are going to make the adjustments necessary without some significant new money. The fire-sale during the Summer saw the most saleable players sold, and we are now looking at the bottom of the barrel and they aren't going to recoup anything like the sums we need to avoid adding to our overall level of debt.  So, unless the Directors have a viable plan to manage the ongoing debt, the Administration is only a matter of time. The issue then is all about timing and if it's going to happen in the next 12 months, then it would be best before 25th March when we can take the points penalty during this relegation season. 

It would also mark the final fall from grace in this catastrophic season which has promised so much (pre-season, Zabeel etc) and has seen just about everything that could go wrong, do so spectacularly.

Sunday 8 February 2009

Frank Haddon - icing on the cake

At Edinburgh airport awaiting the flight back from another disappointing sporting afternoon. This time it was the turn of Frank Haddon's Scotland team to let me down. OK, so Wales start the 6 Nations as champions and favourites to retain their title, but I was expecting more from Scotland than we got today and I blame Frank Haddon.

Scotland have failed to play to their strengths under Haddon and were one dimensional yet again this afternoon against a Wales side who found it too easy to take a commanding lead and then sit on it. Scotland did rally in the last twenty minutes but it was, once again, too little, too late. Scotland have a pack of forwards who should dominate most games they play. The Scottish line-out is the best in the northern hemisphere, so we should be kicking for distance and pressurising opponents. We are traditionally weaker in the backs and seem unable to stretch and open opponents out wide, just as Wales did to us for their opening try. So what has Frank Haddon focused on? Trying to play running rugby (admirable) but the tactic is always the same - to batter away, tackle after tackle, man after man in largely the same place. We need to complete twenty successive bursts to make thirty yards and we lose possession without gaining much yardage as a result. Basic tactical differences apart, the man can't handle the bigger personalities (sound familiar?) and the decision to start without Chris Paterson (once again) was appalling. God only knows what morale is like behind the scenes. At least everyone gets on in every game Scotland play nowadays, so the damage was minimal today.

I am due up for the Ireland game next month but, Frank, I can't be bothered. Another battle to avoid the Wooden Spoon is upon us and then Frank Haddon should get his comeuppance. What a time to be a Scottish Addick.

Saturday 7 February 2009

Ten points and counting....

With Doncaster winning at Blackpool, the gap to safety is now 10 (ten) points and goal difference. Next week's opponents, Plymouth Argyle, were trounced 3-0 at home by Derby. The run they are currently on is pretty bad and we will be favourites to win at home next week.

In the meantime, the 6 Nations kicked-off today with an unconvincing (flattering 36-11) England win over a lack-lustre Italy side playing with no recognised scrum-half. Mauro Bergamasco stood in and was as just as dire as the pre-match commentators had predicted. Italy's fifth-choice srum-half made his appearance at half-time and they steadied the ship a bit. England look a mile away from winning the tournament at this stage.

In Dublin the fans were treated to a cracking game of rugby which was genuinely end-to-end and which saw an impressive Ireland side beat France 30-21. 

Tomorrow will see Scotland take on champions Wales at Murrayfield and yours truly will be there, full of early competition optimism. The arrogant Frank Haddon has made the first collossal mistake of the tournament by starting without metronomic kicker Chris Paterson. He made the same mistake in the Autumn test against South Africa and it cost us the win. Assuming Haddon gets sacked after this year's tournament, as I suspect he will, I have decided I will drink a nice bottle of red to celebrate.

Friday 6 February 2009

Michael Gliksten 1939-2009

For those of us who remember him, he's dead after a long fight against cancer.

As a teenager I sang rascist songs in the Covered End against our jewish Chairman with no ambition for Charlton Athletic and whose family we blamed for our failure to capitalise on the earlier good times and develop the Valley into the sort of ground that might have sustained top class football sooner than the 28 years it took us to return after being relegated in 1957. We blamed him personally for the move to Selhurst park because of his refusal to sell his couple of acres behind the West Stand to Sunley. I was involved in the grafitti at the Valley the night prior to the last game and again it was Michael Gliksten who bore the brunt.

However, it wasn't too long after this event when it became clear that Sunley themselves had used Michael Gliksten's land ownership as an excuse for moving us closer to their Croydon base and John Fryer's home. Michael Gliksten was unable to recoup his investment at the Valley later on because the Council refused him permission to develop his plot.

Looking back, Michael Gliksten was a parsimonious Chairman and for that I can't be hypocritical about his passing. On the other hand, I believe he cared more about the club than he was generally given credit for but his reputation suffered badly because of poor PR. I was too naive and gullible to see it at the time

Cardiff Off!

Andy D'Urso has just called tomorrow's home game against Cardiff off. He doesn't think the pitch is playable, which surprises me. I have just got back home after an eight mile run around Greenwich with few problems visible. The thaw is continuing and the forecast for tomorrow is bright and three degrees, so it's hard to see why he had to call it off this morning.

Having said that, I am not complaining. I am fed-up with Charlton at the moment and will look forward to doing something else. Just a pity I have already booked to fly up and back to Edinburgh on Sunday for the Scotland v Wales 6 Nations opener, or else I could enjoy a night out in Auld Reekie tomorrow...

Thursday 5 February 2009

Weekend Championship Preview, Game 32

Back to the scene of the Palace victory this Saturday. The miserable and hope-less will be joined by 3,000 jubilant and expectant Bluebirds who will be coming for a day out in the Smoke and three more points as they continue their impressive promotion challenge. Having despatched us with moderate ease earlier in the season, I have no doubt that Cardiff can become the eighth side to take maximum points from the Valley this season.

A defeat on Saturday and plucky Parky will have matched Pardew's 10 league losses this season. Parky though, will have managed it in 14 games compared to Pards' 18 and will have accumulated a pitiful 6 points versus Pardew's 16. And we thought it couldn't get worse than Pards!

Elsewhere in the Chumpionship there are promotion and relegation issues still to be sorted....

Barnsley v Crystal Palace
Payment of £1000 wouldn't get me to this clog-fest. Both sides are on good losing runs, so would probably settle for a draw. Those self-deluded Eagles fans have been smelling a lot of coffee lately.
Prediction; 1-1

Birmingham City v Burnley
After their latest cup heroics in midweek, Burnley would have been hoping for mediocre opposition at home. This is a not a good time to visit St Andrews and I suspect Alex McLeish will get the much needed win here.
Prediction; 1-0

Blackpool v Doncaster Rovers
Doncaster Rovers can at last see some light at the end of what's been a very long tunnel. A win here could move them into nosebleed territory. Blackpool look safe even at this stage.
Prediction; 1-2

Charlton Athletic v Cardiff City
Time to get real and cut to the chase. We need to see the core of next seasons team being played now, although I suspect Parky and the Board will wait until the odds are close to mathematical before confronting our demons. I expect our team for the last ten games to look decidely different to that we are playing at the moment. Having missed out on Manager of the Month for January, Parky will know that a second defeat early in February will mean another month without free whisky (just when he could use it most).
Prediction; 1-3

Coventry City v Wolverhampton Wanderers
An atmosphere here to match that in the Steel City derby. Wolves look to have re-focused in the last couple of games and Christophe Berra is an inspired signing. Can't see City winning this but if they really battle, they can take a point.
Prediction; 2-2

Norwich City v Bristol City
A fine point for Norwich at Wolves in midweek and the bounce under Sherriff Gunn continues. I can see the Canaries doing what we failed to do on Tuesday and build on a lead against the Robins.
Prediction; 2-0

Nottingham Forest v QPR
Rangers have rallied in recent weeks after a mini collapse and find themselves in seventh place and pushing for the play-offs. Forest are also going well having established a scoring partnership in Tyson and Earnshaw. I'll sit on the fence here.
Prediction; 1-1

Plymouth Argyle v Derby County
Only a point separates both of these strugglers. This is a real six pointer and the loser could find themselves in hot water.
Prediction; 2-0

Reading v Preston NE
Preston continue to over-perform in my eyes and they will find this game hard. Reading must win to keep Brum at arms length and I am confident they will do just that.
Prediction; 3-0

Sheffield United v Sheffield Wednesday
Wednesday won the earlier derby at Hillsborough but their form away has been relatively poor and I will go for United to take revenge. They have a five point gap over QPR in seventh and will be confident of a play-off finish.
Prediction; 1-0

Swansea City v Ipswich Town
The play-offs might be a season too early for both of these teams. Swansea have only lost once at home all season but they have drawn eight. Martinez has also been awarded Manager of the Month, so the shrewd money would be to take the odds on an Ipswich upset.
Prediction; 1-2

Watford v Southampton
This is a huge game for Watford and one which they need to win if they are to pull clear of trouble. They have been playing well under Brendan Rodgers but must start to secure the points. It won't get easier than Southampton at home (having already beaten us).
Prediction; 3-0

Wednesday 4 February 2009

Season Tickets 2009-10

It's that time of year, when football clubs begin to give thought to their pricing structure for the forthcoming season. This is a critical judgement call and involves maximising revenues by getting the optimum balance between bums-on-seats and actual prices.

Under Peter Varney's leadership, I believe Charlton Athletic excelled at this. Of course, it's not hard when you you are playing in the Premier League with a capacity of only 27,000. The drop into the Championship in the last two seasons presented a new challenge in terms of maintaining numbers but the club rose to it with the unique offer of a free season ticket in the following year if we gained promotion. That was a bold move but one that was very sensible, in that the huge increase in Sky revenues for rejoining the top flight would more than have accounted for the cost of funding it. As a result, season ticket numbers have held up remarkably well at c 17,000 for this year and nearer 18,000 for last.

Relegation in May will give Steve Waggott another major headache to contend with. The quality of the product this season has been about as poor as it can get and next season will bring poorer quality opposition, irrespective of how we are playing. In addition to this, the club's increasing tendency to discount match-to-match ticket sales has also built up a head of steam in terms of resentment around having paid upfront. I haven't done the maths here but I don't believe a season ticket would have saved you anything over buying game by game this season as has traditionally been the case.

The promise of a free season ticket should we be promoted to the Championship is also unlikely to be an option - the additional funds available from re-joining the Championship wouldn't cover the cost of the promotion and, let's face it, the confidence in it coming to pass will be significantly lower than in either of the two previous seasons. We also need to consider the current plight of the economy and the added pressure that will accompany the "will I, won't I" question. So, Mr Waggott has his work cut out and will need some lateral thinking if we are to maintain a modest 10,000 season ticket holders.

In terms of what we might be expected to pay, I have had a quick look at Leicester (relegated last year and with similar support to oursleves) and Millwall, Orient and Southend, as three local sides by way of a comparison.

Leicester have actually got their prices for next season published already and the good news for Foxes fans is that that they are offering decent discounts across the board and we should remember that this will likely be for Championship football; adult prices start from £275 and go up to £450; U18's from £125 and seniors from £215. Presumably Milan Mandaric is working on the reduction being more than offset by the increased interest from being promoted.

Based upon the price of their half-season ticket, Millwall's minimum adult price is a surprisingly high £360 and you can pay up to £480; juniors are from £110 and seniors from £180 and they have intermediate ages with intermediate prices, which seems unecessarily complicated and open to widespread abuse (especially there).

I then looked at the O's and thought I might find some comfort here. Afraid not - they charge from £320 for adults, £210 for "concessions," although their Family pricing structure discounts for additional adults and children if you block book. Their prices are for all parts of the ground, so a seat on the side is probably better value.

So to Southend and what I was hoping would be bargain basement football. Big shock here too - adults here are paying £450, seniors £280 and juniors £250. Like Orient, this is for any stand, but there's virtually no difference at Roots Hall - they're all diabolical. No wonder they play in front of pitifully small gates. To be fair to them, they also offer a Family pricing structure, so presumably many of their regulars will pay less than the single season ticket prices.

In conclusion, it will be difficult for Steve Waggott to justify reductions on this season's prices. For starters the club is desperate for the revenue and you could argue that this year's pricing will make us competitively priced in League One next season. Therefore, I think we will need to offer additional incentives in maximise numbers of those who renew. Throwing in home Cup matches are an obvious one, and are unlikely to cost that much as our chances of a cup run will be that much smaller and the interest for these games is likely to involve very small crowds if it's pay-on-the day.

The club might also be giving consideration to including the use of club bars and lounges as well as subscriptions for CAFC TV and Valley Express. I believe some of the lounges are already over-subscribed with paying Customers but they should look at throwing this in none-the-less. At the end of the day it would operate like a pub and when they're full, they're full and Customers will go elsewhere to get served quicker. We have to maximise takings from Customers using these facilties

CAFC TV was launched to encouraging noises from fans in terms of it's pricing policy, but the quality of service has been disappointing and it might pay to throw it in next year, especially as we're unlikely to be getting any wider radio coverage. The number of those willing to pay in future for this service might benefit from a wider non-paying audience next year, especially if we have something worth listening to and replaying.

That leaves us with Valley Express and I suspect it could be looking untenable on dwindling numbers. Perhaps throwing it in at a discounted price might beef up the numbers to keep it running from it's larger pick-up points.

There, food for thought.

Tuesday 3 February 2009

Bristol City 2 v Charlton Athletic 1

A disciplined and more adventurous-than-normal first half saw Charlton take another one-nil lead into the break, only to throw it all away within eight minutes of the second half.  With two-thirds of the season now gone, the focus needs to move to building the side around those who will be retained for League One. 

Rob Elliot started again in goal and sounded in control throughout the first half catching or punching everything that came his way. Murty, Holland, Ward and Basey held the back line for the first half and were supported by Bailey, Spring, Racon and Soares in midfield. Chris Dickson got a second start, this time alongside Kandol. They settled well enough before taking the game to City mid-way through the first half. Racon and Dickson both shot over from distance before Tom Soares met a Bailey cross six yards out and headed into the top corner. Dickson had another shot tipped around the post before Racon and Spring were booked for fouls in quick succession as Charlton slowed the play to retain their lead at half-time.

Four minutes into the second period and Dele Adebola copied Soares' goal with a header from a Fontaine cross. Before too many comments had appeared on the Charlton Life thread, it was two-one as Adebola smashed home another cross from eight yards out and Elliot was left screaming abuse at his defence. Soares had another header from a Basey corner saved by Basso and Dickson, Bailey and Ward all got efforts in as Charlton tried to fight-back but once again we simply didn't carry enough threat. Ambrose was introduced for Murty, Sam for Racon and Moutaouakil for Soares before the end but City went closest to scoring again in the last ten minutes.

Cardiff is looking like another possible Sheffield United home-humiliation on Saturday. I wish we could fast-forward to the point where our players have absolutely nothing to lose and can play relaxed football - it can't be far off. We remain on target for relegation during March, so we might expect half-a-dozen results before the end of the season and the side shaped to more closely fit the start of next season.

Midweek Championship Preview, Game 31

Hard to believe with most of the country struggling under several inches of snow, but this evening's match at Ashton Gate is still on. No doubt there will be a pitch inspection this morning but the team are down there and we are preparing to play.

Bristol City v Charlton Athletic
City gained only their fourth home victory of the season on Saturday at home to Barnsley. They have drawn eight games at Ashton Gate, more than anyone else in the division and this probably accounts for them sitting outside the play-off zone as opposed to being firmly amongst it again where Gary Johnson would have expected them to be. Another win this evening would move them closer and I can see them getting the win. We look like we will start with Holland and Ward in the middle and, again, I can't see us getting more than one goal.
Prediction; 2-0

Crystal Palace v Birmingham City - OFF

Derby County v Blackpool
I'll be amazed if this game goes ahead. A real six pointer in prospect and Nigel Clough will be looking for a repeat of the 2-1 home win over Coventry. Blackpool pulled off a great win at Palace without Paul Rachubka on Saturday but a repeat here might be asking too much.
Prediction; 2-1

Preston NE v Plymouth Argyle
Wouldn't fancy setting off from Plymouth this morning in the hope of seeing this played. Both of these sides drew 0-0 on Saturday and Preston will be under prssure to go one better this evening. Plymouth haven't been great of late and a defeat here would continue their slide.
Prediction; 2-0

QPR v Swansea City - OFF

Sheffield Wednesday v Barnsley
Only a late, late goal from Kevin Phillips prevented Wednesday winning their ninth home league match and I am sure they will secure the points earlier against Barnsley if this one gets played.
Prediction; 3-0

Southampton v Sheffield United
Maybe the South Coast escaped the worst of it yesterday. Southampton are in real trouble and a loss here would leave fourth bottom Doncaster three clear with two games in hand. Lights out for Southampton.
Prediction; 1-2

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Norwich City
Norwich's survival chances look like they will come at Carrow Road. Wolves will be expecting to increase their lead at the top and new signing Christophe Berra may prove inspired.
Prediction; 3-0

Monday 2 February 2009

Bristol City off?

Hard to contemplate the City game being on tomorrow evening after all the snow we've woken to this morning. The whole south has been dumped on, so it's hard to imagine anyone making it to Ashton Gate within the next 36 hours let alone the pitch being playable. A quickish improvement in temperatures is expected but it looks like it might come just a tad too late for the game to be playable. Frankly, I think that suits us. The sooner we get to the point where all the fear has gone from our players then the better as far as I am concerned. I expect us to put a string of results together before the end of the season and these will be vital for fostering some belief for those players who survive for next season.