Monday 29 June 2009

Murray battles through five set marathon

When Andy Murray and Stanislav Wawrinka began their match at tea-time today, I hoped it would be a quick three setter and I could catch the end of the England U21's final against Germany. Not only did I miss the entire U21's game but the Ten O'Clock news has started forty minutes late having had to wait for Murray to finish off his Swiss opponent. It was all possible because of the new roof on Centre Court and the ability to floodlight the game.

It wasn't the best quality five setter you'll see but you don't get many harder fought over just short of four hours. The match swung back and forth as both players refused to capitulate. Murray could have played better but he couldn't have dug deeper than he had to this evening. His first service was a little wayward and he faced an opponent whose backhand was as assured as his own. It made for long rallies and some superb points in amongst the unforced errors and occasional double-faults.

The other remarkable thing was that the lighting was brilliant. You didn't see it coming on, you couldn't actually see any lights and it just looked like bright daylight throughout the game - no shadows. Murray will get a rest but you have to wonder what this evening has taken out of him. Juan-Carlos Ferrero lies in wait in the quarter's and our Andy will need to rested and ready to up the ante if my bet on him is to make the semi's.

Shock horror! Club site confirms first signing.....

After two months of silence, the Official Site has this afternoon broken news on some new player news. We have signed Miguel Angel Llera from "League One rivals" MK Dons. He was out-of-contract, so obviously no fee and he presumably coming across on League One wages, so meets the terms of our new transfer policy.

The OS is always keen to tell us that it never comments on rumours in the media, but in making this announcement, they have confirmed the weeks of speculation about this this player. Parky was also quoted in relation to the acquisition, telling us that the club have done their homework and he's an experienced, tall, left-footer who will do a jo for us this season. I suspect this is also a sign that Mark Hudson is about to move on and that a fee for his sale to Cardiff will be announced shortly as indicated in the press for a number of weeks and the Mirror this morning in particular. Expect a number of other speculative press stories to be confirmed or denied in the coming weeks too. Jonjo next?

Sunday 28 June 2009

Southampton takeover, dear oh dear

I posted last week on the fiasco at Southampton as the Pinnacle group stumbled on with their proposed takeover. They were attempting to hold the Football League to ransome over the ten point deduction Southampton were correctly handed down at the end of the season for putting the holding company in Administration but not the football club. It looked like an amateurish negotiation strategy and it there can little surprise that it has back-fired. Doubts have also been raised about the credibility of those involved.

The Football league have held firm and the Administrator is now clear to continue negotiations with other interested parties. There is now a Swiss consortium on the horizon and Pinnacle will face an embarrassing climb-down and about turn tomorrow if they are to rescue their deal and save the £500,000 they had to pay upfront to the Administrator as a sign of faith to conclude negotiations.

Perhaps we should be thankful for the prolonged Valley silence after all. Following the disasters that have best our club over the last three years, the last thing we need is an embarrassing public squabble of these proportions.

Saturday 27 June 2009

Nokia v Apple; the war is over

It's been a demoralising 24 hours. I have owned Nokia mobile phones for as long as I care to remember and I have always been a big fan of the Finnish techno-house. My first mobile was a Motorola. The "brick" that was the Opal which I was issued with in 1989. I remember going into telephone boxes to make calls to look less conspicuous.

However, once Nokia got their act together I was smitten and my first "personal" mobile was a Nokia. I have stuck with them pretty much since and have rarely been disappointed. My wife got the first i-Phone and for once I was secretly jealous. The Safari browser was simply magic and it was very slick to use. However, it's camera was a mere 2-meg. It had no video capability and you were tied to I-Tunes and their AAC file formats. Bluetooth was a no-no and the bottom line for me was that mobile internet speed was no better than my Nokia, in spite of the better software.

I have been using a N95 8gb for 18 months and it has done the job but I have had to give grudging respect to Apple's icon. I have been waiting for Nokia's N97 for over a year. I was expecting it to answer all of my mobile problems and put the i-Phone in it's place. I have waited and waited. The delay in production has been inordinate and I expected that it was because Nokia wanted to ensure they fired the silver bullet. Finally we heard that it would be out in "June." In the meantime, Apple slid in with their 3GS and low and behold it appeared on 19th June. I was first in the queue and I was very impressed. HSPDA means that it works at home broadband speed. The camera on the16gb version has been improved albeit to a miserly 3-me g, although the quality of the 2-meg camera was always impressive. They have added video capability and some new tricks which keep it a leading top-end mobile contender, especially with the thousands of third party applications available from their App Store. I wasn't deterred, the N97 was coming.

Yesterday, I was first into Vodaphone and spent 30 minutes with my dreamboat. Oh how disappointed I was. The touchscreen softare is positively cumbersome. I think it has something to do with being "touch resistant." Whatever it is, it's still a mile away from Apple's Safari software. The slideout Qwerty keyboard has a lovely action and there's a quality feel to the rubber keys, but that's where the quality ends. The case itself is what I call, "hard black plastic," the sort that cracks when dropped. The front screen feels plasticky, whereas the i-Phone's had always been glass. To top it off, the chrome surround on the N97 is silver-coloured plastic and you know it will scratch to blazes.

I was hugely disapppointed and looking for crumbs of comfort from the salesman. I said how cheap it felt and he looked like he knew he was losing a sale. Then he offered the fatal explanation; they had cut costs on the outside to focus on the inside. At this point my in-built bullshit alarm went off and I said goodbye and headed for the Apple shop.

I spent five hours sorting my 3GS 16g i-Phone out yesterday and have been loading content all day. I have to say that I have been very impressed with what it can do and that respect continues to grow , almost by the hour. I-tunes is far simpler than it was and I have been able to take dat from all of my other PC programmes effortlessly. I am already past the point of maximium expectations from the N97 and there is still some way to go. For me, the battle at the top-end has been decisive. Nokia will need something special to rebound from this but if the leadtime for the N97 is anything to go by, it will take another two years at very least, in which time it's hard to concieve that Apple won't have made major advances with the i-Phone.

Friday 26 June 2009

The window opens on Wednesday

The transfer window opens on Wednesday when clubs will be able to begin their dealings in earnest for players currently contracted elsewhere. The Valley has already seen what must be the least amount of player activity in League One so far this Summer as other clubs have concluded existing player issues as well as moving for out-of-contract players. This is not necessarily a bad thing, if you hang onto your squad, but we all know that the raiders lie in wait and that our best players will be first out of the door.

With Shelvey, Bailey and Hudson we have the prospect of bringing in the best part of £10m whilst continuing the purge on the clubs wage bill. The news of these transfers will be readily accepted by Addicks fans providing we get what we would consider the going rate (£5m for Shelvey, £2m for Bailey and £1m for Hudson?). I don't think there will be many who think we can afford to keep these players or that they don't deserve to be playing higher up the leagues. With that sort of money, we should be able to finance the rest of this season including some new faces to help fill the gaps and, hopefully, provide some leadership and renewed confidence for the season ahead.

I would expect some quick movement on the back of earlier negotiations as the club attempt to play catch-up in terms of our preparations for this critical season. Richard Murray and Derek Chappell address the supporters in person on 9th July and they will want to have some good news after the months of silence and the growing unrest amongst supporters of the lack of communication. As things stand, the second question they will face will be about Phil Parkinson's status and that will surely tell you all you need to know about the first question, if we haven't had a straight answer to that.

Parkinson and Kinsella were back with the squad yesterday as they work to regain full fitness. He was quoted in the News Shopper on-line yesterday saying he was pleased with the shape they have all returned in. No approaches "as far as he knows" for Jonjo Shelvey although that implies that he thinks there might be things he doesn't know! You're not alone there Parky my son.

Wednesday 24 June 2009

Hands off the London Marathon, Branson

I have watched most of the 28 London Marathons. It winds around my house and my family and neighbours invariably make a bit of a day of it. My Mum does the same on the route up by Blackheath Rugby Club. "Marathon Breakfasts" are normally the order of the day and we usually end up having an early drink and a bit of a party at lunchtime.

It's the one major sporting event that us south-east Londoners have always been able to claim as largely our own. We have the start and the first half of the race takes runners through south-east London before they cross the first bridge on the Thames and back out through east London where runners can look back across the river before turning back and the grander finish through Westminster. When I watch the race, I am always reassured that so many one-time entrants are getting a first-hand view of the London in which ordinary Londoners live, not just the West End, the City or the sights.

I am raging, therefore, that Sir Richard Branson's first act as the new "Virgin" sponsor of the race from 2010, has the audacity to suggest via the "London" Evening Standard that readers should write in to suggest a more glamourous route than "east" London. In their usual ignorance, you know that by "east" they mean south-east as well as east (I mean the Standard as well as Branson). Our own Darryl has hit the nail on the head here already and I am pleased that Andrew Gilligan is also rattling the sabre over this.

Sir Richard Branson and his Virgin vehicle have a long history of a lack of "stickability." With the exception of Virgin Atlantic, most of his businesses have been dropped or sold on - think records, condoms, cola, vodka, megastores etc. The London Marathon organisers will do well to be wary of Branson and his marketing gloss because I suspect he might not give them anything like the support and longevity they had from Flora. Branson may, at some point, claim his Blackheath birthright as justification. In the meantime, the testimonies of the first of those to comment on the Standard's website sum it up perfectly for me...

"It's not the London landmarks that make it special, it's the London people. I ran it this year and the highlight wasn't the Mall or Parliament Square, it was miles 3 to 5 (through Woolwich). Mr Branson, at least experience it once as it is - and then see whether you still want to change it"

- Martin Kelly, Edinburgh

"There's nothing wrong with the route, unless you simply can't stand to run amongst the Common People for a few miles in a four-hour race. And if you can't, maybe London life just isn't for you."

- Martin, London

Let's just hope it's all marketing mischief. If it's not, it needs fighting off.

Tuesday 23 June 2009

God loves a chancer

Whilst Charlton Athletic stagnate and prepare in the worst possible way for a landmark season in League One, fellow relegatees (is that a word?) Southampton, are going through the trials and tribulations of an actual takeover.

The Pinnacle group, who screwed up their submission last week to take control of Southampton, look like they are the best chance of avoiding the Saints going into Administration (properly) and possibly suffering a second relegation as a result. I am sure the Football League will ratify the Pinnacle proposal and they will, finally, manage to breathe some life into St Mary's. In making their appeal Pinnacle have had the audacity to challenge the 10 point deduction rightly handed down to the Saints at the end of last season for the loophole stunt they tried to pull by putting the football club into administration whilst keeping the holding company out of it. The Football League saw through that scam and Pinnacle are taking the proverbial if they think they can get 10 points back here.

This is very important for Charlton Athletic as we look likely to begin the season looking for four teams to finish above as opposed to the twenty-two it would need to gain automatic promotion. If we can avoid Administration ourselves, there is a good chance that the financial pressures of the downturn might throw up enough other victims to safeguard us from what would surely be the ultimate collapse of any former Premier League side. Administration looms large whilst the club continues to degenerate. Richard Murray and Derek Chappell might find the Q & A with supporters unusually hostile come 9th July if inaction continues.

Monday 22 June 2009

Tomorrow is 23rd June

The latest in a long line of rumoured D-Days in terms of takeover annoucements. I am sure it will prove to be just another piece of wishful thinking on behalf of supporters desperate for news. The Board have clearly decided that there will be no communication until they are ready to make a statement one way or the other and for that reason I don't believe there will be any delayed or planned announcement, just an announcement when a final decision is arrived at.

In the meantime, there is still precious little news and just over a fortnight before the first team go to Welling and we can begin to draw our own conclusions about who is managing the team and just what team is being put out. As things stand it's very hard, if nigh on impossible, to imagine that the survivors from last year's car-crash of a season have somehow been transformed into a team full of belief and conviction that they will sweep all before them this season. All they will be talking about is who's going to be leaving next and whether or not they will soon be getting a new boss. None of those offered new deals have yet accepted as far as we know, so morale can not be better than at the end of last season. The appointment of a new manager or confirmation of the existing one is surely the first step in any change process and players will take several weeks as a minimum to recruit once that decision has been taken. Apologies for the early negativity but that's how I see it right now and if we don't start taking action soon then it will cost us during the early part of the season when we need a flying start. If Phil Parkinson starts the season in charge he will already be on borrowed time and simply can't survive a slow start.

Thursday 18 June 2009

Nothing doing at SE7

As Southampton prepare to ditch the manager who took them down last season in favour of the inspirational Kevin Keegan, we are still no closer to knowing who will be calling the shots at the Valley this season.

Whilst our League One rivals have begun to re-shape and prepare their squads for the season ahead, there has been no transfer activity in SE7 so far. Phil Parkinson, who is effectively acting Manager, has confirmed interest in Miguel Llera and Wade Small although no mention made of Peter Clarke or Liam Dickinson, both of whom we have apparently gone cold on. Parky has also been keen to tell us that there has been no interest yet from any buyers in our most marketable players; Zheng Zhi, Bailey, Racon or Shelvey. No news either that Forch or Matty Holland have accepted the offers they have been made. Perhaps we are suffeing from decision paralysis because there has been no breaking of the log-jam in terms of funding and without that there is a reluctance to or inability to bring in any new faces.

Whatever the reasons, the fact is that we have seven weeks to D-Day and we are beginning to run the risk of repeating previous mistakes of not being fully ready for the opening day of the season. I will do my pieces if we get off to a less-than-auspicious start and we hear the phrases about players not having time to gel and all those lame excuses. Everybody acknowledges that we need some real changes, fresh faces and big characters if we are to change the spirit in the camp and get some real belief that we can compete and win games in this division.

Come on Charlton, pull your finger out or at least communicate the intent. It's not good enough to offer a Q&A for 9th July and expect us all to sit here in silence until then. Again, I have to ask what Steve Waggott is doing? I know he's not skiving but there doesn't appear to be any output or productivity on the managerial or playing fronts. In the circumstances, no news is not good news.

Wednesday 17 June 2009

It's Wycombe at home!

The 2009-10 fixtures are beginning to trickle out from Football League HQ. As expected, we have been drawn against one of the promoted clubs from League Two on the opening day (8th August) and will face the awkward visit of, presumably bouyant, Wycombe Wanderers.

We follow that with Hartlepool away the following Saturday after the away League Cup game at Hereford. New Ground hunters will be disappointed that it could mean two long and expensive trips in a week to do both of those.

The Boxing Day game is Swindon at home? We are also away on the last day of the season at Oldham which hardly sets the pulses racing. However we do get Leeds at the Valley for the last home game on 1st May.

The Millwall games are at home on 19th December and away on 13th March - both Saturdays.

Full list here.

Tuesday 16 June 2009

Edgar Street - a new ground for diehards

The once mighty Addicks have been drawn away to Hereford United in the first round of the League Cup or whatever it's called today. A competition in which we have a truly appalling record and one in which we will start this season as far away from the final as it's possible to get.

The game will be played on 11th or 12th August, a Tuesday or Wednesday evening, and the good news for the diehards is that this will be a "new ground" for many. Our last visit was in a two-legged League Cup affair in the dark days of Selhurst Park, and my guess is that there weren't many Charlton fans who made the return visit, considering the fact that we were defending a 3-1 lead from the first leg. I have made the trip myself, many moons ago, when completing "the 92"and I saw them entertain the O's. I have a perfectly good excuse for not being amongst the hardy band who make the trip in August - I will be on Jury Service doing my piece for British justice.

Monday 15 June 2009

The fixtures - how they do it...

Interesting piece from the BBC this morning about how the fixture list is put together. I was aware that every club is paired with a neighbouring side to ensure they are not both playing at home on the same day but I didn't realise they went as far as to take into consideration things like ensuring smaller clubs have a home fixture before or after cup ties in order that they might maximise revenues from a cup run or the running of race meetings that could affect local clubs like Cheltenham or Brighton.

When all's said and done, they acknowledge that certain 'silly' fixture are inevitable as they are considered "least worst" of the options available. Let's hope we don't have too many of these; Newcastle away over Christmas immediately springs to mind from the recent past. Wednesday at 10am is the big reveal!

Sunday 14 June 2009

Coming to terms with the status quo

I renewed my two season tickets on Friday and bought an U11's for my step-brother's boy. I am looking forward with eager anticipation to the fixtures this week and will, late holiday plans allowing, be making an effort to get to some of the friendlies so I can see who's on the touchline calling the shots, what the squad looks like and the attitude of the players.

No real new player news as yet but we have been linked for some weeks with MK Dons Spanish defender Miguel Llera (didn't he used to sponsor us?) as well as Derby's frontman Liam Dickinson. If there is any movement for either of these players it should reveal something about Parky's current involvement or not. He had a quote recently about how he'd love to be able to keep Therry Racon at the club but there's been precious little else -maybe just because he's on holiday?

The fabled takeover continues to be just that and you have to doubt now if it could be a powerful buy-out in the form of a Zabeel type offer. If someone with that sort of financial clout wanted to take control of the club you have to believe it would have been relatively straightforward and would have happened by now. I am inclined to think that the best we can hope for now is a significant investment from someone who perhaps wants to take a large or controlling interest but not necessarily to buy the club completely. If that were to happen, I think we would need to lower our expectations of new money and begin to look closley at what we have in terms of management and playing options.

The fact that Murray and Chappell have put their next Q&A session with supporters back to 9th July would also suggest that they believe they will still be around then with something that the fans would like to hear. Their view of how they sold the club lock, stock and barrel might not have the same appeal as a first update or reveal of what's been going on, or not, as the case may be. In the event of a buyout in the meanime I guess they could just cancel although I suspect they wouldn't have agreed the session in the first place on that basis.

In conclusion then, I think we need to start coming to terms with Parkinson on the touchline and a squad with a limited number of fresh faces and a re-start playing League One football. I will get behind the side come 8th August although Phil Parkinson will need a strong start if the wailing and gnashing of teeth is to be kept at bay. That would also mean a relatively settled first team squad with real belief and determination, which is a lot to ask from the remnants of a relegated team who struggled to believe they could win matches throughout last season. I'm not sure I could face another season of major disappointment.

Saturday 13 June 2009

Get on Andy Murray for Wimbledon

Andy Murray has been threatening to take a stranglehold on world tennis for a couple of years now. One-by-one he has managed to get the measure of the best players and I, for one, am convinced that he will be a Wimbledon winner at some point in his career. He has stepped up his game so far this year on clay courts and is now playing in the semi's on grass at Queens in preparation for SW19. You can still get 5-1 on the surly Scot to win Wimbledon but that may shorten if he wins at Queens.

Thursday 11 June 2009

Royal Oak closes tonight

It would appear that the mis-management of the Royal Oak, the once favoured haunt for Charlton diehards, is nearing a conclusion. After it closes it's doors at 11pm this evening it will shut until further notice.  Perhaps this is the step that the freeholders finally need in order to take legal action against the leaseholder and absentee landlord, Clive Still. 

It really is a sorry tale and a classic case of "how not to run a pub." The real tragedy is that Clive has been unable to accept any of the various offers made to him for the pub over the last three years. His valuation has always sat comfortably beyond what anyone has been prepared to pay, a number of them experienced publicans who know the score. Cutting his weekly losses (especially during the close season) is one thing but this could well be the final nail in the pub's coffin in terms of it's potential as a thriving back-street local. I only hope he doesn't live to regret not taking the £69,000 offer he was made at the last-ditch auction in April. 

In the meantime, I suspect the Oak might be the place this evening for a free drink or a late one until the pub is dry. Having said that, by it's recent standards, there might not be a lot of 'stock' left to consume.

England fans - don't you just love `em?

I've put my tin hat on for this one. As a Scot, born-free, I feel entitled to make this comment - here goes. Why do so many England always have to be questioning someone's devotion to your cause?

Last night I received a text from a good friend during the national anthem. He wasn't very happy that Wayne Rooney wasn't singing the national anthem. Apparently he never sings a word of it and my mate obviously watches and notes this very closely. He then went on to make the accusation that maybe Rooney is still troubled by his Irish ancestry. I was doing something else at that moment, so hadn't seen this for myself and by the time I turned the game on I had already received another text. Yes, you've guessed it, it was a congratulatory message from the same England fan telling me that the great Rooney had opened the scoring!

I really don't understand this irrational view that certain England players have to be questioned, undervalued or despised. David Beckham and Frank Lampard are two others that immediately spring to mind. As a Scot, I know we have players that the fans are less keen to see pull on the national jersey, but it's almost always because they are less than capable players rather than anything else. We can even forgive them their playing allegiances for rival clubs e.g. the Celtic-Rangers nonsense. Oh to win seven in a row and be knocking six in at home!

Wednesday 10 June 2009

League One Opponents

The BBC has finally updated it's League tables to reflect the promotions and relegations of last season, and we are now firmly planted in the third tier of English football. The fixtures are due out on Wednesday/Thursday of next week when we will get a blunt reminder of our latest status. I have been giving some thought to who who I'd choose to play on the key dates of 09-10.

The opening day - it's never bad to have a home game but I'd swop that for an attractive away match. One that's within reasonable travelling distance and which offers us the prospect of an away win on the opening day of the season to throw down the gauntlet and to give you every hope of taking six from six after the following home match and sitting at the top of the table when the fledging calculations have been done. First choice would be Brighton or Southend, so we could expect to take a decent following and get maximum benefit from the Summer sunshine and make a weekend of it. Close second then would be MK Dons or Swindon. I will also say that I really wouldn't fancy Southampton or Norwich away on the opening day - I'm not sure we could expect to get results at their places on the first day and I'd rather play them once things have settled down. I'd also prefer not to have a London derby at home or away, although the chances of that are slim if history is anything to go by. If I was putting money on it, my hunch would be that we will be drawn against one of the promoted sides. The sadists who organise the fixtures seem to take some perverted pleasure from arranging these clashes for the first day. It's as if to remind both sets of supporters what last season has brought you. On the basis that Brentford, Wycombe and Gillingham could be viewed as local derbies, Exeter would look favourite to face one of the "big three" relegated from the Championship....

First home game - again, no London derbies please, none of the relegated sides or any of those promoted. I'd ideally like to see a side with a long journey to travel and someone solidly decent in League One. They would be a good benchmark and probably be most beatable; Carlisle, Hartlepool or Stockport?

Boxing Day - Millwall at home at 11am. If you have to play them, then is probably the best time. We are less likely to have to deal with too many ticketless, chip-on-shoulder, Millwall fans out to cause trouble if it's played before most of them wake up. Failing that, I hope it's a night game when their ugly faces will be dimly lit and less visible.

New Years Day - Leyton Orient or Brentford away would be my preference. Relatively easy to get to and the prospect of starting 2010 without a defeat.

Last day of the season - If we get the away start I'd like, then we can expect a home game to finish and you'd want to be playing a side down the bottom but safe from the drop.....

Tuesday 9 June 2009

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow..

Is it just me, or is this close season already the longest in living memory? No European Championship or World Cups to sustain us - or even qualifiers for us Jocks - and the best part of nine weeks yet to go.

Recent close seasons have passed in the flash of an eye and, frankly, I could have done with another couple of weeks off. Having once attended friendly matches religiously - I once toured Ireland for my Summer holiday so I could take in the Addicks pre-season - I've not bothered in recent years, largely because I was all footballed-out and was content to hang on for another fortnight before the real action began. Planning a Summer holiday has always been a bit tricky because I never want to miss the opening match of the season, or at least, not the first home game. If you want to avoid the manic first few weeks of the school holidays when there's precious little availability and it's so expensive (and amok with kids), holidays have to be shoe-horned into the two weeks prior to kick-off or I've gambled on a late September break when I can, hopefully, only miss one home match and still get some sunshine.

This year seems so different and I'm not sure why? We may have finished a week earlier than normal but we are kicking off a week earlier too. I have a suspicion that it's the anxious wait for news of a takeover and the near news blackout from the Valley that has heightened tensions and exaggerated things. Yes, we have started to get some news of the potential comings and goings in the last week but nothing really interesting.

In the circumstances, I am contemplating taking my Summer holiday early to help pass the time and the friendlies are looking increasingly attractive for a change. Perhaps I will go somewhere far from the maddening crowd with limited communications (the north-west of Scotland) just to tempt takeover fate?

Sunday 7 June 2009

What's Peter Varney up to?

The South London Press leads with another story on the fabled Valley takeover this week. The evidence for this is  that Valley staff have said Peter Varney has been "locked in talks" all this week at the ground.

This snippet comes at a time when some supporters hopes of a takeover are beginning to fade. Many see the release of six players and the contract offers to another four as a sign that the club is moving on and preparing for life in League One under the current regime, including Phil Parkinson. I am not so sure. Time was always going to be a deciding factor in when the club needed to take action on players and the six released are hardly a surprise; none could expect to be kept on even if the club's finances were better than they are - Ambrose has failed to deliver, Weaver is past it, Todorov looks finished and the rest were youngsters. Similarly, the contract offers so far are all safe bets; Holland and Fortune could be expected to play all or part of a League One campaign and you have to assume that these are "League One" offers, so hardly constitute big decisions. Zheng Zhi has been made an offer but will probably move on and Darren Randolph would be retained as a reserve goalkeeper. The time to begin to lose hope is when anything is decided on Shelvey or Bailey.

So what has Peter Varney been doing at the Valley this week? We know he has an official role back at the club with the Community Trust in the lesser role of Vice-Chairman. I'm guessing that wouldn't justify him being locked in talks all week at the Valley, so maybe the SLP has a point and I assume they do have some sources at the club, even if it is only fans on the staff. I am inclined to think the SLP is correct here in it's assumptions.

Rumours have put Varney in the role of leader of an interested consortium but I am wondering whether he has been installed by the Board to act as lead negotiator for the club? This might explain the differing rumours that the consortium he has been involved with was "Dubai" or "Irish" based? It's a role I can see him being much happier with, rather than one where he might be leading the battle to wrest control from his old mates for as little as possible?

It might also go some way to explain why any negotiations have been protracted so far. If Varney was leading a consortium bid, you would think he would have the best view of the club's true value and what the Board would accept to cede control and, on that basis, the negotiations would have been concluded one way or the other weeks ago? As a potential buyer he could have been expected to confirm his position before now, whereas being employed as the club's lead negotiator would mean keeping Mum.

In the circumstances, I continue to live in hope.

Friday 5 June 2009

8,000+ season tickets sold...

News from the Valley that "6 out of 10" season ticket holders have already renewed their season tickets for next year. The number processed so far was given as 7,625 and that should climb to over 8000 when all applications received by the 1st June cut-off have been processed. 

I have to admit to being surprised and pleased at the same time that the figure is, in the circumstances, so high. There was no financial incentive to renew by 1st June this year and the chance and consequences of losing your seat are negligible on these volumes, so 8,000 is a commendable figure and makes 10,000 a realistic number before the season kicks off. At this point I am reminded that I have yet to renew as I was stalled by the club's policy on proof of age for juniors, so must get over to Bexley and sort my step-nephew's out.

Assuming we sell 10,000 seasons, we should have every prospect of averaging around the 13,000 mark allowing for matchday sales and limited visiting numbers, irrespective of how we fare. A season spent challenging for promotion would offer every hope of raising that average towards 15,000, which would be a commendable effort for League One especially considering the battering we've taken in the last three years.

I'll reserve final judgement for now, but maybe, just maybe, the club have got the season ticket renewal policy just about right and may have succeeded in maximising return on optimum season ticket renewals. In which case I will happily eat my slice of the humble pie.

News too of contracts; Holland, Fortune, Zhi and Randolph have been made offers although it remains to see who will take them. Presumably Holland because he's in his twilight years and will fancy Charlton for post-player work and Fortune because he's due a testimonial season? Those exiting stage left include Ambrose (Palace deal not done yet Suze!), Todorov, Weaver, Thomas, Yussuf and Arter. I wish them all the best but they don't look like players we can afford to carry in League One. Josh Wright is currently taking to other clubs, so it looks like we are not going to stop him from securing the £1200 a week he believes he deserves to play League One football.

Up the Addicks!

Thursday 4 June 2009

Goodbye Setanta?

Setanta Sports, the Irish satellite tv network that has taken an increasing foothold in Sky's football monopoly in recent years is in big financial trouble and could be close to collapse.

They have significant debts and failed in February's latest auction to hold on to the two of the six packages of Premier League football they had previously secured. They took a gamble by dropping their bid by 20% and it back-fired allowing Sky in for an extra 23 live Monday games. What that really means is that it severely undermines their ability to sell on the package that they have retained and there is an increasing concern that they will be unable to trade their way out of it. Large payments are due to the PL before the season begins and they already missed Monday's £3m payment to the SPL, whose board meets tomorrow to consider it's position. If Setanta fail to make these then that could signal the end for the business that started out with a mission to provide Irish sports coverage to ex-pats from the Emerald Isle.

The fact that they appear to be going down the regulatory root with Ofcom looks desperate to me and sour grapes at best. It's hard to see that they will win a competion case against Sky when they were clearly beaten at auction fairly and squarely. 

The consequences for the Premier League and Scottish PL could be significant, especially north of the border where a number of clubs are already carrying significant debt acquired against the contracted revenues from Setanta.

Wednesday 3 June 2009

League One sides clear the decks....

Interesting set of stats at the Mail Online today concerning incoming and outgoings at League One clubs so far this Summer. To date we are not alone in having recruited no-one - neither have 15 of our rivals. However, only Colchester have yet to release a player. To put things into perspective, a total of 105 players have been released from League One clubs and only 10 recruited. 

I suppose there is always going to be an element of moving players on early and recruiting closer to the start in order to minimise the wage bill, but I'm guessing these figures are more dramatic than in recent years. I will be keeping an eye on the running totals here as things shape up for 8th August.

Tuesday 2 June 2009

Summer's here and....

It feels unusually quiet for early June. A week of warm sunshine has diverted attentions from all things Charlton Athletic as we've all been eating in the garden and following outdoor pursuits.

However, the weather is about to change and I get the impression the first rumblings of close season activity may be upon us. Don't get too excited just yet as that doesn't look like including developments in terms of the much-rumoured takover for now at least. Rather, time is catching up with us and business-as-usual activities are beginning to drive some changes.

First up is Darren Ambrose and his departure was only a case of when and where as opposed to if. The victors in the chase for the former England U21 star appear to be Crystal Palace who look about to land him on a free transfer. Wages are, of course, the real reason he's being moved on and good luck to him if he's managed to hang on to most of what he was getting at the Valley. My views on Darren are well-known so I shan't take the opportunity for any further criticism, suffice to say Neil Warnock will go up a fair bit in my estimation if he can bring his man-management skills to bear.

Elsewhere an ugly rumour persists that Nicky Bailey is being touted on a season's loan to Watford. If this were to happen, then it would put the club's inability to afford to turn the big screen on next season without sponsorship into perspective. If we can't afford his wages and we aren't going to get the use of him, better to sell now. Perhaps the board are considering a loan arrangement in light of a possible takeover i.e. let him go on loan if we have to trim the bill with the option to bring him back if the club is able due to changing finances?

Josh Wright is obviously keen to have his future decided after making a winning Wembley appearance for the Gills and has gone to the trouble of getting his Dad involved with the nationals by telling them his son has a clause in his contract that enables him to move if he isn't offered £1200 a week. It all seems so sordid and rather desperate. Perhaps that's where we are now?

In terms of "incomings," winger Wade Small has supposedly been spoken to in terms of a move from Sheffield Wednesday and Southend's Peter Clarke is another being linked with the Valley. I don't know Clarke but Wade Small has always looked an insignificant player to me.

News of the season ticket sales to the "cut-off" point are due out and I await with eager anticipation (must get my step-brother's boy's birth certificate). The fixtures too are out on 16th so the fervour for the new campaign will shortly be upon us. In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed.