Monday 31 May 2010

Novel fund-raising idea.

In light of our current financial predicament, there are a number of supporter threads running on the messageboards about how we can rally behind the club and get some money in. I've been giving it a bit of thought too and have an idea that I think has been escaping the club for a number of years now.....

Why not arrange some home friendlies? I think we have managed one a season for the last few years and again, so far, we've only managed to sort out three away fixtures. A couple of decent home ties against tougher opposition can't be too hard and they could theme them around "getting behind the club" or equivalent....

Sunday 30 May 2010

Millwall up, Palace down and out?

Whilst Millwall's loyal 37,500 fans celebrated a one-nil win over a hugely disappointing Swindon side yesterday, the latest news on the parlous state of Crystal Palace was filtering through. The leading consortium, CP2010, have apparently done a deal on the ground but the debt to the outstanding creditors remains the stumbling block.
With Brendan Guilfoyle offering a penny in the pound to creditors, Simon Jordan looks to be the big loser (still) and it is he who is apparently holding the deal up. I can't believe Jordan would put Palace out-of-business so you have to think a deal will be done but he may have to start selling some of his cars and watches to keep his apartment at the Dorchester.
In the meantime, Palace have used up all the Victor Moses money and Darren Ambrose has been flogged for £750,000 which will keep the lights on for a few weeks yet.
In terms of the Crystal Palace 2010, consortium, I happen to have met Steve Parish, the leading light on a number of occasions when negotiating terms of a new contract with him for services from his creative marketing agency, TAG. I have to say, he struck me as an immensely likeable guy with plenty of integrity and that's something coming from me about a marketeer. One of his staff alluded to him being a Palace fan and I was pleased to be able to tell him "I went down to Selhurst for three or four seasons but couldn't hack it." He was in quickly with the hope of recruiting a fellow Eagle until I delivered the punchline. If he does become the new Chairman, our japes about the Orange One will quickly turn to the minefield of huge nose jokes.

Friday 28 May 2010

Come you you Lions!

I've made my mind up. I want to see Millwall win through against Swindon tomorrow and get promoted. As "Number One in South London" and all that, the dream is to be competing in the top flight with Millwall and Palace comfortably two leagues below us. Today though, we have to face the reality of our situation and the fact that life will be tough for us for a few years at least. We can have few complaints if we are honest.

Millwall would be strong opponents for us again next year and two games against them are not matches many of us look forward to. They have earned their place in the play-off final and having been pipped at Wembley last year, you have to say they deserve it this time. Good luck to them I say, although I think Swindon will take some beating on the day.

At least with Millwall and Palace in the Championship we can live the dream of leap-frogging the pair of them at some time in the future. Trouble is, it won't be next year and Palace are unlikely to wait for us to get promoted before falling through the trap-door. Still, I can live with that in the meantime. 

Tuesday 25 May 2010

Ins and outs

Now that the curtain has finally come down on our season and our League One status has been confirmed for another year, the rumours about player comings and goings has begun.
The club have already confirmed that Chris Dickson, Leon Mckenzie and Matt Spring have all played their last games for Charlton. Dean Sinclair is finally being shown the door as is former youth teamer Jack Clark and emergency keeper cover, Tony Warner. I think we can safely say that they are all for starters and are "no brainers" in terms of the decision-making process. 
I think it's also fairly safe to say that whilst West Ham put their whole squad bar Scotty Parker up for sale, we will effectively go one better and listen intently to offers for any of our squad. In the current climate, there are not many who could command a fee and so most will come or go largely depending on our ability to get rid of them or what they cost to keep. A pretty poor situation to be in, but it could be worse.
If I were the manager of a rival club eyeing our playing assets, I would be surprised if I was expected to pay a fee for any of them with the possible exception of Kelly Youga, Jose Semedo, Nicky Bailey or Lloyd Sam. The better other players are either too old to command fees or have already been picked up on free transfers by us because their wages mean they can't command fees as well. In the circumstances, what we are left with will largely be what no-one else is actually interested in taking and what we can afford to keep or can't move on due to their contracts.
No doubt there will be new blood to "freshen things up" but again, these will most likely fit one of two categories; young and inexperienced (keen and cheap) or experienced and unlikely to get a contract anywhere else (desperate and potentially good value). With Phil Parkinson very unlikely to be offered a new contract until his current one runs out, he will know he is almost certainly in the Last Chance Saloon facing a gun battle short of ammunition. So let's try and maintain a stiff upper lip during the close season and be prepared to get behind the side we start with irrespective of it's relative shortcomings. Doesn't mean we have to like it but we shouldn't be surprised.

Sunday 23 May 2010

Long Good Weekend

After a full day at work on Friday, my wife and I went to our favourite Thai restaurant in Greenwich, the Kum Luang (it's our favourite Thai restaurant and happens to be in Greenwich). We have been going there on and off for ten years. I have never had a bad meal but haven't been as impressed on my most recent visits. I'm pleased to report that it was back to it's best for my birthday. For me, no nation on earth combines tastes and aromas as well as the Thais and the Kum Luang's as good as I've come across outside Thailand.

On Saturday morning I was out after 7am on my bike with mate Pete and we did a 60 miler down do Gravesend and over on the ferry to Tilbury and a spin around Essex before heading home. Outside Stanford-Le-Hope we came acorss a car on it's roof and a young boy racer complaining unconvincingly about having swerved to avoid a fox. Four of us managed to roll it back onto it's wheels but it wasn't going anywhere and the cost of a new windscreen will probably mean it's a write-off. We had already passed an ASDA lorry on it's side just past the Mercedes garage at Dartford and there was more drama to come. Any regular cyclists will tell you that falling off is a common occurrence but I have scoffed at this since I last did it at 15 and that was due to a cog shearing off my gear casette. However, coming down the hill from Greenhithe to the McDonalds roundabout at the Bluewater turn I managed to skid on slowing when I hit some water on the road and down I went with an unceremonious splat. No major harm done but I've skinned my elbows and shin and was fortunate not to break my collar bone or shoulder blade. If it's thirty years until I do it again, I'll be more than happy.

I spent the afternoon in the garden with the family and got the base coat for my Summer tan. I cooled off watching the Championship play-off which I thought was a very entertaining game with the right side winning. 

The evening was spent with my two best mates in the riverside pubs of Greenwich and we had the pleasure of meeting two Blackpool fans who had been at the match and were making their way home to Greenwich. They had obviously had a day to remember, were both surprisingly sober and were overcome by home much goodwill there was for them having shaken hands with "the whole of London" on their way home. We reassured them we were pleased for them in their own right but had to explain that beating Cardiff probably had as much to do with it.

This afternoon I have been down at my Aunt's fantastic country garden in Sevenoaks Weald with my immediate family. A great lunch and a walk around the village and up to her allotment to collect eggs (she keeps chickens) topped it off nicely.

To finish, I'm enjoying a glass of cold white on the sofa watching Come Dine With Me that happens to be set in Greenwich. They managed to get a salt-of-the-earth Millwall fan (he was alright), a well-heeled Blackheath resident, a local female caberet singer and a young eccentric who lived in Deptford by the look of it. Dave Lamb the voice-over man was marvellous, as usual. 

Looking forward to watching the Millwall v Swindon match on Saturday that I think might just match the Cardiff v Blackpool game for entertainment. We might have ditched another half-a-dozen players by then....

Thursday 20 May 2010

Better the Devil you know

The great Phil Parkinson debate kicked-off again this week on the back of our failure to get promotion. "Failure" of course was actually a very close success but the emotion of losing an all-or-nothing game means the knives are out again. I have been vocal in the past about Phil Parkinson but today we were given a very timely reminder about the perils of changing your manager, when Aidy Boothroyd jumped ship at Colchester.

Parky first. I don't believe we should have extended his trial managerial period 18 months ago after he failed to win a game and we got no "bounce" having sacked Alan Pardew. The Board managed this badly because appointing another manager wasn't a realistic option and they should have just given him a contract until the end of the season rather than setting an artificial deadline, probably in the hope that it might galvanise a change in results as the players stepped it up for the new manager in his trial period.

Having gone down, his contract covered him into this season and again we didn't have the money to spend on a new manager when we needed to strengthen the squad. Parkinson managed the unthinkable when we started the season unbeaten and looked invincible with an unchanged side. Kelly Youga's injury, the first of a series with full-backs saw the start of the slippage but we battled on and were still on track for automatic promotion at Christmas. It was our early 2010 form that saw us drop off the pace, although we weren't losing many matches. The late rally was a reminder of the quality of the side and what we were capable of but the damage had been done. I can't blame Phil Parkinson for the fact that we are still in League One. He came very close and making the play-offs can hardly be described as "failure." Our fans should remember that there were very few who were betting on promotion in August.

Aidy then. A man who clearly rates his own managerial abilities much higher than his managerial record indicates. Three average years at Watford which culminated in the sack as they narrowly escaped relegation. He was out for a while before Colchester threw him a life-belt following Paul Lambert's hasty exit for Norwich. Boothroyd inherited a Lambert side who had won 7-1 at Carrow Road on the opening day. They had a very good start to the season and looked like being serious automatic challengers but they eventually faded and failed to make the play-offs. Note, I think they "failed." I think Boothroyd failed. In return Aidy has today jumped ship for comatose Coventry only nine months after being put on the pay-roll at Colchester. More fool them I say. Boothroyd's playing career was hardly impressive and the longest he managed at any club was three years. A bit of a pattern if you ask me.

Sometimes you have to be grateful for small mercies and the stability we may get from another season under Phil Parkinson might be worth taking now rather than gambling on a new man who would probably be a huge risk bearing in mind the job he's being asked to do - rebuild a side from next to nothing for a club, many of whose fans have hopelessly unrealistic expectations. 

Tuesday 18 May 2010

When all's said and done...

There's plenty to be grateful for and it could always be worse!

1. It was our best home record for ten years (even if it didn't feel like it).
2. Our core home support held up remarkably well at over 17,000 (even if a couple of thousand season ticket holders couldn't be bothered for most home games).
3. Seven of our Directors dug deep to donate another £7m to ensure we had a proper go at promotion without the uncertainties of financial problems.
4. The Board also reorganised to once again simplify control of the club under those with the biggest stake to make decision-making easier (we shouldn't under-estimate how this may serve us well in the future).
5. We showed faith in our manager (whether you like him or not).
6. He did a reasonable job in the circumstances (a useless manager simply couldn't take a club to the play-offs, despite what some of the more ill-informed like to think - Ian Dowie anyone?).
7. The disappointment of being knocked out by Swindon was absolutely nothing compared to losing at Wembley in the final to Millwall.
8. In spite of our financial situation, we own the Valley and our training ground. It's one of the things that mark professional clubs out from Sunday sides.
9. We have so far avoided Administration. If it is to hit us now, at least we have a better chance of surviving it in League One than in the Championship.
10. It could always be worse - ask any Gills fan if you can find one. If not, ask a Shrimpers fan.
11. Whilst promotion looks highly unlikely next year, parity with Palace looks inevitable in 2011-12.
12. We have continued to bring on our youth players and that should stand us in good stead if we have to rebuild from the bottom up that looks likely.

Keep the faith!

Charlton Athletic 2 v Swindon Town 1

I am just home from the wake in the Royal Oak. A wake cut short by 30 minutes of extra time and 15 minutes of drawn-out penalties. We will start next season in League One and face a massive challenge now to get back into the Championship. The financial uncertainties facing our club mean that without a wealthy benefactor, we are unlikely to compete seriously again in this division for a number of seasons and will have to rely on youth and probably the good fortune to find ourselves a new manager with abilities to read a player as well as to develop and motivate them. In all honesty, a spell in League Two (Division Four) is more likely than promotion.

Ultimately, we failed the test this evening but we came so close and there can be few realistic complaints about our failure to make the final. In all honesty we haven't been good enough since Christmas and it really hasn't felt like a promotion season for months. We haven't scored more than twice in a game since the 4-4 draw with Millwall and we only managed it on five occasions all season. Our lack of fire-power was my major concern as this season started and it's proven to be our Achilles Heel. My money was on us finishing outside the play-offs, so from that perspective, I think we have over-performed.

Expect a significant clear-out during the Summer and we will be fortunate to survive Administration and a ten point penalty that could push us into a relegation dogfight. My thoughts at this moment are very much with Richard Murray, a man who has done far more than his bit over the years and whose personal integrity has prevented us from slipping into Administration before now. The harsh reality is that Richard and the other Directors simply can't continue to bankroll the club and push may well be coming to shove. We should bear that in mind in the coming months. I will be renewing my season ticket and re-starting my Valley Gold subscriptions that I stopped in a fit of pique over the allocation of Swindon tickets.

In terms of the game this evening, Christian Dailly deserves a call-out for another thoroughly professional performance. Jose Semedo was excellent again in front of the back four and I thought Kyel Reid did very well having started the match. I was pleased to see Nicky Bailey restored to a more attacking central role but his performance was well short of the mark. He looked very tired and the Swindon players seized on his mistakes. Burton and Mooney ran their hearts out but they simply aren't good enough to be playing at Championship level and that was proven this evening. Lloyd Sam remains an enigma and like Kevin Lisbie of yesteryear, it's time we made our minds up once and for all with him.

Other than that, I have to say well done to Swindon. They rode their luck at times but they were up for the fight all night and they probably deserved it over the two legs. There haven't been many players who have caught my eye this season, but Alan O'Brien, the blonde left winger, was one from the home league game against Swindon and I thought Jonathan Douglas had a superb match this evening. O'Brien reminded me of Craig Bellamy and Douglas tonight looked like a young Peter Beardsley, albeit playing a more defensively midfield role (and he's 28). His distribution was top notch and I can see why he's their captain. Millwall and Huddersfield beware!

As per an earlier post, these were potentially the two most important games in our history and we haven't come through them. There will be consequences and we will need to bear this in mind as they unravel. It's also the time to dig deep, show your support and get behind the club. There's along road ahead....

Sunday 16 May 2010

Millwall a step nearer...

Millwall did their job at the Galpharm yesterday in playing out a goaless draw and restricting a usually dominant-at-home Huddersfield side to a handful of genuine opportunities. The Lions took the game to Huddersfield in spells and looked just as likely as the home side to score and were unfortunate not to get one of two penalty appeals, although I couldn't fault the ref for either decision not to award one. I fully expect Millwall to finish the Terriers off at the New Den on Tuesday to secure a return to Wembley. The big question, of course, is can we make it a south-east London derby?

You have to believe we can score first at the Valley on Monday evening but I am not so sure we can necessarily get a second and we may look vulnerable when Swindon come forward. Sam Sodje is struggling with a knee injury and there is a case for Llera although he could look like a weak link against Charlie Austin and possibly Billy Paynter if he's fit to return..

Swindon should have close to 3,000 fans behind the Jimmy Seed goal and we will need to generate some noise ourselves to get the players going. After a depressing Chelsea double yesterday, we need a Wembley appearance and promotion to fire the imagination of our younger fans. Another generation of Samsung-sporting smug Chelsea fans is too much to bare.

We had sold 20,000 odd on Friday, so the game won't sellout and may not match the 24,000 gate for the Leeds game. Our prospects for outselling Millwall at Wembley don't bode well on that performance. They might not turn up week-in, week-out at the New Den but they come out of the woodwork for the big occasion. Let's see Swindon off before we worry too much about that.

Saturday 15 May 2010

Swindon 2 v Charlton Athletic 1

Two thousand over-excited Charlton fans made their way over to Wiltshire yesterday for the first leg of our play-off encounter with Swindon Town. Some were in fancy dress and others let too much alcohol ruin their day by getting themselves arrested inside the ground before kick-off for brawling with other Charlton fans over queue jumping for a burger. This after the same cretins reacted to me pulling them up for the same offence as we queued to get in. Silly boys.

It was a shame then that the match itself didn't live up the hype. Charlton were flat for long periods and once again lacked the penetration up front that could yet define our season. In a disappointing first -half, we were fortunate to get in on level terms after Darren Randolph twice denied Charlie Austin. We had defended reasonably well so there was no cause for immediate concern although we failed to create a single chance.

The match opened up in the second period and Charlton should have struck first blood when Nicky Bailey curled a shot onto the inside of the post but it bounced clear. Swindon finally sensed the danger and all of a sudden they seized the initiative. Alan Sheehan broke down the Charlton right and his pin-point delivery picked out Charlie Austin at the back post who only had to jump to beat Borrowdale and send a header back across goal and inside Randolph's despairing dive. The noise inside the County Ground went up a notch as Town fans sensed the breakthrough. Inside ten minutes they had a two goal lead. Following a spell of Charlton pressure, they broke swiftly and Austin and Ward combined to fire a cross-shot inside the post. All of a sudden the tie looked in danger of ending prematurely but we reacted brilliantly and Deon Burton got on the end of a long punt from Randolph to nod the ball over the advancing Swindon keeper and into the goal behind which the Addick faithful were assembled.

The goal was a bit of a body blow to the Robins and for fifteen minutes we had the incentive but couldn't get the equaliser. Burton came closest with a back-post lunge at a driven cross but he couldn't make contact. Swindon finished very strongly and might just rue their missed opportunities to restore their two-goal advantage. Vincent Pericard hit the post at the death and we were all relieved to hear the final whistle.

On reflection, we would probably have taken a one-goal deficit into the home leg but we will need to take our chances on Monday if we are to win by two goals, something we have struggled to do for most of the season. We will need to watch Charlie Austin very closely, especially in the air, and need to play the game in their half. Having said that, a performance on a par with the last two home matches against Norwich and Leeds should be enough to see us sneak it.

Attention turns to the Huddersfield v Millwall match and it promises to be fascinating encounter. Huddersfield won the similar league fixture 1-0 a few weeks ago and will be hoping to go one better today. Much will depend on how Kenny Jackett sets Millwall up today but you have to think he will go conservatively with the Tuesday return in mind. The game kicks-off at 12.15 on police insistence following trouble at the league clash when Millwall fans' coaches had their windows broken.

Wednesday 12 May 2010

The most important two or three successive matches in our history

In my opinion, it's as simple as that. Friday's Swindon away leg is not in itself a critical game but the result could heavily influence the shape of the home leg and, ultimately, our chances of making Wembley. We have won through to Wembley in the play-offs of course, once before, when the prize was far bigger but the consequences of losing were nothing like as potentially fatal as they are now.

Failure to gain promotion this season will lead to another round of dramatic cost cutting and the current squad will be shorn of it's best players and replaced with  low cost alternatives, likely to be non-league and youngsters who will need time to bond and even longer to develop. It makes next season in League One a huge challenge and we would do well to compete in mid-table. Revenues would fall further and the downward spiral would most likely continue with who-knows-what perils lurking in the shadows.

Swindon will bring a windfall of c £750,000 but we could add another £1m to that by getting to Wembley. Ironically, a total not a million pounds away from that recouped for Jonjo Shelvey. The prize for promotion may not be the fabulous riches of the Premier League but it has to be measured against the cost of failing to go up which accentuates the difference significantly.  

We might not like it, but promotion via the play-offs is the dream ticket for Richard Murray. He knows that his chances of extricating himself successfully and delivering the club into a safer financial future will be enhanced immeasurably if he is selling a Championship club on the up.

Promotion really could prove to be our salvation. I am pleased to report that fate has smiled on me and I have managed to get my hands on a hot spare, so will continue my 100% play-off attendance record on Friday and I'm really up for it.


Tuesday 11 May 2010

You need to know when to stop digging

I was going to title this post "Pissed Off Part 3" but I think we're in danger of drowning in self pity and recrimination and it's probably time that we lifted our heads and tried to focus on the task of overcoming Swindon Town. Before I do that, however, I wish the Club would simply acknowledge that they got this badly wrong and that they promise to learn from it.

The lead article on the OS today was "Club responds to ticket criticism" which immediately gave away the story-line that this would be a less than frank view of events. Stephen Kavanagh drew the short straw in terms of the quotations and there were some spectacularly short-sighted comments....

- "Unfortunately, the fact that we received just 2,000 tickets meant some supporters were always going to miss out, so we had to devise a sales policy which ensured as many of the club's regular away following, season-ticket holders and Valley Gold members could see the game as possible."

I'm wondering how little thought went into that sales policy? I'm pretty sure Rick Everitt has far too much experience of ticketing Charlton games to possibly support the view that this free-for-all would result in the most deserving fans getting the appropriate shot at the tickets. He then went on to say...

- "The logistics meant we were simply unable to put in place the measures we would have done had we had greater notice of the precise nature of the match, which could have seen us face four other opponents."

I think he's trying to say they could have put measures in place had they known who we were playing? If that's the case, plan for four scenarios. The fact is we would have sold out for Swindon and Millwall and possibly not for Leeds or Huddersfield, so two scenarios really. It's not hard, they've done a pretty good job at it for most of the season when they have managed to sell more than 2,000 tickets on occasions in not a great deal more than a week e.g. I'm sure the 3,000-odd Leyton Orient tickets were sold on a priority basis and were cleared within a week.

Anyway, time to move on and get ready for two crunch matches which would at very least give us our first trip to the not-so-new Wembley. I've heard a lot of people saying that they would have settled for the play-offs at the start of the season (me amongst them) and most would see a Wembley appearance as some icing on that cake. Let's get that first and then we can begin to think of a return to the Championship - something that seemed highly unlikely a couple of months ago.

Monday 10 May 2010

Pissed Off - Part 2

Having had a chance to catch-up with friends and Charlton Life, I am feeling far less excluded in being royally messed around and seeing my loyalty ultimately betrayed. It looks like my experience puts me in the majority not the minority. However, that makes me even angrier than I was yesterday afternoon.

I am seething at comments that the club doesn't have the infrastructure (people, phone lines, internet etc) to sell 2,000 tickets in four days with any form of prioritisation. Let me see - that would mean 500 tickets a day or 50 an hour on an extended working day. Five windows open at the Valley would mean ten tickets each an hour or six minutes per customer  season ticket holder hostage. That is excluding the rip-off telephone lines. No, I'm much happier with the explanation that they were satisfied it was easier and cheaper for the club just to flog them as quickly as possible. Sod the moaners - should have just got up earlier and cleared a few hours out their day if they really wanted to go.

So, I've just done something that really goes against the grain, and I've cancelled my Valley Gold standing orders that I've had since the beginning. I'll let you know how long it takes someone to call me and query this. My guess is within a week of them missing the next payment. Then again, maybe the club just doesn't have the infrastructure anymore. After all, they couldn't manage to send me the official photograph with Chris Dickson last time I sponsored a player. As I said earlier, very sad.

P.S. It really doesn't help when the Official Site is boasting about having sold the entire allocation in less than five hours, but that just shows you what their priority was.

Pissed Off

In the 33 years that I have been following the Addicks, I have never failed to get tickets for any match I have wanted to be at. I have been a season ticket for all of those years bar the Selhurst seasons and have also qualified highly in terms of away game ticket stubs, VIP and Valley Gold etc. That proud record ended this afternoon when I got away from work and down to the Valley to be told we had sold out our allocation for Swindon. A little over 2,000 tickets sold in less than five hours.

I'm severally hacked off by this. All it needed was some priorisation over who could buy initially and on each day this week. Instead, in their wisdom, some Bright Spark decided that we just needed to sell them as quickly as possible so opened the eligibility up to the 11,000 season tickets holders we have who have managed to go to an away match this season - that's probably half of them. That turned it into a straightforward race to get down there this morning or spend the time re-dialling and holding until you got through. I suspect there will be fans who have been to every match this season or near as damn it, who will be missing out on this. As it is, I think I am comfortably into the top-2000 whose support this season should have been acknowledged by a more sensitive management of ticket sales. No doubt, they will be telling us we can watch it on the box instead. Sad.

If Charlton was a normal business, I would react to this by cancelling my Valley Gold memberships in disgust, but we are not a normal business are we?

Sunday 9 May 2010

Addicks in fine fettle

Our late season rally in terms of performances bodes well for the play-offs. The mood at the Valley against Norwich and Leeds was far better than for most home matches this season and the place was rocking against Leeds after we broke the deadlock. Those who travelled to Oldham yesterday weren't disappointed and there appears to be a collective feeling that we now need to finish the job. Leeds finally got what their efforts over the season probably deserved and now it's our turn to do the same.

We have the advantage of the away leg first on Friday evening and I am confident we can get a result. I believe we will be allocated 3300 seats and that should provide just the backing our players need to bring Swindon back to the Valley with the ball firmly in our court. The home leg on 17th May promises to be great evening if we can secure our first appearance at the new Wembley. It should be a televised match to boot, so additional funds of up to £750,000 (gate receipts and TV fee) will be an added bonus. Should we make it to Wembley, we can expect that much again. There may yet be a silver lining in not making automatic promotion.

The Premier League battle reaches it's conclusion this afternoon at Stamford Bridge where Chelsea will surely secure the title by thumping Wigan Athletic. Leicester City, promoted from league one last year, also host Cardiff City in their first leg play-off game for a shot at the big time after little Blackpool recovered to beat Nottingham Forest 2-1 in the other game yesterday. Blackpool in the Premier League? Sounds implausible doesn't it? I wouldn't bet against them. Ian Holloway will be hoping he gets the chance to put one over his former club Leicester City and Milan Mandaric whose impatience saw Holloway ousted prematurely.

I am incredibly busy at work right now but will have to prioritise this week to ensure I get my tickets sorted for the Swindon games. Come on you Reds!

Saturday 8 May 2010

It's Swindon in the play-offs

A nail-biting final afternoon of the League One season, saw nearly every permutation take shape before Leeds recovered from an early set-back to overpower Bristol Rovers and finally gain promotion back to the Championship.
Leeds started the day in pole position. Swindon leap-frogged into second with an opening goal at the New Den. Millwall levelled in time for Charlton's opener before Leeds fell behind. That put Charlton in the driving seat although it looked very unlikely that things would stay that way for another 30 minutes and so it proved. Millwall forged ahead against Swindon and their fans were still celebrating when they got their third before hearing that Jermaine Beckford had got a second to restore the starting order.
I didn't hear much of the Charlton game after we had gone two up through Miguel Llera but the result was vital in terms of ensuring we avoid Millwall in the first round of the play-off final, although Huddersfield managed to lose their lead at Exeter in the end. We must now go one better than our two draws against Swindon in the league this season and hope that Huddersfield can rally themselves and see off the Lions. If it all bolis down to a south-east London derby at Wembley, then so be it. Who knows, an epic Charlton victory with promotion at stake might finally go some way towards addressing the historical in-balance in results between our two clubs.

Friday 7 May 2010

Back home.......

I got back from a week long visit to India this afternoon and am pumping this out before my eyes give up the ghost and close for twelve hours. I have had the most exhausting week I can remember and for once feel all of my years.
I took on a new role on 1st April with responsibility for a number of key IT suppliers based in India and this was the kick-off visit to meet the senior representatives and try to set some expectations. Apart from a ten day holiday in Goa many years ago, this was my first trip to India proper.
We flew into Chennai or Sunday and arrived at at our hotel at 4am with a 10.30 start. That set the tone for the week and we left our hotel in Bangalore yesterday at 3am local time and arrived back at Heathrow 13 hours later. 
More on India another time but I arrived back to find the anticipated hung parliament and the uncertainty of our play-off fixtures and opponents. It's looking like David Cameron and that wrong-un, George Osborne, are going to get their soft hands on the tiller, albeit with a humiliating set of concessions to a Lib-Dem Party who actually managed to lose their share of seats in spite of all the hype following the Leadership debates. Labour strengthened their grip in Greenwich and I have to say I'm not too unhappy about that despite not being a natural Labour voter. Nick Raynsford is a decent MP and it's hard to really complain the performance of our Labour Council in the last few years. Millwall-supporting Clive Efford held off the Tories in Eltham and I am pleased for him too. Another bloke who's pretty straight and who I couldn't vote against irrespective of my politics. In the circumstances, Gordon Brown's calamitous microphone error may well have cost him his job as PM because Labour did better than I expected.
I'll be listening in at Boundary Park tomorrow but the scores from Elland Road and the New Den will be of more immediate interest. I am expecting both to win, so our aim tomorrow should be the three points to avoid Millwall in the two-legged first round.
I will doze off tonight in a happy state, especially now that I know Jacqui Smith has finally had her comeuppance. Her unemployment will provide some relief for her long-suffering husband. My only hope is that she's out of work for as long as the average voter in her former constituency.

Sunday 2 May 2010

Do it for us Luke!

I am flying to Chennai at 1pm, so will be out of circulation for most of the day and it will be midnight by the time I am on Terra Firma. The first thing I will do on touchdown will be to call my wife check on what has happened at Hillsborough. Come on Wednesday, get behind the boys and make some NOISE!

Saturday 1 May 2010

Charlton Athletic 1 v Leeds United 0

The final league match of the season provided some of the best entertainment we've had and a precious Charlton home win over a very decent Leeds side. It keeps our interest firmly stoked until the whistle blows at Boundary Park and probably means we have a two-legged play-off encounter to negotiate at very least.

First thing I should say, is that this win is some small pay-back for the 6-1 humiliation heaped on us by Leeds the last time we played them in the Premier League. They were a different proposition that day with Alan Smith and Mark Viduka, but revenge is sweet nonetheless.

It was a better-than-forecast day up until kick-off and the there was a party atmosphere in the pubs around the ground. I was asked for "spares" three times en route to the bookies which gave clarity to how important this game was for Leeds.

An unchanged Charlton side lined-up in the sunshine in front of a buzzing Valley and 3200 noisy Yorkshiremen. It was a surprise to see Jermaine Beckford on the bench for Leeds and I had almost forgotten that they also have Gary McSheffery in their ranks.

Leeds should have opened the scoring with their first chance after three minutes when Sam Sodje always looked second-best for a long ball and duly miss-hit his back-pass which let Max Gradel in on goal but his finish wasn't good enough to beat Darren Randolph.

The first half was a lively affair after that with both midfields standing off each other allowing room for both to play the ball forward. Leeds played to feet and spun off each in their attempts to fashion an opening. Charlton meanwhile were content to play the ball out to the flanks and throw crosses into the box for their tiny target men. As a consequence, the first-half was short on goal chances although Deon Burton did get on the end of a Forster flick from a Borrowdale punt but his angled drive was beaten away by Higgs in the Leeds goal. News of Tranmere's opener against Millwall trickled through just before the break causing a roar to go up from the Jimmy Seed Stand.

Charlton came out much more positively second-half and Leeds were either content to sit back or they were pressed back as we began to exert some sustained pressure and forced a succession of corners. Bailey and Borrowdale were working well down the left and Richardson and Sam were keeping busy on the right although Forster and Burton looked lost despite both working tirelessly for a breakthrough. Richardson was pumped up for the match and had an eye on scoring from the off.

Just when we looked to be running out of steam, Phil Parkinson made the unusual move of a triple substitution with Akpo Sodje, David Mooney and Kyel Reid coming on for Forster, Burton and Racon. I couldn't argue with the changes although I might have kept one back. It was at this moment that Tranmere scored their second, ironically courtesy of Andy Robinson, a Leeds loanee. The volume from the away end went up a notch as Leeds fans sang "just a draw and we're going up." Charlton continued to attack with renewed vigour and the game noticeably increased in pace. Beckford came on to huge applause from the visitors but it was still Charlton asking all the questions and Sam Sodje should have scored following an aerial scramble in the Leeds box which saw the ball drop onto his head four yards out but he went for power and his header flew over the bar.

It was a sign of things to come for Leeds because with two minutes remaining, Sam Sodje knocked a cross back at the far post and Akpo got enough on it to force it in off Naylor on the line. Three stands erupted at this and the noise coming from the Addicks was as loud as I have heard all season. It was silent in the Jimmy Seed for once and they had to watch in horror as Kyel Reid struck the inside of the right-hand post at the Covered End and it careered across goal to safety seconds later.

With five added minutes, Leeds finally began to get forward. Beckford side-footed wide at the near post before finally getting the chance of the match five yards out but his thunderous header was somehow saved by Randolph. It was an incredible stop from near point blank range which he managed to push over the bar. I remember Dean Kiely once making a very similar stop but it was absolutely top drawer and caps an impressive spell of games by Randolph where our conceded figure has dropped to 0.5 per game. Rob Elliot is going to have to wait a bit longer for a recall.

So we are still in with a very slim chance of being promoted automatically next Saturday but it's the play-offs in all likelihood and the club will begin selling tickets for the home game tomorrow. I am off to India for a week with work first thing tomorrow, so will need to rely upon my Good lady to bag my seats.