Tuesday 31 May 2011

John Sullivan makes it three, or is it four?

Fairly predictably, out-of-contract ex-Millwall keeper John Sullivan signed for us today on a two year deal. Sullivan looked solid enough to me as he made a handful of appearances at the end of last season although his signing lends credibility to the rumours that Rob Elliot could be off to bigger and better things.

I think Sullivan is signing number three but he could be four if Nick Pope is confirmed, although he is hardly a first team candidate, especially with Sullivan joining the ranks. If Danny Hollands can be considered an above average League One signing, Sullivan can only be considered average and Pritchard and Pope below average. With my glass half-full, Hollands and Sullivan could soon look like defensive signings for more established departing first-teamers. I hope I am wrong and that the order of their signing is merely coincidental.

I would like to see an experienced centre-half and a left winger or an inspiring striker next up please. We are being linked with Preston's Paul Hayes, but it's not one to get the blood racing, so I hope there's nothing in it. The likes of Jay Bothoyd is also available again but I would rather we gambled on someone for the future than see a player who has already been a Valley disappointment. Maybe beggars can be choosers?

Sunday 29 May 2011

Man U fans celebrate

Diehard fans of Manchester United flocked to Old Trafford this morning in the wake of their Champions League final loss looking for the positives. In the end, it was the number of touches of the ball their heroes managed during the game.

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Encouraging first signs

News today after much speculation that we have signed left-sided midfielder, Danny Hollands from League One Play-Off finalists AFC Bournemouth and unknown midfielder Bradley Pritchard from Hayes and Yeading.

Hollands is what I would consider an above-average signing and could be better than anything we currently have, although my suspicion is that this might be a pre-cursor to the departure of Semedo and/or Racon. Surprisingly, this move is still being spoken about as a "big money" move and "life-changing" for Hollands. I take that with a pinch of salt but he has obviously been persuaded to join us, so I am guessing we are prepared to pay.

Pritchard, on the other hand, is already being described by Chris Powell as a development player, so we shouldn't expect to see him featuring for some time at least.

Two in by the end of May is a good start.....

Monday 23 May 2011

Breaking news; Man U team to face Barca

Pleased to be able to share this scoop with you;

Van der Saar
An unamed Premiership footballer

Sunday 22 May 2011

Samsung D7000

It's was my birthday yesterday and at the age of 48, presents and surprises are thin on the ground. Not that I am complaining you understand. I am not big on surprises and the best presents I get are usually those I purchase myself!

To that end, I have been lusting after a new telly for over six months and it has finally arrived in the shops and my front room. It's a Samsung, which is the first non-Sony telly I can remember buying. I have had to overcome my aversion to buying Korean and to passing any money, however small, to a wealthy London club who don't need it anyway.

I have to say, it is very impressive. The HD picture is absolutely brilliant and much better than the picture on my old Bravia. It has 3D capability and is interactive, but the thing that really caught my eye was the near frameless picture. It has a 5mm clear bead around the picture but looks like it's all screen. I am not a fan of massive televisions and this one is physically smaller than my old 42" screen but accommodates a 46" picture as it's edge to edge.

The 3D is also very impressive, although there's only one channel to watch but the Heineken Cup was absolutely superb on this. I am slowly working my way through the interactive content and now have a subscription to Love Film which has worked flawlessly at the first time of asking. Staying in is the the new going out!

Monday 16 May 2011

Time to hit the road

Pete and I enjoyed (sic) a longish bike run yesterday from south-east London down to Sevenoaks and back. At 7am it was a cool morning but bright enough and no need for long sleeves. I headed out from Charlton Lane down the "back road" through Thamesmead and Erith to rendezvous with Pete at Thames Road. From there we had planned to take our favourite route down to Higham via Greenhithe, Northfleet and Gravesend.

Unfortunately, there was a police diversion as we approached the Mercedes garage at Dartford. The road was closed before and after the railway bridge by the Gypsy camp so we had to turn right and decided to go with the flow, literally speaking. That took us out past Wilmington and Hawley and into open countryside a lot quicker than if we had continued on to Gravesend. I love the stretch from Gravesend to Lower Higham via the Lower Higham Road. It's a country lane with hardly any traffic which gives you the rare opportunity to ride side-by-side. With fields to the right and left you get good views across the Thames Estuary. You also know that the roads from here, whichever route you take offer perfect Summer cycling.

Anyway, we took the Eynsford Road (A225) down through Farningham and Eynsford on a gradual climb to Shoreham and Otford before a harder slog to Sevenoaks. You meet plenty of other cyclists along this road and there always seem to be bikes circling the village roundabout at Otford. At Sevenoaks we had time for a cuppa in the local Weatherspoons where my Bike App confirmed that the trip back would be pretty much downhill all the way - we had climbed 170m from Thames Road. 

The run back seemed quicker and maybe that was because it was downhill "all the way!" The only snag was that the Thames road was still closed some three and half hours later which meant a diversion over West Hill which isn't downhill. At the Mercedes roundabout we got sight of the accident and a black car embedded into the brick arch of the railway bridge. It looked a tragic scene.

Home after four and half hours and I had covered 87km (55 miles). I wasn't fit for much else yesterday, so all good intentions of gardening went out of the window. it will get easier in the weeks to come.

Friday 13 May 2011

Clinging on to Number One in South London

The stats will show that Charlton Athletic attracted the largest average home gate (15,804) south of the river for yet another year. I haven't done the maths but I am guessing we have been number one in South London on this basis for over ten years and probably dating back to when the Valley capacity was smaller. Crystal palace ran us closer this year with an average home gate of 15,351 in spite of their relegation struggle and Millwall retained their poor relation status with an average 12,439 as they came close to the play-offs.

Aided by a special offer, we also boasted the best single gate of 24, 767 although our second best gate at usual prices of 18,949 was bettered twice by Palace in their relegation-battle run-in with a 19 and a 20 thousand gate as they finished strongly. The best the Lions could manage was two 16,000 gates for the visits of Palace and Leeds which would have stirred the interests of their mouth-breathing legion.

Can we do it again? Well the gap is so close that much will depend on respective form. The club would have us believe we are on track to match or better last year's 9,000+ season ticket holders and we will need that if we are to have any chance of maintaining or record. Personally, I think season tickets post the April deadline will be disappointing and we will need a competing side  to bring in the match-to-match punters to make up any shortfall.

If Palace can arrest their decline, they could expect to out-perform us but they still look desperately short of cash and their ability to improve through the transfer market looks no better than ours.

Speaking of which, I am pleased to learn on my return from India that we have ditched the under-performer Kyel Reid. As big a waster of an opportunity as Izale Mcleod. I am also catching up on the fallout from Chris Powell's less-than-encouraging assessment of his transfer pot and options for 11-12 as  revealed at this week's supporter Q&A. Being compared with Rochdale in terms of spending power is about as depressing as it can get. I am keeping my powder dry on this until we get some evidence to consider.  

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Spanish eyes.

No hanging about at the Valley this week. After the announcement yesterday concerning the contracts of some of our younger squad players, the club have confirmed that all loanees have been released (we were never going to fund these players out-of-season. On top of that, friendlies at Welling (9th July), Aldershot (20th July) and Woking (23rd July) have been scheduled with news that the squad will be playing a couple of matches in Spain mid-July.

I suppose we will be playing against clubs of equal stature at best, or should I say, that we've never heard of. If it turns out to be any of the bigger boys, I might be tempted.....

The clear out begins

Looks like a number of hopefuls have finally come to the end of the road at Charlton Athletic. Little Ross has been released and, whilst he didn't fail us horribly, I don't believe he was good enough. Certainly not for promotion.

Alex Stavrinou and Tamer Tuna have been kicking around the fringes of the squad for a couple of years without making the breakthrough and both have been told to look elsewhere. Lewis Perkins has also been finished up and those three were the cream of the most recent crop excepting Elliot, Wagstaff and Solly. Yafo Mambo is still with us and Calum Harriott will surely get a chance next season. Other than that, I am unaware of any big hopes from the Valley Gold pipeline.

In any event, I got the impression our new owners didn't have the time to hang about for youth and were more interested in investing their way out of League One. Personally, I think we need to be steeling ourselves for the season ahead and lowering our expectations. Maybe a season of genuine consolidation is required where we can settle a first team squad and be less reliant on loan players who are unlikely to do more than 6 or 12 months with us. I would also be content with a season where we looked constant at home and could get used to thumping a few sides for once instead of trying to eek out meagre victories. It's really not too much to ask, is it?

I haven't slept a wink on my overnight flight to Bangalore and am about to get ready for a long day in the office. I might be ready for the smelling salts a little later.

Sunday 8 May 2011

Charlton Athletic 0 v Hartlepool United 0

Following yesterday's nil-nil, Summer has officially started. It was a decent day yesterday enlivened by 600 Hartlepool fans who came to enjoy themselves. Apart from a couple of stunning strikes which were kept out by the underside of the crossbar, there was more amusement to be had watching the forty-odd perfectly dressed Oompah-Loompah's in the Jimmy Seed. In the circumstances, how sick would you have felt dressed as Santa Claus all day?

It was sad to see Jon Fortune stretchered off with a ruptured Achilles which could spell the end of his career. Up until then, he had been enjoying a rare Valley start alongside Miguel Llera, Freddie Bessone and Chris Solly. With Rob Elliot in goal we looked largely untroubled until the latter stages but by then I think both sides had settled for the point. 

Bradley Wright-Phillips almost broke the deadlock in the opening half-hour when he latched onto a ball into the box and clipped a clever shot over Scott Flinders only to see that damned crossbar keep it out. In the second-half, the ball came out to Bessone who roared onto it and hit what was the hardest shot I think I have ever seen. He got over it and it looked unstoppable save for the crossbar again and, I think, a hand from Scott Flinders to ensure it came out. If he's capable of that, why haven't we seen it used more often?

Player of the Year, Jose Semedo revelled in his new status and Michael Stewart  played like he was trying to impress someone. Calum Harriott started the game and looked very confident. He plays with pace and isn't afraid to take players on or look to get by and run into space. Surely already a better player than Kyel Reid thinks he is.

Before the game, I got up to the White Swan for a few pints of London Pride and we were joined  by Kings Hill Addick and his Dad. Whilst I am still a big fan of the Rose, the Swan has to be the best drinking spot if your journey takes you via Charlton Village. The new decoration has made it light and airy and the garden has been restored to close to it's 70's hey-day. After the game I had a few lagers in the Con Club where it was good to say farewell to a few of the lads for the Summer, including my old season-ticket neighbour who was making a rare appearance from Leeds.

This morning, I got up with the lark and onto the Iron Horse for a few hours with Pete. We got a bit wet to start with but the sun was out soon enough as we explored the back-streets of Rotherhithe. I knew it had long since changed up there, but hadn't realised just how much. Complete social cleansing. All of the old council housing looks to have gone. We were surprised, and impressed, to see so many of the local pubs still open and, by the looks of them, thriving. Maybe the Yuppies have saved them? I made a mental note to come back and visit a couple - we will see. We also cycled around Surrey Docks, somewhere I am a tad embarrassed to say I have never been before. I suppose I always knew there were docks somewhere there but hadn't seen them before or realised just how large they are. The nearest I have come before is Surrey Quays station and a sortie once upon a time into the Warrior pub. Other than that, we have always had the car doors locked and have hurried by.

Over Tower bridge and back through the Isle of Dogs and the Greenwich foot tunnel before swift progress down the Lower Road and home for bacon sarnies. The sun is still shining and I am down to Halling for lunch with the in-laws. 

Tomorrow I am heading off to Bangalore for a few days work. I hope the sun is still shining when I get home.

Friday 6 May 2011

Traditional end of season day out?

The last game of the season is traditionally an opportunity to do something different. Fancy dress for away fans for example or making a night of it after the game. It's usually the last you see of some of your football mates until the pre-season is well under way and certainly the last you see of old Charlton faces. It's a day I normally look forward to and ensure I have a pass.

In keeping with the last four months, interest is dismally low and I haven't bothered managing expectations of the family. Instead, I will have a couple of pre-match pints in the Rose and maybe a couple in the Con Club after the game but that will be it. I am guessing it will be another low crowd and many of the people I might normally expect to share a pint with will again be missing. The weather forecast doesn't look like helping with rain likely up to kick-off and maybe only some evening sunshine. Bloody typical of this horrendous season.

So let's look forward.  I reckon we have about 13 weeks until the season restarts on 7th August, although that's a guess as I can't find any confirmation on the internet. Unusually, I have booked my Summer holidays in advance of the fixture list being published and will likely miss the opener if it's the 7th August. 

In the meantime, there is a lot of work to be done at the Valley to restore supporter confidence and, whilst we have been saying this fruitlessly for the last three seasons, I believe it's imperative that we make our changes as early as we can. We need a fast start and excuses about players needing to gel or just being one or two short after the start will be a lost opportunity and, a few precious points down the drain. 

It would be encouraging if we already have a blueprint in terms of transforming the side and that some of the pieces could be put in place before the nation's players jet off first class to exotic hotspots for six weeks. Perhaps that's too much to expect even with wheeler-dealer Tony Jimenez on the Board and encyclopaedic scout Jeff Vetere in harness. I will settle for one or two in June and four or five main signings on board by mid July. 

It would also be great to some some positive off-field announcements too and I am hoping we see some end product from Peter Varney in terms of innovative  new ideas to re-garner interest amongst the fan base. All suggestions via the comments box please!

Tuesday 3 May 2011

One more massive effort

That's all we need. One more massive effort to attend the final game of the season at the Valley on Saturday and we can all look forward to doing something more rewarding on Saturdays during the Summer. By "all," of course, I mean those loyal diehards who are still making the Herculean effort. You know, the bare ten thousand who are still using their season tickets or someone else's.

On Saturday, I fully expect our poor team of decent players to make more of an effort themselves than they have managed for several months to overcome a very average Hartlepool who have nothing to play for. Some of those in red shirts will milk the applause at the finish and, no doubt, believe they are walking off to heartfelt thanks at the end. They will risk confusing thanks with relief. A fair number of them will also confuse a winning final match with a satisfactory finish to the season. They will deserve to be looking for new jobs.

After that, we can sit back and watch the new owners earn their corn as they prepare for a new season and look to rebuild shattered supporter confidence. There will need to be some significant changes for the better if we are to avoid floundering next season.

Monday 2 May 2011

Dundee no more....

Home last night from Piperdam, a resort five miles outside Dundee overlooking the river Tay. I can thoroughly recommend it if you fancy a long weekend break.

We flew up from city airport which is so civilised, if more expensive than Easyjet to Edinburgh. Car hire and faffing about eat into a lot of the difference and we didn't need the hassle of the extra drive to and from Edinburgh. We left home at 8am on Saturday and were drinking tea and coffee by the departure gates at 8.30am. The prop flight at 9.40am landed at 11am and we were in the City of Discovery, Dundee, with friends by 11.30am. It meant our Royal Wedding viewing was limited to replays in the pub but I was happy enough with that. 

I have only ever passed by or through Dundee before and it hasn't always enjoyed the best reputation in Scotland. "Scumdee" has long been the unfortunate tagline but even my mates who long ago gave up visiting to watch Aberdeen play in the City were impressed with the regeneration that has taken place. The run-down old dockside area has been cleared and cleaned up, as has much of the city centre. The sun was shining brightly, which always helps, but Dundee looked fine to me with the Tay sparkling and impressive railway bridge curving out of the centre of town and across the wide river to Tayport on the other side in the Kingdom of Fife.

We were on-site for 4pm and checked into our Las Vegas lodge. This was very impressive. Six large bedrooms, all with ensuites downstairs. Upstairs was divided into two large communal areas, one with a lounge, kitchen and large balcony, the other with a snooker table, roulette wheel and Black Jack table. We also had the added luxury of an internal sauna and an outside hot tub which took seven. I think I spent too long in the hot tub.

On Saturday I didn't feel like golf but knew I would feel better if I played. I did. We only played the poor relation 9-hole on the complex but it was just about right. We were allowed to play in jeans and trainers and they turned a blind-eye to our five-ball as the course was quiet. Marvellous. After lunch in the main Piperdam building by the dammed lake, we got kitted up for quad bikes and a fantastic 90 minutes up in the hills overlooking Dundee and the Tay. When the ladies returned from "shopping" in Dundee, we had dinner in the restaurant overlooking the lake and got dressed up for a casino evening. I have to admit to feeling very tired and sloping off to bed early at Midnight. 

In between all that, I got the news of our two-nil capitulation and was asked several times by concerned looking friends "what's happened to Charlton." It's hard to know how to simplify that answer without boring someone to death. Whilst we have all given-up on this season a long time ago, I am distinctly unimpressed that we haven't managed to break out of this historic bad run, even when the pressure of expectation disappeared weeks ago. A double defeat at under-pressure Walsall was simply not good enough in my view and I sincerely hope that big questions have been asked throughout the club and positions established in terms of future expectations over everyone from the management team right down through the squad. I also expect to see a large churn of players this Summer as we cut out those who haven't shown enough fight or footballing quality. We badly need some players with attitude and we have to start the campaign with a bang. Slater and Jimenez need to splash some cash and we need several wow signings as well as a several that turned out to be inspired. The pressure's on.

Yesterday was a day of relative relaxation in the Scottish sunshine and after a late breakfast we walked through the woods to the bar to watch the lunchtime football. Our flight home from Dundee's tiny airport was hitch less and we were back home within 25 minutes of landing. 

This morning looks like another cracking day and we have the added bonus that the Yanks have finally got their man and Osama Bin Laden has run out of luck. No doubt it will spark another round of terrorist attacks on the West but it's an undoubted blow for Islamic fundamentalism. I'm off to Greenwich for the day with my neglected girls....