Tuesday 30 April 2013

Davie Milne - RIP my friend

The man in lower centre of this photograph in the blue cap sporting the grey goatee is Davie Milne. It was taken by someone in the crowd (thank you @stilladdicted) at the New Den on 1st December and was the last match Davie attended following his beloved Charlton Athletic.

His addiction was not an ordinary one. Spawned from his boyhood admiration of Sam Bartram, a keeper he modelled his own game on, he followed Charlton Athletic for over 50 years from his home town in Elgin, north-east Scotland, 600 miles from the Valley. With work, young children and no-one he knew in London, it wasn't until we had returned to the Valley in the 90's that he finally made his first trip down south. 

He came down on many occasions after that and I was fortunate enough to get to know him over a pint in the Royal Oak and establish that my Grand-father had taught him physics at school. He absolutely loved everything about being at the Valley and standing amongst fellow Addicks. Charlton Life greatly enriched his sense of belonging and fed his craving for news and views between the games he could get to. He was at the Greatest Game with his wife and daughter (a keen Addick herself) and he brought a number of his friends down over the years. He drove the same distance as us to be at Carlisle for our promotion game last season and I am so pleased he was able to share that great experience with us.

Davie died suddenly of a heart-attack on Saturday on the tee at Spey Valley Golf Course (another love of his). I will miss his pre-season phone call when, with never ending enthusiasm, he would be asking me what our new signings were looking like and whether or not this would be our year. RIP Davie.

Monday 29 April 2013

Middlesbrough 2 v Charlton Athletic 2

The miracle of a play-off finish ended on Saturday after we let a two goal lead slip at The Riverside and after Bolton and Forest picked up wins to close in on Palace. The point ends our decent away form this season of 9 wins, 8 draws and only 6 defeats. If we had matched that at home it would probably have secured us the play-offs. As it is, a victory over Bristol City on Saturday would see us round off our home form with 8-6-9, which would represent a good recovery from a worst-ever looking home record just five weeks ago.

More importantly, an unbeaten end to the season often sparks a fast start and that's what you need if we are going to improve next season and challenge. We obviously need to strengthen the side if we are to have any chance of that and more on that in a later post. What's clear today is that we will need to better Reading and QPR next season whose expensive squads will probably be added to as they try to bounce straight back. Wigan's luck may finally run out this evening too, when Villa play a safe Sunderland at Villa Park. 

At the other end of our table, Wolves looked doomed after losing at home to Burnley and those of us who saw them at the Valley last week won't be too surprised by that. Blackburn, also relegated with Wolves last year have saved their bacon from a second successive drop, so the warning is there for QPR and Reading. The third League One spot is there for Barnsley, Peterborough, Millwall or Sheffield Wednesday. Millwall and Wednesday have a point advantage and Millwall an extra game although it's at home to Palace tomorrow night.Squeaky-bum time at the New Den although I can't see both Barnsley and Peterborough winning away in their last matches at the weekend. Roll-on the close season.

Saturday 27 April 2013

The miracle lives on

Watford duly beat Leicester last night to fulfil the first of seven results we would need in order to make a highly unlikely 6th place finish. Today we need Cardiff to beat Bolton in south Wales (not unreasonable), Forest to lose at Millwall (possible although the Lions are imploding) and the mighty Addicks to take all the points at the Riverside (maybe the hardest of the three results).

Other results may also up the Addick-interest levels; a Palace defeat at Blackburn and we will be able to hear the wailing from SE25. If Millwall lose at home to Forest, we should be able to smell the resultant fear from SE16. How exciting.

Meanwhile, a surprise announcement that the Board has agreed to "collaborate" with the Supporters Trust. It's unclear what this actually means but it's obvious the two parties are speaking and it sounds like more than just Barnie's (Trust leader) invitation to watch the last home game from the Directors box. The intention is to distribute the Trust's Newsletter with the Bristol City Programme and a commitment to work more closely on the next Trust Supporters survey as well as initiatives to build our fan-base.

If I sound reserved on this topic, it's probably because I am. I believe our club needs a healthy and well-supported Trust. Our history tells us that this might have served us well in the past and all the time the people running the club are referred to as "the Mysterons," a question-mark will hang over our future. In the meantime, credit to Barnie for flogging what's seemed like a dead horse. Like Chicago Addick, I am a signed-up member and one who would give a fiver in a heartbeat but someone needs to ask me for it or I will never bother getting around to it. Get some walkers with clipboards and cash-bags doing the rounds of the pubs pre-Bristol City. The club might even support walkers around the perimeter of the pitch to sign members up and collect cash.

On the pitch, I ought to mention the league success of our U18's and U21's which bodes well for the future first team. All of our young players must be enormously encouraged by the impact of Callum Harriott. They made up the bulk of the side which beat Thamesmead Town in extra time on Tuesday to move on in the Kent Cup. There may yet be big silverware this season!

Monday 22 April 2013

Four London derbies next season?

QPR's inevitable relegation will occur over the next seven days, most likely at Reading on Sunday. Sky will bring us the treat in glorious High Definition (Sky Sports 1) at 1.30pm and I will again remind myself that it may be expensive but my Sky subscription brings great value-for-money.

Those of you who follow this blog will know that I don't rate QPR at all and my opinion of them is certainly several thousands leagues below that of their own deluded supporters. Travelling Premier League fans will be relieved to know that they won't be inconvenienced next season by having to suffer a visit to League One Loftus Road. We will have to go there again, of course, but I am hopeful that the mess Tony Fernandez has created in West London will take a couple more years to unravel as his squad of expensive misfits fail to respond again in the Championship and they do a Wolves. It remains to be seen whether the genial Cockney manager will stay to supervise the impending disaster or whether, he will jump at a better opportunity. These players certainly haven't done it for him and he looks stuck with most of them.

Rangers going down might give some end-of-season comfort but it will be topped if Palace miss out on a promotion they were banking two months ago. I will split my sides laughing. The Nigels are wobbling like a very large jelly at the moment. They have taken three points from the last twenty-one and their next two games are not ones I'd fancy. Blackburn Rovers may be a club in turmoil themselves and fighting a desperate relegation battle but they have won ten and drawn five at home and will give Palace a real test. If they fail that, they will face Millwall at the Toolbox a week tomorrow night and their record against the Lions isn't much better than ours. Leicester or Forest might catch them, although they play each other on the last day when Palace face Posh at Selhurst. Even if Palace scrape the play-offs, they hardly enter it full of confidence and they will face a bouncing Brighton and a Bolton Wanderers side managed by Dougie Freedman, a man they were happy to let move north earlier in the season when he had manoeuvred them to the top of the table.

Brentford have cruised into third in League One and are within three points of Doncaster Rovers and face them at Griffin Park next Saturday where a win will see Bradley Wright-Phillips winning back-to-back promotions from League One. The Bees will give QPR a much-needed and better-matched derby than Chelsea or Fulham. It could be an exciting day in West London on Sunday - "Brentford up, Rangers down, hallelujah!"

There's a school of thought that too many London derbies doesn't help London sides because of the propensity to draw although our record this season has been a propensity to lose. Personally, I'd like nothing more than being promoted and beating them all in the process.

Saturday 20 April 2013

Charlton Athletic 2 v Wolverhampton Wanderers 1

A pretty poor spectacle this, but we held our own and Jonathan Obika came on to win the game in similar fashion to the Leeds game. Wolves didn't do nearly enough to expect to get anything but we rarely troubled them so the big surprise was that this match finished 2-1 instead of 0-0.

We started with an unchanged line-up but lost current talismans Andy Hughes to injury after only ten minutes. It gave Mark Gower a bigger opportunity than of late and he pulled his weight without showing too much. In a strange way it was a cameo of Andy Hughes' recent performances. We were debating the Hughes influence pre-match and we were all, unusually, of the same opinion that Hughes has made the difference without any of us actually understanding why. He certainly hasn't been outstanding in any of the games he's played and it's been hard to comprehend just how he's made the change, but he has.

Our first-half was limited to a shot that only Ricardo Fuller could have managed.  Whilst he no longer has the pace required to terrorise defences, he has superb vision and an ability to get a shot away incredibly early and which often surprises keepers. Today's snapshot surprised the watching fans too and De Vries did very well to beat the shot out. Wolves didn't create much either but they did a lot more pressing so went into the break in good heart.

We improved after the break but were still short on chances although it was good to see us up the pace and force several corners. The breakthrough came on 63 minutes when Dorian Dervite got the final touch to a penalty box pin-ball scramble. I didn't see it cross the line but the players all peeled away satisfied and there was no complaint from the Yam-Yams.

Given their apparent inability to create anything clearcut, I thought that would be it but we contrived to concede an equaliser within minutes. A ball in from the left was headed on hopefully and then headed on hopefully again. Hamer looked to have it well covered but he watched it bounce before moving and it crept in at the back post. He is an able keeper but still has a lot to learn.

After that it was game on for the winner with neither side looking capable of getting it and, frankly, neither really deserved one. Enter Jonathan Obika for the knackered Fuller. 

Obika bristled upfront leading the line but his 90th minute winner came after another scramble in the box as we tried to score from left and right. Wolves were throwing men into the challenges and blocking everything but the ball rebounded to the back of the box, ten yards out and Obika despatched it with aplomb. There were six added minutes but it was hard to see how either side were going to create enough pressure to score another goal and that proved to be the case. 

Cue another happy Valley and a seventh home win for the record. A disappointing Wolves following of c 2000 (disappointing for them, not for us) traipsed home with their tails between their legs. They will keep on fighting to the end they told us but that might not be too long the way things are shaping up. Two games left and it's a real ding-dong down at the bottom. Be grateful for small mercies.

Thursday 18 April 2013

Wolf Hunt

Wolves from the Black Country will arrive in SE7 on Saturday in big numbers to cheer their side on in their relegation battle. Their recent form hasn't been too shabby with five wins in ten and they should give us a good game.

Our own form over the last five games has been as good as we could reasonably have expected, winning three and drawing away at Champions Cardiff and promotion contenders Brighton.There will be an element of disappointment amongst our players that we didn't force one of the chances that fell to us in Cardiff because there would still be an outside chance of a play-off finish had we nicked another couple of points. As it is, we can still win this game and hope for the three sides above us to falter in their last three. Millwall have games in hand and could, theoretically, skate in but they look to have left themselves too much to do and form isn't with them.

After our last couple of dramatic Valley victories and the six goals at Oakwell, I am predicting another home win. Wolves will be playing under pressure and we   won't. If we can establish a lead I can't see Yow Wolves coming back. A winning flourish at the Valley would help address earlier disappointments and provide some balance for the Rothmans Yearbook.

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Cardiff City 0 v Charlton Athletic 0

Fifth game unbeaten for the Addicks as we look to close the season out on an unbeaten run. It wasn't enough to prevent Cardiff claiming an historic return to top flight football after 50 odd years. Hard to begrudge them their moment in the sun after their horrendous run of falling at the last hurdle.

It sounded like a tense affair until ten minutes from the end when news arrived in the stadium that Millwall had taken a lead at home to Watford which meant we needed to score and Watford needed two to prevent Cardiff going up.

We had our moments, most notably from a Johnnie Jackson free-kick which rattled the timber and a trademark curler from Ricardo Fuller in the second-half which David Marshall saved at full stretch. Cardiff put us under the sort of pressure we expected but credit to the defence and Ben Hamer for taking a fourth point this season from the Champions. We really need to win all of our remaining games to complete a late charge and that now looks impossible.

Millwall's win lifts them up the table and with their game in hand and home bias to come, this pretty much rules out an unlikely looking relegation. More heart-warming was Palace's latest nose-dive at Ipswich. They are in free-fall right now and there's a real chance they could miss the boat. Oh to finish above them this season!

The South London championship could yet have a twist or turn left. Bring on the Wolves.

Monday 15 April 2013

8,000 renew early

News from Charlton Athletic that season tickets are back on sale at increased prices for anyone who failed to take advantage of the early-bird offer. The club are saying that 8,000 people have bought early compared to 9,200 at the same time last year and the more precise sounding 6,253 in the year before that. 

I am slightly surprised once again that our numbers are holding up, especially after the Valley pain this season. A 13% year on year drop thus far is not as bad as it might have been although my guess is the actually number might start with a 7 but, hey, who's splitting hairs. The big question now is just how may more will we sell before the season kicks off? The 8,000 early-birds clearly include the mass who will renew pretty much come-what-may, certainly as long as pricing is competitive, and, let's face it, Championship football for under £500 in the best seats is competitive.

The discontented, and there are plenty, will account for the majority of the 1200 who failed to renew early this time around. Many, like me, will almost inevitably renew but performances at home and the experiences of Selhurst Park and Millwall at the Valley will deter several hundred at least in my view as well as the Board's continuing arrogance when it comes to communicating with it's customers. 

We then need to consider if we are likely to attract many new buyers on top of that and there I have far less confidence. I reckon we will do well to start the season with 9,000 season ticket holders which would represent an overall  reduction closer to 18%. That is probably better than most feared (me included), so once again you have to say that the club have called the pricing and the policy just about right in the circumstances, even without the mercurial skills of Rick Everitt.

Sunday 14 April 2013

Barnsley 0 v Charlton Athletic 6

In professional football, confidence is an incredibly powerful thing. Too often this season we have lacked confidence or lost confidence during matches, typically by going a goal down or when other sides have responded to our conservative approach to taking a lead by coming at us and managing an equaliser. Our home form tells this story vividly.

Yesterday, at struggling Barnsley, Bradley Pritchard scored early (third minutes) to give us a spring in our step and after twenty minutes Johnnie Jackson made it two. With seventy minutes left and under no pressure, we could relax and play with confidence. In contrast, Barnsley, who have done very well in recent games to grab a potential lifeline from relegation, lost their confidence. After the break we continued to notch goals as the Tykes became more frustrated and ill-disciplined, eventually having two men sent off which obviously made our task a lot easier.

Six-nil away then - a Charlton record. Congratulations to the Loyal Away 500 who will forever be able to say "I was there." I think fellow blogger, Blackheath Addick made the trip, so I am waiting for a first-hand account in glorious technicolour.

If the Charlton community was feeling pretty pleased with ourselves at 5pm yesterday, it got a bit better as we were able to revel in the schadenfreude of Millwall supporters letting themselves down again on one of football's biggest stages. The combination of all-day boozing, no-one else to fight, losing and what I suspect was some genuine friction between regulars and glory-hunters, they managed to brawl between themselves across the seats for much of the second-half and then with the police when they finally decided that they had to exert some control. 

There will undoubtedly be repercussions. Millwall are used to this but what more can their club do? They were very bold with their membership policy a number of years ago and their meagre home gates are as much a result of their determination to ban the dregs as them being an unfashionable club. I know  people who work for Millwall and who are employed with their marketing and club management and they absolutely cringe at events like this. Yes, they enjoy their aggressive reputation and the Dockyard history but they always want this to be about the approach of their teams to playing games with heart and by supporting their side with passion and noise. They absolutely detest the hooligan hangers-on who only turn up for a bundle and who can't work out why the team has changed so much since they were last at a match. The trouble is, the rest of us know know or don't care about the "how's" we only see "what" happens and we know it isn't to do with "other supporters" or "infiltrators" etc. There are just too many "wrong-uns" who follow their club and on days like yesterday they become the mindless majority.

On a final note and thinking about confidence again, you have to wonder if Millwall might be in big relegation trouble. They have six games left but are now only 3 points above 22nd placed Barnsley. They have to play Watford 3rd (h), Huddersfield 6-Pointer (a), Blackburn 6-Pointer (h), Forest 7th (h), Palace 4th (h) and Derby (a). Probably too many home games but their home form has been questionable. The Bookie would tell you they have more chance of going down than we have of making the Play-offs.

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Only one more for me

The end of the season has really crept up on me. I have only just realised that I have only one game left. I have done my time at Barnsley and the midweek trip to Cardiff holds no draw. I will be at the Valley Saturday week for the defeat of Wolves but wild horses wouldn't get me to Chernobyl-Boro and I will be in Scotland with friends for the last home match against Bristol City.

The season ticket deadline also passed me by. I had already decided that I wasn't going to rush to buy but I did think for a second after the highs of Jon Obika's last minute winner against Leeds, that I might bite the bullet on Sunday. Instead I await the big reveal when the Mysterons decide the penalty for failing the blind loyalty test. Much will depend on sales to date but I am guessing closer to £20 than £50. Without any further incentive, I will wait now until I feel inspired!

My current relative lack of loyalty has more to do with my continuing disappointment with the disdain and contempt shown for the fans by Jiminez and Slater. Chris Powell as turned the corner again and it's clear, if there were doubts (they were creeping in), that he still has the respect of his squad.

With targeted investment, better use of substitutes and a better Valley playing surface, next season could look exciting again come July.

Saturday 6 April 2013

Charlton Athletic 2 v Leeds United 1

A thrilling finish to an uninspiring match. A relatively poor looking Leeds side should have been seen off long before the finish but it took an added time header from Jonathan Obika to seal the points.

I was pleased to see we persisted with the 4-4-2 at home and that the only change from Tuesday's start was to see Ricardo Fuller restored in place of Lawrie Wilson. Leeds started without Varney or Diouf but Steve Morison came in up front and Michael Tonge was the only other established player in their side that I knew.

Leeds fought hard during the first half but failed to create anything significant. We increasingly took the game to them and Yann Kermorgant missed a header at the back post towards half-time. Michael Morrison will also blush when he sees the gaping goal he missed after a Dervite drive was parried into his path. I will forgive Michael anything. We were looking the livelier and took that into the second-half when Johnnie Jackson took only two minutes to break the deadlock. For the next 30 minutes Leeds looked beaten but we failed to capitalise. Ricardo Fuller simply didn't do enough and despite outplaying them on the flanks, we were short of the sort of pressure that would have brought the second. 

Instead we made another poor change. By bringing on Kerkar for Fuller, we seemed to invite pressure and Leeds filled the vacuum. Luke Varney was brought on and within five minutes he hooked home the equaliser after a scramble in the box. He did have the decency not to celebrate and in return, in was good to see Andy Hughes play a stormer and be applauded by the Leeds fans every big challenge he won, even when it was halting a Leeds opportunity. Unbeaten in three since his return to the starting eleven.

The game wore on and with four minutes of time added and further substitutions, it looked like a lost cause. That was before a final Jackson charge down the left flank. He cut inside and fed Wiggins who drilled a cross towards the far post. Jonathan Obika, who had come on minutes before for Harriott, was on the charge with a number of others and it was his head that made the crucial touch to steer the ball into the top corner and win the game.

The Leeds fans had been chanting "we're drawing away, we're drawing away, how shit must you be, we're drawing away," so it was especially pleasing to correct things for them at the end. The table shows that we have edged into the top half, are seven points clear of the drop and, more importantly, have eight sides between us and Blackburn. We will stay up this year but may well be looking at the demise of Blackburn Rovers, a club in absolute turmoil who sacked their manager whilst in 6th place. Whether by design or not, it's probably time to acknowledge that a knee-jerk sacking of Chris Powell a couple of months ago could have been calamitous.

After the numerous disappointments of the season, we face the prospect of finishing top ten, something that has looked beyond us for most of the season.

Thursday 4 April 2013

Leeds there for the taking

It's usually inadvisable to tempt fate but I feel so strongly about Saturday's match that I am going to do so. Leeds will arrive in SE7 with a caretaker manager and a side that looks distinctly below their average. They have lost three on the spin and Neil "Relegation" Redfearn has recalled a 19 year-old from League One loan duty at Sheffield United. Luke Varney and Spittin' Diouf will be the only instantly recognisable faces and they are there for the taking I'm telling you!

By contrast, we come off the back of two fine performances which have seen us take four points and put seven other clubs between us and Huddersfield in the last relegation place. With Barnsley, Cardiff, Wolves, Middlesbrough and Bristol City to come, we have every prospect as things stand of finishing in the top half of the table which was always the game-plan. A home victory against Leeds will move us above them in the table and put the focus very much on those above us.

Rhoys Wiggins is close to returning to the sort of form which was challenging Solly for best full-back and that has a knock-on on the central pairing. Andy Hughes has had a reassuring influence on central midfield and he is one who will relish Saturday's game against his old club and is looking like he's benefitting from a run in the side. Andy Hughes has had a reassuring influence on central midfield and he is one who will relish Saturday's game against his old club. Callum Harriott looks like he has overcome any stage fright and will be another desperate to show at the Valley and have the fans calling his name again.

The fact that our home form has been horrendous is an enormous opportunity for us for next season and we must have hope of further league improvement if reasonable funds can be found to improve the squad over the Summer. Three final home wins is not unrealistic given the opposition and it would give more balance to our performances at the Valley over the season. An 8-6-9 record would speak to the tightness of most of our home showings, even if we expect more in front of our fans.

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Brighton & Hove Albion 0 v Charlton Athletic 0

A thoroughly rewarding south coast trip yesterday that saw a battling Addicks performance that just about merited the point we snatched from high-flying Brighton.

Three of us made the increasingly short road journey and found ourselves in Lewes at 5.30. We had no firm plan when we left but were keen to avoid getting caught in the park and ride queues or the 30-45 minute wait we had heard about for a train after the match. Lewes is a classy looking town and the couple of pubs we visited were loaded with Addicks topping up on Harvey's ale. We managed an excellent curry from Shanaz, which looked iffy from the outside before heading back up the A27 in search of a rare parking spot. £13 to park for a couple of hours is trumpy but we were pretty close to the ground although I worried about the single-lane entrance and exit in terms of the Le Mans start home.

To the ground then and I have to say I was extremely impressed. There was a large crowd walking up as we did and most were swathed in blue and white bar scarves. The stadium looks great as you approach and is studded with merchandise outlets, bars and restaurants. I have always found the locals at Brighton to be very decent and a mirror-image by-and-large of our own support. They make a big effort at Brighton and it shows. 

Inside, the stadium doesn't disappoint (I have left my phone in the car - pictures to follow. The roof joins the stadium's four sides, none of which look the same. Two smallish but perfectly reasonably ends are sandwiched between a good-looking two-tier side opposite a very impressive three-tier stand which is where I would be sitting if I followed them every week. If I had one grumble it would be about the rake of the seating behind the goal as it could probably have been steeper. As it is, it might have encouraged the stand-up/sit-down performance that went on most of the evening, but that might just have been due to the larger and more exuberant following than normal.

We lined-up with the favoured away 4-5-1, Hamer, Wiggins, Morrison, Dervite, Solly, Harriott, Jackson, Pritchard, Hughes, Wilson and Kermorgant. The first-half was tight with Brighton having the lion-shre of possession but only carving out two chances to show for it. They moved the ball quickly on the flanks and Lualua in particular threatened down our right.

After the break we came out of our shells and for 20 minutes we took the game to hosts as we attacked the end behind which our fans stood. Harriott was seeing a lot more ball and was doing an admirably impression of Lualua's first-half showing. Jackson was well forward and Pritchard ran right and left looking for openings. We looked short all the time upfront where Kermorgant was getting no change. Brighton finally came back into it and Ben Hamer was kept busy dealing with a series of headers. Brighton should have scored when they finally found a man spare at the back post but he somehow managed to head wide of an open goal. 

As the game entered it's final phase Albion upped the ante and threw an extra man or two forward. Hamer made a superb low block and we watched the deflection bounce up and hit the bar. We had every man behind the ball and it was difficult to break out with no-one leading the line. Finally a couple of welcome subs and it was Dale Stephens who nearly grabbed a late winner with a 25 yard drive at the finish but his arcing shot was tipped over. 

The gate was given at over 28,000 and in a nice touch, they also acknowledged the visiting numbers of 1900 odd which was given a genuine round of applause. Back to the car then and my fears were realised as we inched our way for half-an-hour out of that car park. Still, back home in bed before midnight after a decent evenings work. The point should go a long way towards ensuring we play Championship football next season. One more win should do it really given the host of clubs still beneath us. Leeds should be arriving on Saturday just in time.

Monday 1 April 2013

Hail, hail Di Canio

Clubs who fire their managers because relegation threatens rather than because they have lost the dressing room, invariably get relegated. QPR and Reading will prove that point this season from the top flight and Sunderland may just well be about to join them. I will accept here that QPR at least gave Harry a chance and that their demise has rather more to do with the fact that they have handled big money badly and bought mercenaries instead of freedom fighters. Reading have no excuses and neither, frankly, do the Makems.

I cannot understand why Ellis Short, the Chairman at Sunderland, thinks sacking Martin O'Neill after a one-nil defeat by Manchester United is going to help his struggling club. They may be perilously close to Wigan, Aston Villa, QPR and Reading but they only need to grind out a few more results and Martin O'Neill and his squad deserved that chance. The appointment of Paolo Di Canio looks like a desperate act in comparison. It could, of course, be that Ellis saw a cunning way to get shot of the supercilious David Miliband who has had to resign now that politics has entered sport. The irony is delicious.

I will say right now that I love PDC. He brought a swagger and a verve to the Valley like we have rarely seen. He has done wherever he has gone. Who could forget him turning up on the second day at training with a home made cake for the players and the audacity of his football was inspiring. Paying the wages of Danny Hollands and another at Swindon out of his own pocket was typical Di Canio. He is a passionate man and this should be a passionate game. I even admire his honesty about his politics and I trust him when he says he is a fascist and not a racist. Not something I think you can say about fascists in general. I'm not so sure Mussolini was "misunderstood" but I accept Paolo may be.

In some ways, he may be the ideal choice to spark a revival in Sunderland fortunes in the short time left but I suspect the shock of O'Neill's departure will take three or four games to disperse and by then it may be too late. The fickle amongst us at Charlton would do well to heed this warning.

Elsewhere today, it's a heavy league programme and we should be left this evening knowing what an unlikely looking result at the Amex will do for us tomorrow. I have a ticket and will be making the short trip down the M23 if only to see inside the stadium I have often seen from the passing motorway.

In the meantime, the counter on this website tells me that, should I check the site often enough today, that the number of visits since I started gobbing off in 2007 will pass 500,000. It sometimes feels like talking to yourself, so the number of visitors has kept me going.....thank you.