Thursday 31 October 2013

St. Andrews

I first went to St. Andrews in 1981. Charlton can't have been playing that day as I saw the Blues take on Nottingham Forest. It was a time when I was keen to cross more grounds off my 92 list. I've been back since to watch us play, most notably in the Play-Off Final against dirty Leeds and I will be going on Saturday so am trying to get myself in the mood for a city I don't love and a club I don't like.

Back in the late 90's I worked with Alan Khan, a fiercely loyal Blues fan who was a good guy and who did his best to sell me his city and his club but I had already made my mind up. My experience of City was a club living in a not-so glorious past with a set of intimidating home supporters who would bully away fans, even families and children. The same set of fans did not travel in anything like the numbers their home support might suggest and the bullies invariably stayed at home for fear of reprisal.

I remember the televised clash from the the Premiership days (I think) when we thrashed them. The even-smaller-than-normal visiting support had been encouraged by Millwall fans to dial 999 before the end of the match and report a disturbance as the only way of ensuring a police presence at the final whistle. As it was, the bullies had seen enough of their losers way before the end and were at the gates waiting to pick on the unfortunate Addicks as they left the stadium.

I will travel with an open mind on Saturday and optimistically assume that this problem has been sorted out by now. The plan is to visit the Balti Triangle pre-match as part of the cultural visit and to exit the city in one piece with three points at tea-time. Come on you Reddddss!

Sunday 27 October 2013

Charlton Athletic 0 v Wigan Athletic 0

A reasonable game for the 23,600 gate on the eve of the arrival of hurricane St. Jude. A third successive clean sheet was encouraging but our difficulty in scoring was evident once more and to make matters worse, Yann Kermorgant limped off in the first half. We have the joint lowest goals tally in the division, along with Yeovil Town, both of us having managed only nine goals.

Wigan are a big and strong side and they clearly came with a plan to win the match. Emerson Boyce was outstanding at the back for them and much of what they did started from him winning the ball. We edged the first-half but Wigan won the second-half and came closest to scoring when they rattled the underside of our bar. It was a match of few clear cut chances with both sides guilty of blazing over having fashioned opportunities. Pritchard missed from 15 yards towards the end of the first half and McArthur did similar for Wigan in the second. Yann Kermogant picked up a knock early on which he tried to run off but had to make way for Marvin Sordell. Our chances of scoring were cut at that point and try as Sordell and Church did, neither really came close. 

We played some good stuff down the flanks. Wiggins was particularly busy in the first-half and Wilson contributed well after the break. Cameron Stewart enjoyed a better first-half as a consequence and Pritchard in the second but both full-backs put in as many crosses as the wingers. 

Stephens was my man-of-the-match with some excellent long passing and a much more defensive display than we normally get from him. Jordan Cousins had another solid game although he is still very raw and at times naive. 

Richard Wood was a second substitute to injury having fallen badly in the first-half. Dorian Dervite was brought on to replace him and slotted in nicely. Michael  Morrison shored things up against the combative Holt and Powell.

Overall, it was a committed performance with good energy levels and relatively few mistakes. It's such a pity we can't seem to win one of these games when we run a promotion and fill the ground. 

Wednesday 23 October 2013

All going wrong at Selhurst

After an entirely predictable poor start to the season, Crystal Palace have moved to fire Ian Holloway.  Both Holloway and Eagles Chairman Steve Parish, are being professional and philosophical about it but it's a mini disaster less than six months after their joint orgasm.

Steve Parish has got to look himself in the mirror and ask himself why he let Holloway bring in 15 new players on top of their promotion squad. Not only were they adding fatally to the wage bill and contractual liabilities but they were only really bringing in like-minded players. No tangible improvement in quality and absolutely no surprise they have used so many players and failed to find any form.

I also can't understand why Holloway did it. It's not as if he hasn't been here before and managed reasonably successfully on no money. Perhaps his experience at Blackpool was too painful and the urge to gamble to avoid an 
immediate return was too strong?

In any event, Parish will hope to find someone who can identify the best side and have the courage to stick with it. Somehow I can't quite see it and they remain doomed to me. Fulham have suddenly become the new Charlton. Not only are they sporting Scottie Parker and Darren Bent but losing to them warrants the sack! Sit back and enjoy.

Sunday 20 October 2013

Aberdeen 1 v Dundee United 0

A second successive victory for me watching the Dons yesterday as they squeaked past an impressive Dundee United outfit at Pittodrie yesterday. There was a decent atmosphere from the 12,654 gate with an unusually large following up from the Tay of 1700 or so. Expectation s were high for both sets of supporters.

The Terrors played particularly well in the first half but were contained by a strong Aberdeen defence lead by Russell Anderson. I thought an away win was on the cards at the break but Aberdeen are pretty resilient and they stuck to their task. There wasn't much for McGinn and Zola to feed on and what there was was usually in the form of a high ball. The logic was understandable given the towering presence of the Congolese forward, but he is one of those big men who can't make the most of their height and who are invariably out-jumped. However, after 54 minutes Aberdeen hit the winner. A slick passing move into the box unhinged the United defence and Calvin Zola was finally left a couple of yards of space which gave him the chance to sweep in the final pass.

After that Dundee should have equalised when they managed to split the home defence for the only time in the match but the impressive Turk, Ciftci, couldn't beat the advancing Jamie Langfield who managed to get something on the shot to send it wide of the goal. Dundee were beaten from that point and the noise from the visiting fans dropped audibly as Aberdeen finished in control. Willo Flood was the deserving man-of-the-match after a tireless display which prevented Aberdeen from being over-run in midfield.

I was very impressed overall with the pace of the match and the quality of the football. There were very few mistakes and I was left contrasting what I had seen with what I have been watching so far this season. One-nil to the SPL on that form.

Great too to see the Addicks winning as well. Richard Wood played another blinder by all accounts and looks to have firmly established himself in central defence. Ben Hamer has had questions being asked of him again of late but yesterday was another day when he kept us in it and we shouldn't forget days like those. After two draws we now look like we have a chance to get a run going and move ourselves clear of the mire. Johnnie Jackson and Yann Kermorgant also made returns from the bench, so things should be looking up. Bring on Wigan!

Wednesday 16 October 2013

Heading north on Saturday

No, not tempted by Ewood Park I am afraid. Much as I am trying to stay positive, I can't see us returning with anything here. Jordan Rhodes will be licking his lips and I can see us having to score twice at least to possibly get a point. That means we will probably drop into the bottom three and by the time we face Wigan a week on Sunday, we could even be bottom of the table. Positive thinking eh?

For Saturday, at least, my thoughts will be elsewhere. I am heading up to the Granite City to catch up with some good friends and to take in the Dons v Dundee United SPL game. My appearances at Pittodrie are dreaded by my mates, as my winning record is extremely poor - just the once over the years. In fact, it closely resembles the watching record of those Dons fans who come down to us on occasion. It could, of course, merely reflect the footballing status of our respective clubs over the last so many years. I am looking forward to seeing Dundee United - they have a much-talked about attacking front-line and a club who have a fine tradition of trying to play the game "properly."

Monday 14 October 2013

An afternoon at the Palace of Westminster

A few weeks ago I was asked if I fancied lunch at the House of Lords. When it was explained to me that there was also a Charlton connection I was doubly interested.

Mrs Peeps and I duly made our way up town this morning in time for a few pints of Sussex Ale in Whitehall with a couple of fellow Addicks. From there we went down to the Palace of Westminster and made our way through security and into the Cholmondley Suite with it's riverside terrace. It may have been dull overhead but it was fantastic to be with a hundred or so other Charlton fans in such an historic setting. I was pleased to see an old mucker and former mod there and to greet each other with "what are you doing here?" He is now a respectable businessman with connections to the club's owners, so it was very interesting to exchange views on what's going on.

The hospitality was excellent and the Rothschild's wine kept coming before and during a reasonable meal. Lord Grade of Yarmouth was our host for the afternoon and he delivered a fine Charlton-supporting speech as he welcomed us all to the event and thanked us for our support. Dave Berry then did a bit of MC-ing which obviously came very naturally as two "experiences" were raffled off. One a two-dayer with the Charlton squad as they train and prepare at Sparrows Lane and the other a day out with the Capital FM team. My bet was that the day at Capital would out-bid the Sparrows Lane experience and I was proved right.

Jason Morgan updated me on the success of the Charlton Community Trust which I understand came runner-up in the global version of the best Community Scheme. A true accolade and something to be very proud of - 10,000 children involved every single week and a scheme that now has a turnover approaching half that of the football club (with no debt). Who would have ever imagined that?

I believe there will be a follow-up event at the Indigo Bar at the O2 which I will try and support.

Friday 11 October 2013

One in the eye for Tony Jiminez

Tony Jiminez lost his fight with diminutive Dennis in the High Court today. After Wise's clueless blabbering during the hearing when he made himself look like a complete idiot, the perceived wisdom was that Tony Jiminez would have the last laugh. 

However, the judge has decided that Mr Jiminez couldn't quite explain what he had done with Mr Wise's money other than a vague investement in a French golf club development. Neither was he clear about when Mr Wise could expect it back and has ordered him to repay the "loan" with interest and costs back to t. 2007. Ouch! That's likely to top up at over £700,000 and, Mr Jiminez isn't being given much time in which to settle. The curt "Club Statement" on this is less than 50 words and simply says that it "in no way relates to activities at the football club." I think we all know that but there may be consequences for the football club as it's majority shareholder decides how to settle the bill.

News this week that new Sunderland boss, Gus Poyet, is out to sign his son from the Addicks for £2m made me smile. Two million for an 18 year old with precisely no first team experience? Only a father could justify that. However, I could now see Diego being moved on for a more realistic £500,000.

Sunday 6 October 2013

Charlton Athletic 0 v Blackpool 0

A good day spent with friends yesterday was only slightly tarnished by a 0-0 at the Valley. Chris Powell will be pleased with the clean sheet but the lack of goals worries me more. Three goals in five Valley matches is not good enough. Our failure to score also cost me £237 as my other results came in, including Millwall shipping another bucket-load, this time at Bournemouth.

Unsurprisingly, we sent out the same side that troubled Forest and started brightly enough , controlling the game for the opening twenty minutes. We even won a free-kick in range in the opening minute but you knew Dale Stephens would put it over the bar. Where is Johnnie Jackson when you need him? Stephens was to whistle another shot over the bar from open play during the first half but we didn't create much else.

We may be missing Yann Kermorgant but the game-plan needs to be adapted to make the most of whatever we have upfront. Like on Tuesday evening, we pumped plenty of balls into the opposition penalty area in the hope of a mistake which would get Sordell or Church in. The trouble was that Blackpool's towering back-line didn't make any and simply cleared everything that came over. The front pair did plenty of running, Church in particular chases everything down, but they are the sort of players who need to be played in on goal.

Our defence was as solid as theirs yesterday. Richard Wood again caught the eye as he dealt with everything and with Morrison fighting in the trenches with him and Wiggins and Wilson tucking in, Ricardo Fuller couldn't get the space he needs to play. He was eventually subbed to warm applause and the likeable Fuller returned the applause with enthusiasm. 

Jordan Cousins played another good game in midfield and he looks visibly more confident by the match. He was maybe over-shadowed by Tom Ince but it was a good match-up. Stephens and Gower were both busy without really playing well, which left Harriott who I thought ht was the most disappointing yesterday. He is most effective out wide and hugging the line but he appears to have been told to play a more involved role inside where his first touch lets him down a little and he is less effective linking with the front two. 

Jordan Cousins had our best chance of the match with a driven low shot which Gilks can't have seen a lot of given what was in front of him but he got down brilliantly to keep it out at the foot of his left-hand post. That was late on in the second-half and after that Blackpool had the best chance when Wilson carelessly over-ran the ball in defence to Tom Ince lurking in space in the box but the Seasider fired wide. Ince was involved in everything and would have been man-of-the-match for the neutral. He obviously sees himself as the star and was openly critical of his team-mates when they weren't where he expected them to be or when they did anything he could complain about. He is a decent player but he's not that good that he can afford to behave like that. Hard to imagine where he gets it from.

We have a break now before we go again and we will need to get something at Ewood Park if we are not to slip into the bottom three. We are only a point clear and the three below us will all be at home in a fortnight against moderate opposition.

Saturday 5 October 2013

Good day in SE7

The weather promises to hold for today and tomorrow. We could even see a little late Summer sun this afternoon in what is an important game for Charlton Athletic.

Blackpool arrive warm favourites for the match as they sit in sixth place, some 13 points better than us. You can get 8/5 on Charlton for a home win and I will be taking a piece of that in a treble. If we show the same sense of urgency and commitment going forward that we managed in the second-half against Forest, then we should have a great chance. 

Jordan Cousins should be bursting to play today after a decent display on Tuesday and having signed a three year deal yesterday. If we can get a spark from the midfield around him, then maybe we can score the goals we beed without the mercurial Yann Kermogant. Marvin Sordell will be looking for two in a week and my bet would be another from Simon Church to keep his scoring rate ticking over. We will need to keep Ricardo Fuller off his shooting peg and he will need a close second marker. If we can do that and win the midfield then I am confident of a result. They haven't beaten us on their last three visits and I see no reason why we should succomb today unless we have another Millwall performance or cop some more bad luck.

A win would only move us up a place or two at best but it should open a points gap on the bottom four, who frankly, look like contenders for the drop already - Barnsley, Bolton, Yeovil and Wednesday. Assuming we can win the night-match in hand over the previously impressive Doncaster Rovers, that would have us approaching half-way after ten matches (or equivalent). That would represent a decent recovery and give some optimism for the rest of the season. If we were to lose today, it would give us a home start of 1-2-3 with that shocking start against Doncaster to take into consideration. It's the home form that makes or breaks you in this division especially, so let's hope we can level it up today.

I don't expect too many Seasiders to make the trip so we might have to rely on our own fans to generate some atmosphere today. It worked pretty well on Tuesday, so get behind the boys. I have a mate and Aberdeen fan down for his 14th Charlton game today and he is looking for his third win - c'mon Charl-ton!

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Charlton Athletic 1 v Nottingham Forest 1

After weeks of nothingness, we finally get back to a game of two halves. You know, where we are abject first half but hugely improved in the second. Most would have taken a point before kick-off and the perceived wisdom was we would get a 3-0 trouncing. In spite of that, not many would have expected to see Forest take the lead with their first chance on goal, barely two minutes in.

I probably need to see it again because I saw an innocuous-looking deep cross from the right become increasingly threatening and then Ben Hamer not seeing the danger until it was too late when he hadn't moved his feet sufficiently to get enough on it and it went straight in. The Tannoy man confirmed, almost inevitably that it was Andy Reid who had struck it.

It may have been a fluke but it appeared to knock the stuffing out of us and we struggled to get anything much going until close to the break. Our injury hit squad meant we played a 4-4-2 with an unusual diamond formation in the middle that didn't work. Wilson, Morrison, Wood (outstanding) and Wiggins were the back four with Stephens, Harriott, Cousins and Gower in the middle and Church and Sordell attacking.

Strangely, Cousins played just in front of the back four with Harriott ahead just behind the strikers with Stephens and Gower out on the points. Gower hardly touched the ball and our shape was ill-disciplined. Forest picked holes through us for much of the first half and we were lucky not to concede a second after a calamitous mix-up let Forest in one-on-one but Ben Hamer got something on the low shot and Lawrie Wilson managed to hook the goal-bound effort out from a tight angle. Before the break we had several efforts in succession as the ball ricocheted around the Forest box but Pete and I were already downstairs comforting ourselves.

After the break and attacking the Covered End, it was all change as we seized the initiative and Forest looked distinctly average. Suddenly we were carrying the ball at pace and getting men forward in support. Gower was joining the play and Wilson was getting down the right. Five minutes into the half and we equalised. A break down our left from Stephens with fast support drew the Forest defence in and the driven cross found Wilson in space advancing from the right, His effort was blocked but the ball fell to Marvin Sordell who simply couldn't miss five yards out. Sordell looked relieved and our players celebrated like they had all been given new contracts.

For 15 minutes after that we were a different side with everyone looking to get on the ball. Things were suddenly falling for us and Darlow had to make a smart save to deny Sordell an unlikely looking second. Forest looked weak at the back at times as we knocked crosses into the box from left and right. We were missing height up front but Forest still struggled to cope and they were fortunate to hang on. Billy Davies was clearly unimpressed and made two changes before the hour mark, albeit with no obvious impact. Henderson came on for Blackstock with twenty minutes to go and after that Chris Powell made his three well-spaced changes as we looked for a winner.

It was reassuring to Andy Hughes come on for Gower and he made a difference by putting his foot in, cutting out balls and finding red shirts. Joe Pigott was cheered on for Simon Church who limped off and there was finally hope we might convert one of our aerial balls. Our best chance of a winner came in another ping-pong attack as four or five players hacked wildly in the box. It finally fell for Cousins who lashed his shot off the post. Forest rallied before the end with everything coming from Reid. He was a cut above again but was lacking the quality around him. Even Lansbury had a relative quiet match. 

The crowd had made a big difference second half (we had scored) and the team were applauded off at the whistle. I have much more confidence about Blackpool on Saturday. If we can put two halves together we must surely get a second home win which will help give some balance to our opening ten games.

Finally, I must mention those 42 new 42 inch TV screens that we surprisingly found money for ahead of the Millwall game. They managed to get them switched on for this evening's match and it was immediately clear why the screens were bigger and how they were being funded. We now have a border of advertising around the actual TV picture making it smaller than before! Not enhancing my matchday experience.