Thursday 30 January 2014

Enjoying the ride?

I said this could be a pivotal week in the future of the club and it is certainly shaping up like that. I was determined not to post again until tomorrow night or even Saturday morning once the dust has settled but I can't help myself….

Emotions in my household were running pretty high last night over what looked like our best players being flogged off and replaced my lesser ones. On top of the contract hiatus and us in the relegation places, it was looking like very much like a perfect storm with League 1 beckoning strongly. Chris Powell's job was looking untenable as of 5pm yesterday as Kermorgant looked to be making a forced exit to Bournemouth. I was moved as far as to change the mood picture (on the right)!

News today that we have signed Iranian international Reza Ghoochannejhad from SL on a two-and-a-half year contract. That certainly feels better than a straightforward loan, although we have to hope he genuinely offers us something. That was followed by a strong rumour that 20 year-old Polish striking hot-shot, Piotr Parzyszek, is on his way for a medical tomorrow on a permanent deal. This guy is 6ft 3ins and has a 1:2 goal ratio for De Graffschapp (the Super Peasants!) in his first season with the Dutch second tier side. He has attracted interest from across Europe, Benfica, West Ham and Aston Villa having been linked. A fee of c £600,000 is being mooted too, so signs that Roland might not be acting simply to recoup some of his investment. 

Confirmation too that Dale Stephens has left for Brighton & Hove Albion for £750,000. That would seem like a decent fee although Poker Face Jiminez will be choked he has gone for half what Villa reputedly offered at the start of last season.

Probably the best news of the day is that Rhoys Wiggins has signed a new four and half year deal spurning interest from Bournemouth and Reading. The quote from him today says it all - "hopefully now other players will get contracts and we can all concentrate on keeping the club up." I'm surprised they included that on the Official Site but perhaps the log-jam has been properly broken with the window closing and the freeing up of some cash.

There is also a chance that Yann Kermorgant may yet decide to stay with us. He was back at Sparrows Lane having been down to see Bournemouth. I am hoping he has an offer that is attractive enough to stay and decides to commit to the cause. He is far from Premier League class but he has done a great job, often on his own, for us and if we can pair him with another quality striker (Parzyszek or Ghoochannejhad maybe) he could yet play his part is a genuine promotion push.

Tomorrow promises to be equally interesting….

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Doncaster Rovers 3 v Charlton Athletic 0

Doncaster Rovers exacted sweet revenge this evening for the poor hand they were dealt at the Valley earlier in the season. I felt strongly after the rain-abandoned match with them winning 3-1 that we would win the replayed match and that proved to be the case. After beating them 2-0 at the end of November, I made a mental note that we would be up against it in the away fixture.

After two away wins in succession and having kept the squad together in Yorkshire since Saturday, I was hoping we would put out an unchanged side this evening. I was also hoping that the two cup victories were spurred on by a team determined to do it for their job-threatened boss. We managed neither.

The pre-match doom and gloom centred on news of Brighton's interest in Dale Stephens and Bournemouth's in Rhoys Wiggins, which had predictions across the board of who wouldn't be playing to save them for their new clubs, coming on the back of rumours about Morrison and Kermorgant. As it was, Chris Powell made three starting changes from Saturday, with Ajdarevic, Sordell and Harriott dropping out to make way for Lennon, Cousins and Kermogant. I don't think there would have been too many complaints on player selection before kick-off, but there was plenty with the 3-5-2 formation. 

Perhaps the formation wasn't entirely to blame but Rovers tore into us from the off and  it was apparent we were going to need to ride our luck again, as on Saturday at Huddersfield. However, it ran out after 26 minutes when Alnwick was finally beaten after a succession of crosses and corners which had tested our defence. Thirteen minutes later Lawrie Wilson was sent off for a professional foul in conceding a penalty and Brown scored from the spot to put Donny in the box seat.

Powell re-jigged at half-time with Wood coming on for Evina as we went 4-4-1 but it really was a case of damage limitations and after 67 minutes Duffy notched a third to finish the contest. Wigan away looks like another major effort on Saturday.

We are in desperate need of a major shot-in-the-arm and I am not talking about drawing Wallace & Gromit Wednesday away from home in the cup. M Duchatelet, hear my plea and sort some contracts out for the players whom you are relying upon to protect your investment. The lesson of the last pair of clowns was there for all to see. If no-one's told you either, this side isn't too good to go down and your fringe players from your non-Championship leagues aren't going to save us.

As I said yesterday, this could prove to be a pivotal week in the fortunes of Charlton Athletic Football Club.

Monday 27 January 2014

D-Day at the Keepmoat

Chris Powell takes his beleaguered squad to Doncaster tomorrow for a six-pointer that promises to be hard-fought. After two away cup wins inside a week we should be up for the fight and the point that would lift us clear of Millwall and Doncaster or the three we need to climb above them and Sheffield Wednesday. Rising above Wednesday two days after drawing them in the Cup would set down a nice marker ahead of our visit. However, with the January window closing on Friday at midnight, there could yet be some significant activity that has a profound affect on the fortunes of Charlton Athletic Football Club.

News this afternoon that Eddie Howe has put in a bid for Yann Kermorgant will not be welcomed by the Charlton faithful. AFCB will be aware that Celtic have been circling and it could well be that Yann's own agent is looking for a move that would cement his future beyond June. My immediate reaction was to laugh the Cherries off but there is little smoke without fire and Bournemouth paid £2.5m for Tokelo Rantie in the Summer, so they are not short on ambition and look to be reasonably well adjusted to life as a Championship club.

How Charlton respond to this could be significant. Kermorgant is unlikely to re-sign without the security of knowing he will be playing for Chris Powell and I suspect he may not be alone here. Ergo, if Powell's contract isn't renewed before Friday, there is every chance Yann may decide to take an offer to move. If that happens our goal-scoring problem is exacerbated. Noises again, too, that we will be loaned Standard Liege reserve Iranian striker Reza Ghoochannejhad. I don't wish to be derogatory about a player I haven't seen, but I sincerely hope that no-one is deluding themselves that we would be in anything other than a poorer position if that were to happen. 

On the other hand, if M Duchatelet manages to repel the current suitors and bring in 'Gucci,' then I will acknowledge that we are better off, even if it wasn't the sort of striker signing I envisaged a month ago. If he sorts out Powell and Kermogant's contract extensions, I will be even happier and so may most of the others awaiting some job security...

It's beginning to look a lot like Millwall….

So, everyone is pissed-off that we have drawn Sheffield Bloody Wednesday away in the 5th Round of the Cup with so many other Premier League sides still in the draw. I wasn't exactly hollering myself but it does at least fit the bill of a winnable tie. 

My phone bleeped within seconds of the draw and it was a good Millwall mate of mine who said that I must be pleased with the draw and that our run was beginning to look a lot like Millwall's that took them to the Cup final ten years ago. 

On reflection, he may have a point. That year they beat Walsall, Telford and Burnley before drawing Tranmere in the 6th Round. They took two goes to dispose of Tranny and then drew their first higher league opposition in the shape of Sunderland. It's entirely possible that the winner of our match-up with the Massives may be the only non-PL opposition left in the competition although I suspect the odds will favour a second side from outside the top flight making it through. If we can see Wednesday off, my guess is we will all be praying for that other side in the Quarters and not one of the winners of the Arsenal V Liverpool or Citeh v Chelsea clashes.

So, how about a draw at Hillsborough and a big Valley gate to see them off under floodlight? Our mud patch might yet come into it's own this season if it handed us an advantage in a Quarter-final cup round. 

I was planning a quiet weekend on 15th as it falls between 6 Nations matches in Edinburgh and Rome. Now I have to be there to cheer the Addicks on just in case this is the year, just like the Lions back in 2004.

Now the Counting your Chickens bit and tempting of fate; the 6th Round is on the 8th March (Watford at home - I am booked at Murrayfield) although we would probably be the centre of attention by then as the lowest league opposition left in and the might move us to the Sunday. The Semi's would be the 12th and 13th April (Brighton away)…

"We're the famous Charlton Athletic and we're going to Wemberlee!"

Sunday 26 January 2014

Huddersfield Town 0 v Charlton Athletic 1

The last time I saw us play, we saved our blushes against League Two opposition. Mentally, I gave up on the F A Cup that night. The replay wasn't for the faint-hearted and even if we negotiated that the reward was a kicking at Huddersfield.

So yesterday, whilst sauntering through the woods over Shooters Hill with the dog, I listened for updates via Radio 5. It sounded a predictable first-half with Ben Alnwick keeping the Terriers at bay. Marvin Sordell was mentioned which meant someone was missing and I guessed, rightly, that Kermogant was being protected either for Doncaster or Celtic (pleased to hear subsequently that he has travelled with the squad as they are staying Oop North until Tuesday's six pointer). I was surprised we made it in at the break with a clean sheet but awaited the inevitable second-half goal report. When it came ten minutes in it was a big surprise to hear that the Workhorse had finished off a barrelling run and cross from Lawrie Wilson. Noses in front and with youth product Harry Lennon having been thrown into the fray in the first forty-five to replace the injured Cedric Evina, suddenly there was a backs-to-wall feeling with the walking wounded fighting back. 
I suggested after the Oxford result that perhaps players were literally fighting for their bosses job and it was that sort of spirit that saw the match out again yesterday. Doncaster will be a bigger test on Tuesday but today the players will be assembled somewhere comfortable, presumably after a team dinner for the cup draw.

Only sixteen teams left at this stage and it looks like we will probably be one of only six sides outside the Premium League left it in. Every chance of a plum tie although it's hard not to find yourself hoping for one of the other sides at home with a better chance of progressing to a rare 6th Round shot.  Being practical and reflecting on our record in the cup in our lifetimes, we should probably hope for a top side at the Valley and settle for a full house and a windfall.

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Oxford United 0 v Charlton Athletic 3

A small, but nevertheless determined band of men made their way up the M40 this afternoon for a tricky looking replay against League One opposition in the F A Cup. There was a sense of togetherness and a determination to put their opponents in their place. I also suspect, there was a sense of indignity about their collective contractual situation with their employers and solidarity with their leader who has recently spoken out on their behalf.

The opening half-hour was pretty dire by all accounts but then Yann Kermogant struck after 35 minutes and within three minutes of that, Danny Green had put us two up and killed the game off in front of 3225 spectators (400 Charlton). Workhorse Simon Church assisting with both strikes.

Charlton took control after that and the third came short of the hour-mark when that man Yann stepped up and flighted yet another free-kick over the wall and into the top slot.  Pritchard came on for Harriott and then Sordell for Kermorgant before Diego Poyet got nine minutes (Stephens) as we closed it out.

This victory will be a morale booster for Chris Powell and hopefully he can maintain the momentum into next Tuesday's six-pointer with Doncaster. It's what he may need to continue doing to keep his job.

It comes on a day when we heard that Michael Smith, permanent loanee since he joined us, has moved to Swindon for a reported £200,000. On a day too when we are being linked with Ishmael Miller and Simeon Jackson. Can't see either of them will get my blood racing but they are "strikers" at least. If it's a choice, I vote for Jackson.

Having just had a chance to look at my dairy over the next couple of months, I realise that I am only going to attend one more Saturday game before April (Burnley on 22nd March), what with my 6 Nations commitments. Weather permitting, I should see the rearranged Barnsley match and Huddersfield night games. This season will be over before I know it. Can't say I am too bothered the way things are - it will almost be a relief to watch Scotland under-performing once more (even if I am unrealistically optimistic again pre-tournament).

Sunday 19 January 2014

Middlesbrough 1 v Charlton Athletic 0

Entirely predictable result this which leaves us perilously close to the relegation zone. Goal difference separates us from third bottom Doncaster Rovers, to whom we travel a week on Tuesday. It was a fairly familiar tale in that we were competitive but found short once again in the attacking third…

Our starting eleven changed again to accommodate Yohann Thuram although my blood pressure dropped back quickly after hearing Ben Hamer had a knock and that Ben Alnwick had been taken ill on Friday. I hope that is the case and not a convenient excuse to cover a direction that Thuram must get playing time. Nicky Pope will be hoping his loan move works out and he can move on.

Chris Solly was not risked once more, so Lawrie Wilson was back in defence with Wood, Morrison and Wiggins. Jordan Cook and Calum Harriott were the wide men supporting a three man central midfield of Jackson, Cousins and Stephens. Yann Kermorgant was left to run the channels and hold balls up for himself.

No great surprise given the controversy about the new goalie that he should be at fault for an early goal which won the game. I wasn't there and that may be harsh but it was how it was reported at the time. He was beaten at his near post by a bouncing ball which may have been aided by the wet surface. To be fair, he appears to have earned his corn after that and kept us in the match, especially towards the end when Boro pushed hard for a second. 

Other than that, once again they fought valiantly but were short of the class needed to score goals and Lady Luck wasn't there either. Substitute Simon Church did manage to bundle the ball over the line but fouled Given in the process. Dale Stephens also had a last gasp effort saved by the old stager, something he has made a habit of doing against us. Astrit Ajdarevic also got on as a sub as expected and looked ok by all accounts.

There's increasing noises of dissatisfaction from the faithful that we aren't moving to address the elephants in the room - our gaping need for a goal-scorer and a looming relegation battle.

Indeed, if you look at the run of away fixtures we have, it's apparent that columns of tanks are forming on the horizon. Next up is Doncaster away in a night match. A six pointer and they will be thirsting to beat us after the arrows of outrageous fortune early this season. We then travel to Wigan, not a happy hunting ground for us, before a run against the stronger sides in the division at home. Leeds (beat us with something to spare at the Valley), Leicester (top), Millwall (couldn't even fix a result against them), Forest, Derby and Brighton. No doubt we will pick up points along the way but not enough, i suspect, to keep us out of trouble. That means we will need to win more points at home than we have been doing and that has been our Achille's Heel. QPR, Watford, Huddersfield and Burnley all visit during that sequence. Better opposition invariably raises our game but we need a settled camp and complete togetherness if we are going to get through this. If the contract siege isn't lifted quickly, then, in the nicest possible way,  I suspect the rats may leave the sinking ship. Roland, you can't say you haven't been warned of the imminent danger.

Saturday 18 January 2014

Two weeks left...

Just a fortnight to go before the transfer window closes. So far we have sold no-one and brought in two squad players from Standard Liege. I have to reserve judgement on them until I see them play but I am supposing the goalkeeper (Thuram) will have to wait his turn because of the form of Alnwick and the competition from Hamer. The midfielder, Ajdarevic, is likely to get some time from the bench soon so he can be assessed and perhaps as a sop to the new owner.

However, the gap upfront needs addressing in my opinion or we will run the risk of a disastrous relegation. David Biton was mentioned but has moved elsewhere and so far not even rumours of a striker from outside the Duchatelet stable. In fact, another midfielder, Anil Koc, has been hinted but that will be playing the numbers game, not the priority. I shared the train home from London with Paul Elliott yesterday and walked around to the ground with him. We discussed playing requirements and Paul was reasonably comfortable that we "will be ok" this season on the basis that there are three worse sides than us. I don't disagree but wouldn't want to use that as the test. Hindsight might show us that a modest expenditure would have been the smart move. We also have to contemplate the possible loss of one of our better players too and any possible double whammy would immediately bring together the Scott Parker transfer decision which started our long decline.

Chris Powell was back in print yesterday, this time with the BBC and my coded reading of that is that it was a tactful nudge to the owner to pull his finger out over the contract situation. Powell clearly wants his position resolved and he has maximum leverage right now. He spoke of the lift sorting it out would make for the coaching staff and players. That's about as strong and as clear a position as he could respectfully make and the ball is clearly in the Brussels court.

Michael Slater would also appear to be looking for a new job. He placed an article (CV?) with his close sources at the South London Press explaining what a great job he and Jiminez had done during their front-man act for Kevin Cash. The facts speak for themselves in terms of what they did but how you do something is often much more important. Yes Mikey, you took over a League One club and left it in the Championship. Well done. However, your management style and arrogant approach to communication with the hostages supporters was what you will be remembered for. I'm afraid that isn't good 21st Century management. Bullying was the over-riding theme and you have done profound damage to the club's management and it's reputation with the majority of it's supporters. 

I won't go over all that again but the Club's season ticket in the courts and run of losses against former employees is what will not be forgotten. The fact that we have the lion-share of the squad out of contract and at risk has also happened on your watch and our playing surface is currently also your failure to invest relatively modest sums. Get back to supporting Man City.

Tuesday 14 January 2014

Charlton Athletic 2 v Oxford United 2

This goes down as yet another cup disappointment against lower league opposition. Another round of the F A Cup is one thing but another tie in the same round is something else. Good luck to those who make the trip up the M40.

I think Roland Duchatelet was there today (he's smaller than he looks on the internet!) and was one of a hardy bunch of suited and booted dignitaries who trod gingerly across the muddy turf before kick-off for a souvenir photo. Just what he made of the opening 45 minutes is anyone's guess. "Just what have I bought here" was probably one thing he asked himself and then he may have comforted himself with the knowledge that the squad players at his other clubs who would rocket in value in this side. We were woeful first half and deservedly went behind. Yet another deflected goal had Ben Hamer wrong-footed for the first and then laid-back Jordan Cousins set Oxford up for their second. Having said that, Oxford looked like a League Two outfit and the comeback was always going to be on provided we could start it.

After the half-time booing, the side returned ready for a scrap and pulled a goal back quickly as Michael Morrison met a straightforward corner at the near post and despatched his header without ceremony. I thought we would get the second soon after but the errors returned and we were again largely dysfunctional. The pitch didn't help but couldn't really be blamed.

The equaliser, when it eventually came was probably too late to enable us to keep our composure for a winner, but it was a peach nevertheless. Danny Green, on as  sub for Jordan Cook, nut-megged his man and cut in before picking Yann Kermorgant out behind the penalty spot and Kermorgant lashed home on the volley. We might have finished it at the death but a far post header from Calum Harriott, another sub, was cleared off the line. 

The highlight of the evening was seeing a near first-choice eleven start the game. Someone has clearly got the message from the supporters that reserve teams deserve reserve gates and that if the club's not prepared to take cup competitions seriously, then neither will we. Solly and Alnwick were rested (presumably) but other than that it was a fullish side with Wilson at right-back and Jordan Cook getting a game in front of him. Morrison, Wood and Wiggins squared off the defence. Jackson and Cousins played in central midfield and Bradley Pritchard was started on the other side. Kermorgant and Church were up front.

We are well capable of winning at Oxford but we can't afford to field a weakened side. I do wonder whether Powell will resist the temptation to rest half of them away from home, especially with another long journey to Huddersfield being the only reward/punishment.

Not sure of the gate but I am guessing around the 5000 mark with only 6-700 Oxford making another trip to SE7 after their League Cup drubbing.

The quiet man

Amid the highs and lows, the cheering and jeering as well as the laughter and tears of supporting Charlton Athletic over the last few years, one man has quietly gone about his business, largely unperturbed by the froth on the service.

He is a man better known to most in the game than probably anyone else at our club. He managed and coached at 8 clubs over a 23 year period prior to joining us in 2011 and last year his influence saw our younger sides win three separate age group titles. When he joined us, I thought it might be the thin end of the wedge for Chris Powell and he could certainly step-up if asked. 

That man, of course, is Academy Director Paul Hart. He took his U18's side back to one of his former clubs last night and watched them battle back from 2-1 down to knock Forest out of the Youth Cup. Paul is 60 now and clearly enjoys coaching and developing young players more than managing the first team. His CV tells of the development of the Leeds side that briefly illuminated the game at the turn of the century before Peter Ridsdale burnt his fingers over-spending. He also worked marvels at Nottingham Forest leading their youth side to a league title and bringing on the likes of Jermaine Jenas, David Prutton, Michael Dawson and Andy Reid. With our current squad boasting more home-grown players than for a good few years, Paul Hart is continuing to grow talent and out-perform his peers.

News too yesterday, that we have indeed signed Standard Liege's reserve keeper, Yohann Thuram. I hope there is merit in this and that it's not just a stunt to look like we are getting something from the new owner because a goalkeeper is the last position we need addressing right now. Slightly more concerning is the wording accompanying the move which talks about Yohann needing game time. Ben Alnwick is undroppable in his current form and I would be very concerned if Chris Powell suddenly finds him a place in the side. 

Fingers-crossed for this evening. With the club's management holding it's breath, my guess is the game will go ahead (no more rain overnight) and we will get another fortnight in which to further improve the surface before we use it again.

Saturday 11 January 2014

Poor show at the Valley

My mate was having a cuppa with me in SE7 at 1.30 (dry January) when we got the word that the match was off today. It was his last chance of seeing the Addicks before he returns to Mexico City for another ten months. 

During the week we were reassured after the cancellation of the Oxford cup match that today's league fixture would definitely go ahead. Roland had authorised the hire of a hot air balloon to dry the pitch and it was game on.

I am in Maryon Wilson Park, Charlton Park and Oxleas Woods regularly walking my dog and it has been very heavy of late. Not just the paths which churn with wear but the grass off the beaten track. I was out this morning at 9am in Maryon Wilson Park and whilst there was a heavy due, it was much dryer than of late and the sun was shining. Charlton Park was much dryer too but it's a good bit higher than the Valley and isn't surrounded by four towering stands which inhibit wind and light. I assumed the game would go ahead given the balloon and the hot air, so was very surprised by the late postponement.

Danny Wilson and Chris Powell agreed with the referee that the pitch was unsafe and unplayable with the ball sticking when dropped in the centre of the pitch. That suggests Charlton were at fault for not having arranged an earlier pitch inspection and for the false bravado that the match was going ahead. There is a lengthening thread on Charlton Life about who is responsible from Paddy Powell to Tony Jiminez and everyone in between. It's a matter of fact that we have failed to invest adequately in the maintenance of the pitch in recent seasons and that the main drain under the Valley is broken. So Jiminez and Co can take the rap for that although they won't be losing any sleep over it now. Steve Bradshaw is the COO so he carries the (watering) can in my opinion.

The bigger worry is that the ground appears to be close-to-water-logged in spite of a cover and relatively moderate rainfall since last weekend (and the drying effects of a hot a air balloon). The problem at this point is even if rainfall is deflected from the pitch, it needs to find it's way down from the edge of the pitch to the water table and if that's now just below the surface, then we have a serious problem which isn't going to get better with the worst of the winter yet to come.

The threads and posts are full of Charlton supporters rightly complaining about the failure to manage this better and the costs and inconvenience caused by the late and unexpected announcement. Personally, I feel most for the visitors who would have been in the Capital by the time the news broke. I believe many of them headed for Brisbane Road where they would have seen Kevin Lisbie score again for the high-flying O's who thumped Carlisle 4-0.

The replayed game will be a night match which will deter many of those who travelled today from south Yorkshire. My guess is they will probably only bring one or two coaches next time and I think the least we could do is meet the expense of those for the die-hards. If our club won't do it (Mssrs Jiminez and Slater certainly wouldn't have) then I'd like to think our supporters could make the effort. It would only be several hundred pounds. I'm in if anyone else is….

Warning - feel-good factor

After an horrendously busy first working week of 2014 (new job responsibilities), I am looking forward to enjoying my weekend a tad more than usual. There are reasons to be cheerful and expectant but that signals a word of caution.

1. We are looking to go unbeaten in five.
2. Barnsley are bottom of the table and have only managed 6 points away from home from a possible 36.
3. The Tykes haven't won in six.
4. Roland Duchatelet is expected to make an appearance in front of a grateful audience.
5. Roland has made his first statement to supporters via the Official Site. It was a short but safe message in which he made two interesting points.
6. One of those was the announcement that Belgian Lawyer, Katrien Meire, will join the Board at the Valley. She has experience of a similar role at Standard Liege and I am guessing she is unlikely to be knocked unconscious by a foreign policeman following Manchester City. Looks like a good move to me.
7. For the record, the other was that they are having regular conversations with Chris Powell "about his plans for the rest of the season" (call me a cynic but I would have avoided limiting wording like that - hopefully nothing to concern us).
8. Roland has agreed to address player and staff contracts as a priority, so hopefully we can put that one to bed quickly. You have to hope we might get 10% more from the team today.
9. Finally, Roland has supported a hot air balloon to help improve the pitch and ensure today's match will go ahead.

Hopefully most of the fair-weather season ticket holders will make the effort today and the home areas will look fuller even if the away end will be emptier than of late. We have a long and unfortunate history of cocking days like these up. Let's hope the new broom brings us an immediate change of fortunes.

Charlton forever!

Wednesday 8 January 2014

Thomas Hobson

Thomas Hobson (left) was a stable owner who lived near Cambridge between 1544 and 1631. He was one of a large number of businessmen who made their living hiring out horses, the Ford Focus hire cars of their day back when owning a horse was beyond the reach of the average peasant.

Hobson is remembered today for always insisting that would-be Customers should take the horse in the first stall to his office and not to waste his time by looking at any others because the only choice they had was the first one. Presumably he kept a very decent stable with a consistent quality of animals and hence he was confident they were all equally roadworthy or else he used the rule to ensure his old nags were hired out as well. Either way, four hundred years later, we are still referring to a very limited choice as "Hobson's Choice."

News this week has, so far, centred around Charlton's ambitions in the January transfer window, something most astute observers would say has unusually high importance for us this season given we need to strengthen to ensure we avoid the spectre of relegation. Common wisdom suggests we need a proven goalscorer who is going to net us at least ten goals in the next four months.

Chris Powell (right) made some interesting comments following his first meeting with our new owner, to the effect that he wouldn't be throwing any money around in January but that he was supportive of strengthening the side as required. Since then we have seen midfielder Astrit Ajdarevic accept a loan move from Standard Liege stiffs and fellow Lieger Alpasan Osturk apparently reject a Charlton loan in favour of a move to Turkey. The other two names in the frame from Roland Duchatelet's Belgian stable appear to be David "Dudu" Biton and Reza Goochannejhad. Both are strikers who may or not not be an improvement on what we have but whether they are good enough to do the job we need is the 64,000 groat question. What's obvious is that it is looking like it could be Hobson's Choice.

Friday 3 January 2014

Hello and Goodbye

A day of long-awaited drama for Charlton fans. We have finally got shot of the Jiminez Cabal and have a fresh start. Alleluia!

The bare facts of the Jiminez regime don't make altogether bad reading and he has been quick to get his retaliation in today by posting "why I sold Charlton" on the Huffington Post. My good friend Chicago Addick has already ably covered that here. It's what Jiminez doesn't say that many close Charlton fans will remember more than the promotion from League One. The fact that they gave up communicating with the customer base after May 2012 when they had their financial rug pulled from under their feet (the reason why he sold Charlton). The fact that they presided over the removal of the most long-serving and loyal members of staff who actually run the club, a number of whom who have had their cases settled out-of-court and others who were yet to or who were unable to for whatever reason. The fact that they have run the club down to the bone with most of the key playing staff out-of-contract in less than six months. The fact that they failed to maintain investment in the pitch last Summer which has seen our once proud playing surface reduced to a humiliating mud-patch. They have also failed with their Five Year Plan and have bailed out early. At least they avoided Administration and/or relegation on their watch but that was the minimum of expectations when they took over.

On a much more positive note, we welcome Roland Duchatelet and must acknowledge his first decision to appoint Richard Murray non-exec Chairman. We shouldn't underestimate the significance of that decision. It nails Roland's colours to the masts and tells us he will be looking for advice and listening to the person best qualified to give it. It also opens the prospect of a possible return of Peter Varney. Duchatelet is clearly a very busy senior citizen and we can't expect him to be particularly hands on given his business interests and the other clubs he needs to commit to, not to mention Belgian politics or his large family. He will need a CEO to take on the day-to-day running of the club unless he is going to rely on the old regime's largely anonymous Steve Bradshaw.

There are doubts too over M. Duchatelet which I covered in an earlier post today but now is the time to accentuate the positive and that's what I will do going forward. Let's look at the new playing arrivals before we judge and just be grateful we are getting someone. Astrit Ajdarevic has already arrived in SE9 and a couple of others are rumoured to be joining. It would be good to see us secure a proven Championship striker additionally and we have to hope that no-one will be sold. If we do get made an offer that's too good to resist for the likes of Solly, then we should acknowledge that, that was always likely to happen at some point and hope we get an able replacement with money in the pot for next season.

Finally, I was prepared to miss tomorrow's cup match in protest at the sides we have put out in recent years in undervaluing it, but I have decided I will show M. Duchatelet my support by attending the replayed match, whenever it eventually gets played.

Hip-Hip-Doo-Sha-Ta-Lay or Douchebag?

Whilst we await confirmation on the Official Site that Roland Duchatelet has acquired our famous football club for a measly £20m the takeover appears to be polarising fans' opinion. For ease of reference I am summarising below.

Camp A - Hip-Hip-Doo-Sha-Ta-Lay

1) The guy's loaded, how can it be bad news?
2) He's moved on the potless squatters
3) He has experience running football clubs
4) Standard Liege are top of Belgium's Premium League
5) £20m is a major investment and he's in this to make money
6) Promotion to the Premium League is the biggest prize in sport
7) He's a politician, so we can expect him to actually communicate with us
8) He has a stable of other clubs in less competitive leagues with players to move around
9) He's a pro-European and will value us as much, if not more, than Standard Liege
10) He's 67 and wants some fun before he retires

Camp B - Douchebag

1) His money's all tied-up in business and other football clubs
2) He's over-extended himself with four clubs and will rob Peter to pay Paul
3) His track record with the Standard fans is not too clever - they are raising funds to try and buy him out
4) He brought in a new manager and sold the best players at Standard after taking over
5) The Valley, Sparrows Lane and the playing squad are worth £20m, so he's got them cheap by taking on the debt
6) He'll never invest enough for the Premier League - we will be a feeder club for Standard Liege
7) You can't trust politicians
8) His grand plan is to move players between his four clubs artificially enhancing their value before selling them for a profit
9) He is a Belgian politician and knows where his bread is buttered - Standard Liege will always come first
10) He's 67 and has a short-term plan to get us competing in the Championship and sell us on

For me proof of pudding will be what he does between now and May. He can't gamble with a new manager with us in the position we are in. We need a couple of quality players in order to secure our Championship status. He needs to communicate well with the fans and set-up a convincing strategy for the club. 

If he does those things, then we can have few complaints and satisfy ourselves that we are shot of Jiminez & Co (more on them on another day).

PS It's been hammering down for most of the night in SE7 and the rain has just stopped (8am). Expect confirmation at 11am that Saturday's cup match against Oxford United is OFF.

Thursday 2 January 2014

Duchatelet back to complete the takeover

Richard Cawley at the South London Press has tweeted this evening that the takeover of Charlton Athletic Football Club has been completed by Roland Duchatelet. The fee is being quoted as "nearer to £20m" so perhaps Richard Murray or some of the other Directors have had their loans paid up. That might account for the late hitch and who could blame them for holding out given the fact that Jiminez and Cash are getting out with their stake money intact.

Reports also claim that we will be getting two Standard Liege players, Astrit Ajdarevic (defensive midfielder) and David Biton (striker), although a Liege fan has been quick to tell us they aren't Championship quality! 

Ajdarevic has spent a number of years in England as a youngster but managed only 5 loan appearances for Leicester and one for Hereford. He played 40 games for Sweden's IFK Norrkoping in 2011-12 scoring six times and has managed one in 19 for Standard Liege. At 23, he may offer us something, especially if we were to lose Dale Stephens in the window.

David "Dudu" Biton is a 25 year old Israeli striker who has been around a few clubs already, four in Israel, Charleroi in Belgium, Wisla Krakow, Standard Liege and most recently at Apoel in Cyprus on loan where he scored six in thirteen games. He managed 11 in 25 whilst in Poland and notched 29 when in Israel.

Obstacle three and another go on the merry-go-round tomorrow no doubt.

ipswich Town 1 v Charlton Athletic 1

An unexpected point against a side who beat us at home less than five weeks ago. That it was secured in added time was extra satisfying and against a side who were ably assisted by Referee Atwell on the day. 

We were denied a blatant penalty according to those who witnessed it and Cameron Stewart was actually booked for diving in the process. Ben Alnwick's remarkable assimilation into first team professional keeper has continued and he made his first penalty save in the famous green jersey yesterday to keep us in it. Chris Powell's boys went for an equaliser during the second-half and tried everything from what I could tell following the match thread on Charlton Life but nothing was falling for us and it looked like a cruel 1-0 defeat to an OG from Richard Wood which was deflected once again passed our keeper. 

With seconds remaining and the full-times coming in thick and fast on Sky, Johnnie Jackson had an effort also deflected which somehow found it's way over the line and there was no way back for the Tractor Boys. The represents an unbeaten Christmas spell for the Addicks with three wins draws and a win against decent opposition. Chris Powell will be pleased but he will also know that we have to get another striker in this month. Marvin Sordell started yesterday and failed to score once again. He is not the answer to our problems up front and should be returning to Bolton's debt pile. 

Meanwhile, no news on the takeover and the owners are now overdue with an update to their 21st December announcement that they were happily talking to Roland Ducatelet about the fine detail in him acquiring the club. Perhaps it's just  detail yet to be covered but some of the more reliable posters in the know have said the deal with  Belgian politician has floundered which again leaves you wondering what Jiminez and Cash are playing at. Hard to get away from the nagging suspicion that they have an unrealistic expectation and determination to get out of this without their gamble having cost them a bean. That's unrealistic in the extreme given that they are expecting someone else to pay for the debt they have accrued over the last three years. They will argue the club is worth more in the Championship than when they acquired it in League One, but that's a moot point if the price they are seeking covers the debt they have accumulated in managing it. The obvious conclusion, of course, is that Cash is wealthy enough to avoid a fatal Administration and with that in mind they must be very confident of getting someone to meet their price. Perhaps a third bidder will emerge as has also been rumoured? Trouble is, they will want to know why Josh Harris and Roland Duchatelet have backed-off.