Tuesday 29 July 2014

Brentford in town...

Those of you who might have missed out on the big tickets for the opener at Griffin Park, might just fancy seeing the Bees at Welling on Saturday. In fact, those of us with tickets for the opening league match might fancy a sneak preview of the opposition too.

Welling have managed to win at Maidstone United and have held Gillingham to a 1-1 draw at Park View Road. I have promised myself I will try and get to a couple of the Wings matches this year, especially if they are competitive in the Conference Premier. I note, too, that BT Sport are showing their away fixture at Kidderminster Harriers live on Wednesday 8th October.

Whether I do get over the hill may depend on our own fortunes. For once I find myself uncertain about how we are likely to fare. Whilst we all appear to be looking up, I can't bring myself to join the throng betting on promotion. A top six finish is offering c 10-1 and even that looks a tall order. I am inclined to like the look of a top half finish at 7-2 and am thinking about being bold and lumping on. A £222 wager could give a nice round return in the Spring which would cover the cost of me and the Missus' season tickets next year. 

What think ye?

Monday 21 July 2014

Goalie signed

There's increasingly few secrets in the world of football transfers. The rumour-mill has had us connected with West Ham squad keeper, Stephen Henderson, for a couple of weeks. Henderson is a 26 year old who has been loaned out and played second fiddle throughout his short career. We were told he would be signing on loan for 12 months but his contract with the Hammers was up and he's committed for three years.

He will be hoping for more match time at the Valley but will find Nicky Pope in just the same place. Bottom-line is we needed a third keeper and probably more competition for Pope than Dillon Phillips can yet offer. Henderson cited coach Ben Roberts as a big motivation for the move having worked with him at Yeovil.

I think that just about wraps up our transfer business. I had hoped for another left footed left-winger but I am guessing Bob is going to go with Jackson and maybe try one or two of the others if that doesn't work.

"A disaster waiting to happen..."

Unfortunate current phraseology from the Mail-Online, but that's their summary of Charlton Athletic's prospects this year. I have to say that I am quite pleased with that given how far out the Mail usually is when it comes to football. I'm not ready to even consider the P word but our squad is strong enough to compete this season and any relegation scrap will reflect very strongly on the manager and I don't believe the Mail have any knowledge or consideration of Big Bob's capabilities but are simply working off the amount of players changes and the fact that we "binned" Jose Riga.

Pre-season continued in Spain last week where the squad put five past a Gibralter XI (Scotland need to take note as they face Gib in their Euro 2016 qualifiers) and then put in a sound performance to see Atletico Club de Portugal off 2-0 in the hills of Mijas where Johnnie Jackson and George Tucudean scored the goals. George also helped himself to one against Gibralter, so he's settling in quickly by the look of things.

Everytime I hear Mijas mentioned, I am reminded of a story I heard second-hand from Gareth Hale and Norman Pace, yesteryear's knockabout funny act from south-east London. Both have (or at least had) holiday properties at La Manga and they were out with an estate agent looking for somewhere further afield. The brief to the agent was that they wanted somewhere they wouldn't be recognised so often by holidaying Brits who often ruined their days out.

Anyway, the agent takes them up to Mijas (or thereabouts) and after viewing a few places, decides to take them for lunch to a local restaurant so they can see how few British holiday makers make the trip up into the hills. Seated at their table with a cold glass of vino, their attention is drawn to a large table of boozy Brits who, thankfully, haven't noticed them but who are loud and just what they want to avoid. Mid-way through service, they hear one of the adjoining crowd shout "oi Pedro" to which the waiter hurries over. "Mateus!" the loud demanding voice slurs and off trots the waiter. He returns moments later with another chilled bottle of Mateus rose adorned with a serviette, only to be met with "no you soppy ****, a box of matches!" Plans for Mijas were abandoned.

Tuesday 15 July 2014

Target man signed

The second striker has arrived. Standard Liege squad player, George Tucudean, has signed following a season long loan to Dinamo Bucharest in his home country where he first made a name for himself. Not yet prolific but only 23 years old and at six foot one, I am guessing he will be better in the air than any of the current crop. By my reckoning, that probably leaves us short of just a left-sided midfielder and a spare goalie following the Summer clear out.

The team are in southern Spain for a few days and will entertain a Gibralter XI tomorrow where I am taking us to score a goal or two. Just over three weeks to Griffin Park we need to start building some confidence and understanding of our attacking strengths which we have seen very little of so far.

Looking back on 12 months ago, we really are in a much better position as a club. Back then we were signing no-one and the club was up for sale. There was no money and the club was suffering all-around. The much-needed investment in new drainage was turned down and the ground was beginning to look tired. Richard Murray was rumoured to be writing last gasp cheques and the word on everyone's lips was "Administration," something that would have condemned us to League One football this season.

The relative disappointment of getting a new owner worth £600m and hearing him tell us we would be run to break even and that his network model would mean our better players having a chance to move up the pyramid to be replaced by free transfers from his club stable was akin to finding sixpence and losing half-a-crown.

It does look like Roland Duchatelet has decided to take more of a gamble on Charlton and to protect his investment. He has pumped a £1m into the Valley and has plans to future-proof and upgrade the Academy. His Summer signings were needed and he has shown more ambition here than was expected and, clearly, we haven't adhered to the network model thus far. 

Having slashed the price of some season tickets too, he deserves to see gates hold up this season and to get some backing from fans. Just how much will depend on how quickly Bob Peeters hits the ground running and whether we have bought the right players to compliment those who we know can do a job. 

The sun is shining and despite that loss to Welling, I am looking forward to Brentford and a better start to this season than the last.

Saturday 12 July 2014

Welling United 2 v Charlton Athletic 0

I have  learnt over the years not to take friendlies too seriously. The days of expecting promotion after a 5-0 rout at Park View Road are long gone. In fact, a good pre-season is often followed by a poor start and vice-versa.

So, a two nil defeat at Welling today needs to be put into perspective and what we learnt from the match is as important as the result itself;

1) The weather forecast for the Welling friendly should always be taken with a pinch of salt.  It's going to be hot and you need to be wearing shorts.

2) The new home shirt is Gooner-light and I am not a fan. It was interesting to note that for once the fans had managed to acquire it whilst the first team were still wearing last years effort - marketing own goal.

3) Interest in this season is high - the gate today was 2360 and there was unbridled optimism following our most recent signings, even if none of them  appeared today.

4) My guess is that Andre Bikey is the new Guvnor in the dressing room. He is an absolute monster.

5) Joe Gomez had another comfortable 45 minutes and looks capable of starting a league match.

6) We still look lightweight up front. i'm not sure if Igor Vetokele played in the seond-half (I am guessing he did) but he didn't make much of an impression if he did. Joe Pigott played the first half with a new haircut which made him confusingly passable for Johann Berg Gudmundsson, who hasn't arrived yet.

7) Lawrie Wilson has had a long and hot holiday. His teeth looked extra-white set against his dark skin. He also looks like he has been working out, although maybe that was because of my unusually close proximity to the players. 

8) Nicky Pope looks twice as imposing as Dylan Phillips does.

9) Both of our midfields struggled to control the game today..

10) Morgan Fox doesn't suit a beard.

11) The new Pure sports bar under the main stand is classy. The owner also  sponsors the Wings shirts and deserves to be successful.

12) There is a light that never goes out.

Friday 11 July 2014

Renewing Monday

On the back of my post earlier today about the relative strength of our squad and our chances for this coming season, I was delighted to see that we have followed up by signing left-sided Johann Berg Gudmundsson and experienced centre-half Tal Ben Haim.

I think we still need an experienced striker to get the best out of Igor Vetokele, but I am comfortable that Roland Duchatelet has passed the ambition test and I will be renewing three season tickets on Monday which will prompt a fourth. Drop in the ocean of course but I haven't felt comfortable about renewing previously given all the uncertainties of the "network model."

At this point the eyes turn to Big Bob. I will be making the trip over the hill tomorrow and will also be paying to see the match rather than carrying on boozing with the olim reprobi.

Mid-table looks a safe bet.

Wednesday 9 July 2014

Bikey to partner Morrison

News today that the experienced Andre Bikey has signed a two year deal and will anchor the back four alongside Michael Morrison. With Joe Gomez and Harry Lennon also available, Bob Peeters may decide to leave it at that and rely upon a loan signing should either of his experienced pairing suffer long term injury. Personally I would like to see more cover - a Richard Wood or a Leon Cort would be ideal.

That still leaves us three or four short. We need another wide left footer and a striker to partner Vetokele. I can't see Simon Church or Reza Goochannejhad providing enough pace or power. Joe Piggott, Tobi Sho-Silva and Piotr Paryszek don't look capable yet of anything more than cameos from the bench. We should also get a third keeper. Ideally we would have a couple more join us in the next few days before we get into the friendlies.

Brazil 1 v Germany 7 (seven)

Historic World Cup result in Bela Horizonte last night. Like my mate Chicago Addick, I contrived to miss the first 30 minutes of this game and was astonished to find the match effectively over when I tuned in. 

When the programme started, we thought we had 30 minutes to an hour before kick-off so decided to get a fix of Orange is the new Black. By the time that finished it was all over. We sat glued to the rest of it as Brazil managed to keep it to five before the break. After Big Phil's motivational half-time speech, Brazil did improve in the second half but not sufficiently to avoid conceding two further goals and finding themselves 7-0 down. I can only compare this to those fateful away matches at Luton and Brighton when we got spanked similarly. 

Brazil were truly awful and no-one in the side took any responsibility. Hulk did at least show some determination whenever the ball got to him but that was twice in the first half and maybe three times in the second. In between Brazil had given up and their players looked completely shell-shocked. By contrast, the Germans celebrated each goal as if they were netting against a schoolboy eleven behind close doors. They were composed in front of goal and were able to make the extra pass before execution. Tellingly, Miroslav Klose broke Brazilian Ronaldo's World Cup scoring record with the second goal. The other thing about the Jorminz was the fact that they have kept a very consistent set of players over the last ten years and, once again, the benefit of loyalty and consistency has been proven.

This result could really set Brazil back. They haven't performed well in any match in spite of making the quarters. Fred has been rightly lampooned for doing absolutely nicht. I think I recall him having a shot in one match but he's been out-of-his-depth for the most part. Oscar is a player we know more about but he managed to hide in the games he in featured in and there were just too many other passengers. I suppose we should be grateful that Brazil stayed in the competition until now to keep the stadiums full and the world interested. We can see it out from here but the result last night will be spoken about for the next 50 years.

Sunday 6 July 2014

St. Truiden 0 v Charlton Athletic 0

Missed the first 50 minutes of this but better than yesterday from what I did see. Largely a different team and every outfield player was changed during the ninety minutes.

Joe Gomez was the stand-out player at centre-half and Andre Bikey looked comfortable alongside him. Loic Nego looked better defending than yesterday and he looks competent going forward to be fair to him. Also looks uncannily like Chris Powell when he strikes the ball, often with his arms at ninety degrees to aid balance like the master.

Dylan Phillips got the whole match in goal and looked at home although the hosts were far less threatening than Standard Liege. Igor Vetokele played for 70 minutes but didn't get a lot of service. Simon Church was caught offside a couple of times and didn't get much support from the officials although I was surprised to see a yellow card shown to one of the home players.

As the commentators kept saying, this game was all about fitness, so shouldn't read too much into it. Crowd was again small but easy to pick out some of our more intrepid fans amongst the throng.

Back to Sparrows Lane on Monday for more getting-to-know-you ahead of the Welling match next Saturday. If the sun is out I will be camping but any indifference in the weather and I will take a look in person.

Saturday 5 July 2014

Charlton Athletic 0 v Standard Liege 2

Managed to follow this on a surprisingly good internet stream. It was only 45 minutes but probably just as well or we might have expected to lose 4-0. Loic Nego was a late change at right back as was Simon Church who started in place of Vetokele. Solly might still be being protected but on this showing we need to ensure he stays around when ready to start. Nego was all over the shop.

Pope made a decent low one-handed save from a free-kick but could do little about either goal, both of which came down our right flank. 

Our chances were limited and Spongefoot was unable to make an inch on Standard's back line whenever he got on the ball. St. Trident should be a fairer match-up. Judging by the empty stands the Stayen Cup hasn't caught the imagine of the locals over there either.

Wednesday 2 July 2014

Another one in, four/five to go

Franck Moussa signed on a free contract for two years today. He's a direct running midfielder who likes to shoot. You may recall him from Coventry last season where he scored 13 goals from midfield including that superb chip against the O's which won the Football League goal of the season. 

He will need to step up but given the type of player he is, I am guessing he will make the transition relatively easily. I said we needed another option in central midfield and he ticks that box. He is, of course, another Belgian so will be on code terms with Yoni Buyens. Having played for a number of years in the UK at West Ham, Southend, Leicester and Coventry, the 24 year old should be acclimatised and may help some of his countrymen settle in quicker. Thumbs up from me.

Quality wins through in Brazil

Brazil has certainly put on a World Cup to remember so far and the quarter-finals look like they may put some icing on the footballing cake. 

After all the doom and gloom leading up the tournament about whether or not the stadiums and infrastructure would be ready and the risk to travellers, we have seen some superb stadiums, largely full, great atmospheres and not a story of trouble for the world's football fans anywhere.

The football itself has been great with plenty of goals and lots of drama. The first knock-out round may have seen three nil-nils at full-time but they weren't bad matches and they all lit up in extra-time and penalties. Last night's Belgium v USA game was the most enjoyable for me yet. Belgium deserved the win but the Americans were superb, especially in extra time and after they fell two goals behind in quick succession. Tim Howard gave one of the goal-keeping performances of the tournament and the US offense was awesome as they threw everything at Belgium with the clock running down. The match was electric after Green pulled one back.

If they had managed the equaliser that they came so desperately close to, I would have taken them to knock the Belgians out on penalties. Jurgen Klinsmann can hold his head-up high and the US leave the tournament like Chile did with a lot more friends and respect than they came into it with. The American fans were great and you could see that they were enjoying the party and will be spreading the story about the brilliance of being at a World Cup when they get home.

The quarters look nicely balanced and we should see some some fascinating matches. Six of the big guns left and I am expecting four of them to make the semis.

Brazil v Colombia
France v Germany
Netherlands v Costa Rica
Argentina v Belgium

You have to fancy Brazil to raise their game against Colombia and I take the Germans to see it out against the French. 

The Dutch will also need a better performance against Costa Rica but they have the goals going forward and that could be the highest scoring game of the quarters.

Finally Argentina v Belgium and a match that is too close to call. Having watched Belgium at home and away in the qualifiers, they were my tip to progress and they may just have lit the blue touch paper following last night's resilient showing against the US. They will need to overcome Lionel Messi and Kun Aguerro but I will take them to do it and set-up an all European semi.

My only wish is that I had been there for the first fortnight, spending £10,000 to watch Scotland slump out.