Friday 29 September 2017

"Two new injuries" to "very, very small squad"

In August he was telling us he was "very happy" with his squad and that we would be pushing for promotion this season. News today from Karl Robinson that he now believes the squad to be "very, very small" and he teases us that we have two new injury concerns but won't tell us for some unfathominable reason who they are.

In the SLP article he does say that we are still in a competitive position (despite dropping out of the play-off places) and that he expects us to "have a right go in the (January) transfer market." Those words may well come back to haunt him. We have never had a right go in the January transfer window under Duchatelet despite being told every Summer that we might do something after Christmas IF we were challenging for promotion etc. It's simple expectation management and why nothing will change all the time we have an unambitious and disinterested owner.

We sold Ademola Lookman for £8-11m last January but Robinson saw none of it.   We could cash in on Holmes, Konsa or Aribo in January but that would be about covering our operating loss for the season, not about strengthening our chances of promotion.

I assume from Robinson's comment on the official site today about the two new injuries that these aren't significant although it looks like one, at least, may be out for Fleetwood given what he says. Why he has to mention things every so often that he can't or won't expand on is reminiscent of school kids with unimportant secrets. I do wish he would grow up and learn to keep his trap shut if he isn't going to explain something properly. Let's all pray that Magennis isn't one of them or we could be fielding Craig Levein's infamous 4-6-0 formation.

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Walsall 2 v Charlton Athletic 2

Ordinarily a decent away point. However, coming on the back of a couple of defeats and a drab home draw against Bury, it isn't quite good enough and conceding a goal in the last minute having just taken the lead for a second time feels like a loss.

For the opening half-hour we really took the game to the Saddlers and should have had more than Fosu's goal to show for it. Josh Magennis saw a header tipped onto a post and we were shooting at will. The problem was we let Walsall equalise before half-time and the second-half was poor as Walsall came more into it and levelled the play up a bit. Substitutes were coming and going before Ricky Holmes volleyed home after Solly's cross was cleared and fell for him with a minute or two left. The 263 travelling Addicts were probably still celebrating when Walsall's Agyei curled in a 30 yarder to piss on our chips. Fleetwood won 3-0 at Bradford tonight and will be chomping at the bit come Saturday.

One point from two games away after our recent sequence isn't promotion form (two points from twelve going to Fleetwood) so Karl will need all his powers of hyperbole to fire his troops to avoid a grim trek back from the Lancashire coast . We sit in seventh after ten games but Blackburn and Fleetwood are a point behind and have a game in hand against each other, so realistically we are eighth. I would have settled for that in August but we will do well to match our initial ten results so mid-table beckons come Christmas with all that, that will entail.

Sunday 24 September 2017

Charlton Athletic 1 V Bury 1

Another disappointing performance and result against a club and side we arrogantly believe we are better than and whom we should be beating. There is so much more to it than that but many can't see it.

We had a terrible start and a poor half having fallen behind to a fine curling shot from distance from the old stager, Jermaine Beckford. Big Josh headed a decent equaliser but we simply didn't have enough threat or dominance to win it. There were less than 10,000 there and the general feedback was that we look increasingly  more likely to be mid-table mediocrity than play-off, let alone automatic promotion contenders.

I was down in Goring-on-sea at Addict Pete's and we spent a fantastic afternoon strolling the streets of Arundel and walking our dogs out along the Arun before catching the second-half of a match at Worthing RFC. The news from the Valley once again confirmed that I am missing little this season as another Duchatelet annus horriblis unfolds.  I was also receiving regular updates from Havant & Waterlooville where the Wings won an exciting battle 3-2 in a game that sounded like it had everything, goals, a double sending-off and a penalty save.

Karl Robinson's post-match press conference was once again a mixture of the strange and the ridiculous.  He now seems to be open to the opinion his squad has limitations in direct contradiction of his early season pronouncements of how he now had what he has wanted all along and that we would be making a serious promotion challenge. He told us, too, that Bury are in a false position in the league, although I am not sure many would agree or that the table will look much different for them in 2018. The funniest line, though, has to be his statement that "an injury allowed us to change shape - we went from 4-2-3-1 to 4-3-3." It made no difference of course but that's Karl trying to tell us he has a Plan B but that it took an injury to try and which didn't work because we only have one out-and-out goalscorer who isn't prolific!

Two away games now at Walsall on Tuesday and Fleetwood on Saturday. We would do well to win one of these given current form although some will say these are minnows we should be rolling over, just like Bury. The truth is, we are a shrinking club whose squad of players are League One plodders in totality.

Friday 22 September 2017

CARD fight on

A statement from the Coalition Against Roland Duchatelet via the SLP makes it clear that CARD continue to oppose Duchatelet's ownership of Charlton Athletic Football Club and that they will maintain the pressure on him to sell up. They also say that they won't be organising any in-game protests whilst Karl Robinson's side have any realistic hopes of promotion.

I think that is a sound position as it broadly reflects fans current views and, let's face it, it's the fans who make the protests effective, not just the Card organisers. The statement does refer to ongoing support of other clubs who are suffering bad owners and being mismanaged, especially ones we are due to face, which brings the Blackpool game into question.

I am left wondering though whether we have seen the height of the mass Valley protests. I have no doubt that anger and resentment will again build this season based upon what I see as the inevitable consequences of lack of ambition and ongoing budget-cutting in a desperate bid to turn a profit for the billionaire. Already the squad size is being questioned and nearly everyone can see the folly of starting the season with only one proven striker. The last minute sale of Novak and the panic acquisition of Dodoo rubbing salt into the wounds. 

Regular readers will know I am no big fan of Karl Robinson, certainly the tosh he spews to the press, but he has done ok in difficult trading circumstances and he deserves our support. However, he is looking tactically limited given his move to tailor the squad to his preferred formation and the lack of strikers means we look unable to change things when it doesn't start well for us. We have lost all three matches we have fallen behind in this season.

The big question is, when the ultimate disappointment of this season sinks in, how will fans respond? There may be a spontaneous West Stand gathering or a call to protest by CARD but my fear is we will see something more damaging in that yet more disaffected supporters will simply walk away, finally convinced that it's Groundhog Day until we have new owners with some ambition and real transparency. This doesn't mean it has to be billionaire owners willing to throw money around like drunken sailors, just people with the club's best interests at heart and who are honest with supporters about the money available and what can or can't be done. 

It's mighty Bury tomorrow at the Valley in a match which takes on far more significance, given the two previous defeats, than it might otherwise have done. Ordinarily we should see them off but it may be a tougher test given the absence of talisman Holmes through suspension and the gloom of defeat at Gillingham last week. Whilst the focus has been on our lack of up-front options, the irony is we have shipped more goals than any of those clubs around us which means we have a poor goal difference. Lee Clark may set out to frustrate us and play on the break. Our fans have been solidly supportive so far this season but the first booing may be just around the corner. If the Shakers can open the scoring, it could be another bad day for the Addicks. Nicky Ajose is ineligible to play against us but former Addick Michael Smith may start alongside Jermaine Beckford. What price Smith to score?

Monday 18 September 2017

Richard Collins RIP

So sorry to learn  of the death of former Charlton Athletic board stalwart, Richard Collins. Needless to say, Richard was a huge Addicks fan and one who served the club as Director, Managing Director and Chairman for a long spell in the 1980's. He stepped up in difficult times and was part of the "consortium" including Fryer and Sunley who saved the club from extinction after the Mark Hulyer debacle. 

Richard was from that era when local businessmen (I think it was all men) who were doing well could get involved and make a difference if they had cash to spare and an over-developed sense of loyalty. Collins memorably drove a Roller with personalised plates and I always felt a bizarre sense of reassurance whenever I saw him entering or leaving the Valley. Amazing to think it's the players who drive the big motors today and the Chairmen are billionaires, not millionaires.

When the time is right, it would be good to see Richard's contribution to Charlton Athletic recognised in an appropriate way. 

Saturday 16 September 2017

Gillingham 1 v Charlton Athletic 0

Bad day at Black Rock. We were beaten by the Gills for the first time in a league encounter for over 200 years. Two defeats inside five days and the inquest has begun....

Personally, I am not in the least surprised. We may have deserved more from this game but we clearly didn't do nearly enough to win. We simply don't have enough cutting edge or a strong enough squad to expect to roll sides over week-in, week-out or to win automatic promotion. It really shouldn't be surprising to anybody. We haven't spent any money visibly strengthening our squad. We have simply shifted our footing within our wage bill, and whilst Robinson may have done well on that basis it's pretty clear that we aren't going to waltz the league. As I keep saying, there will be no sustainable change all the time we have an owner whose crystal clear focus is on making a profit. In this league that means running a tight budget and profiting on player sales. Simple as. However frustrated or angry you might be, he isn't - he really doesn't give a toss and no-one is going to change his mind, not Karl Robinson or Katrien Meire, let alone the rest of us.

Meanwhile, I watched the Wings again, this time in F A Cup action and a real sense of deja vu. Up against Haringey Borough, a side two divisions below them, I watched the Wings out-run and out-fought for much of the match. Boro scored early after a long ball was knocked over the advancing Dillon Barnes and rolled into an empty net. The visitors dominated for the rest of the first half whilst Welling waited for someone to take the initiative.

After the break the Wings did pick-up and they looked like the superior side for much of the half but they simply lacked the urgency to turn the match. Joe Healy equalised and Christian Nanetti earned a penalty which should have won the game. Unfortunately, his poor spot-kick was gobbled up in the Boro goal and within a minute the visitors had a penalty of their own. The Wings left-back, Jefford who had a woeful personal display, hauled down his man in the box and Gabriel scored his second from the spot. After that it was a case of countdown and time-wasting for the north London outfit who could afford a couple of bookings as they eased their way into the next round. Welling can now concentrate on the league and a visit next week to Havant and Waterlooville - Addick Tony and his son are booked on the train - hardy souls.

Tuesday 12 September 2017

Charlton Athletic 0 v Wigan Athletic 3

I bought seven tickets for some old mates from Bexleyheath today who were taking in their first match for several seasons. They were duly handed over in the White Swan over a swift pint and they mocked me for heading to Welling instead of the Valley and I reminded them that they were all Glory Hunters. As I left I did wonder if we might put in a traditionally duff showing, the sort we reserve for whenever our less fanatical fans show any interest. 

By all accounts it looks like an insipid performance where Wigan had us sussed and Karl Robinson had no Plan B. This is a common theme when our one upfront gets isolated and we really need to be able to revert comfortably to 4-4-2 or even 4-3-3. Ironically, we probably don't have the personnel to do this having spent so long unable to play Robinson's preferred 4-2-3-1. Wigan's opener came just before the break which is always tough, especially at home and they killed the game in the 70th when Massey netted again. The late third was probably salt-in-the-wounds but by then it made little difference. 

As always, what the manager has to say should be interesting but he hasn't dealt head-on with previous games like this and instead has a tendency to waffle or say something confusing or slightly controversial as if to deflect the real explanation. 

It probably won't do us any harm to have lost our second match as expectations have been growing wildly based upon some good results against mediocre opposition, albeit with much better football than we have previously witnessed under Robinson, or dare I say it, under Duchatelet since he took over three years ago.

Meanwhile, over Shooters Hill at Park View Road, the Wings secured their second successive home win courtesy of a 1-0 victory over lowly Whitehawk from east Brighton. I met up with a few other disgruntled Addicks with soft spots for the Wings and we endured the drizzle on the terraces for 90 minutes which reminded me of much happier times (last century!).

Welling started brightly and bossed the first-half against a huge Whitehawk side who had clearly been given orders to run at goal and shoot at every opportunity.  I'm not sure it really helped them as they wasted some decent positions but it was evident Welling were going to score, so they knew they needed a goal. As it was Welling had the ball in the net within two minutes after Nanetti was rolled a free-kick in acres of space on the left of the box and his driven low cross was steered home by one of three sliding Welling players, at least one of whom was offside. 

Whitehawk hit back and a determined left wing run caught Welling unprepared on the right but their man saw his pile-driver tipped up and off the bar in fine style by Dillon Barnes. The drizzle was steady by now but Welling kept at it and Harry Phipps saw a thumping header brilliantly tipped around the post by Alex Tokarozyk. Flo Bojaj then should have scored Welling's second when he beat the last man and drew Tokarozyk before sliding the ball past him. Unfortunately, it rolled on a little further than he wanted and shaded the post. 

There was still time for the boss, Jamie Coyle to power a header inches wide before the break. Whitehawk had done their homework on Welling and having doubled-up on Monakana and Nanetti, they had managed to prevent over-supply from the flanks but were still fortunate to go in at half-time only one down. 

The rain intensified and Whitehawk looked much better after the break. They visibly stepped up and were working very hard as a team to deny Welling space as they tried to fashion chances. Credit to the Welling team for restricting them but it made for a quieter second-half. Welling threatened a second in a better ten minute spell towards the end but they looked satisfied with the three points before the whistle. The win moves the Wings up to half-way in the table which is a better reflection, I think, of where they deserve to be after a number of creditable draws and the disappointment of a few last minute goals which have deprived them a few more points.

Charlton should bounce back at Gillingham on Saturday but it's a derby match and the Gills usually step up a bit for us. Welling play Haringay in an F A Cup qualifier and I might just get to that as well.

Saturday 9 September 2017

Charlton Athletic 2 v Southend United 1

Five wins from six and up to second in the table. Winning breeds confidence and may have helped us to a victory we might not have secured last season. Two goals from Magennis and Holmes in quick succession after twenty minutes of the second-half won the match but the Shrimpers did pull one back and we had the usual nervy last ten as they pressed for an equaliser. Tuesday evening will be the best test yet of our promotional credentials, especially as Wigan went down to the only goal of the match at table-toppers Shrewsbury Town.

I went over the hill to see Welling beat Poole Town 2-0 in an enjoyable match watched by considerably fewer than the 12,000 at the Valley. Welling took some time to get on top but when they did, they should have taken the lead just before the break but a one-on-one was wasted. After the break, Welling's fine wing-play from Christian Nanetti and Jeff Monakana put Poole under pressure and lead to two well taken goals. The first saw Colchester loaned Eli Phipps take a ball in from Monakana and turned two defenders inside-out before his shot squirmed in off Hutchings in the Poole goal. The second wasn't long in coming and Joe Healy powered a glancing header in from another fine right-wing cross from Monakana. Poole saw an effort headed off the line in the 90th minute and they hit the bar from the resulting corner but it was too little too late. I might just journey over the hill on Tuesday to see if the Wings can double-up by beating division whipping boys, Whitehawk. As fellow-Addick Tony said today,  "once a Wing, always a Wing!"

Saturday 2 September 2017

Oldham Athletic 3 v Charlton Athletic 4

Karl Robinson and his band of merry men managed a very rare Charlton treble today by completing their third successive away victory inside eight days. The match was eventful with plenty of talking points. 

Ricky Holmes opened the scoring from 35 yards with another superlative strike. Fosu-Henry scored to double our first-half advantage as we dominated early on. Oldham hit back before the break with a spell pressure of their own when
 Davies had pulled one back from the spot after Bauer had conceded a penalty.

Oldham started quickly after the players reappeared and were level within six minutes when Doyle netted. Charlton fans the world over began swearing at this point and repeating the mantras of their fathers. However, Oldham, who haven't managed a single point this season, were down to ten men within three minutes when Fane was dismissed for second yellow. 

Could we beat ten men? After a week of striker-disappointment, up stepped Billy 'midfielder' Clarke to put the Addicks back in front and, with a point to prove to lots of us, substitute Dodoo put Charlton out of reach with a debut finish. There was still time for Oldham to score a third but time ran out for them and we move up to third in the table. Heady times indeed but there will be much stronger tests ahead as we seek to maintain a challenge. The fixtures are falling fairly kindly for us at the moment. The next four sides we face are Southend (H), Wigan (H), Gillingham (A) and Bury (H). Wigan are currently fifth in the table but that will mean that all of the other eight sides we will have played are currently in the bottom-half of the table. I'm not complaining but we should expect some stiffer competition sooner or later.

Karl Robinson will be grinning broadly tonight and he deserves it after a testing week, one which I suspect he will have lots to say about at some point in the future when he not reliant upon Roland Duchatelet to pay his wages.