Saturday 21 October 2017

Gloucester City 0 v Welling United 1

I trekked over to Paddington this morning, met up with Tony and Bobby and we took the train to Evesham to see the Wings make it six league wins in succession. For anyone head-scratching at this, Gloucester are currently ground-sharing 25 miles from home, which is probably why the gate was a tad under 300.

We stopped in town for a quick pint before a taxi took us the Evesham club house and a few more pints in a relaxed atmosphere out of the howling wind. The conditions were the worst I have witnessed since that fateful day in Yeovil. The rain was light but the wind constant and it was clear from the off that there wouldn't be any goals at the westerly end. 

It was a tight first-half, played mostly in Welling's half as they defended the easterly goal. It was difficult for the Wings to really get the ball out of their half although they persevered and looked the better side with the ball on the floor. Dylan Barnes was relatively well protected given the pressure the back four were under and he mopped up what did get through to him. It wasn't a day for the dribbling left winger, Nanetti, nor really for Eliah Phipps, both of whom appreciation precision football. They eventually made way for Bradbrook and Goldberg in the second-half as Welling sought to use the wind. 

At half-time Tony and I were checking our coupon (Stoke and Luton let us down) and we noticed that Welling had somehow been moved from 6/5 to 3/1 to win. The bookies must have been going on the stats because nothing else warranted the change in odds and clearly no-one at Bet365 was accounting for the gale. We duly lumped on.

Into the second-half and, surprisingly, Gloucester managed to make much more of it in the Welling half against the wind but they still looked short of sufficient power to beat Barnes from any distance. Welling, meanwhile were beginning to create wind-assisted chances and we were still confident of a winner into the last ten minutes. After a spell of Wings pressure, another attack saw a congested penalty box as Gloucester got men behind the ball but it was worked to the clever Joe Healy who conjured a deceptively soft but accurate shot which crossed the box and nestled high in the net. The 60 Wings fans behind the goal celebrated wildly and minutes later it was all over. The jubilant players made their way behind the goal and every player shook every hand offered and thanked us for our support. Welling move up to fifth and are the side to beat in National League South at the moment.

In the taxi en route to the station I learnt that the Addicks had matched the Wings with a very good 1-0 win at Bradford. Ben Amos won the match with two fine last gasp saves but we were good value for the points and it's been an excellent week on the road for Robinson and his team. I only hope the takeover goes through quickly now so we can capitalise as a club on our league position and the feel-good factor of new owners. Please let it come to pass.

All-in-all a good day and one where we came home with more money in our pockets than when we left. Can't be bad.

Friday 20 October 2017

Why Duchatelet is selling and why we need to move on...

News of the ongoing takeover of our beloved football club continues to stir debate and emotions. Whilst the majority look delighted, there remains a rump who are worried about the risk of incoming owners and some who think we would genuinely be better off with Duchatelet 3.0 or that change risks our promotion chances. There are even a few members of the Flat Earth Society who refuse to believe it because they still think Duchatelet has a long-term commitment and plan to atone for his disastrous ownership!

1) Worried about new owners?

It's an obvious concern. Unknown new owners are going to carry risk. What we do know about the Aussies (if indeed it is them as believed) is that they have had one bite at the cherry previously and appeared not to have had all the money or to have been able persuade Duchatelet to sell. Indeed, the rumour was that the deal excluded the Valley and Sparrows Lane which would have left us at the mercy of Duchatelet. However, given the turmoil of the last three and half years under this man which in headline terms has seen us relegated, gates halved, revenues slashed and the club reduced to a laughing stock, the only thing that could possibly get worse is we could end up in financial difficulties. New owners would be investing millions. They are taking the biggest risk here, not us. Plenty of clubs get into financial difficulties and the vast majority resurface - look at Southampton and Palace. 

2) Better off with Duchatelet?

There is a debate that pre-supposes there is a even a medium term choice here! This bloke wants shot and has done for over two years. He bought us as part of a network of purchases to exploit FFP and that failed within a year of his acquisition. By far the two biggest financial liabilities in that network of clubs was Standard Liege and Charlton Athletic. The sum total of the other three would still make them third in that list. Liege were promptly sold for a profit but Charlton Athletic were not in a position to be sold for profit as Katrien Meire had steered us over a cliff and the club was at "war" with it's supporters. We were heading down and were duly relegated. He had to steady the ship and that has taken time. Look at the facts, he hasn't even seen us play at the Valley in three years! Meire has been put in a cupboard (and humiliated in the process, let's face it) for almost a year and Pitch PR have been providing common sense and pragmatic judgement on key operating decisions which has seen the steadying Duchatelet needed to sell. Duchatelet has continued his cost-cutting and there has been no real term investment for a very long time. 

Some see this 'steadying' as an option and proof that Duchatelet has learnt his lesson and changed. To some extent he obviously has but it's been driven by his desire to cut his losses not because he wants to continue to run, develop and progress a football club he has no interest in any longer.

3) Change and Promotion Chances

Again understandable but a chance that we have to take if the opportunity is there to move Duchatelet out. From what I can see, new owners will have a very long list of things to tackle and changing the manager and playing staff are definitely not top of the list. We will be halfway through a season and the January transfer window will be upon us. We are handily placed and there are no clarion calls for Robinson to go beyond those who would like a completely clean sweep. They are far more likely to give him the rest of the season and some money to see if he can immediately inflate their asset. How much do you reckon Roly's going to give him otherwise? Do you think Roly would avoid the opportunity to cash in on one or two players if he's still a reluctant owner?

If Robinson wins promotion he would deserve the role going forward. If not, he should be replaced so we have a complete fresh start next season. Any new owners would be better served getting rid of the likes of Tony Keohane and all the others who have followed orders with unnecessary enthusiasm and enjoyed doing it.

As for the Flat Earth Society, well it's all over when it's all over. A few might content themselves with still believing they knew better but most will be wise after the event.

Thursday 19 October 2017

Aussie takeover back on!

At long last, news that a takeover is back on and that it's still the Aussies. Rick Everitt has once again sniffed it out at VOTV which always gives me more confidence because he is a good judge of when it's safe to say something and when it isn't.

No doubt there will be hurdles left but hopefully nothing like Theresa May's Brexit negotiations. The story fits given the continuing effective absence of Katrien Meire and the lack of any real financial commitment on the player front or any other front this year. The fact that it's still the Aussies supports a view that they didn't go away and that negotiations have continued, albeit that the previous leakage may not have helped things along. 

If it is Andrew Muir, as I am sure it is if Rick is willing to give us a name, then I am happy with whatever he and the Australian Football Consortium bring to the table. Anything but the hopelessly out-of-touch Belgians who took three years to learn some basic lessons about how to deal with football supporters and even then were reliant upon expensive PR people to tell them and get hands on with the decision-making.

Let's all hope and pray that this is finally the deal that gets done and we are shot of Roland Duchatelet and his Harridan.

My personal hope is that I haven't lost too much love for the Old Girl in the meantime. That remains to be seen.

Tuesday 17 October 2017

Oxford United 1 v Charlton Athletic 1

Something of an end-to-end match at the Kassam Stadium this evening but those amongst the 689 Addicks present will be disappointed we didn't take full control of the game in the opening half-hour when we were dominant. Holmes, Fosu-Henry and Sarr all missed chances before Fosu-Henry continued his scoring running with his sixth of the season. Having failed to go two-up we duly conceded an equaliser and suddenly Oxford were at it and they might have gone two-one up minutes later.

The game opened-up after that and Amos made a couple of very good saves as we continued to create chances at the other end. Reeves got a breather after 66 minutes making way for Billy Clarke. Oxford made all their changes and the last saw Jon Obika enter the fray. I feared the worst but he was kept quiet. Instead, Fosu-Henry made way for Ahearne-Grant who promptly spurned a good scoring opportunity. I think we burned Ahearne-Grant by over-playing him when he was younger but he really hasn't added anything to the team for a long time now and if it wasn't for the fact that we have very few other options, he shouldn't even be getting these late substitution appearances because he has no confidence and looks one dimensional.

A draw was a decent result this evening on a night when there were eight other matches drawn (seven finished 1-1) so very much a case of 'as you were.' We are in fifth with a game in hand which could move us to third on points with Bradford City, so best we beat them on Saturday and save the game in hand for trying to catch Wigan or Shrewsbury!

Saturday 14 October 2017

Charlton Athletic 1 v Doncaster Rovers 0

A solid result by all accounts as Charlton edged passed Donny courtesy of another Fosu-Henry goal. We should have made the game safe but inevitably had to suffer as Donny made strides for an equaliser. The referee was knocked out at the start of the second-half so our match went into ten minutes of added time. The win lifts the Addicks into fifth but it's tight in the play-off contention zone and we will do well to hold our position this week as we travel to Oxford United and Bradford City.

Oxford won again today and sit one place below us so have the incentive of leap-frogging us in the week. Bradford have had some topsy-turvy results but are above us and will also put up a big fight to maintain their differential. It's very much a test of of our play-off credentials because these are the sides we need to better if we are to be there come May.

Meanwhile, the Wings continued their good sequence with a 2-0 win at Weston-Super-Mare. Colchester loanee Eliah Phipps opened the scoring after 22 minutes and the always-interested Joe Healy killed the game just after half-an-hour. Welling move into the play-off places in National League South and I am heading to Gloucester next week to see if they can sustain their current fine form and really get themselves in the mix.

Wednesday 11 October 2017

Papa Roach

Out last night with Mrs Peeps to see Papa Roach at the Brixton Academy. I missed them awhile back when they 'bottled out' of a Wembley Arena appearance in the wake of the Bataclan atrocity in Paris. I was a bit miffed at the time but returned to see them last night when performing on their own south of the river.

I am a bit ashamed to say that I have never been to the Brixton Academy before and it was actually 30 years since I last set foot in SW9. We had a few pints locally before going in and I was impressed with the size of the venue, if not the condition as it's definitely looking very tired.

I always contend that you can get to really like any music if you listen to it often enough. I grew up listening to a lot of Elvis Presley and early rock n roll and was then indoctrinated in Country before finding my own independent way in music. Over the last fifteen years it's been American rock with a hard edge in my house courtesy of my wife. What was always ok has since thrown me a few real favourites and Papa Roach have been a staple.

Frontman Jacoby Shaddix exudes Californian showmanship and he knows how to work a crowd. The routinely heavy rock numbers are interspersed with some decidedly 'hard rap' numbers which Shaddix seems to revel in, especially when he has the audience tied to his raised flat right hand as he conducts them to his tune. For me, rousing renditions of 'getting away with murder' and 'scars' were the high spots but there were no really low numbers. 

I may be getting older but the speakers sounded and felt like they had been supplied by Boeing. There was a boom on the bass which actually vibrated your extra bits of flesh, if you know what I mean. Stone Sour next up in December and they are close to the top for me when it comes to this genre.

Sunday 8 October 2017

The end of a dream

Back in 1996 I saw all three of Scotland's European final games. A creditable scoreless draw against the Orange machine that included Bogarde, Davids,  Seedorf and Bergkamp set us up for that fateful 2-0 Wembley defeat where Gazza scored in his pomp and Alan Shearer administered the coup d'etat. We trekked back to Villa Park to take on Switzerland needing a win and England to wallop the Dutch. Ally McCoist's rifled home a 25 yarder at the Holte End to put Scotland in front and whilst we needed to improve our goal difference by five over the Dutch to qualify, the Swiss kept us out in the second-half. Meanwhile the Gods were having fun as England scored again and again and got to 4-0 over the Netherlands.  I know this because a tidal wave of noise and chaos swept around Villa Park. It was then that the Gods threw Patrick Kluivert into the fray at Wembley and he scored the consolation goal that put Scotland out.

It had been a hectic eight days and my mates and I committed to France '98 on the back of it. We hired a large place in the countryside outside Bordeaux and based ourselves there for a fortnight. It was a fantastic time as we travelled up to Paris for the opening match of the tournament when "we near-ly beat Brazil, we near-ly beat Brazil." An extraordinary day that lives long my memory. Walking across the Seine at 11am and hearing the strains of "Flower of Scotland" coming from way below on the river. I was staggered to see a fishing boat from my small hometown chugging upstream just to be there.

A 1-1 draw with Norway in Bordeaux left us needing a win against Morrocco in St. Etienne. I drove the minibus across France and back after a demoralising 3-0 humping. It was the end of another finals but we were hooked and all looked forward to many more adventures in the years to come.

I lost count of the qualifying matches I have traipsed around Europe to see since but I threw the towel in last year when I admitted defeat and said I couldn't muster the enthusiasm for another campaign. A couple of others also eased off but tonight there are five of them in Slovenia drowning their sorrows once again. Goal difference,  bloody goal difference! If only Armstrong had booted that ball out of play in the last seconds against England.......

I wouldn't have gone to Russia even if Scotland had qualified and, as for Qatar, you are having a laugh. The corruption of FIFA visited on the world's football fans for eight years. I will be in my 60's before there is any chance of seeing Scotland again in a finals. Who'd a thought it?

Saturday 7 October 2017

Welling United 4 v Chippenham Town 0

Welling have been threatening to trounce someone for awhile and today was the day as they hit four and might have had more. Chippenham looked a tidy outfit but they couldn't contain Welling when the Wings showed a little more quality. The bumper gate of 595 was treated to four excellent goals.

There were plenty of Charlton fans in evidence, including the German Addicks brigade who had clearly committed themselves to this weekend and had to make-do with what I am guessing was a first ever visit to Park View Road. I am sure they weren't disappointed.

The very capable Joe Healy opened the scoring for Welling on 38 minutes when he arrived with perfect timing to head home an excellent cross from Jeff Monakana who had beaten two Chippenham men out wide before popping his cross to the back post. The Wings had been sizing Chippenham up for the first half-hour and it had looked like a matter of time before they took the lead. No surprise then that Welling notched a second before half-time. Another fine move, this time down the left flank saw Tom Bradbrook peel away to reach a far post cross (from Nanetti I think) and steer a bold looping header back and across the Chippenham keeper which crept in at the far post.

After the break Welling slowed it a bit as they settled the game and Bradbrook secured the points, if they were in any doubt, with a glancing header which beat Thompson to his left. Mark Goldberg joined the fray before the end and netted the fourth after some neat interplay through the middle and he was denied Welling's fifth by Thompson who managed to paw away his effort.

The win moves Welling up to 8th in the table, one place outside the play-off places (six in the National League South) and they head to Gloucester in a fortnight on a roll. I have a train ticket and will be cheering them on. Up the Wings!

Thursday 5 October 2017

Non-League Day, this Saturday

The annual 'Non-League Day' is upon us once more and it falls this Saturday, 7th October. As Charlton's home match against Peterborough has been called off due to international call-ups, why not take advantage and get out to your local non-league club and show them some support?

Regular readers will know I have been frequenting Park View Road this season and I will be there again on Saturday to see the Wings make a case to move into the top ten of the National League South when they entertain Chippenham Town.

I have been quietly impressed with the quality of the football in this division and Welling are a capable team when they get going. They aren't consistently strong from 1 to 11 but they make up for that in team spirit and when they are on form they can be irresistible. They have drawn too many matches this season but have only lost three from twelve and are on a bit of a roll.

It's only £12 to get in (£2 discount for Charlton season ticket holders who bring their passes) and only another pound to get a seat if the stands, although I have enjoyed standing once again as well as the customary non-league tradition of changing viewing ends at half-time. There are two tidy bars as well with real ale and live sport.

The banter can be pretty good too. At a recent match one wag kept screeching at the referee that "that's nowhere near ten yards" at every infringement. Eventually he bawled out "can you quote for my carpets?" Down at Havant & Waterlooville last week, a 1980's throwback with Pompey's '6.57' tattooed on the back of his neck wandered up the assembled away contingent with the tired offering of "who wants it" to be met with a spontaneous song of "new Wealdstone Raider, we've got a new Wealdstone Raider!" A tad embarrassed he turned tail and headed back to the home section where he was met with the same humiliating chant. Getting to love non-league!

Karl Robinson ups the ante

Hot on the heels of his comments about 'guarantees' of transfer funding for January, Karl Robinson's latest press talk reveals what the supporters have always known and that was Ademola Lookman was sold in part to cover Sparrows Lane development costs as well as to offset the annual operating loss. 

Karl is now saying that "I think if Esra goes, people have to be aware that we have to have an injection to make this team better." My take here is that there are either firm plans to spend in January or else Karl Robinson is drawing a line in the new turf that enables him to excuse any failure to get promoted and publicly place a 'lack of backing' for Charlton's failure to return to the Championship under his management.

Monday 2 October 2017

Fleetwood 1 v Charlton Athletic 3

A weekend away with a large party and a packed agenda meant I had to rely up score updates from others. I was down near Uckfield which appears to have next to no mobile coverage. Anyway, the news was good as we recorded a convincing away win against a side who are likely to be competing with us for a top-ten finish.

It was a surprise last night to hear that Tarique Fosu has added himself to our legend of hat-trick scorers. I have yet to see Tarique play but the reports have been mixed and it is some feat for a winger to score a hat-trick. I have yet to see the goals but there is also some inference that he was fortunate to score three times but whatever, that's what he did and he won the game. The surprise injury that Robinson alluded to in the week was clearly Chris Solly as Esra Konsa came in to the righ-back position. Let's hope that's a tiredness injury and not something that will keep him out for any length of time. The three points lifts us back up to fifth and must serve as a well-needed confidence boost after some poorer displays and failures to grasp or hold onto opportunities.

Karl Robinson has taken the decision to postpone Saturday's home match against Peterborough on account of us having the requisite three players (Magennis, Da Silva and Konsa) on international duty. I am not always convinced re-playing midweek suits us but given our current squad limitations and dependence on Josh Magennis, it's the correct decision.

Karl has also now said that Duchatelet has 'guaranteed' him money for the January transfer window if we are challenging for promotion so he can "have a right go." I have no doubt that there has been a discussion around this, as I am sure there has been in each of the subsequent seasons with the incumbent. Whether it's quite a 'guarantee' is something else and it was very interesting to hear Robinson also say that answering the question 'might get me into trouble.' Irrespective, I think it's helpful that Karl has put this out there and help set the expectation. Who knows, it might even force Roland's hand a bit to provide him with more funds than intended, if indeed, there was ever any intention.