Sunday 31 December 2017

Happy New Year!

Best wishes to all Charlton Athletic supporters for 2018. We are long over a good year and there is every hope it could be this one.

I'd like to thank everyone who reads these pages and especially those of you who take the time to leave me comments. The statcounter tells me a bit about who visits but it's the comments that get me thinking. This year has been a low point for me in terms of posting, reflective of my relative lack of interest and I have considered packing it in but I am not a quitter at heart and I am still a fervent supporter of Charlton Athletic after forty years, albeit somewhat diminished recently.

Talking of statcounter, I am approaching the 1,000,000 visits milestone which works out at about 8,000 a month since I started in August 2007. Put another way, I average 475 visits per post, although the numbers have varied over the years as I have progressively posted less but received proportionately more hits per post.

Confirmation of a takeover in New Year should swiftly see me pass that one million milestone and I am hoping it revives my interest. I will be back, although it does feel like things have changed for me somewhere in all of this. Cynicism is ultimately unhealthy and it figures large given where I am at work and at play. Resolution for me this year is to cheer up and laugh more at the things I don't like and not let them affect me quite as much as I sometimes do.

Anyway enough of me, raise a glass this evening for 'us' and toast the end of the disastrous Duchatelet era, hoping it comes quickly and sees him exit completely. 

Charlton forever.

Saturday 30 December 2017

Wigan Athletic 0 v Charlton Athletic 0

Not sure too many saw a point coming from this match after Wigan's recent scoring splurge away from home, not even the 300 hardy souls who made the trip.

Kashi and Lennon made starts which Karl Robinson will hope are the first of many returning to first-team availability. I didn't follow the match but it sounds like there were chances at both ends throughout the game with Karlan Ahaerne-Grat going closest for Charlton in each half. Ben Amos earned his corn in goal again with a couple of fine saves.

Karl Robinson has been telling the local rags which positions he needs to fill in the coming transfer window although he must feel like he's going through the motions. Who can honestly see Roland Duchatelet spending anything he doesn't have to? Perhaps Robbo thinks new owners will come to the rescue? That presupposes a takeover deal concludes in time, that the new owners are willing to keep him on as manager and that they are prepared to let him spend precious cash strengthening a side they might rather someone else was shaping with next season in mind.

I heard yesterday that the club sold 200 match tickets for the Gills game within hours of the announcement on Thursday morning that Meire was going. I really do think it will be more like 2000 when Duchatelet leaves the building although that may depend upon the shape of any new deal. Anything that leaves him with a lingering interest and the Sword of Damocles hanging over us would queer that. 

The irony of selling 2000 more tickets under new owners could well be that the gate dips slightly because that won't be enough to replace Meire's customary and summary addition of a large dollop of complementaries to artificially inflate the official attendance. 

Thursday 28 December 2017

Rejoice! Meire to stand down as Duchatelet prepares to sell!

Truly great news for all long-suffering Charlton Athletic fans today. The club's PR machine has announced that Meire has decided to call it a day as Duchatelet prepares to sell the club. Formal admission from Duchatelet himself of "news of a potential takeover" is the big story but Meire's departure will be celebrated hard by Charlton fans who were repeatedly insulted and lied-to by the floundering Meire in 2015 and 2016.

Tempted as I am, I am not going to rehash the litany of Meire's ineptitude as Chief Executive, save to say that the club had to gag her a year ago when they appointed Pitch PR and then hired Tom Rubbashaw to end the succession of Meire-induced disasters. She has really played no part in proceedings since then and we have been spared the continuing string of really stupid decisions that were her trademark. Let's just hope that the footballing world ensures her next job is one she might be better suited to.

The statement from Duchatelet on the official site is exciting because I think the timing is critical and I am guessing we are now very close to a formal takeover announcement. He broke the ice last month by confirming to the Belgian press that he had no interest in football and that he was open to offers for Charlton Athletic. Today's announcement was sort-of expected on the back of that but it's still brilliant news to hear it and confirmation that the smirking witch won't be insulting us with her presence at the Valley any longer is icing on the cake.

It's been a long battle, but the fight to rid the club of the Belgians is nearing the climax and it would be fantastic to think we could be under new ownership at the start of the January transfer window.

We can't be sure what new ownership will look like or even if we will be completely free of Duchatelet's toxic presence, but whoever and whatever the deal is, we will at least have some hope and a fresh start which, if managed cleverly, should result in a financial and support-based boost. 

The record books will show that Duchatelet saved us from a very likely Administration when he took over in January 2014 but that his ownership has been disastrous for the health of the club as fans were turned-off in their thousands by an under-investment strategy which saw us relegated and then consolidated as a League One club, and by a lame Chief Executive who thought she could spin every poor decision and simply refuse to admit she was ever wrong, even when she was caught lying red-handed. Her defining moment in charge at the Valley came during the last home game of the 2015-16 season against Burnley when an inspired and courageous act of personal determination by a mother and son saw a bedsheet banner draped off the Upper West above the Directors Box with the word 'Liar' and that downward arrow that picked Meire out. Julie - I love you for that.

This could just turn out to be the best New Year ever.

Wednesday 27 December 2017

Welling United 2 v Dartford 3

A cracking Boxing day derby this played out in front of 1400 fans. Top-of-the-table Dartford arrived with a healthy backing in black and white and within three minutes they had taken the lead. To rub salt into Welling wounds, it was former striker Andy Pugh who swept home from close range after a quick break and cross by Ryan Hayes.

Welling remained composed and took the game to the Darts who appeared more comfortable to sit back after the early goal. The glaringly obvious was that Dartford are a big side and Welling's front options in Goldberg and Romain lack height and with the diminutive Nanetti out wide, there was only one way Welling would score. They played in on the deck and stuck with it, Nanetti finally forcing a chance with  low near post shot that came off a defender, struck the post and then hit keeper Ibrahim before being scrambled out. 

Ian Gayle then saw a low shot skim the post as the Wings battled to get back on terms. Before half-time, Nanetti worked his was into the box from the left and his pull back pick out Goldberg whose volley wasn't hard enough and was too close to Ibrahim who was able to block. 

I thought at half-time that dartford might open a bit and try to kill the game in the second-half and that's just what they did. Pugh raced in to double the lead and dartford suddenly looked rampant. Welling were struggling to contain them and only a fine piece of last-ditch goal-line defending by Driver prevented the third as he cleared a lob which came own off the bar. Welling responded strongly and Tom Bradrooke was giving the Darts backline a torrid time for every high ball. The Wings should have scored after a shot from distance took a slight deflection which meant Ibrahim spilt it on his line and it fell to the closing Gayle but he somehow managed to put it over the bar in front of the disbelieving home fans. 

Welling hadn't had the rub-of-the-green from the referree and when a decent Nanetti penalty appeal was waved away I thought Welling's chance had gone.  Moments later, however, Welling were finally awarded a free-kick on the edge of the area. With the Welling fan still hurling abuse at the Dartford wall for not retreating ten yards, Callum Driver stepped up and cut his free-kick perfectly over the wall an just inside Ibrahim's right-hand upright. Too-little-too-late? Welling were having none of it and they sensed their chance. Passing and moving with more urgency now, Dartford were stretched and it lead to a penalty which Monakana drove in low and left.

Two-two and I felt slightly sorry for Dartford who had looked the far more capable side. They immediately took the ball down to Welling's end and forced a couple of corners in front of their urging supporters. A ball out from one of these fell to Alfie Pavey whose swivelled strike are across the Wings goal and dipped in at the far post to win the match. 

It was  great advert for the National League South and the good news is they play each other again on New Years Day.

Meanwhile, twenty miles away news from Charlton's latest Christmas horror-show was trickling through to the crowd, most of whom appeared to have an interest. A 3-1 loss to out-of-form Southend. I suppose it's all relative when you are the bottom form side in the division.

Karl Robinson has been hit with injuries which have exposed the limitations of his squad and his playing personnel, although it's been coming all season and there really shouldn't be any great surprise. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth as per usual from the eternal optimists and another futile gesture from Robinson whose laughable response has been to order the players in for a 7am start this morning. He will be congratulating himself on how disciplined he now appears and reflecting in all the 'serves-em-right' comments from the same supporters. My bet is he will call training short and buy them all breakfast. Wigan must be licking their lips.

Sunday 24 December 2017

Charlton Athletic 1 v Blackpool 1

The nightmare before Christmas continued yesterday with a grim  draw against relegation contenders Blackpool in front of another tiny home gate, laughably given out as over 10,000. Another game of two halves and another injury, this time to Leon Best which will probably signal the end of his brief Charlton career.

We were ok in the first half and a superb solo effort from Joe Aribo saw him weave past three defenders before opening the scoring. Leon Best had a couple of chances but failed to wrap the game up and after the break we were terrible. The Blackpool equaliser was coming for fully 45 minutes and when it did there was no way back.

Karl Robinson says he's desperate for the transfer window, although that sounds like clutching at straws because he isn't going to get what he needs. We are probably safe and that will do for Roland Duchatelet.

My money is on losing two from Konsa, Aribo and Holmes. I suspect we will get one for one back but they will be cheap wage deals only. At least there can be no more drivel about "building in the next window" from the hopelessly blind eternal optimists.

I have been in bed for 48 hours with flu so feel like the wreck of the Hesperus. However, a merry Christmas to all who frequent these pages.

Saturday 16 December 2017

Blackburn Rovers 2 v Charlton Athletic 0

Charlton's poor run continued at Ewood Park today where an own goal from Leon Best, minutes after coming on as sub for Billy Clarke, gave Blackburn a slender lead they held onto until Danny Graham headed the second in added time to rub salt into the wounds. 

Once again we were glaringly short of firepower and it cost us as we tried in vain to get back into the match in the second-half. Our inability to score in recent weeks must be a major worry for Karl Robinson. The goals and performances from Josh Magennis look to have dried up and Leon Best's debut own-goal was hugely ironic. Joe Dodoo must be on his way back to Rangers and far too much is still expected of permanent substitute Ahearne-Grant. Reeves and Marshall are looking like disappointing signings and even the mercurial Ricky Holmes has been finding life against two defenders much harder - he didn't play today.

Without any fresh takeover news, attention will turn again to Roland Duchatelet in January. I wonder if we will see any fans wheeling out limp excuses for our failure once more to improve the strength of the playing personnel during a January window, or whether the game is finally up for Duchatelet and he will again come in for some much deserved criticism from all quarters? After all he has always said he would be prepared to gamble come Christmas if we were well positioned....

It really is a sad state of affairs and I suspect it could get worse in the window. Konsa is favourite to go and I wonder if Ricky Holmes is also the subject of a big money move? Now that Roland is officially open to offers for the club, no need to pussy-foot around any of this, he can just cash in as much as he likes. On the flip side, rumours are that Roland will be 'buying' Guillaume Cros, a left-back from fellow network club, Carl Jeiss Jena. It would be a bit of a win-win for the absentee Belgian who would be on a bit of a roll. Presumably we could see a few more top quality network purchases before Roland finally washes his hands of Charlton Athletic?

I predicted a tough December given form and fixtures. The fixtures in January look easier but we may well have other challenges around the club by then. Karl Robinson is clearly unsettled by recent events and I do wonder if he might choose to be more forthright in coming weeks about what is de-railing his promotion hopes. Realisation of another season in League One without any real play-off push in 2018 will see the club take another step backwards. It's desperately sad to witness, although it feels less painful for me this season as I haven't been suffering it in person. 

Friday 15 December 2017

Supporters Trusts United

Ahead of this weekend's key League One battle between Blackburn Rovers and Charlton Athletic, the Supporters Trusts of both clubs have come together to review the respective outlooks and found some glaring similarities.   The joint statement from both sets of supporter's representatives is well worth a read.

Isn't it high time something was done in this country to put proper governance and regulation in place to safeguard standards within our national game that protect the millions of fans and thousands of communities who put so much into football and who are, in the worst cases, treated so appallingly?

Sunday 10 December 2017

Charlton Athletic 0 v Portsmouth 1

I said on Friday that this game had all the Charlton trademarks of a disappointing match and result - so it proved. On a bitterly cold day with 4,000 gobby Pompey visitors, some of whom had hired a box in a direct attempt to provoke Charlton fans in the East Stand, we failed to get any momentum and eventually succumbed to an own goal after the restart.

We seem to save particularly uninspiring performances for any game which attracts a number of returning supporters. The gate was a few hundred over 16,000 which suggests around a 12,000 Addicks. Allowing for the usual number of complimentary tickets on top of season tickets, would suggest we had a similar number of 'match-by-match' buyers as the visitors which is clearly disappointing given the significance of the game. My view here is that this is a strong indicator that several thousand fans, maybe up to four or five thousand, have been lost under Roland Duchatelet's tenure, much of those to the failed Meire Offensive in 2015-16. Relegation obviously hasn't helped, nor has the merry-go-round of poorly-chosen managers, but the club has been managed in a very deliberate way with a hope of over-achievement from an under-resourced first team squad. 

It was evident in August that we were desperately short of forwards and Karl Robinson's tunnel vision on playing 4-2-3-1 also signalled to the ageing Lee Novak that he needed to get away, leading to the last transfer day fiasco where Novak was reluctantly sold and we made the panic signing of Do-do from Rangers. That has been the story of this season and, aside from a purple patch in October which helped mask the deficiencies, we are now seeing the effects of limited striking options and an inability to react tactically to falling behind because the manager has a squad built around a 4-2-3-1 formation.

At the end of November I said December looked a challenging month and that my focus was on not finishing 7th - forget the clamour for the top two spots. It's now looking increasingly likely that Wigan and Blackburn Rovers will win automatic promotion after finding their feet and both are on good runs. The scramble below is also evening out and given our poor resent results, our game in hand now changes little. Portsmouth are breathing down our necks and if one of Oxford United, Rotherham or Peterborough put a few results together, we will be fighting to make the play-offs. 

An unlikely promotion this season could propel the club under new ownership. Better-informed people than me believe we are now very close to a deal which is very encouraging given the doubts that appear to have emerged in the last couple of weeks. We have to hope and pray that there is good news before Christmas that gives the club a transfer boost in January. If no deal is done, Duchatelet will surely cash in on some of the playing staff and settle for another season of mediocrity in League One. 

Finally, I was pleased to join many other old faces and friends in the White Swan last night for an impromptu 'Valley Party' 25th anniversary celebration. I got to meet the inspirational and courageous Julie, who along with her son have gone down in Charlton folklore as 'the Liar bed-sheet' heroes. Good, too, to catch-up with some of those behind the ROT Party who are continuing to carry the battle to Duchatelet in his hometown. If you sell-up Roland, you may avoid any potential embarrassment in your local elections next year!

Friday 8 December 2017

Karl Robinson breaks rank...

An interesting few media quotes from Karl Robinson in the last week or so. 

In his latest local press interviews he has revealed that he hasn't spoken to Roland Duchatelet since September but was in touch recently asking for support to take Leon Best on loan until January. First, no contact with the owner for three months during the season - that would be surprising with any other owner but I suppose when ours isn't interested enough to even come and see us play it shouldn't be shock to anyone. Secondly, does he really have to speak to Duchtelet about a short-term loan? Either Meire has been told "no more" and he's had to over her head, or she really has stepped down in more ways than one. 

The second piece to this story is that Duchatelet apparently asked him if he had an Academy player he could put in. A logical enough question but clearly Duchatelet is totally clueless on the playing staff front. Karl then tells us that Richard Murray followed up to tell Karl he could sign Best until January. Does this imply Old Dickie is forking out for his wages? Good luck to him, if he is, and he has done this in the past to help out and avoid embarrassment e.g. when bills couldn't be paid under the Spivs.

He also went on to talk about his job being at risk with any new ownership, which implies that's on his mind when only a couple of months ago he had asked upstairs about the rumour and been told there was nothing in it. Maybe Karl is feeling he has been lied to (shock, horror, who would do such a thing?) and is subtly trying to re-align himself ahead of takeover news?

Then today we get a piece online from the Telegraph, which whilst quoting Robinson in parts from a month or two ago, appears to have him talking about CARD directly and in tones which are not unsympathetic if not outwardly supportive.

If you are going to the game tomorrow, I hope you enjoy it and that we win. There should actually be a crowd for a change, although sales to home fans looked disappointing midweek. My understanding is that we had only sold c 3000 to home supporters (excluding season tickets) which would be a big disappointment if true and we don't get a decent 'walk-up' gate tomorrow. There would be every prospect of Pompey having actually sold more for this game than we managed. I am guessing c 16,000 as a published attendance? I have to say that this has all the Charlton trademarks of a disappointing match and result.

Tuesday 5 December 2017

The ROT has set in!

Can't help but smile at the news today, on the 25th anniversary of our return to the Valley, that Charlton Athletic supporters are again forming a political party to stand at local elections. The amusing bit is that it's the "Roland OuT" or ROT Party who have launched their intentions here. 

I believe the idea of contesting local elections in Sint Truiden was floated nearly a year ago, so timing might appear odd given the ongoing takeover rumours and Roland's public announcement that he looking to get out of football and is open to offers for Charlton Athletic. However, you have to plan for all eventualities and by the looks of things, I wonder if there are Sint Truiden locals active here in the background who would like to see an anti-Duchatelet candidate irrespective of whether or not he is still calling the shots at the Valley next October. 

On the basis that it won't be Charlton supporters voting anyway, the whole idea, I guess, is to give locals the opportunity to say through the ballot box what they are very well prepared to tell us to our faces but perhaps not so keen to shout around town, and that's that they really like him about as much as we do.

The ROT Party launch has already been picked up Belgian media and news is twittering all over the shop. The best bit about this, of course, is that it's likely to really irk the old goat. Marvellous! Those bloody subversive social media campaigns eh Roland?

Sunday 3 December 2017

AFC Wimbledon 3 v Charlton Athletic 1

Out of the F A Cup at the second round again. Another of the perils of having dropped into League One. 

Not one of our better performances by all accounts but again we had chances which we missed. Magennis comes in for some stick and Ricky Holmes was disappointing, although it's probably unrealistic to expect him to perform wonders in every match he plays. 

After falling one-behind on 10 minutes, that man Ahearne-Grant followed up with another goal having broken the log-jam against Peterborough in the week. Unfortunately he limped off later on and we have to hope that he's not injured sufficiently to miss more matches when he needs games now.

Nabby Sarr has been playing well in recent weeks but was turned inside-out for their second and was part of a shaky defence throughout. Anfernee Dijksteel is being praised again for another decent showing although it was he who conceded the penalty for the killer third late on. 

It feels like three defeats in-a-row even if we stole a point against Posh late on. We will need to be back to our best to keep 4000 Pompey fans quiet next week and to pick up the points we need to maintain our promotion push. It's Bristol Rovers away the week after before we entertain an in-form Blackburn Rovers who were today held at home by Crewe Alexandra.

Saturday 2 December 2017

Duchatelet recants

An "Updated History of Charlton Athletic" will devote several chapters to the last four years of Roland Duchatelet's ownership. Ultimately, it will not be kind to the absent owner and it will tell of an engaging and dramatic struggle between his executive management team and the clubs' supporters (through the supporter group's coalition, CARD). 

It will detail a long sequence of events which show the 'regime' in charge (Meire, Keohane & Co) being accused by CARD of failing the supporters, making ill-informed decisions or telling blatant porkies in the course of spectacular mismanagement and an historic decline. The story-lines are all similar and have the Regime strongly denying what they are accused of, only for time and events to prove them wrong and/or expose their lies.

The current classic is "the club is not for sale" and "Roland is here for the long haul." This has been trotted out over the last twelve months following the intervention of Pitch PR/Tom Rubbashaw when they tried to wipe the slate clean with the "we have made mistakes and we have learnt from them" mantra.

For much of 2017 rumours have been rife, despite intense secrecy, that the Australian Football Consortium (AFC) were attempting to buy the club and that other subsequent bids have been made, notably by what is believed to be a revised Aussie consortium. The club attempted to deny any sale or that Roland's long-term commitment was in doubt, famously telling us that speculation wasn't "helpful." 

So, the Times article yesterday in which Duchatelet is quoted saying "actually, I wanted to leave football after the sale of Standard Liege" makes clear his intentions to sell. He also says in relation to his remaining clubs "I haven't decided anything, I am open to possible offers,"which leaves us wondering whether this is all just paving the way for an announcement of a sale or if it's a last-ditch pitch for alternative interest?

Either way, we appear to be firmly in the end-game and we can only hope and pray for a swift conclusion to this disastrous Regime which is already a full year past it's sell-by-date.  New ownership will bring it's own challenges and risks but it will also bring a fresh start and the optimism of once again having owners whose primary ambition is to develop and grow the club we all love, but which Roland Duchatelet has only seen play once or twice in four years of ownership.

Friday 1 December 2017

CARD to recognise Valley Party contribution

Pleased to see that the protest groups involved in CARD have decided to mark the 25th anniversary of our return to the Valley by distributing thousands of red and white rosettes ahead of our clash with Portsmouth.

CARD's statement explains that "the rosettes are to celebrate the part played by fans in the re-opening of the SE7 stadium, and particularly the role of the Valley Party, whose 60 candidates amassed nearly 15,000 votes in the 1990 local elections, changing Greenwich Council policy in the process. The club’s then directors wore red and white rosettes when the first match back, also against Portsmouth, took place on December 5th, 1992."

Th irony here is that the Regime have found the whole anniversary decidedly awkward. Katrien Meire is on record saying she doesn't care about the club's history and the fact that the vast majority of the 60 Valley Party candidates still alive are vehemently opposed to her and Duchatelet have seen her try to sidestep those primarily responsible for the return. That includes the Directors at the time who put their personal wealth on the line to make it happen. I would love to see photos of those guys proudly displaying their red and white rosettes and giving Meire the metaphorical finger.

So, if you are attending the match, please grab a rosette and make it clear who we should be acknowledging on 9th December for bringing us back to the Valley. It wasn't the Belgians or Sir Bufton Tufton.

Almost inevitably, the clowns in charge have failed to put vinegar on their chips ahead of the game and have, controversially, decided to give Pompey 700 more seats in the East stand in addition to having sold out the away end. I can just see them roaring Pompey on to a victory an closing the gap on us in the table. They will argue it was for safety reasons because Pompey fans were trying to purchase in home areas but we have a fairly comprehensive membership scheme which has safeguarded this previously, even against Millwall whose supporters would have a better contacts and local addresses to get tickets in home areas if they were so motivated.

Frankly, 3000-odd should have been enough to satisfy all of those Pompey fans who have loyally followed them to most of their away matches to date but part of me would have wanted to acknowledge the sacrifice they made 25 years ago when they agreed to take only 150 tickets so that more Charlton fans could attend what they recognised was an historic match for us. I would have done it for those reasons and planned it properly, not just decided to cash-in and sod the inconvenience and potential risk for home supporters. On their heads be it, as usual.