Monday 31 December 2018

Hopes for 2019

Six or seven weeks ago I was firmly of the opinion that Welling United had a better chance of promotion this season than the Addicks. They were on a fine run which had taken them to the top of National League South and whilst there are clubs with bigger resources, I felt the Wings were a good bet. My view of Charlton's hopes, of course, is always tainted by the lack of Roland Duchatelet's ambition and my own conviction that he is happier with League One running costs than the expectations and expense of the Championship. Being promoted might increase the value of the club but Duchatelet will know that unless he can be confident of securing a timely sale, he could be left holding the tab for another season and the cachet of Championship status might be short-lived without strengthening of the squad, something I am certain he wouldn't be interested in.

Since then a couple of things have happened which has changed my view. First, Welling's driving force in midfield, ex-Arsenal starlet Jack Jebb, managed to injure himself for the rest of the season and Lee Bowyer has continued to collect unlikely looking victories, such as winning at league leaders Pompey. 

The Wings have battled on since Jebb's injury and are hanging around the play-off places but they have lost six-pointers to both Torquay and Concord Rangers in recent weeks which has seen them leap-frogged and they now sit fourth, but crucially only two points from ninth place St. Albans, so there is a posse gathering. They face Dartford away tomorrow in the Boxing Day re-match and will do well to avoid a revenge defeat from a side who can also now draw level with them. It looks like it's going to be a battle for the Wings until the end of the season. Automatic promotion looks unlikely so they need to finish in contention for the play-offs but that is looking a harder ask.

Two defeats on the trot have dampened promotion fervour at The Valley but Lee Bowyer's side are still very much in play-off contention and the top seven to Doncaster Rovers have a bit of a gap on the rest. Injuries have limited Bow's options but his side have done well to stick at it and they should see off Walsall tomorrow at The Valley which would be some comfort for the Saddlers having dumped our second-string out of the F A Cup in early December (if the visitors come with more confidence in their step and can repeat the result, Lee Bowyer may well rue his decision to field a weakened side against them last time). 

The elephant-in-the-room for Charlton supporters at this time of year is just how much damage Duchatelet might do to the club's squad in the January window. By now, the notion of him strengthening the squad should be something that even the most deluded apologist can't entertain. 

It looks like Joe Aribo could well exercise his options and sign a pre-contract deal for a fresh start and better terms elsewhere in the Summer (how did the club's management fail to avoid this situation?). That would mean we might retain his services but there is an equal chance, given the number of sides reportedly interested, that one of them may see him as an urgent need now and be prepared to cut a deal to give Duchatelet a consolation fee to get him early. He is, of course, injured at the moment and that might mean he stays for now. 

Our injury list also protects us a little from asset-sales but I do wonder if Duchatelet might be tempted by a cheeky offer for the likes of Bauer or Taylor? It wouldn't be popular or wise but Duchatelet has proven time and again that he doesn't care about the customers think or the ambitions of the football team. There is a view that, given his wealth, Duchatelet can afford to bide his time when selling players but he showed last year when Konsa was flogged to Brentford that he has one eye on the size of the operating loss and a bird in the hand is often worth two in the bush. 

Our loan keeper, Jed Steer may be recalled to Aston Villa given injury to one of their current two, so Bowyer might have to find another loanee replacement before he might ask Mr Bumble for some more. I can't help thinking that Lee Bowyer may be less satisfied with his employer's support come the end of January than he has been hitherto.

Whatever happens, best wishes to all readers for the New Year!

Monday 17 December 2018

The admirable Lyle Taylor calls it out

Lyle Taylor has made a significant impact since arriving at The Valley this season. His intelligent forward play has seen him bag his share of the goals which have fired Charlton into play-off contention and Karlan Grant has also prospered as part of a successful striking combination.

In addition to this, the genial Taylor has also endeared himself to the supporters with his willingness to get involved in issues outside of football, such as throwing his weight behind the Cancer Research campaign and dying his hair pink to draw additional attention. That prompted a local kids team to do the same and Lyle was quick to visit the lads involved and show support for them. 

You can say it's all good PR for pros and that they have some level of obligation to their clubs, but you get the strong impression with Taylor that he is very much his own man and very happy to be doing his bit.

If that weren't enough, he has come out in the press today with a rallying cry for Roland Duchatelet to support his manager in the January transfer window. He explains that our small squad has togetherness but that we are short in one or two places and now would be the time to strengthen the group. Fearful of the current side possibly being denuded during January, he urges Duchatelet to hang on to much-rumoured Joe Aribo and makes a call for Karlan Grant to have his future secured and possibly avoid an early exit or a Summer situation where he could walk on his own terms, like Aribo, with little or no transfer fee.

I don't suspect Lyle will be Top of the Pops with the club's few senior managers and you can bet that Duchatelet won't be adding a thank-you line in his Christmas card. However, you have to credit him for having the courage to speak-up and say it as it is. We all instantly understand it so he could be forgiven for saying nothing but he is clearly focused on a possible promotion and  is putting down a marker. Goes up yet another notch in my estimation.

Tuesday 4 December 2018

Charlton Athletic get behind local Foodbanks

The Club have announced plans to support Greenwich residents in most need over Christmas by working alongside Addick volunteers and Greenwich Foodbank to collect food donations at upcoming home games against Wimbledon (Saturday 15th December) and Gillingham a week later.

The idea came from local lad, Samuel Spong, who was inspired by the similar initiative started by football fans in Liverpool and the north-west under the banner of "Fans Supporting Foodbanks." Post-Grad Samuel approached the Club and Greenwich Foodbank who were both very keen to support the initiative.

Foodbanks are not a simple free food handout. They give to people with clear need identified by a variety of local agencies - Citizen's Advice, GP's, Housing Welfare Officers, social services, Children's Centres and some local charities. Food is exchanged for authorised vouchers and is intended to be a short-term emergency stop-gap measure to tide people over until their underlying issues are resolved. The introduction of Universal Credit is driving a peak in demand as people with no resources to fall back on are suffering initial delays in getting benefit payments transitioned onto the new system. It's an oversight that could only be made by people comfortable in their employment, with no comprehension of what living from one-day to the next actually involves, nor any idea how people might not have savings to fall-back on or the ability to borrow from anyone.

If you are planning on attending either of the two pre-Christmas home matches, why not put a couple of tins aside and hand them in to the collection van which will be positioned inside the West Stand gate prior to kick-off? The Foodbank are currently short of tinned peas, carrots, fruit, rice and custard as well as long life fruit juice. 

It would be great to see this really work over Christmas and possibly become a regular feature at home matches. The Club have really embraced the idea and are engaging with Greenwich Foodbank - some of the players have expressed an interest, too, which will help raise the profile of this worthwhile initiative.

Sunday 2 December 2018

Bowyer's F A Cup own-goal will have repercussions

Pretty much a unanimous response from angry Charlton fans to yesterday's F A Cup surrender by Lee Bowyer. Having just had a blank weekend and with no game for another week, Bowyer's decision to put a fully second string out with no back-up from the bench back-fired unsurprisingly when Doncaster Rovers progressed to the third round proper with a comfortable 2-0 victory.

Bowyer's comments after the match were careless and he should know better than to throw out a line like "missed opportunity? What, of winning the F A Cup? We're never going to win it." The 3,000 diehards who turned up yesterday didn't do so expecting to win the Cup Lee, they only wanted to progress to the 3rd Round for a change and perhaps get a crack at a club like the one we used to be. If you weren't up for it, you might have been better saying so and then perhaps only 300 or so might have had their time and money wasted. 

If that's Bowyer's attitude, why did he field a stronger side in the Mansfield replay? We had even less chance of winning the F A Cup at that stage.

At any other club I would expect Bowyer to feel some heat from the owner but Roland Duchatelet probably has heard the result yet and presumably isn't interested in the details given how little he cares about Charlton Athletic, let alone football. There is an argument that we could have collected another £50k in prize money from progressing but given the losses in hosting a fixture where the gate is small and you have to give more than half of it away, I wouldn't be surprised if Duchatelet already made it clear that Cup matches are an expense he isn't interested in (despite their possibility of becoming lucrative money-spinners in later rounds). He really isn't interested in speculating to accumulate. It's a bit like his whole league philosophy where the lower the cost-base, the smaller his annual operating loss and the better his chance to break even or even turn a profit through player sales.

However, the heat from fans on Twitter and the Internet has been voluminous and loud and I wouldn't be surprised if someone at the club feels moved to have to attempt to defuse the situation in some way although I am not expecting one of Duchatelet's classic bracketed rants. Whatever happens, the memory of this will be rekindled next Autumn when our next F A Cup misadventure is upon us - what are the odds we will struggle to get 3,000 for our next home F A Cup match? Another in the wearyingly long list of new club lows under Roland Duchatelet's disastrous regime. 

Lee Bowyer's mistakes here have managed to crash a lot of the goodwill he has created and for many he has now piled the pressure on himself to deliver a promotion that I believe is beyond us at this point in time and which will be impossible after the January transfer window closes. In the meantime, join with me in hoping Donny pull a plum tie in the Third Round draw - they deserve it for putting out a competitive side and going for the victory away from home. 

Saturday 1 December 2018

Welling United 3 v Hungerford Town 1

The Wings scored three at home once again and moved back to the top of National league South with a win over Hungerford Town this afternoon. The heavy morning rain may have put off a couple of hundred from making the match but the 404 present saw another solid home performance.

Hungerford came to make a game of it and, especially in the first-half, they looked potential value for a point. Welling got off to a relatively slow start and aside from a fine header from Audel which was acrobatically tipped over, we had to be content with Welling keeping the visitors in check during the opening twenty minutes. After that the Wings warmed to the occasion and with L'Ghoul finding his feet down the left and Kiernan probing inside right, the chance for the opener wasn't long in coming. As I came through the turnstiles, the Welling side was being announced and as Goldberg was named at number ten the bloke in front of me leant back and said "I see the Chairman's wife has picked the team again." I always find this criticism of Goldberg a cheap shot and unfair, so was pleased to see him turn superbly and make a yard of space for himself which allowed him to beat the Hungerford keeper with a low hard shot to the corner from the edge of the box. Hungerford continued to plug away and they got their reward in the 46th minute when their full back, Matt Jones, was allowed easy access into the box and drove in an equaliser that Wilks could do nothing about.

Kicking down the slope towards the Park View Road, I was confident Welling would boss the second-half and they did. L'Ghoul was seeing much more of the ball and finding he was able to travel across the Hungerford back-line with impunity. Paterson was trying desperately to get on the end of anything in the box but was being very well marshalled by Marvel Ekpiteta. Goldberg was also doing a lot of running but Welling were a bit short of an aerial threat. Cue the removal of Paterson and introduction of the loftier Mills. L'Ghoul drew another foul 25 yards out and from the resulting free-kick a deep cross eventually found Mills high at the back post and as his thumping header back across the goal flew to the back post the only thought was whether or not it would creep in. As it was it didn't matter because flying in feet-first was Player-of-the-Month for November, the horizontal L'Ghoul who forced it home. 

Hungerford were beaten and from then it was only a case of could Welling increase their advantage. Gavin McCullum, on as a sub, managed to make enough of a nuisance of himself at the back-post for another cross that the covering defender was forced to chest it back across goal and Mills reacted quickest to steer in the third from close range. Mills and Kiernan combined superbly at full speed after that and were unfortunate that Kiernan was blocked before he could add to the goal tally.

The three points push Welling back to the top-of-the-table on goal difference from Woking after Billericay lost 3-2 at home to Oxford City. Meanwhile, Charlton's post-1947 F A Cup curse continued with a disappointing 0-2 home defeat to Doncaster Rovers. It probably didn't help that Lee Bowyer's focus is the league and he decided to put out a second string. It really is a struggle going to see Charlton in any cup competition but particularly the the F A Cup - hardly anything to shout about for 70 years - and the club doesn't seem interested in them.

Thursday 22 November 2018

Sale of Charlton - Amateur Hour

The Fans Forum, that initial Meire creation of a box-ticking exercise to cover off 'fan engagement' met again this week. It appears to have focused on an update on takeover news.

Lead by Lieven De Turck (LDT), the update was in stark contrast to previous history of virtually zero news (Non-Disclosure Agreements) and yet the updates looked like a poor and obvious attempt to make it appear there is far more going on than there actually is.

I don't expect anyone to give us the nitty-gritty and certainly not to reveal the identities of anyone keen to protect their interests given the chances of failure to conclude a deal. However, you have to question the wisdom of an update that astonishingly wants to lend credibility to five ongoing bids none of which appear to have any compelling intention or drive to acquire the club. For example, the "groups linked to the Australians still have to lodge outstanding documents with the EFL to complete the deal." We knew that from the utterances of a clearly frustrated EFL who felt compelled to be seen to do something once they were partially embroiled over assumed paperwork delays in the heat of Summer. That was months ago and LDT informs us that he thinks the ongoing delay is over "their complexity" - that is of their group, not the paperwork. This despite assurances from the man himself that the price was agreed in February. Sorry but that doesn't wash.

Updates on the other parties named as 'second, third, fourth and fifth' and helpfully labelled British or European in several cases, are equally lame. One British group has "always been active" and the others are undergoing due diligence, have signed an NDA or are awaiting to show proof of funds. We were told previously there was a long-standing British consortium so LDT checks that box but they too have been rumoured to be buying the club for an equally implausibly long time as the Aussies and have been ridiculed by others who believe they understand the make-up of the group (remember the Alex McLeish involvement which he closed down quickly after having had a shufty saying that "they want too much money" or words to that effect). I am pretty sure the Aussies can see through all this other interest - it certainly hasn't forced their hand.

You have to reflect on why it's taken so long for RD to sell Charlton Athletic. Far bigger clubs are bought and sold in a fraction of the time and without a hint of the nonsense we have been subjected to. There is very obviously a big sticking point with the Aussies and I suspect with anyone else with any serious intent who has invested money to investigate purchase. Price is the obvious issue and that's what's been raised in many places. If the supporters can do the maths, and they have, using publicly available data, it's disingenuous for RD to continue to try to sell the club for a premium. Only a fool would agree upon a multi-million pound purchase of a football club with significant ongoing running costs as well as further investment in order to make it successful without completing basic due diligence to qualify the risk and, as importantly, the actual value of the club and it's current financial liabilities. 

Therein lies the rub, of course, because that's what the arrogant Roland Duchaletlet did when he casually acquired us and a host of other football clubs four years ago when he was convinced a multi-club ownership could allow him to exploit Financial Fair Play for his own gain. When FFP failed, he managed to get out of Standard Liege relatively unscathed and his other clubs are much smaller so less of a financial risk but his gross failure at Charlton has seen the club relegated, fans driven away and the accompanying loss of revenue has seen debts escalate to approaching £70m. This is heading towards four times his original stake and he is desperate to save face and reduce his losses so he can step away from the mess. 

He has already admitted defeat and confirmed his glaringly obvious lack-of-interest in Charlton Athletic (once "one of his children"). So why then doesn't he simply get real, cut his losses and take it on the chin? He can afford it after all. The answer, I suspect, is his huge ego and his arrogance that he can get what he wants if he's prepared to last it out. I also noted LDT's comments that interest in acquiring the club is on the increase because of the upcoming transfer window and the club sitting sixth in the table. This, for me, is the give-away line in the whole piece. The notion that our league placing will force someone's hand to increase their price substantially is more arrogance, more ignorance and simply wishful thinking. A few games ago we lost a couple on the bounce and dropped to mid-table. If a deal is truly dependent on promotion, why bother with due diligence when we were clearly languishing in League One a year ago and when the shortage of investment and continuing cashing in on anyone saleable is the evident policy. It will simply never happen on that basis.

As for the transfer window - ha, ha, ha, ha-ha! That suggests Roland won't do what he did last year when the Aussies were first identified and a takeover was 'imminent' (haven't heard from Richard Murray since). If you remember, he sold top scorer Ricky Holmes as quickly as he could in his fit of pique over perceived delays in acquisition. He followed that by actually bothering to come to London and storming around the club having lights bulbs removed and making trivial cost-savings which were all a bit of fiddling-whilst-Charlton-burns. Staff have since seen their anticipated bonuses not paid due to the financial failure of the club - another in a factory-line of PR disasters that have characterised Duchatelet's clumsy ownership.

All the latest LDT waffle tells me is that we are still a long way off from any realistic sale. An unlikely promotion could provoke more serious interest but the fundamental problem of price remains and presumably the bar would simply rise in parallel. Before May though, we have to negotiate January without more chips being cashed-in. That Lyle Taylor is attracting a lot of attention and envious glances. 

Thursday 15 November 2018

Today South London, Tomorrow South London

Wanted to give a shout out for the book of the same title by Andrew Grumbridge and Charlton fan, Vincent Raison. My reading is usually confined to holidays and is either biographical or military. However, a Good Samaritan posted a copy of Today South London, Tomorrow South London through my door last week with a post-it note saying this would be right up my street.

It certainly was and I am now re-reading it (unheard of for me). There's not much football content but it's unashamedly all about a Beer and South London drinking establishments which are the two other points of the Charlton diehard's preoccupation.

The book builds on many previous pieces from The Deserter blog and involves the escapades of four great mates who like nothing more than taking time out to roam South London on the lash with the occasional rest to inhale some herbs to help the day along. Obviously I would like to have read more 'sarf-east' tales but South London is a big canvass and it's good to get a broader perspective sometimes.

I particularly like the writing style and the uninhibited use of language which really helps you get to grips with those involved. The book was funded via donations and printed via 'Unbound' who support this self-start model which allows more creative freedom and the book undoubtedly benefits from that.

It helps if you can avoid the temptation to jump from one chapter to another in search of places you are more familiar with because the book is written chronologically and you risk missing cross-references otherwise. I, of course, jumped to 'Thirsty in Kidbrooke' to roar at the observations of Kidbrooke Village to the former Ferrier Estate where I spent several exciting years in the early 80's. I was much amused by reference to an incident of the smoke bomb in the Wat Tyler one lazy weekday afternoon. When the smoke finally cleared and us shirkers returned to our pints, the Landlord declared (in complete disbelief) that the fruit machine had vanished. It was around the back with it's cover prised off and the coin slots gone. My flat-mate and I were drinking in the pub that day!

As we know, in addition to being on the best side of the river, all the world is here. Makes a decent Christmas pressie for a tenner.

Thursday 1 November 2018

"Complete and utter tosh."

That was the reaction of former Palace-supremo Simon Jordan to the 'defence' that Roland Duchatelet attempted to put forward on Talk Sport radio this week for the parlous state of Charlton Athletic FC as we approach the fifth anniversary of his reign.

Simon Jordan is a man despised in these parts for all sorts of reasons, not least because of what has come out of his mouth at times in the past. However, it has to be said, he has called this perfectly. He ridiculed the various excuses that Duchatelet offered-up including the line that prospective buyers have been getting cold feet because of results and supporter protests. He went on to say that due diligence was a critical activity and because Duchatelet hadn't done any when he bought the club, he had failed to understand what the club was all about. The fact that Duchatelet has since been largely absent has compounded the issue and his reliance on the woefully inept Katrine Meire meant he only got her sugar-coated version of her latest cock-up which invariably blamed the customers for complaining about the number of chips per portion. He still thinks she did a wonderful job despite all of the evidence and all of the witnesses to the exact opposite.

Not understanding what he was buying or not wanting to understand was clearly not a concern for the arrogant Belgium who very quickly had Meire telling anyone who wanted to know that "the owner does it his way" and that we would have to lump it. Not carrying out due diligence was also borne of the arrogance of a billionaire who probably saw little point wasting half-a-million on the exercise when he was only paying £18m for the club (inc £4m debt). How we could do with a similar laissez-faire attitude as he seeks to get out, you know, agreeing a price based upon what it's worth or maybe a bit less for a quick sale. Instead we have him looking desperately to save face on the whole sorry fiasco by getting an unrealistically high price that might him sell a story back home about how he didn't lose out on yet another of his long list of business successes.

Jordan also made the astute observation that "everyone around it (the club) seems to be disassociated and disenfranchised." Two superbly picked adjectives that really sum it up for me today.

As for his view that prospective buyers might be driven on price and determination based upon results from week-to-week, you can only wonder at how despondent they must be at the moment as yet another false dawn disappears over the horizon.

Saturday 27 October 2018

Welling United 3 v Gloucester City 1

Welling United moved to the top of the Vanarama National League South this afternoon following a solid home win over a battling Gloucester City side. It was no more than the Wings have deserved so far this season with some impressive football and some fine goals. The three today were all quality goals which delighted the 600 there to see them.

On a dry, if chilly afternoon, Welling took an early lead after some fine wing play by man-of-the-match Nassim L'Ghoul. Fittingly for Halloween, L'Ghoul was at his best and his quick interchange on the half-way line with Coombes set him free to tear down the left wing and skipped past two covering Gloucester defenders before teeing up Coombes to deliver a cross which strike partner Matt Patterson pulled down at the back of the six yard area and knocked on for the swivelling Brendan Kiernan who volleyed home from close range. 

Coombes was unfortunate not to double the Wings lead after he made a lung-busting run to meet L'Ghouls' driven ball into the box after another careering run down the left. Coombe's touch was perfect and he fired the ball goanward from close range but the visitors keeper somehow kept the effort out.

Gloucester had their share of possession and Jack Parker on the left flank was particularly swift whenever he got the ball but they couldn't force the equaliser.

After the break and with Welling kicking down the slight slope towards the favoured Park View End, L'Ghoul sealed the result with a superbly taken free-kick from the right-hand edge of the box after Coombes had been felled. With all the big boys jostling for a far post header, L'Ghoul whipped a peach of a curling shot towards the back post but turned perfectly into the top-corner.

Welling weathered ten minutes of Gloucester pressure before another sweeping move which freed the lively Kiernan to steam out and down the left. He had an overlapping Red shirt and was closing on the ideal shooting distance when he looked up for Patterson. I swear I saw him smile as he saw the rangey striker cruising into the box on a diagonal run and he drilled a pass into Patterson's path which he steered first-time low and wide of the keep into the bottom corner. The pair of them were clearly delighted and it looked like a well-rehearsed move that had come off. 

Three-nil and with the clock counting down Welling made a couple of substitutions to rest players ahead of Tuesday's trip to St. Albans. The changes coincided with Parker nicking a consolation goal but Welling weren't to be denied and held on for an excellent result.

There is a good vibe around this side and they have responded well to manager Steve King. Mark Goldberg has supported the manager and is deservedly seeing the fruits. Long may it continue.

Meanwhile, up at Rochdale, the Addicks were spluttering to a dismal defeat following a defensive howler which let Dale in after only a few minutes. The first-half was poor and although things improved after the break, Bowyer was disappointed with the attitude and has questioned the players. Lyle Taylor missed a first-half penalty and the Addicks hit the woodwork twice but didn't deserve anything from an otherwise poor showing. The defeat sees them drop into the second-half of the table (13th) for the first-time this season and they face three more tricky fixtures; Doncaster at home next Saturday before tasting away games at Walsall and table-topping Portsmouth. We will have to hope that we can continue our habit of playing better against better sides, but it's gutting that we appear to marry that with playing poorly against the poorer ones.

Wednesday 24 October 2018

"Holmes had to go" - Karl Robinson

Karl Robinson returned to the scene of his last failed managerial position yesterday and his struggling Oxford United side managed to stick a spoke in the Charlton wheel with a second-half equaliser to deny the Addicks momentum from Saturday's impressive win over high-flying Barnsley.

However, a comment from the verbose Robinson responding to the home fans booing of Ricky Holmes was very telling. Holmes was sold nearly a year ago to Sheffield United for a purported million pounds at a time when he was our top scorer and was largely responsible for point-winning displays of the early part of last season which meant we avoided a relegation struggle at the finish. When Holmes left, he naturally embraced his new club, and that angered some Charlton fans on social media. At the time Holmes remained fairly tight-lipped but there was a comment from him at the time along the lines of "the truth will out."

What Robinson made clear last night was that Holmes was sold from under him by Roland Duchatelet and that Holmes himself had little say in the matter which qualifies Holmes' comment at the time. It was fairly apparent that selling Holmes was a book-balancing exercise in the same vein as Gomez, Lookman, Cousins, Gudmundsson, Pope and Konsa but it's still gratifying to have that confirmed and in those tones. 

It remains patently clear to me that, not only has Duchatelet left us deliberately short of a squad to challenge once again (Bauer's injury coincided with one point from nine after a promising run), but that he is very likely to be keeping an eye on who he can sell this January and an ear out for prospective buyers (of players). So the merry-go-round will begin once again.

Any smarter clubs should see us for the lame duck we are and know that there are bargains to be had given the owners lack of interest in the footballing side of things and his determination to cut his ongoing losses. 

Saturday 13 October 2018

Welling United 2 v Slough Town 1

Welling are up to second in the table, two points behind leaders Billericay courtesy of a hard-fought win over Slough Town. The sun was out and so were the shorts again today as the mercury touched an unbelievable 75F in mid-October. A decent 'non-league day' gate of 953 boosted by a credible 100 or so from Slough.

Spurred by the return of hit-man Adam Coombes, Welling took the lead after only two minutes as Coombes arrived to plant a firm Jack Jebb free-kick beyond Jack Turner in the visitors goal. For the next twenty minutes we waited for the second and had visions of a rout. A Jebb-inspired midfield had Slough working overtime. Nassim L'Ghoul was getting past his man and crossing at will and Slough were struggling to deal with it. It looked a matter of time but then Jebb went down after a nasty looking collision and he didn't get up again. As he was stretchered off, Slough broke with great pace and swift passing movement that was unfortunate not to see them back on level terms. 

Jebb's replacement, David Ijaha usually sits in front of the back four where he relies upon his size to provide cover and initiate some attacks. He is no midfield General by any stretch of the imagination and Welling were notably mooted from there on. They should still have gone in two-up at the break after chances from Kiernan and L'Ghoul were missed. 

After the break Slough were level within a minute with a well worked header and from there it was nip and tuck with the visitors having more possession and they could have been in front by the time Jordan Gibbons was brought down for the Wings after a marauding run into the box. Adam Coombes wasted no time spotting the ball and he had beaten Turner with his eyes before he prodded the ball low to the keeper's right. Welling had left it late so there wasn't really time for a Slough fightback. 

Let's hope Jebb's injury is not as serious as it looked. He is needed to lead the promotion push.

Tuesday 9 October 2018

Quarterly report

With 12 games gone I am relieved to see the Addicks up in 9th position. My pre-season nerves were jangling at the prospect of Duchatelet not giving Bowyer the job on a permanent basis (if only nine months) and being told he could look for yet another manager.

Thankfully Duchatelet saw sense over that, although it probably was the least cost, easiest way forward. In terms of our prospects for the season, that only left concerns about the relative thinness of the squad and the lack of quality outside our first eleven. Inspired by goals from Lyle Taylor (7) and Karlan Grant (5), Bowyer's charges have made a fist of it so far winning five, drawing three and losing four. 

Our last three results have seen us grab a last gasp point at Luton and then fall to a heavy defat at Scunthorpe and an unfortunate reversal at the Valley against Coventry. The loss of 8 points from the last 9 has also seen us slide six places down the table and we will lose further ground this weekend when those around us are in action and we sit it out due to players on international duty. The plus side of that is that it will give us an extra week to improve injuries - the sword of Damocles that hangs over thin squads. 

Patrick Bauer's absence has coincided with the recent loss of defensive sure-footedness and Lewis Page's latest injury has seen Bowyer forced to play players out-of-position and wrong-footed. Bowyer will fight on and make the most of whatever hand he is dealt but the run-in to Christmas looks challenging, especially away from home where we face high-flying Portsmouth, Walsall and Barnsley in addition to easier looking games at Rochdale, Burton and-erm Coventry. We also have Barnsley to come at the Valley next and Doncaster two down the line but should expect to get points from Oxford United (Karl Robinson ha-ha-ha), Bristol Rovers and then Wimbledon and Gillingham, although the latter two have a habit of getting results against us the form-book suggests otherwise.

Injuries will continue to be key but I think we will do well to arrive at the January window better than 9th. That would probably be the signal for Duchatelet to feel confident enough to look to cash in on any players attracting the eye and offering a profit to help him offset the ongoing losses. If Bowyer is allowed any backfill, history tells us it will be a body-shopping exercise to help him continue to put a side out and that will not address the quality gap left by the departing player(s). God, it's so depressing supporting Charlton under Duchatelet.

Meanwhile, over Shooters Hill, Welling United are beginning to excel in National Vanarama South. After two early season defeats, the new-look Wings side has found some form and now gone nine unbeaten, including their latest F A Cup win away at Hereford United on Saturday. Inspired by Thierry Audel at the back and Dan Wilks in goal, the Wings have stopped shipping goals. Their midfield, lead by ex-Arsenal youngster Jack Jebb and the talented Brendan Kiernan are continuing to take games to the opposition and the goals are coming. The return of talisman Adam Coombes is a big boost and, despite a tough 4th qualifying round draw away at Woking, I fancy the Wings to make the First Round proper.

Whatever happens, it's been a bright start and it promises to be an exciting and rewarding league season for a change. Mark Goldberg deserves credit for the work he has continued to do in developing the club and particularly the bold decisions he has made over management and playing personnel. There has been a lot of change over the last two seasons but it bodes well. Welling are playing some excellent football and look a cut above most sides in their division.

Tuesday 25 September 2018

Roland Duchatelet scores yet another own-goal - he's lethal in front of his own net.

Roland Duchatelet is at it again, firing from the hip in another deranged fit of pique. Via the club's website he has today tried to deflect the national media criticism he has rightly received for failing to honour bonuses to low paid staff who he increasingly relies on to keep the club functioning in the absence of a proper supporting management structure and no recognisable day-to-day leadership. His comments are worthy of even more critique so I include them here verbatim:

"In June 2017 Charlton Athletic decided to give staff discretionary bonuses because the club covered operational losses with high income from player sales resulting in a profit of £1.4m ((EBITDA + £6m) during the 2016/17 season. In 2017/18 the operational losses grew and the player sales were much lower. This was mainly because of the ongoing sale of the club which caused our CEO to leave resulting in delayed player sales and delay in actions being taken to make the club more cost efficient. Last season the club lost £10m (EBITDA loss £5.5m) and as a consequence the decision was taken not to grant discretionary bonuses, all contractual bonuses are being paid. The ownership can confirm that to date no legal action has been taken against the club on the issue of discretionary staff bonuses.
In the meantime the club investigated how this issue became national news in the UK and beyond, a significant blow to the reputation of the club and owner and to the ability of the owner to sell the club.
On August 20th, before the decision not to pay a discretionary bonus was communicated to the employees, the article on the Daily Mail website appeared.
After the club confirmed on August 22nd that no bonuses will be granted for last season but contractual bonuses would be paid, the owner received an unsigned letter from “the administrative staff at The Valley” – there was no mention of the employees at the training ground. This letter was received at 4.35pm and was Tweeted out by CARD at 5.53pm. Their communication made it appear as if all employees were involved, that the bonuses were an obligation and that consequently the club was failing to fulfil its contractual obligations to its employees. An employee or small group tried to use the external pressure from the media to get their discretionary bonus despite the huge reputational damage to the club. It is unclear if a majority of the employees at The Valley supported the external communication of this letter, although it was written in their name, since nobody signed this letter to the owner. Although CARD has been very keen that the club’s management should always be accurate, the requirement does not seem to apply to their own communication.
The ownership believes the fans and the EFL deserve to know what really happened as the truth has been misrepresented.
Another recent example of the relativity of “truth” for CARD is when they recently wrote they “were disgusted to hear that Roland Duchatelet, our billionaire owner, is no longer willing to pay for academy players to drink water or eat breakfast at the club’s training ground".
The academy players still have access to water at all times, now they have refillable bottles rather than plastic water bottles. The ownership continues to invest £2.2m per year in the Academy, which is considerably more than the majority of League One clubs invest."

Wow! There's a lot that drops out that, so I'll start at the top....

- discretionary bonuses (which staff maintain weren't communicated as such) weren't paid because the club made a loss due to the fact that the club was up for sale (Roland's decision) which caused his CEO to leave which caused a delay in player sales and efficiency measures. 
- she left at the end of 2017 and has still not been replaced to my knowledge (Roland's decision). He has belatedly appointed Leuven De Turck to oversee the sale of the club he does not appear to be an acting Chief Exec (Roland's decision) and has done nothing that I can see to hasten any player sales. Those who left in the Summer wouldn't have affected last year's financial performance.
Is he really saying bonuses might have been paid if the business in the January window was done days earlier, or is he implying more players may have been sold? The latter would make more sense.
- Roland seems miffed that his decision to renege on bonuses (discretionary or otherwise) was leaked to the press before he could tell staff whereas the facts are that the payments were due to have been in staff pay packets July and there had been zero communication to the effect that they would be getting diddly-squat (Roland's responsibility) and it looks suspiciously like it was the leak that forced him into having to justify his actions.
- How does Roland know that the anonymous letter claiming to come from "the administrative staff at the Valley" came from"an employee or small group" and not all the staff or the majority who weren't paid bonuses?
- Roland doesn't appear to understand why anyone would send an anonymous letter or the implied suggestion that those involved don't trust him not to be vindictive and take punitive action against them. He also seems to think that because the anonymous letter didn't mention the staff at Sparrows Lane who weren't paid bonuses either that they were somehow happier with the situation.
- The lesson Roland hasn't learnt from this is that deciding not to pay lowly paid staff relatively small bonuses and not communicating it properly is likely to have unintended and potentially disproportionate consequences. He acknowledges as much but will, presumably, make the same mistake again at the next opportunity.
- Like Joe Public and the national press, the EFL will indeed take a view - the truth may indeed have been misrepresented.
- CARD's highlighting of the penny-pinching around stopping of young players breakfasts and bottled water was simply to highlight the lunacy of the recent round of penny-wise-pound-foolish efficiencies that Duchatelet started off blaming the loss of Katrien Meire for not having started early enough (Roland's decision). He missed an opportunity to continue the line about the club's green policy and the part it played in doing away with those evil disposable plastic bottles.
- CARD have highlighted the false economies partly because they are laughable and continue to show Duchatelet up for the ass he is but, more importantly, because it demonstrates perfectly why the club cannot succeed under him and why he is failing even to be able to sell the club to a very interested buyer.
- The final point about the on going cost of the Academy is a hollow boast that, like his trumpet-blowing undersoil heating and his much-vaunted development of Sparrows Lane won't stand much scrutiny. He also fails to acknowledge once again that when he acquired the club we were a competitive Championship establishment but he is honest enough to be comparing us now to "the majority" of League One clubs.
- Roland has hardly been involved in the running of the club since he acquired us, so it's perhaps easy to see why he feel everything is always someone else's fault but he really ought to take some personal responsibility once in awhile for the absolute mess this football club is inland why he's going to take a massive financial loss when he is eventually forced to sell it.

I expect absolutely nothing from his upcoming meeting with the EFL because I suspect it's a box-ticking exercise and they have no real power over him and will be circumspect regardless of what he says or how he behaves. We might get a few sentences clarifying the line that takeover was being delayed by the EFL but even that will be worded by a lawyer.

Roland Duchatelet - who could have known what he had in store for us in January 2014? All ammunition, I guess,  for the almost unbelievable tale that the book of his disastrous ownership will tell. It will serve as the bible for mis-management in football on almost every front for generations to come and who knows what chapters remain to be written?

Sunday 23 September 2018

Welling United 2 v Chesham United 1

A good old fashioned F A Cup tie this. Chesham, struggling at the foot of the division below the Wings came to battle and they made a game of it.

Welling looked a division higher for much of the match and if anyone did percentage possession stats at this level, it would have been strongly in their favour. This despite resting a few players who might have got the job done earlier and more emphatically. However, the visitors fought hard and the defence played well with a resilient midfield that didn't give up despite having to watch Welling taking the game to them for long periods.

After about twenty-five minutes the match was stopped for no apparent reason. The lino on the Erith & Belvedere side of the pitch had spotted something no-one else in the ground had seen and alerted the referee who after a short exchange raced back across the pitch to inform the Welling management. Moments later a tracksuit hombre armed with a bucket walked around the pitch to the amusement of the supporters. By now, Alex Tokarcyzk in the visitors goal had jogged across to converse with the lino and with the pair of them laughing, it was clear the interruption was for something out-of-the-ordinary. The sight of of the bucket being used to carry scooped fox poo from the playing surface drew the obvious chant from the Wings fans - "you're shit and you know you are!"

The laughter ended shortly after as Chesham scored first against the run of play after half-an-hour. David Ijaha was caught in possession trying to play the ball out and Chesham's centre forward found the corner of the Welling net with a low shot. The pre-match team sheet which is posted inside the ground was unusually incorrect with a number of late changes, including the Chesham goal-scorer. Up until then it had been Welling doing all the pressing. Gavin McCallum was lively as was Jack Jebb, who once again got the man-of-the-match award. Big Danny Mills looked a threat but Welling were struggling to find him.

The Wings redoubled their efforts and responded strongly to going a goal down. A good passing move down the left let McCallum into the visitors box on the overlap and he ran into the near post before pulling the ball back for the arriving Jebb who couldn't miss. One-one and Welling nearly took the lead before the break, A surging run by Thierry Audel into the box from the left-hand side saw a fierce angled shot spooned away brilliantly by Tokarcyzk and it somehow cleared the rest of the goal frame. 

In the second-half and with Welling attacking the Danson Park end there were more chances as they went for the win and we saw very little of Chesham as an attacking force and they were restricted to potshots from distance. A stream of crosses, most from Nassim L'Ghoul threatened to undo Chesham and it was one of these, a curling driven ball to the back post that looked to have done it. Danny Mills climbed unchallenged and had time to plant a thumping downward header on target. It looked a goal all the way but Tokarcyzk threw a panicked shape on his line and somehow got enough behind it to keep it out. Congratulated by his team-mates, the relief was short-lived. 

With the clock running down a repeat back post delivery was met this time by the much smaller McCallum streaking into the box and his arriving pace meant there was nothing Tokarcyzk could do this time to stop the header. 

It was good to hear that Grant had found the net equally late at the Valley for a copycat scoreline. I remember writing awhile back that Grant simply wasn't prolific enough a finisher to make it at Charlton, so it's a pleasant surprise to see him tucking the goals away this season. Lee Bowyer has four wins from four as permanent manager and the Addicts are up to an unlikely-looking sixth in the table. 

Pete from Worthing messaged me last night to say he was missing the Valley and the winning football and is thinking about renewing his season ticket. Those still attending are certainly enjoying the football for a change and for that we owe Bowyer and Steve Gallen a debt of gratitude. Given the history under Duchatelet you have to wonder if our hopes will again be shortened at New Year if, riding-high, we find our side deprived of one or two of the better performing players as he continues to look to fund his losses. In the unlikely event we managed to win promotion, I wonder what price Duchatelet would place on us a Championship club?

Tuesday 11 September 2018

Wake up and smell the coffee Lee

Following his elevation to 'permanent' manager status on a 9 month contract, Lee Bowyer was quick to sing his employer's praises telling the South London Press that Roland has "backed' him whenever he has asked for a player. I think you will find Lee that Duchatelet has only given you less-expensive replacements for better players he has cashed-in on and that you started the season with only 16 professionals and have struggled to field a full bench.

Bowyer acknowledged that "because of the budget it's been tough" but Roland has been supportive and even went the extra mile after the recent harrowing protests at the Fleetwood game to call him on the Sunday and ask "are you okay?" I note Lee that he did this by phone, not in person having come over to provide you and his other staff with visible and moral support. That's the same caring boss who reneged on a rare 10% bonus payment to poorly paid staff and who has turned off lights at Valley and Sparrows Lane as well as having stopped bottled water for non first-team players. 

I am sure Bowyer is speaking as he finds and I respect him for that but I would have hoped he might have reflected more upon the treatment of his predecessor whom he worked with and perhaps done a little bit of light research to better understand the modus operandi of Roland Duchatelet with the multitude of other managers who have not been supported or been visibly out-of-their-depth. Karl Robinson always struck me as being too worried about his own position to openly criticise Duchatelet but he was royally embarrassed when he went to see Duchatelet pre-Christmas two years ago to beg for money to spend in the January sales and was sent home with his tail between his legs. For Robinson, it was always 'the next window.' 

Let's see how Bowyer fares because my money is very heavily on Roland continuing to sell whoever he can as he tries to cut his enormous losses and Bowyer having to make do and mend. He has done that admirably but the point will come where he will realise he is not going to get any help beyond that of an average League One side in his attempts to exit this division. I honestly believe Duchatelet doesn't give a toss about promotion and is perfectly happy running a League One loss instead of a Championship one.

Bowyer was also fooled into telling us that Roland has assured him he "won't sell to just anybody" because he cares so much about the club. Catch yourself on Lee, he will sell to so-called ISIS if the price is right. I think what he actually said was he "won't sell to anybody, because no-one's yet been stupid enough to offer him twice what the club's worth." 

Lee could also learn something if he reads  Duchatelet's latest rant on the club website. It's directed at the EFL who want to speak to him about the state of things at CAFC but it's a barely coherent request that the EFL look into the supporters protests and reflect on those before he is called to account. No doubt this was another of his famous tantrums when he ordered the media team to put his dictat up unedited. The last one caused his then new Comms Manager, the honourable Mel Baroni, to resign but Tom Rubbashaw is made of thicker skin and less integrity and will no doubt put it down to the experience of working with the billionaire Belgian miser-genius.

Thursday 6 September 2018

Finally, some good use - Lee Bowyer permanent

On the back of what seems like a never-ending catalogue of backward steps, penny-pinching and general lack of any ambition, Roland Duchatelet was finally forced into appointing Lee Bowyer on a 'permanent' basis today. In practice that means 9 months but it's still good news, especially when recent experience suggested the Belgian miser might have decided not to make any further commitment to Bowyer.

I am pleased for Bowyer. He has kept out of the politics and been remarkably circumspect with what he's said publicly, both towards Duchatelet and with supporters. He is the only chance we have this season of over-performing. If he had only been offered an extension on a temporary basis I suspect he would have pulled stumps and that would almost certainly seen the wheels fall off.

The news also adds a little more weight to the growing suspicion that the Aussies have either given-up or are prepared to wait it out and see if Duchatelet gets more desperate to sell. Given where we are in the season, it looks highly unlikely there will be any further realistic hope of a takeover deal concluding before January and given the impasse, that may realistically mean next Summer.

Duchatelet will commiserate five years of ownership in January and will reflect on a club halved in all measurable senses since he took over and now firmly established in League 2, a division below where he acquired us. The damage is obvious but the long-termism of it cannot yet be adequately measured and revenues can only realistically fall so much further, certainly less than they have thus far because there's not that far left to fall. The breakage of supporter bonds, family commitments and even the habit of attending is largely invisible at the moment but it may represent a significant hurdle in the future for whoever picks up the pieces. 

I find myself not only boycotting Charlton but actually increasingly enjoying watching non-league football much more than I ever imagined possible  Ironically, I continue to enjoy the match-day experience far better than EFL football. Even more Duchatelet-laden irony given that the match-day experience was his initial game-plan, given he was always clear he wasn't interested in buying his way to success. Welling United manage this very simply without naff marketing gimmicks or Eurotrash music and dancing. They know their supporters wouldn't fall for it. A good sports bar with beer at £3 a pint, plastic glasses available to take into the ground and staff and stewards who behave like grown-ups and who treat the fans with respect. I don't really know how much ambition Mark Goldberg has for the club - he doesn't over-promise, but he has made significant changes this season to management and playing personnel and the Wings are sitting in fourth place with a feel-good factor around the first-team. That's all I really need - someone who appears to be trying and who is always there to watch his team, home and away and to grin or bear it with the club's supporters.

Saturday 1 September 2018

Welling United 3 v Oxford City 2

Whilst Charlton needed a late winner at Southend today, Welling did the same here in a great game which was a fine advertisement for the competitiveness of the National League South.

After a 5-0 demolition of Concorde last week over on Canvey Island, I was hoping to see the Wings rack up a convincing home win here. However, Oxford came to make a game of it and they were in it until the death when Anthony Acheampong latched onto a clever knockdown to thump the winner past Craig King.

The match had started brightly for Welling with them attacking the Park View Road end and they might have taken the lead after man-of-the-match Brendan Kiernan saw a header deflected off a defender and onto the post. Two minutes later Oxford took the lead through Kabongo Tshimanga who nipped in to capitalise on a lack of concentration in the Welling defence. 

Welling were undeterred and came looking for the equaliser. Kieran was sparking everything down the left with close support from Jack Jebb and there was some really good football at times as Goldberg and Mills sought to get a goal-scoring opportunity. Gavin McCallum, another heavily left-footed winger, playing on the right, was also busy re-supplying the front two but it was Kieran who levelled five minutes before half-time. Jebb played his way down the left hand side of the Oxford box and with players blocking his progress, we suddenly heard a cry of "jebby' from Kieran who arrived at the edge of the box. Jebb picked him out and Kieran struck first time. His shot was low and slow but it advanced through a host of players momentarily stationary in the box and it crept into the far corner before King could get across to it. Kieran has managed to replace Joe Healy who was last season's stand-out player and he's done it within a month of the season starting. 

After the break, Oxford responded best and for twenty minutes they took the game to Welling drawing two smart blocking saves from Dan Wilks. Welling came back after that and had a sustained spell of pressure before David Ijaha finally made the breakthrough with a glancing header from short range after a dash across the box to meet what I think was a McCallum cross.

I thought that might be it but Oxford were then awarded a penalty for a challenge that was clearly two yards outside the box. The referee ran immediately towards the tackle with his arm pointed and then, inexplicably, turned and awarded a pen. Justice was done as Patterson skied his effort off the bar and out into the road. Oxford weren't done though and on 82 minutes they equalised after a quick counter attack found Patterson with space to divert a cross in at Wilks' near post. 

With the clock counting down, it was Welling's turn for the last laugh as Acheampong gleefully smacked in the winner.

Welling up to fourth and there looks like a lot more to come from this new side.

Wednesday 15 August 2018

Welling United 0 v Billericay Town 3

Big spending 'Ricky blew into town last night and took the points although the score-line flattered them and the Wings will feel aggrieved not to have taken something from the match.

There was no Paul Konchesky in the visitors starting line-up, nor Jamie O'Hara, but they did boast Adam Coombes, signed from the Wings during the close season and I spotted Louis Wells between the sticks, lured from Concorde since I last saw him in at action at Park View Road.

It was a fine Summer's evening and the atmosphere was enhanced by 150 or so 'Ricky fans whose chant of "we'll support you evermore" was met with derision from the home fans and taunts that they were all new arrivals hitched-up to the big spending of owner Glenn Tamplin.

So, to the game them and the Wings started well, as they invariably do at home. Jack Jebb put an early free-kick two feet over the bar before finding his range with a second one that hit the underside of the bar with Wells beaten and Danny Mills could only head the bouncing ball up and over. Wells made a sharp save from Goldberg after a fine piece of touch football from the impressive Brendan Kiernan had played him in. Wells touched the hot-shot onto the bar and was called into action shortly after to tip over a speculative effort from midfield.

With Welling looking to open the scoring, Billericay won a penalty and Adam Coombes scored again on his return to PVR. Thierry Audel was the Wings culprit after clothes-lining a Billericay player who had beaten him for pace. That was the half-time score and after the break with Welling kicking towards Park View Road, I was hopeful they would get back into the match.

Early pressure was again applied with Kiernan, the pocket battleship Kissock and equally diminutive Goldberg all combining well and giving Billericay a hard time. However, from another break, a Billericay forward got a free header and it was two-nil.

After that, Welling huffed and puffed but threatened less and with substitutions being made they lost concentration and heart. A third goal was harsh and it killed the game.

Early days for Welling given the wholesale squad changes and it will take time for them to settle down. The 4-1-3-2 formation struggled a bit, primarily because Ijaha in front of the back four looked off the pace. Danny Mills, playing the big man to Goldberg's foil, also had a poor game.

Saturday 11 August 2018

Charlton Athletic 2 v Shrewsbury Town 1

Good to start at home with three points. Good to force the issue with a late winner. Good to beat play-off nemesis Shrewsbury Town.

As predicted, we did sign a keeper from Aston Villa on loan yesterday, but it was Jed Steer not Sarkic as widely rumoured earlier join the week. I am pleased to say that Dillon Phillips started today as I think the lad deserves his chance.

 The first-half was dull and I heard nothing after the start of the game as I did a few jobs in my back garden, a stone's throw from the ground. I was listening to the Fulham v Palace game and the occasional update on the Charlton game wasn't enlightening beyond 0-0 and no scoring chances. I was keen to see how ma any subs we were fielding given that is the new barometer for how badly abused the first team is under Roland Duchatelet. We managed to field one more than last week but it was Albie Morgan, a kid I assumed was along for the ride.

How wrong was I then, as Lee Bowyer threw him into the fray at half-time. It says something about how poor a match Mike Marshall was having - he really has been a disappointing signing - that Bowyer turned to a debutant so early on. However, Morgan's introduction swung the match. Fellow-youngster George Lapslie crossed for Lyle Taylor to head us in front and despite the setback of a Shrews equaliser, Karlan Grant grabbed a header of his own to take the points. I heard all three goals very clearly and the decibel count also told me the sequence of scoring.

Lee Bowyer deserves the plaudits for the tactical switch and for getting a battling second-half performance from his small squad of players. If you are going into a backs-to-the-wall fight, Lee Bowyer is just the sort of man you would want to be leading the team and that looks just where we are at the moment.

Meanwhile, the Wings cruised to a 4-1 win at Chippenham Town today ahead of Tuesday evening's home match against high-flying Billericay. 

Friday 10 August 2018

Status quo on deadline day - is the takeover finally off?

I hoped Lee Bowyer wouldn't be left 'polishing a turd' yesterday but that's exactly what happened. With no reinforcements arriving, he was left trying to make it a positive day by telling us that none of our remaining 16 first-teamers had left and that we should be signing a loanee this morning subject to a medical. That will be a desperately needed second keeper ahead of the home game against Shrewsbury on Saturday - Villa understudy Matija Sarkic.

Blackburn's refusal to meet Duchatelet's price on Bauer means he stays until January but he is clearly unsettled and could still be loaned out to save on wages. However, with Pearce out for 4-6 weeks, and the loan win now closing at the end of the month, it looks like he will have to resign himself to another five months in Addicks colours. Ajose didn't go either but it's very clear he isn't wanted in SE7 and a loan deal is most likely, even if that's abroad after the end of August.

Bowyer did speak of 'two more' loanees, one of whom he appears to be close to but they are holding out for a Championship club. That sounds very much like Leeds' unwanted Irish midfielder Eunan O'Kane who Bowyer clearly sees as a short-term replacement for the injured Forster-Caskey. I would assume the other has to be a central defender to bolster options at the back following Summer outgoings.

So, we have started the season with a significantly reduced squad from the one that ended it and undeniably weaker. Injuries have added to that situation and it will be another test of Bowyer's management skills to see if he can get the bare bones to play-up above the sum of their collective parts.

I am also left wondering if the Aussie's takeover ship has sailed? Still no word and with the transfer window closed, their ability to influence things on the playing front is shut until 2019. They would be starting with five months of ongoing operating losses and most likely to see this season written-off in terms of any chances of promotion before it opens again. Timing is everything when you have been scrabbling to get sufficient money together to fund a takeover and a plan long enough to change the fortunes of the club. I wonder if Bowyer's position being confirmed as permanent rather than temporary in the short-term might come with an announcement that the deal is finally off?

Finally, CARD were at it once again yesterday, embarrassing the Belgian Billionaire by sending branded bottles of water to the training ground for the young players who have been forced to drink from the tap following a miserly decision to restrict bottled water to the first-team. The club's Spin Machine (Tom Rubbashaw) was forced to respond and after a brainstorming session he came up with a defence on grounds of the environmental damage of plastic water bottles which was incredibly weak and left us all laughing and asking about the first-teamers still getting bottled water and all of the plastic bottles and cups used at The Valley on match days. I loved the line that they had decided to provide "fresh water' for the players instead of that unfresh bottled stuff. Massive own-goal and school-boy error from the Duchatelet Apologist.

Monday 6 August 2018

Sunderland 2 v Charlton Athletic 1 - it just gets worse

At half-time on Saturday I was feeling pretty chipper. Lyle Taylor's penalty had us in front and alongside Grant and debutant Lapse, we had created far more than a nervous looking Sunderland. It was at that point I wondered what odds I might get on the Makems turning it around. They had started odds-on favourites but were now 5-1 to win and Bet365 were offering 15/2 on a 2-1 scoreline. Surely, I thought, that would be the winning scoreline if Charlton were to do it again on live TV, so I had a bite by way of some consolation in the likely event we managed to lose. 

That winning goal was horribly predictable, even after they had spurned an open goal only a minute before and whilst I started the betting season with a modest win, I was disappointed not just to see my beloved team beaten but more-so by the nature of the game which I think may prove prophetic this season. 

We started by only being able to field five subs and finished with two more walking wounded. Our bright start to the game made us competitive for 45 minutes. After the break we tailed off alarmingly as Sunderland grew in confidence and by the end we were carrying passengers who were exhausted and adding very little. In short, our squad wasn't strong enough to hold out for a result and that promises to be the story this season.

As if to rub salt in the wounds, it's clear today from a tweet from the BFG that he is on his way out, most likely to Championship Blackburn Rovers according to Lee Bowyer. Jason Pearce left the field injured on Saturday and whilst he may not be as bad as initially feared, we will be down to only two centre-backs if Bauer goes. We are already relying on a rookie Keeper and our attacking options are picking themselves due to lack of options. 

I am left reflecting on the transfer day deadline a year ago when we let Scunthorpe take Novak from us as we were forced to sign anyone (Dudu or whatever his name was) just to save face. I wonder what could match this level of incompetence and disappointment this year? Ajose will be sold if Duchatelet can get him away but that wouldn't bother me given his all-round failure to contribute since we signed him. How about selling Lyle Taylor to Sunderland and re-signing that Dudu bloke? That would just about top it.

Lee Bowyer must be close to throwing the towel in and after telling us that there will definitely be incoming players, I sincerely hope he's not left trying to polish a turd like Karl Robinson was this time last year. Talking of our Jose Mourinho, I see his Oxford side managed their biggest opening day thumping for 40 years (4-0 battering at Oakwell). Gobby was his usual self afterwards telling anyone daft enough to listen that there would be changes for Saturday and if players think their position is safe, then they are wrong, blah, blah, blah. It makes me feel even better that we have 'basic Bowyer' who sticks to the facts and manages his opinions and reflections incredibly maturely by comparison. If Bowyer were to walk now, I really fear we may not be able to attract anyone competent enough to take the job on - certainly not without new ownership.

Meanwhile, in front of 1075 at PVR, Welling United started the season with a decent 2-0 home win over those middle-class trendies from Dulwich Hamlet. A new look Wings side did well to keep a clean sheet, which was their undoing last year, but deserved their win and will improve as their new-look side gets more playing time together. I will be there next Tuesday to see them take on Billericay Town at 7.45pm. Up the Wings!

Wednesday 1 August 2018

Addicks take a deep breath as kick-off approaches

August is upon us and on Saturday we open the League One season at newly relegated Sunderland. I have just read a good piece by fellow-blogger Blackheath Addick which details the current squad short-comings and the ongoing hopelessness under Duchatelet.

This isn't really news to any of us. We have seen the fire sale. We know he is continuing to have players touted (Bauer and Ajose) and it's crystal clear he is asset stripping, probably with tacit support from any would-be buyers as it lowers their wage bill and keeps their hands clean. What surprises me, however, is the near-permanent optimism of some Charlton supporters who will always believe that the latest signing is Lionel Messi or that their personal urging from the sidelines can turn matches. For that merry band, their hope is now placed full-square on "our first eleven can be competitive" and "if they all stay fit."

Confirmation this week that Bolton have stolen Josh Magennis for a fraction of what they bid for him in January, maybe as low as £200k, tells you that this is as much about wage trimming which is probably why Bauer and Ajose are next in line. Lee Bowyer's suggestion that Lyle Taylor has been signed as Magennis' replacement is managing expectations and those are that we will once again start a season short of the strike power necessary to get promoted. Furthermore, we had a significant first-half season from Ricky Holmes that we won't get this year. I think we will need a Lionel-Messi-level of goal-scoring from Taylor to even stay in contention. Suggestions that Ahearne-Grant might partner him is also the least-cost option. Ahearne-Grant hasn't been ready for League One so far and despite enjoying a successful loan spell at League Two Crawley Town, we should not expect that he will suddenly weigh-in with the goals needed from a second striker either. 

As a gambling man I am far closer to taking us at 16-1 for relegation than 9-2 for promotion. The old adage is that we just need to be better than three sides to avoid the drop. I suspect we probably are, even with out attendant positional weaknesses, but I'd argue that as things stand under Duchatelet, there aren't three clubs as poorly prepared or under-resourced as us and if we find ourselves in trouble, I can see us spiralling downwards.

We had a surprisingly good set of pre-season results, which usually follows with a poor start to the season. Sunderland have been a basket-case over the last few years but if they have managed to sober-up during the close season, it's hard to see us getting anything up there, especially as we are live on TV.

Monday 16 July 2018

Welling United 1 v Charlton Athletic 2

A pleasant couple of hours at Park View Road on a cracking day. Welling have spruced up the Wings Bar during the season with an astro-turf frontage and tables and chairs to allow drinkers to sit outside. It's not the Riviera but a nice touch nonetheless. 

I overheard a couple of Charlton fans moaning about the £15 entrance fee but this is in line with National League South prices and, let's face it, the opposition were better than normal. What's more, if you had a few pints in the Wings Bar at £3 a pint you would have made a few quid back. You also weren't charged extra for not arriving before 10.30am or for having the audacity to print your own ticket at home on your own paper using your own ink.

I said hello to a few old faces and exchanged the usual gloomy view of pre-season preparations and fears for the year. I then had to concentrate to figure out who was playing. Not for Charlton, because even though I haven't been to the Valley for over a year, I could work that out. It was the Welling side I was struggling with. Apart from Wilks in goal and the front pairing of Goldberg and Coombes, I was lost. What was obvious was they all appear to be an couple of inches taller and wider than last year!

The first half was a decent contest. Adam Coombes opened the scoring early on after a hash by Naby Sarr which let Coombes in from the right and with Goldberg on his own in the middle a goal looked very much on. Coombes, though, drove on and buried his shot low into the far corner without given Goldberg a second thought.

Charlton hit back almost immediately. Nicky Ajose saw a shot saved by Wilkes and the rebound was blocked as (Ahearne)-Grant had a go. The ball squirmed out wide to Ajose who finished from close range. Charlton looked very casual and were guilty of being over-elaborate on a number of occasions which allowed Welling's back four to put in the blocks and tackles. At the other end, Bradley Goldberg saw a decent effort stopped at full stretch.

Charlton's second-half team took advantage of a tiring Welling side and had much more possession without causing too many problems. With about ten minutes to go a shot from distance took a big deflection past Wilks into the centre of goal where Lyle Taylor couldn't miss. Two-one and Charlton just about deserved the win without really impressing. 

Bowyer is still looking for a holding midfielder and several other key positions and he needs them if this side are to hold their own in League One again. That's without losing any and several will be gone if Duchatelet can get any fees. Magennis had a quiet first-half and would be my bet to go along with Bauer. In that scenario, Bowyer will have to pull a rabbit of the hat with his replacements.

Meanwhile, the new look Welling side looked robust and will obviously get better with games. I liked the long-haired left winger who was bundled over every time he got the ball. In a proper match he would have drawn three bookings but you get away with those in friendlies.

Late posting given a hectic Sunday and a ten hour drive from 3am this morning to reach my home in Scotland where I have 2-3 weeks to chill out and a few days without the family to get some jobs done. I might take a look at who the local sides are playing pre-season...