Wednesday 28 February 2018

Hard to believe

A last day-of-the-month update from Pope Richard Murray suggests that the ongoing delay in announcing a takeover from God himself, is because both remaining interested parties have met the price and it's now down to lawyers to shake the deal down.

Frankly, I find this difficult to comprehend and a tad worrying. If the Old Scrote was holding out for £45m+ and two parties have deemed the club worth this, you have to wonder what reserves they have to actually sustain ongoing losses and reshape the side under a manager better geared for the rigours of the Championship? They will be under pressure from supporters to deliver improvements. That shouldn't be too difficult in terms of the softer side of things such as interaction with supporters and general common sense management of the club but the harder things, like the quality of the squad and capability of the back-room set-up, might be a struggle.

It defies business logic that someone so aloof, so hands-off and so clueless could possibly alienate all of it's sane supporters, relegate the club, shrink all of it's revenue streams and still sell it for three times what he paid for it. I am reminded of the northern adage, where there's muck there's brass.

Sunday 25 February 2018

Scotland 25 v England 13

Well I didn't see that coming. After the debacle against Wales in Cardiff I had mentally switched off from 6 Nations for another year. All the hype surrounding Gregor Townsend's attacking mentality and a fine Autumn series was overblown.

The narrow victory over France was a small comfort but I fully expected England to go through the gears yesterday and quickly go 10 points clear as they eased to another win over Scotland. After all, it was barely a year ago that they hammered 60 points passed us at Twickenham in a record win. My wife and I were up for the match and with ten Scottish friends also there we enjoyed a fine pre-match at Murrayfield where one can now partake of Loch Fine oysters and sip hand-crafted gin if Guinness, beer and wine are too boring for you.

To the match then at the very civilised time of 4.45pm and Scotland were at it from the off. Their tackling was sharp and every English ball-carrier was stopped by a pair of blue shirts within a couple of strides. We were also throwing it about well when we had it and making good distance in possession. The first score was to Scotland after a driving maul had pushed the England line back to inside their 22, the ball was played across the backs to Huw Jones whose ambitious grubber kick was rewarded when it popped up for him to touch down under the posts. Seven-up and better was to come from Scotland with a second try which saw Jones again break the line and run forty metres into the England half before being stopped. The ball was recycled at speed and with men arriving in numbers, Stuart McInally broke through and with England at sixes and sevens, the ball went wide from Russell to Sean Maitland who hurtled down the line and over.

Murrayfield was in full cry but we waited for an English response which apart from a couple of penalties didn't come before Jones again broke through before half-time and who showed great determination to get over with two white jerseys hanging off him. 22-6 at half-time and we dared to believe we might actually beat England. Owen Farrell scored with a smart break just after the restart and I wondered if this would turn the game but the rest of the side looked strangely disinterested and Scotland quickly got back in the groove. I though Nigel Owens was giving Scotland a lot of decisions, some of which looked harsh on England. Very quick to penalise for not releasing and when England did manage a second try on the break that looked good, Owens went to the TMO and disallowed it for a well-spotted knock-on early in the move. 

It really was Scotland's day. They don't come along too often so you will excuse me for enjoying this one. England's large following at Murrayfield took the defeat in their stride and Eddie Jones endeared himself to Scottish fans by accepting the defeat and recognising that the better side won. 

Disappointing that Charlton lost again in front of a larger-than-normal £5 gate and to fellow-promotion chasers Shrewsbury. We are so dependable on days like these. They sounded good value for the two-nil win and they also managed to miss a penalty or the defeat could have been more embarrassing. AFC Wimbledon away looms large next Saturday when Karl Robinson will need to find a way for his team to fire again after lacking any real against the Shrews.

Welling, meanwhile, won 2-0 at Canvey Island's Concord to move within a place of the play-offs in national league South and I reckon they will manage it if they can keep Joe Healy fit and don't suffer too badly with injuries.

Now, what about that takeover?

Sunday 18 February 2018

Ten days on....

Just back from a glorious week on the Moray Firth. Land of my Fathers and place of my birth. I am always moved when I am back there, as I was again, returning for the first time in ten years. Blimey, has it been that long? Well yes it has as my tenant reminded me - she has moved out. I have made fleeting visits (funeral etc) but my first week with the family since my kids were very young. 

Anyway, to football and we have managed a couple of draws and a win since I last posted. The draws against Rochdale and Bradford can be considered opportunities lost but if we were unlucky to concede against Dale, we probably rode our luck against City. Whatever, there can be little doubt that yesterday's 2-1 win at nemesis MK Dons should help us focus on maintaining a play-off push, especially if we can take something from our two matches in hand. Ahmed Kashi scored from distance with a rasping low shot that the MK keeper won't want to see again. Much criticised Josh Magennis made it three from three with another header as he continues to find his goal-scoring form after a barren spell.

It hasn't felt anything like a promotion season or even a play-off season so far this year and maybe that's because it won't be, but the mere fact that we are handily placed at this stage means we are in with a shout. Perhaps it's because I haven't been going to see them? In any event, the next three games could define it for us; Shrewsbury at the Valley on Saturday should be a proper test and that is followed by the tricky visit to party-poopers AFC Wimbledon before form side Plymouth Argyle come to the Valley looking for an unlikely double. 

Newly appointed Scotland supremo, Alex McGleish, has commented on his work with a consortium interested in buying Charlton Athletic and has said that Roland wanted too much money. That sounds very much like it should all be done now. What chances an announcement tomorrow?

Thursday 8 February 2018

Hold your breath....

A rare moment in the history of the Fans Forum. Actual news from the donkey's mouth so-to-speak that, for once, gives us a real forward-looking update on Duchatelet's exit plans. Broken by CAST, the news is good;

- The takeover is still on and Richard Murray is still saying it will be concluded this month.
- There are two parties as long rumoured, with one closer to a deal.
- He believes it's a 'lock, stock and barrel' deal that will mean no risk of Duchatelet still having an interest over the Valley or Sparrows Lane.
- No mention, to his knowledge, of any proposed plans to leave the Valley.

This reinforces what the most well-informed Charlton Athletic supporter (Airman Brown) has been telling us, which is doubly encouraging. 

The price and any key terms of the deal will be the next thing everyone will want to know. Hopefully, Duchatelet's inept ownership and mismanagement of the club will now crystallise into a heavy loss which might teach him a lesson, although I suspect he's beyond learning given his often deluded ramblings on topical Charlton matters. 

It's important for the future of the club that whoever the buyers are - and the Aussies are still favourite - that they have sufficient funds left with which to operate the club successfully and carry out their plan over the next few years to bring promotion to the team, recover the fan-base and make a commercial success of of running the club which will safeguard the future.

Hold your breath!

Monday 5 February 2018

Charlton Athletic 2 v Oxford United 3

I was so absorbed with the pain of watching Scotland flunk in Cardiff that I forgot to comment yesterday on Charlton's own disappointing result against Oxford.

In years gone by I would have been using my battery life up refreshing my screen to keep an eye on the Addicks progress but I didn't bother at all on Saturday and only picked up the result when I awoke on Sunday. Another sign-of-the-times. Clearly this was a game we expected to win but the nature of the defeat (two goals in the last few minutes) asks more questions than simply losing. 

Karl Robinson's tactical nous is woeful and his ability to affect games very poor. We have suffered under his 4-X-X-1 system since he has been here, first because we didn't have the personnel to really play it and then because we didn't have the personnel to change it when we fall behind in games. We played well enough from what I have read and heard but Oxford wouldn't lie down and when we were crying out for a defensive sub at the end, he brought on Aribo and within minutes they had scored twice. It wasn't as if we didn't have fresh attacking legs on the pitch as the previous two subs were Zyro and Kaikai, both of whom had been on for less than twenty minutes. Surely putting Bauer on in  front of Konsa and the shaky Lennon would have got us something from the game, if not all three points?

I have been supportive of Robinson over the last few weeks as he has finally realised that he was never going to be supported properly in the transfer window by the billionaire Duchatelet and most fans have shown sympathy with him over that and his determination to carry on fighting for a play-off position. However, his waffling to the media is a constant annoyance when he speaks in riddles and plays to the gallery. The bottom-line is we should have a first-team coach who has a better footballing brain and who can communicate clearly and articulately. It's really not too much to ask when you are paying good money and there are always more of them than jobs available. 

When Duchatelet finally sells up, we really need to make a clean break and find a first-team boss who can affect games and communicate clearly. How novel it would be if we could also get one who gave us a 'bounce' for a change? That Chris Powell bloke has started with two wins for the Shrimpers since joining. 

Sunday 4 February 2018

Wales 34 v Scotland 7

In the pantheon of "enormously disappointing Scotland performances in sport," this one will get a chapter all to itself. I was in Cardiff in 2014 when Wales ran up a record 50 points against us. It was a painful day to be supporting Scotland but it wasn't a surprise on a day when Wales were expected to win by a good margin.

Yesterday Scotland rolled into Cardiff with an exuberant and expectant following coming on the back of several great performances two months ago when we beat the Aussies twice and came within a whisker of beating New Zealand. I always say that Scotland save their best performances for the Autumn Tests and their worst for the 6 Nations. However, even I was lured into a false sense of optimism yesterday in spite of my better judgement. I spent twenty minutes on the train yesterday morning considering a big bet on Scotland this year. Not to win it at 9-1 you understand but maybe a top-two finish? I kept looking at the current squad and wondering how good some of these new players actually are? I also struggled to see past a scrummaging front row bereft of Ross Ford and AP Nell. Pleased to say I decided not to wager on the rugby.

Having checked into our hotel (we were shifted from the Exchange to the Radisson Blu last week, having booked it last May) we met my Uncle in the Prince of Wales pub where the bouncers were under strict orders to avoid the human jam that this pub has always been in the past when we have visited. The good news was that we were early enough to avoid queuing and able to enjoy a few pints without long waits at the bar. Our seats were in the very last row at the top of the stand and we settled down with a spectacular view of the action. That was the end of the best part of the day.

Scotland started brightly and pegged Wales back into their own half. It all looked good for five or ten minutes and then Wales scored a simple try as Ali Price's feed from the scrum was intercepted following a telegram and it was 7-0. When Wales ran in a second try to open up a 14-0 lead it looked like we would have to deliver a fightback, the likes of which I have never seen. 

Sure enough, after the break Wales kicked two penalties which ended any realistic Scottish hopes and it really was then a case of damage limitation. Scotland were poor from front-to-back and side-to-side. I don't recall us even winning a penalty and every time we got into a scoring position, Wales turned us over. We made our way out before the end so we didn't even see Scotland's try which I am sure was a consolation as Wales finally eased off the gas. 

Gregor Townsend has spoken of his "shock" at the performance and has said it wasn't good enough. That's what everyone present felt and said yesterday but he is the Coach and he needs to be explaining what went wrong what is going to change. From where I sat, we were leaderless. Stuart Hogg was prompting from the back but he was covering so desperately that we were all at sixes and sevens upfront and everyone looked content to concentrate on defending to earn their cap instead of trying to take the game to Wales. 

I am going to Edinburgh, Dublin and Rome in the coming weeks and already my first thoughts are on food and drink. Based on yesterday's performance, Scotland must now be a good bet for the Wooden Spoon as they may not have enough in the tank to avoid a last-match defeat in Rome if we are humped by France, England and Ireland in the meantime, which looks highly possible.

Thursday 1 February 2018

Well, well, no buyer for Konsa

The January transfer window closed yesterday with Ezri Konsa remaining at the Valley. That was the big surprise given every expectation in the run-up to January. It shouldn't be a huge surprise given that Ademola Lookman wasn't sold in the Summer of 2016 when I believe an offer was made. Instead, it was considered too small and we held our nerve which resulted in a significantly bigger deal in January.

However, the circumstances around the proposed sale of Konsa have different; Duchatelet is clearly on an exit strategy, Konsa has the first-team experience Lookman lacked in the Summer of 2016 and big Karl Robinson has been telling us for several months about the inevitably of Lookman going with Everton strongly linked as repeat purchasers. 

The simple view that Duchatelet would sell and pocket an extra chunk of cash is a tad naive in a sale situation where clearly he is a major asset on the balance sheet, although with a big gap in expectations on club value, selling him to cut that gap was a consideration.

Konsa has established himself in the side and was part of the same England U20 side as Ademola Lookman that won the World Cup last year. Being a defender and not a striker, his value was always going to be less but a £5m estimation has been bandied about as part of a done deal for a long time. 

That leaves us with Karl's touting of him, which could be just Robinson's natural over-speak when he always wants to look like he is ahead of the pack as well as always seeking to provide a bit of controversy. More disappointingly is the prospect that Robinson was encouraged to talk-up a move for Konsa by Duchatelet because he wanted the money. Maybe there was no directive from the absentee owner - after all he seemed unaware we had few options to the tired Magennis upfront when approached for a short-term loan of Leon Best. Robinson might have seen that as the way to a percentage of the fee to bring in several more players which might have strengthen his options. Time will, no doubt, tell.

Not to break with history and tradition, there were two outgoing players yesterday. Aaron Barnes, a youth stalwart who has played well at every level up to his 20 years has been released on a free transfer to Colchester United. Always a tough decision and one that Aaron should be boosted to know that we often get wrong! I have watched several excellent Colchester players on loan at Welling this season, so it says something that they rate one of ours so highly to take him. The other news was the loan of Ahearne-Grant to Crawley Town. I have been harsh on KAG here in the past and said he's not good enough for us, although I should have been generous and said that too much has been expected of him at his age. A classic case of playing him too early, too often but a consequence of only having one experienced striker on the club's books. Robinson is saying it's a good move and that KAG is the future of the club. I'll stick my neck out and say he isn't and that he will move on in short order.

Oxford United shouldn't present too big an obstacle at the Valley on Saturday when we should get a glimpse of Kaikai and Zyro. My advice is to temper your expectations on both of those and hope to be pleasantly surprised. I will be following updates from Cardiff where Scotland kick-off their latest 6 Nations campaign in what should be a very close affair (cue Wales by 20 points).

Finally, a 'get well' wish to fellow-Blogger Wyn Grant whose latest post tells us he is "seriously ill in hospital." That obviously doesn't sound good but hopefully is getting the treatment he needs in good time and will be back with his regularly punchy updates soon as well as his observations of his very varied life and travels.