Friday 30 March 2018

Good Friday alright!

After 36.5 years, today was officially my last day with BT although I have been relaxing in Scotland since Tuesday and I am here for a fortnight more so it's been a good week. What's more, I have been offered a decent job on decent money when I get back so I am feeling chipper after a long period of uncertainty.

So, Lee Bowyer only goes and sticks two fingers-up to all the naysayers and potentially gives new incoming owners a big headache. A thumping 4-0 win at Northampton has really caught the eye and the side suddenly looks up for promotion. A third Bowyer win on Monday against play-off rivals Rotherham would likely see us back in the play-off places with a game or two in hand (Plymouth are away at Scunthorpe).

All we need is the takeover to be confirmed early next week and finally we can all move forward post-Duchatelet.

Did I mention I won £1037 on Leeds, Sheff Wednesday, Charlton and Plymouth? It really has been a Good Friday.

Monday 26 March 2018

Dyce Juniors 5 v Banchory St. Ternan 3

Well, well, well. Lee Bowyer certainly bust a few coupon's this weekend with a surprising but well deserved victory over the best form team in League One. His change in formation (hooray!) to a diamond midfield surprised Plymouth manager Derek Adams and the application from the players was impressive and clearly reflects very well on Bowyer.

I was away in Scotland this weekend but it was great to read a decent article on our match in The Sunday Times yesterday and to see snippets everywhere else. Probably helped by international weekend but still better than expected. The win moves us within reach of Argyle in the table with a game in hand so all-of-a-sudden there is hope once again and with takeover news expected, perhaps today, it suddenly looks far rosier. For once this season, a match and result I am sorry I missed.

Meanwhile, I got to see Dyce Juniors play Banchory St. Ternan in the Superleague. Two nephews of my mate were playing, one of whom is a Scotland away regular and who will be heading off to Hungary this morning for the mid-week friendly. It was a decent, full-blooded affair with some real quality on display. 'Junior' football in Scotland is an adult game played in four regional leagues. 

A younger Banchory-side took an early league after a mistake by the Dyce keeper but the home side levelled ten minutes later when nephew number two played a one-two and curled home into the top corner from 25 yards. Not to be outdone, nephew number one, still playing at 40 years old won an aerial challenge in the middle of the box, brought the ball under control and turned his marker before beating the keeper with a snapshot. Two-one and Dyce settled down to dominate the first-half. They went in 4-1 up at half-time and a fifth goal just after the re-start looked to set them up for an even bigger win.

However, Banchory stuck to their game-plan and their heads didn't drop. They continued to move the ball quickly, run for each other and keep going for goal. They were rewarded with a fine headed goal at the back-post and a third which suddenly brought the result into a little doubt. It was at this point that Dyce re-focused for ten minutes and settled the game to put it out of Banchory's reach. We all celebrated that night at their uncle's 25th wedding anniversary at Pittodrie's Legends Lounge.

Thursday 22 March 2018

Robinson leaves

Just a week after our last minute defeat at Blackpool, Karl Robinson has left the hot seat at The Valley and Lee Bowyer takes temporary charge. 

The official line is that he "leaves by mutual consent" and we have the usual statement from the departing manager about how great the fans were and how he wishes the club well etc. All of which points to a financial settlement and non-disclosure agreement. Frankly, no-one will care much about this - the good news is we won't have to suffer him any longer.

I wasn't a fan from the off. I was told that he had referred to us a "basket case of a club" only months before he was appointed when we last played MK Dons and he was the struggling manager there. Suddenly we were the biggest and best thing around and he marvelled at the size of the ground and had to pinch himself he was the manager. I bet he did. He said all the right things initially and was good at talking the club up. Early results were alright, too, despite the fact that Charlton Athletic don't do new-manager-bounce.

However, by the time I had heard his third or fourth press conference it was apparent we had a man who would say whatever he thought you wanted to hear. Often talking in cliches, incoherent rambling and contradictions which he somehow thought made himself sound clever. He also had a significant blind spot when it came to players and formations. He was one of those managers who simply can't see beyond players he has worked with in the past and with whom, I believe, he was too matey. It was hard not to get the impression that Robinson was on the gravy train and wanted to share it with some of his friends irrespective of whether or not they were the best players for Charlton Athletic. Ben Reeves is the prime example and the will-he-won't-he sign for us shenanigans looked like it was almost contrived horse-trading to get the best deal he could for his pal Reeves.

I lost any respect I had for him when he told us he was en route to Belgium to confront The Shareholder about his budget for the upcoming transfer window. After telling us what he was going to do, he came back with his tail very much between his legs and we were treated to 'I said my piece and the owner said his,' which translated to foxtrot-oscar.

Karl Robinson had to make-do-and-mend when it came to the playing squad but I do believe he had a decent wage budget. The problem was he brought in too many poor players and managed to run a very unbalanced squad. Everyone could see we were too short of striking options when the season started in August but Robinson said he was pleased with what he had and he was cocky after a decent start when we were scoring plenty from midfield and Magennis was weighing-in as well. Unfortunately, that was unlikely to last all season and the first injuries saw us begin to falter. He was unfortunate with injuries but the fact is we simply didn't have the scoring options and when Ricky Holmes left the game was up.

What really lost it for Robinson was when the rank and file supporters finally saw through his tactical naivety and his obsession with one up front. That and his stubborn refusal to change it from one week to the next. 

It's remarkable that we aren't in a relegation battle, let alone still clinging to the tails of the play-off chasers. That though, speaks volumes about how poor this league is. The fact that we are on the slide and destined for mid-table tells you what we have become under the hapless ownership of Duchatelet a third division club in every respect except for the owner who doesn't deserve to be operating a football league club.

I wish Lee Bowyer all the best but my bet is that Jacko was asked first and turned them down. He knows this is short-term - the club announcement even said that they (Bowyer and Jacko as assistant) were "the best people to lead us through and important few weeks." Clearly Richard Murray still anticipates a takeover and another inevitably change of manager when it does eventually come.

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Is it happening?

It looks like something big may finally be breaking on the Charlton takeover impasse.

The South London Press are reporting that big Karl has offered his resignation for a second time in a week following an earlier attempt before the Blackpool match. With Robinson also still strangely favourite for the Oxford United managerial vacancy, two and two would appear to make four. A further snippet today from the Mirror and from the Crawley Observer suggests Harry Kewell is being lined-up as next Charlton manager by the Aussie consortium that waits in the wings. 

This could yet be the latest false dawn but even the out-of-touch and stubborn Duchatelet surely knows he has to act now to save something from his investment in Charlton Athletic? If a deal is to complete with the Aussies, I hope and pray that they have taken full advantage of the club's Robinson-slump in recent weeks and negotiated a favourable change in terms, just as Duchatelet appeared to be trying to do in New Year when it looked like we couldn't fail to stumble into the play-offs.

Given the current appalling state-of-affairs with no leadership and little credible senior management at the club, Duchatelet has to do something even if it's not to conclude a sale. That would involve time and money to recruit and place experienced personnel as well as what looks like a new team manager and a whole rebuild of the playing staff. That won't come cheap and perhaps it's finally forced the Idiot's hand?

Monday 19 March 2018

Italy 27 v Scotland 29

A romantic break in Rome to get away from the turmoil around Charlton Athletic as the Ducjatelet-destruction appears to have stepped up a gear. 

It proved to be a very long weekend, one way and another. Having arrived nice and early at Gatwick for our midday flight we quickly spotted that the update on our gate was not until half an hour after expected departure. Not a good sign and, sure enough, we ended up two hours late leaving. The cause was the plane had been delayed from returning to the UK the night before and instead had to make a return flight from the Canary Islands first thing. Why British Airways couldn't have messaged us in advance, I don't know. It would have meant we could have seen the kids off to school properly and not arranged a sleepover for one and arrangement for the other. Still, we were flying Easyjet home so had the satisfaction of knowing BA weren't getting any more of my money. The delay meant we didn't reach our hotel until half-seven, more tired than we expected.

Saturday was a much better day. Not warm in Rome but certainly far from cold and it remained dry. There were 5,000 Scotland rugby supporters in the City - far more than normal for an away game, and we all made our way to the Stadio Olympico where the Italians had once again geared-up with their Peroni Village and plenty of Euro-trash style live music. The band in full Highland Rugby Passione Italia band warmed up outside the stadium and Carabinieri were proudly showing off their Lotus and Lamborghini police cars which delighted little boys (and some bigger ones) clamboured into with huge smiles on their faces. We then had the stirring sight of a 50-piece pipe band in full Highland Dress marching into the stadium in full cry. The bug drum at the back revealed that this was, indeed, the City of Rome Pipe Band, which made it that bit more impressive.

To the game then and I hoped for a less nerve-wracking encounter than my last visit when Greg Laidlaw dropped a winning kick in the last second of the match to edge victory. It was a great end-to-end game and the Italians scored four good tries. Scotland kept in touch right to the death with four of their own. A few penalties meant that it was 27-27 when Stuart Hogg went over in the final minute. That left Greg Laidlaw with an awkward angled kick from the 'wrong' side for him but he is Mr Reliable and he stepped-up to nail it and send the visitors home with relieved smiles on their faces.

Yesterday's journey home was, ahem, interesting. We knew there had been a bit of snow but Gatwick went in melt-down. Our initial hour delay was extended several times with one thing after another and we eventually dropped out from the cloud above Gatwick four hours late. We had befriended an American couple by this time on their first ever visit to London. They come from up-state New York and live with deep snow in the winter. They were pretty laid back about the delays and were, unusually for Americans, too polite to scoff at what they were seeing and hearing but both had wry smiles at the centimetre of snow that greeted us and the apocryphal warnings of the Captain and Stewards about safety and our onward journeys. 

Meanwhile, another failure to score at the Valley against poor opposition meant a disappointing result and an even more disappointing performance. We have been very poor for weeks now and the game is up. Robinson tactical naivety is startling and matched only by his stubborn refusal to shift from a one-up front shape which inevitably means we fail to exert sustained pressure and limits our scoring opportunities. Remind me someone, what's the game all about?

The apparent failure by Duchatelet to conclude a sale with either of the two parties who had met the asking price is worrying in the extreme. Without any further confirmation, the ongoing delay in concluding the paperwork is beginning to suggest there is no deal and after Robinson's outburst last week it does look like we are back at square one. That implies it may be another year or so before he can find another courtier willing to even get close to his unrealistic asking price. The operating loss will continue to increase and it looks like he will let the club exist on starvation rations without key roles being filled and will, presumably, skimp further on the squad and management. All of which does not bode well for next season. 

CARD have finally responded, after a very patient wait in my book, to announce further protests, although it's clearly going to be much harder for them to make an impact when actually attendance at matches is at a lifetime low. Pitiful pictures of the empty stands yesterday bear testament to how far the club has fallen under the Belgian Idiot. 

Tuesday 13 March 2018

Blackpool 1 v Charlton Athletic 0 - bye-bye Robinson

A third successive defeat means we are now looking up from eighth place without the games in hand that for many weeks might, theoretically at least, put us back into a play-off spot. Five wins since October and this really has been a long time coming.

Surely now there can be no redemption for Karl Robinson. His refusal to look for an alternative formation looks incredibly na├»ve and he has built a mediocre squad he can't motivate. His constant bullshit is painful to listen to and now his team are crap to watch as well as painful to follow. 

He's unlikely to be sacked, just yet, of course because Duchatelet won't want to pay him a shekel  more than he has to and he doesn't really care about results anyway. There's hardly anyone left attending games to worry about and it looks like no-one at the club is interested in selling season tickets. Let's face it, there's very little management organisation left to make or take decisions anyway. 

The ruin of the club is nearly absolute, although to my mind it needs one last relegation to the fourth division for it to be complete. Duchatelet will probably be spared that last stain but he's done practically everything else possible to reduce us to a tier four outfit.

So, I suppose all eyes and ears turn to Dickie Murray now. C'mon Richard, let's be having you....the next joke will be a failed takeover at the eleventh hour because the Belgian Idiot is deluded and has even managed to fuck that up.

Monday 12 March 2018

Ireland 28 v Scotland 8

A fine weekend in Dublin in spite of the result. After being messed about by hotels not being able to accommodate us a year after booking, we were fortunate to end up in the Trinity City Hotel a five minute walk from Doheny & Nesbitts. a landmark pub on Lower Baggott Street which marks the start of the long walk out to the Aviva Stadium.

After a good day on Friday we were up early on Saturday for the 2.15pm kick-off and bumped into mates of mine from Norway who were also there for the game. We picked up Thirsty Frank and his wife at Searson's en route to the match. The rain held off and we were in our seats high in the East Stand as the game kicked-off. 

Scotland looked quite comfortable early on and having absorbed some pressure we broke out to win a penalty and take an early lead. When we had the ball our passing and movement was slick and we tested the Irish flanks but the final pass was poor and a glorious chance was missed as Huw Jones wasted a great opportunity with Stuart Hogg on the overlap and with a free run to the line. Ireland had already scored after another interception from Stockdale and another loose long pass from Scotland but they piled the pressure on and it told with the last play of the half as Cronin dived at the line after a desperate Irish drive from a deep line-out.

The writing was on the wall at that point and Ireland maintained the pressure in the second-half and two more tries and two more conversions followed to ensure the bonus point that effectively wraps the championship up for Ireland. We did get to see Blair Kinghorm scored a good try on his debut but small comforts and a tricky match in Rome looms. All that was left was to reflect on another fine Conor Murray performance and he will surely receive the player-of-the-tournament award after the game at Twickenham next week.

Thirsty Frank and his wife Lisa were up from Clonakilty in the south-west of Ireland, for the weekend and were as keen as us to visit some of their favourite Dublin haunts. We sheltered in the Shelbourne Hotel bar as the goals went in at London Road. It sounded far worse than perhaps it was in black and white but the fact is we lost and it sounded like a morale-sapping defeat. 

Karl Robinson is again coming in for a lot of heat and, frankly, it's fully deserved.  His press work is painful to listen to, he ran out of ideas before Christmas and he looks like a man desperately hoping he can throw a double-six. I was amazed to hear him saying in his post-match presser that the side for Tuesday has already been picked. It simply reinforces his rigid mindset that sees us largely picking the same players and the same formation irrespective of performance or results. This will cost him his job. We are now down to eighth and have four sides a win away from leap-frogging us and only two we can catch. As I said in my last post, we need to hope we can stay in touch this month and that we get a few players back from injury and can take advantage of some easier looking games in April.

Meanwhile, the Wings won away at East Thurrock to remain on the fringes of the play-offs and having drafted in Magnus Okuonghae and the returning Adam Coombes, who scored the winner, they look like they have a better chance of making the play-offs than the Addicks.

Wednesday 7 March 2018

Any play-off push may come in April

Been looking at the forthcoming fixtures and March looks a tricky month. Peterborough away isn't a happy hunting ground for us and I can't see us coming back with anything on Saturday. Posh also have the incentive of leap-frogging us in the table and the sides immediately below them all have winnable home games. Realistically we could drop a number of places this weekend.

Then we go to Blackpool in the week and that won't be easy. They are struggling for points but have been winning games of late and they will see us as beatable.

Fleetwood at the Valley a week on Saturday must be an opportunity for points before we face another home game against high-riding Plymouth Argyle. 

Mercifully, the fixtures look much easier in April. Sure, some of those strugglers will find form through necessity but I reckon we will take more points than in March and we may need them and our games in hand to catch sixth place. The hullaballoo over "pikey-gate" will have died down by then and there is a chance we might have one or two of the long-term injured back to bolster the squad.

I can't see us doing it, as I have said for ages, primarily because we lack firepower. There, I have given my opinion of how it may pan out - hopefully I am proven wrong.

Monday 5 March 2018

Is it really that much of a surprise?

As the 'imminent takeover' thread on Charlton Life passes 16,000 comments and approaches 2,000,000 views, I suddenly realise the glaringly obvious....

This is a Roland Duchatelet takeover we are talking about - of course it's going to drag on and be an absolute car crash because that's what the bloke's whole ownership of Charlton Athletic has been. I find myself wondering whether Meire has really left his employment or perhaps she's a double-agent at Wednesday. 

Whilst the word "imminent" was clearly the excited hopes of the initial poster in the month of April, year of our Lord, 2017, a moment spent reflecting on everything we have learnt from the absent, ill-informed, arrogant and stubborn Belgian fossil would surely have brought more wisdom to the choice of this word and we might have had something more appropriate like 'eventual' or 'glacial takeover.'

I also see a recent comment from Airman Brown who has heard word that the Aussies were not best pleased to hear that Roly had now accepted two bids on price. I'll bet they are not pleased. Having been in the running longest and having finally met the doddering Belgian's inflated asking price, after the 'Scottish' consortium had thrown the towel in on price, he's now stringing them along with a supposed second bidder? 

Uncle Dickie told us it was now just about crossing the i's and dotting the t's. Really? After all this time why we are still on word-smithing of the contract? Why is it taking so long? In my experience, once the price and the shape of a deal is agreed, you lock the respective legal teams in a room and they bottom it out quickly when they can't face any more pizza. But then again, this is a Roland Duchatelet takeover we are talking about. What next? Maybe they will both finalise the contract at the same time? Does Duchatelet have two legal teams so they negotiate in parallel? Is it really a beauty parade or is it a last lame attempt to force something more from the Aussies?

I would applaud the Aussies all day long if they announced they were pulling out and made it clear why at this stage. I'd laugh my tits off, too, if there was no second bidder or, if there really is, they too pulled stumps and the absent idiot was left to lose another half-a-million before starting off all over again. Of course, I can probably say this and increasingly mean it because I care far less than I did when I was suffering it every other week.