Friday 27 April 2018

Blackburn Rovers deja vu

Tomorrow's home game against Blackburn Rovers brings to mind what was probably the biggest lost opportunity in the history of our club.

I am reminded by the last time we played Rovers at The Valley in a similar position. It was the last game of the 1957-58 season and all we needed was a point for automatic promotion back to the First Division having been relegated the previous season. We had been in the top flight since Jimmy Seed steered us there 23 years earlier. We had been heavyweights in the English game during that time, finishing 3rd and 4th prior to the War and had won the F A Cup and been finalists after it. Blackburn were a point behind us and needed to beat us to grab second spot.

(Courtesy of the late, great, Colin Cameron) -  A crowd twice the size of the season's average poured into SE7 that day - 56,435 which remains our record gate for a second division fixture and will never be broken.Charlton took the lead after only four minutes but Rovers hit back through National Serviceman, Peter Dobing, who scored twice. Vernon added a third for Rovers before half-time to put them in command.

After the break, Duff conceded a penalty and Rovers took command but in typical Addick-fashion we fought back to 3-4 after Eddie Firmani netted and John Hewie notched an 83rd minute penalty. Those last seven minutes must have been agonising.

Saturday's fixture won't be so binary in terms of the outcome; Rovers are already promoted and we would still need a win at Rochdale just to reach the play-offs. Plymouth and Scunthorpe can both still catch us with games in hand but they have to play each other and a draw won't be enough for both of them. The prize, of course, isn't a return to the top flight but given our recent status, it would probably be as significant.

So, I hope the players are reminded of the consequences of that missed opportunity 60 years ago and how it changed the fortunes of the club so badly for the next thirty years. It was the end of our halcyon mid-twentieth century days and we would have to wait until the start of the twenty-first century to revel in them once again at the Valley.

Sunday 22 April 2018

Portsmouth 0 v Charlton Athletic 1

"It's a funny old game Saint." One of the TV catchphrases I grew up with when Jimmy Greaves and Ian St. John dominated football chit-chat. It certainly is a funny old game at times and this week has really underlined it. A dismal second 1-0 defeat at home to play-off rivals Scunthorpe and our play-off hopes lay in tatters.

We bounced back in midweek with a solid 1-0 win ourselves at Shrewsbury and they only went and did it again yesterday at Fratton Park, effectively ending Pompey's own play-off ambitions.What to make of it? Really not sure but with only two games left we will be reliant on the performances of others, in particular Plymouth and Scunthorpe, who also have to play one another. I haven't done the permutations because first we need to beat Blackburn Rovers at the Valley next Saturday which will be a significant task before going to Rochdale who may still be fighting for their League One status. 

Whatever happens, Lee Bowyer has emerged with real credit and must have a good shout for being appointed on a longer term although an announcement of a takeover would likely throw that into doubt. There were rumouring yesterday of a takeover announcement at the Blackburn game but given the long line of false hope, we just need to believe it when it actually happens.

I was at Park View Road yesterday, back seeing the Wings after a few months absence and my attendance continued the lucky omen with Welling winning comfortably, 3-1 over Weston-Super-Mare. It was a cracking day and over 500 turned up to see Welling take an early lead and consolidate it with a powerful Jack Parkinson header before half-time. Bradley Goldberg hit the post with a brilliantly improvised overhead kick which no-one saw coming and it was Wings all the way.

After the break the visitors pulled a fine goal back before Jack Jebb scored the third having used an arm to control the ball which only the linesman and referee failed to see. Goldberg smacked the bar before the finish but Welling took the points regardless and still have an outside hope of a play-off finish.

Personally, I think Charlton have too much to do but I would have laid heavy odds against us winning at Shrewsbury and Portsmouth this week, so who knows? I have said before that we won't make the play-offs and it doesn't feel like we deserve to be there but I guess the table doesn't lie at the end of the season. Millwall crept into the play-offs last year and made it up and look what has happened to them this season....

Saturday 14 April 2018

Charlton Athletic 0 v Scunthorpe United 1

In my last post I mentioned "win your homes games and draw away" as a part justification for the disappointing point at Bristol Rovers. Since then we lost at Wimbledon in a lack-lustre, half-hearted performance in which we didn't muster an effort on target. The players were hurting and all that jazz and they were determined to atone for it today at home to Scunthorpe. Instead we got another lack-lustre, half-hearted performance and another defeat. 

We now sit in eighth place and have used our games in hand. Plymouth, above us in sixth, actually have a match on us now. The Bowyer bounce is clearly over and the difference in performances from his first three and the last three is alarming and would suggest that something in the camp has changed. Bowyer has tonight blamed "tiredness" which sounds very weak to me. If it is tiredness, then it doesn't bode well for Tuesday's match at Shrewsbury or the crunch at Fratton Park next Saturday. Maybe it's just because it's April and it's traditional for us to pack up early?

Now is the time to be realistic and acknowledge that we won't make the play-offs because we aren't good enough and there is a massive amount of work to be done on the first team front which will require supervision and money. Specifically, our squad in August was clearly short of striking options to get the goals so there should be no surprise whatsoever that our short-comings have all been about our lack of goals. Add the sale of our best goalscoring midfielder and, hey presto, we have lots of 'nils' which have cost us any realistic chance of promotion.  Currently, under Duchatelet, we have neither the supervision or the money. The senior management team in SE7 appears to be Addams-family wannabe, Tony Keohane, and a very part-time Richard Murray who clearly isn't going to get his hands dirty. Duchatelet hasn't put a bean into the club but he has trousered a fair bit in transfer fees and it would seem that he isn't yet prepared to face paying off a large chunk of the £70m debt pile he has accumulated in his mismanagement of the club and all it's main revenue streams. That would explain the continued lack of any actual takeover and the strong suspicion is that his determination not to accept a very public defeat means he continues to 'nickel and dime' the would-be investors, with the very obvious risk that they decide enough-is-enough and conclude that an acceptable deal can't be done with a man desperate to save face.

The latest season ticket offer is the most ill-conceived and naively put together offer in our history. How on earth do you think you can get away with blaming price rises on the fact that you have had to comply with the law and pay minimum wage? Zero sympathy from me when the stench of the colossal waste of the last few years is so over-powering. Still no-one prepared to accept responsibility for the negligence and gross mis-management. They even thought they could throw in "higher security and counter-terrorism" as additional costs and maintain a straight-face! The best one though, was their claim that we are still competitive in terms of price with many other EFL clubs and also cheaper than 15 non-league clubs! Yep, they are now setting their sights firmly on our real opposition. As someone who has seen a decent number of Welling matches this season, I should point out that their season ticket was cheaper than Charlton with the early bird offer and is again this coming season. However, price is only one component of the deal. Quality of football is the other, and here we are nowhere near close to most of the clubs in the Third Division and, I would suggest, most of those in Division Four, Five or Six. Welling will likely miss out on their play-offs because they have been too inconsistent and churned too many players. However, the entertainment watching the Wings has been far superior to following Duchatelet's House-of-Horrors over the last three seasons. The jokers also think they can twist arms to buy early by leaving the door open for 'Phase 2' (post early-bird) and 'Phase 3' (promotion, ha ha ha) price increases! Anyone who falls for this or the fear of losing their seat deserves to watch another season of dross in my humble opinion.

So, what will come next? Announcement of a takeover or the appointment of the individuals required to enable the club to function going forward, which would mean the end of any takeover for another season? Personally, I won't be back until Duchatelet has gone and has zero further interest in Charlton Athletic Football Club. If there's no positive news this month, I will be acquiring a season ticket at Park View Road and ending this blog because supporting Charlton Athletic under Roland Duchatelet has become Groundhog Day and I no longer have the same level of interest.

Sunday 8 April 2018

Bristol Rovers 1 v Charlton Athletic 1

'Win your home games and draw away' has long been solid advice for sides seeking promotion. On that basis there should be few complaints about the point picked up in Bristol yesterday. It keeps the Addicks in sixth place with a game in hand which could put a bit of distance between us the chasers, Portsmouth, Peterborough and Scunthorpe. Better still, with only six matches left, we could do with getting something at Portsmouth and beating Scunthorpe at the Valley.

The actual order is AFC Wimbledon (a) on Tuesday, Scunthorpe (h) Saturday, followed by Shrewsbury (a) Tuesday-week, Portsmouth (a) Saturday-week, Blackburn (h) and Rochdale (a). The evident danger here using the old adage I started with, is that we might only acquire ten more points which probably wouldn't be sufficient. I think we need four wins and a draw to be sure of a play-off spot. Our best shot might be winning the next three games - Wimbledon are scrapping to avoid relegation, Scunthorpe are out-of-form and Shrewsbury may have given-up on an automatic place before we go there. Nine points from those would give us clear line-of-sight and take the pressure off before we go to Portsmouth for what could be a decider. 

Saturday 7 April 2018

Duchatelet's ransom

News that Duchatelet is to sell season tickets from Thursday - not an event many of us would have predicted given the related "it's imminent" takeover saga. Common wisdom was he would have cleared off before now, even fellow board-member Richard Murray declaring that "February" was the likely sale date.

However, it now seems apparent that he isn't getting what he wants in order to conclude a sale and is prepared to hang on without it. That then brings the real prospect that he won't get a sale concluded and the nightmare will continue. It would seem that three-wins-in-a-row are all it has taken for the greedy billionaire to suddenly sniff an opportunity to squeeze more from prospective buyers. Every time he mentions a change in value associated with a promotion, I hope he is being reminded about the simple fact that the club has actually been relegated since he acquired it and the revenue streams halved under his appalling mismanagement. He has some front seeking treble the buy price in the circumstances without trying to get his hands in the till on an ongoing basis.

Duchatelet's previous sale of St. Truiden and Standard Liege were not simple affairs in that he managed to tie-in future obligations and revenues, presumably because he felt he wasn't getting the price he wanted for a straightforward sale. The warning is there and we have to hope that any prospective buyer will stand their ground and only give him what they consider to to be a fair deal and that he has no say whatsoever once he's bought out.

The value of season ticket sales will clearly also be a consideration in Duchatelet's mind and the amateur attempted leverage of a week's notice to prospective buyers that he would put them on sale without their input is laughable and every true Charlton supporter should be laughing at the prospect of handing over any more money to Duchatelet given the circumstances. 

I don't care what he sells them for - it's far easier to wait and see what happens. For the future of our club, it must be better to wait and, hopefully, give your money to support new owners who are investing in us than pay Duchatelet's ransom.

Wednesday 4 April 2018

Rest in Peace Ray Wilkins

Terribly sad to hear that Ray Wilkins has died following a heart attack. I was dragged to Stamford Bridge as a young boy for a number of seasons by my Old Man. Given my tender years, I always struggled to see the game from his favourite vantage point to the far left of the Shed but I always had couple of quarters of sweets to help pass the game away and after Bobby Tambling I got to see the wizard Peter Osgood for a few seasons. 

After my parents divorced I continued to make the journey across London by bus, often on my own or with a few school-mates. I went to nearly every home game in 1976-77 (and when I wasn't there, I was at the Valley) when former-Blue, Eddie McCreadie, steered Chelsea back to the old First Division (I was 13). My clearest memories of that season were the contributions of Ray "Butch" Wilkins and Gary Stanley. Two good looking lads with long dark hair and bags of talent. Wilkins was the heart-beat of the side and an inspirational young captain, He was destined for the top of the game although it was always something of a disappointment for me to see him playing so relatively negatively for Manchester United and England when he had been so swashbuckling and adventurous at the Bridge. I always assumed that he had simply been coached more progressively not to risk losing the ball but it came at a cost.

He was decent bloke, Ray, and it came across whenever he was interviewed or commentating on TV. He always seemed to be in work throughout the game and it's a shock to see him dead at only 61 as a consequence of a heart-attack. I will always have the image of him driving through the middle of the Stamford Bridge pitch and looking to find Steve Finnieston.

Tuesday 3 April 2018

Hat-trick for Bowyer

Lee Bowyer's rejuvenated Charlton side made it three-in-a-row with a 3-1 win over play-off rivals Rotherham at the Valley yesterday. The win propels the Addicks back into the top six with a game in hand and there is a growing confidence we can make the play-offs and arrive as the form team.

A number of long-standing Charlton-supporting mates were in touch with me over the weekend to let me know they would be making a return for yesterday's match, which is a sure sign that Lee Bowyer has finally managed to do what most of his predecessors under Duchatelet have failed to do - win some bloody games playing decent attacking football. We weren't as commanding or convincing yesterday as we have been in the two previous matches but Rotherham are strong play-off contenders and we still beat them with something to spare. 

There is no sign of this fabled takeover and you really have to wonder what on earth is going on. Can it really take this long to dot the i's and cross the t's? Let's hope Duchatelet isn't again playing silly-buggers over the deal. It would be particularly unfortunate if the resurgence under Bowyer has got him again looking for his pound of play-off flesh. 

Rumours abound that Harry Kewell may be appointed as part of any takeover. That would be harsh on Bowyer and potentially costly for new owners who should 'ride the wave' in the hope Bowyer can get us up. That's not to say Harry Kernel couldn't do it but it would be an unnecessary risk, in my opinion.

News too that the club were close to £70m in debt on the back of last year's report and accounts just published. A timely reminder of the horlicks Duchatelet and Meire have made of things in the four years they have been here. Home gates halved, the club relegated and, until lately, a bang-average looking League One side. I have said it before and will say it again, I really hope Duchatelet suffers the indignity of a whopping loss he deserves when the club is finally sold. It may be a drop in the ocean for billionaire but a material loss will underline just what a mess he has made of our football club and prove just how right our supporters were to fear the worst in 2015 and begin the protest movement that has finally seen him throw the towel in.

It was another good betting day for me yesterday. I did a five role accumulator which was reduced to four when the Bradford v Walsall game was postponed. After about an hour I had Charlton 3-0, Southend 4-0, Peterborough 2-0 and Shrewsbury 3-1. Comfortable in all and offering me a decent cash-out. Oxford then pulled another back at Shrewsbury and I decided to take the £432 on offer as I didn't want the possibility of Karl Robinson spoiling my day once again. I should have known better on held on for another ton.