Friday 25 May 2018

Nearly there....

Not long now folks. Not long before the sound of trumpets and the herald of a new era after four miserable years under the unambitious, disinterested and hopeless Roland Duchatelet.

Chief-Exec-elect Gerard Murphy has been busy behind the scenes doing PR work and he has been faultless so far. Appearing in the Directors box at Shrewsbury was the biggest sign we've seen but he has also visited the training ground and has spoken incognito to reveal some of detail about the protracted takeover negotiations and to calm fears about the future by making it clear that Roland Duchatelet isn't walking away with anything other than the wapping loss he deserves and that once he's gone, there will be no more involvement and no further risk. He has also shown a keen interest in the history of the club, being particularly interested to learn of the rapid rise in fortunes under Jimmy Seed eighty years ago and seeking a museum visit as I understand. I am also impressed that the Aussies seem intent on running a meritocracy that will see them interview and appoint the best person for the managerial vacancy.

In terms of that takeover, it would also appear that four of the seven Directors who have a future charge over the club have refused Duchatelet the opportunity to put the club over a barrel in the greedy hope of extracting more money downstream through a lease deal. In time we will learn their names and they should be recognised for putting the club before their own material benefit. It is interesting to note that Duchatelet could have bought those Director's lease rights out under the existing contract for £4-7m or thereabouts, so his interest in hanging it out versus his potential net gain must be put into some context.

Great to hear, too, that Steve Avory, the driving force behind the highly successful Academy has been recognised with the Eamon Dolan Award for Youth Development. Avory is a man of conviction who has firmly rooted the Charlton Athletic Academy and seen it flourish under his leadership. I can only guess at how satisfying it must be to watch top class football and be constantly reminded of the great job you have done by watching players you have seen mature and develop.

Whilst the players are tanning themselves, whoever is left running the shop has managed to start arranging pre-season friendlies in addition to putting season tickets back on sale. The masses will wait to purchase their season tickets once the takeover is announced so that their hard earned goes directly to  the Aussies and the future of the club and not into Duchebag's pocket. That big Welling opener will take place at Park View Road on 7th July. I will be there.

Sunday 13 May 2018

Shrewsbury Town 1 v Charlton Athletic 0

Shrewsbury Town duly closed the door on our season this afternoon with another one-nil victory to win the tie 2-0 on aggregate. The defeat consigns us to another season in League One. Under the unambitious and disinterested Roland Duchatelet that would seem unbearable and actual home gates would tank even further. At least we have the promise of new ownership and some hope for next season.

It was a better showing from Charlton than on Thursday night and we had plenty of first-half possession as the home side were content to sit back and defend. We played some neat passing football down the flanks and across the pitch but we were again desperately short of any serious goalmouth action. Crosses, when they came, were inevitably knocked in hoping Magennis could out jump a pair of centre-halves and a goalkeeper in close attendance. We should have had a penalty before half-time for a pretty blatant handball which clearly changed the direction of the ball and which the referee must have seen and somehow decided it was ball-to-hand four yards from goal.

The Shrews scored after the restart and that effectively killed the tie. We huffed and puffed and managed a number of corners but every dropping ball was hacked clear and every attempted Charlton shot on target was blocked. Kaikai had several half-chances but failed to strike any of them cleanly which seems par for his course. He and Doodoo have typified what has been wrong with this season. Two 'strikers' clearly not up to this standard of football and both brought in as cheap offerings to try and appease the masses after having let Novak and them Holmes leave. Magennis was left to forge alone for much of the season and we even brought back 'no goals' Ajose when we had no other options. 

For me personally I shared something in common with Roland Duchatelet this season - neither of us saw a game in person. For Duchatelet that's nothing new but for me it was a first since I started going as a boy. I am praying that the Aussie takeover will see the end of Duchatelet's malign influence. Rumours that he will retain a landlord interest or that he will have a percentage of player sale values going forward until he gets his price would be sickening and might yet make me feel too uncomfortable to return but I guess that all depends on what the deal is. I could live with it if he's taking the massive multi-pound loss he deserves and I have to believe the Aussies are too shrewd to pay him more than the club is worth, whether that's all upfront or over a period of time. 

I enjoyed my visits to Park View Road this season and non-league football is more reminiscent of the game I used to watch before money came to really dominate it. The football was honest and competitive and I saw some superb goals and real camaraderie between the players and the supporters, even if there are only 400 of them. It was great to stand on the terraces again with a beer when warm enough and not to have to deal with any visiting arseholes or to be filmed by police officers as I arrive or leave the ground (I see that the Shropshire Constabulary used pepper-spray indiscriminately on a crowd of Charlton supporters in the stand today as they sought to arrest someone). Good, too, not to be harassed by jobsworth Stewards following orders and refreshing for the Chairman to say 'hello' when he recognised a few of his club's supporters at an away game and ask what we thought of our chances.

New ownership will, hopefully, fire my burners once again but Roland Duchatelet (and Katrien Meire) have definitely broken the emotional bond that has had me following the club loyally home and away since 1977. Perhaps it will never be the same again even after I return. Along with hundreds and probably thousands of others that will be Duchatelet's legacy. That and the record books which will show the club dropped out of the Championship and established itself as a third division side for the first time since we climbed out of Division Three South.

Thursday 10 May 2018

Charlton Athletic 0 v Shrewsbury Town 1

A fairly evenly contested first leg at The Valley this evening but Shrewsbury showed a tad more quality and deserved their one-nil lead. We aren't out of it yet by any means but the odds will have swung strongly in the Shrews favour and they will have the confidence and the momentum required to see us off on Sunday.

In many ways the game was a microcosm of our season. Largely competitive but we have been ham-strung by our failure to adequately balance our capabilities upfront at the start of the season. The decision to allow Novak to leave on deadline day and the failure to have at least a decent replacement lined-up meant we started short of striking goals and that has continued throughout the season. We have scored fewer than any side above us and our top scorer (Magennis) is only on 10. That and the subsequent mistake by not investing in a goal-scorer in January sits very squarely with Roland Duchatelet, for whom the last couple of season at least have all been about damage limitation in terms of his finances and footballing losses. The fact that we actually sold Ricky Holmes, our rival top scorer, in January without replacement in January underlines the folly.

The gate last night was also a disappointing 14,367. Yes, it was live (I was one watching) but many were saying they thought the actual attendance was much higher. This is a consequence of the ridiculously over-called and fiddled attendances under Duchatelet's regime. What we saw last night was an actual 14,000 gate when most of our season ticket holders actually bothered to come to a home match and when the club did not overstate the attendance with several thousand comps that they either didn't give out or which weren't used.

A Tweet from Rick Everitt this evening suggests the Aussies will conclude a deal tomorrow and that the takeover is very near. They were at the match this evening and were being shown around by Paul Elliott. That is the best news of today and it promises some hope in the coming weeks assuming our season ends on Sunday. If we are to miss out, I shall take some small comfort from the fact that Duchatelet's poor judgement, ultimate lack of ambition and parsimony has cost him in the long run. He won't get the price he has been holding out for and the record will show that in four years under the richest owner in our history, the club dropped a division, became a laughing stock and had real, long-term damage done to it's reputation and it's fanbase by his personal failure to engage in it's proper running or to reign Katrien Meire in when she was blatantly mis-managing the club on a disastrous scale.

I really hope I can return next season to a new ship, a new crew and some genuine hope and honest ambition. That's all I have ever asked for supporting this club - anything else would be a bonus.

Sunday 6 May 2018

Rochdale 1 v Charlton Athletic 0

Another Charlton horror show on TV. Anyone, none-the-wiser, would have been forgiven for thinking it was a relegation dogfight with us going down. Not only was it a drab affair with hardly any quality anywhere on the pitch but after Rochdale took a second-half lead we failed to even try to get an equaliser. The players knew by then our play-off place was assured (courtesy of the Gills) but they had a duty to the end, if not to Oldham Athletic, to the travelling fans to have made a visible effort.

I don't think it would have affected the scoreline in any event because Zyro and Kaikai were woeful. We will need to be far better than we showed yesterday across the pitch if we are to beat Shrewsbury Town on Thursday.

Our supporters were magnificent throughout the game and there appears to be a real revival amongst the faithful in terms of numbers and vocal support. It's great to see the stirring after the these last five grim seasons and you have to hope it's a real sign of encouragement for prospective new owners. Still no firm takeover news but it does seem inconceivable that the Aussie consortium won't end up in control of the club if Duchatelet can see sense and draw a line under his ownership. The trouble, I suspect, is that he has a dilemma over the price he is being offered because it may represent a clear and visible failure in terms of a loss of money, something the locals in St. Truiden told us time and again he wouldn't take. Personally, I can't believe the figures being bandied about for the club given what he paid for us and the fact that the club has been relegated and run, commercially, into the ground under his tenure. He deserves a massive haircut so let's hoping we also get to laugh at that once new ownership finally arrives. 

Tuesday 1 May 2018

Steel yourselves, it's the Play-Offs!

After an heroic backs-to-the-wall, battling victory over blackburn Rovers, won with our only effort on target which took a huge deflection, we finally found ourselves with our play-off fortunes firmly in our own hands. I will duly admit to haven been proven wrong on this as my firm opinion, prior to Lee Bowyer's arrival was that we had zero chance. Whilst Bowyer has certainly turned things around, our flat and disinterested performances in the defeats to Wimbledon and Scunthorpe suggested that missing out was still an evens money bet.

Not only did we take control of the situation on Saturday but this evening's play-off duel between Scunny and Argyle has gone to the home side which leaves Argyle clutching at straws in their attempt to catch us. They now need to make up three points and overcome a six goal difference to overhaul us. Given what's at stake, I can't see it in a month-of-Sundays, even if they are at woeful Gillingham on the last day.

So, it looks like Saturday will be a day of Addick celebrations. With the EFL reputedly going through the fit-and-proper-person motions, this could a glittering end to the season in many ways. It's long, long overdue and, if I am honest, I don't think our football this season has deserved it but I guess the table doesn't lie and if Millwall can sneak-up in sixth, I don't see why we should apologise to anyone.

Speaking of Plymouth, I also can't help mentioning my good fortune on Saturday as I walked into the Anchor for a post home-season drink with a few old faces. I was following two accumulators on my mobile. One four team selection was winning and the second had three up and one drawing with minutes to go (two sections the same). I cashed out on the first one as three of the sides were only winning by the odd goal and one of them was Charlton who had just seen their own bar struck. The other had Palace (3 or 4 up), QPR (2-1), Bristol Rovers (1-0) and Argyle who were 1-1 with Rotherham. I then saw a goal announced at Home Park but it went to Rotherham so I put my phone in my pocket, entered the pub and bought a round of drinks. When I opened my phone to show a mate what had happened, Argyle were winning 2-1! I assumed there had been a mistake in announcing Rotherham but cashed out nonetheless. Minutes later it was all over and I was £1100 after off. I later noticed the Gills had notched a late, late leveller which would have killed my second bet and the actual sequence of events at Plymouth had been that Rotherham had scored a second goal but it was disallowed and Plymouth tore down to the other end of the field and scored the winner!