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.