Tuesday 31 December 2019

Happy New Year Addicks!

Wishing Charlton supporters everywhere a happy and prosperous New Year. 

The latest takeover looks credible and it should just be a matter of days but even this one has been dragging on since the public announcement which has caused understandable concerns and driven more scrutiny of those involved than it might otherwise have done.

Whatever happens, the incoming owner will not be a lifelong Charlton supporter. He or she won't have a fading sword tattoo and they won't have war stories they can tell from the past. What they will be is 'investors' looking for a return on their money. That means that whilst they may pay to take on a large existing debt, they will see their role as managing that debt with a determination to ultimately turn a profit. That does not mean that the slate will be wiped clean, or that we will somehow be flush or in good financial health. It will simply mean that they want to sell the club one day for more money than they paid for it and to ensure they have covered their operating costs along the way. That could very well mean increasing our debt in the meantime. 

Whatever happens, we should be rid of the disinterested and unambitious Duchatelet and there's every chance that the new owners will have a plan to grow the club through a successful and ambitious football team. That's all any of us have ever wanted.

Again, Happy New Year and fingers-crossed for 2020.

Monday 30 December 2019

Derby County 2 v Charlton Athletic 1

Derby looked every inch the side that hasn't won in seven and who were below us in the table prior to kick-off. Unfortunately, even with them down to ten men for 80 minutes we couldn't scrape a draw. We simply weren't good enough from back to front and offered far too little attacking ambition to really have expected to get anything from the game. Two-one flattered us a little.

Behind the headlines, of course, there are simple facts that we have a threadbare squad and continue to be hit by injuries which are forcing the player selections for Lee Bowyer. Lyle Taylor was on the bench from the off which meant Bonne was once again playing a lone furrow up front. Doughty was his nominal strike partner but in reality he played on the left wing. 

Derby's tactics from the outset were very obvious - hurt Conor Gallagher. Kristin Bielik managed to get himself red-carded for a terrible challenge and others took their turn to try to stop Gallagher playing after that. The unfortunate part about Derby going down to ten men was that they were already one-up courtesy of a goal-line scramble after Phillips had parried a Waghorn stab up and across the face of goal. Indeed, Derby might have scored in the opening minute if Phillips hadn't pulled off a replica of his stop against Nakhi Wells the other week.

After that we saw plenty of the ball but for the most part we passed it around the back-line and up and down to the midfield. Eventually ambling forward with little conviction and quickly losing possession and retreating to start all over again. As if that wasn't bad enough, Macauley Bonne then started limping and was withdrawn at half-time with a hamstring pull that will likely see him join the missing list for a few weeks. Lyle Taylor was brought on which disproved my theory pre-match that he wasn't being started to avoid any injury that would scupper his transfer. 

We simply didn't do enough quickly enough in the second-half to threaten an equaliser and when Derby finally had another five minutes of pressure they put the game to bed with their second goal. Gallagher went down for a cheap penalty which Taylor converted but it was all too little too late. Josh Davison and Ben Matthews came on for Sarr and Oshilaja as if to emphasise the youth and fragility of the options left available to Bowyer. 

It was a bad night at Black Rock and we have more of the same to face again on Thursday. Not sure I can even bring myself to suffer it on TV. Luckily we only have the pointless F A Cup this weekend, so another ten days rest for the wounded after Swansea before West Brom will return with their A team in the league and we will need to be able to put up a better side and play more like a team once more if we are to avoid a third or fourth successive defeat after the mini-revival pre-Christmas. 

Regardless of injuries and takeover/no takeover, Bowyer needs funds and quickly in January.

Friday 27 December 2019

Charlton Athletic 3 v Bristol City 2

This match will live long in the memory. A second successive battling performance with the bare bones refusing to be beaten. A rare holiday home victory and won in style.

Jason Pearce was rested with Oshilaja starting in a four man defence alongside Sarr, Lockyer and Matthews. Darren Pratley busied himself in front of the back four with Gallagher, Morgan and Doughty providing the legs. Bonne and Taylor were hunting up front.

It was a decent opening half from Charlton, in which chances were limited but in which we saw far less of the visitors than in recent home games. Bentley made a couple of expected stops and a last ditch tackle prevented Lyle Taylor from opening the scoring but it was that man Macauley Bonne who scored first, ten minutes from the break. A ball from Morgan looped over the top and Bonne was onto it twenty yards out. He had defenders in close attendance so had to react quickly and he did with a lob which looked more speculative than serious but it cleared the advancing Bentley and bounced in the six yard box and up perfectly to go under the crossbar. On second thoughts, it was an excellent striker's finish. How many times have we said this about Bonne goals. He wasn't done there either.

During our snatched half-time pint in Bartrams we agreed that we would score a second early goal kicking towards the Covered End and that would kill it off. Cue a City equaliser within a minute of the restart. Bristol started ten miles an hour faster than they had finished  and a whipped cross to the back stick was headed home by Weimann. The visitors tails were up and they went for the jugular. We didn't raise our game quickly enough and within ten minutes they took the lead. Pouring men forward they worked the ball into our box on the right and with challenges queuing up the ball was played outside to the over-lapping Eliasson, a fresh-legged half-time sub, who took a touch and fired home low across goal. 

For ten minutes a mini-gloom descended on the Valley and we all took that deep breath of reluctant acceptance. But there was still plenty of time and Bowyer's Addicks fought back and took the game to the Covered End. Pratley was snapping at everything in the heart of the defence and even the loss of Gallagher (hoping he was withdrawn as a precaution) didn't halt the surge. 

Morgan and Doughty were pressing the game and Taylor and Bonne had City pegged back. With about fifteen minutes to go, Macauley Bonne swapped quick passes as he advanced into the box and at a slight angle and under pressure he somehow managed to hammer a shot that flew inside the near post and crashed into the roof of the goal. Bentley was guarding the post but the pace of the shot made it unstoppable. 

The noise levels inside the Valley suddenly ratcheted up - Sky called it raucous - and the visiting supporters feared the worse. Charlton now threw everything at Bristol City and five minutes later Bonne picked a ball up on the right of the box and raced towards the goal. Nothing much to aim for in the middle but Alfie Doughty was steaming in on the left and he edged ahead of his marker. The cross was low, hard and skimming and Bentley decided to follow it across the goal and defend his far post. Big mistake. Alfie Doughty got their first and although Bentley blocked his first effort, Alfie seized on the rebound and squeezed it inside the post. 

The ground erupted and the players knew they had their long awaited victory. Even five minutes of added time which turned into seven and a bit weren't enough to deny us this time and the game finished with jubilation and wild celebrations. The Addicks are suddenly afloat again and sail to Derby on Monday. The side may once again be make-shift and limited but with this spirit anything is possible.

Sunday 22 December 2019

Queens Park Rangers 2 v Charlton Athletic 2

A heartening draw in a pulsating London derby courtesy of another last gasp goal. I have to report that Pau.

l and I convinced ourselves on 88 minutes that the result was beyond us and that we would be better off beating the rush back to White City than suffering the ignominy of gloating home fans at the whistle. 

Our pre-match plans were changed last minute due a mate's Mum taking a fall and needing a hospital visit. So instead of meeting a few of his QPR mates in the Stewart Arms behind Shepherds Bush station, we instead headed for Hammersmith and a few pre-match pints in the The Swan. There we're a couple of groups of other Addicks already in there as well as some Leeds fans en route to Fulham

Two stops up the line to Shepherds Bush Market and we were soon out on the Uxbridge Road and heading for Loftus Road. Actually it was Ellerslie Road where I managed to punt out my last match ticket, thanks to the wonders of Charlton Life.

There was fully time for a pint in the corridor that runs behind the upper tier of the shambolic visitors stand before kick-off. There was a time when me and my long-time partner-in-crime used to say how we wished we had a compact stadium like Loftus Road which looked full every time we played and where we could create an atmosphere and be very hard to defeat at home. How times have changed. QPR fans visiting the Valley must look up at our stands and see a whole level of ambition that has eluded them since the mis-70's. 

Anyway, we started poorly and Rangers scored with their first serious attack of the afternoon. A delicious ball in from their left was only hooked out ten feet by Naby Sarr and Cameron drove the loose ball into the goal in front of the Charlton fans. It looked ominous and to make matters worse, Leko limped off after ten minutes but we didn't miss him as Albie Morgan quickly played his way into the game. 

We couldn't get anything going up front and QPR could have sewn the game up on twenty minutes when Purrington, under pressure, underhit a back pass from way out to Phillips and Nakhi Wells stole in. He had too much time though and having steamed in on goal he hesitated and I think expected Phillips to commit. Dillion stood tall and when Wells finally fired he managed to block the powerful shot which bounce up and out for a corner. 

Bowyer had seen enough of our floundering back four and Purrington was hauled off in a tactical switch that saw us move to a back three as Jason Pearce joined the fray. Purrington was visibly furious but probably more through embarrassment than anything else. The switched worked because we looked better to half-time. 

Ten minutes after the restart and with the Addicks visibly fired-up, a defensive clearance fell to Albie Morgan just outside the area and he rammed a shot goalward. It probably wouldn't have beaten the QPR defence in their six yard box but Lyle Taylor managed to divert the ball from just in front of them and they were stranded. Now things looked a lot better. Encouraged by the noise from the visiting fans, Charlton took the game to the hosts and we played some lovely stuff. Alfie Doughty was a rampaging joy on the left and he pinned QPR back which encouraged Gallagher to get further forward and with Albie Morgan weighing in we pressed QPR for half-an-hour only for Rangers to score again against the run-of-play. Osayi-Samuel had been brought on and he ran rings around Jason Pearce before setting Pugh up for an easy finish. 

With ten minutes to go we looked beaten and QPR saw more of the ball. That was the cue for Paul and I to head off to Charing Cross for a Christmas drink and miss the 95th minute drama of Naby Sarr surging on to a flick over the top and controlling the ball before slamming home in front of 2700 delirious Addicks. 

Thursday 19 December 2019

The Nightmare before Christmas

It took me a few days to get over the kick in the gut that we took last Friday evening when Hull equalised in the 96th minute. Coming on the back of the last gasp loss to Huddersfield it was doubly difficult to take and made you wonder when we would win again. It also unleashed the wailing and gnashing of the most thickle who seem to want someone to blame rather than accepting the fact that there is glaring correlation between availability of players and performances/results.

The good news was that Lyle Taylor featured again and he looked that bit closer to match fitness. He and Bonne are due goals and with Field and Williams expected to be ready to feature, I got all optimistic about QPR. Maybe the feel-good factor with Christmas around the corner also encouraged me to jump at the chance of a spare ticket for The Kiyan Prince Stadium on Saturday. I also took those juicy away odds of 4-1, after all, I was cheated by Hull of winning at 3-1. Perhaps confirmation of the Abu Dhabi takeover would also cause a snowball effect and QPR would be swept away in a blizzard of positive Charlton emotion?

In the last few days we have had more takeover speculation. Nothing specifically negative but there remains a nagging doubt with excuses for a delayed EFL decision continuing to be made. Some of the big papers have jumped in to tell us that the EFL have wanted clarity that there is no business connection with Man City's owner Sheikh Mansour. This follows questions raised about fit and proper persons as well as veracity of funding. The latest suggestions are that we may have to wait until January for a decision - this would appear longer than usual for other clubs, given they were engaged as far back as early November by a takeover team who appear to have worked thoroughly in preparing the ground by avoiding any leaks and reaching agreement with former Directors over their loans.

That has perhaps sparked today's downer. Lee Bowyer has said that Lyle Taylor has turned down a contract offer and Lee seems to be saying that the decision now rests with Taylor, implying there won't be any further negotiation. Given the Limbo nature of the current ownership, it's unclear if the offer is a grudging (and maybe constrained) Duchatelet authorised one or simply the best the prospective new owners are prepared to support in agreement with RD. Either way, it's not good news ahead of Saturday and Taylor will get more abuse on social media from the no-nonsense wing the fanbase who are telling him to leave if he doesn't want to accept the offer. Lyle is a big Twitter user and he didn't react very well to his last spat with the same fans which lead to him closing his account for a couple of weeks.

Personally, I have some sympathies for Taylor. He was denied a potentially lucrative move to Brentford during the Summer because we were unable to get a replacement deal agreed on the last day of the transfer window. Bad planning and parsimony by Roland Duchatelet was hardly Taylor's fault. Given his late maturity in the game, the Brentford deal offered him some real financial security and it may have convinced him that he would leave in January, come what may. Patrick Bauer left in similar circumstances having been messed about over his contract renewal until it was too late, even despite a goal-scoring finish and promotion at Wembley. 

So to Saturday then and worse news that Field and Williams have had set-backs, just like Taylor, in their recovery from injury and now won't feature as anticipated. That tantalising prospect of a win after ten games without one looks less likely and my bet at 4-1 riskier than it had looked earlier in the week. Regardless, "we go again' as the players are fond of saying after disappointing results, only this time, I will be attending an away game for the first time since Coventry several years ago and my decision to boycott. I can endure another disappointing result but I pray that this takeover goes through because 2020 will begin to look quite dark and threatening if it doesn't. 

Wednesday 11 December 2019

Charlton Athletic 0 v Huddersfield Town 1

On a dark and cold night in South-East London, amidst a swirling downpour, Lee Bowyer's walking-wounded struggled to create any clearcut opportunity from which to win the game against limited looking visitors. In terrible conditions, there was little between the sides but once again we were undone by a late winner which was barely deserved.

Bowyer went with a back five of Purrington, Sarr, Pearce, Lockyer and Solly. They were sound enough but had to scramble clear too often because our midfield again struggled to keep possession. Gallagher continues to try his heart out but he desperately needs the calming influence of Williams and/or Cullen. Without them he is trying to do too much and was caught in possession repeatedly last night. Pratley fought hard too but he lacks composure which doesn't help and his second touch is often a foul. If you add the inexperienced Doughty and the hot 'n cold Leko, you can see why collectively we are coming up short in the engine room.

At least there was a visible concentration and determination across the side last night - a big improvement on Saturday's horror showing at Middlesbrough. Macauley Bonne ploughed a lone furrow last night. Whenever he did get the ball he was invariably back to goal with several defenders awaiting him. Little surprise that we didn't manage an effort on goal in the opening half. 

In touches and moves, Leko reminds me of Paul Mortimer and I hope that he can find that balance and broader pitch view that Morts had because he could become quite a player. Unfortunately last night he had too much to do whenever he got the ball and ran into trouble too often instead of being able to find space. Doughty continues to impress me with his control and pace but he has a lot to learn and would look so much better with Williams and Cullen ticking alongside him. 

We did manage a sustained attacking spell after Lyle Taylor came on but were still short of chances. Ben Purtrington had managed to find the net but the fussy  linesman's on the east Stand touchline had flagged early for offside. I didn't see it but Lee Bowyer was complaining after the game that the goal should have stood. However, Lee might be guilty of looking for an excuse or two given the overall lack of creativity.

No wins in the last nine and we are in trouble as things stand. The injury list has to shorten and we could really do with the boost of confirmation of the takeover and, hopefully, some cash being splashed by the new owners to show their initial ambition and restore some confidence across the playing and management staff. The EFL show no signs of an early decision and there must be a concern that Christmas and New Year will intervene which may limit our options in January's transfer window.

We could also do with a bit of luck and hopefully that will come our way on Friday when Hull City come to town. However, we will also need to beat the live-on-Sky curse which continues to haunt us. 

Saturday 7 December 2019

Welling United 2 v Hemel Hempstead 0

First off, Tony and I fancied the visitors at 6-4. They had been second in the table prior to the international break where they lost a couple of players to overseas duty (I know) and results have seen them drop to seventh.

They started quickly and forced a succession of corners which tested the Wings back line. It looked only a matter of time before they took the lead but the Wings held on and after 20 minutes, Sam Ashford lost the plot and hacked Connor Dymond down having been frustrated at being passed around several times. At 11 v 10 the Wings looked marginally more comfortable and on 40 minutes Emmanuel Moses rose to head home past Dave Beasant's son, Sam, in the visitors goal.

The game was very tight throughout and there was very little between the sides right up until ten minutes from the end when substitute Nathan Green slammed home a back post cross which alluded the near-post posse. The win relieves Welling's relegation concerns and perhaps gives some hope for turning of the proverbial corner.

Meanwhile, in the chemical wastelands of Middlesbrough, Charlton Athletic succumbed to a first minute goal and failed to really threaten Boro for an equaliser. It was a huge disappointment but hardly a surprise for the injury-ravaged Addicks. Joe Ledley made a rusty debut and Lyle Taylor got on in the second half but we were well short of the quality needed to get anything.

Bowyer has promised better for Tuesday against Huddersfield at The Valley but you have to look at what he's got to call on and wonder what more anyone can realistically expect. Personally, we need to stay clear of the relegation zone and await reinforcements in January.

Finally, a small footnote but congratulations to George and Emily on the birth of a beautiful looking daughter. Another Addick in the making.

Sunday 1 December 2019

Charlton Athletic 1 v Sheffield Wednesday 3

No great surprise in the result given Charlton's pile of injuries, current form and the size of the occasion which historically defeats us. The result was largely unimportant yesterday, it was far more about the significance of new ownership and enormous hope for the future.

I was on the streets shortly after 10am as I made my way to meet a couple of CARD's finest and start the day with brekkie in Marks & Spencers - the Valley Cafe was queueing out of the door. It was great to get nods, handshakes and shouts as I made my way along Floyd Road. Everyone was grinning and several looked skywards in thanks after talking about our new owners. 

The game itself began quickly with Wednesday on the front foot and netting an early headed goal which was disallowed (offside). Our hospital eleven showed a determination to stick at it despite Wednesday's domination of possession. Wednesday were quick out wide and pressed the game. Their opening goal was neat and simple in execution. A right wing break, the ball played back for a pinpoint cross into the box and a well-directed header by the forgotten Steven Fletcher. I'd have to see both of their early headers again but there was a suspicion that someone should have been closer to both players. 

The Addicks continued to battle hard to get forward and fought well at the back. I had been told that there was a virus going around the squad before the match and that it had ruled Ben Purrington out which had given Alfie Doughty his first start at left-back. He did well, as did Oshilaja, who was my man-of-the-match after a particularly stong second-half showing where he might even have nicked an equaliser before Wednesday's flattering third on the whistle.

Erhum Ostumer ran his heart out in the middle and Leko and Bonne did whatever they could when the ball arrived to try and stretch the Owls backline. Bonne's equaliser looked fortunate on first viewing as it appeared to loop up and take an age to beat the flat-footed Dawson. It looked much better and more deliberate at half-time. 

As if to add some sparkle to the occasion, we had already seen new Chairman, Matt Southall glide smilingly through the West Stand lounge in an immaculate blue suit and being lead by Commercial Manager, Ravi Patel who seemed to be smiling as widely as the fans. But there at half-time was Lee Ryan of Blue with his Charlton-mad boy. I had to Google him of course but I had recognised the face!

Into the second-half then and Gary Monk's orders were very clear from the restart. Wednesday stepped it up again and took control of the game, directing traffic for the next thirty minutes until they won a penalty in front of their own fans. It looked stonewall to me and Fletcher stepped up to slam home and cue a huge roar from the visitors.

Wednesday sat back a little after that and contained us as we tried everything we could to make it 2-2. Leko was out on his feet and Bonne wasn't going to out-jump their back-line so our pressing inevitably resulted in shots from around the box. Oshilaja fired the two best efforts but both cleared the bar at speed by a couple of feet. There was also time for Charlton to introduce another Academy debutant. Having seen the Alfie's drafted in in the last two weeks, today was the turn for James Vennings. No-one I spoke to yesterday had ever heard of him. Maybe Steve Avory has been keeping him under wraps?

Finally it was time to continue the takeover celebrations - I started in the White Swan and finished in the Oak. The Swan was busy, happy and noisy. I had spent the day encouraging friends and acquaintances to show restraint about our new owners and to hope that anticipated investments are appropriate and sensible. By the time I reached the Oak it was loud and drunken. I left for home with a non-stop chorus of "we're fucking rich, we're fucking rich, we're fucking rich" ringing in my ears. I suppose it's hard not to feel like we have won the Lottery.

Friday 29 November 2019

Finally, finally, we are shot of Duchatalet

Fantastic news for all Charlton supporters this morning as they awoke to find the breaking story that Roland Duchatelet has finally managed to complete a sale of Charlton Athletic Football Club. The fine details have yet to be seen but it looks very much like he has gone, lock, stock and barrel. It will be great to get confirmation that he has no further interest in the club, the Valley or Sparrow's Lane.

That in itself would be cause for celebration but the new owners from Abu Dhabi look to be serious investors. They have bought the club in the name of East Street Investments which points to the origins of the club and the statement they have released on the Official Site (it could still be down given massive traffic levels) has been very carefully worded and is pretty much perfect. It talks about their ownership as custodians and of the importance of the supporters. It says Lee Bowyer will be retained and that they plan to invest. We really couldn't ask for any more at this stage.

The statement is from Matt Southall, the new Chairman and it looks like the new owner is connected to, if not part of one of the ruling families in Abu Dhabi, and may well be the brother of the owner at Manchester City. If this proves to be the case, the whole deal could be huge for the history of Charlton Athletic but we shouldn't dwell too much on that for now, merely celebrating to riddance of Duchatelet is enough for now. 

I am off to the ground to pay for my first tickets since the end of the 2015-16 season and half-seasons will follow. 

Saturday 26 October 2019

Welling United 0 v St. Albans 1

Pre-match, Tony said he fancied the visitors at 3-1 with the bookie. He went down to Eastleigh in the week and was very disappointed by the performance and the 4-2 defeat which saw the Wings exit the F A Cup, so I took this to be a tad melodramatic and said I was sure the Wings would turn the corner today against the bottom-placed side.

It was a depressing afternoon of grey cloud, intermittent rain and the first signs of the approaching cold. To accompany it we got the worst Welling performance I have seen. On paper the side look strong enough but there was a desperate shortage of energy and St. Albans settled quickly. Bradley Goldberg hobbled off after about twenty minutes and any Welling attacking intent left with him. Adam Coombes is a talented footballer but boy, is he lazy. Tee him up and he will finish but he seems content in between times to watch others running about and fighting for the ball. Anthony Cook moved into a more central role after Goldberg went off but he's not a striker. Cosgrave who came on played on the right but made little impression. 

The way was clear for the visitors to take control of the game and they did that, culminating in taking the lead shortly before half-time having sent a player clear who rode a challenge before running on and driving across Wilks into the far corner. Suddenly Tony's 3-1 odds looked very attractive. Welling continued to look lack-lustre and largely disinterested until the last fifteen minutes when they  realised they were heading for defeat and needed to pull something out of the hat. By then though St. Albans were fighting for a rare away win and they weren't letting go. Welling huffed and puffed but they lacked the finish and events were summed up when Coombes was booked for diving for a penalty. 

After a stuttering start to the season it was difficult to tell whether Welling were not firing properly under Mark Goldberg's management or if they just needed time to settle before they went on a winning run and moved up the table. This evening the Jury are looking accusingly at Mark Goldberg's failure to motivate his players or effect any meaningful tactical changes via substitutions. Hard not to think Steve King would have had this side much further up the table had he still been managing them. Welling have been here once before with Goldberg indulging himself and it didn't end well.

The only good news from the afternoon was hearing that Macauley Bonne had once again netted to haul the Addicks level at The Hawthorns and that Josh Cullen nailed a last-gasp penalty to earn the point against the league leaders. The contrast between Bowyer and Goldberg couldn't be clearer.

Saturday 12 October 2019

Welling United 0 v Hampton & Richmond 1

A disappointing defeat this to lowly Hampton & Richmond. After the Summer squad clearcut, the Wings have started the season slowly but owner and manager, Mark Goldberg, has continued to strengthen his squad and an upturn in performances has been visible, if not sustained yet in results. It was for that reason that I fancied the Wings to make light of the opposition this afternoon.

However, on a grim day with continual drizzle, Welling didn't really take control of the game and the visitors stood up to the challenge. It was well contested and largely fought in midfield which restricted goal-scoring opportunities at both ends. Bradley Goldberg flashed a shot inches over the bar having taken the ball down well and pressed on and the Wings had Captain Swaine to thank for a last-ditch tackle which stopped Orsi-Dadomo from striking when through on goal. Other than that Welling struggled in the open ing half to find the front pairing through open play or to reach the head of the towering Ejiro Okosieme whenever they got a set-piece.

Kicking towards the Park View Road, I expected some pressure from Welling in the second-half but it didn't come. The visitors actually stepped up began to exert some pressure on the Wings defence. Jack Jebb was introduced and Josh Oyinsan also came on but little changed for Welling. Inevitably, Hampton and Richmond snatched the lead with fifteen minutes left when they nodded home from a corner. It was almost disappointing to see that the Wings appeared able to step it up in the final ten minutes when they forced a number of corners and six-yard scrambles. They ran out of time and you were left wondering why they didn't try it earlier in the game. 

Goldberg must be frustrated at the moment but Welling just have to persevere and find the right combination. Adam Coombes has looked a bit half-hearted in the last few games and maybe a bit short of pace. Nathan Green didn't create anywhere near as much as Anthony Cook on the other wing and Waldren and Widdrington were stuck in the engine room for much of the game. 

I note that struggling Dartford won away at Oxford City today on Steve King's first day with the Darts. The talk today was about how good a bet Dartford may be to climb the table under King and make a challenge. Can't help feeling they may leap-frog the Wings and Steve King may be left with a wry smile come April...

Saturday 5 October 2019

Welling United 4 v Tavistock AFC 1

After the midweek Championship results and news of Neil Harris' resignation, I would have banked on both Charlton and Millwall being on the wrong end of heavy defeats this weekend. The fact that Charlton performed so brightly at Fulham and lead twice was again testimony to Lee Bowyer's ability to get the tactics right and fire his players up. Millwall's win over Leeds at the New Den probably told us more about Harris' resignation than any Chairman statement or fan conjecture.

Charlton won the midfield battle with the Cottagers in the opening forty-five and were able to play deep in the opposition half. The opening goal was coming and it was a finely worked goal from a deep cross which picked out Chris Solly at the back post and his cushioned header for the advancing Gallagher left young Conor with an opportunity to drill home. Fulham managed an equaliser but within 90 seconds Bowyer's boys re-took the lead when Macauley Bonne touched a cross on under heavy pressure and it sneaked in under the bar. It was great to see the Addicks continue the fight and for Bonne to net a goal of his own from open play. The fact that Fulham levelled up and had us hanging on at the end won't prevent the feel-good factor around the squad after taking what was an excellent away point. 

That set me up for the F A Cup encounter at Park View Road at 3pm when Welling entertained tier nine Tavistock. The travelling fans brought a "silenced by the lambs" flag but at the death, "massacre of the Lambs" would have been more appropriate. The Wings were a cut above and it showed, particularly in the first half when they raced into a three goal lead courtesy of a hat-trick from Bradley Goldberg. He was too quick for the Lambs back-line and scored from the left, the centre and the right of goal with three excellent low shots. He had a fourth ruled out for offside and Tavistock did manage to make the scoreline more respectable before the break.

In the second-half the visitors lost two players to red cards, both of which looked harsh to me, especially the second one which was nothing more than a robust 50-50. Strangely, Tavistock never looked like being men short despite Welling having a barrage of chances. Josh Oyinson put the result beyond any doubt but Goldberg, Jebb, Cook and Coombes all had fine efforts stopped by Josh Oak in the visitors goal. Goldberg might have had six by the finish but the game was won and that maybe affected the way Welling played.  Let's hope for another home draw in the next round.

Wednesday 2 October 2019

Charlton Athletic 1 v Swansea City 2

Swansea fans finished the match singing "we are top of the league..." which was a fitting summary of the game and of where we find ourselves (8th) after ten games played. 

Jonathan Leko lit the match-up with a cracking shot which may have taken a deflection into the top left-hand corner of the Swansea goal after less than two minutes. Charlton were pumped and played some great football in the opening twenty minutes which was very promising. Ominously, despite the slick midfield passing and movement of the front two, we didn't create another scoring chance and the Swans settled into the game. 

Before the match I read that they were a big side but apart from the two centre-backs and the centre forward, they were actually on the smaller side but they played very neat pass and move football which brought them back into the match. Things evened out before they scored their equaliser. Several calculated passes in and around our box lead to Dhanda being allowed to shoot from twelve yards and his shot took a decisive deflection to beat Phillips. It was no more than they deserved and they continued to press us when they got the chance. 

Our midfield of Gallagher, Oztumer, Cullen and Field were competitive but we again lacked any real hold-up play from the front two. Bonne and Leko were playing in more advanced attacking positions and closer together but very little stuck with them or lead to any follow-on play. 

After the break Swansea struck first from a corner which Ayew got to ahead of a posse of bodies and forced home in front of the Swansea supporters. At this point it looked like job done and to some extent it was. Bowyer threw Williams and Anneke on but the midfield was already choked and try as he might, Williams couldn't get enough time on the ball to do any damage. Chuks Anneke harassed the Swansea back line but he struggled to beat his man or create anything. 

Frustration crept into the Charlton performance and we picked up a couple of silly bookings - Conor Gallagher's was especially naive. Jake Forster-Caskey was thrown on for Purrington in an attempt to give us more attacking impetus but it made little difference. Swansea saw out the added five minutes and now sit clear, top-of-the-league. 

Perhaps this won't look such a bad result come May but without Taylor and with tough fixtures queueing up, I suspect we are heading into the bottom-half of the table. We really need Hemed or Beram to get fit quickly and add something, although the back-story of both suggests they may offer little more than we already have. No shame in that given our budget (and particularly our striking shortcomings) but I do wonder if we might suffer an equally damaging dip in confidence. I should pinch myself and remember we have Bowyer at the helm. He won't let that happen, will he?

Sunday 29 September 2019

Charlton Athletic 1 v Leeds United 0

My first live Charlton match of the season. Those of you who read these pages on a passing basis will be aware that I have been boycotting for the last three seasons. It certainly felt right and the only thing left to me in August 2017 when we were still lumbered with Katrien Meire and His Lordship was refusing to budge. Since then we have had the blessed relief of La Meire buggering off and Duchatelet has finally confirmed that his multi-club experiment has been a disaster and that he has no interest in football and wants out at the Valley.

To some extent, then, the protests of the club's supporters have succeeded although final victory will only be celebrated once Duchatelet exits stage left. In the circumstances, I have increasingly missed watching the Addicks since Lee Bowyer has instilled fighting spirit and managed the impossible promotion. The shenanigans of the close season notwithstanding, Lee Bowyer has done it again in terms of re-grouping and stepping up once more, so my boycott has been under intense pressure.

Yesterday I was tempted by the offer of a spare ticket from a mate which turned into a seat in an East Stand box this week and he even managed to fit my fellow boycotting season-ticket holder in, so everyone was happy. I was very keen to see the side in action and playing Bookies favourites Leeds was a bonus.

So, with low expectations initially we survived a couple of early scares and settled into the match. Leeds' Jamie Shackleton had said in the week that their game-plan was to take an early lead and kill us off. I did think at the time that this might come back to haunt him and sure enough, after half an hour in which Leeds had failed to score, the Addicks forced a corner in front of the visiting supporters who had the best view of the game's only goal. The ball was swung into the box and Tom Lockyer got a touch to force the ball goal-ward. Kiko Casilla, in the multi-coloured mess of a shirt, managed to parry it but only on to the back of Macauley Bonne from where it crossed the line. The goal sparked joyous celebrations and succeeded in silencing the hitherto noisy Whites, which helped ease the pressure on the home side. No sign either of any trouble from the 'hundreds' of Leeds fans purported to have bought tickets in home areas. 

It was Charlton's first chance and we didn't get another throughout the ninety minutes. The absence of Lyle Taylor is painfully obvious but tactically yesterday we haven't sought to try to replace him. Bonne and Leko were instead playing fifty yards apart and withdrawn to just ahead of Cullen and Gallagher on the sides of the diamond. It meant that we had extra bodies and feet to help win the midfield battle but no target man or out ball. As a result we looked to play our way through the Leeds defence. Williams and Gallagher in particular tried that as hard as they could with Josh Cullen in support but it's expecting a lot from deep in open play against a well-organised and capable defence like Leeds'. 

At the back we were under pressure for long periods of the game but not much in the way of danger. Leeds were quick and neat and moved well to create space but most of this was around the Charlton box and they were often left to pot from distance, most of which sailed over the bar. Given all the PR about Leeds I was surprised that no-one in their side stood out. Kalvin Phillips saw a lot of the ball on Charlton's left flank and did whip a number of decent crosses in but Sarr and Lockyer were waiting in the first-half and when they put us under scrutiny in the last ten minutes, it was the stalwart Chris Solly who popped up twice between lurking Leeds players to head on and out of play.

Leeds made two early second-half changes, one introducing Arsenal starlet, Eddie Nketiah, a once hopeful Charlton loan but he failed to show and little changed for the visitors. Chuks Anneke came on for Williams who had taken a knock but whom Bowyer may well have decided to rest ahead of the Swansea game in midweek. Like everyone else, I was surprised at his size and he at least looks like he could lead the line although he was again  played in a wide role. Field and Pearce came on in the final ten minutes as we sought fresh legs to keep chasing Leeds players as they tried to force the equaliser. A collective sigh of relief when the ref finally blew his whistle after five minutes of added time and time to celebrate a memorable victory even if it wasn't the free-flowing attacking football of my dreams.

Finally, I heard mutterings from several sources last night that "he will be gone in three weeks" and twice that an American consortium was in talks to end the Duchatelet nightmare. Given history, we have to be sceptical but it will happen one day and soon would be tremendous.

Sunday 15 September 2019

Welling United 1 v Wealdstone 2

Just after Midday yesterday, I wandered down Harvey Gardens and up to the bookies on Charlton Church Lane. The sun was shining and I stopped on numerous occasions to shake hands and exchange Charlton updates with old faces as well as to nod to many others I know less well but know nonetheless. Some were heading off to the Anchor and others to the Oak and I was sorely tempted but I had agreed to be at Park View Road for my first Wings match of the season. My Duchatelet boycott remains intact but I am unsure I can sustain it for much longer as I am increasingly of the opinion that I am missing it much more than Duchatelet is my money and it's failed thus far to influence him in the right direction.

I made the Wings bar by 2.15pm and enjoyed a couple of pints with stalwarts Tony and Bobby before we took our place on the steps behind the visitors goal that the Wings were attacking in the first half. My expectations were low. Welling had changed 90% of the squad during the Summer and manager Steve King, who engineered the play-off finish, had been replaced by owner Mark Goldberg. Goldberg has played manager previously and it didn't go too well but perhaps after watching King for a season he now feels he can emulate him. Results have been mixed thus far and the Wings are languishing in the bottom-half of the table.

However, the opening forty-five were a pleasant surprise. Wealdstone countered well which made me think that their early season success may have been built on speed and accuracy. The fact is though, Welling had so much possession and did so much pressing that counter-attack was the only option Wealdstone had. 

The Wings midfield was lead by the deep-lying Theo Widdrington who was rightly awarded man-of-the-match. His promptings in front of the giant pairing of Rob Swaine (Captain) and Ejiro Okosieme freed Cook on the left and McCallum on the right to raid with Coombes and Goldberg leading the line.

The opening chance fell to Coombes who timed his run to meet a free kick in from the right perfectly. Swaine and Okosieme had drawn the taller defenders a few yards further back so Coombes rose unchallenged to direct his header wide of the imposing Oxborough in the Wealdstone goal and inside the far post. Oxborough though moved quickly to his left and was airborne when he managed to paw the effort out. 

Anthony Cook cut in and flashed an effort over the bar as well but their weren't too many other clear cut chances. For their part, Wealdstone managed a low flashing drive that beat Wilks but also the far post. 

Into the second-half and attacking the Park View Road end, I anticipated a Wings opener but it didn't come. Oxborough kept out another Coombes effort (offside in any event) and when finally beaten buy an excellent low drive from Widdrington, we had to watch his effort curl away from Oxborough's finger-tips and thud against the upright. 

Wealdstone then scored from a corner in front of their 100-or so fans. Wilks blocked the initial header but the ball fell to a blue shirt to fire home from close range. Nil-one and Welling stepped it up but before they could equalise, a second for Wealdstone settled the result. Coombes did smack a penalty in off the bar for 2-1 but the table-toppers had done enough. The home fans weren't too happy and some complained about a lack of effort from Coombes and Cook which I thought was harsh and also of Goldberg's decision to withdraw Widdrington at 2-0 which didn't look like the right move. 

Back home before 6pm and I stopped with a few old faces outside the Oak to hear about Charlton's predictably disappointing Centenary performance against the Blues. Lyle Taylor may have made the difference but no-one else stepped up and my guess is Taylor will be out for the rest of this month and maybe October too. An early sign maybe of how much he will be missed if he leaves in the January transfer window. 

Monday 2 September 2019

The Bowyer Paradox

There's a rule-of-thumb in football that says don't consider the early season table until ten games have been played. Historically, that's a good yardstick for how the season will pan-out. That didn't stop me as a boy from eagerly adjusting my Shoot League Ladder after the first game of the season to show Charlton in a typically unrealistic position following a rare winning start to the season (having started at home) so I could begin the dream.

I still follow the ten-game mantra but it's impossible not to look at the Championship table after six games as Charlton fans and draw some startling conclusions. The most obvious is that we are, somehow, incredibly sitting in an unlikely second-place. Second, from following the games (from a distance for me), is that it's no fluke, we have been competitive in this division for the first time in twenty years despite all the logic suggesting that would not be possible before we kicked-off.

This impressive and heart-warming start is all the more amazing considering the relative state of the football club, it's operating budget, the owner's lack of ambition or interest and the high question-marks surrounding our medium term future. 

Home wins over Stoke and Brentford, away wins at Blackburn and Reading as well as draws at home to Forest and away at Barnsley, have seen Lee Bowyer's battling side take 14 points from a possible 18 and remain unbeaten in second-place. Confidence is high both amongst the players and increasingly so, once again, amongst the club's barely believing supporters who are already beginning to pick up the support levels from where we left off at the end of last season where we appeared to sweep all before us with a blooming chorus of 'allez, allez..' The team spirit and fight from last year remains and the new boys have evidently all bought into it. 

I think we are all largely agreed that Bowyer, Gallen and Jackson are the primary reason for this. They have managed again to pick up loans and free transfers as well as players prepared to play within their small budget who have ability but, as importantly, the right attitude to the game and whose collective output is far greater than the sum of their parts. In football management this really is the Holy Grail, especially outside the Top Six of the PL where managers can get by by playing fantasy football and simply buying proven top quality players and hoping they continue to perform. 

The paradox is that Bowyer & Co are managing this in spite of everything around them. We were told by Roland Duchatelet that Bowyer's contract wouldn't be extended this season because he hadn't accepted the offer he had been made and that he was being greedy asking for a Championship-sized increase. The fact that Duchatelet caved in that same day and secured Bowyer may appear extremely fortunate for the supporters. Maybe it was just a case that Duchatelet facing paying a similar amount for a new face if he had rejected Bowyer and acknowledging it wasn't worth the damage to supporter relations or the risk of hiring another in his long line of duds? 

The fact is Bowyer stayed and he did so knowing his budget would again be challenged and that he would have to fill the holes in his squad on the cheap as well as having to gear his team to compete at a higher level. Six games in and he has clearly demonstrated that he has managed that and is rightly receiving the plaudits for it.

Realistically, we cannot expect to hold on to an automatic promotion place or even seriously hope for a third successive play-off place. Finishing mid-table would represent significant success in the circumstances and would match the impressive Chris Wilder's first season back in the Championship two years ago as the Blades developed into a Championship-challenging side. 

However, given the progress Bowyer's Boys have made already, Charlton fans are daring to dream that we can have a go this season and once again upset the apple-cart. 

My decision to boycott matches from the start of the 2017-18 season was borne from a refusal to give any more money to a billionaire who was simply using it to cut his losses and under whom I was absolutely convinced we had no chance of any footballing progress. This was evident from his ongoing mis-management of the club but also because I was convinced he was quite happy for the club to operate in League One where his costs (and subsequent losses) were considerably less but also because I was equally convinced he did not want a return to the "financial graveyard" of the Championship and that he would act to prevent that. He proved me right when he failed to back Bowyer in January last year when we didn't get the missing striking jigsaw piece and, instead, he sold our joint top scorer. The fact that Bowyer defied the odds and won promotion was close to a fairytale.

This close season has followed Duchatelet form. He has cut his budget by allowing several of the better players to move on when better management a small investment could have kept them on. He has also cashed-in on youngster Joe Aribo and I believe he would have taken the money for Lyle Taylor had we been able to line-up a replacement on deadline day. That didn't happen but I fully expect him to cash in come January on Taylor whose head was clearly turned during the transfer window. We risk a deja vu then from last season when Grant moved on, and yet Bowyer completed the task in spite of Duchatelet and a who would rule out a repeat if we are still properly in the mix come New Year?

There is one other key difference that we have to consider in the unlikely situation that Bowyer is still trading punches with the heavyweights at the half-way stage. There is also the previously impossible prospect that Duchatelet might see a possible route to his desperate personal need to be able to sell the club without taking a stonking loss. A hitherto-to unlikely investment in the squad might just be a gamble he is willing to take even if it goes against his modus operandi and risks his determination to turn a profit and start to reduce his huge overall ownership losses. 

There is a long way yet to go but very few would seriously have predicted this start to the season without wishful thinking or naive bias. Bowyer also has me itching to return to The Valley to witness his ongoing miracle. I still don't want to give the Belgian Billionaire a bean but the prospect, however unlikely, that Bowyer could win a second promotion that might, ironically, get rid of Duchatelet once and for all is a tantalising prospect and begins to approach justifying the expenditure and change of mind. Every cell in my brain tells me this is impossible but the blood pumping through my heart reminds me of that incredible feeling at 5pm on 26th May.

Tuesday 13 August 2019

Deluded Duchatelet still arguing black's white

Basking in the reflected glow of Lee Bowyer's two wins against-the-head, Roland Duchatelet has spotted the opportunity for another rant at CARD on the club's website. This time he is responding to the CARD statement a couple of weeks ago which said protests against the owner would resume following his decision to cut Bowyer's budget and continue his policy of cashing in on playing assets.

He starts by questioning why anyone would protest when the team have made the play-offs twice in the last two seasons, having been promoted this year at Wembley and when we 'have a manager and staff all the fans can get behind.' Roland is clearing taking personal credit for this when we all know it's been achieved in spite of him, not because of him. 

He has acknowledged repeatedly this year that the Championships a 'financial graveyard' and made that ambiguous statement that every season ticket in this division costs him £1000. It's very clear that he would have preferred us to remain in League One where his operating costs are lower. Indeed he tried to apply the brakes to Lee Bowyer's promotion campaign in January by moving striker Nicky Ajose on and cashing in on Karlan Ahearne-Grant. 

Similarly he pats himself on the back for extending Bowyer, Gallen and Jackson's contracts, forgetting his embarrassing and pathetic public strop two months ago when he told us he wouldn't meet the going rate for a manager in the Championship following Bowyer winning us promotion via the lucrative play-offs.  He now seeks to take credit for being forced to buckle under intense supporter pressure and change his position later the same day. 

Incredibly, he also boasts of 'an agreed budget' that has enabled Bowyer and Gallen to 'build a squad everyone can get behind.' This is breath-taking opportunism from Duchatelet. He has made it clear the budget was being cut this season irrespective of the challenge of Championship football and he has allowed Aribo and Bauer to leave and sold Dijksteel. I also believe he would have cashed-in on Lyle Taylor if he could have brought in a replacement from Peterborough on deadline day. That move may have to wait but you can be sure it will happen in due course. If Bowyer has managed to build a squad capable of staying up it will again be in spite of the owner not because of him, but it really is far too early be celebrating that. 

He goes on to mis-quote CARD in support of previous laments that match day protests have affected the team. It's been well-documented that results on protest days in the past were better than normal and Lee Bowyer has told us the players aren't affected by them. The CARD line on focusing protests on Duchatelet and away from the Valley reflect the desire to be more supportive of Bowyer and his promotion winners as they battle to stay in the Championship this year and because protests against Duchatelet and in Belgium have irked him most of all. 

His article also includes two pieces of naked propaganda. One an homage to Duchatet's life and overall genius and the other a rose-tint dripping piece on his time as Charlton owner, which tells you how much of a different universe the man lives in from the rest of us. Given his myopia and continued need to tell us things we know are simply wrong relating to the history of the protest, it's increasingly clear just how much he was seriously mis-lead by Katrien Meire for first couple of years when she went to war with the club supporters and was exposed as the gross incompetent and liar she is. 

He can continue to talk about the sale of the club and his decision to move on but the fact is that will never happen all the time he is determined to try recover his mounting losses by looking to find a prospective owner foolish enough to pay him tens of millions of pounds above the real value of the club and it's assets. 

Saturday 3 August 2019

Elgin City 3 v Cowdenbeath 0

A fine opener to the Scottish League Two campaign by Elgin City. The Blue Brazil started brightly but after Elgin settled in it was pretty much one-way traffic. 

Cowdenbeath struggled to create anything going forward and their play quickly became heated with strong challenges flying in across the pitch. They were fortunate to only see two yellow cards before half-time and also lucky to be still level just before the break after City had missed a close range header and seen a shot cannon back off an upright. However, justice was done on the stroke of half-time as Shane Sutherland opened his account for the season with a thumping header.

Elgin came flying out of the traps in the second-half and Sutherland struck again within minutes to ensure a home victory. A well flighted ball in from left was knocked down by Matthew Cooper at the back post for Sutherland to pounce. Elgin were rampant at this point and a third goal came from a corner which left-back Euan Spark met firmly to head home. Cowdenbeath were in disarray at this point and their day was capped by a straight red for Michael Herd after a cynical challenge. Elgin could have gone on to score more but they seemed content to slow things down and play the percentages to ensure they kept a clean sheet and took all three points. It was sunny afternoon with 612 there to witness it. 

Great to see Lee Bowyer's boys get off to a winning start with a 2-1 win at Ewood Park. Given the loss of key players and our failure to replace like-for-like numbers, let alone quality, I was expecting top see a couple of Academy starters and for us not to be able to fill our bench once more. Pleased to say the side had largely familiar ring to it and we did fill the bench. I am expecting a long hard slog so great to get our first win and ease some of the pressure from the home match against Stoke on Saturday..

Welling also earned a decent away point at newly relegated Havant & Waterloo who are favourites for the National League South title. The old stager Adam Coombes scoring for the Wings.

Monday 29 July 2019

Charlton Life Somme Trip 2019

Coming up for three years ago, on the way back from a protest trip to St Truiden, a small party of Addicks agreed a minor detour to enable us to visit the World War One war grave of ex-Addick Herbert "Nobby" Nightingale. We also took in the Menin Gate and the experience was enriched by the commentary given to us by Guild of Battlefield Guide and all-round Charlton nut, Clive Harris. I promised myself that day that I wanted to see and learn more about World War One and would get on one of Clive's very popular tours.

It may have taken longer than anticipated but I was delighted to spend this weekend touring the battlefields and cemeteries of The Somme. The trip was enhanced by the fact that friends and I were part of a coach full of Charlton Lifers as well as few fans from other clubs (Millwall and Reading). We set-off from Charlton at 5.15am on Saturday and were in northern France and at our first stop by mid-morning. The coach rolled on from stop-to-stop until tea-time and we were all thoroughly absorbed by Clive's first-class story-telling which told us of the key military engagements, individual heroics and the sporting connections as we went. 

I have learnt far more about World War Two over the years but the significance of World War One has loomed larger more recently as I have read more and it has received more media attention with the passing centenary. It was fantastic to be able to put landscapes and towns to what were previously just awkward French place names. When you are on the ground, it's also incredible just how close all of these iconic names and actions are to one another. Clive has a story to tell on almost every bend in the road and he can recount the war on a day-by-day date basis. The product of a life's obsession covering the reading of more than 3000 books on the subject and 15 years experience teaching and touring. How fortunate we are to count him among our number.

We had the added benefit of the personal family stories from a number of those on board which were retold and remembered as we reached the appropriate places. Brave young men whose lives were cut short so suddenly leaving a painful family legacy which would endure for decades but which has still not been forgotten 100 years later. 

Michael and Matteus, two German Addicks, who like the Millwall-supporting couple, had to enjoy some gentle stereotypical ribbing, such as "waiting to win on penalties" in a particularly well-told Clive tale about football in no-man's land. It may also have encouraged Clive to take us to the largest German WW1 cemetery in France, at Neuville-St Vaast outside Arras, where we walked among the graves and steel crosses of 45,000 fallen Germans. The contrast to the multitude of 'English Garden' Commonwealth War Grave Commission cemeteries we had visited and driven past was stark, and a powerful reminder that there are no real winners and losers in war, just huge changes in society and the world at large. 

In addition to the sites, stories and sacrifices of heroes Donald Bell, Sandy Turnbull and Walter Tull, we also stopped at the resting place of Addick, Fred Chick, probably most poignant life story of the three Charlton men killed during the Great War - Jim McKenzie will have to wait a little longer. 

As if that were not enough, Clive and Steve Hunnisett (sp) are supporting a Charlton Museum-led evening next Tuesday (6th August) at the White Swan in Charlton Village where there will be four short talks on WW1 sporting connections. There will also be a 'Blitz Walk' from the ground to the Village ahead of this at 6.15pm and the Charlton Museum will be open from 4pm. 

Thursday 11 July 2019

All change for Welling v Charlton curtain raiser

Saturday sees the traditional Welling United v Charlton Athletic friendly that for many signals the start of the more competitive pre-season friendlies. After a week in the heat of Malaga and only a half against the petulant Medan Gas Board or whatever they were called, Lee Bowyer will be glad to know the Wings won't cry-off if a decision goes against them.

Every year there are new players to see for the first time and this time is no different although, maybe for the first time, the Wings will boast pretty much a completely new squad after a wholesale clearout in the last two months. By my calculations we may see as many Academy debutants as new signings playing for the Addicks. Macauley Bonne, Chuks Aneke and Tom Lockyer should all feature but the squad is currently so much smaller now that we will be dependent upon youth to fill the bench. Bowyer must still be looking for at least another three new faces.

Meanwhile, owner Mark Goldberg dispensed with manager Steve King after twelve months and is going to have another go at managing the side himself. His last attempt wasn't a glorious affair and I suspect he will fall a good bit short of Steve King's efforts last season. 

I am far less familiar with how things work in the non-league but following the Wings last year, it was a bit depressing to see so many changes of personnel during the season. No sooner had you taken to a player than you could see a farewell Tweet as he had moved on another incomer was announced. To be fair, it didn't seem to have an obviously negative effect on Welling's fortunes but who knows what a more consistent starting eleven might have delivered? There is a real habit of bringing back old boys and a classic example of this at PVR last year was goal-scorer Adam Coombes. 'Coombesy' has come and gone previously but big-spending Billericay bought him at the start of last season, only to loan him back to Welling after a month or two and then take him back after that. Coombes is back in Welling red once more this season and I really hope he is there for the duration because his goals could be a big factor for the Wings.

Whatever the strength of the new Welling side, it was disappointing to see pretty much the whole squad culled following the play-off game at Woking. Player of the season, Thierry Audel, was let go along with pretty much everyone else except goalkeeper Dan Wilks and owner's son Bradley Goldberg. That included the talented Brendan Kiernan, mercurial Nassim L'Ghoul as well as target man Danny Mills. Perhaps Goldberg will now try and build something but I reserve judgement. 

The Wings have had a 1-1 draw away at Margate and a 3-1 reverse at National League side Bromley in the last week and will be hoping to keep things close against their professional neighbours. Given existing shortcomings in Bowyer's squad, this could be a closer affair than usual. 

Tuesday 2 July 2019

Season Ticket deadline extended again shocker

The Club's Season Ticket deadline was extended again yesterday for another week in an effort to wring out the last of the waverers before Championship pricing is finally imposed. I have to smile every year when this happens because the majority of our supporters never appear to notice this because the following season there is a mild panic that they might lose their seat or be forced to pay a bit more if they haven't stumped up before the season finishes and secured their golden ticket.

The call to delay purchase until it was clearer who would be managing the side next season and some form of reassurance that the squad wasn't going to be woefully short for the Championship went largely unheeded. Now that unsold season ticket reservations have now been put back on sale it has become clearer that sales have increased from approximately 6,000 last year to somewhere approaching 10,000. The increase following Lee Bowyer's contract signature wasn't hugely significant in terms of sales but the overall increase is impressive given that key members of the Play-Off winning side have since moved on and recruitment so far has been modest. 

It looks like we should have over 10,000 season ticket holders come the first day of the season even if Duchatelet is still the owner - the club will be aiming to be able to announce that as early as next week after the latest deadline extension. A sale of the club before August could see another couple of thousand refuseniks digging deep to return to the fold. Those sorts of numbers should see average gates this season of c 15-17,000 which wouldn't be too shabby given our recent history. 

Like everyone else I was delighted to see Bowyer finally signing a contract extension even if the way it was mis-managed was nothing short of hugely embarrassing for the club. Duchatelet exposed his lack of ambition or interest in the football club once again with that laughable fit-of-pique statement at the eleventh hour exposing the offer to Bowyer and saying it was the best deal he would get. You have to believe that the forcing of his hand to double that offer at 10pm the same day will have consequences for the budget and Bowyer's chances of success this season.

Bowyer performed a minor miracle last year but the chances of him being able to repeat that feat in a much more competitive division where the majority of the sides invest millions every close season just to stand still are slim in my opinion. The players brought in so far are basic positional replacements for gaps in the squad that have emerged with the loss of Bauer, Aribo and Co. I have no issue with any of them in particular but it's a huge ask to expect these players to improve on those they are replacing in a division which is tougher than most are used to. Our squad remains small and we still have gaps to fill. I am sure Bowyer will do that but the quality of the side come August has to be questionable given the budget. 

A takeover could lead to an injection in cash for squad strengthening, even if that were to need to wait until January but there has to remain a huge doubt that anyone will be able to conclude a satisfactory deal with the illogical Duchatelet. Time is running out for prospective buyers and Duchatelet should realise that he will not get as much for a struggling Championship side as one newly promoted from League One. If it doesn't happen soon, we will be back to the January window cycle and by then we could find buyers waiting to see if we will be relegated or not before agreeing a price. It really is Groundhog Day and it hurts. 

Tuesday 18 June 2019

8pm same day, Bowyer signs

About four hours after that astonishing piece on the club website about how greedy Bowyer and his Agent were being in their contract negotiations, another club statement that looked like it wasn't written by Duchatelet. This time, informing us that Bowyer has signed a new one year deal!

Whilst it's undoubtedly the right outcome for the club and it's supporters, you have to wonder what's gone on in the background and what permanent damage this has done to the relationship between Manager and Owner? If the club were to get taken over it wouldn't matter but I can't see this, although I couldn't see such an about-turn yesterday either.

What we do know is that Rich Cawley (Bowyer's press channel) tweeted that Bowyer had spoken to0 Duchatelet after the initial statement and that they were due to speak again this morning. One of them has caved in and it would appear it was Bowyer. I don't think Duchatelet would have gone so far so quickly. There wasn't really any time for further negotiation between the original statement and the last one, certainly not if anything was formally signed. I suspect the actual signing will happen later and that it was Bowyer's decision to accept what was on the table. To some extent it doesn't matter but like cheating on your partner, it's going to crop up repeatedly from now and doesn't bode well for happy families.

The wording of the latest statement is in marked contrast to the diatribe that went before it. Ironically, it thanks Lee for "his professionalism" and says that "stability is essential!" How they can say this with a straight face is beyond me although out looks like the staff trying to clear up the mess caused by Duchatelet's earlier outburst. 

If Duchatelet's piece with Jim White on Talkjsport was pre-recorded like his last one, that will need to have been updated or he will need to dial in live this morning. No doubt this will be a much easier discussion and Duchatelet will know not to get into the nitty-gritty of Lee's contract or what has happened since for a deal to be struck. 

Monday 17 June 2019

Bowyer can't reach agreement with Duchatelet and walks

Yet another, in the long line of embarrassing statements on the club website, this time trying to justify why ambition-less Roland Duchatelet has failed to agree new contract terms with Lee Bowyer and why we have lost him as a result.

So unprofessional to put personal contract negotiation details into a public message but Duchatelet is clearly trying, once again, to lay the blame at someone else's door. Talking about Bowyer refusing a threefold salary increase is interesting but I suspect there is more to this and three times not very much and what may still be short of the going rate is still not enough. We do not know whether this was the reason Bowyer has refused - there could be numerous others. The statement also explains again that the wage bill is being cut, despite promotion, and that this also plays a part in terms of affordability. On that logic it's safe to assume that the question of his transfer budget was also not something Bowyer could agree to as presumably the proposal was to cut that further to support his proposed pay rise. 

Duchatelet also looks to blame Lee's agent and gets another dig in at the over-spending culture in the championship. It really is very clear to me that Duchatelet would rather we had stayed in League One. It's why he sold Grant in January and didn't allow Bowyer an appropriate replacement. He really doesn't care at all about results and another relegation season in the Championship won't bother him in the slightest. 

The biggest laugh I got was the notion that a possible takeover might have been complicated or even halted if Bowyer had been signed on a bigger or longer deal. That suggests the continuity of management hasn't been seriously discussed with any proposed buyer, which tells you all you really need to know about the state of any takeover talks.

It's also very clear to me what happens next. Several key players (bigger earners) will now exercise their right to move on for more money and Duchatelet will be able to cut his wage bill further. Cheaper players will be brought in, as well as more loanees and whoever is appointed manager will have to make do and mend and rely upon more Academy players being thrown into the fray. Using more Academy players was also a term in Bowyer's first draft contract which was based on "incentivisation." I note they aren't even talking about a new manager but a less expensive Caretaker who can be blamed and discarded at a whim when results go tits-up. In other words, we are likely to be heading back to the days of Karol Fraye and Guy Luzon.

Those who renewed their season tickets early may be feeling even more disappointed than the rest of us but they will have to put a brave face on it and support the boys (and Duchatelet) no matter what. Pretty sure they won't sell too many more. 

In the circumstances, I see no realistic chance of a takeover happening and Duchatelet will be left funding the losses for another season, after which he will need to adjust his price to sell as a League One club again. Boy is he thick! He has also just pocketed north of a £1,000,000 in bonus revenues that Bowyer earned by getting us to the play-off final but he's not going to be wasting that on securing Bowyer or strengthening his side to maintain Championship status. If there is no takeover within the next four weeks I will be placing a sizeable wager on relegation and won't be wasting any money this season on watching any of it. So, so sad and short-sighted.