Sunday, 19 April 2009

Charlton 2 - 2 Blackpool

Positives and negatives.

The result didn't really matter. I mean it's always nicer to win, but yesterday was more about giving a decent performance and encouraging any doubters to renew their season tickets.

I don't know for sure, but I would imagine that one of the best ways to get season ticket applications filled in (I know they are pre-completed) is to send fans home after an enjoyable game and a win. At the moment it is a little difficult to get excited about the players on show as we all know that next season's team will look very different.

On the plus side we looked very comfortable against a team with most of the characteristics we will face next season. We never looked in any trouble, and could have been three or four in front by half time.

The second half started like the first finished. We were in total control. Burton scored his first (proper) goal for us. I'm not sure when his current contract ends, but even though he is no Darren Bent, I believe he can do a job for us next season. The goal was clapped in a rather relaxed fashion. Then Shelvey scored a goal. Not only was it a better overall move, but he is our lad, and this could be the reason why it received a much bigger cheer, certainly from me.

I made the point at the time that the goal probably added £200k onto his value. Sadly the long shot that came later didn't go in. That could have added another £1m as well. The more that I see of Jonjo Shelvey the more I want to keep him. There were times when I thought that Scott Parker was worth the entrance fee alone. This starlet looks to have that appeal. This alone would justify keeping him, in my view.

At 2-0 we were still dominating but ZZ, who started the game very strongly just gave the ball away. It is just a disaster to give the ball away behind most of your players. It was just one mistake, but the end result was a penalty, and a goal.

This was a little disappointing, but what followed was the real negative. We just crumbled. We had looked the more likely to score from start to the penalty. At that point I still thought we would go on to score again. However, the long season of disappointment after disappointment has left the players with little confidence, and for the last twenty minutes you could feel the fear creeping into the players as we defended deeper and deeper.

There can be no real complaints about the end result. It is very difficult to instill confidence in a side at the best of times, when you have such a poor record (now one win in eleven) it is no surprise that the heads dropped and the players started to get nervous.

Thankfully the summer will see a number of changes in personal, possibly management, probably ownership, and that may well enable the squad to start next season with a lot more confidence.

One point that does need to be made, however, is that is nowhere near the first time we have thrown away points this season from one mistake. I remember Pardew blaming Weaver for the defeat at Birmingham. Bailey has given the ball away by taking too much time on it on a couple of occasions, one being Bristol City at home - a game we went on to lose. To have the player that I keep hearing is Premier League quality (something I don't personally believe) give the ball away just demonstrates that a lack of concentration has played it's part this season. This is something that I don't ever remember happening under Curbishley. I just don't think the players were allowed lapses of concentration under Curbishley.

Anyway this is all water under the bridge. As I said, we looked very good for the first hour, and despite the end result it was one of the better days at The Valley this season. Like others I will always wonder what would have happened had ZZ not played in the Olympics and started the season with us; had Racon not suffered that injury at Watford; had Jonjo Shelvey not been kept back to protect both him and us (contract free until February).

We are, however, where we are. We are now confirmed as a third division club for the 2009/10 season. There is talk of a take over. There are rumours of players leaving. There are doubts as to who will be the manager. All of this will be resolved in due course.

In the meantime we still have three games left, two at home. We can still be the side that stops Cardiff from winning automatic promotion (something that is incredibly unlikely now either way) and I think we can still confirm Norwich's relegation (again something that might happen even if they beat us) and we have three more chances to watch some players that will not play for us again. It may, also, be many years before we have players of the calibre of ZZ, Shelvey, hopefully not.

I will be there on Tuesday night. I feel as though we have a score to settle with Cardiff after the 2-0 defeat I went to in October. Hopefully we can get our eighth win of the season.

Up the Addicks!

Friday, 17 April 2009

Next... Blackpool at home

Last season we won this fixture 4-1. I'd love it if we could manage that again, but I guess I'd take a 1-0.

I'm a little strange in that I like to keep clean sheets. I like to see games with very few goals. I know you are wondering why, and if not then jump to the next paragraph. In a game that finishes 5-4 there is lots of excitement when a goal is scored, but the value of the individual goal is diminished. One of my favourite times watching Charlton was the run we had in 1998. After we beat Forest 4-2 at the end of March we went to the end of the season, plus two play off semi-final games without conceding a goal. We had one 0-0, but won the other eight games. During that run of nine games we scored eleven goals. We won six of those games 1-0. Thus those six goals were massive. They were winning goals. Towards the end of that run we all knew that one goal meant a win. If you are going to have to score five goals to win it makes all of the goals less significant.

Thus I would be more than happy with a clean sheet tomorrow. I know that we are probably going to have new defenders next season, and Ward, in particular, is on way too much money for us to keep him. In fact Richard Murray made this point at the EGM on Wednesday. It was recognised that we would like to keep him, but not only does he have a good wage now, if/when Wolves are promoted he gets a pay rise to, I guess, Premier League money.

Still, even if we will have different players I would like to see some more clean sheets than this season. I suspect that the safest approach next season (rather like Birmingham this season) would be to concede very few goals, to control the games with strength and determination, and to set out to win games with few, but significant, goals. Last season Palace (with three of our current defenders) had the meanest defence in the Championship with 42 goals. Leicester were second with 45 goals. They finished 22nd. Hull and Wolves were the only other two teams in the division that conceded less than 50 goals. It may mean nothing, but I'm more than happy to follow Leicester's example following relegation - with three games to go they have conceded 37 goals in the third division. If you can do that you must stand a fare chance of being near the top of the table.

So, a clean sheet tomorrow and, in fact, a transfer plan than builds us up to be very, very tight at the back suits me. Having said that if we can score four goals tomorrow I will be likely to go home very happy.

Blackpool are virtually safe from relegation and we have a lot to play for at home in front of fans expecting to see us relegated. If we win tomorrow, I believe it's unlikely we will be relegated. I think that Forest stand a chance of getting something at home to Coventry, but I suspect that Barnsley will lose at Reading. Either way I don't think Southampton will win at Wednesday - and they still have a ten point penalty to be considered anyway.

What I think is more likely, however, is that Norwich will get something on Sunday at Ipswich and we will be relegated when we are not even playing. Either way it is likely that our fate will be known before we play Derby at Pride Park on 25th April. Having said that it is, on reflection, an achievement that after being so far behind we will could still make it though the third from last Saturday with our Championship status still intact. How we got into that mess in the first place shouldn't be forgotten, however.

I am going to The Valley tomorrow full of expectation that we will see a win, and against the kind of side that I expect us to face next season. Blackpool have struggled since they were promoted via the play offs in 2007. Last season they were 2 points above the relegation zone, and this season they look to have improved, but at best (winning their last three games - unlikely) they will have managed a mere 8 points more than last season, and they have had many loan players during the season.

This is a good test. This will give us an idea as to what next season may hold. The result will be less significant (remember Coventry last season) but all the same they are the kind of side we will need to be beating next season.

I am going to forecast a win tomorrow. I have a feeling we will win 1-0 or 2-1. I would prefer the 1-0, as I've already said, but if we are going to be relegated tomorrow it would be better to have it happen after a decent performance and a win.

I suspect that the players we have will be swayed by what they can earn and the 'shop window' they will be playing in next season. However, if there is any chance they may choose to stay with us I think it important that we do our best to create the kind of atmosphere that they will want to play in.

Relegation is coming, sadly I think it is now very close, but let's make sure that those in the Championship remember us, and dread our return.

Up the Addicks!

Thursday, 16 April 2009

A week in Football

So we played Birmingham, and got a very credible draw. The day was made much more enjoyable by the sneaky drinks in the pub with My Dad, Dave, Chicago Addick and his friend before the game. It is strange that there is such limited opinion between between Charlton fans these days. It is nice to agree with people, particularly those that you respect, but it says a lot about the state of the club that we all agree on just about everything. Quite what it says a lot about, I don't know.

I must say that despite the agreements my suggestion that we might benefit from appointing Paul Ince was met with genuine distaste from just about everyone else. That'll teach me!

Coventry away came and went. We managed another credible draw, and kept the wolf of relegation at the door for a few days longer (at least).

On Wednesday I went to the EGM. I could write a full report, but I'm not sure there is all that much point. However the main points, all from Richard Murray, in no particular order are:

We will have to sell player(s) this summer. It is recognised that Shelvey and Bailey are the two players we are most likely to receive offers for. Richard commented that Bailey will be popular as he has scored goals from midfield and that will make people value him. He also stated (with no reference to Bailey) that it would be his preference that we keep Shelvey . He did point out, however, that Agents always protect their clients and hinted that his current contract would be a factor in any potential move. Quite what that means is anyone's guess.

Richard said he believed that Fortune would be offered a new contract. It was described as a League 1 contract, which suggests that there will be no more Premier League money for him for now. It did encourage me that they are thinking of keeping players. I had just assumed that we would off load all the players that are out of contract. It doesn't mean that Fortune will stay, of course, but it does give me some hope.

There will be many players leaving to get the wage bill down. We clearly have too many players, it is planned for us to have something like 22 next season, and most of them earn way too much money for this division, let alone the third division.

The transfer of assets from the club were necessary as the club needed money and out of a transfer window we couldn't sell any players. Although it was not said it is clear that the dwindling attendances have contributed to this, as has the cost of a succession of loan signings that were (on reflection) a failed gamble to save us from relegation.

Richard advised us that the plans for next season are for instant promotion. The club are going to 'gamble' on having costs (player's wages) way above income in the hope that we will get straight back. It was described as being impossible to produce forecasts that work on any level if we fail to win promotion at the first attempt. This is a bit of a worry, but it isn't exactly something we didn't know.

There was another discussion of managers, but very little new was shared, save for the explanation that Dowie's signings were financially ok, but not good football wise. Pardew, however, was described as making bad signings from a financial point of view. Again, little that we didn't already know, but it is nice for the board to be aware of what we are thinking. If I'm honest I am a little fed up of discussing where we went wrong. I also think there comes a time where Richard (and others) must be forgiven for making mistakes. Forgive and forget, just remember what we have learned. I know we have all been very upset at our fall, but the board members, and Richard in particular, have lost much more than we have, so I think we can assume he will learn from it and we now all need to move on - me included.

Richard suggested that a decision about Parkinson would be made in the next few weeks. He suggested that if Parkinson left, Kinsella and Chappell would have to go too. It is thought that the three of them have produced a team spirit that we have been missing for a long time. It is clear that there is still some indecision. Richard even asked for a show of hands as to our opinion of the effect on season ticket sales if we had a new manager. The vote didn't actually take place, and maybe just as well. It does show, however, that the board are interested in what we want, or at least what will make us part with our money.

One other worrying fact was that The Valley costs as much to run as the income we would generate from 10,000 season tickets. It means that the players wages need to be raised elsewhere. It's no wonder we are taking about selling players.

Keeping ZZ is not yet a complete lost cause. The club are exploring some Chinese sponsorship. Richard confirmed that it would be very difficult to convince him to play in the third division, but they are still working on it.

In total, something like 50 (non playing) employees will be leaving this summer. It is expected that this will reduce our costs by between £1m and £1.25m. Interesting that this figure is probably not much more than one or two of the players that have failed to deliver since relegation are earning. It was pointed out that some of these employees were kept on as it was thought that we would win promotion last season. Thus we are actually trimming down from a Premier League set-up to, well, something more modest.

If I've forgotten anything I apologise, and I will try to come back to it if and when I remember and it seems appropriate.

Richard Murray is a great public speaker, and spending time in his presence, something I've done a few times now, leaves you feeling confident that if there is any possibility of things turning out well then they will.

Today I read that Nicky Bailey will stay next season to help us get out of the third division. In fact the reality is better described by Dave Peeps.

I don't want to jump on the band waggon, but let's remember that this is a player that 'declined' to play for Southend when he knew we were interested in him. Thus if he wants to go to one of the clubs that shows some interest it will only be a matter of negotiating the fee. On the basis that I was more than happy with his comments when we wanted to sign him, I can hardly complain now. Having heard him speak on the TV it is clear that he chose the correct profession, if you know what I mean.

It would be unrealistic to expect much more from a player has been with us for less than a year, after 'demanding' to be allowed to join us when we were a recently relegated Premier League club. I would add that one season doesn't make a career, and he does give the ball away, and this has led to at least two goals conceded. Or am I just splitting hairs?

Anyway, if he goes we will get some money and good luck to him. If he stays I will cheer him just as much as I have this season.

We have a very interesting few months ahead of us. The last week has given an insight as to just what might be coming, but time will tell.

The events of the last week, particularly the EGM have convinced me that this is not the time to desert the club. Add to that the very generous sponsorship deal that My Dad has offered, I will be renewing my season ticket for next season.

Sadly, the sponsorship deal is a one off, Kings Hill Addick's Season Ticket, sponsored by his Dad, has used up the whole marketing budget, so you will all have to buy your own.

However if it is not a too hypocritical, as I have received a scholarship, I would urge everyone to go ahead and renew their season ticket. I would urge everyone to do so as soon as possible.

Your club needs you, well it needs your money.

Let's all do what we can. I have offered to deliver leaflets through doors on Kings Hill to help generate interest, or even season ticket sales. I'm doing my bit - well I intend to. I think it's time (for me especially) to try to remember just who's club it is.

It's our club. Let's do what we can for it.

Up the Addicks!

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Next... Birmingham at home

I had a very busy weekend last weekend and as a result failed to find the time to write a match report of the Southampton game.

In truth Mrs KHA went away for the weekend with KHA Junior, so I drank way too much and went to bed way too late just like every immature 38 year old teenager. When asked why I chose to stay up drinking, watching rubbish on the TV and playing on the PlayStation until 6:30 on Friday night I had no sensible answer, but needless to say I did it all again on the Saturday night.

Thus this week I have found it a little difficult to get motivated.

The Southampton game did the one thing that I really didn't want. It got me looking at the league table and spouting that rubbish that only a mad football fan would ever come out with. "Norwich are only 11 points away, and we have a game in hand, and they need to come to The Valley. So we are only (technically) 5 points away. That's just two wins!"

I know, you are all shaking your heads right now. Thing is, you're not sure if you are shaking your head because I said it, or because you also thought it.

If this recession continues for much longer I might change my occupation and open a factory making straws. Then at times like this I can go into the warehouse and clutch thousands at a time.

So we are on a run of wins (1) and are undefeated in two. Just because Birmingham's away record of W7 D8 L5 is better than our home record of W5 D5 L9 has nothing to do with it. It's not exactly a six pointer - I gave up on automatic promotion a few weeks ago, but it is a massive game.

You see, if we beat Birmingham and Norwich lose at Swansea, we only need to find another three points (as well as winning our game in hand, and beating the Canaries in May). We will also have a massive three games to pick up those three points. If we can't manage one win in three we've no right to stay in this division.

Ok, as this point I guess you are wondering if I've been out for lunch today? I haven't, but let's face it, it's much more fun planning our escape than our demise isn't it?

A solid performance from the defenders tomorrow and I can see no reason as to why we don't keep a clean sheet (Birmingham have only scored two goals more than us away from home this season) and then we only need to 'steal' a goal and we will suddenly have won back to back games, we will be unbeaten in three and even more of you will start to believe the unbelievable.

Up the Addicks!

Friday, 3 April 2009

Next... Southampton away

I went to this fixture last season. It was probably the most exciting end to a game that I remember. Clearly it wasn't like the Play 0ff Final of 1998, but to have ten men for best part of an hour and still snatch a late win was so exciting.

Had circumstances been different this would have been a six pointer, and one that I had originally penciled in as one to watch. As things are I'm not sure I really care one way or the other.

Southampton have more problems that we do right now, hard as that may be to believe, and I fear that they could turn out to be the tip of the ice burg in terms of Administration. The 'Credit Crunch' started with the removal of most lines of credit to businesses. Football clubs outside of the Premier League have never been a good risk, but with money being so scarce it is no wonder that those that borrowed to invest in their future were going to struggle.

Sadly the 'recession' has now added to the problems because clubs are seeing revenues and 'financial support' dry up. Southampton are probably in a worse position than most; they have a huge stadium that carry's a large debt. They were never going to need St Mary's outside of the Premier League, and they cannot afford it either. As the inevitable reduction in match income (fans, corporate institutions and sponsors tightening their belts) the loan repayments on what is a truly splendid stadium become more and more unaffordable.

The end result for Southampton must surely be that the financial institution that has lent on St Marys rights off the debt, takes ownership of it and leases or rents it to the club, or they will literally disappear. I am not a huge fan of Southampton. All clubs have a category for me, Charlton, those I really like, those I don't mind, those I don't really really like, those I really don't like, those I hate and those I really hate. Southampton are in the 'those I don't really like" category, but that aside I would not wish them to be forced out of existence.

That said it is difficult in the current economic and political climate for anyone not to resent an institution (or an individual for that matter) that borrows and spends millions of pounds they don't have then refuse to pay it back and not suffer a catastrophic consequence. I know Southampton are not refusing to pay the loan back out of choice, but that £27m could save a lot of people from having their homes repossessed. It's not necessarily my own personal desire for them to be punished, but in 2009 there is not much sympathy for those that have spent money they cannot afford to pay back.

Charlton's problems seem, by comparison to be no where near as bad, despite the fact that we are suffering the worst football results for nearly 30 years. The decision of the directors to further fund working capital in exchange for taking assets out of the business should be applauded. Their decision re season (and match by match) ticket prices is clearly in what they believe to be the clubs best interests. I don't personally believe that they have got it right, but I have no doubt that they have done what they think is best.

I am confident that Charlton will still be here in twelve months time. I am not so confident that I will have watched as much football in the next year as in any of the last 25, but should things improve I am sure there will be many like me that will find that a short period of absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder.

I am torn between doing my bit (financially) to help the club and to renew my season ticket and to hold off and do my bit to shore up my family's finances during what is a very bad economic recession. On the basis that I have several weeks to make up my mind I am tempted (as I said last week) to wait to see what the squad, management team and early results look like in September when the transfer window closes.

This is probably no real help to the club, but it wasn't me that bought £2m worth of players for £12m and then committed to paying them £5m a year when they are only worth £1m. There comes a time when I have to take responsibility for my own actions, and leave others to do the same.

Up the Addicks!

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Season Ticket Prices - an O.G.

Firstly let me explain that before the prices were announced I'd already decided that at £350, or less, I would definitely renew, over £400 I definitely wouldn't, and in between I would consider it.

I sit in the East Stand and I paid £475 last summer for what was advertised as a season of challenging for promotion and a free season ticket in the event of success.

The 'bragging' that we are saving £50 is irrelevant in the circumstances. £425 for 23 games against teams that I doubt have any players that I am at all interested in watching seems way to much.

If I'm honest £25 a ticket for a third division game is way too much as well, but the website has "Guaranteed" that they will not sell tickets below that price.

This is, for me, the worst announcement the club has made since the fateful hand out about the "Facilities" at Sehlurst Park. £425 to watch third division football. It doesn't seem to matter how many times I say it, it just sounds ridiculous.

I don't want to be too dramatic, but the price of two visits to The Valley next season to watch what is surely going to be rubbish football (even if we win) is going to cost me more (on the tickets alone) that taking my wife out for dinner in the village.

I fear that there are going to be a lot of people that are looking at the Third Division League Table and struggling to find two teams that they would rather watch play than taking their wife/girlfriend/husband/boyfriend out for a nice meal and a glass of wine.

I have had a season ticket since 1989, and if I'm thinking like this I seriously doubt that many of the 'newer' fans are thinking very differently.

I could, of course, move to a cheaper area of the ground. I may well do that, but if I'm going to give up my seat I might as well pay as I go. I've only got to miss six games and I will end up paying the same amount, except that I will not pay up to 12 months in advance. This is, of course, ignoring the other costs of going which mean that a comparable situation is likely to be less than three missed games.

This season out of 23 games I missed one due to going to a wedding, we were on TV twice (and may well be on the last day of the season, and we had (will have had) a further five games midweek with inconvenient kick off times. That's at least 8 that I wouldn't have bothered with if I didn't already have a ticket.

Ignoring my personal situation I see that tickets for a match in the lower North stand will be £25. Thus with an excess of supply for, I would imagine, every game next season, we are expecting people to pay £25 for a rubbish view of a rubbish game. The cheapest seats are going to be £17. This is the "Guaranteed" average of the aggregate. Thus if there are to be any 'discount' games they will need to increase that price for other games accordingly. In the worst case scenario Millwall are promoted and we will have approximately no games that could be categorised as 'A' or 'Gold'.

If there was any doubt it is clear that the club's decision, after misleading the fans last summer, is to maximise revenue from those that are 'hooked' on Charlton.

I know the board are struggling and that they have given significant financial support to what turned out to be the wrong manager, but this decision looks, to me, to be a very bad one indeed.

If I had to make a prediction right now I would say that if we are challenging for promotion next season I will go to about fifteen games (some away), if we are mid-table (or worse) I suspect I will go to less than ten. Thus this decision has made the revenue from me to be between £325 and £225. If the season ticket had been £350 I would have gone to all (most) of the games, bought a program, bought a burger and bought both home and away shirts.

To be fair I guess I'm just not the kind of fan they were looking to attract. After all I'm ever so fickle, my lack of loyalty has seen me miss a massive three games in 21 years, and despite one of those being due to open heart surgery, the other two I just chose to do something else.

Oh, yes. The club have nothing to lose with a 'Johny come lately' like me.

Up the Addicks!