Tuesday, 30 June 2009

And we're off...

We have known about the players out of contract leaving for a few weeks now.

In fact, we have known for several months. No one at the club made much of a secret, for example, that Nicky Weaver was not going to be around next season. Darren Ambrose was also, somewhat obviously, not going to be playing for us in the Third Division.

Despite protestations to the contrary I do not believe that the club are ever going to be able to put together a contract offer that will keep ZZ at The Valley. I think the only thing that will delay the announcement of his leaving is the way his Agent will refuse to do a deal until he is forced to do so. Despite what has been said about work permits and the like, it was obvious that the Chinese man's Agent wanted his client to sign for just about anyone in the Premier League rather than us, two years ago. I believe it was as a last resort that he agreed to play for us in the Championship for a season before promotion gave him a season in the Premier League before he left on a free to earn even more money.

The fact that that promotion failed to come, and the 'issues' with his move to WBA, who presumably wanted to offer him less than the national debt of a third world country and force him to sign a long term contract, meant that ZZ had to play for us in the Championship for a second season. The Olympics probably didn't help his cause too much either. The decision to make him play in that as an 'over age' player probably condemned him to another season in the second tier of English football. I cannot see any way that he would play a division below that. Not to mention that we need to cut about £10m from our wage bill.

However, ignoring my repetitive moaning, we have, in fact, increased our squad with a new signing. Following on from the press speculation it was hardly a surprise, but then it wouldn't have been a real shock had he not signed either. The club has always been very reluctant to discuss transfers until they have been concluded, and this was no different. On the face of it he looks like a good signing. He was clearly part of a team that made a significant contribution to a play off campaign. Sadly, so was Hudson until we signed him.

I think that we will be a big draw in this division. With money the way it is we should be looking to sign players on free transfers that will come to us as we are thought to have a better than average chance of promotion. Ideally their contract will have some sort of bonus and/or pay rise if we go up which takes some of the pressure of financing this season.

We also need to remember that as a Third Division club we need to be thinking about third division players. In the same way that some of our Premier League 'Stars' failed to make any impression on The Championship, despite their huge wages, we should prepare ourselves for the possibility that some of our current players may well not be suited to life in the bottom half of the Football League. This is particularly galling as they were also not suited to life in the bottom half of The Championship.

I have accepted that Parkinson is going to be in charge. I recognise that we are going to need to change much of the playing staff, and probably the playing style. I, begrudgingly, accept that Parkinson is probably the type of manager that can mould the squad into one that can win promotion from this division, all be it that I have doubts that he can do it in one season.

On that basis I welcome the signing of Miguel Angel Llera. I also like the thought that we are still signing 'International' players. I accept, however, that the word international is geographical rather than football status. Having said that the Spanish National side is a bit tasty right now, so it's no shame that our new Centre Half is not in their first 11.

It has also been a problem area for us recently, and despite the fact that Hudson is probably on his way out, this is the type of player that we desperately need. On the subject of Hudson and his proposed sale to Cardiff for £700k I have already made my feelings known on Johnny73's blog:

"Frankly for £700k I'd rip their hand off.

I do rate Hudson, but as he was signed on a free he was given huge wages. I use the word huge in relation to what players earn in The Championship. We were a recent Premier League club and as there was no transfer fee he could go anywhere and demand just about what ever he wanted

In the Third Division his wages could be a major issue, and with £700k I believe we could buy another player that would turn out to be almost as useful and would cost a lot less.

I am also somewhat swayed by the fact that he was the captain and made 42 league starts last season, and we finished bottom. If he is on £10k a week (and I suspect it's more than that) if he stays another two years and leaves on another free it will cost us £1.7m.

I am not convinced that we will win promotion next season and I doubt that he would sign another contract next summer – even if we could afford to offer him one. Thus we sell him now, or risk getting a lot less for him next summer after he’s pocketed another year’s wages that we don’t have.

Of course, there is quite possibly no truth in the rumours and he will stay, in which case I’d like to publicly support our Captain and confirm that I have every faith in his side’s chances of winning promotion."

I have little to add to that, but I am perhaps a little further along the road of accepting our new position in the football world than others are. I expect, and probably agree that, all of our half decent players are sold. Not only do we need the money, but the players don't want to play in the Third Division, and they have a short career. I don't always agree that their motivation is football driven, I expect that it is ultimately financially driven, but they do have a short career, and it is, after all, only a job for them. With the exception of Shelvey, none of the players on our books are ever likely to get close to a side that is going to win something worth while, so why shouldn't they be driven by money?

"I just want to play in the Premier League and test myself against the best in the world". I'm sure you do, but the £2m you will earn after Tax over a four year period means that it is hardly a 'calling'.

Anyway, on the basis that, assuming we get realistic offers, Bailey, Racon, Shelvey, Gray, Sam and Hudson are going to leave (most if not all of them anyway) we should be in for an exciting summer with lots of new faces being brought in. Granted they will not be players we have heard of but then I'd never heard of Jim Melrose when we signed him, nor had I heard of Mark Aislewood, Mark Kinsella or Simon Webster. See? It's looking better already isn't it?

With Shelvey being unique on the basis that he is probably the only player in that group likely to be worth a lot more in the future than now, we should be looking to thank those players for their efforts, wish them well then start to get excited about their replacements.

I would love for us to keep Shelvey, but I believe that he is the only player that is worth anything like serious money, and as most of the others (if not all) will sulk if they are not given a move we will be a little snookered if we attempt to keep them.

So, with my spirits uplifted, I am looking forward to the changes to come, and I'm even getting a little excited about the start of the new season, hopefully we can win a few games. However, I am expecting to know the words off by heart of that lovely little song by next May. you know the one "Premier League and you messed it up"!

Up the Addicks!

Saturday, 20 June 2009

It just puts it into perspective

(Not Charlton Related)

It is rare that your phone rings at 4am on a Tuesday morning. It normally means that someone you know is drunk and still up, someone you don't know is very drunk and still up, someone you know is out to upset you by deliberately calling very late, or it means that something terrible has happened.

I would like to think that I don't have any reason for someone to upset me, which meant that it was likely to be one of the other reasons.

Needless to say there is a short conversation between me and Mrs KH about just who would be calling at such an hour. It also goes without saying that I was appointed as the one that had to get out of bed, walk across the room and answer the call.

After answering with what could easily be described as a less than enthusiastic "Hello" it became apparent that it was the worst type of call you can receive at 4am on a Tuesday morning. It was my father-in-law. I know we all say nice things about our in-laws, especially when it is in a place that they could potentially hear/read what we have said, but I would not be exaggerating if I were to say that this is possibly the nicest bloke I know. As a Muslim he doesn't drink or take drugs (I don't do the latter, but a lot of the former), he is genuinely generous to a fault and he is kind and thoughtful. He is not the kind of man to make an unnecessary all at 4am on a Tuesday morning.

It is amazing at just how fast your mind can work at times. I had considered just about every possibility that he could be calling for from the worst to the 'best'. It could have been something terrible like their house had burned down and they'd lost everything, not really anywhere near as terrible as what it could, and in fact, had been.

He went on to tell me that his son, my brother-in-law had 'passed away'. He was 19. I won't do the normal thing that you expect by telling you how 'popular' or 'nice' he was as I am obviously biased. What I will say is that at his funeral, there were literally hundreds of people there. At one point I could see (needless to say I didn't count them) over twenty 'boys' (men in their late teens or early twenties) that were crying. I mean crying, not the odd eye leaking.

Needless to say my wife was devastated. Not that it should really matter because this was terrible enough, but five years ago her baby sister, who was eleven at the time, died with a brain tumour. There is nothing you can say when someone so young dies. He hadn't had a 'Good Innings', he hadn't lived a terribly exciting or high risk life that meant that he knew that this was a possibility. He was at University, he'd just finished his first year. The family were planning to go on holiday in a few weeks. My wife has now left the family home (we are married after all), but she was seventeen when her baby brother was born. It would be a lie, and unfair, to say she loved him like her own son, because she didn't, but she was a huge impact on his life and he on hers.

My son, who is now five, loves his Uncle. He loves going to stay with Nanny as he gets to play with him. There is something that a teenage uncle can get away with children that parents (even grandparents) cannot. I have never been threatened by it, but I would confess to being just a little bit jealous of the fun they had together. How I wish I could witness that fun again! We haven't told my Son yet, we are going to do that tomorrow with my wife's family. I am hoping that it will be the last round of group tears and that we can all move on to remembering this young man as he was, with a smile on his face and a huge demand for his attention - something that was always monopolised by my son when ever he wanted it.

I, personally, haven't been hit anywhere as near as badly by this as my wife or her family (despite writing this with tears building up in my eyes), but it does leave you feeling less concerned with other things in your life. I love Charlton, and I'm 100% sure that I will be following them until I die or lose my marbles. We have had a terrible year, but at least we, and the club, are still here. I can't imagine my life without Charlton, but I'd probably miss the football club less than my wife or my son will miss their brother/uncle.

My brother-in-law grew up in Peterborough and didn't really have an allegiance to any particular football team. When ever we played FIFA on the Playstation (in all of it's formats) he would choose the best team he could find, Man Utd, Real Madrid, Brazil - and why not? I had always threatened to take him to a Charlton game, he had always been polite enough to pretend that he would come with me, but he never did. For the record he normally won on the Playstation. Real Madrid always beat Charlton, but even when I accepted the inevitable and played as England the results were pretty much the same. In my defence he was 19 years younger than me. He was half my age when he died.

I hope that we (Charlton) sort our rubbish out , and I hope that my family can come to terms with their loss, but most of all I hope that none of you have to experience the week that I've had.

Up the Addicks!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Season Ticket Deadline

So the Official Site today announces that despite the 'demand' that you renew by 1st June to keep your seat the actual date for the application to be received to secure your seat is this Friday, the 26th of June.

So, before we've signed, sold or officially released any players the club have confirmed their first deceit of the summer by changing the actual deadline date for renewing your seat three weeks after they cashed, potentially thousands of, cheques on the back of the statement that you needed to pay by 1st June to save your seat. I am going to stop short of calling this an outright lie, but it is difficult to actually justify why the club would tell the fans that the deadline is 1st June for nearly two months before changing the date after the deadline has passed.

And there are still people that think I'm imagining, or making up, conspiracies?

I don't mind that the club are using PR to maximise revenues, nor do I mind the fact that they have deliberately led the fans to believe that something is going to happen when it is becoming more and more clear that, despite them wanting it, there was probably never going to be a rich and stupid group of people willing to buy a football club with third division status and Premier League running costs for the same price as three quarters of the clubs in the Championship.

What I do find despicable is that there seems to be no coordinated approach to even hide the increasingly obvious lies that we have been fed for what seems like two years.

I have never doubted the loyalty and good intentions of the board, nor have I ever doubted the commitment of the club employees. I am, however, getting to the point where I am finding myself comparing the club to the life long friend that you were so close to that you'd think of him like a brother, yet you still want smash his face in when you find out he's banging another one of your friend's wives behind his back.

It's time for the club to cut the bulls**t and come out and tell us the truth. I guess the board have made the decision that they will start that process on the 9th of July in a 'behind closed doors' meeting with Richard Murray, Derek Chappell their puppets, sorry I meant to say the Fans' Forum, and a hand picked group of fans.

Thankfully I am away on holiday on that day, so I will not be able to attend the meeting, assuming that I would be invited, of course. I will, however, be looking forward to the only small bit of consolation that I can possibly hold on to when we start next season with half the squad we finished dead last in the Championship with, the same manager, with the worst record in our history, and little chance of getting out of this division. At least I will be able to say "I told you so".

On reflection it will give me absolutely no satisfaction at all.

Sky have a famous football quote from Andy Gray, "It just gets better and better". Not for us it doesn't.

Up the Addicks!

Saturday, 6 June 2009


Well, it's a lot more than I was expecting and for that I am genuinely happy.

I have already expressed my disappointment with the ticket prices for next season, and I have no interest in covering the subject again, but I am more than willing to hold my hands up and say that with numbers like that (with no doubt more to follow) we are close to maximising revenue while keeping as many season ticket holders as possible. This was, after all, the publicly expressed aim.

Quite what the long term affect of those that have not renewed is, cannot be quantified, and even if it is at some point in the future there is no way to accurately predict today how many of those will come back if/when the club move up the league structure.

I was wrong with my estimates, and I'm not going to pretend otherwise, but I had not counted on the favourable conditions that a take over with a consortium that have deep pockets and a willingness to spend would have. I still believe that in the end there will be no takeover, no money and player sales, but if the PR (or refusal to give any) has boosted season ticket sales then I am, on the whole, happy.

I have always been aware of the potential for misinformation being used to help an outcome. The same happens with the football itself, with managers refusing to confirm if certain players are going to be available for specific matches. Some even deliberately lie to hope to gain an advantage with team selection.

The website explains in great detail how much has changed with the club structure and the budgeting. This was probably needed last season when we failed to win promotion at the first attempt, but is no doubt the correct strategic strategy. What I still keep coming back to is that some, and maybe even all, of these decisions will need to be revisited if a takeover happens. This is one of the reasons I doubt that we are close to any significant change at board level.

The other thing that I would pass comment on is the decisions re the players out of contract, and the plans for the new recruits. The fact that the club is making decisions and talking to clubs, agents and players suggest that the squad for next season is being built by Phil Parkinson. This is another indication that there will be no change in the manager. Irrespective as to the intentions, we have now, I believe, passed the point of no return with Phil Parkinson. Any change in manager now would leave us building a squad after the major players (not players literally) have already made their decisions. It would also leave the new manager with players that he may well not rate.

So it looks like it will be Phil Parkinson, and despite the fact that I don't rate him, and would rather have Gordon Brown managing our team for next season, I accept it as there is nothing I can do about it. The only consolation, if you can call it that, is that should we fail both the club's and Parkinson's futures will be very, very bleak. Anyway, I'm not going to dwell on negatives.

The recent announcement. about ZZ and Holland being offered new contracts suggest that we could be making the offers to appease fans and to help sales. I doubt this as if it were true we would have made the announcements earlier. It could mean that we don't expect them to stay, but are making the offers out of desperation and/or speculation. There must be a real chance that ZZ will move on, and Holland may also think it time for a change. The other two scenarios are that we intend to have six central midfielders next season (unlikely) or that one, two or all three of Bailey, Shelvey and Racon will be moving on.

It is my belief that these three players are the most saleable, and as such could be being bounded about with agents already. Needless to say none of them would have been allowed to say anything in public until 1st June, and probably we would want to see if we have any movement on ZZ and Holland before we make any decisions.

It would seem that the club agree with me with respect to Josh Wright's wages. I do hope that the door has been left open for him to come back to us if he doesn't get offered Premier League money elsewhere, but the combined press I've heard suggests to me that this is unlikely. Oh well, Good Luck Josh.

Something tells me that we will start to see more regular press statements from the club now. As expected, most of these are likely to be players leaving, but I still think that we are a big enough draw for any players that can do a real job in this division. As long as expectations are in line with our current position we should be welcoming the players that we are going to sign in the coming weeks. Any player that is out of contract that has played for a team that finished in the top six of the third division should be considered a good signing.

On the basis that even if we win promotion this season we are likely to struggle in the Championship the season after we can easily justify signing good third division players. Using the same logic we can hardly justify keeping players that are good enough for the Premier League or the top of the Championship - especially if the players in question want to leave.

This is the third division. This is where we are. The Premier League days are behind us, and may well not come back for many years. Hopefully the football will be exciting and we will win a few more games. At the very least our average attendance for next season will be above 7,624. That's a decent starting point, something to build upon.

Up the Addicks!

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Who's in charge

It is today the 4rd of June (Thursday). The deadline for Season Ticket applications to keep your seat was Monday. Thus the club has now had three days to count up how many tickets have been sold. This is on top of the fact that many will have come in before this week.

I read that the swap week starts on 20th June, so maybe we have another 16 days before the club announce the total number of sales as they are unlikely to give away existing seats until then, so they could take their time to count up the applications. Having said that they cashed the cheques sent in for my Dad's ticket and mine the day it was received, so it mustn't be at all beyond them to announce the number soon.

In the meantime, however, I read that two more youth players have been released - Arter and Thomas. This is on top of the press coverage of Josh Wright's 'demands' for a free transfer. This could, of course, be little more than posturing for a 19 year old who has been earning £62,400 a year while making less than 2 (that's two) starts in a team playing above the third division of football. If we assume that he has been on that money for two seasons that's £62,400 for each start. That's probably more than any other player outside of the Premier League.

I would guess that Josh's Agent, and his father if the rumours are to be believed, are a little concerned about what the effects of the recession are going to have on a very young man that has not been at all bashful in the press yet has actually looked less than spectacular in the worst side in the division. To be fair to him he is young, he is talented and no one made the club give him the contract that is just about to expire. However, despite what John Terry earns, £1,200 a week for a young player with virtually no experience is what the Premier League teams pay. It is not what a third division club can be expected to pay for a player that hasn't established himself, less than five months before his 20th birthday, yet has had several swipes at the club in the press.

If Josh can get himself a better contract than we are willing to pay him then good luck to him. I have, clearly, little experience of youth players, nor do I watch our youth side, but if Pardew didn't want to play him, and if Parkinson doesn't want to play him (and he looks like he is staying - more below) then I'm happy to let him leave, rather then be held to ransom on a level of income that is not commensurate with his current performances in a Charlton shirt.

So we have allowed Ambrose to go (no surprise, nor any disappointment based on his income); we have allowed Arter and Thomas to go; we are clearly not bending over backwards to keep Josh Wright. Not that I have any reason to disagree with any of those decisions, but I would like to know who's making them.

I read that Steve Waggott told the Fans Forum that those that are holding off buying a season ticket until the club remove Parkinson should renew, as if enough do the club will be able to afford to sack him. Let's, for a moment, forget just how unprofessional that sort of comment is in a public meeting, it does sound like they are making even more promises, with get out clauses, to sell tickets. How many do we need to sell Steve? If we don't sell enough and those that wanted him gone ask for their money back can they have it?

So, if Parkinson is going to be sacked if the club can afford it, and the CEO has made this pledge/promise just who is making the decisions about players for next season? If it's Parkinson then that would be potentially irresponsible. If it's not Parkinson and we don't have enough money to sack him that would be even more irresponsible.

Parkinson made the comment that the time during which the success of next season is determined is the six weeks after the season finishes. That is a total of 42 days. The clock started counting 32 days ago. Thus Phil Parkinson (or his successor) has ten days to define our season in the third division. Is anyone else worried yet?

Assuming that the rumoured takeover is not a figment of our imagination that would suggest that we have just over a week to finalise it, sack Parkinson, review the options re his successor, approach his current employer, agree terms with them, open discussions with the new man, agree terms with him, appoint his backroom staff, do a little scouting (this will have to be via videos of last season), approach the players' agents (to see if they are interested), approach the players' clubs, agree fees, open discussions with the players, agree terms and sign them up.

The only person that I have ever read about who achieved more in a week is in the Old Testament, and I'm fairly sure that we cannot afford his wages.

Thus I'm getting to the stage where I hope that Parkinson is staying and the club have known it all along, otherwise next season could be an even bigger disappointment than this one. It doesn't answer the question as to just how much we may or may not have been mislead again this summer?

Just how many season tickets have we sold? Is it enough to sack Parkinson? If not, how many would have been?

Over to you Steve?