Sunday, 30 August 2009

Tranmere 0 - 4 Charlton

Well, you can't ask for much more than that away from home can you?

I spoke to my Dad just before half time and I tempted fate by asking for more goals to boost our goal difference. I know it's greedy, but when you are two up after 26 minutes you are allowed to hope for another goal or two. In the second we provided what our side has failed to do so many times in recent seasons. We pushed on and killed off the game.

I've seen the goals on the tv, and read a few reports. It sounds like we were well worth a four goal win, which bodes well for the rest of the season. I keep reading that the teams we have beaten are in the bottom half of the table. I am not worried by this as all fledgling tables will have a dramatic effect if you've played one of the top teams early in the season. For example, if Orient or Walsall had beaten us they would now be 8th. If they'd both beaten us they would have been 8th and 9th and we would be just one point above them. If Wycombe had beaten both Leeds and us they would now be goal difference behind 3rd - and they are fifth from bottom.

I am hopeful, but not exactly confident, that Jermaine Beckford will be prised away from Leeds before Wednesday morning. I think this would have a huge difference. I think he is more important for them than any of our players are for us (individually). Either way it does look like we and Leeds are going to be the pace setters. I just cannot see us losing a game right now. I know that is a little arrogant, but on the upside if I'm feeling like this then the players must be full of confidence - the one thing that I, and many others, though was the one vital ingredient missing during our terrible run last season.

There are now no more games until the transfer window closes, so all eyes will not be on that clock that is counting down on Sky Sports News. As I'm going to be under anesthetic during the day, and on maximum levels of morphine in the evening (and probably all night) I'm unlikely to be watching that very closely. However, buy the time I am weened off the drugs on Wednesday we will have a much better idea of what this season has in store for us. I am feeling more and more confident that we will keep most (if not all) of our desirable players. Quite what we will be able to bring in is debatable, but I'm confident that there will be at least one - a centre half.

Despite the sales last summer the current board have always dug deep to support their managers. I have to confess that by last summer I was very worried about the consequences of allowing Pardew to spend any more of the club's future revenues. With Parkinson's renewed credibility (something the board seemed to have long before the fans did) I can see no reason as to why they wouldn't given him a chance to build on his magnificent start to the season. Let's face it, we only have to fund the players' wages until January as we could sell them then or take another long term view hoping that promotion is going to happen.

I would also suggest that most of the players that we could sell will have increased their reputations by January, and as teams at the bottom of the Championship and the Premier League become more desperate the transfer fees could well go up. This does, of course, assume that the board can fund those four/five months without any further investment. It also assumes that the takeover isn't going to happen, or that those interested in the takeover will not make investments into the club with the current board staying on.

I can see this as a perfect solution to the current board. Have someone else put money in to bank role the club (that they have taken from the Premier League to the third division in three seasons) until it wins promotion and their shareholding rises. Maybe that is what will happen. Maybe that is what the current board have wanted from the start. I have no idea, but by the time I come to on Wednesday I will have more idea about what really matters to me, and that's the playing staff we are guaranteed to have until January, at least.

The subject of loans has come to the fore again. I think we have relied too much on loan players during the Pardew reign. This was always going to be a feature of his management, he likes to change the side a lot. On that basis, the club are better to keep allowing him to bring players in on loan as if he'd been allowed to sign permanently all the players he played we'd have spent more money than Chelsea on transfer fees.

Parkinson has used loans when that was all that was available. He clearly wants to sign permanent players, but will use loans where necessary. Where I like to see the loan system used is to bring in players that are quality, young, fully fit but not good enough to get any first team activity with their current team. Alex Song was one of these, Martin Waghorn was another (all be it a lot less successful).

There must be a young centre half that cannot get a game at his Premier League club that would benefit massively from a season playing alongside Christian Dailey. This is where I think we should be looking for loan players. There might even be a decent striker that we can 'borrow' from one of the top London sides. Even if he is only going to get games, that has got to be of benefit to the player and his club?

I'm not saying let's sign five or six players on loan and guarantee their clubs that they will play every week, but we should also not look a gift horse in the mouth.

Anyway this is likely to be my last post for a little while as I will only have the use of one arm by Wednesday, and will probably be feeling very sorry for myself. I will be back, all be it I will be likely to write much more condensed posts for a while.

Let's hope that we all feel as confident about this season on Wednesday as I do now.

Up the Addicks!

Friday, 28 August 2009

Next... Tranmere away

Last February, when I was a new addition to the Charlton world of Bloggers, I wrote a brief description of five clubs that I hate. The first of that five part series was Tranmere. You can read why I hate Tranmere here. The other four teams were West Ham, Millwall, Fulham and Palace.

Tranmere is the least 'understandable' of that list, as they are hardly a local rival (like the other four could claim to be) and we have played them so few times since I've been going. However, like Walsall they are a very small club in comparison to those that they compete for fans against. Everton, despite their recent 'averageness' are a huge club who have won major domestic and European honours. Liverpool have been and still are one of the biggest and most successful clubs in England and Europe.

This is a very big week for Charlton Athletic. It is no surprise that we are not a viable option outside of the top two divisions. Frankly with the stadium we now have to fund it is questionable if the club is viable outside the Premier League, and on the basis that we are not really big enough to expect to sustain a very long period there it raises many difficult and worrying questions. These are for another day. In the meantime this week will determine how likely we are to continue our good start to the season, or make it much more difficult for us.

The major issues we will have resolved this week all concern finances and squad strength. As the takeover has still failed to materialise and we have a Bank Holiday on Monday it is quite likely that no deal will have been agreed, signed, sealed and delivered by the closure of the transfer window. This makes it very likely that we will not be making any long term commitments to players, and it also leaves us needing to capitalise on the assets we do have. Thus I am now bracing myself for a last minute sale of Bailey, Shelvey, Racon and/or Sam.

Any sale will, obviously, need a purchaser, and at this point we have no idea if there is a club with enough money (to pay wages) and ambition to attract any of our players. We have seen in our own recent past what happens when players on good contracts are unable to find alternative clubs to pay them. Marcus Bent and Amdy Faye are just two examples of players we didn't want but had to pay. At least with those I've mentioned we (as fans at least) want to keep them, and play them.

I am not going to dwell on this subject as we have had it to death all summer, and nothing I say will change much. I will just mention that I believe I have been one of the more supportive of the current board and their right to balance the best for both themselves and the club. Should our season fall apart and we fail to finish in the top six because one (or more) of our current board are looking for a return on their money while they have presided over the worst three seasons, in terms of management, in the club's history I am likely to question that decision.

Anyway, we are on the cusp of our best ever start to a league season. For that, Parkinson has every right to feel proud. I would also suggest that his requests for player reinforcements should be given the credibility they deserve. In all honesty we do have way too many quality midfielders in comparison to the number of centre halves. We don't have enough strikers that can score goals, we have plenty of forwards, they are just rubbish. Thus I would suggest that if we need to sell a midfielder to fund the acquisition of one (or even two) central defenders, that would probably make sense for this season. I would prefer to keep the players we have, but over a long season I think we are going to need a central defender more than we are going to need such strength on depth on the middle of the park.

The outcome of Tuesday's mad rush to sign players may well have a big impact on the rest of the season (until January, at least) but before then there is the small matter of us playing the team I hate most outside of London. I had intended to go to this game, but fate has determined otherwise. I am going into hospital for a small operation on Tuesday which is going to leave me partially disabled (no use of my left arm) for a period of up to three months. Thus Mrs KHA has a list, as long as my arm funnily enough, that has to be completed before I start my convalescence. One effect of the operation is that I will be banned from driving for at least six weeks. Thankfully my Dad is going to step in for most of the games, but on at least one occasion I will be sampling the Valley Express, and very glad of it I am too.

It's perhaps just as well as I think my attitude would have been out of place at a game that is, in fact, just another three points to everyone else on the planet.

I have always wanted to be the sort of person to be able to say "I was there." I'm not a 'been there, done that, bought the t-shirt' kind of bloke, but when records are broken I want it to be on my watch. Over the last 29 years there have been a lot of them. Longest run of clean sheets, longest winning run (both in the top flight and ever in our Championship season) among others slightly less glamorous. Parkinson and Pardew share the record for the longest run without a win. However, tomorrow we could manage our best ever start to a league campaign.

I'm, obviously desperate for that to happen. It would mean that we would be top two, possibly still top of the league; it would mean that we were ever so slightly more likely to be promoted this season (opposed to if we don't win); and it would mean that we were half way towards doing the double over Tranmere.

Obviously the team I most want to beat this season is Millwall, followed closely by Leeds as I think the latter will have a greater impact on our success in trying to get back into The Championship. After those four (two at home, two away), the games I most want to win are the home match, followed closely by the away match, against Tranmere.

I will be listening to the radio tomorrow, I believe BBC London DAB (which I can get on the top floor on Kings Hill) are having our game on live. If not I will be in front of Sky Sports News. For any of you that are going, I really, really hope you see a win.

Up the Adddicks!

Friday, 21 August 2009

Next... Walsall at home

The Orient game was a hard fought win, but a win none the less. It appears that both Leeds and Colchester have won games that they could also have lost, so I don't feel threatened by the fact that we could have three points less.

Walsall have some good memories for me. I watched on tv when we played them in our League Championship season. We finished up winning 4-2, but at no time did we look like doing anything other than winning. We went two goals in front then relaxed. Almost as soon as we conceded a goal we raised out game and scored another one. That was not the only time I have seen us dominate a game, but it is the only specific game that I remember watching thinking that we could score at will, rather like the way Man Utd have played for the last twenty years.

The man of the match that night was Mark Kinsella, who scored two of our goals and ran our midfield, and the game. It was our twelfth league win in a row (a club record) and was probably what confirmed us as Football league Champions that season.

Mark Kinsella went on to play for and Coach Walsall, but as has already been mentioned elsewhere, I doubt that would be of much use to us right now as he left there a while ago.

In terms of the team, formation and result, I am going to assume no change. I expect us to line up the same as the previous three league games and I expect us win this game with relative ease.

I am normally an optimistic chap, but I do tend to be critical and come across as always looking for things to complain about. This makes it difficult for me to have much to say when, like now, things are going so well. With the takeover or not, the lack of strength in depth that we have in certain areas and the possible sale of our crown jewels before the closure of the transfer window, I expect I will soon have plenty to complain about. However, I will attempt follow my mother's advice, "If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all."

My prediction for tomorrow is a 4-1 win. Assuming we get an early goal it could well mean that the floodgates will open. I would go for a 4-0 win, but we have a tendency to be a little relaxed at the back, and we are still a little suspect at set pieces.

With that result I expect that we will improve our goal difference over Leeds who are at home to Tranmere and I have a feeling that Colchester will slip up at MK Dons. This would make us league leaders for the first time since I don't know when. If you know the answer to that question, as I'm sure someone will, maybe you can let me know?

Up the Addicks!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Super Alan Pardew?

Southampton have signed midfielder Dean Hammond, for an undisclosed fee.

The 26-year-old has signed a three-year deal at St Mary's.

Hammond, who describes himself as an 'all-action midfielder', said: "This is a massive club with a Premiership set up and it represented an opportunity that I couldn't turn down, so I'm just very excited about the move," the 26 year-old said.

Alan Pardew added: "Dean is a fantastic leader and tremendously energetic. He captained Colchester and will bring a lot of quality to the club that I think the fans will appreciate."

This was taken directly from Southern Daily Echo. There is more to read, but I guess you get the jist. It looks like a decent enough signing, as did that of Graeme Murty. Murty is probably on a lot of money, and his recent track record of injuries for someone well past thirty would worry me. Hammond's suggestions of 'massive club' and 'Premiership setup' sound more to me like 'a good pay rise for me thank you very much.'

Rickie Lambert seems rather expensive at 27 for a fee described as 'in excess of £1m'. Pardew has a knack of spending a lot of money on players that you wouldn't have thought their club would ever have got for them. Despite scoring a lot of goals last season he has only ever played two seasons in the third division or above. I'm sure he has the ability to score a few goals in this division, but with a fee of £1m his wages will not be insignificant. On the basis that there are few clubs in the Championship that can afford to spend £1m on a player it looks like a significant risk to me.

Either way it does look like Southampton are ramping up their wage bill in a division where there is little (almost no) tv revenue and as big a club as they are, they are still going to see dwindling attendances in the event of poor results or a prolonged stay in this division.

I remember commenting in the past that Pardew has the ability to say just the right thing at just the right time. He often used to say just what I wanted to hear. Sadly there seems to be a significant difference between talking about what needs to be done and actually getting on and doing it. For example I know exactly what Man Utd need to do to boost their squad to the same strength as last season. They need to sign a winger that can score about 40 goals and provide as many assists and they need to sign a striker that can score about 15 goals from about 25 appearances.

I read on the Chalton Life Forum that initially all the things that Pardew said struck a chord with the Saints fans who believed in him from his time with West Ham. I mean, he did discover Reo Coker and Hareward after all. It would seem that they are complaining now that he needs a central defender, but he is signing more central midfielders - something they think they have enough of. (I'm sure I've heard that before somewhere).

I've been quite open about not liking Southampton very much, and it wouldn't bother me if they were in this division for the next decade, but I can't help feeling a little bit uncomfortable when I see football clubs making decisions that make managers, players and their agents significantly more wealthy when it is likely the club will be paying for it for many years. Despite the Dowie experiment and the Les Reed debacle I believe that Pardew's ability to convince both the fans and the board to back him on his spending spree has been the reason for our massive task to get back to the Premier League again. I know we were punching above our weight in the Curbishley years, but we had a decent squad when Pardew arrived. He spend a lot of money (particularly for a Championship club) and saddled us with players that cost us a fortune in wages and contributed very little.

The job required to keep and then to get us in the Premier league grew every month that Pardew was with us. When we were relegated we were (rightly I believe) one of the favourites to win promotion. Even after the sale of Bent and Young we had enough quality throughout the squad and needed merely a few new faces to fill in the gaps. The continued spending on loan players in the last six months of the 2007/08 season forced the board to reduce the squad that summer, and the rest is history.

Southampton are now 18 points behind us, and Pardew is still making excuses about his side due to time scales and lack of players. We have had a takeover going on all summer and still Parkinson has put out a side that has won the first three games. On the basis that Southampton finished above us last season and we have lost six players with Premier League pedigree I am astounded that anyone associated with that once established top flight club can be falling for Pardew's excuses.

Sadly Pardew is still 'trading' on that FA Cup run in 2006. I thought when he left Chalton he would struggle to get another job quickly. To be given the task of resurrecting a fallen giant was just his bag. It's exactly the right job for an arrogant man with limited talent but who's good in front of a camera.

I will be surprised if Pardew keeps his job until Christmas. It won't be long before those in control will become worried about the gap to 5th from bottom. No doubt if he is relieved of his duties he will walk away with another pay off and into another job where he is remembered for Gerrard stealing the FA Cup from him.

I am feeling as upbeat about Charlton as I have for a long time - since Pardew arrived , in fact. The Pardew legacy, however, has probably not completely gone. We still have a few players on our books that we cannot really afford and don't seem to be able to sell. Even promotion this season will see us significantly weaker than we were at the start of 2007/08.

Anyway he has gone now, and all his spending, tinkering and excuses are someone else's problem. All I want to know is why didn't he go to Leeds?

Up the Addicks!

Leyton Orient 1 - 2 Charlton

Well it was hardly the most convincing victory I've seen, but we did come from behind and win (which is always nice) and we showed the sort of character that we are going to need if we are to really keep pace with the teams at the very top of this division.

The game was hardly a classic, and as Dave (Drinking During the Game) has already said we snatched the victory from the jaws of a draw. the first twenty minutes of so we looked the more likely to win but unlike the two previous league games we didn't score half way though the first half. Orient then came into the game more and their goal came after a succession of free kicks where you could feel the pressure building.

It is a worry that we are still conceding goals from set pieces, but it does have to be said Orient have the type of side that I expected to face this season. They are big (both tall and stocky) and strong. They didn't seem to be 'getting stuck in' and we never looked intimidated, but it is a little hard to make progress at set pieces, at either end, when the opposition have an inch or two more height than you do.

For some unknown reason we were playing a lot more long ball than I would have liked in the first half. Unbelievably Burton won just about every ball sent up to him and his knock-ons were all very accurate. However when he laid the ball off the receiving player (mostly Shelvey) was still a long way from goal and had between four and six defenders between him and the goal.

It was clear that (despite some tricky runs and shots from Shelvey and Sam) we were going to need a different game plan. When Orient scored just before the half hour the game changed. They seemed to grow in confidence and we started to rush with little effect.

Parkinson's team talk was (from his press conference after the game) exactly what was needed. It was likely that if we could get the ball down and pass it around we would create chances in the second half. There were calls from the fans for 4-4-2 just before Shelvey scored, and in the twenty minutes before Burton scored the winner I was worried that it would be a missed opportunity. I would have accepted a draw before the game, but I made the observation that Parkinson had to make a decision if we was brave enough to make a change late in the game in search of the win. If we are going to push for a top two place (I think we are good enough and should do so) then we are going to have take some gambles in games like this one.

It wasn't necessary, however, as our strongest lineup (both players and formation) was going to go on and win the game anyway.

So it's all positive. I would have loved to have walked the game, but that rarely happens at any level, so a win is more than enough, thank you very much.

I learned a few things about the takeover last night from a former employee and friend of Peter Varney. Due to confidences and the possibility that what I heard is not 100% accurate I will not expand on that save to say that the stalemate is not looking like being sorted anytime soon, despite the fact that the local papers keep telling us it is 'within a week'. However, as I've already said what I heard was merely more rumours so it could well be wrong.

Either way we need to bring in reinforcements. We cannot replace Shelvey, Semedo, Racon or Bailey as we cannot afford that type of talent. However, we do need some bodies in central defence and as LLoyd Sam is the only recognised winger at the club (excluding youth players that are not ready yet) we need to be looking at that too. As for the strikers, well Burton is unlikely to play every game this season, but with Gray (who I still think could have a decent season) and McLeod we probably already have the most expensive wage bill in the division for forwards. It is going to be difficult to justify bringing in anyone else unless we let one, or both, of those leave.

So, it's three wins out of three, I would never have dared for that a month ago. My biggest worry for this season was that we would start badly and the fans would turn on the club. With that not happening the bond between players and fans is looking like making us a stronger unit than I remember for a long time.

As Andy Gray says, "It just gets bet'er and bet'er!" I'm so excited.

Up the Addicks!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

New Shirts

In the Premier League I believe that there is a charter that the clubs will not change their first (home) or second (away) strip more than every other season. Thus each shirt lasts for two years. If you assume that the launch days for the shirts are roughly the same, i.e. Last week of July, then you should get approximately twenty four months and 38 home games and 38 away games before the shirt changes.

There was also a rule floated about that you could not wear your second (away) strip unless your first (home) strip clashed with the opposition when you were playing away. I'm not sure if this was ever in force, and even if it were it would have been very difficult to police. What constitutes 'clashing'? Just how different do the strips need to be in order for the fans, both those there and on the tv, to be able to tell the players apart?

The England shirts have also been changed on a bi-annual basis. This is, however, probably what the fans want as they change the first and second strips on alternate years. It is clearly easier with a shirt that doesn't carry a sponsor, and tends to stay with the manufacturer for longer - England shirts were made by Admiral until the mid 1980s and have been Umbro ever since.

With a change of supplier or sponsor there is a need to change (at least in part) all of the shirts in the club's range. If you are going to change the sponsor - the most recognisable part of the shirt if we're honest - then you might as well change the design too. I would imagine that the new sponsor would not be all that happy if their name was not blazoned across all the replica shirts as well as the first team, so it's a bit of a no brainer really.

In the event that you do not change the supplier or the sponsor then a new home shirt one season and a new away shirt the next is, for me, just about right. The manufacturer Joma have not been able to design (yet) a shirt that actually fits my son. Just for the record, he has no other problems with any other clothes. Most of his stuff comes (I think) from Gap and Next, and everything has fitted fine - save for him having short legs like his Daddy. The Joma shirts (and he has been bought everyone since he was conceived) have not been big enough to go over his head without causing the kind of screams that even a mad football fan Dad would not make his son go through. Thus, apart from the first shirt (I had to keep that one as I bought it months before he was born) I have gone on to return all of the shirts I have bought for him. So, I'm not in that intolerable position where I have to buy more than one shirt every time they bring out a new one.

I understand the clubs' desire to make as much money as possible. The Wigan Charmian was on the tv last week describing how this was a major income stream for the club, and very necessary for them to compete. If you take into account who he is competing with it begs the question as to just how much difference it would make to that competition if all clubs were forced to keep their shirts for two years or longer? I mean if all the clubs have to keep their shirts then all the clubs would have less money. In fact, as Wigan are one of the least well supported clubs in the division they are in I would imagine that reducing the number of times you can change the shirt would make them better off compared to the clubs that are selling more shirts every time they change it. I also find those kind of excuses for squeezing more and more money out of fans disgusting when you consider that their employees (players) are earning millions and millions of pounds each year.

Sky Sports News did a round up of the new strips a few weeks ago, and from memory 18 of the 20 Premier League clubs were changing their home kit, 23 of the 24 Championship, and 20 of the 24 League One teams. Now this could be a coincidence, but it does look likely that there are many clubs that are not keeping their shirts for two seasons. Some Premier League clubs (and Charlton were guilty of this on more than one occasion) have introduced third kits that have then (against the rules) become the second choice kit to get around the two season rule. On occasion you can have a situation where neither of your kits are enough of a change from the opposition. Southampton, for example, if you have red and white kits. On these rare occasions (all be it there were three of them last season in the Championship) a third shirt is necessary.

I have always been a keen purchaser of a new shirt. I like to buy one every year. I would always wear a shirt to home games, and around the house when we are playing away. When the shirts used to change every two years I would normally tend to wear the new one (home or away) on all of these occasions as it was, after all, the new one.

In recent seasons we have had a run of bad luck with sponsors but we have had a staggering eight first team strips (including the Centenary) since the end of the 2000 season. That's eight shirts in ten seasons. As for non first kits (second or third kits) we have had nine, including one that was classified as a third shirt, one that was classified as a third shirt and then 'promoted' to become a second shirt and one that was a second shirt that was 'relegated' to a third shirt.

So, at £40 a shirt (save for 1p) that makes a total outlay of £760. That's about £76 a year. That is without the cost of buying shirts for one, two, or possibly more children that some families have to bear.
Now, as I've said I like a new shirt as much as the next man, maybe even more (I'm a bit sad like that). I have always looked froward to the new shirts coming out, and have always thought of them as a great way for me to put money into the club, while getting something tangible in return. I never had any problems with 'funding' the club while Curbishley was running it. However, two things have happened at the same time. Pardew has wasted a whole load of money (some of which has come from my replica shirt purchases) and last season's home shirt (which I did buy) is probably the most horrible football shirt I have ever seen. And yes, I am including that pink one that Everton wore a few years back. Frankly with that shirt we deserved to be relegated.
This season's offerings are much better. I know that we are now a third division club, but I would have thought that we could have been given something a little unique. Both our home and away shirts are available without the club badge or the sponsor from the Joma catalogue. In fact I could probably source the shirts without the logos on for less that a Charlton shirt. Time to change supplier? You bet ya - see below.
I have decided not to purchase the shirts this season. I like to wear my replica shirts on my holiday, and this season the new shirts were not available to buy before I went away. Fair enough there were new sponsors to arrange. However, we now find ourselves with the new shirts being available to buy less than nine months before the time that they will no doubt be consigned to history. The new sponsorship deal has been signed, but we have only this season on the contract with Joma. I don't doubt that it will be more cost effective for the club to change supplier so that they can issue two new shirts next summer.
As I didn't like last season's shirt and I'm not planning to buy the new one I will probably now go to matches (home - I never wear colours away) without wearing a Charlton football shirt. This change in attire can, frankly, not come soon enough for Mrs Kings Hill. She has never understood why I would want to buy or wear the rubbish tat that they charge the same price for as a designer shirt. She thinks that replica football shirts are not the sort of thing one should wear once one is older than about fifteen years old.
So I have, potentially, worn my last Charlton football shirt. I have three black sacks full of Charlton Shirts. Every shirt that has been available to buy since our Adidas kits in the First Division in 1986. Some treasured, some looking less and less appealing as the years go by. The ones with purple and green on them gave last seasons Starsky and Hutch number a run for it's money.
However, that long tradition is about to end.
If anyone who has any say wants to know what the club has to do to change my way of thinking then aim for a manufacturer that is more of a household name. I'm talking about Nike, I'm talking about Adidas and I'm talking about Umbro. At a push Puma would be ok, but can we please get away Joma, Ribero, Quaser and the like. I also don't want to end up Butka and I especially don't want a shirt with the word 'Pony' on it.
Basically have a look at the Premier League teams and the National sides and if it's good enough for them then it's good enough for us.
I know what you're all thinking, those companies will not pay us enough, but if you consider that if we were with one of the big three I would have bought loads of 'training' gear from the club shop. I would love to go to the Gym wearing Nike (or Adidas or Umbro) shorts and shirts from the Charlton training range. I have probably spent more than I have on football shirts on other sports wear in the last ten years. If our kit manufacturer's had been Nike or Adidas all of that money would have gone through the club shop. Instead it went through sports shops at Bluewater.
And the bonus is that we would have a decent shirt. It's not even as though they can trot out the usual excuse "Joma were willing to design a unique shirt just for us".
Anyway nothing can happen on this front for many months, and I doubt that we will get that kind of kit. I mean if we couldn't get it in the Premier League then I seriously doubt we can get it now.
For those of you that are interested you can see illustrations of all our former kits here. Joma's range of generic kits here. The home kit is on page 29 (the book says 73) and the away kit is on page 33 (the book says 77). Please note this is a catalogue and is 10MB in size.
However, despite my logical reasoning for not buying a shirt this season (a decision that could well change, especially if they drop the price around Christmas) I would urge you all to go out and buy them both. they are lovely (if generic) football shirts, and as Bob Hoskins says on the Tesco adverts "Every penny helps".
Up the Addicks!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Next... Leyton Orient away

They come thick and fast at the start of the season (especially if you include the League Cup games) but they can't come quick enough if you keep winning them.

I don't remember being as excited as this in the early weeks of the since 1988. I missed the opening 'home' game at Selhurst against Liverpool that season as I was at Wembley watching a Michael Jackson concert. The following week we went to Upton Park and proceeded to beat West Ham 3-1. The week after we entertained Millwall at Selhurst. I was convinced that we would win that game too. As we left Upton Park I just couldn't wait for next week. That week went by so, so slowly and in the end I guess it was just as well as we went to lose 3-0 to Millwall and frankly didn't look like doing anything else at any time that afternoon.

Anyway I feel that 'child like' excitement about Charlton again. It's strange as if you'd asked me how I'd have felt two games into the league program in the third division a few years ago I'd have answered with four letter words.

Anyway, all that aside, I am looking forward to this season more than I have for a long time, and this season continues tomorrow at a ground that, until yesterday, I didn't know had been renamed the Matchbox or Matchroom or something else that I don't agree with. I'm all for rich benefactors coming in to rebuild dilapidated stadium, but for goodness sake don't go and rename them - especially if you are going to name them after another sport.

So, to Brisbane Road I'm going tomorrow. Call it what you like Mr Snooker, it's Brisbane Road. It was Brisbane Road when I went there in 1981 and I'm not going to start calling it anything else now. Incidentally, if you were at our 1-1 draw in October 1981 you might remember that the ball came over the crash (hooligan) barriers and a young boy tried to throw it back only to fail to get it over the fence, twice, that was me. It was a little embarrassing, and thankfully after two failed attempts my Dad jumped in and saved the day.

We had a chuckle after the game at how Paul Elliot scored a goal while Derek Hales was 'sitting' on their Goalkeeper. Great memories.

Anyway, I really must get back on subject. I'm going tomorrow night. Frankly there are a lot of us going, so why wouldn't I be there? Sadly I am going to have to miss Saturday's home game with Walsall as I'm going to a wedding. When we were in the Premier League I would never agree to miss a home game to attend a 'social' event, but it does become a little difficult when we are playing in the Third Division. Now I'm really getting anxious about missing it. Thus I'm going to get a quick fix tomorrow night.

I have, again, little knowledge about the opposition, save to say that they were nothing special in this division last season, and should be one of the teams we aim to beat twice before May. Again, despite being there, I would consider a draw to be an acceptable return from the game. From a personal point of view I would prefer to come back from behind to earn the draw than give away a lead, but in actual fact I think we will win again.

I was confident of a 3-0 win against Wycombe, and had Llera not been off for stitches it might have finished like that. I was even more confident of a 2-0 win at Hartlepool, and that was what we got. I don't think we will keep a clean sheet tomorrow night, but I think the final score will be 3-1 to the Addicks. I just can't see how any team in this division is going to be able to stop Racon and Semedo from running the midfield, or Nicky Bailey from scoring goals.

Despite the lack of strength in depth at the back (which must be addressed soon) we have so much ability across the midfield and assuming we can keep that five playing (few injuries and suspensions and no sales) I cannot see us losing many games between now and May.

I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, but this season already looks like it is going to be both successful and highly enjoyable.

I just can't wait for the next game.

Up the Addicks!

Friday, 14 August 2009

Next... Hartlepool away

Another team that I know very little about, save for the fact that Jeff Stelling, the presenter on Sky Sports Gillette Soccer Saturday, is a fan.

That ends my knowledge with this football club that I, with no disrespect, don't want to play ever again after this season. I suspect that I am going to come across many teams before May that fall into that category, but with a capacity less than our North Stand (including the corners) and being 264 miles away (courtesy of the AA website) I think it is a ground we should only have to visit once in my lifetime.

Rightly or wrongly I am still under the impression that we should beat just about every team in this division both home and away. The defeat on Tuesday night required extra time and we did start without eight of our recognised first team, and the other two of the outfield players were playing out of position.

It is no shame to fail to beat a team from just one division below when you have ten changes from your first team. Had Andy Gray scored the penalty or if he, McLeod or Burton, had scored one of the other chances they had it could have been different. I am not one to accept that players will be 'tired' 'early into the season' as the season starts at the same time for all the teams and if necessary the pre-season training and schedule of friendlies can (and should) be extended. However, the players are all human, and they are allowed bad days as long as they pick themselves up for the next game.

Thus I expect (not necessarily demand) that we will win tomorrow. I believe that we still have a midfield that should be able to compete with anything outside of the Premier League, and despite his two performances this season I still think Andy Gray has a good shout to be the top scorer in the third division this season.

Assuming the injuries all clear up sufficiently I would expect Parkinson to start with the same eleven as he did last Saturday. I would anticipate, also, that he will make changes in the second half as the players that have had knocks will need some more rest before we play Orient on Tuesday. As he started with a 4-4-2 on Tuesday I am going to assume that Parkinson still thinks this is a credible option moving forward so I wouldn't be surprised to see us end up with that formation.

All I would say is that if the change from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2 causes us to lose control of the midfield again this tactic may well have to be reexamined.

I am going to go for a 2-0 away win. I think that away from home we will be slightly less cavalier, and I'm not sure that Wycombe's second goal was not the result of our substitute forwards pushing forward to get that goal that would have given us a more comfortable lead and made the game safe, as well as helping their own chances of starting the next game or getting that move away they they might want.

In truth a point would be a decent return from this game, all be it that if we have any real aspirations of automatic promotion we really need to be beating most of the teams that will finish in the bottom half of this division both home and away. Based on the fact that we are likely to strengthen key areas and we still have new players gelling into he side, I think we can expect to see us become more difficult to beat as the time goes on, and if we can avoid defeat we will have something to build on at Brisbone Road - a game that I am going to.

Same eleven, less cavalier, 2-0 win.

Up the Addicks!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Next... Hereford away

Saturday's win over Wycombe, having had a few days to reflect, was a good result and, in part, a great performance.

The passing play in the first half made us look in a different league to Wycombe. At the point when Llera went off to have his stitches we hadn't looked in any trouble, and could well have been out of sight.

I had no complaints at that stage, and we even managed to pass the ball around and slow the game down when we were a player short and I thought we would cruise to half time and come out with eleven men (Llera back or a substitution) and carry on where we'd left off.

I am normally worried about the decision to play with one short while a player has treatment that takes more than a minute or two. Had we more than two centre halves at the club the decision would have been less academic. However, as half time closed in I didn't feel that Wycombe had even attempted to raise their game. The goal was a little worrying (it reduced our lead) but I was still very confident that we would win the game at a canter.

The second half was only five minutes old when our superiority re-established our two goal cushion. As I don't know the player well enough I cannot really know for sure, but Llera seemed reluctant to put his head in after his knock. I can hardly blame the player, again, I doubt we would have left him on had we a decent (or any) replacement on the bench.

Their second goal came at just the right time to cause the panic that you would expect from a team that had thrown away leads late in games so many times last season. I was not terribly disappointed that we were hanging on. I remarked to my Dad at 3-1 when he was suggesting that 4-1 would be a lot more comfortable than 3-2, that we need to build up some experience of hanging on to one goal leads to increase the confidence.

I would have taken 4-1, of course I would have, but in the end the scramble that kept out the equaliser may well lead to better attitude and performances than a 4-1 'easy' game would have.

There were a couple of major managerial decisions in the game and they all turned out to be wrong, but I have to say that I was more than happy with them at the time. We need more cover for our central defenders. Llera should not have had to finish the game. I doubt that anyone disagrees with me, but the summer has meant that we couldn't re stock the centre half shelves. We are where we are, Llera was literally irreplaceable.

The change from 4-5-1 to 4-4-2 that was, I believe, responsible for us losing control of the game was a brave decision, and had Gray scored when he under hit his shot, or McLeod's shot just under the bar gone in Parkinson would have been hailed as a major tactician. In fact, it looked like a mistake, but I was pleased to see that McLeod and Gray looked like they will have more to offer in the coming months as and when required.

However, the major cause of the panic in the last ten minutes was probably caused by the memories of last season. That was why I was pooping myself up in the East Stand. We lost leads in games we deserved to win last season, and if I was genuinely worried about it happening again it's no surprise that the players were. They dropped deeper and deeper and the inevitable happened.

A win is a win, and we have three points more and a substantially better goal difference than Norwich, and I'd have taken that before kick off.

So, a really dominating game (if only in part) and a very respectable crowd that seemed more vocally supportive than I've seen for a while. Not much to complain about really, so I won't.

Tonight's game is less than an irrelevance. It would be nice to win a couple of League Cup games and draw a money spinner against a team that I've only just learned not to take for granted. Even a half full Old Trafford or Emirates Stadium would constitute a big pay day for a third division side. However the league is much more important, and when a club has only two central defenders you are going to struggle if two of them are injured at the same time.

Thus I am going to give Parkinson a bye for tonight. If we win then well done, if we lose then never mind. I don't normally take this attitude, but let's face, even when we were an established Premier League side we could get past the quarter finals, even with a draw at home to a forth division side. We are not going to win the competition, we are not even going to have a decent cup run, so let's save our necessary players and give us the best chance at Hartlepool on Saturday.

I was wrong about the result on Saturday suggesting a 3-0 win, but I feel vindicated as at times we looked like we were going to walk it. Either way, however, my confidence in us finishing second was strengthened, and I have more enthusiasm for watching us play than I can remember.

Up the Addicks!

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Next... Wycombe at home

So, the Third Division really does beckon. If you believe in home advantage, you read from the tables, and take into account local derbies and rivalry then this is our easiest game of the season.

It's at home, the two lowest finishing teams in our division last season were Wycombe and Gillingham. The Kent based club (just down the road from here) will no doubt be more up for the game with Charlton than Wycombe will be. Thus this is, potentially, our easiest game. When you take into account the fact that we are likely to sell more talent than we are going to buy between now and the end of August this really is a game we should win.

It's not exactly a must win game. I'm not sure that we will have many (if any) of those this season - save for local derbies. We could well lose this game and still go on to reach ten games with a very respectable points total. I'd still rather win, however.

This seems like as good a time as any to make my prediction for the season ahead. Before I do that I will admit that my preseason predictions for the last two seasons were 1st and 5th. Needless to say we were no where near either of those, but I was in good company with my 1st, and there were quite a few that expected us to make the playoffs last season. Doh!

So, having accepted that I am no Mystic Meg I suspect that you will all be appalled to hear that I expect us to finish second. That's right, it's no typo, one place off the top. Automatic Promotion.

Now that you've all finished coughing and/or laughing I'll set about explaining my reasoning for such a bold prediction, and why I may well have to completely back track in September.

Here's my logic - and remember that I have almost no knowledge of third division teams: The teams that are established in the second division that fall into the third historically finish in the playoffs or above. It is more an illogical consequence of the playoffs themselves that you can be the third best team in the division and fail to be promoted. Last season three of the top six had been relegated in the two seasons previous, and Leeds had finished third in their first season in the third division. The other three of the six teams relegated in the two previous two seasons were Luton (points penalty) Southend (finished 7th, after making the playoffs the season before) and Colchester (with two seasons in the second division they had lost their few players of any quality). In 2007/08 two of the three teams that were relegated made the playoffs. The team that didn't make it was Luton, who have suffered points deductions.

Thus you can see that the difference between the second division (even the bottom) and the third division is too great over a season for a relegated team to not make an impact.

This is, I suspect, the only real logic that the bookies use when they offer their odds. I understand that some teams go down and have to sell all their players - a little like us - but we have managed to keep a number of players that I think will be just too good for this division.

On the basis that most of the teams in this division will be lacking in talent but will play to a certain system and will be big, strong and enthusiastic, the teams that finish in the top positions will be those that can find a way to break down stubborn defences and score that elusive winning goal.

I accept that we are looking to sell just about every player we have on our books right now, and we might even manage to find buyers for all our talent, but I would suggest that all of the following have the ability to be match winners in the third division:


I accept that there are differing levels of talent in those players, and I don't intend to justify my decisions, but I would anticipate that there will be a number of teams that our current side (even with a few of those missing) will be able to brush aside on a day where we do not perform to the best that we can.

Lloyd Sam, for example could be too much for every full back in the division. If you take Bailey, Racon or Shelvey and put him alongside Semedo we are likely to control the midfield against all but the best half-a-dozen teams in this division. I also have a lot of time for Matt Spring. He was not given much of a run in our side last season due to the return to fitness of ZZ, but he was considered good enough to be involved at Sheffield United last season, and they were far from poor in the second division.

On the basis that we need money I accept that some of those players will have to be sold, but if we do not receive the kind of offers we want for them then I think they will stay, and if they do I think we will be too good for the dross that genuinely should be in the third division. I know that sounds arrogant, but if I'm honest I think that twelve years in the top flight and seventeen in the second division since we last played at this level allows a little bit of confidence.

Thus the three teams that were relegated are going to have the best chances in this (or any for that matter) division. Southampton are clearly going to have to go some to make up a ten point deficit, which is why I have settled on second. Norwich were very poor when I saw them play last season, but they have gone out and signed a whole new side, and they will still have some second division quality knocking about.

Thus, second it is then.

I would also add that despite the fact that I wanted Parkinson to not be appointed in November, to not be kept on in December and to be 'let go' in May I believe that he is a third division manager, and under the circumstances I can see no reason as to why he cannot find a winning formula with the excess of talent he will have at his disposal, along with the draw of managing such a big club in this division. I'm sure that Parkinson did nothing to prevent it, but I'm somewhat confident that the free transfers came because of the club's recent history, not because he managed to pull 5 wins out of the bag in the 28 games he was in charge.

However, rather like last season, I now intend to give our manager my full support until further notice, as he is proven at this level, he clearly cares about our results (irrespective if it is for his own career) and he is all we are going to get anyway.

Thus we have an adequate defence, injuries aside, and there may well be more movement in the centre back department. We have a very strong midfield for this (and the above) division. Up front we have Burton, who is limited but capable and Andy Gray who should be able to score thirty goals in this division if he has his head on straight. Either of those players should be able to do a job with the other strikers we have at the club, and we can (and I suspect we will) play with five across the middle so we will only need one of those two to play.

It now looks like Andy Gray's move to Barnsley has broken down. On the basis that we have limited options upfront and little money it has maybe become apparent that giving him away (or selling him on the cheap) and paying him to play for someone else is not exactly good business. As for the player I hope that he can deliver for us this season. I have no say in his contracts, but we have been caught out before with players that moved to London to benefit from a large pay rise then decided that they wanted to go back home without suffering a pay cut, and maybe it's time to make a stand. If you want the money we offered you to play for us then you play for us. If not then you go and earn what Barnsley (or who ever) pay their players.

For all the reasons I've already mentioned a half decent second division striker should find the defences in the third division little trouble if they have the right attitude. I think we can count on Burton to give his all - I don't know why but I just think he will. Andy Gray could well make our season. If he is really up for it (and for what he earns he should be) then I cannot see many sides being able to stop him scoring.

As I confessed earlier, my only knowledge of Wycombe is the FA Cup Quarter Final that they won with a goal from a player that they signed the week before, and the League Cup Quarter Final at The Valley. For this reason I am going to base my prediction of this game on the fact that we should be way too good for them. I'll go for a 3-0 win.

Up the Addicks!